Special Report

This Is America’s First Aircraft Carrier

For centuries, the largest ships with the most powerful cannons were the core of every navy. The Nuestra Señora de la Santísima Trinidad of the Franco-Spanish fleet that faced the British fleet under Horatio Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar (Oct. 21, 1805) had four decks and 136 guns. That made it one of the largest warships in history.

As airplanes became part of military forces, there was a need for aircraft carriers. In fact, America’s first aircraft carrier was the USS Langley, commissioned 100 years ago. At first, however, senior naval officers were highly skeptical about the use of carriers, believing they had little value “beyond scouting and observing the fall of shot for battleships,” as The Smithsonian explains.

By the middle of the 20th century, battleships had grown tremendously and remained at the core of the world’s largest navies. The Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor sank or destroyed eight American battleships. Among them, the USS Arizona weighed 30,000 tons, was over 600 feet long, had 14 inch guns, and a crew of almost 1,200. (These are the worst disasters in naval history.)

But the previously all important battleships have given way to aircraft carriers — at least in the world’s largest navies. Among other capabilities, their utility is that they can strike at targets hundreds of miles away because of the range of the planes they carry. America’s Nimitz-class aircraft carriers weigh over 100,000 tons, are over 1,000 feet long, and carry 90 fixed wing aircraft and helicopters. (This is the world’s largest warship.)

Using archives from the U.S. Navy and other sources, 24/7 Wall St. collected the name of each aircraft carrier manufactured, when it was commissioned, and how long it stayed in service. Carriers are listed in chronological order by commission date.

The first U.S. aircraft carrier was not even built as a carrier. The USS Langley had previously been the USS Jupiter, which was commissioned in April 1913. 

The Jupiter was a refueling ship that had also transported personnel and cargo. With its large cargo holds, it was one of the few Navy ships with enough space to accommodate aircraft. Its conversion began in 1920, and it was recommissioned with the new configurations as the USS Langley on March 20, 1922.

American carriers are designed by the initials “CV.” The Langley carried the designation “CV-1”

Click here to see America’s first aircraft carrier

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