World War II: USS San Jacinto (CVL-30)

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USS San Jacinto (CVL-30), January 1944. Photograph Courtesy of the Naval History & Heritage Command

USS San Jacinto (CVL-30) - Overview:

  • Nation: United States
  • Type: Aircraft Carrier
  • Shipyard: New York Shipbuilding Corporation, Camden, NJ
  • Laid Down: October 26, 1942
  • Launched: September 26, 1943
  • Commissioned: November 15, 1943
  • Fate: Sold for scrap, 1971

USS San Jacinto (CVL-30) - 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: 1,549 men

USS San Jacinto (CVL-30) - Armament

  • 26 × Bofors 40 mm guns

Aircraft

  • 30-45 aircraft

USS San Jacinto (CVL-30) - Design:

With World War II engulfing Europe and deteriorating relations with Japan, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt grew concerned over the fact that the US Navy did not anticipate any new aircraft carriers joining the fleet prior to 1944.  As a result, in 1941, he requested the General Board to ascertain whether any of the light cruisers then being planned or built could be converted into carriers to reinforce the fleet's Lexington- and Yorktown-class ships.  Finishing their report on October 13, the General Board stated that while such conversions were feasible, the level of compromise required would significantly reduce their effectiveness.  As a former Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Roosevelt pressed the issue and ordered the Bureau of Ships (BuShips) to make a second study.

Completed on October 25, BuShips replied that such conversions could occur and, while the ships would have limited capabilities relative to the fleet carriers then in use, they could be finished much faster.  Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7 and US entry into World War II, the US Navy sped up the construction of the new Essex-class fleet carriers and elected to convert nine Cleveland-class light cruisers, then being planned or built, into light carriers.

 As plans for these conversions were completed, they provided more potential than first anticipated.  

In order to incorporate narrow and short flight and hangar decks, the new Independence-class necessitated that blisters to be affixed to the cruiser hulls to aid in offsetting the increased weight topside.  Continuing to possess their initial cruiser speed of 30+ knots, the type was dramatically faster than other types of light and escort carriers which permitted them to sail with the US Navy's fleet carriers.  Due to their smaller size, the Independence-class' air groups frequently totaled approximately 30 aircraft.  While first intended to be an even mix of fighters, dive bombers, and torpedo bombers, by 1944 air groups were often fighter heavy.

USS San Jacinto (CVL-30) - Construction:

The ninth and final ship of the new class, USS San Jacinto (CV-30) was ordered as the Cleveland-class light cruiser USS Newark (CL-100).  Re-designated CV-30 on June 2, 1942, the new ship was to be named Reprisal.  Laid down on October 26, 1942 at New York Shipbuilding Corporation, the ship's name was again changed on January 3, 1943 to honor the Texan victory at the Battle of San Jacinto.  On July 15, the vessel's hull number was altered to CVL-30 identify it as a light carrier.

  As work moved forward, San Jacinto entered the water on September 26 with Mary G. Jones, wife of Secretary of Commerce Jesse H. Jones, serving as sponsor.  Quickly completed, the carrier entered commission on November 15 with Captain Harold M. Martin in command. 

USS San Jacinto (CVL-30) - Joining the Fight:

Completing shakedown operations in the Caribbean, San Jacinto passed through the Panama Canal and touched at San Diego and Pearl Harbor before joining Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher's Task Force 58 (Fast Carrier Task Force) at Majuro.  Embarking Air Group 51, the carrier covered raids against Wake and Marcus Islands before spending May making preparations for operations in the Marianas.  Sailing on June 5, San Jacinto and TF 58 commenced strikes in those islands a few days later and aided in covering the landings on Saipan on June 15.

  Cruising the in the area, San Jacinto's aircraft routinely struck Japanese assets in the Marianas.  These efforts forced the Japanese to attack and on June 19-20 the carrier took part in the victory at the Battle of the Philippine Sea

After the battle, San Jacinto's aircraft conducted raids against Rota and Guam as well as provided anti-submarine patrols.  Leaving the Marianas, the carrier replenished at Eniwetok and embarked on a series of attacks in the Palaus and Volcano Islands (Chichi, Haha, and Iwo Jimas) in late July and August.  During this period, a TBF Avenger flown by future-President George H.W. Bush was downed off Chichi Jima.  Entering the water, Lieutenant (j.g.) Bush was rescued by USS Finback (SS-230).  Moving west, San Jacinto attacked Okinawa before shifting south to strike Formosa and Luzon.  While operating against the Philippines, the carrier took casualties (2 killed, 24 wounded) when a plane made a hard landing which led to an accidental discharge of its guns.    

USS San Jacinto (CVL-30) - Philippines & Japan:

Sailing with Rear Admiral Ralph E. Davison's Task Group 38.4 which included the carriers USS Enterprise (CV-6), USS Franklin (CV-13), and USS (CVL-24), San Jacinto participated in the Battle of Leyte Gulf on October 23-26.  During the fighting, its aircraft saw action over the Sibuyan Sea and off Cape Engaño.  Remaining the Philippines, San Jacinto continued to attack targets around the archipelago.  In area through December, the carrier weathered Typhoon Cobra in the middle of the month with little damage.

  After making what repairs were required at Ulithi, San Jacinto joined Mitscher's carriers as they raided around the South China Sea mounting strikes against Luzon, Indochina, Hong Kong, Formosa, and the Ryukyus.

Shifting north in February 1945, San Jacinto attacked the Japanese home islands as well as provided cover for the landings and fighting on Iwo Jima.  The following month, on March 19, it narrowly avoided a Japanese kamikaze during the same attacks that crippled Franklin.  Turning south, San Jacinto assisted in screening the landings on Okinawa and stayed in the vicinity to protect the Allied fleet.  Six days later, its aircraft aided in blocking Operation Ten-Go and sinking the battleship Yamato and its consorts.  As the spring progressed, San Jacinto alternated between supporting operations on Okinawa and launching attacks against Japan.  Enduring a second typhoon in June, it was off the Japanese coast on August 15 when hostilities ended.

USS San Jacinto (CVl-30) - Later Career:

With the war over, San Jacinto's aircraft commenced dropping food and supplies to Allied prisoners of war in Japan.  Present in Tokyo Bay for the formal Japanese surrender on September 2, the carrier then departed for the United States.  Steaming to California, it arrived at Naval Air Station Alameda on September 14.  Its wartime role concluded, San Jacinto moved into the Pacific Reserve Fleet after being decommissioned on March 1, 1947.  Reclassified as an auxiliary aircraft transport (AVT-5) on May 15, 1959, the carrier was later sold for scrap on December 15, 1971.

   

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Hickman, Kennedy. "World War II: USS San Jacinto (CVL-30)." ThoughtCo, May. 6, 2015, thoughtco.com/uss-san-jacinto-cvl-30-2360375. Hickman, Kennedy. (2015, May 6). World War II: USS San Jacinto (CVL-30). Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/uss-san-jacinto-cvl-30-2360375 Hickman, Kennedy. "World War II: USS San Jacinto (CVL-30)." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/uss-san-jacinto-cvl-30-2360375 (accessed December 14, 2017).