Korean War: USS Leyte (CV-32)

USS Leyte (CV-32), November 1948. Photograph Courtesy of the US Naval History & Heritage Command
  • Nation: United States
  • Type: Aircraft Carrier
  • Shipyard: Newport News Shipbuilding
  • Laid Down: February 21, 1944
  • Launched: August 23, 1945
  • Commissioned: April 11, 1946
  • Fate: Sold for scrap, 1970


  • Displacement: 27,100 tons
  • Length: 888 ft.
  • Beam: 93 ft. (waterline)
  • 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


  • 90-100 aircraft

A New Design

Designed in the 1920s and early 1930s, the US Navy's Lexington- and Yorktown-class aircraft carriers were planned 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 total tonnage. These types of rules were furthered by the 1930 London Naval Treaty. As world tensions increased, Japan and Italy left the treaty structure in 1936. Upon the collapse of this system, the US Navy began work on a design for a new, larger class of aircraft carriers and one which utilized the lessons learned from the Yorktown-class. The resulting design was longer and wider as well as incorporated a deck-edge elevator system. This had been used earlier on USS Wasp (CV-7). In addition to carrying a more sizable air group, the new class mounted a greatly enlarged anti-aircraft armament. Work began on the lead ship, USS Essex (CV-9) on April 28, 1941.

With the US entrance into World War II after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Essex-class rapidly became the US Navy's standard design for fleet carriers. The first four ships after Essex followed the type's original design. In early 1943, the US Navy made multiple changes to improve future vessels. The most noticeable of these alterations was the lengthening the bow to a clipper design which allowed the addition of two quadruple 40 mm mounts. Other changes included moving the combat information center below the armored deck, 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.


The first ship to move forward with the revised Essex-class design was USS Hancock (CV-14) which was later re-dubbed Ticonderoga. It was followed by additional vessels including USS Leyte (CV-32). Laid down on February 21, 1944, work on Leyte began at Newport News Shipbuilding. Named for the recently fought Battle of Leyte Gulf, the new carrier slid down the ways on August 23, 1945. Despite the end of the war, construction continued and Leyte entered commission on April 11, 1946, with Captain Henry F. MacComsey in command. Completing sea trails and shakedown operations, the new carrier joined the fleet later that year.

Early Service

In the fall of 1946, Leyte steamed south in consort with the battleship USS Wisconsin (BB-64) for a goodwill tour of South America. Visiting ports along the continent's western coast, the carrier then returned to the Caribbean in November for additional shakedown and training operations. In 1948, Leyte received a compliment of new Sikorsky HO3S-1 helicopters before moving to the North Atlantic for Operation Frigid. Over the next two years it participated in several fleet maneuvers as well as mounted an air power demonstration over Lebanon to help deter a growing Communist presence in the region. Returning to Norfolk in August 1950, Leyte quickly replenished and received orders to move to the Pacific due to the beginning of the Korean War.

Korean War

Arriving at Sasebo, Japan on October 8, Leyte completed combat preparations before joining Task Force 77 off the Korean coast. Over the next three months, the carrier's air group flew 3,933 sorties and struck a variety of targets on the peninsula. Among those operating from Leyte's deck was Ensign Jesse L. Brown, the US Navy's first African American aviator. Flying a Chance Vought F4U Corsair, Brown was killed in action on December 4 while supporting troops during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir. Departing in January 1951, Leyte returned to Norfolk for an overhaul. Later that year, the carrier began the first of a series of deployments with the US Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean. 

Later Service

Re-designated an attack carrier (CVA-32) in October 1952, Leyte remained in the Mediterranean until early 1953 when it returned to Boston. Though initially selected for deactivation, the carrier received a reprieve on August 8 when it was selected to serve as an anti-submarine carrier (CVS-32). While undergoing conversion to this new role, Leyte suffered an explosion in its port catapult machinery room on October 16. This and the resulting fire killed 37 and injured 28 before it was extinguished. After undergoing repairs from the accident, work on Leyte moved forward and was completed on January 4, 1945. 

Operating from Quonset Point in Rhode Island, Leyte commenced anti-submarine warfare activities in the North Atlantic and Caribbean. Serving as flagship of Carrier Division 18, it remained active in this role for the next five years. In January 1959, Leyte steamed for New York to begin an inactivation overhaul. As it had not undergone the major upgrades, such as SCB-27A or SCB-125, that many other Essex-class ships had received it was deemed surplus to the fleet's needs. Re-designated as an aircraft transport (AVT-10), it was decommissioned on May 15, 1959. Moved to the Atlantic Reserve Fleet in Philadelphia, it remained there until being sold for scrap in September 1970.

Selected Sources

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Your Citation
Hickman, Kennedy. "Korean War: USS Leyte (CV-32)." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, thoughtco.com/korean-war-uss-leyte-cv-32-2360359. Hickman, Kennedy. (2020, August 26). Korean War: USS Leyte (CV-32). Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/korean-war-uss-leyte-cv-32-2360359 Hickman, Kennedy. "Korean War: USS Leyte (CV-32)." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/korean-war-uss-leyte-cv-32-2360359 (accessed June 5, 2023).