USS Independence (CVL-22)


USS Independence (CVL-22)

The fourth USS "Independence" (CVL-22) (also CV-22) was a United States Navy light aircraft carrier, lead ship of her class.

Construction and deployment

Begun as light cruiser "Amsterdam", CL-59, she was launched as CV-22 on 22 August 1942 by New York Shipbuilding Corporation, Camden, New Jersey, sponsored by Mrs. Rawleigh Warner, and commissioned 14 January 1943, Captain G. R. Fairlamb, Jr., in command.

The first of a new class of carriers converted from cruiser hulls, "Independence" conducted shakedown training in the Caribbean. She then steamed through the Panama Canal to join the Pacific Fleet, arriving San Francisco 3 July 1943. "Independence" got underway for Pearl Harbor 14 July, and after 2 weeks of vital training exercises sailed with carriers "Essex" (CV-9) and "Yorktown" (CV-10) for a devastating raid on Marcus Island. Planes from the carrier force struck 1 September and destroyed over 70 percent of the installations on the island. The carrier began her next operation, a similar strike against Wake Island 5 October to 6 October as CVL-22, having been redesignated 15 July 1943.

Rabaul and Gilbert Islands strikes

"Independence" sailed from Pearl Harbor for Espiritu Santo 21 October, and, during an ensuing carrier attack on Rabaul 11 November, the ship's gunners scored their first success - six Japanese planes shot down. After this operation the carrier refueled at Espiritu Santo and headed for the Gilberts and prelanding strikes on Tarawa 18 November to 20 November 1943. During a Japanese counterattack 20 November, "Independence" was attacked by a group of planes low on the water. Six were shot down, but the planes managed to launch at least five torpedoes one of which scored a hit on the carrier's starboard quarter. Seriously damaged, the ship steamed to Funafuti 23 November for repairs. With the Gilberts operation, first step on the mid-Pacific road to Japan, underway, "Independence" returned to San Francisco 2 January 1944 for more permanent repairs.

Refitting and training for night operations

The now-veteran carrier returned to Pearl Harbor 3 July 1944. During her repair period the ship had been fitted with an additional catapult, and upon her arrival in Hawaiian waters, "Independence" began training for night carrier operations. She continued this pioneering work 24 August to 29 August out of Eniwetok. The ship sailed with a large task group 29 August to take part in the Palau operation and the Battle of Peleliu, aimed at securing bases for the final assault on the Philippines in October. "Independence" provided night reconnaissance and night combat air patrol for Task Force 38 during this operation.

Philippines

In September the fast carrier task force regularly pounded the Philippines in preparation for the invasion. When no Japanese counterattacks developed in this period, "Independence" shifted to regular daytime operations, striking targets on Luzon. After replenishment at Ulithi in early October, the great force sortied 6 October for Okinawa. In the days that followed the carriers struck Okinawa, Formosa, and the Philippines in a striking demonstration of the mobility and balance of the fleet. Japanese air counterattacks were repulsed, with "Independence" providing day strike groups in addition to night fighters and reconnaissance aircraft for defensive protection.

As the carrier groups steamed east of the Philippines 23 October, it became apparent, as Admiral Carney later recalled, that "something on a grand scale was underfoot." And indeed it was, as the Japanese fleet moved in a three-pronged effort to turn back the American beachhead on Leyte Gulf. Planes from "Independence's" Task Group 38.2, under Rear Admiral Bogan, spotted Kurita's striking force in the Sibuyan Sea 24 October and the carriers launched a series of attacks. Planes from "Independence" and other ships sank giant battleship "Musashi" and disabled a cruiser.

That evening Admiral Halsey made his fateful decision to turn Task Force 38 northward in search of Admiral Ozawa's carrier group. "Independence's" night search planes made contact and shadowed the Japanese ships until dawn 26 October, when the carriers launched a massive attack. In this second part of the great Battle for Leyte Gulf, all four Japanese carriers were sunk. Meanwhile American heavy ships had won a great victory in Surigao Strait; and a light carrier force had outfought the remainder of Kurita's ships in the Battle off Samar. After the great battle, which virtually spelled the end of the Japanese Navy as a major threat, "Independence" continued to provide search planes and night fighter protection for TF 38 in strikes on the Philippines. In these operations the ship had contributed to a major development in carrier group operations.

"Independence" returned to Ulithi for long-delayed rest and replenishment 9 November to 14 November, but soon got underway to operate off the Philippines on night attacks and defensive operations. This phase continued until 30 December 1944, when the great task force sortied from Ulithi once more and moved northward. From 3 January to 9 January 1945 the carriers supported the Lingayen landings on Luzon, after which Halsey took his fleet on a daring foray into the South China Sea. In the days that followed the aircraft struck at air bases on Formosa and on the coasts of Indo-China and China. These operations in support of the Philippines campaign marked the end of the carrier's night operations, and she sailed 30 January 1945 for repairs at Pearl Harbor.

Okinawa

"Independence" returned to Ulithi 13 March 1945 and got underway next day for operations against Okinawa, last target in the Pacific before Japan itself. She carried out pre-invasion strikes 30 March to 31 March, and after the assault 1 April remained off the island supplying CAP and strike aircraft. Her planes shot down numerous enemy planes during the desperate Japanese attacks on the invasion force. "Independence" remained off Okinawa until 10 June when she sailed for Leyte.

During July and August the carrier took part in the final carrier strikes against Japan itself, attacks that lowered enemy morale. After the end of the war 15 August, "Independence" aircraft continued surveillance flights over the mainland locating prisoner of war camps and covered the landings of Allied occupation troops. The ship departed Tokyo 22 September 1945, arriving at San Francisco via Saipan and Guam 31 October.

Bikini Atoll tests

"Independence" joined the Operation Magic Carpet fleet beginning 15 November 1945, transporting veterans back to the United States until arriving at San Francisco once more 28 January 1946. Assigned as a target vessel for the Bikini atomic bomb tests, she was placed within one-half mile of ground zero for the 1 July explosion. The veteran ship did not sink, however (though her funnels and island were crumpled by the blast), and after taking part in another explosion 25 July was taken to Kwajalein and decommissioned 28 August 1946. The highly radioactive hulk was later taken to Pearl Harbor and San Francisco for further tests and was finally scuttled off the coast of San Francisco, California, on 29 January1951. Controversy has subsequently arisen about the sinking of the Independence, as it is claimed she was loaded with barrels of radioactive waste at the time of her sinking, and that the waste has subsequently contaminated the wildlife refuge and commercial fisheries associated with the Farallon Islands.

"Independence" received eight battle stars for World War II service.

References

*DANFS|http://www.history.navy.mil/danfs/i1/independence-iv.htm

External links

* [http://www.cvl-22.com USS "Independence" CVL-22 Reunion Group homepage]
* [http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/sh-usn/usnsh-i/cvl22.htm Navy photographs of "Independence" (CVL-22)]
* [http://www.ussindependence-cvl22.com USS Independence CVL-22 Reunion Group, Inc. Veteran's Website]
* [http://www.ninesisters.com/independence.htm USS Independence] at Nine Sisters Light Carrier Historical Documentary Project


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