History of the USS Boxer and Its Involvement in the Korean War

USS Boxer
US Naval History & Heritage Command

Conceived in the 1920s and early 1930s, the US Navy's Lexington- and Yorktown-class aircraft carriers were built to fit within the restrictions set forth by the Washington Naval Treaty. This placed limitations on the tonnage of different types of warships as well as capped each signatory’s overall tonnage. These types of restrictions were continued through the 1930 London Naval Treaty. As global tensions rose, Japan and Italy left the agreement in 1936. With the end of the treaty system, the US Navy began developing a design for a new, larger class of aircraft carriers and one which utilized the lessons learned from the Yorktown-class. The resulting type was wider and longer as well as incorporated a deck-edge elevator system. This had been employed earlier on USS Wasp (CV-7). In addition to carrying a larger air group, the new class mounted a greatly enlarged anti-aircraft armament. The lead ship, USS Essex (CV-9), was laid down on April 28, 1941.

With the US entry into World War II after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Essex-class became the US Navy's standard design for fleet carriers. The first four ships after Essex followed the type's initial design. In early 1943, the US Navy made changes to enhance future vessels. The most noticeable of these was the lengthening the bow to a clipper design which allowed for the addition of two quadruple 40 mm mounts. Other changes included moving the combat information center below the armored deck, installation of improved aviation fuel and ventilation systems, a second catapult on the flight deck, and an additional fire control director. Though known as the "long-hull" Essex-class or Ticonderoga-class by some, the US Navy made no distinction between these and the earlier Essex-class ships.

USS Boxer (CV-21) Construction

The first ship to move forward with the revised Essex-class design was USS Hancock (CV-14) which was later renamed Ticonderoga. It was followed by several others including USS Boxer (CV-21). Laid down on September 13, 1943, the construction of Boxer began at Newport News Shipbuilding and rapidly moved forward. Named for HMS Boxer which had been captured by the US Navy during the War of 1812, the new carrier slid into the water on December 14, 1944, with Ruth D. Overton, daughter of Senator John H. Overton, serving as sponsor. Work continued and Boxer entered commission on April 16, 1945, with Captain D.F. Smith in command.

Early Service

Departing Norfolk, Boxer commenced shakedown and training operations in preparation for use in the Pacific Theater of World War II. As these initiatives were concluding, the conflict ended with Japan asking for a cessation of hostilities. Dispatched to the Pacific in August 1945, Boxer arrived at San Diego before departing for Guam the following month. Reaching that island, it became the flagship of Task Force 77. Supporting the occupation of Japan, the carrier remained abroad until August 1946 and also made calls in Okinawa, China, and the Philippines. Returning to San Francisco, Boxer embarked Carrier Air Group 19 which flew the new Grumman F8F Bearcat. As one of the US Navy's newest carriers, Boxer remained in commission as the service downsized from its wartime levels.

After conducting peacetime activities off California in 1947, the following year saw Boxer employed in jet aircraft testing. In this role, it launched the first jet fighter, a North American FJ-1 Fury, to fly from an American carrier on March 10. After spending two years employed in maneuvers and training jet pilots, Boxer departed for the Far East in January 1950. Making goodwill visits around the region as part of the 7th Fleet, the carrier also entertained South Korean President Syngman Rhee. Due for a maintenance overhaul, Boxer returned to San Diego on June 25 just as the Korean War was beginning.

Korean War

Due to the urgency of the situation, Boxer's overhaul was postponed and the carrier was quickly employed to ferry aircraft to the war zone. Embarking 145 North American P-51 Mustangs and other aircraft and supplies, the carrier departed Alameda, CA on July 14 and set a trans-Pacific speed record by reaching Japan in eight days, seven hours. Another record was set in early August when Boxer made a second ferry trip. Returning to California, the carrier received cursory maintenance before embarking the Chance-Vought F4U Corsairs of Carrier Air Group 2. Sailing for Korea in a combat role, Boxer arrived and received orders to join the fleet gathering to support the landings at Inchon. 

Operating off Inchon in September, Boxer's aircraft provided close support to the troops ashore as they drove inland and re-captured Seoul. While performing this mission, the carrier was stricken when one of its reduction gears failed. Caused due to postponed maintenance on the vessel, it limited the carrier's speed to 26 knots. On November 11, Boxer received orders to sail for the United States to make repairs. These were conducted at San Diego and the carrier was able to resume combat operations after embarking Carrier Air Group 101. Operating from Point Oboe, approximately 125 miles east of Wonsan, Boxer's aircraft struck targets along the 38th Parallel between March and October 1951. 

Refitting in the fall of 1951, Boxer again sailed for Korea the following February with the Grumman F9F Panthers of Carrier Air Group 2 aboard. Serving in Task Force 77, the carrier's planes conducted strategic strikes across North Korea. During this deployment, tragedy struck the ship on August 5 when an aircraft's fuel tank caught fire. Quickly spreading through the hanger deck, it took over four hours to contain and killed eight. Repaired at Yokosuka, Boxer re-entered combat operations later that month. Shortly after returning, the carrier tested a new weapons system that used radio-controlled Grumman F6F Hellcats as flying bombs. Re-designated as an attack aircraft carrier (CVA-21) in October 1952, Boxer underwent an extensive overhaul that winter before making a final Korean deployment between March and November 1953.

A Transition

Following the end of the conflict, Boxer made a series of cruises in the Pacific between 1954 and 1956. Re-designated an anti-submarine carrier (CVS-21) in early 1956, it made a final Pacific deployment late that year and into 1957. Returning home, Boxer was selected to take part in a US Navy experiment that sought to have a carrier solely employ attack helicopters. Moved to the Atlantic in 1958, Boxer operated with an experimental force intended to support the rapid deployment of US Marines. This saw it again re-designated on January 30, 1959, this time as a landing platform helicopter (LPH-4). Largely operating in the Caribbean, Boxer supported American efforts during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 as well as used its new capabilities to aid efforts in Haiti and the Dominican Republic later in the decade.

With the US entry into the Vietnam War in 1965, Boxer reprised its ferry role by carrying 200 helicopters belonging to the US Army's 1st Cavalry Division to South Vietnam. A second trip was made the following year. Returning to the Atlantic, Boxer assisted NASA in early 1966 when it recovered an unmanned Apollo test capsule (AS-201) in February and served as the primary recovery ship for Gemini 8 in March. Over the next three years, Boxer continued in its amphibious support role until being decommissioned on December 1, 1969. Removed from the Naval Vessel Register, it was sold for scrap on March 13, 1971.    

At a Glance

  • Nation: United States
  • Type: Aircraft Carrier
  • Shipyard: Newport New Shipbuilding
  • Laid Down: September 13, 1943
  • Launched: December 4, 1944
  • Commissioned: April 16, 1945
  • Fate: Sold for scrap, February 1971


  • Displacement: 27,100 tons
  • Length: 888 ft.
  • Beam: 93 ft.
  • Draft: 28 ft., 7 in.
  • Propulsion: 8 × boilers, 4 × Westinghouse geared steam turbines, 4 × shafts
  • Speed: 33 knots
  • Complement: 3,448 men


  • 4 × twin 5 inch 38 caliber guns
  • 4 × single 5 inch 38 caliber guns
  • 8 × quadruple 40 mm 56 caliber guns
  • 46 × single 20 mm 78 caliber guns


  • 90 to 100 aircraft

Selected Sources

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Your Citation
Hickman, Kennedy. "History of the USS Boxer and Its Involvement in the Korean War." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/korean-war-uss-boxer-cv-21-2360358. Hickman, Kennedy. (2023, April 5). History of the USS Boxer and Its Involvement in the Korean War. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/korean-war-uss-boxer-cv-21-2360358 Hickman, Kennedy. "History of the USS Boxer and Its Involvement in the Korean War." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/korean-war-uss-boxer-cv-21-2360358 (accessed June 1, 2023).