MartiniPundit

Random thoughts and insights – always shaken, never stirred

USS Ranger CV-61

leave a comment »

World War II marked a transition in naval warfare that very few people foresaw. After all, while there had been changes in naval technology over the preceding centuries, they had largely been confined to three aspects: gunnery, armor, and propulsion.

In the Golden Age of Sail – a period which continues to hold my fascination – cannons and sail held supreme. Later in the nineteenth century warships adopted steam engines, actual armor plate, and guns which while connected to their forebears were magnitudes more powerful.

Students of history know that these big gun ships dominated throughout the nineteenth century and became supreme in the early part of the twentieth culminating in the British Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet who both clashed at Jutland. No one knew it at the time, but that was essentially the high-water mark of the all big gun ship. More such ships would be built and commissioned for the next couple of decades, and some would be incredible. The HMS Hood – one of the most elegant ships ever built would ultimately be sunk by the German battleship Bismarck, herself a tour de force of naval architecture. (Her design predecessors Scharnhorst and Gneisenau showed stunning beauty.) There were American battleships in this league about which I have previously written.

Yet aircraft carriers are somehow different. Maybe it’s the mystique of Pearl Harbor, but I can’t help but notice the tremendous success of the British whose Swordfish aircraft successfully attacked the Italian fleet at Taranto months before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Of course, it must be allowed that the Japanese both knew of and studied the Taranto attack.

That’s the transition. World War II marked the transition of naval supremacy from the all big gun ship to the aircraft carrier. Some debated it at the time, but there is no disputing that in the Pacific, the United States after Pearl Harbor had lost the eight battleships of the Pacific Fleet. The US Navy was left with the carriers to bring the fight to the enemy, and I suspect that the stalwart American sailors were just as surprised as anyone else when those carriers not only proved equal to the task but the masters of it.

That brings me to the postwar aspect of things. It is simply an axiom that combat reaps lessons. Four years of the most intense conflict, in which technology becomes a weapon itself, will yield lessons which the observant may improve their ability to wage war. In a postwar context, the USS Ranger, CV-61 may be the first ship to embody those lessons.

Now, it is true that other ships were built and designed before the Ranger. The USS United States was probably the most significant, though she was never in any danger of completion. The Ranger herself was a member of the Forrestal class, and she followed that ship as well as the Saratoga. USS Independence rounded out the class.

The reason Ranger is important is she was built from the start with the angled deck so critical to modern carrier operations. Invented by the British – very clever people where naval technology is concerned – the angled deck allowed for simultaneous takeoff and landing operations. It also eliminated the danger of a landing aircraft failing and crashing into other planes forward on the deck.

From an American point of view, though many WWII carriers were converted – Essex class and others – it was the Forrestals, led by the Ranger, that incorporated this new and critical innovation.

The Ranger has a more personal meaning for me – my cousin commanded a squadron of A-4 Skyhawks off of her in the Vietnam War. Her service to the country was exemplary, and at this time her fate remains unclear. I hope she becomes a museum ship as I would dearly like to go aboard her. Here she is in her prime:

USS Ranger

A glass raised to the entire class: USS Forrestal CV-59, USS Saratoga CV-60, USS Ranger CV-61, and USS Independence CV-62!

Advertisements

Written by martinipundit

October 5, 2010 at 2:13 am

Posted in Military, Ships

Tagged with ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: