US Navy in ww2

c20 battleships, 80 cruisers, 150 carriers, 450 destroyers, 220 submarines.

Towards a global naval superpower:

The US Navy moved from an insignificant "old navy" in 1885 to a recognized naval power in 1898, then to a first-class naval power in 1917, assuming with the Royal Navy the safeguarding of sea routes in ww1. Its entry into the war resulted in part of an attack of a German submersible: The torpedoing of the Lusitania.

USA's enormous industrial power, already mobilized for the production of materials used in Europe by warring parties, was also used for mass production of cargo ships, destroyers and patrol vessels, many of which were still operational by 1941.


Lexington class battlecruisers- Original design, 1916 configuration.

When the war ended in November 1918, it had added to an already impressive navy, many new ships. This vision of naval power has been largely carried out by President Theodore Roosevelt, while the influence of Alfred Thayer Mahan in the Admiralty, linking the destiny of the United states to its Navy, brought a vision to fuel an ambitious naval program.

The general quality of the US Navy was only handicapped by the great use of dreadnoughts and pre-dreadnoughts, to the detriment of modern cruisers which were sorely lacking. Lie many other nations dummbfounded by the launch of the HMS Dreadnought in 1906, all resources were redirected to this new breed. The US Navy was divided between the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean, transiting through the Panama canal as a strategic link to bolster one or the other fleet in case of war, or just to muster a dissuasion fleet, such was the Pacific fleet in pearl harbor.

In the 1920s and 1930s, the Oahu naval base in Hawaii was developed to house and support the ever-expanding, massive pacific fleet while in another strategic asset, the Philippines, "concrete battleships" and other fortifications were built to defend the bay of Manila, while some islands in the Pacific were garrisoned and used as airbases, like Guam.

US Navy

The United states played a key role in the aftermath of the war, as the League of Nations was largely the result of President Wilson's vision, as was the end of the costly naval arms race in which the great powers had embarked. This was embodied in the Washington Treaty, which decreed a ten-year moratory and severe tonnage limitations for several classes of ships, starting with costly battleships.

This left the Admiralty to rest on its copious existing dreadnoughts force, complete the fleet with modern cruisers and submarines, and launch aircraft carriers, provided the treaty left this category free.

Lexington-class-battlecruisers-painting
Painting of the future Lexington class battlecruisers, in the second planned configuration.

The latter proved absolutely vital in 1941 and prevented the unthinkable: Being driven out of the Pacific, and fighting the Japanese on American soil.

These naval fleets were the pioneering weapons of the Navy that contributed to the ultimate victory of the United States in World War II. You can find them on stamps, medals, challenge coins, and other history-related items. You can create naval challenge coins on platforms such as GS-JJ if you are interested in naval knowledge. Your favorite naval elements can be incorporated into your designs in an interesting way. For Navy military lovers and incoming or retired sailors, the Navy Challenge Coins make excellent gifts.

navy challenge coins

These were the cornerstone of a giant "counter-offensive" that would take them from Guadalcanal in 1942 to the Japanese coast in 1945, and make a superb demonstration of what was to become combined naval operations, thanks in particular to the spectacular progress of naval aviation.

New capital-ships were to be the aircraft carriers, as center for these multi-task task forces. Therefore a prodigious effort was made to built these in greater numbers than any other nation in history, past, present, and probably future.

They made the US Navy the naval superpower that it has remained to this day, giving it a first-rate instrument for the defense of the "free world" during the Cold War and safeguarding its interests on the seven seas.

List of US warships

WW2 American Battleships
Wyoming class (1911)
New York class (1912)
Nevada class (1914)
Pennsylvania class (1915)
New Mexico class (1917)
Tennessee Class (1919)
Colorado class (1921)
North Carolina class (1940)
South Dakota class (1941)
Iowa class (1942)
Montana class (cancelled)

US Conventional Cruisers:
Omaha class | Pensacola class | Northampton class | New Orleans class | Brooklyn class | USS Wichita | Atlanta class | Cleveland class | Baltimore class | Alaska class | Fargo class | Oregon City class | Worcester class | Des Moines class | Juneau class

WW2 US Carriers:
USS Langley | Lexington class | Akron class (airships) | USS Ranger | Yorktown class | USS Wasp | Long Island class CVEs | Bogue class CVE | Independence class CVLs | Essex class CVs | Sangamon class CVEs | Casablanca class CVEs | Commencement Bay class CVEs | Midway class CVAs | Saipan class CVLs

WW2 US DDs:
Wickes class | Clemson class | Farragut class | Porter class | Mahan class | Gridley class | Bagley class | Somers class | Benham class | Sims class | Benson class | Gleaves class | Fletcher class | Allen M. Sumner class | Gearing class

GMT Evarts class (1942)
TE Buckley class (1943)
TEV/WGT Rudderow classs (1943)
DET/FMR Cannon class
Asheville/Tacoma class

WW2 American Submarines
Barracuda class
USS Argonaut
Narwhal class
USS Dolphin
Cachalot class
Porpoise class
Shark class
Perch class
Salmon class
Sargo class
Tambor class
Mackerel class
Gato Class

USS Terror Minelayer (1941)
Raven class Minesweepers (1940)
Admirable class Minesweepers (1942)
Eagle class submarine chasers (1918)
PC class submarine chasers
SC class submarine chasers
PCS class submarine chasers
YMS class Mot. Minesweepers
PT-Boats
ww2 US gunboats
ww2 US seaplane tenders
USS Curtiss seaplane tenders (1940)
Currituck class seaplane tenders
Tangier class seaplane tenders
Barnegat class seaplane tenders

US Coast Guard ships
Lake class
Northland class
Treasury class
Owasco class
Wind class
Algonquin class
Thetis class
Active class

US Amphibious ships & crafts
US Amphibious Operations
Doyen class AT
Harris class AT
Dickman class AT
Bayfield class AT
Windsor class AT
Ormsby class AT
Funston class AT
Sumter class AT
Haskell class AT
Andromeda class AT
Gilliam class AT
APD-1 class LT
APD-37 class LT
LSV class LS
LSD class LS
Landing Ship Tank
LSM class LS
LSM(R) class SS
LCI(L) LC
LCT(6) LC
LCV class LC
LCVP class LC
LCM(3) class LC
LCP(L) class LC
LCP(R) class SC
LCL(L)(3) class FSC
LCS(S) class FSC

US Battleships

For the successive presidents and secretaries of states at the White House, the quintessence of American naval power was embodied entirely in the "big guns" of the fleet, mighty dreadnoughts. After its numerous pre-ww1 pre-dreadnoughts were sold for scrap, it still had a considerable force of 17 dreadnoughts (Britain had only 10).

On the original plan (pre-washington treaty) from 1919 to 1923, the US Navy consisted of 6 battleships, 10 light cruisers, an aircraft carrier, 274 destroyers, and 51 submersibles.

Six new battleships were scheduled of the South Dakota class, as well as the six battle cruisers of the Lexington class.

uss nevadaUSS California prow Prows of the USS Nevada and California at Pearl Harbour, 1941.

The former were canceled, the latter transformed into a pair of aircraft carriers. After launch, the Lexington and Saratoga became the most efficient aircraft carriers in the world, bigger and faster than any other.

In 1939, however, this fleet of battleships was not at its best, never really rebuilt, only slightly modernized. In 1941, they still lacked radars and an efficient AA artillery.

Thus, in addition to the obsolete 3 inches guns (75 mm), and too slow 4-inches (127 mm), the AA relied mostly in add-on multiple machine guns mounts, totally inadequate against modern fighter-bombers. Pearl Harbor was going to be the earthquake that upset this state of affairs.


USS Nevada in 1925.

The fleet of the Pacific indeed gathered most of the US dreadnought force, but hosted a handful of aircraft carriers - fortunately absent from the day of the attack.

But with the war, naval plans were rushed out with the addition of the fast, modern battleships classes (North Carolina-1940, South Dakota-1942, Iowa-1944) building, still aside an incredible "flat-top" force, a "classical" naval force already without rival in 1943-44.

While the bulk of the US Navy was actually mobilized in the Pacific, other battleships served on the European theater (Operation Torch, Sicily, Italy..) participated in operation Overlord and many other amphibious operations, escorted convoys in the Atlantic and Arctic.

But by 1942, their role had been clearly revised: Providing artillery support for ground operations and providing an extra anti-aircraft umbrella for the fleet.

Pioneering Naval Aviation (1922-1936)

The US Navy was with Japan and Great Britain, was a pioneer in the development of the naval air service. Lieutenant Eugene Ely (1886-1911) successfully attempted take-offs from warships such as the USS Birmingham (1910), or landings on the USS Pennsylvania (1911).

These pioneering attempts, at a time when aviation was stammering, were fatal to him. This did not convinced the American Admiralty, who until the beginning of the Second World War still believed in the supremacy of the battleship. The British naval attack of La Spezia, then of course Pearl Harbor, shattered these certainties. Nevertheless, the "flat-top" had staunch supporters and the aircraft carrier force in 1941 was nothing to be ashamed of.

Eugene Ely First "Aircraft Carrier" landing: Eugene Ely on USS Pennsylvania in 1911.

Although admiring the previous demonstrations of Eugene Ely before the war, the Admiralty was more convinced of naval air power by the series of successful aerial attacks led by Colonel Billy Mitchell against obsolete battleships carried out in the early 1920s.

Some of the top brass were persuaded that for the cost of a single dreadnought one could employ a hundred naval bombers, much more effectively for coastal defence, but based on land. Nevertheless this tense relations with the two arms only ended in the re-conversion of the former fleet coaler USS Jupiter, as an experimental aircraft carrier between 1920 and 1922, becoming CV1 USS Langley.


USS Langley, CV-1 in 1927. The first operational American aircraft carrier.

The latter was instrumental in the rapid progress of the Naval Aviation until the Lexington were converted. Although too slow to follow the fleet, she also served during the Second World War. She was one of the first to introduce hydraulic brakes and catapults. The Langley was in any case the obligatory passage of the airmen going to serve on board the future carriers of the American Navy.

Model for the Lexington class conversion, 1922.

The Lexington were a real blessing for the Navy. Converted from giant battle cruisers (first and last of the US Navy) condemned by the Treaty of Washington, they were commissioned in 1927. The largest aircraft carriers in the world at that time, they were capable of reaching 30 knots, and carried 100 aircraft, plus a heavy cruiser artillery for their own defense.

Their silhouette was immediately recognizable with their huge combined funnel. But the first real operational aircraft carrier built on plans was the USS Ranger (1932), accepted in service in 1934. Smaller than the "Lady Lex" and the "Sara", she was never as popular.


USS Ranger (CV-4) at sea, before the war.

Nevertheless, she was a balanced and well-designed ship that served as the basis for the next series in 1936, the Yorktown (1938-1941), the most successful to date, and more importantly carrying almost all the effort of the US Navy in the Pacific during the very hard years 1942 and 1943. Eventually, the USS Wasp (1942), returned to a model of aircraft carrier of reduced tonnage.

After that, the industrial maelstrom against which the Japanese Navy was about to succumb was unleashed. The US Navy ordered no less than 20 heavy squadron aircraft carriers (Essex class), and over a hundred "Jeep-carriers" and eventually the armoured giant Independence Day class, until the end of the conflict.

The latest, the Midway (1945-47) were large enough that they could be converted to operate jets in the 1950s and remained in service for most of the Cold War.

The American Navy in December 1941

Not producing any major ships apart from the Saratoga twins, then the Yorktown and Ranger class of aircraft carriers due to the moratorium, the fighting core of the US Navy was entrusted to an imposing fleet of destroyers (more than 250) and submersibles inherited from the Great War. But immediately postwar, the navy concentrated on cruisers.

Interwar US Navy Cruisers

A first class of ten ships were launched after the end of the Great War, put into operation until 1924. With their flush deck hulls, four chimneys and main armament spread into barbettes and turrets, the Omaha class Were very recognizable but already obsolescent. They looked almost like scaled-up typical "fours stacker" destroyers.


USS Richmond (Omaha class) doing her sea trials, 1923.

Tradition of naming battleships after states, and cruisers after cities, destroyers after Navy personalities continued. The first class of "Washington" cruisers (theoretically 8 x 8in (203 mm)) was the Pensacola class (1926, 10 cannons in two double turrets and two triples), Northampton (1930, three triple turrets, favorite configuration until 1947), Portland (1932), and finally New Orleans, much better protected (1933-36).

All these helped the US Navy in peacetime to refine their conceptions about cruisers and preparing mature wartime designs, like the future Baltimore class.


USS Brooklyn (CL-40).

In 1937, the Brooklyn class inaugurated a new gun arrangement at that time, for "saturation volleys" with medium or even light artillery (Five triple turrets of 6 in guns (152 mm), fifteen total), plus a flush-deck hull, square stern aft and other innovations.

The USS Wichita which followed in 1939 was a sort of adaptation to the Brooklyn of three triple turrets of 8 in (203 mm), returning to a tradition that would lead to Baltimore class, also produced in large series during the war. This unique and well protected cruiser was the last put into service before Pearl Harbor.

Interwar US Navy Destroyers

In matter of destroyers, as stated above, the US Navy could rest on a huge mass of "flush-deckers", or "four-pipers" inherited from the Great War. More than 250 units, the last of which were completed in 1921, and half of which were still in active service in 1930.

Later on, the US Navy began to look at a peacetime design, in small series, quite innovative but also much more expensive: The Farragut class (1934), followed by the Porter class (1935) armed with four double turrets (eight 5in guns).

"standard" and "heavy" classes followed one another until 1941. The last class was the flush-deck Benson/Gleaves, which formed the base of the Fletcher mass produced during the conflict.

USS_Farragut_DD-348_underway_at_sea-14_September_1936
The Farragut class was the first interwar type. USS Farragut underway at sea, 14 September 1936. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

At that time, standard artillery was fixed on the excellent 5in (127 mm) a quick-firing gun suitable for all uses, in wimple berth and semi-automated loader from the 1940s.

AA artillery also started from twin Browning cal.30 to a more realistic combination of quadruple Bofors 40 mm and single 20 mm Oerlikon shielded mount, which were produced by the tens of thousands to populate all decks of the US Navy as well as the Royal Navy.


Famous 40 mm Bofors quad-mount in action. Each team was composed of one gunner, one pointer, and two to four loaders. Rate of fire was limited to five-rounds giant clips

Sufficiently fast and having infinitely more punch than Browning machine guns, they provided the US Navy with a potent umbrella that curtailed all Japanese air attacks, including kamikazes nearing the end of the war.

For that purpose, the standard 3in (76 mm) was lengthened, up to 70 calibers to create the 3"/70 Mark 26 Gun Mark 26. Service range was about 19,000 m in top elevation, for 90-100 rpm and a muzzle velocity of 3,400 feet per second (1,000 m/s). But it was ready in 1954 and therefore missed ww2 and saw little of the Korean war.


standard 5 inches (5"/25 caliber gun, 127 mm) heavy naval gun onboard a Balao class sub

In between, many ships has been given the standard all-purpose 4in -3"/23 cal. (76.2 mm) gun. More often, the all-purpose 3-inch M1918 gun, cal.50 was preferred for AA duties. Rare, but not unusual was the "Chicago Piano", 1.1"/75 caliber gun, or 28 mm. Generally these were mounted in quad-mounts, hence the name. They replaced M2 Browning, the cal.50 lacking the range and explosive impact to make an impression on the fastest, latest airplanes.


"Chicago Piano", the relatively rare prewar quad-28 mm mount.

This intermediate caliber never really stuck (nearly a thousand guns had been produced in all) and instead the type has been replaced by the 20 mm Oerlikon, that had about the same range but faster rate of fire, and the 40 mm Bofors, also in quad-mount.

In fact, six Oerlikons could be installed for the weight of a single 1.1" quad mount. So only one was mounted on destroyers when that was the case.


Rare 3in/50 Mk33 dual purpose, twin AA guns mounted on USS Wasp in the 1950s.

To underline the importance of such AA artillery, let's take the example of a battleship, the Iowa of 1944 that included eighty 40 mm in quadruple mounts and forty-nine of 20 mm. All the refurbished from battleships Pearl Harbor also displayed similar light artillery, but on a smaller, cramped space.


A battery of 20 mm Oerlikon barrels on the flanks of the flight deck of the USS Essex (1942).

Prewar US Navy Submarines

In that area, the Americans had been pioneers, along with France and Poland. Their first operational submersible was the USS Alligator, human-prope