World War II: USS Randolph (CV-15)

USS Randolph (CV-15) during World War II

US Naval History & Heritage Command

  • Nation: United States
  • Type: Aircraft Carrier
  • Shipyard: Newport News Shipbuilding Company
  • Laid Down: May 10, 1943
  • Launched: June 28, 1944
  • Commissioned: October 9, 1944
  • Fate: Scrapped 1975


  • 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


  • 90-100 aircraft

A New Design

Designed in the 1920s and early 1930s, the US Navy's Lexington- and Yorktown-class aircraft carriers were built to conform to the limits set forth by the Washington Naval Treaty. This agreement placed restrictions on the tonnage of various types of warships as well as capped each signatory’s overall tonnage. These types of limitations were confirmed through the 1930 London Naval Treaty. As global tensions increased, Japan and Italy departed the agreement in 1936. With the collapse of the treaty system, the US Navy began developing a design for a new, larger class of aircraft carrier and one which included 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 larger air group, the new type mounted a greatly enhanced 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 following 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 original design. In early 1943, the US Navy made several changes to improve subsequent vessels. The most dramatic of these was the lengthening the bow to a clipper design which allowed for the addition of two quadruple 40 mm mounts. Other improvements included shifting the combat information center below the armored deck, installing improved aviation fuel and ventilation systems, a second catapult on the flight deck, and an additional fire control director. Though dubbed 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 second ship to move forward with the revised Essex-class design was USS Randolph (CV-15). Laid down on May 10, 1943, the new carrier's construction began at Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company. Named for Peyton Randolph, President of the First Continental Congress, the ship was the second in the US Navy to carry the name. Work continued on the vessel and it slid down the ways on June 28, 1944, with Rose Gillette, wife of Senator Guy Gillette of Iowa, serving as sponsor. Construction of Randolph concluded about three months later and it entered commission on October 9 with Captain Felix L. Baker in command.

Joining the Fight

Departing Norfolk, Randolph conducted a shakedown cruise in the Caribbean before preparing for the Pacific. Passing through the Panama Canal, the carrier arrived at San Francisco on December 31, 1944. Embarking Air Group 12, Randolph weighed anchor on January 20, 1945, and steamed for Ulithi. Joining Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher's Fast Carrier Task Force, it sortied on February 10 to mount attacks on the Japanese home islands. A week later, Randolph's aircraft struck airfields around Tokyo and the Tachikawa engine plant before turning south. Arriving near Iwo Jima, they mounted raids in support of Allied forces ashore.

Campaigning in the Pacific

Remaining in the vicinity of Iwo Jima for four days, Randolph then mounted sweeps around Tokyo before returning to Ulithi. On March 11, Japanese kamikaze forces mounted Operation Tan No. 2 which called for a long-range strike against Ulithi with Yokosuka P1Y1 bombers. Arriving over the Allied anchorage, one of the kamikazes struck Randolph's starboard side aft below the flight deck. Though 27 were killed, the damage to the ship was not severe and could be repaired at Ulithi. Ready to resume operations within weeks, Randolph joined American ships off Okinawa on April 7. There it provided cover and support for American troops during the Battle of Okinawa. In May, Randolph's planes attacked targets in the Ryukyu Islands and southern Japan. Made flagship of the task force on May 15, it resumed support operations at Okinawa before withdrawing to Ulithi at the end of the month.

Attacking Japan in June, Randolph swapped Air Group 12 for Air Group 16 the following month. Remaining on the offensive, it raided airfields around Tokyo on July 10 before striking the Honshu-Hokkaido train ferries four days later. Moving on to the Yokosuka Naval Base, Randolph's planes struck the battleship Nagato on July 18. Sweeping through the Inland Sea, further efforts saw the battleship-carrier Hyuga damaged and installations ashore bombed. Remaining active off Japan, Randolph continued to attack targets until receiving word of the Japanese surrender on August 15. Ordered back to the United States, Randolph transited the Panama Canal and arrived at Norfolk on November 15. Converted for use as a transport, the carrier began Operation Magic Carpet cruises to the Mediterranean to bring American servicemen home.


Concluding Magic Carpet missions, Randolph embarked US Naval Academy midshipmen in the summer of 1947 for a training cruise. Decommissioned at Philadelphia on February 25, 1948, the ship was placed in reserve status. Moved to Newport News, Randolph commenced an SCB-27A modernization in June 1951. This saw the flight deck reinforced, new catapults installed, and the addition of new arresting gear. Also, Randolph's island underwent modifications and the anti-aircraft armament turrets were removed. Reclassified as an attack carrier (CVA-15), the ship was re-commissioned on July 1, 1953, and commenced a shakedown cruise off Guantanamo Bay. This done, Randolph received orders to join the US 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean on February 3, 1954. Remaining abroad for six months, it then returned to Norfolk for an SCB-125 modernization and the addition of an angled flight deck.

Later Service

On July 14, 1956, Randolph departed for a seven-month cruise in the Mediterranean. Over the next three years, the carrier alternated between deployments to the Mediterranean and training on the East Coast. In March 1959, Randolph was redesignated as an anti-submarine carrier (CVS-15). Remaining in home waters for the next two years, it commenced an SCB-144 upgrade in early 1961. With the completion of this work, it served as the recovery ship for Virgil Grissom's Mercury space mission. This done, Randolph sailed for the Mediterranean in the summer of 1962. Later in the year, it moved to the western Atlantic during the Cuban Missile Crisis. During these operations, Randolph and several American destroyers attempted to force the Soviet submarine B-59 to surface.

Following an overhaul at Norfolk, Randolph resumed operations in the Atlantic. Over the next five years, the carrier made two deployments to the Mediterranean as well as a cruise to northern Europe. The remainder of Randolph's service occurred off the East Coast and in the Caribbean. On August 7, 1968, the Department of Defense announced that the carrier and forty-nine other vessels would be decommissioned for budgetary reasons. On February 13, 1969, Randolph was decommissioned at Boston before being placed in reserve at Philadelphia. Struck from the Navy List on June 1, 1973, the carrier was sold for scrap to Union Minerals & Alloys two years later.

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Your Citation
Hickman, Kennedy. "World War II: USS Randolph (CV-15)." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Hickman, Kennedy. (2020, August 26). World War II: USS Randolph (CV-15). Retrieved from Hickman, Kennedy. "World War II: USS Randolph (CV-15)." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 5, 2023).