USS WASP CV 18
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The ninth USS Wasp (CV 18) was laid down as Oriskany on March 18, 1942 at Quincy, Mass., by the Bethlehem Steel Co.; renamed Wasp on November 13, 1942; launched on August 17, 1943; sponsored by Miss Julia M. Walsh, the sister of Senator David I. Walsh of Massachusetts and commissioned on November 24, 1943, Capt. Clifton A. F. Sprague in command.
Following a shakedown cruise which lasted through the end of 1943, the Wasp returned to Boston for a brief yard period to correct minor flaws which had been discovered during her time at sea.
On January 10, 1944 the new aircraft carrier departed Boston; steamed to Hampton Roads, Va.; and remained there until the last day of the month, when she sailed for Trinidad, her base of operations through February 22nd. CV 18 returned to Boston five days later and prepared for service in the Pacific. Early in March , the ship sailed south; transited the Panama Canal; arrived at San Diego, Calif., on March 21; and reached Pearl Harbor on April 4th.
Following training exercises in Hawaiian waters, the Wasp steamed to the Marshall Islands and at Majuro Rear Adm. Alfred E. Montgomery's newly formed Task Group (TG) 58.6 of Vice Adm. Marc A. Mitscher's Fast Carrier Task Force (TF 58). On May 14, USS Wasp and her sister carriers of TG 58.6, USS Essex (CV 9) and USS San Jacinto (CV 30), sortied for raids on Marcus and Wake Islands to give the new task group combat experience; to test a recently devised system of assigning, before takeoff, each pilot a specific target, and to neutralize those islands for the forthcoming Marianas campaign. As the force neared Marcus, it split, sending San Jacinto north to search for Japanese picket boats while Wasp and Essex launched strikes on the 19th and 20th, aimed at installations on the island. American planes encountered heavy antiaircraft fire but still managed to do enough damage to prevent Japanese forces on the island from interfering with the impending assault on Saipan.
When weather canceled launches planned for May 21, 1944, the two carriers rejoined San Jacinto and steamed to Wake. Planes from all three carriers pounded that island on the 24th and were sufficiently effective to neutralize that base. However, the system of pre-selecting targets for each plane fell short of the Navy's expectations, and, thereafter, tactical air commanders resumed responsibility for directing the attacks of their planes.
After the strike on Wake, TG 58.6 returned to Majuro to prepare for the Mariana campaign. On June 6th, USS Wasp, reassigned to TG 58.2 which was also commanded by Rear Adm. Montgomery, sortied for the invasion of Saipan. During the afternoon of the 11th, she and her sister carriers launched fighters for strikes against Japanese air bases on Saipan and Tinian. They were challenged by some 30 land-based fighters which they promptly shot down. Antiaircraft fire was heavy, but the American planes braved it as they went on to destroy many Japanese aircraft which were still on the ground.
During the next three days, the American fighters, now joined by bombers, pounded installations on Saipan to soften up Japanese defenses for American assault troops who would go ashore on the 15th. That day and thereafter until the morning of June 17, planes from TG 58.2 and TG 58.3 provided close air support for Marines fighting on the Saipan beachhead. The fast carriers of those task groups then turned over to escort carriers responsibility for providing air support for the American ground forces, refueled, and steamed to rendezvous with TG 58.1 and 58.4 which were returning from strikes against Chichi Jima and Iwo Jima to prevent Japanese air bases on those islands from being used to launch attacks against American forces on or near Saipan.
Meanwhile, Japan, determined to defend Saipan, no matter how high the cost, was sending Adm. Jisaburo Ozawa's powerful First Mobile Fleet from the Sulu Islands to the Marianas to sink the warships of Adm. Spruance's 5th Fleet and to annihilate the American troops who had fought their way ashore on Saipan. Soon after the Japanese task force sortied from Tawi Tawi on the morning of June 13, American submarine USS Redfin (SS 272) spotted and reported it. Other submarines, which from time to time made contact with Ozawa's warships, kept Spruance posted on their progress as they wended their way through the Philippine Islands, transited San Bernardino Strait, and entered the Philippine Sea.
All day on the 18th, each force sent out scout planes in an effort to locate its adversary. Because of their greater range, the Japanese aircraft managed to obtain some knowledge of Spruance's ships, but American scout planes were unable to find Ozawa's force. Early the following morning, June 19, 1944, aircraft from Mitscher's carriers headed for Guam to neutralize that island for the coming battle and in a series of dogfights, destroyed many Japanese land-based planes. During the morning, carriers from Ozawa's fleet launched four massive raids against their American counterparts, but all were thwarted almost completely. Nearly all of the Japanese warplanes were shot down while failing to sink a single American ship. They did manage to score a single bomb hit on USS South Dakota (BB 57), but that solitary success did not even put the tough Yankee battleship out of action. That day, Mitscher's planes did not find the Japanese ships, but American submarines succeeded in sending two enemy carriers to the bottom. In the evening, three of Mitscher's four carrier task groups headed west in search of Ozawa's retiring fleet, leaving only TG 58.4 and a gun line of old battleships in the immediate vicinity of the Marianas to cover ground forces on Saipan. Planes from the American carriers failed to find the Japanese force until mid-afternoon on June 20 when an Avenger pilot reported spotting Ozawa almost 300 miles from the American carriers. Mitscher daringly ordered an all-out strike even though he knew that night would descend before his planes could return. Over two hours later, the American aviators caught up with their quarry. They damaged two oilers so severely that they had to be scuttled; sank the carrier Hiyo, and scored damaging but non-lethal hits on the carriers Ryuho, Junyo, and Zuikaku and several other Japanese ships. However during the sunset attack, the fuel gauges in many of the American planes registered half empty or more, presaging an anxious flight back to their now distant carriers. When the carriers spotted the first returning plane at 2030 that night, Rear Adm. J. J. Clark bravely defied the menace of Japanese submarines by ordering all lights to be turned on to guide the weary fliers home. After a plane from Hornet landed on Lexington, Mitscher gave pilots permission to land on any available deck. Despite these unusual efforts to help the Navy's airmen, a good many planes ran out of gasoline before they reached the carriers and dropped into the water. When fuel calculations indicated that no aircraft which had not returned could still be aloft, Mitscher ordered the carriers to reverse course and resume the stern chase of Ozawa's surviving ships, more in the hope of finding any downed fliers who might still be alive and pulling them from the sea than in the expectation of overtaking Japan's First Mobile Fleet before it reached the protection of the Emperor's land-based planes. During the chase, Mitcher's ships picked up 36 pilots and 26 crewmen.
At mid-morning of June 21, Adm. Spruance detached USS Wasp (CV 18) and USS Bunker Hill (CV 17) from their task group and sent them with Adm. Lee's battleships in Ozawa's wake to locate and destroy any crippled enemy ships. The ensuing two-day hunt failed to flush out any game, so this ad hoc force headed toward Eniwetok for replenishment and well-earned rest.
The respite was brief, for, on June 30, 1944, Wasp sortied in TG 58.2 - with TG 68.1 - for strikes at Iwo Jima and Chichi Jima. Planes from the carriers pounded those islands on July 3rd and 4th and, during the raids, destroyed 75 enemy aircraft, for the most part in the air. Then, as a grand finale, cruisers from the force's screen shelled Iwo Jima for two and one-half hours. The next day, July 5, the two task groups returned to the Marianas and attacked Guam and Rota to begin more than a fortnight's effort to soften the Japanese defenses there in preparation for landings on Guam. Planes from USS Wasp and her sister carriers provided close air support for the Marines and soldiers who stormed ashore on July 21st. The next day, Wasp's task group, TG 58.2, sortied with two other groups of Mitscher's carriers headed southwest toward the Western Carolines, and launched raids against the Palaus on the 25th. The force then parted, with TG 58.1 and TG 58.3 steaming back north for further raids to keep the Bonin and Volcano Islands neutralized while Wasp in TG 58.2 was retiring toward the Marshalls for replenishment at Eniwetok which she reached on August 2, 1944.
Toward the end of Wasp's stay at that base, Adm. Halsey relieved Adm. Spruance on August 26 and the 5th Fleet became the 3d Fleet. Two days later, the Fast Carrier Task Force, redesignated TF 38, sortied for the Palaus. On Sept. 6, CV 18, now assigned to Vice Adm. John S. McCain's TG 38.1, began three days of raids on the Palaus. On the 9th, she headed - with her task group, TG 38.2, and TG 38.3 - for the southern Philippines to neutralize air power there during the American conquest of Morotai, Peleliu, and Ulithi, three islands needed as advanced bases during the impending campaign to liberate the Philippines. Planes from these carriers encountered little resistance as they lashed Mindanao airfields that day and on the 10th. Raids against the Visayan Islands on September 12 and 13th were carried out with impunity and were equally successful. Mindanao which had been scheduled to begin on November 16, 1944. Instead, Allied forces could go straight to Leyte and advance the recapture of Philippine soil by almost a month.
D day in the Palaus, September 15, 1944, found Wasp's TG 38.1 some 50 miles off Morotai, launching air strikes. It then returned to the Philippines for revisits to Mindanao and the Visayas before retiring to the Admiralties on September 29 for replenishment at Manus in preparation for the liberation of the Philippines. Ready to resume battle, USS Wasp got underway again on October 4 and steamed to the Philippine Sea where TF 38 reassembled at twilight on the evening of October 7, some 375 miles west of the Marianas. Its mission was to neutralize airbases within operational air distance of the Philippines to keep Japanese warplanes out of the air during the American landings on Leyte scheduled to begin on October 20. The carriers steamed north to rendezvous with a group of nine oilers and spent the next day, October 8, 1944, refueling. They then followed a generally northwesterly course toward the Ryukyus until the 10th when their planes raided Okinawa Amami, and Miyaki. That day, TF 38 planes destroyed a Japanese submarine tender, 12 sampans, and over 100 planes. But for Lt. Col. Doolittle's Tokyo raid from USS Hornet (CV 8) on April 18, 1942 and the daring war patrols of Pacific Fleet submarines, this carrier foray was the United States Navy's closest approach to the Japanese home islands up to that point in the war. Beginning on the 12th, Formosa-next on the agenda-received three days of unwelcome attention from TF 38 planes. In response, the Japanese Navy made an all-out effort to protect that strategic island, even though doing so meant denuding its remaining carriers of aircraft. Yet, the attempt to thwart the ever advancing American Pacific Fleet was futile. At the end of a three-day air battle, Japan had lost more than 500 planes and 20-odd freighters. Many other merchant ships were damaged as were hangars, barracks, warehouses, industrial plants, and ammunition dumps. However, the victory was costly to the United States Navy, for TF 38 lost 79 planes and 64 pilots and air crewmen, while cruisers USS Canberra (CA 70) and USS Houston (CL 81) and the carrier USS Franklin (CV 13) received damaging, but non-lethal, bomb hits.
From Formosa, TF 38 shifted its attention to the Philippines. After steaming to waters east of Luzon, Wasp's TG 58.1 began to launch strikes against that island on October 18, 1944 and continued the attack the following day, hitting Manila for the first time since it was occupied by the Japanese early in the war. On the 20th, the day the first American troops waded ashore on Leyte, USS Wasp had moved south to the station off that island whence she and her sister carriers launched some planes for close air support missions to assist MacArthur's soldiers, while sending other aircraft to destroy airfields on Mindanao, Cebu, Negros, Panay, and Leyte. Task Group 38.1 refueled the following day and, on the 22nd, set a course for Ulithi to rearm and provision.
While McCain's carriers were steaming away from the Philippines, great events were taking place in the waters of that archipelago. Adm. Soemu Toyoda, the Commander in Chief of Japan's Combined Fleet, activated plan Sho-Go-1, a scheme for bringing about a decisive naval action off Leyte. The Japanese strategy called for Ozawa's carriers to act as a decoy to lure TF 38 north of Luzon and away from the Leyte beachhead. Then, with the American fast carriers out of the way, heavy Japanese surface ships were to debouch into Leyte Gulf from two directions: from the south through Surigao Strait and from the north through San Bernardino Strait. During much of October 24, planes from Halsey's carrier task groups still in Philippine waters pounded Adm. Kurita's powerful Force "A," or Center Force, as it steamed across the Sibuyan Sea toward San Bernardino Strait. When darkness stopped their attack, the American aircraft had sunk superbattleship Musashi and had damaged several other Japanese warships. Moreover, Halsey's pilots reported that Kurita's force had reversed course and was moving away from San Bernardino Strait. That night, Adm. Nishimura's Force "C", or Southern Force, attempted to transit Surigao Strait but met a line of old battleships commanded by Rear Adm. Jesse B. Oldendorf. The venerable American men-of-war crossed Nishimura's "T" and all but annihilated his force. Adm. Shima, who was following in Nishimura's wake to lend support, realized that disaster had struck and wisely withdrew. Meanwhile, late in the afternoon, after Kurita's Center Force had turned away from San Bernardino Strait in apparent retreat, Halsey's scout planes finally located Ozawa's carriers a bit under 200 miles north of TF 38. This intelligence prompted Halsey to head north toward Ozawa with his Fast Carrier Task Force. However, at this point, he did not recall McCain's TG 68.1 but allowed it to continue steaming toward Ulithi. After dark, Kurita's Center Force again reversed course and once more headed for San Bernardino Strait. About half an hour past midnight, it transited that narrow passage; turned to starboard; and steamed south, down the east coast of Samar. Since Halsey had dashed north in pursuit of Ozawa's carriers, only three 7th Fleet escort carrier groups and their destroyer and destroyer escort screens were available to challenge Kurita's mighty battleships and heavy cruisers and to protect the American amphibious ships which were supporting the troops fighting on Leyte. Remembered by their call names, "Taffy 1," "Taffy 2," and "Taffy 3," these three American escort-carrier groups were deployed along Samar's east coast with "Taffy 3", commanded by Wasp's first captain, Rear Adm. Clifton A. F. Sprague, in the northernmost position, about 40 miles off Paninihian Point. "Taffy 2" was covering Leyte Gulf, and "Taffy 1" was still farther south watching Surigao Strait. At 0645 on October 25th lookouts on "Taffy 3" ships spotted bursts of antiaircraft fire blossoming in the northern sky, as Center Force gunners opened fire on an American anti-submarine patrol plane. Moments later, "Taffy 3" made both radar and visual contact with the approaching Japanese warships. Shortly before 0700, Kurita's guns opened fire on the hapless "baby flattops" and their comparatively tiny but incredibly courageous escorts. For more than two hours, "Taffy 3's" ships and planes, aided by aircraft from sister escort-carrier groups to the south, fought back with torpedoes, guns, bombs, and consummate seamanship. Then, at 0311, Kurita, shaken by the loss of three heavy cruisers and thinking that he had been fighting TF 38, ordered his remaining warships to break off the action. Meanwhile, at 0848, Adm. Halsey had radioed McCain's TG 68.1, then refueling en route to Ulithi, calling that carrier group back to Philippine waters to help "Taffy 3" in its fight for survival. USS Wasp (CV 18) and her consorts raced toward Samar at flank speed until 1030 when they began launching planes for strikes at Kurita's ships which were still some 330 miles away. While these raids did little damage to the Japanese Center Force, they did strengthen Kurita's decision to retire from Leyte. While his planes were in the air, McCain's carriers continued to speed westward to lessen the distance of his pilots' return flight and to be in optimum position at dawn to launch more warplanes at the fleeing enemy force. With the first light of 26th, TG 38.1 and Rear Adm. Bogan's TG 38.2, which finally had been sent south by Halsey, launched the first of their strikes that day against Kurita. The second left the carriers a little over two hours later. These fliers sank light cruiser Noshiro and damaged, but did not sink, heavy cruiser Kumano. The two task groups launched a third strike in the early afternoon, but it did not add to their score.
Following the Battle for Leyte Gulf, which ended the Japanese Fleet as a serious challenge to American supremacy at sea in the Far East, TG 38.1 operated in the Philippines for two more days providing close air support before again heading for Ulithi on the 28th. However, the respite, during which Rear Adm. Montgomery took command of TG 38.1 when McCain fleeted up to relieve Mitscher as CTF 38, was brief since Japanese land-based planes attacked troops on the Leyte beachhead on 1 November. USS Wasp participated in raids against Luzon air bases on November 5 and 6th, destroying over 400 Japanese aircraft, for the most part on the ground. After a kamikaze hit Lexington during the operation, McCain shifted his flag from that carrier to the Wasp and, a short time later, returned in her to Guam to exchange air groups.
CV 18 Returned to the Philippines a little before mid-month and continued to send strikes against targets in the Philippines, mostly on Luzon, until the 26th when the Army Air Force assumed responsibility for providing air support for troops on Leyte. TF 38 then retired to Ulithi. There, the carriers received greater complements of fighter planes and, in late November and early December, conducted training exercises to prepare them better to deal with Japan's new threat to the American warships, kamikazes or suicide planes.
Task Force 38 sortied from Ulithi on December 10 and 11th, and proceeded to a position east of Luzon for round-the-clock strikes against air bases on that island from the 14th through the 16th to prevent Japanese fighter planes from endangering landings on the southwest coast of Mindoro scheduled for the 15th. Then, while withdrawing to a fueling rendezvous point east of the Philippines, TF 38 was caught in a terribly destructive typhoon which battered its ships and sank three American destroyers. The aircraft carriers spent most of the ensuing week repairing storm damage and returned to Ulithi on Christmas Eve. But the accelerating tempo of the war ruled out long repose in the shelter of the lagoon. Before the year ended, the carriers were back in action against airfields in the Philippines on Sakishima Gunto, and on Okinawa. These raids were intended to smooth the way for General MacArthur's invasion of Luzon through the Lingayen Gulf. While the carrier planes were unable to knock out all Japanese air resistance to the Luzon landings, they did succeed in destroying many enemy planes and thus reduced the air threat to manageable proportions.
On the night after the initial landings on Luzon, Halsey took TF 38 into the South China Sea for a week's rampage in which his ships and planes took a heavy toll of Japanese shipping and aircraft before they retransited Luzon Strait on January 16, 1945 and returned to the Philippine Sea. Bad weather prevented Halsey's planes from going aloft for the next few days; but, on the 21st, they bombed Formosa, the Pescadores, and the Sakishimas. The following day, the aircraft returned to the Sakishimas and the Ryukyus for more bombing and reconnaissance. The overworked Fast Carrier Task Force then headed for Ulithi and entered that lagoon on the 26th.
While the flattops were catching their breath at Ulithi, Adm. Spruance relieved Halsey in command of the Fleet, which was thereby transformed from February 3 to 5th. The metamorphosis also entailed Mitscher's replacing McCain and Clark's resuming command of TG 68.1, still Wasp's task group.
The next major operation dictated by Allied strategy was the capture of Iwo Jima in the Volcano Islands. Iwo was needed as a base for Army Air Force fighter planes which were to protect Mariana-based B-29 bombers during raids against the Japanese home islands and as an emergency landing point for crippled warplanes. Task Force 58 sortied on February 10, held rehearsals at Tinian, and then headed for Japan. Fighter planes took off from the carriers before dawn on the 16th to clear the skies of Japanese aircraft. They succeeded in this mission, but USS Wasp (CV 18) lost several of her fighters during the sweep. Bombing sorties, directed primarily at aircraft factories in Tokyo, followed; but clouds hid many of these plants, forcing some planes to drop their bombs on secondary targets. Bad weather, which also hampered Mitscher's fliers during raids the next morning, prompted him to cancel strikes scheduled for the afternoon and head the task force west. During the night, Mitscher turned the carriers toward the Volcano Islands to be on hand to provide air support for the Marines who would land on beaches of Iwo Jima on the morning of February 19, 1945. For the next few days, planes from the American carriers continued to assist the Marines who were engaged in a bloody struggle to wrest the island from its fanatical defenders. On the 23rd, Mitscher led his carriers back to Japan for more raids on Tokyo. Planes took off on the morning of the 25th, but, when they reached Tokyo, they again found their targets obscured by clouds. Moreover, visibility was so bad the next day that raids on Nagoya were called off, and the carriers steamed south toward the Ryukyus to bomb and reconnoiter Okinawa, the next prize to be taken from the Japanese Empire. Planes left the carriers at dawn on March 1; and, throughout the day, they hammered and photographed the islands of the Ryukyu group. Then, after a night bombardment by surface ships, TF 58 set a course for the Carolines and anchored in Ulithi lagoon on the 4th.
Wasp recorded, from March 17-23, 1945, what was often referred to as the busiest week in flattop history. In these seven days, USS Wasp (CV 18) accounted for 14 enemy planes in the air, destroyed six more on the ground, scored two 500 -pound bomb hits on each of two Japanese carriers, dropped two 1,000-pound bombs on a Japanese battleship, put one 1,000-pounder on another battleship, hit a heavy cruiser with three 500-pound missiles, dropped another 1,000-pound bomb on a big cargo ship, and heavily strafed "and probably sank" a large Japanese submarine. During this week which also included a bomb hit on the carrier, Wasp was under almost continuous attack by shore-based aircraft and experienced several close kamikaze attacks. The carrier's gunners fired more than 10,000 rounds at the determined Japanese attackers.
On April 13, 1945, USS Wasp returned to the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Wash., and had the damage caused by the bomb hit repaired. Once whole again, she steamed to Hawaii and, after a brief sojourn at Pearl Harbor, headed toward the western Pacific on July 12th. Wasp conducted a strike at Wake Island and paused briefly at Eniwetok before rejoining the rampaging Fast Carrier Task Force. In a series of strikes, unique in the almost complete absence of enemy airborne planes, Wasp pilots struck Yokosuka Naval Base near Tokyo, numerous airfields, and hidden manufacturing centers. On August 9, a suicide plane swooped down at the carrier, but a Wasp pilot flying above the ship forced the enemy to splash into the sea. Then, on August 15, when the fighting should have been over, two Japanese planes tried to attack Wasp's task group. Fortunately, Wasp pilots were still flying on combat air patrol and sent both enemies smoking into the sea. This was the last time CV 18 pilots and gunners were to tangle with the Japanese.
August 25, 1945 A severe typhoon, with winds reaching 78 knots, engulfed USS Wasp and stove in about 30 feet of her bow. The carrier, despite the hazardous job of flying from such a shortened deck, continued to launch her planes on missions of mercy or patrol as they carried food, medicine, and long-deserved luxuries to American prisoners of war at Narumi, near Nagoya. The ship returned to Boston for Navy Day, October 27th. On 30th, Wasp got underway for the naval shipyard in New York for a period of availability to have additional facilities installed for maximum transportation of troops. This work was completed on November 15 and enabled her to accommodate some 5,500 enlisted passengers and 400 officers.
April 17, 1946 USS Wasp (CV 18) runs aground off New Jersey.
After receiving the new alterations, USS Wasp was assigned temporary duty as an Operation Magic Carpet troop transport. On February 17, 1947, Wasp was placed out of commission in reserve, attached to the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. In the summer of 1948, Wasp was taken out of the reserve fleet and placed in the New York Naval Shipyard for refitting and alterations to enable her to accommodate the larger, heavier, and faster planes of the jet age. Upon the completion of this conversion, the ship was recommissioned on September 10, 1951.
USS Wasp reported to the Atlantic Fleet in November 1951 and began a period of shakedown training which lasted until February 1952. After returning from the shakedown cruise, she spent a month in the New York Naval Shipyard preparing for duty in dis tant waters.
April 26, 1952 The Wasp collided with destroyer minesweeper USS Hobson (DMS 26) while conducting night flying operations en route to Gibraltar. Hobson lost 176 of the crew, including her skipper. Rapid rescue operations saved 52 men. The carrier sustained no personnel casualties, but her bow was torn by a 75-foot saw-tooth rip. CV 18 proceeded to Bayonne, N.J., for repairs and, after she entered dry dock there, the bow of aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV 12), then undergoing conversion, was removed and floated by barge from Brooklyn, N.Y., and fitted into position on Wasp, replacing the badly shattered forward end of the ship. This remarkable task was completed in only 10 days, enabling the carrier to get underway to cross the Atlantic.
On June 2, 1952, USS Wasp relieved USS Tarawa (CV 40) at Gibraltar and joined Carrier Division (CarDiv) 6 in the Mediterranean Sea. After conducting strenuous flight operations between goodwill visits to many Mediterranean ports, she was relieved at Gibraltar on September 5th by USS Leyte (CV 32).
After taking part in NATO Exercise "Mainbrace" at Greenock, Scotland, and enjoying a liberty period at Plymouth, England, Wasp headed home and arrived at Norfolk early on the morning of October 13, 1952.
On November 7, 1952, Wasp entered the New York Naval Shipyard to commence a seven-month yard period to prepare her for a world cruise which was to bring her into the Pacific Fleet once more. After refresher training in the Caribbean, Wasp departed Norfolk on September 16, 1953.
After transiting the Panama Canal and crossing the Pacific, the carrier made a brief visit to Japan and then conducted strenuous operations with the famed TF 77. While operating in the western Pacific, she made port calls at Hong Kong, Manila, Yokosuka, and Sasebo.
On January 10, 1954, China's Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek spent more than four hours on board USS Wasp watching simulated air war maneuvers in Formosan waters. On March 12, President Ramon Magsaysay of the Republic of the Philippines came on board to observe air operations as a guest of American Ambassador Raymond A. Spruance. Wasp operated out of Subic Bay, Philippines, for a time, then sailed for Japan where, in April 1954, she was relieved by USS Boxer (CV 21) and sailed for her new homeport of San Diego, Calif.
USS Wasp (CV 18) spent the next few months preparing for another tour of the Orient. She departed the United States in September 1954 and steamed to the Far East visiting Pearl Harbor and Iwo Jima en route. She relieved Boxer in October 1954 and engaged in air operations in the South China Sea with Carrier Task Group 70.2. Wasp visited the Philippine Islands in November and December and proceeded to Japan early in 1955 to join TF 77. While operating with that naval organization, Wasp provided air cover for the evacuation of the Tac provided air cover for the evacuation of the Tachen Islands by the Chinese Nationalists.
After the Tachen evacuation, USS Wasp stopped at Japan before returning to San Diego, Calif., April 11, 1955. She entered the San Francisco Naval Shipyard in May for a seven-month conversion and overhaul. On December 1st the carrier returned to duty displaying a new canted flight deck and a hurricane bow. As 1955 ended, the ship had returned to San Diego and was busily preparing for another Far Eastern tour.
After training during the early months of 1956, CV 18 departed San Diego, Calif., on April 23 for another cruise to the Far East with Carrier Air Group 15 embarked. She stopped at Pearl Harbor to undergo inspection and training and then proceeded to Guam where she arrived in time for the Armed Forces Day ceremonies on May 14. En route to Japan in May, she joined TF 77 for Operation Sea Horse, a five-day period of day and night training for the ship and air group. The ship arrived at Yokosuka on June 4, 1956; visited Iwakuni, Japan, then steamed to Manila for a brief visit. Following a drydock period at Yokosuka, Wasp again steamed south to Cubi Point, Philippine Islands, for the commissioning of the new naval air station there. Carrier Air Group 15 provided an air show for President Ramon Magsaysay of the Philippines and Adm. Arthur Radford.
During the third week of August, USS Wasp was at Yokosuka enjoying what was scheduled to be a fortnight's stay, but she sailed a week early to aid other ships in searching for survivors of a Navy patrol plane which had been shot down on August 23, 1956 off the coast of communist China. After a futile search, the ship proceeded to Kobe, Japan, and made a final stop at Yokosuka before leaving the Far East.
USS Wasp returned to San Diego on October 15 and while there was reclassified an antisubmarine warfare aircraft carrier, CVS 18, effective on November 1, 1956. She spent the last days of 1956 in San Diego preparing for her transfer to the east coast.
Wasp left San Diego on the last day of January 1957, rounded Cape Horn for operations in the South Atlantic and Caribbean Sea, then proceeded to Boston where she arrived on March 21st. The carrier came into Norfolk, Va., on April 6 to embark members of her crew from the Antisubmarine Warfare School. The carrier spent the next few months in tactics along the eastern seaboard and in the waters off Bermuda before returning to Boston on August 16.
On September 3, USS Wasp got underway to participate in NATO Operations Seaspray and Strikeback, which took her to the coast of Scotland and simulated nuclear attacks and counterattacks on 130 different land bases. The carrier returned to Boston on October 23, 1957 and entered the Boston Naval Shipyard for a major overhaul which was not completed until March 10, 1958 when she sailed for antisubmarine warfare practice at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Upon returning to Boston on April 29 and picking up air squadrons at Quonset Point, R.I., on May 12, she became the hub of TF 66, a special antisubmarine group of the 6th Fleet.
The carrier began her Atlantic crossing on the May 12, and sailed only a few hundred miles when trouble flared in Lebanon. USS Wasp arrived at Gibraltar on May 21, 1958 and headed east, making stops at Souda Bay, Crete, Rhodes, and Athens. Wasp next spent 10 days at sea conducting a joint Italian-American antisubmarine warfare exercise in the Tyrrhenian Sea off Sardinia. On July 15, the carrier put to sea to patrol waters off Lebanon. Her Marine helicopter transport squadron left the ship five days later to set up camp at the Beirut International Airport. They flew reconnaissance missions and transported the sick and injured from Marine battalions in the hills to the evacuation hospital at the airport. She continued to support forces ashore in Lebanon until September 17, 1958 when she departed Beirut Harbor, bound for home. She reached Norfolk on October 7th, unloaded supplies, and then made a brief stop at Quonset Point before arriving in her home port of Boston on October 11.
Four days later, USS Wasp became flagship of Task Group Bravo, one of two new antisubmarine defense groups formed by the Commander in Chief of the Atlantic Fleet. Wasp's air squadrons and seven destroyers were supported by shore-based seaplane patrol aircraft. CVS 18 sailed from Quonset Point on November 26th for a 17-day cruise in the North Atlantic. This at-sea period marked the first time her force operated together as a team. The operations continued day and night to coordinate and develop the task group's team capabilities until she returned to Boston on December 13, 1958 and remained over the Christmas holiday season.
Wasp operated with Task Group Bravo throughout 1959, cruising along the eastern seaboard conducting operations at Norfolk, Va., Bermuda, and Quonset Point, R.I.
August 18, 1959 USS Wasp is heavily damaged, 250 miles east of Norfolk, by an explosion and subsequent fires when a helicopter engine explodes while being tested in hangar bay number 1. The fires and reflashes take over two hours to control. At the time of the accident the Wasp was carrying nuclear weapons. In the first 30 minutes as the fires burned out of control and the forward magazines were flooded, preliminary preparations also were made to flood the nuclear weapon magazine. It was not flooded, however, and 30 minutes later the nuclear weapon magazine reported no significant rise in temperature.
On February 27, 1960, she entered the Boston Naval Shipyard for overhaul. In mid-July, the carrier was ordered to the South Atlantic where she stood by when civil strife broke out in the newly independent Congo and operated in support of the United Nations airlift. She returned to her home port on August 11th and spent the remainder of the year operating out of Boston with visits to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for refresher training and exercises conducted in the Virginia capes operating areas and the Caribbean operating areas. CVS 18 returned to Boston on December 10, 1960 and remained in port there into the New Year.
On January 9, 1961, USS Wasp sailed for the Virginia capes operating area and devoted the first half of 1961 to exercises there, at Narragansett Bay, R.I., and at Nova Scotia. On June 9, the carrier got underway from Norfolk, Va., for a three-month Mediterranean cruise. The ship conducted exercises at Augusta Bay, Sicily, Barcelona, Spain; San Remo and La Spezia, Italy, Aranci Bay, Sardinia; Genoa, Italy, and Cannes, France, and returned to Boston on September 1, 1961. The aircraft carrier entered the Boston Naval Shipyard for an interim overhaul and resumed operations on November 6, 1961.
After loading food, clothing, and equipment, Wasp spent the period from January 11-18, 1962 conducting antisubmarine warfare exercises and submarine surveillance off the east coast. After a brief stop at Norfolk, the ship steamed on to further training exercises and anchored off Bermuda from January 24 to 31st. The ship then returned to its homeport.
On February 17, a delegation from the Plymouth Plantation presented a photograph of the Mayflower II to Captain Brewer who accepted this gift for Wasp's "People to People" effort in the forthcoming European cruise. On February 18, USS Wasp departed Boston, bound for England, and arrived at Portsmouth on March 1. On March 16, 1962, the carrier arrived at Rotterdam, Netherlands, for a week's goodwill visit.
From March 22 to 30, Wasp traveled to Greenock, Scotland, thence to Plymouth, England. On April 17th Capt. Brewer presented Alderman A. Goldberg, Lord Mayor of Plymouth, England, a large picture of Mayflower II as a gift from the people of Plymouth, Mass. On May 5th, CVS 18 arrived at Kiel, West Germany, and became the first aircraft carrier to ever visit that port. The ship made calls at Oslo, Norway, Reykjavik, Iceland, and Argentia, Newfoundland, before returning to Boston, Mass., on June 16, 1962.
From August through October, USS Wasp visited Newport, R.I., New York, and Earle, N.J., then conducted a dependents' cruise, as well as a reserve cruise, and visitors cruises. The 1st of November gave Wasp a chance to use her capabilities when she responded to a call from President Kennedy and actively participated in the Cuban blockade.
November 14, 1962 USS Wasp and USS Holder (DDE 819) collided, off the coast of Cuba, during refueling while taking part in the US quarantine of Cuba during the Cuban missile crises.
After tension relaxed, the carrier returned to Boston on Nov. 22 for upkeep work, and, on Dec. 21, she sailed to Bermuda with 18 midshipmen from Boston area universities. The Wasp returned to Boston on 29th and finished out the year there.
The early part of 1963 saw USS Wasp conducting anti-submarine warfare exercises off the Virginia capes and steaming along the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica in support of the presidential visit. On March 21, President Kennedy arrived at San Jose for a conference with presidents of six Central American nations. After taking part in Fleet exercises off Puerto Rico, the carrier returned to Boston on April 4th. From May 11-18, CVS 18 took station off Bermuda as a backup recovery ship for Major Gordon Cooper's historic Mercury space capsule recovery. The landing occurred as planned in the mid-Pacific near Midway Atoll, and carrier USS Kearsage (CVA 33) picked up Cooper and his Faith 7 space craft. Wasp then resumed antisubmarine warfare exercises along the Atlantic seaboard and in the Caribbean until she underwent overhaul in the fall of 1963 for FRAM (Fleet rehabilitation and modernization) overhaul in the Boston Naval Shipyard.
In March 1964, the aircraft carrier conducted sea trials out of Boston. During April, it operated out of Norfolk and Narragansett Bay, R.I. The Wasp returned to Boston on May 4 and remained there until 14th when she got underway for refresher training in waters between Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Kingston, Jamaica, before returning to her home port on June 3, 1964.
On July 21, 1964, USS Wasp began a round-trip voyage to Norfolk and returned to Boston on August 7th. She remained there through September 8 when she headed, via the Virginia capes operating area, to Valencia, Spain. She then cruised the Mediterranean, visiting ports in Spain, France, and Italy, and returned home on December 18.
The carrier remained in port until February 8, 1965 and sailed for fleet exercises in the Caribbean. Operating along the eastern seaboard, she recovered the Gemini IV astronauts White and McDivitt with their spacecraft on June 7. During the summer, the ship conducted search and rescue operations for an Air Force C-121 plane which had gone down off Nantucket. Following an orientation cruise for 12 congressmen on August 20-21st, USS Wasp participated in joint training exercises with German and French forces. From December 16-18th, the carrier recovered the astronauts of Gemini VI and VII, and then returned to Boston on December 22 to finish out the year.
On January 24, 1966, USS Wasp departed Boston for fleet exercises off Puerto Rico. En route, heavy seas and high winds caused structural damage to the carrier on Jan. 27. She put into Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, on February 1 to determine the extent of her damages and effect as much repair as possible. Engineers were flown from Boston who decided that the ship could cease "Springboard" operations early and return to Boston. The ship conducted limited anti-submarine operations from February 6-8th prior to leaving the area. She arrived at Boston on February 18 and was placed in restricted availability until March 7th, when her repair work was completed.
USS Wasp joined in exercises in the Narragansett Bay operating areas. While the carrier was carrying out this duty, a television film crew from the National Broadcasting Company was flown to Wasp on March 21 and stayed on the ship during the remainder of her period at sea, filming material for a special color television show to be presented on Armed Forces Day.
The carrier returned to Boston on March 24, 1966 and was moored there until April 11. On March 27, Doctor Ernst Lemberger, the Austrian Ambassador to the United States, visited the ship. On April 18, CVS 18 embarked several guests of the Secretary of the Navy and set courses for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. She returned to Boston on May 6th.
A week later, the veteran flattop sailed to take part in the recovery of the Gemini IX spacecraft. Embarked in USS Wasp were some 66 persons from NASA, the television industry, media personnel, an underwater demolition recovery team, and a Defense Department medical team. On June 6, 1966, she recovered astronauts Lt. Col. Thomas P. Stafford and Lt. Comdr. Eugene Cernan and flew them to Cape Kennedy, Fla. Wasp returned their capsule to Boston.
Wasp participated in "ASWEX III," an antisubmarine exercise which lasted from June 20 through July 1, 1966. She spent the next 25 days in port at Boston for upkeep. On the 25th, the carrier got underway for "ASWEX IV." During this exercise, the Soviet intelligence collection vessel, Agi Traverz, entered the operation area necessitating a suspension of the operation and eventual repositioning of forces. The exercise was terminated on August 5th. She then conducted a dependents' day cruise on August 8 and 9, and orientation cruises on 10, 11, and 22nd August 1966. After a two-day visit to New York, USS Wasp arrived in Boston on September 1 and underwent upkeep until the 19th. From that day to October 4, she conducted hunter/killer operation s with the Royal Canadian Navy aircraft embarked.
Following upkeep at Boston, the ship participated in the Gemini XII recovery operation from November 5-18, 1966. The recovery took place on November 15 when the space capsule splashdown occurred within three miles of Wasp. Capt. James A. Lovell and Maj. Edwin E. Aldrin were lifted by helicopter hoist to the deck of Wasp and there enjoyed two days of celebration. CVS 18 arrived at Boston on 18th with the Gemini XII spacecraft on board. After off-loading the special Gemini support equipment, Wasp spent ten days making ready for her next period at sea. On 28th the carrier departed Boston to take part in the Atlantic Fleet's largest exercise of the year, "Lantflex-66," in which more than 100 United States ships took part. It returned to Boston on December 16 where it remained through the end of 1966.
USS Wasp served as carrier qualification duty ship for the Naval Air Training Command from Jan. 24-Feb. 26, 1967 and conducted operations in the Gulf of Mexico and off the east coast of Florida. She called at New Orleans for Mardi Gras from February 4-8th, at Pensacola on the 11th and 12th, and at Mayport, Fla., on the 19th and 20th. Returning to Boston a week later, she remained in port until March 19 when she sailed for "Springboard" operations in the Caribbean. On March 24, Wasp joined USS Salamonie (AO 26) for an underway replenishment but suffered damage during a collision with the oiler. After making repairs at Roosevelt Roads, she returned to operations on March 29 and visited Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, United States Virgin Islands, and participated in the celebration from March 30 to April 2 which marked the 50th anniversary of the purchase of the Virgin Islands by the United States from Denmark. The Wasp returned to Boston on April 7, remained in port four days, then sailed to Earle, N.J., to off-load ammunition prior to overhaul. She visited New York for three days then returned to the Boston Naval Shipyard and began an overhaul on April 21, 1967 which was not completed until early 1968.
September 10, 1967 USS Wasp (CVS 18) suffers a fire in the combat information center while in drydock, in Boston Naval Shipyard, causing minor damage.
USS Wasp completed her cyclical overhaul and conducted post-repair trials throughout January 1968. Returning to the Boston Naval Shipyard on the 28th, the ship made ready for two months of technical evaluation and training which began early in February.
February 28th marked the beginning of almost five weeks of refresher training for Wasp under the operational control of Commander, Fleet Training Group, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. On March 30, Wasp steamed north and was in Boston from April 6-29, 1968 for routine upkeep and minor repairs. She then departed for operations in the Bahamas and took part in "Fixwex C," an exercise off the Bermuda coast. The carrier set course for home on May 20th but left five days later to conduct carrier qualifications for students of the Naval Air Training Command in the Jacksonville, Fla., operations area.
On June 12, 1968, USS Wasp and USS Truckee (AO 147) had a minor collision during an underway replenishment. The aircraft carrier returned to Norfolk where an investigation into the circumstances of the collision was conducted. On 20th, she got underway for Boston, where she remained until August 3 when moved to Norfolk to take on ammunition.
On June 15, Wasp's home port was changed to Quonset Point, R.I., and she arrived there on August 10 to prepare for overseas movement. Ten days later, the carrier got underway for a deployment in European waters. The northern European portion of the cruise consisted of several operational periods and port visits to Portsmouth, England; Firth of Clyde, Scotland; Hamburg, Germany, and Lisbon, Portugal. USS Wasp, as part of TG 87.1, joined in the NATO Exercise Silvertower, the largest combined naval exercise in four years. Silvertower brought together surface, air, and subsurface units of several NATO navies.
On October 25, 1968, CVS 18 entered the Mediterranean and, the following day, became part of TG 67.6. After a port visit to Naples, Italy, Wasp departed on November 7th to conduct antisubmarine warfare exercises in the Tyrrhenian Sea, Levantine Basin, and Ionian Basin. After loading aircraft in both Taranto and Naples, Italy, Wasp visited Barcelona, Spain, and Gibraltar. On December 19, the ship returned to Quonset Point, R.I., and spent the remainder of 1968 in port.
USS Wasp began 1969 in her home port of Quonset Point. Following a yard period which lasted from Jan. 10 through Feb. 17, the carrier conducted exercises as part of the White Task Group in the Bermuda operating area. The ship returned to Quonset Point on March 6th and began a month of preparations for overseas movement.
On April 1, 1969, Wasp sailed for the eastern Atlantic and arrived at Lisbon, Portugal, on April 16. From 21-26th, she took part in joint Exercise Trilant which was held with the navies of the United States, Spain, and Portugal. One of the highlights of the cruise occurred on May 15 as USS Wasp arrived at Portsmouth, England, and served as flagship for TF 87, representing the United States in a NATO review by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip in which 64 ships from the 11 NATO countries participated.
After conducting exercises and visiting Rotterdam, Oslo, and Copenhagen, Wasp headed home on June 30, 1969 and, but for a one-day United Fund cruise on August 12, remained at Quonset Point until 24th. The period from Aug. 29 through Oct. 6 was devoted to alternating operations between Corpus Christi, Tex., for advanced carrier qualifications, and Pensacola for basic qualifications, with inport periods at Pensacola.
A period of restricted availability began on October 10 and was followed by operations in the Virginia capes area until November 22. In December, USS Wasp conducted a carrier qualification mission in the Jacksonville operations area which lasted through Dec. 10. CVS 18 arrived back at Quonset Point on 13th and remained there for the holidays.
The ship welcomed the year 1970 moored in her homeport of Quonset Point but traveled over 40,000 miles and was away from home port 265 days. On January 4, she proceeded to Earle, N.J., and off-loaded ammunition prior to entering the Boston Naval Shipyard for a six-week overhaul on Jan. 9.
The aircraft carrier began a three-week shakedown cruise on March 16 but returned to her homeport on April 3 and began preparing for an eastern Atlantic deployment. Wasp reached Lisbon on May 25, 1970, and dropped anchor in the Tagus River. A week later, the carrier got underway to participate in NATO Exercise Night Patrol with units from Canada, the Netherlands, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and West Germany. On June 8, USS Wasp proceeded to the Naval Station, Rota, Spain, to embark a group of midshipmen for a cruise to Copenhagen. During exercises in Scandinavian waters, the carrier was shadowed by Soviet naval craft and aircraft. The ship departed Copenhagen on June 26 and, three days later, crossed the Arctic Circle.
On July 13 the Wasp arrived at Hamburg, Germany, and enjoyed the warmest welcome received in any port of the cruise. A Visitors' Day was held, and over 15,000 Germans were recorded as visitors to the carrier. After calls at Edinburgh and Glasgow, Scotland, CVS 18 got underway on August 10th for operating areas in the Norwegian Sea. The ship anchored near Plymouth, England, on 28th and two days later sailed for her homeport.
USS Wasp returned to Quonset Point on September 8 and remained there through October 11 when she got underway to off-load ammunition at Earle, N.J., prior to a period of restricted availability at the Boston Naval Shipyard beginning on October 15. The work ended on December 14; and, after reloading ammunition at Earle, Wasp returned to Quonset Point on Dec. 19 to finish out the year 1970.
On January 14, 1971, the Wasp departed Quonset Point, R.I., with Commander, ASWGRU 2, CVSG-54 and Detachment 18 from Fleet Training Group, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, embarked. After refresher training at Bermuda, she stopped briefly at Rota, Spain, then proceeded to the Mediterranean for participation in the "National Week VIII" exercises with several destroyers for the investigation of known Soviet submarine operating areas. On February 12, Secretary of the Navy John Chafee, accompanied by Commander, 6th Fleet, Vice Adm. Isaac C. Kidd, visited the carrier.
USS Wasp detached early from the "National Week" exercise on February 15th to support USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) as she steamed toward Gibraltar. Soviet ships trailed Wasp and John F. Kennedy until they entered the Strait of Sicily when the Soviets departed to the east. After a brief stop at Barcelona, Spain, Wasp began her homeward journey on February 24 and arrived at Quonset Point on March 3, 1971.
After spending March and April in port, Wasp got underway on April 27th and conducted a nuclear technical proficiency inspection and prepared for the forthcoming Exotic Dancer exercise which commenced on May 3. Having successfully completed the week-long exercise, Wasp was heading home on 8th when an American Broadcasting Co. television team embarked and filmed a short news report on carrier antisubmarine warfare operations.
On May 15, the veteran conducted a dependents' day cruise, and one month later, participated in Exercise Rough Ride at Great Sound, Bermuda, which took her to Halifax, Nova Scotia.
USS Wasp returned to Quonset Point on July 2, 1971, and spent the next two months in preparation and execution of Exercise Squeeze Play IX in the Bermuda operating area. During August, the ship conducted exercises with an east coast naval reserve air group while proceeding to Mayport, Fla. She returned to her homeport on August 26 and spent the next month there. On September 23, the aircraft carrier got underway for Exercise Lantcortex 1-72 which terminated on October 6. For the remainder of the month, the carrier joined in a crossdeck operation which took her to Bermuda, Mayport, and Norfolk. She arrived back at Quonset Point on November 4.
Four days later, the carrier set her course for the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co. where she was in drydock until November 22nd. She then returned to Quonset Point and remained in her home port for the remainder of the year preparing for decommissioning.
On March 1, 1972, it was announced that USS Wasp would be decommissioned and stricken from the Navy list. Decommissioning ceremonies were held on July 1, 1972. The ship was sold on May 21, 1973, to the Union Minerals and Alloys Corp., of New York City, and subsequently scrapped.