During World War 2 (1939-1945), the aircraft carrier established its dominance on the high seas as the capital ship for all navies near and far. As such, a premium was paid to aircraft-carrying vessels by the likes of the United States Navy and, in 1942 following America's formal entry into the war, the luxury side-wheel steamer "Seeandbee", with its four smoke funnel profile, was acquired by the service and transformed into the aircraft carrier USS Wolverine (IX-64). The vessel - primarily reserved for the training of future USN airmen and related personnel - was notable in that it, along with USS Sable (IX-81), was the only side paddlewheel steam-driven aircraft carrier in USN history.
The original steamer Seeandbee by the Detroit Shipbuilding Company of Wyandotte, Michigan was launched on November 9th, 1912, completing its maiden voyage on June 19th of the following year (just ahead of the opening of World War 1). In 1939, the vessel changed ownership to the Cleveland & Buffalo Company of Chicago, Illinois and was operated in a normal manner until 1941 - the year of America's entrance into World War 2. On March 12th, 1942, the USN - requiring aircraft carriers for advanced training - came calling and the ship changed hands once more. Unlike other USN carriers of the time, USS Wolverine was not given the benefit of hangar decks and elevators when moving aircraft between floors and she was not granted armor protection of any kind.
As finalized, USS Wolverine displaced 7,300 tons and had an overall length of 500 feet with a beam measuring 97.7 feet and a draught down to 15.5 feet. There were five decks in her design, owing much to her passenger steamer roots while drive power came from an inclined compound steam engine fed by coal-fired boiler units developing 12,000 horsepower. Maximum speed in ideal conditions could reach 19 knots. The crew was made up of 270 personnel in all.
The construction effort saw all of the Seeandbee's upper structure cut down to make way for a straight-through "flattop" deck. An island superstructure was set along the traditional starboard side, coupled with the four inline smoke funnels needed to exhaust the powerplant. Atop this structure were the usual communications systems mounted on a basic tower. This left the flight deck nearly completely unobstructed for aircraft landing and taking off.
USS Wolverine was commissioned on August 12th, 1942 and was refit on May 6th of that year. She homeported out of Chicago, Illinois (as part of the 9th Naval District Carrier Qualification Training Unit) for her part in the war and, for her service during the conflict, the ship earned the American Campaign Medal and World War II Victory Medal.
From her start in 1942, at which point the first landings on her new deck were occurring, until the end of the war in 1945, USS Wolverine operated in a training manner and went on to graduate thousands of USN personnel readying for war - a feat just as critical as anyone combat aircraft, tank, or battleship fielded in the war. Inevitably she was decommissioned on November 7th, 1945 and transferred to the Maritime Commission for proper disposal on November 26th, 1947. In December of that year, she was sold off for scrapping, officially ending her tenure on the high seas.
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