World War II: USS Monterey (CVL-26)

USS Monterey (CVL-26). Photograph Source: Public Domain
USS Monterey (CVL-26) - Overview:
  • Nation: United States
  • Type: Aircraft Carrier
  • Shipyard: New York Shipbuilding Corporation
  • Laid Down: December 29, 1941
  • Launched: February 28, 1943
  • Commissioned: June 17, 1943
  • Fate: Sold for scrap, 1971

USS Monterey (CVL-26) - 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: 31.6 knots
  • Complement: 1,569 men

USS Monterey (CVL-26) - Armament

  • 26 × Bofors 40 mm guns
  • 20 × Oerlikon 20 mm cannons


  • 30-45 aircraft

USS Monterey CVL-26) - Design:

With World War II underway in Europe and increasing tensions with Japan, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt became alarmed over the fact that the US Navy did not expect any new aircraft carriers to enter service before 1944.  As a result, in 1941 he requested the General Board to look into the whether any of the cruisers then under construction could be altered into carriers to reinforce the fleet's Lexington- and Yorktown-class ships.  Returning with their report on October 13, the General Board stated that while such conversions were possible, the level of compromise needed would badly reduce their effectiveness.  As a former Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Roosevelt pressed the issue and ordered the Bureau of Ships (BuShips) to conduct a second study.

Delivering a response on October 25, BuShips offered that such conversions were possible and, while the ships would have reduced capabilities relative to existing fleet carriers, they could be completed much sooner.  Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7 and US entrance into World War II, the US Navy moved to accelerate the construction of the new Essex-class fleet carriers and elected to convert several Cleveland-class light cruisers, then under construction, into light carriers.

 As conversion plans were completed, they offered more potential than initially expected.  

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 increase in weight topside.  Retaining their original cruiser speed of 30+ knots, the class was much faster than other types of light and escort carriers which allowed them to sail in consort with the US Navy's larger fleet carriers.  Due to their reduced size, the Independence-class carriers' air groups often numbered around 30 aircraft.  While intended to be an even mix of fighters, dive bombers, and torpedo bombers, by 1944 air groups were often fighter heavy.

USS Monterey (CVL-26) - Construction:

The fifth ship of the new class, USS Monterey (CV-26) was laid down as the Cleveland-class light cruiser USS Dayton (CL-78) at New York Shipbuilding Corporation (Camden, NJ), on December 29, 1941.  Selected for conversion to an aircraft carrier and renamed Monterey after the Mexican-American War battle of the same name, it entered the water on February 28, 1943, with Miriam Bellinger, wife of Rear Admiral Patrick Bellinger, acting as sponsor.

  Work moved forward and it entered commission on June 17, 1943 with Captain Lestor T. Hundt in command.  Conducting shakedown and training operations, Monterey was re-designated CVL-26 on July 15 to identify it as a light carrier. 

USS Monterey (CVL-26) - Into the War:

Departing for the Pacific late summer, Monterey touched at Pearl Harbor before receiving orders to take part in operations in the Gilbert Islands that fall.  Sailing with its sister ship USS Cowpens (CVL-25), the new carrier supported the landings on Makin on November 20-23 before joining Task Group 37.2 for attacks against Kavieng, New Ireland on December 25.  Moving to the Marshall Islands, Monterey's aircraft covered American troops during the invasion of Kwajalein in January 1944.  Joining Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher's Task Force 58 (Fast Carrier Task Force),  the carrier took part in a devastating series of raids (Operation Hailstone) on the Japanese fleet base at Truk on February 16-17.

  This effort was followed by strikes in the Marianas as well as aiding General Douglas MacArthur's landings at Hollandia, New Guinea in late April.

USS Monterey (CVL-26) - Advancing to Japan:

Conducting training in May, Monterey steamed north the following month as part of Rear Admiral Alfred Montgomery's Task Group 58.2 (Bunker Hill, Wasp, Cabot, & Monterey).  Arriving in the Marianas, TF 58 mounted raids through the islands and supported American troops as they opened the Battle of Saipan.  On June 19-20, Monterey took part in the decisive victory at the Battle of the Philippine Sea.  In the fighting, American forces sank three enemy carriers and destroyed over 600 aircraft.  Following the battle, Monterey departed TF 58 and sailed to Pearl Harbor for a brief overhaul.  With the completion of this work, the carrier left the yard on August 29 and launched raids against Wake Island before rejoining active operations.

September and early October saw Monterey engage in raids against the southern Philippines and Okinawa.  En route to Ulithi in mid-October with Vice Admiral John S. McCain's Task Group 38.1 (Hornet, Wasp, Hancock, Cowpens, & Monterey), the carrier and its consorts were recalled in late October to take part in the Battle of Leyte Gulf.  In the wake of the battle, Monterey remained in the Philippines conducting attacks against Japanese targets into December.  During the middle of that month, Monterey endured Typhoon Cobra which saw it struck by winds over 100 mph.  Pitching severely in the storm, several fires broke out aboard the carrier as its planes careened through the hangar deck.

  Though the fires were contained, Lieutenant Gerald Ford, a future US president, was nearly swept overboard.

Detached for repairs and an overhaul, Monterey reached Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in January 1945.  Laid up for most of the spring, the carrier resumed active operations in early May when its aircraft began hitting targets during the ongoing Battle of Okinawa.  These saw its aircraft mount attacks through the Ryukyus as well as against Kyushu.  Rejoining TF 58 in June, Monterey spent the majority of the summer raiding the Japanese home islands and remained in this role until the cessation of hostilities on August 15.  With the formal surrender of Japan, the carrier embarked passengers for the United States and departed Japanese waters on September 7.

USS Monterey (CVL-26) - Later Career:

Passing through the Panama Canal, Monterey arrived at New York on October 17.  Placed in service during Operation Magic Carpet, it made several voyages between Norfolk and Naples as it carried American servicemen home from Europe.  Decommissioned on February 11, 1947, Monterey moved into the Atlantic Reserve Fleet at Philadelphia.  With the beginning of the Korean War, it was recommissioned on September 15, 1950.  Ordered to Pensacola, FL early the following year, Monterey spent four years there as a training carrier for new naval aviators.  While in this role, it aided in providing flood relief to Honduras in October 1954.  In June of the following year, Monterey returned to Philadelphia and re-entered reserve status on January 16, 1956.

  Re-classified as an aircraft transport (AVT-2) on May 15, 1959, the carrier was finally sold for scrap in May 1971.

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