CVA 58 United States
After several years of planning, on 29 July 1948 President Truman approved construction of a "supercarrier", for which funds had been provided in the Naval Appropriations Act 1949. This first postwar carrier was laid down in April 1949. The flush-deck 65,000-ton CVA 58 United States was designed to launch and recover the large aircraft of 100,000 pounds required to carry early nuclear weapons, which weighed as much as five tons. The ship was to be over 1000 feet long, without an island, and of a radical new design. The construction cost of the new ship was estimated at $190 million, with the additional thirty-nine ships required to complete the accompanying task force estimated to cost $1.265 billion. The United States was also intended to provide tactical air support for air and amphibious forces and to conduct sea control operations. But the general perception was that the United States was primarily intended as a platform for long-range nuclear bombardment.
The Air Force viewed the United States as the embodiment of the Navy's nuclear aspirations as an attempt to challenge what had been an effective Air Force monopoly on strategic nuclear weapons delivery. A majority of the JCS maintained that the super carrier's main function would be a duplication of the primary role of the Air Force. In the face of limited budgetary resources, and responding to opposition from the Army and Air Force, Defense Secretary Louis Johnson announced on 23 April 1949 the cancellation of construction of the United States, without even consulting the Chief of Naval Operations. This prompted the immediate resignation of Navy Secretary John Sullivan.
This marked the beginning of a major onslaught on Navy funding. The fiscal constraints placed on the military in the late 1940's were severe, and plans debated in the summer of 1949 for the Fiscal Year 1951 budget called for deep cuts in naval aviation. Operational Essex Class carriers were to be reduced from eight to four, Carrier Air Wings from fourteen to six, operational Saipan Class carriers from ten to eight, Marine Squadrons from twenty three to twelve, Anti Submarine Warfare Squadrons from eight to seven, and Patrol Squadrons from thirty to twenty. While the Navy was struggling to maintain its carrier fleet, the Air Force was pushing for a seventy-group bomber force.
The famous "Revolt of the Admirals" cost Admiral Denfield his position as CNO, but it saved carrier-based naval aviation. The first atomic bombs went to sea on the USS Franklin Roosevelt in 1950. Much of the thinking and concepts that went into the UNITED STATES survived in the Forrestal class design. The Navy's inability to convey carrier doctrine to policy makers negatively effect America's preparedness for subsequent wars and conflicts of a limited nature. It would take the accumulated experience of numerous limited engagements, and more particularly, the Vietnam War, for defense planners to recognize anything approaching the full potential of the carrier.
CVA 58 United States was intended to be the first of a class of four carriers. The other three units [CV 59-61] of this class had not been authorized at the time the United States was cancelled. This building program was subsequently realized in the four-unit Forrestal class [CV 59-62]. Appropriately, the lead ship of the class was named after James V. Forrestal, World War I naval aviator, first Secretary of Defense and key supporter of United States .
The first USS United States , a 1576-ton sailing frigate, was built at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as one of the first warships of the new United States Navy. Commissioned in July 1797, she cruised vigorously during the 1798-1800 Quasi-War with France, taking several prizes. She was laid up at the Norfolk Navy Yard in 1849 and was captured by the Confederates when they seized that facility in April 1861. Placed in Southern service as CSS United States, she was used as a receiving ship but was sunk when the Confederates abandoned Norfolk in May 1862.
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