Cold War: USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV-42)

USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV-42)
USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV-42), circa 1971. US Naval History & Heritage Command

USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV-42) - Overview:

  • Nation: United States
  • Type: Aircraft Carrier
  • Shipyard: New York Naval Shipyard
  • Laid Down: December 1, 1943
  • Launched: April 29, 1945
  • Commissioned: October 27, 1945
  • Fate: Scrapped, 1978

USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV-42) - Specifications (at commissioning):

  • Displacement: 45,000 tons
  • Length: 968 ft.
  • Beam: 113 ft.
  • Draft: 35 ft.
  • Propulsion: 12 × boilers, 4 × Westinghouse geared steam turbines, 4 × shafts
  • Speed: 33 knots
  • Complement: 4,104 men

USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV-42)- Armament (at commissioning):

  • 18 × 5" guns
  • 84 × Bofors 40 mm guns
  • 68 × Oerlikon 20 mm cannons


  • 100-137 aircraft

USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV-42) - Design:

In 1940, with the development of the Essex-class carriers nearly done, the US Navy began reviewing the design to determine whether the new type could be altered to utilize an armored flight deck.  This change came under consideration due to the performance of the Royal Navy's armored carriers during the first years of World War II.  The US Navy's study determined that though armoring the flight deck and partitioning the hanger deck into multiple sections limited damage in battle, it also found that incorporating these alterations into the Essex-class ships would significantly shrink the size of their air groups. 

Not willing to limit the Essex-class' offensive power, the US Navy elected to develop a new type of carrier that would maintain air group size while adding the wanted protection.

  Dramatically larger than the Essex-class, the design that became the Midway-class would be able to carry over 130 aircraft while incorporating an armored flight deck.  As the new ship evolved, naval architects were compelled to reduce much of the vessel's heavy armament, including a battery of 8" guns, in order to reduce weight.

  Also, they were forced to spread the class' 5" anti-aircraft guns around the ship rather than in the planned dual mounts.  When complete, the Midway-class would be the first type of carrier to be too wide to pass through the Panama Canal.

USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV-42) - Construction:

Work on the second ship of the class, USS Coral Sea (CV-42), began on December 1, 1943, at the New York Naval Shipyard in Brooklyn.  Named for the key 1942 Battle of the Coral Sea which halted the Japanese thrust toward Port Moresby, New Guinea, the carrier entered the water on April 29, 1945, with Pierrette Anne Towers, wife of Admiral John H. Towers, serving as sponsor.  On May 8, President Harry S. Truman authorized the US Navy to rename the new carrier Franklin D. Roosevelt in honor of the late president who had died on April 12.  Work continued and the ship was commissioned shortly after the end of the war on October 27, 1945, with Captain Apollo Soucek in command.

USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV-42) - Early Career:

Departing New York in February 1946, Roosevelt steamed south to Rio de Janeiro on its shakedown cruise.  While in Brazil, it represented the United States at the inauguration of President Eurico Gaspar Dutra.

  Returning to home, Roosevelt participated in exercises with the Eighth Fleet later that spring.  Staying in home waters, the new carrier became the first to operate an all-jet aircraft on July 21 when Lieutenant Commander James Davidson made several landings and takeoffs from the ship in a McDonnell XFD-1 Phantom.  The following month, Roosevelt received orders to sail for the Mediterranean.  Remaining abroad until early October, the carrier called at Athens to show support for the Greek government which was involved in a conflict against Communist guerrillas. 

Ordered back to the United States, Roosevelt entered Norfolk Naval Shipyard in July 1947 for an overhaul.  In addition to maintenance, this saw alterations to the carrier's anti-aircraft armament as its 40 mm Bofors were replaced with 40 3" Mark 22 guns in dual mounts.

  Resuming active operations, Roosevelt re-crossed the Atlantic for a second tour in the Mediterranean in the fall of 1948.  Back home in early 1949, the carrier was retained in the Atlantic the following year when the Korean War commenced.  Two years later, in 1952, Roosevelt joined USS Midway (CV-41), USS Wasp (CV-18), USS Wisconsin (BB-64), HMS Vanguard, and HMS Eagle for NATO exercises in the North Atlantic.  Reclassified as an attack carrier (CVA-42) on October 1, it received orders in early 1954 to proceed to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for alterations.

USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV-42) - To Vietnam:

Unable to use the Panama Canal, Roosevelt passed around Cape Horn and arrived at Puget Sound on March 5 to undergo a SCB-110 modernization.  This saw the ship receive an enclosed hurricane bow, mirror landing system, steam catapults, new electronics, alterations to its island, and the installation of an angled flight deck.  Recommissioned on April 6, 1956, Roosevelt steamed to its new homeport of Mayport, FL following sea trials in the Pacific.  The next two years saw the carrier move through a cycle of Mediterranean deployments followed by participation in NATO exercises and operations in home waters.   In October 1958, Roosevelt shifted south to aid USS Kleinsmith in evacuating foreign nationals during the Cuban Revolution.

The next eight years saw Roosevelt move through its normal cycle of operations which included frequent Mediterranean cruises.  This was interrupted in 1966 when the carrier shifted to Southeast Asia to take part in the Vietnam War.

  Arriving off Vietnam in August 1966, Roosevelt conducted one combat deployment which concluded six months later.  While there, its F-4 Phantom IIs and A-4 Skyhawks conducted attacks across the region.  Departing the war zone, Roosevelt soon resumed its standard routine in the Atlantic.

USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV-42) - Modernization & Retirement:

In July 1968, Roosevelt entered Norfolk Naval Shipyard to be modernized and reconstructed.  Original plans for this project were similar to those used on Midway two years earlier.  When work on Midway ran $114 million over the initial $88 million budget, it was decided to take a more limited approach on Roosevelt.  Capped at $46 million, work on Roosevelt was intended to allow it to operate newer aircraft such as the A-6 Intruder and A-7 Corsair II.  Additionally, the forward centerline elevator was moved to the starboard side, improvements were made to the fire suppression systems, crew quarters were enhanced, and the port waist catapult was removed.  Embarking Carrier Air Wing 6 on August 1, 1969, Roosevelt rejoined active operations and in January 1970 returned to the Mediterranean.

A stalwart of the US Sixth Fleet, in 1973 Roosevelt served as a refueling point for aircraft bound for Israel during the Yom Kippur War.  It then remained in the eastern Mediterranean for much of the conflict in case personnel needed to be evacuated from the war zone.  Three years later, Roosevelt received a complement of fourteen AV-8A Harriers in order to test the VTOL aircraft's suitability for operating from naval vessels.

  In 1976, the decision was made to retire the aging carrier, which lacked many of upgrades its sister ships had received, when the second Nimitz-class carrier, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CV-69) was completed. 

Making a final deployment to the Mediterranean that fall, the carrier collided with the freighter Oceanus while in the Strait of Messina but sustained only minor damage.  Returning home, Roosevelt was decommissioned on October 1, 1977 and stricken from the Navy List.  As the ship was in poor condition and unable to handle advanced aircraft such as the F-14 Tomcat, the decision was made to have it scrapped rather than retain it in the reserve fleet.  On April 1, 1978, after efforts to have the carrier preserved a museum ship failed, Roosevelt was sold to River Terminal Development Company for scrap.  Towed to Kearny, NJ, the carrier was disassembled later that year.

Selected Sources