World War II: USS Langley (CVL-27)

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USS Langley (CVL-27), February 1944. Photograph Courtesy of the US Naval History & Heritage Command

USS Langley (CVL-27) - Overview:

  • Nation: United States
  • Type: Aircraft Carrier
  • Shipyard: New York Shipbuilding Corporation
  • Laid Down: April, 11, 1942
  • Launched: May 22, 1943
  • Commissioned: August 31, 1943
  • Fate: Sold for scrap, 1964

USS Langley (CVL-27) - Specifications

  • Displacement: 11,000 tons 
  • Length: 622 ft., 6 in.
  • Beam: 109 ft. 2 in.
  • Draft: 26 ft.
  • Propulsion: Four boilers powering 4 General Electric turbines, 4 × shafts
  • Speed: 31 knots
  • Complement: 1,569 men

USS Langley (CVL-27) - Armament

  • 26 × Bofors 40 mm guns

Aircraft

  • 30-45 aircraft

USS Langley (CVL-27) - Design:

With World War II raging in Europe and rising tensions with Japan, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt became worried over the fact that the US Navy did not expect any new aircraft carriers to join the fleet prior to 1944.  As a result, in 1941 he asked the General Board to investigate whether any of the cruisers then under construction could be converted into carriers to supplement the fleet's Lexington- and Yorktown-class ships.  Completing their report on October 13, the General Board offered that while such conversions were possible, the amount of compromise required would badly reduce their effectiveness.  As a former Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Roosevelt pushed the issue and directed the Bureau of Ships (BuShips) to conduct a second study.

Responding on October 25, BuShips stated that such conversions were possible and, while the ships would have reduced capabilities relative to existing fleet carriers, they could be finished much faster.  After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7 and US entry into World War II, the US Navy accelerated the construction of the new Essex-class fleet carriers and decided to convert several Cleveland-class light cruisers, then being built, into light carriers.

 As conversion plans were finished, they offered more potential than initially hoped.  

Featuring narrow and short flight and hangar decks, the new Independence-class required blisters to be attached to the cruiser hulls to aid in offsetting the increased weight topside.  Maintaining their original cruiser speed of 30+ knots, the class was significantly faster than other types of light and escort carriers which allowed them to sail in company with the US Navy's fleet carriers.  Due to their smaller size, the Independence-class carriers' air groups often totaled around 30 aircraft.  While initially intended to be an even mix of fighters, dive bombers, and torpedo bombers, by 1944 air groups were often fighter heavy.

USS Langley (CVL-27) - Construction:

The sixth ship of the new class, USS Crown Point (CV-27) was ordered as the Cleveland-class light cruiser USS Fargo (CL-85).  Prior to construction commencing, it was designated for conversion to a light carrier.  Laid down on April 11, 1942 at New York Shipbuilding Corporation (Camden, NJ), the ship's name was changed to Langley that November in honor of USS Langley (CV-1) which had been lost in combat.  Construction progressed and the carrier entered the water on May 22, 1943 with Louise Hopkins, wife of Special Adviser to the President Harry L.

Hopkins, serving as sponsor.  Re-designated CVL-27 on July 15 to identify it as a light carrier, Langley entered commission on August 31 with Captain W.M. Dillon in command.  After conducting shakedown exercises and training in the Caribbean that fall, the new carrier departed for Pearl Harbor on December 6.

USS Langley (CVL-27) - Joining the Fight:      

Following additional training in Hawaiian waters, Langley joined Rear Admiral Marc A. Mitscher's Task Force 58 (Fast Carrier Task Force) for operations against the Japanese in the Marshall Islands.  Beginning on January 29, 1944, the carrier's aircraft began striking targets in support of the landings on Kwajalein.  With the capture of the island in early February, Langley remained in the Marshalls to cover the attack on Eniwetok while the bulk of TF 58 moved west to mount a series of raids against Truk.

  Replenishing at Espiritu Santo, the carrier's planes returned to the air in late March and early April to strike Japanese forces in Palau, Yap, and Woleai.  Steaming south late in April, Langley aided in General Douglas MacArthur's landings at Hollandia, New Guinea.

USS Langley (CVL-27) - Advancing on Japan:

Completing raids against Truk in late April, Langley made port at Majuro and prepared for operations in the Marianas.  Departing in June, the carrier began launching attacks against targets on Saipan and Tinian on the 11th.  Helping to cover the landings on Saipan four days later, Langley remained in the area as its planes aided the troops ashore.  On June 19-20, Langley took part in the Battle of the Philippine Sea as Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa attempted to disrupt the campaign in the Marianas.  A decisive victory for the Allies, the fighting saw three Japanese carriers sunk and over 600 aircraft destroyed.  Remaining in the Marianas until August 8, Langley then departed for Eniwetok.

Sailing later in the month, Langley supported troops during the Battle of Peleliu in September before proceeding to the Philippines a month later.  Initially in place to protect the landings on Leyte, the carrier saw extensive action during the Battle of Leyte Gulf beginning on October 24.  Attacking Japanese warships in the Sibuyan Sea, Langley's aircraft later took part in the action off Cape Engaño.  Over the next several weeks, the carrier remained in the Philippines and attacked targets around the archipelago before withdrawing to Ulithi on December 1.

Returning to action in January 1945, Langley provided cover during the Lingayen Gulf landings on Luzon and joined its consorts in conducting a series of raids across the South China Sea.  

Steaming north, Langley launched attacks against mainland Japan and Nansei Shoto before aiding in the invasion of Iwo Jima.  Returning to Japanese waters, the carrier continued to strike targets ashore into March.  Shifting south, Langley then assisted in the invasion of Okinawa.  During April and May, it split its time between supporting troops ashore and mounting attacks against Japan.  In need of an overhaul, Langley departed the Far East on May 11 and made for San Francisco.  Arriving on June 3, it spent the next two months in the yard receiving repairs and undergoing a modernization program.  Emerging on August 1, Langley departed the West Coast for Pearl Harbor.  Reaching Hawaii a week later, it was there when hostilities ended on August 15.

USS Langley (CVL-27) - Later Service:

Pressed into duty in Operation Magic Carpet, Langley made two voyages in the Pacific to carry American servicemen home.  Transferred to the Atlantic in October, the carrier completed two trips to Europe as part of the operation.  Finishing this duty in January 1946, Langley was placed in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet at Philadelphia and decommissioned on February 11, 1947.  After four years in reserve, the carrier was transferred to France on January 8, 1951 under the Mutual Defense Assistance Program.  Re-named La Fayette (R-96), it saw service in the Far East as well as in the Mediterranean during the 1956 Suez Crisis.

  Returned to the US Navy on March 20, 1963, the carrier was sold for scrap to the Boston Metals Company of Baltimore a year later.

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Hickman, Kennedy. "World War II: USS Langley (CVL-27)." ThoughtCo, Aug. 29, 2016, thoughtco.com/uss-langley-cvl-27-2360371. Hickman, Kennedy. (2016, August 29). World War II: USS Langley (CVL-27). Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/uss-langley-cvl-27-2360371 Hickman, Kennedy. "World War II: USS Langley (CVL-27)." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/uss-langley-cvl-27-2360371 (accessed December 14, 2017).