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CVE-1 Long Island

The C3 type cargo ship SS Mormacmail, under construction at Sun Shipbuilding & Drydock, Chester PA since July 1939 was acquired by the US Navy in March 1941, converted into an escort carrier and commissioned in June 1941, before the war started. Her conversion was the result of Roosevelt's request in October 1940 that the Navy design a merchant ship converted aircraft carrier which could fill the air gap in the North Atlantic which land based aircraft could not reach. The role of these ships was primarily to transport high value aircraft to the fleet carrier groups and training; they later evolved into the important task of anti-submarine warfare. SS Mormacland, also under construction at Sun Shipbuilding was converted to an escort carrier and transferred to the Royal Navy under lend lease in November 1941.

Both ships survived the Second World War having served primarily as aircraft transports, HMS Charger (ex-Mormacland) being returned in January 1946, and were converted back to cargo ships.

The conversion of these ships involved placing a wooden flight deck on a trusswork superstructure which covered almost three-quarters of the ships length. A small enclosed hangar was fitted beneath the flight deck aft and a navigation bridge was located under the forward edge of the flight deck. There was no island superstructure on this class. Both ships later had their flight decks extended in September 1941 and navigation platforms built on either side of the flight deck. In early 1942, 20mm AA guns replaced the .50-cal armament. In February 1944, Long Island (CVE-1) was redesignated an aircraft transport. As such, her arresting gear was removed. USS Long Island and HMS Charger served as the testbeds for the large number of wartime escort carrier conversions which would turn the tide of the war in the Atlantic against the U-boat menace and keep a steady flow of new aircraft flowing into the Pacific Theater.

AVG-2 to AVG-5

Four passenger liners were designated to be converted to large fleet carriers. These were among the largest ships in the American merchant fleet. Numbers AVG-2 to AVG-5 were reserved for them. It was decided that better use was as troopships and they became AP-22 to AP-25.

The 34,600 ton SS Washington was launched in May 1933 by New York Shipbuilding Co., Camden, NJ, and operated as a passenger liner from New York to Plymouth, England, and Hamburg, Germany. Renamed Mount Vernon 6 June 1941, the liner was acquired by the Navy 16 June 1941 and converted for naval use by Philadelphia Navy Yard.

The 26,500 ton SS America was built at Newport News under the Merchant Marine Act of 1936 and delivered to the U.S. Lines in July 1940. Chartered for Navy use on 6 June 41 and converted to AP at Newport News; purchased by the Navy on 28 September 1942.

The much smaller 11,000 ton Orizaba, built in 1918 by Wm. Cramp & Sons Ship and Engine Building Co., Philadelphia, Pa., was requisitioned for Navy use from the New York and Cuba Mail Steamship Co., 11 April 1918; and commissioned with the designation SP-1536, 27 May 1918 Later returned to the New York and Cuba Mail Steamship Co., she was reacquired by the War Department in early 1941. After completing one trip to the Canal Zone, she was converted by the Bethlehem Steel Co. at New York, transferred to the Navy, 4 June 1941; and commissioned as Orizaba (AP-24), 15 June 1941. Orizaba, built in 1918 by Wm. Cramp & Sons Ship and Engine Building Co., Philadelphia, Pa., was requisitioned for Navy use from the New York and Cuba Mail Steamship Co., 11 April 1918;

The 20,000 ton Leonard Wood (AP-25), ex-Nutmeg State and Western World, was built in 1922 by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Co., Sparrow Point, Md.; purchased by the War Department in 1939 and renamed Leonard Wood; served as an Army transport until acquired by the Navy 3 June 1941.

The Japanese did make large ship conversions to fleet carrier: Taiyo, Unyo and Chuyo were converted from passenger liners.



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