USS Yorktown CV-10
The USS Yorktown was an Essex class carrier first commissioned on 15 April 1943. This “Fighting Lady”, of novel and movie fame, was the second of her class, renamed from Bon Homme Richard after the third USN ship to bear the Yorktown name (CV 5) was sunk by enemy aircraft and a submarine during the important Battle of Midway on 4 June 1942. Yorktown was the only American aircraft carrier sunk in that battle, but the Japanese lost four carriers, dramatically changing the balance of naval power in the Pacific in one day.
CV-10 was one of the ten original “short hull” ships that were otherwise identical to the other 23 of the Essex class, but 16 feet (4.88 metres) shorter with “unmodified” bows. She had an enviable war record, serving with distinction in many of the Pacific WW II battles, including raids on the Japanese strongholds Truk, Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and she was there for the “Great Marianas Turkey Shoot”. On 7 April 1945 her Air Group 9 participated in the destruction of the Japanese super battleshipYamato.
Yorktown modernised with “25C” and “125” conversions (strengthened deck, bigger catapults, guns removed, angled deck, enclosed bow, etc.) during 1955-58 and recommissioned as a CVS (anti-submarine) carrier displacing 45,000 tons. She participated in the Vietnam War, launching A-4 Skyhawk and A-1 Skyraider strikes, and also in the Apollo moon walk program, recovering the first crew to orbit the moon in 1968. This was the flight that was struck by lightning after launching, leading to some doubts about the integrity of its re-entry heat shield and other equipment. She decommissioned in 1970 and became a museum at Patriots Point in 1975.
The USS Laffey DD 724 lies together with Yorktown, at Patriots Point, Charleston Harbour, South Carolina. Laffey is the “Ship that would not die”. Hit by no fewer than five kamikazes and three bombs, all in less than an hour, yet brilliant damage control and not a little luck managed to keep this destroyer afloat. Her surviving crew shot down 11 of the 22 attackers and kept her ready to fight another day. In the same museum display are the USS Clamagore SS 343, a diesel-powered submarine, and the Coastguard cutter Ingham WHEC 30. Yorktown also has an interesting collection of 25 aircraft aboard. Entry fees are $14 for adults and $12 for seniors. She is open to visitors 0900 to 1800 daily.
Travelling along the USA’s Deep South Atlantic coast, it is abundantly clear that Americans take much greater pride in their military than Australians. There are dozens of thriving maritime, military and air museums in the space of only 700-odd kilometres between Savannah GA and Norfolk VA. The maritime museums include ships such as the Essex class aircraft carrierYorktown CV-10in Charleston, SC, and the two battleships Wisconsin BB-64 in Norfolk, VA, and North Carolina BB-55 in Wilmington, NC. These are only three of many other carriers and battleships dotted around the country acting as museums and attracting hordes of young prospective recruits every day.
Other American aircraft carriers preserved as museums include three other Essex class aircraft carriers: Intrepid CV-11in New York, NY; Hornet CVC-12 in Oakland near San Francisco, CA; and Lexington CV-16 in Corpus Christi, TX. Additionally, the carrier Midway CV-41 is attracting many visitors in near-downtown San Diego, CA, and Forrestal CV-59 is slated for similar duties in Baltimore, MD. The Essex class Oriskanay CV-34 was scuttled 17 May 2006 to serve as a diving reef just south of Pensacola, FL.
For instance, Yorktown is nominally owned by the local county while Wisconsin is no longer commissioned but remains under USN control. A process is under way to lease the battleship and ultimately transfer her to a civilian authority, provided the civilians show they can maintain the ship.
Yorktown is clearly lagging in ship husbandry. When visited in May 2006, her sides showed rust streaks and her flight deck was patchy. Some areas have been restored, in that the midship flight deck section appears solid under a coat of fresh paint. In other areas, particularly in the forward deck park and aft of number one wire, the flight deck is so rusty that it seems to move uncomfortably underfoot. It was sad to see Yorktown sporting a four to six centimetres thick band of marine growth around her waterline. There was no opportunity to inspect anything below the hangar deck, but her internal hangar deck spaces open to the public seem to be well-enough maintained. However, the 2006-08 US$60 million ship and pier refurbishment program for USS Intrepid is a salutary reminder that essential ship husbandry does not come cheap.
Other ships at Patriot’s Point include the heroic destroyer Laffey, the Coast Guard cutter Ingham and the diesel-powered submarine Clamagore. The Laffey and Ingham look in good enough condition, but Clamagore is showing bad marine growth infestation around her waterline and rust is eating away prominent sections of her upper deck casing.
The battleship Wisconsin, on the other hand, only 300-odd miles away in Norfolk, looks better than brand new. Alongside the Nauticus Museum, all battleship’s areas open to public inspection, including her teak decks, are in a condition that reflects great credit on those who look after her.
Yorktown‘s exhibits are in excellent condition. The hangar houses half a dozen immaculately restored WW II – Korean War aircraft, including a Douglas AD Skyraider and an SBD Dauntless alongside a Grumman F6-F Hellcat and a Vought F-G1 Corsair. A Korean War-era Grumman F9F Cougar in B hangar, with its cockpit open, invites visitors to clamber aboard. In one amidships corner of the hangar a flight simulator takes passengers on a bumpy ride.
Importantly, there is also a very rare I-16 General Electric jet engine. Derived from the Frank Whittle W1, it produced 1650 lbs of thrust and was one of the first jets built in the USA. It powered the Ryan Fireball, a composite piston- jet-engined aircraft, 66 of which were built before the contract was cancelled after VJ Day.
In Yorktown‘s forward hangar area there is a large Smokey Stover movie theatre that features thrilling “Fighting Lady” movies of the ship’s WW II deployments, including being on the wrong end of kamikaze attacks. Appearing in the film is Smokey Stover, a popular young officer lost on his first strike sortie from Yorktown.
Further details may be obtained from http://www.ussyorktown.com/yorktown.