USS Valley Forge (CV-45)

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USS Valley Forge (LPH-8), c. 1963
USS Valley Forge (as LPH-8, c. 1963)
Career (United States)
Namesake:Washington's winter quarters 1777–78
Builder:Philadelphia Naval Shipyard
Laid down:14 September 1943
Launched:8 July 1945
Commissioned:3 November 1946
Decommissioned:16 January 1970
Fate:Sold for scrap, October 1971
General characteristics
Class & type:Essex-class aircraft carrier
Displacement:As built:
27,100 tons standard
Length:As built:
888 feet (271 m) overall
Beam:As built:
93 feet (28 m) waterline
Draft:As built:
28 feet 7 inches (8.71 m) light
Propulsion:As designed:
8 × boilers
4 × Westinghouse geared steam turbines
4 × shafts
150,000 shp (110 MW)
Speed:33 knots (61 km/h)
Complement:3448 officers and enlisted
Armament:As built:
4 × twin 5 inch (127 mm)/38 caliber guns
4 × single 5 inch (127 mm)/38 caliber guns
8 × quadruple Bofors 40 mm guns
46 × single Oerlikon 20 mm cannons
Armor:As built:
4 inch (100 mm) belt
2.5 inch (60 mm) hangar deck
1.5 inch (40 mm) protectice decks
1.5 inch (40 mm) conning tower
Aircraft carried:As built:
90–100 aircraft
 
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For other ships of the same name, see USS Valley Forge.
USS Valley Forge (LPH-8), c. 1963
USS Valley Forge (as LPH-8, c. 1963)
Career (United States)
Namesake:Washington's winter quarters 1777–78
Builder:Philadelphia Naval Shipyard
Laid down:14 September 1943
Launched:8 July 1945
Commissioned:3 November 1946
Decommissioned:16 January 1970
Fate:Sold for scrap, October 1971
General characteristics
Class & type:Essex-class aircraft carrier
Displacement:As built:
27,100 tons standard
Length:As built:
888 feet (271 m) overall
Beam:As built:
93 feet (28 m) waterline
Draft:As built:
28 feet 7 inches (8.71 m) light
Propulsion:As designed:
8 × boilers
4 × Westinghouse geared steam turbines
4 × shafts
150,000 shp (110 MW)
Speed:33 knots (61 km/h)
Complement:3448 officers and enlisted
Armament:As built:
4 × twin 5 inch (127 mm)/38 caliber guns
4 × single 5 inch (127 mm)/38 caliber guns
8 × quadruple Bofors 40 mm guns
46 × single Oerlikon 20 mm cannons
Armor:As built:
4 inch (100 mm) belt
2.5 inch (60 mm) hangar deck
1.5 inch (40 mm) protectice decks
1.5 inch (40 mm) conning tower
Aircraft carried:As built:
90–100 aircraft

USS Valley Forge (CV/CVA/CVS-45, LPH-8) was one of 24 Essex-class aircraft carriers built during and shortly after World War II for the United States Navy. The ship was the first US Navy ship to bear the name, and was named for Valley Forge, the 1777–1778 winter encampment of General George Washington's Continental Army. Valley Forge was commissioned in November 1946, too late to serve in World War II, but saw extensive service in the Korean War and the Vietnam War. She was reclassified in the early 1950s as an attack carrier (CVA), then to an antisubmarine carrier (CVS), and finally to an amphibious assault ship (LPH), carrying helicopters and marines. As a CVS she served in the Atlantic and Caribbean. She was the prime recovery vessel for an early unmanned Mercury space mission. After conversion to an LPH she served extensively in the Vietnam War. Valley Forge was awarded eight battle stars for Korean War service and nine for Vietnam War service, as well as three Navy Unit Commendations.

Although she was extensively modified internally as part of her conversion to an LPH, external modifications were minor, so throughout her career Valley Forge retained the classic appearance of a World War II Essex-class ship. She was decommissioned in 1970, and sold for scrap in 1971.

Construction and Commissioning[edit]

Valley Forge was paid for with money raised by the citizens of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in a special war bond drive. The ship was one of the "long-hull" Essex-class, laid down on 7 September 1944 at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. She was launched on 18 November 1945, sponsored by Mrs. Alexander A. Vandegrift, wife of the Commandant of the Marine Corps. Valley Forge commissioned on 3 November 1946, with Captain John W. Harris in command.

Service history[edit]

1947–1950[edit]

Following fitting out, the new carrier got underway on 24 January 1947 for shakedown training, which took her, via Norfolk, to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the Canal Zone. She completed the cruise on 18 March and returned to Philadelphia for post-shakedown overhaul. The ship left Philadelphia on 14 July, headed south, and transited the Panama Canal on 5 August. She arrived at her home port, San Diego on 14 August and joined the Pacific Fleet. Following the embarkation of Air Group 11 and intensive air and gunnery training in coastal waters, the aircraft carrier – flying the flag of Rear Admiral Harold L. Martin, Commander of Task Force 38 (TF 38) – got underway for Hawaii on 9 October. The task force devoted almost three months to training operations out of Pearl Harbor before sailing for Australia on 16 January 1948. After a visit to Sydney, the American warships conducted exercises with units of the Royal Australian Navy and then steamed to Hong Kong.

During a voyage from the British crown colony to Tsingtao, China, orders arrived directing the task force to return home via the Atlantic. With her escorting destroyers, the ship continued the round-the-world trip with calls at Hong Kong; Manila; Singapore; Trincomalee, Ceylon; and Ras Tanura, Saudi Arabia. After operating for a time in the Persian Gulf, she became the largest aircraft carrier to transit the Suez Canal. The ship finally arrived at San Diego, via the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Panama Canal.

Korean War[edit]

Valley Forge deployed to the Far East, departing the west coast on 1 May 1950. While anchored in Hong Kong harbor on 25 June, the warship received electrifying news that North Korean forces had attacked across the 38th parallel into South Korea. Departing Hong Kong the next day, the carrier steamed south to Subic Bay, where she provisioned, fueled, and set her course for Korea.

The first carrier air strike of the Korean War was launched from Valley Forge '​s flight deck on 3 July 1950. Outnumbered and outgunned, the South Korean troops battled desperately against veritable tides of Communist invaders. Waves of Douglas AD Skyraiders and Vought F4U Corsairs struck the North Korean airfield at Pyongyang, while Grumman F9F-2 Panthers flew top cover. Tons of bombs from the attacking American planes pounded hangars, fuel storages, parked Russian-built aircraft, and railroad marshaling yards. Meanwhile, the escorting Panthers downed two Yak-9s and damaged another.

In spite of attempts by United Nations forces to interdict the steady flow of communist infantry and armor, the North Koreans steadily pushed the defending South Koreans back into a tenuous defense perimeter around Pusan. On 18 September 1950, the American landing at Inchon outflanked the communist forces while United Nations forces broke out of the perimeter to the south. During this period of bitter struggle, Valley Forge '​s Air Group 5 made numerous daily strikes against North Korean targets. Troop concentrations, defensive positions, and supply and communications lines were repeatedly fair game for the bombs of the Skyraiders and the rocket and cannon fire from the Panthers and Corsairs. Over 5,000 combat sorties delivered 2,000 tons (1,800 tonnes) of bombs and rockets between 3 July and 19 November 1950.

Returning to San Diego for overhaul, Valley Forge arrived on the west coast on 1 December, only to have sailing orders urgently direct her back to Korea. In the interim, between the carrier's leaving station and her projected west coast overhaul, the communist Chinese had entered the fray, launching a powerful offensive which sent United Nations troops reeling back to the southward. Accordingly, Valley Forge hurriedly embarked a new air group, replenished, and sailed on 6 December for the Far East. Rendezvousing with TF 77 three days before Christmas of 1950, Valley Forge recommenced air strikes on the 23nd[clarification needed] – the first of three months of concentrated air operations against the advancing communist juggernaut. During her second deployment, the ship launched some 2,580 sorties in which her planes delivered some 1,500 tons (1,400 tonnes) of bombs.

On 11 December 1951, Valley Forge launched her first air strikes in railway interdiction. Rockets, cannon fire, and bombs from the ship's embarked air group, and those of her sister ships also on station, hammered at North Korean railway targets—lines, junctions, marshaling yards, and rolling stock. Anything that could possibly permit the enemy to move his forces rapidly by rail came under attack. By June, Valley Forge '​s train-busting Skyraiders, Corsairs, and Panthers had severed communist rail lines in at least 5,346 places.

Valley Forge returned to the United States in the summer of 1952 but was again deployed to the Far East late in the year. In October 1952, she was reclassified an attack carrier and redesignated CVA-45. On 2 January 1953, she began the new year with strikes against communist supply dumps and troop billeting areas behind the stalemated front lines. While the propeller-driven Skyraiders and Corsairs delivered tons of bombs on their targets, the jet Panthers conducted flak-suppression missions using a combination of cannon fire and rockets to knock out troublesome enemy gun sites. This close teamwork between old and new style planes made possible regular strikes against Korea's eastern coastlines and close-support missions to aid embattled Marine or Army forces on the often bitterly contested battle lines. Valley Forge air groups dropped some 3,700 tons (3,400 tonnes) of bombs on the enemy before the ship left the Korean coast and returned to San Diego on 25 June 1953.

1954–1960[edit]

After a west-coast overhaul, Valley Forge was transferred to the Atlantic Fleet and reclassified – this time to an antisubmarine warfare support carrier—and redesignated CVS-45. She was refitted for her new duties at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard and then rejoined the Fleet in January 1954. The face-lifted carrier soon got underway to conduct exercises to develop and perfect the techniques and capabilities needed to carry out her new duties.

Conducting local operations and antisubmarine warfare exercises, Valley Forge operated off the east coast through late 1956, varied by a visit to England and the eastern Atlantic for exercises late in 1954. Her operations during this period also included midshipman and reservists' training cruises and occasional visits to the Caribbean.

Carrying out training operations out of Guantanamo Bay in 1957, Valley Forge accomplished an American naval "first" in October, when she embarked the ship's landing party and twin-engined HR2S-1 Mojave helicopters. Experimenting with the new concept of "vertical envelopment"; first pioneered by the Royal Navy and Royal Marines at Suez in 1956; Valley Forge '​s helicopters air-lifted the landing party to the beachhead and then returned them to the ship in the U.S. Navy's first ship-based air assault exercise. On 1 April 1958, Rear Admiral John S. Thach hoisted his two-star flag to the carrier's main as the ship became flagship of Task Group Alpha (TG Alpha). This group, built around Valley Forge, included eight destroyers, two submarines, and one squadron each of antisubmarine helicopters, planes, and a landbased Lockheed P2V Neptune. A significant development in naval tactics, TG Alpha concentrated solely on developing and perfecting new devices and techniques for countering the potential menace of enemy submarines in an age of nuclear propulsion and deep-diving submersibles.

Task Group ALFA, formation portrait of the anti-submarine group's ships and aircraft, taken during 1959 exercises in the Atlantic.

Valley Forge remained engaged in operations with TG Alpha through the early fall of 1959, when she then entered the New York Naval Shipyard for repairs. The ship returned to sea on 21 January 1960, bound for maneuvers in the Caribbean. During her ensuing operations, the carrier served as the launching platform for Operation Skyhook. This widely publicized scientific experiment involved the launching of three of the largest balloons ever fabricated, carrying devices to measure and record primary cosmic ray emissions at an altitude of between 18 and 22 mi (29 and 35 km) above the Earth's surface.

Following a deployment in the eastern Mediterranean – during which she called at ports in Spain, Italy, and France – Valley Forge returned to Norfolk to resume local operations on 30 August, continuing antisubmarine exercises as flagship of TG Alpha through the fall of 1960.

On 19 December, the carrier acted as the primary recovery ship for the Mercury-Redstone 1A unmanned space capsule, the first flight of the Redstone rocket as part of Project Mercury. Her helicopters retrieved the capsule, launched from Cape Canaveral, after its successful 15-minute flight and splashdown.[1]

Two days later off Cape Hatteras, in response to an SOS, Valley Forge sped to the aid of the tanker SS Pine Ridge, which had broken in two during a storm. While the survivors of the stricken ship clung tenaciously to the after half of the tanker, the carrier's helicopters shuttled back and forth to pick up the men in distress. Soon, all 28 survivors were safe on board Valley Forge.

1961–1964[edit]

Entering the Norfolk Naval Shipyard on 6 March 1961 for overhaul and modification to an amphibious assault ship, Valley Forge was reclassified as LPH-8 on 1 July 1961 and, soon thereafter, began refresher training in the Caribbean. She returned to Hampton Roads in September and trained in the Virginia capes area with newly embarked, troop-carrying helicopters. In October, the ship – as a part of the Atlantic Fleet's ready amphibious force – proceeded south to waters off Hispaniola and stood by from 21–25 October and from 18–29 November to be ready to evacuate any American nationals from the Dominican Republic should that measure become necessary during the struggle for power which afflicted that nation in the months following the assassination of the long established dictator, Generalissimo Rafael Trujillo.

After returning home late in the year, Valley Forge sailed from Norfolk on 6 January 1962, bound for Long Beach and duty with the Pacific Fleet. At the end of three months of training off the west coast, the amphibious assault ship steamed westward for duty in the Far East with the 7th Fleet. With the flag of the Commander, Ready Amphibious Task Group, 7th Fleet at her main, Valley Forge closed the coast of Indochina under orders to put ashore her embarked Marines. In Laos communist Pathet Lao forces had renewed their assault on the Royal Laotian Government; and the latter requested President John F. Kennedy to land troops to avert a feared, full-scale communist invasion of the country. The amphibious assault ship airlifted her Marines into the country on 17 May; and, when the crisis had abated a few weeks later, carried them out again in July.

For the remainder of 1962, the ship operated in the Far East before returning to the west coast of the United States to spend the first half of 1963 in amphibious exercises off the coast of California and in the Hawaiian Islands.

Valley Forge entered the Long Beach Naval Shipyard on 1 July 1963 for a Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization (FRAM) overhaul, including the installation of improved electronics and facilities for transporting and handling troops and troop helicopters. Putting to sea again on 27 January 1964, the newly modernized assault ship rejoined the fleet and, following local operations and training, departed Long Beach once more for another WestPac deployment.

She stopped at Pearl Harbor and Okinawa, en route to Hong Kong, and then steamed to Taiwan. In June, she joined ships of other SEATO navies in amphibious exercises and then visited the Philippines, where in July she was awarded the Battle Efficiency "E".

Vietnam War[edit]

On 2 August 1964, North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked destroyer Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin. Valley Forge then spent 57 days at sea off the Vietnamese coast in readiness to land her Marines should the occasion demand.

Returning – via Subic Bay, Okinawa, and Midway – to Long Beach on 5 November, Valley Forge made two round-trip voyages to Okinawa carrying marines and aircraft before commencing a WestPac deployment in the South China Sea in the fall of 1965. With a Marine landing force embarked and flying the flag of Commander, Amphibious Squadron 3, Valley Forge conducted intensive training exercises in the Philippines while preparing for service in Vietnam.

In mid-November, the amphibious assault ship stood by in reserve during Operation Blue Marlin and then airlifted her marines ashore for Operations Dagger Thrust and Harvest Moon before spending the Christmas season "in the crisp freshness of an Okinawan winter." After embarking a fresh Marine battalion landing force and a medium transport helicopter squadron, she sailed for Vietnam on 3 January 1966. Following pauses at Subic Bay and Chu Lai, Valley Forge arrived off the Vietnamese coast on 27 January and, two days later, launched her landing forces to take part in Operation Double Eagle.

Remaining on station off the coast, the ship provided logistic and medical support with inbound helicopters supplying the men ashore and outbound "choppers" evacuating casualties for medical treatment back on the ship. Reembarking her landing team on 17 February, Valley Forge proceeded northward, while her Marines took a breather. The second phase of "Double Eagle" commenced two days later, and the ship's Marines again went ashore via helicopter to attack enemy concentrations.

By 26 February, the operation had drawn to a close, and Valley Forge reembarked her Marines and sailed for Subic Bay. Following a round trip to Da Nang, the carrier steamed back to the west coast for an overhaul and local training along the California coast before again deploying to WestPac. Upon her return to Vietnamese waters, the ship took part in operations off Da Nang before she again returned to the United States at the end of the year 1966.

After undergoing a major overhaul and conducting training off the west coast, Valley Forge returned to the Far East again in November 1967 and took part in Operation Fortress Ridge, launched on 21 December. Air-landing her troops at a point just south of the demilitarized zone (DMZ), the ship provided continual supply and medical evacuation (MedEvac) services for this "search and destroy" operation aimed at eliminating North Vietnamese and Viet Cong units which threatened American and South Vietnamese troops. The completion of this operation on the day before Christmas 1967 did not mark the end of Valley Forge '​s operations for this year, however, as she was again in action during Operation Badger Tooth, near Quang Tri in northern South Vietnam.

Upkeep at Da Nang preceded her deployment to her new station off Dong Hoi, where she provided her necessary resupply and medevac support for Allied troops operating against communist forces. Operation Badger Catch, commencing on 23 January 1968 and extending through 18 February, took off for the Cua Viet River, south of the DMZ, before the ship set her course for Subic Bay and much-needed maintenance.

Subsequently returning to the fray in Vietnam, Valley Forge operated as "Hero Haven" for Marine helicopter units whose shore bases had come under attack by communist ground and artillery fire. During Operation Badger Catch II, from 6 March – 14 April, Marine "choppers" landed on board the carrier while their land bases were being cleared of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops. Following a routine refit at Subic Bay, the ship took part in Operation Badger Catch III from 28 April – 3 June. She then moved to Da Nang and prepared for Operation Swift Saber which took place from 7–14 June. Landing Exercise Hilltop XX occupied the ship early in July. Then Valley Forge transferred her Marines and helicopters to Tripoli and headed home via Hong Kong, Okinawa, and Pearl Harbor. She reached Long Beach on 3 August.

Following five months on the west coast which included local operations and an overhaul, the amphibious assault ship returned to the Far East for the last time departing Long Beach on 30 January 1969.

At San Diego, she embarked a cargo of Marine CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters for delivery to transport squadrons in Vietnam. The ship stopped at Pearl Harbor and paused near Guam while one of her helicopters carried a stricken crewman ashore for urgent surgery. She loaded special landing-force equipment at Subic Bay and embarked the Commander, Special Landing Forces Bravo and a squadron of Marine CH-46 transport helicopters. On 10 March, the carrier began operating in support of Operation Defiant Measure, steaming off Da Nang as her helicopters flew missions "on the beach". This was completed by 18 March, and Valley Forge debarked her helicopters before steaming to Subic Bay for upkeep.

After her return to Da Nang on 3 May, the amphibious assault ship reembarked her helicopters as well as part of a battalion landing team of Marines who had been taking part in fighting ashore. The carrier continued to operate in the Da Nang area during the weeks that followed, her helicopters flying frequent support missions, and her Marines preparing for further combat landings.

During late May and early June, Valley Forge received visits from Secretary of the Navy John Chafee and Vice Admiral William F. Bringle, Commander 7th Fleet. She offloaded her Marines at Da Nang on 10 June and embarked a battalion landing team for transportation to Okinawa, where she arrived on 16 June. The landing team conducted amphibious exercises with Valley Forge for 11 days and boarded the ship for a voyage to Subic Bay where they continued the training process. Valley Forge returned to the Da Nang area on 8 July and resumed flying helicopter support for Marine ground forces in the northern I Corps area. The ship took evasive action to avoid an approaching typhoon and then began preparations for an amphibious operation.

Operation Brave Armada began on 24 July with a helicopter-borne assault on suspected Viet Cong and North Vietnamese positions in Quang Ngai Province. Valley Forge remained in the Quang Ngai-Chu Lai area to support this attack until its completion on 7 August. She then steamed to Da Nang to debark her Marines. General Leonard F. Chapman, Jr., the Commandant of the Marine Corps, visited Valley Forge that same day. The ship sailed for Okinawa on 13 August arriving four days later and debarking her helicopter squadron before getting underway again to evade another typhoon. She proceeded to Hong Kong, dropping anchor there on 22 August, the day on which she received a message announcing her forthcoming inactivation. She returned to Da Nang on 3 September to load material for shipment to the United States and sailed that evening for Yokosuka for three days of upkeep before leaving the Far East.

Valley Forge got underway from Yokosuka on 11 September and anchored at Long Beach on 22 September. After leave and upkeep, she offloaded ammunition and equipment at NWS Seal Beach and NS San Diego. The ship returned to Long Beach on 31 October to prepare for decommissioning. This process continued through the new year; and on 15 January 1970, Valley Forge was placed out of commission. Her name was struck from the Navy List on the same day.

After the failure of attempts to raise funds for using the ship as a museum, she was sold on 29 October 1971 to the Nicolai Joffre Corporation, of Beverly Hills, California, for scrap.

Awards[edit]

Valley Forge was awarded eight battle stars for Korean War service and nine for Vietnam War service, as well as three Navy Unit Commendations.

Silent Running film location[edit]

While at Long Beach, from 14–28 February 1971, the interior of the aircraft carrier was used as a shooting location for filming the 1971 science fiction film Silent Running. The central location of the film is a 2,000- ft (610 m)- long space-bound cargo freighter, carrying six large geodesic domes, under which the last forests of an environmentally-devastated Earth are kept.

The producers of the film were searching for pre-existing locations which could represent the cargo deck, control rooms, and living quarters of a fictional "space freighter." Building sets on Hollywood sound stages would have been prohibitively expensive, so in order to minimize the impact on the film's minimal budget, various large interior locations were investigated, including warehouses, cargo ships, and oil tankers. After contacting the United States Navy with a query about the use of aircraft carriers, the producers were directed to several decommissioned Essex-class carriers awaiting scrapping at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard, including the USS Valley Forge, and fellow carriers USS Philippine Sea and USS Princeton. The type of location proved to be perfect for the film, the Valley Forge was selected, and a deal was struck with the Navy. In honor of the filming location, the space freighter of the film was christened Valley Forge.

The carrier's hangar deck was featured in the film as a cargo hold, which was repainted and filled with polystyrene modules representing futuristic cargo containers. Her flight command area was heavily modified to represent the control room and living quarters of the fictional space ship crew. Bulkheads were cut out and replaced with wider passageways to allow for camera and actor movement. Set pieces, computer consoles, and various props were moved in to dress the ship as the space freighter. The production crew was allowed to do anything they wanted with the ship, as long as no metal was removed. All power and water had to be imported, as the crew was not allowed to use ship power. Filming was hampered by the tight confines of the carrier, necessitating several innovations in the filming process.

Eight months after filming wrapped, Valley Forge was sold for scrap in October 1971.

In fiction[edit]

USS Valley Forge can be seen in the Belgian comic Buck Danny, created by Jean-Michel Charlier and Victor Hubinon. The pilot lands on her for the first time in the thirteenth episode, "A Plane Has Not Returned" (1954), and remains based on her for several following episodes.

References[edit]

  1. ^ This New Ocean: A History of Project Mercury. NASA Special Publication-4201. Loyd S. Swenson Jr., James M. Grimwood, Charles C. Alexander, 1989.

This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.

External links[edit]