World War II: USS Wasp (CV-18)

USS Wasp (CV-18), August 1945
USS Wasp (CV-18), August 1945. Photograph Courtesy of the US Naval History & Heritage Command

USS Wasp (CV-18) was an Essex-class aircraft carrier built for the US Navy. It saw extensive service in the Pacific during World War II and continued to be of service after the war until it was decommissioned in 1972.

Design & Construction

Designed in the 1920s and early 1930s, the US Navy's Lexington- and Yorktown-class aircraft carriers were intended to conform to the limitations 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 total tonnage. These types of limitations were reaffirmed in the 1930 London Naval Treaty. As worldwide tensions increased, Japan and Italy left the treaty structure in 1936. With the collapse of the agreement, the US Navy commenced designing a new, larger type of aircraft carrier and one which drew from the lessons learned from the Yorktown-class. The resulting class was longer and wider as well as included a deck-edge elevator. This had been used earlier on USS Wasp (CV-7). In addition to carrying a larger number of aircraft, the new design mounted a greatly enhanced anti-aircraft armament.

Dubbed the Essex-class, the lead ship, USS Essex (CV-9), was laid down in April 1941. This was followed by USS Oriskany (CV-18) which was laid down on March 18, 1942, at Bethlehem Steel's Fore River Ship Yard in Quincy, MA. Over the next year and a half, the carrier's hull rose on the ways. In the fall of 1942, Oriskany's name was changed to Wasp to recognize the carrier of the same name which had been torpedoed by I-19 in the Southwest Pacific. Launched on August 17, 1943, Wasp entered the water with Julia M. Walsh, daughter of Massachusetts Senator David I. Walsh, serving as sponsor. With World War II raging, workers pushed to finish the carrier and it entered commission on November 24, 1943, with Captain Clifton A. F. Sprague in command.

USS Wasp (CV-18) Overview

  • Nation: United States
  • Type: Aircraft Carrier
  • Shipyard: Bethlehem Steel - Fore River Shipyard
  • Laid Down: March 18, 1942
  • Launched: August 17, 1943
  • Commissioned: November 24, 1943
  • Fate: Scrapped 1973


  • Displacement: 27,100 tons
  • Length: 872 ft.
  • Beam: 93 ft.
  • Draft: 34 ft., 2 in.
  • Propulsion: 8 × boilers, 4 × Westinghouse geared steam turbines, 4 × shafts
  • Speed: 33 knots
  • Complement: 2,600 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

Entering Combat

Following a shakedown cruise and alterations in the yard, Wasp conducted training in the Caribbean before departing for the Pacific in March 1944. Arriving at Pearl Harbor in early April, the carrier continued training then sailed for Majuro where it joined Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher's Fast Carrier Task Force. Mounting raids against Marcus and Wake Islands to test tactics in late May, Wasp commenced operations against the Marianas the following month as its planes struck Tinian and Saipan. On June 15, aircraft from the carrier supported Allied forces as they landed in the opening actions of the Battle of Saipan. Four days later, Wasp saw action during the stunning American victory at the Battle of the Philippine Sea. On June 21, the carrier and USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) were detached to mop up fleeing Japanese forces. Though searching, they were not able to locate the departing enemy.

War in the Pacific

Moving north in July, Wasp attacked Iwo Jima and Chichi Jima before returning to the Marianas to launch strikes against Guam and Rota. That September, the carrier began operations against the Philippines before shifting to support the Allied landings on Peleliu. Replenishing at Manus after this campaign, Wasp and Mitscher's carriers swept through the Ryukyus before raiding Formosa in early October. This done, the carriers began raids against Luzon to prepare for General Douglas MacArthur's landings on Leyte. On October 22, two days after the landings commenced, Wasp departed the area to replenish at Ulithi. Three days later, with the Battle of Leyte Gulf raging, Admiral William "Bull" Halsey directed the carrier to return to the area to provide assistance. Racing west, Wasp took part in the later actions of the battle before again departing for Ulithi on October 28. The remainder of the fall was spent operating against the Philippines and in mid-December, the carrier weathered a severe typhoon.

Resuming operations, Wasp supported landings at Lingayen Gulf, Luzon in January 1945, before taking part in a raid through the South China Sea. Steaming north in February, the carrier attacked Tokyo before turning to cover the invasion of Iwo Jima. Remaining in the area for several days, Wasp's pilot provided ground support for the Marines ashore. After replenishing, the carrier returned to Japanese waters in mid-March and began raids against the home islands. Coming under frequent air attack, Wasp sustained a severe bomb hit on March 19. Conducting temporary repairs, the crew kept the ship operational for several days before it was withdrawn. Arriving at Puget Sound Navy Yard on April 13, Wasp remained inactive until mid-July.

Fully repaired, Wasp steamed west July 12 and attacked Wake Island. Rejoining the Fast Carrier Task Force, it again began raids against Japan. These continued until the suspension of hostilities on August 15. Ten days later, Wasp endured a second typhoon though it sustained damage to its bow. With the end of the war, the carrier sailed for Boston where it was fitted with extra accommodations for 5,900 men. Placed in service as part of Operation Magic Carpet, Wasp sailed for Europe to aid in returning American soldiers home. With the end of this duty, it entered the Atlantic Reserve Fleet in February 1947. This inactivity proved brief as it moved to the New York Navy Yard the following year for an SCB-27 conversion to allow it to handle the US Navy's new jet aircraft.

Postwar Years

Joining the Atlantic Fleet in November 1951, Wasp collided with USS Hobson five months later and sustained severe damage to its bow. Quickly repaired, the carrier spent the year in the Mediterranean and conducting training exercises in the Atlantic. Moved to the Pacific in late 1953, Wasp operated in the Far East for much of the next two years. In early 1955, it covered the evacuation of the Tachen Islands by Nationalist Chinese forces before departing for San Francisco. Entering the yard, Wasp underwent an SCB-125 conversion which saw the addition of an angled flight deck and a hurricane bow. This work was finished late that fall and the carrier resumed operations in December. Returning to the Far East in 1956, Wasp was redesignated as an antisubmarine warfare carrier on November 1.

Transferring to the Atlantic, Wasp spent the rest of the decade conducting routine operations and exercises. These included forays into the Mediterranean and working with other NATO forces. After aiding a United Nations airlift in Congo during 1960, the carrier returned to normal duties. In the fall of 1963, Wasp entered the Boston Naval Shipyard for a Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization overhaul. Completed in early 1964, it conducted a European cruise later that year. Returning to the East Coast it recovered Gemini IV on June 7, 1965, at the completion of its spaceflight. Reprising this role, it recovered Geminis VI and VII that December. After delivering the spacecraft to port, Wasp departed Boston in January 1966 for exercises off Puerto Rico. Encountering severe seas, the carrier suffered structural damage and following an examination at its destination soon returned north for repairs.

After these were completed, Wasp resumed normal activities before recovering Gemini IX in June 1966. In November, the carrier again fulfilled a role for NASA when it brought on board Gemini XII. Overhauled in 1967, Wasp remained in the yard until early 1968. Over the next two years, the carrier operated in the Atlantic while making some voyages to Europe and participating in NATO exercises. These types of activities continued into the early 1970s when it was decided to remove the Wasp from service. In port at Quonset Point, RI for the final months of 1971, the carrier was formally decommissioned on July 1, 1972. Stricken from the Naval Vessel Register, Wasp was sold for scrap on May 21, 1973.


mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Hickman, Kennedy. "World War II: USS Wasp (CV-18)." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Hickman, Kennedy. (2020, August 26). World War II: USS Wasp (CV-18). Retrieved from Hickman, Kennedy. "World War II: USS Wasp (CV-18)." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 3, 2023).