The 25 Largest U.S. Fleet (CV) Aircraft Carriers in World War II

Although the 1944-45 edition of Jane’s Fighting Ships estimated that the strength of the postwar 1946 U.S. Navy would be 18 battleships, 27 fleet aircraft carriers, and 79 escort aircraft carriers, actual records differ slightly. Two of the aircraft carriers on the 1946 list were not in service at the time the war ended. It is equally worth noting here that such projections, errors, omissions, and publication of expected information which never became fact is not uncommon.

The information and tables presented here, and appear as appendixes in three of my World War II books, including Pearl Harbor Amazing Facts (0971056005), is based on the best available material and a consensus of such research. If any reader questions this listing, or finds any errors, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

The prewar rivalry between “the Gun Club” dreadnought admirals and the advocates of naval air power was over. The pendulum had swung dramatically in Hawaii on a December Sunday in 1941.

By the end of the war in September, 1945, less than four years later, the U.S. had 121 flattops (including Fleet (CV), Light Fleet (CVL), and Escort carriers (CVE)). Japan, meanwhile, added 15 aircraft carriers during the war but by the time the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima they had two left. Listed here are only the U.S. Navy Fleet (CVB) carriers. Note: Fleet carriers are also commonly noted simply as CV.

A trio of large Fleet Aircraft Carriers (CVB) of 45,000 tons and 986 feet in overall length were laid down in 1943 and 1944 but were also not completed before the end of the war. They included USS Midway (CVB-41), USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVB-42), and USS Coral Sea (CVB-43). Orders for three others were cancelled in 1945.

See also  World War II Museum Ships: The Aircraft Carriers

Hull No.
Completed
Tons
Length

CV-1 USS Langley
1922
12,903
519;
CV-2 USS Lexington
1927
49,500
909.5;
CV-3 USS Saratoga
1927
49,500
909.5;
CV-4 USS Ranger
1934
14,500
769;
CV-5 USS Yorktown
1937
29,100
809.5;
CV-6 USS Enterprise
1938
29,100
809.5;
CV-7 USS Wasp
1940
18,500
741;
CV-8 USS Hornet
1941
29,100
809.5;

The following 17 Fleet aircraft carriers entered service after hostilities commenced in 1941.

CV-9 USS Essex
1942
33,800
899;
CV-10 USS Yorktown (2) 1943
33,800
899;
CV-11 USS Intrepid
1943
33,800
899;
CV-12 USS Hornet (2)
1943
33,800
899;
CV-13 USS Franklin
1944
33,800
899;
CV-14 USS Ticonderoga
1944
33,800
899;
CV-15 USS Randolph
1944
33,800
899;
CV-16 USS Lexington (2)
1943
33,800
899;
CV-17 USS Bunker Hill
1943
33,800
899;
CV-18 USS Wasp (2)
1943
33,800
899;
CV-19 USS Hancock
1944
33,800
899;
CV-20 USS Bennington
1944
33,800
899;
CV-21 USS Boxer
1945
33,800
899;
CV-31 USS Bon Homme Richard
1944, 33,800,899;
CV-36 USS Antietam
1945
33,800
899;
CV-38 USS Shangri-La
1944
33,800
899;
CV-39 USS Lake Champlain 1944 33,800
899;

These last seven Essex class carriers were commissioned after Japan surrendered. The Essex class originally called for 36 carriers. Twelve others were cancelled in March and August, 1945.
CV-32
USS Leyte

CV-32 USS Leyte;
CV-33 USS Kearsarge;

CV-34 USS Oriskany;

CV-37 USS Princeton (2);

CV-40 USS Tarawa;

CV-45 USS Valley Forge;

CV-47 USS Philippine Sea

Reference:

  • Copyright 1983; 1990; 2001 by Timothy B. Benford