As soon as CV-5 and CV-6 were authorized, the General Board did not request additional carriers of such tonnage. It did, however, vainly plead for a 15,200-ton replacement for the obsolete Langley. The Langley had been classed as an experimental ship and did not figure in the US Navy's aircraft carrier tonnage limitations. To replace her with another carrier would have been to violate the treaty. The Navy did plan, however, to request new aircraft carriers when the Lexington and Saratoga reached retirement age.
In July 1934 the construction of Yorktown (CV-5) and Enterprise (CV-6) was underway; both 20,000 ton carriers. Ranger (CV-4) had just commissioned - the first carrier designed as such and had to be completed with an island superstructure which added 700 tons to her displacement. This left 14,500 tons available in the building program for Wasp (CV-7) due to the limitations of the London Naval Treaty of 1930. The result was a 688-foot long hull (741 feet overall), 80-foot beam, displacing 19,100 tons at full load. She was a scaled down version of the CV-5 class with acceptable speed and capacity for 72 aircraft. Torpedo bulkheads were omitted from the design but armament was similar to that of the Yorktown class.
USS Wasp (CV-7) was ordered on March 27, 1934. Wasp was constructed at Bethlehem Steel, Quincy MA 1936-40, joining the fleet in April 1940. Her keel was laid April 1, 1936, she was launched April 4, 1939, and commissioned April 25, 1940. This carrier had to be built within what was left of the 135,000-ton limit set by the treaty. She was commissioned at 14,700 tons. Thus there were left only a few hundred tons remaining of the treaty-authorized carrier strength. Already in the mill, during construction of Yorktown and Enterprise, were plans for a new class of aircraft carrier, the first of which would be known as USS Essex (CV-9).
War clouds were gathering over Europe and the Pacific. Fleet exercises and war games were stepped up as international tensions mounted. The treaties of 1922 and 1930 terminated December 31, 1936 when Japan abrogated. In its provisions for Naval Aviation, the Naval Expansion Act of May 17, 1938 authorized an increase in total tonnage of under-age naval vessels amounting to 40,000 tons for aircraft carriers, and also Authorized the President to increase the number of naval aircraft to "not less than" 3000. Carriers built as a result of this authorization were the Hornet and Essex.
On September 8, 1939, President Roosevelt proclaimed the existence of a limited national emergency and directed measures for strengthening national defenses within the limits of peacetime authorization. In May 1941, an unlimited national emergency was declared. Seven months later Japanese aircraft, launched from carriers, attacked Pearl Harbor, and within 24 hours, the President went before Congress and the nation was at war.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor she served escort / transport duties in the Atlantic and her AA armament was modernized; 1.1-inch AA guns were replaced with a quad 40mm and 23 20mm mounts. Her standard air complement was 30 F4F Wildcat fighters, 30 SBD Dauntless dive bombers, and 10 TBF Avenger torpedo planes. Transferred to the Pacific, she took part in the Guadalcanal landing coverage then shuttled valuable aircraft to the Cactus Air Force thereafter but was sunk by Japanese submarine I-19 on 16 September 1942.
Though she was designated an aircraft carrier (CV), her size and operating capacity was similar to that of later built light carriers (CVLs).
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