The highly-decorated American aircraft carrier, USS Philippine Sea (CV-47), was one of the all-important Essex-class group constructed by the United States Navy (USN) during the fighting of World War 2 (1939-1945). The class proved critical to Allied operations, particularly in the hard fought Pacific Theater of War (PTO) where the USN met the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) head-on. The Essex-class was originally envisioned as a 32-strong fleet but ended with 24 ships to its number, Philippine Sea being the last of the class to be inducted into service.
CV-47 was ordered in June of 1943 as World War 2 raged on, saw her keel laid down on August 19th, 1944, and was launched on September 5th, 1945 - in time to see the end of the Japanese surrender (and thus the end of World War 2 as a whole). She was not formally commissioned until May 11th, 1946 and went on to see active service into the next several decades including time spent in the Korean War (1950-1953).
As completed, the warship had a displacement of 27,100 tons under standard load and held a running length of 888 feet with a beam measuring 93 feet and a draught down to 28.6 feet. Power was from 8 x Boiler units feeding 4 x Westinghouse geared steam turbines driving 4 x Shafts under stern. Maximum speed in ideal conditions reached 30 knots and range was out beyond 20,000 nautical miles - giving the vessel good 'legs' in the sea.
Armor protection reached 4" at the belt while the hangar decks were plated over in up to 2.5" of armor. The conning tower was given 1.5" thick protection.
Aboard was a crew complement numbering 3,448 officers and enlisted personnel, each charged with specific functions of the ships operation. In addition to this was an air arm consisting of ninety to one-hundred combat aircraft of various makes and models, these, too, designed to accomplish specific tasks from fighting to torpedo/bomb delivery.
The warship had a point-defense network consisting of 4 x 5" Dual-Purpose (DP) guns in twin-gunned mountings, 4 x 5" DP guns in single-gunned mountings, 10 x 40mm Bofors Anti-Aircraft (AA) guns in quadruple-gunned mountings, and 2 x 40mm AA guns in twin-gunned mountings. All this was designed to keep enemy attackers at bay and was in addition to any support given by accompanying fleet ships.
The vessel was named after the Battle of Philippine Sea which took place during World War 2 from June 19th to June 20th in 1944. An American victory in which three Japanese fleet carriers were sunk, the new warship carried the name in honor of the clash of naval powers. Launched too late to see combat service in World War 2 proper, USS Philippine Sea was a major USN contributor to the immediate post-World War 2 world.
Subsequent assignments took the ship to the Mediterranean Sea and on to Antarctica. From there, she was a major player in the Korean War of 1950-1953 where her warplanes were put to good (and extensive) use. Philippine Sea voyaged to the region from Japan by way of Naval Base Pearl Harbor (Hawaii). Once there, she joined the Allied carriers USS Valley Forge and HMS Triumph who made up the only two carriers already on station in the theater.
From August 1950 onwards, Philippine Sea's warplanes were in constant service, attacking enemy ground targets as needed (air superiority was quickly reached by the Allies at this point). Beyond general bombing, strafing, and rocket attacks, combat aircraft were used in close proximity of Allied troops in Close-Air Support (CAS) sorties as the war turned to a defensive battle following the introduction of Chinese troops from October 1950 onwards.
Initially taking on prop-driven types such as the Grumman F6F "Hellcat" and Vought F4U "Corsair" fighters, USS Philippine Sea joined the USN transition to jet-powered mounts including the Grumman F9F "Panther". Douglas AD-4 "Skyraiders" also made up the all-important attack arm.
In June of 1951, the warship arrived in San Francisco waters and undertook refitting and repair work. After this, she was given patrol orders along the American West Coast. A second Korean War deployment followed in 1952 to which point she returned back stateside (San Diego) in August of 1952. At this point, her classification was formally changed from "CV" to "CVA" ("Attack Aircraft Carrier") and added additional warplanes to her traditional stable. The ship was back at work pounding enemy positions and continued in this role until the uneasy Armistice of mid-1953 was signed.
In 1954, Philippine Sea responded to downing of a passenger Douglas D-40 airplane to which two of her Skyraiders were attack by Chinese aircraft in the process. The Chinese aggressors were dispatched without further incident in what marked the "Hainan Incident".
In 1955, her aircraft stable included Grumman F9F "Cougar" jet fighters alongside Panthers which were now relegated to fighter-bomber roles. In November of that year, the warship was reclassified as "CVS" ("Anti-Submarine Warfare Carrier") to denote her new at-sea role. This also meant that some of her warplane arm was succeeded by the submarine-hunting Grumman S2F "Tracker" platform. Training of these types ensued.
On December 28th, 1958, the warship was decommissioned from service and resided at Long Beach, California with the U.S. Reserve Fleet until her future was decided. Taking on the new classification of "AVT-11" ("Auxiliary Aircraft Transport and Landing Training Ship") from May 1959 onwards, the ship was finally struck from the Naval Register on December 1st, 1969, bringing about her formal end. On March 23rd, 1971, her stripped hulk was sold off for scrapping.
The USS Philippine Sea name was resurrected for USN service once more through the new USS Philippine Sea (CG-58) Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser in April of 1987. This warship continues in service today (2020).
For her contributions at sea, USS Philippine Sea (CV-47) was awarded the World War 2 Victory Medal, Navy Occupation Medal, China Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, the Antarctic Service Medal, the Korean Service Medal (9 Battle Stars), the Korean Presidential Unit Citation, United Nations Korea Medal, and the Korean War Service Medal. For her time at sea, CV-47 was never updated with a more modern flightdeck, instead retaining her "straight-through" flat-top design of World War 2.