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Old February 17th, 2012, 05:52 AM   #1

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Escort Carriers


By the end of world war II Britain and the USA had over one hundred ships protecting the Atantlic supply routes and supporting operations in the Pacific.

What do you think about escort carriers during WWII and today?


HMS Audacity was a converted merchant ship whic carried 8 fighters.

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USS Long Island was the first American escort carrier.

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Old February 17th, 2012, 06:00 AM   #2

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Our aircraft carriers are actually the escorted ones today, and not the other way around, which is funny- the destroyers actually protect THEM now.

The modern aircraft carrier is the command and control center of the battle group universe- jets, helicopters, command staff, intel, communications... it is completely unrecognizable from what we had in WWII, when prop planes landed awkwardly on our flattops!

I deployed twice on them in the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf, and so I know what they are all about
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Old February 17th, 2012, 06:41 AM   #3

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Quote:
Originally Posted by monsieurdl View Post
Our aircraft carriers are actually the escorted ones today, and not the other way around, which is funny- the destroyers actually protect THEM now.
Nothing's really changed. The fleet carriers of WWII and today have effectively the same role-strike capability. In fact, the carriers of today are LESS vulnerable than the Yorktown/Essex classes of WWII, but CVs have always been escorted by numerous smaller ships. Destroyers and Destroyer Escorts were used for ASW. Cruisers and to some extent fast battleships were used for anti-aircraft. But a carrier has always been part of a larger task force. As an example-At the battle of the Philippine Sea in 1944, task force 58.1 had 2 Essex-class fleet carriers, 2 light carriers, 4 cruisers, and 9 destroyers. And that doesn't include Oilers, tenders etc.

Order of Battle - The Battle of the Phillipine Sea - 19-20 June 1944

As to the OP, escort carriers served an enormous role in WWII. In the second battle of the Atlantic, the CVE's (combustible, vulnerable, and expendable to their crews) played a significant role in turning the tide against the U-Boat threat. In the initial days of the war, the wolfpacks settled into a "gap" between American and British air cover to ply their deadly craft. With the advent of the CVE's, there was no "gap" any more in the air coverage. Bogue, Card and Core were especially successful in this role.

In the Pacific, they added the roles of beachead support, and aircraft ferry for their larger brothers.

Aircraft and Air Forces - Fighting the U-boats - uboat.net
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Old February 17th, 2012, 06:57 AM   #4

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Glad to see you can speak to the WWII role of carriers... for some reason, my interest has always been the Eastern Front, and yet I'm a Navy man
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Old February 17th, 2012, 07:29 AM   #5

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Considering what they were inteded for, and how badly outmatched they were, the US Escort Carriers did well in the Battle off Samar after the San Bernadino straight was left wide open.

Kind of simultaneously the US Navy's finest and darkest hour.
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Old February 17th, 2012, 07:32 AM   #7

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Considering what they were inteded for, and how badly outmatched they were, the US Escort Carriers did well in the Battle off Samar after the San Bernadino straight was left wide open.

Kind of simultaneously the US Navy's finest and darkest hour.
Fair enough, P.....But the real heroes of Samar were the sailors on the DEs that day.
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Old February 17th, 2012, 07:48 AM   #8

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Iron Coffins: A Personal Account of the German U-Boat Battles of World War II: Amazon.co.uk: Edward L. Beach, Herbert A. Werner: Books
Iron Coffins: A Personal Account of the German U-Boat Battles of World War II: Amazon.co.uk: Edward L. Beach, Herbert A. Werner: Books


Excellent book, the author stating that he knew the game was up when his U-boat was strafed by an aircraft from an escort carrier in the North Atlantic, even if they didn't sink them they could keep the U-boats underwater, unable to charge their batteries and allowing the convoys to outrun them. It also meant an end to German bomber such as the Focke Wolf Condor being able to follow and attack convoys at high level with impunity
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Old February 17th, 2012, 07:50 AM   #9

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brisieis View Post
What do you think about escort carriers during WWII
Useful and cheap means to get air cower in to areas where it was needed and where risk of direct combat was not high (mostly protection of convoys).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brisieis View Post
and today?
They were replaced in their role by helicopter carriers.
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Old February 17th, 2012, 10:02 AM   #10

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Escort carriers differed from purpose built fleet carriers as they were smaller and primarily used as convoy air support.

Large fleet carriers were also used as convoy support sometimes but their primary purpose was in a strike role. The largest convoy of the entire war (I think) was Operation Pedestal, with 2 battleships, 4 fleet carriers and 32 destroyers. All for a single convoy to reinforce Malta with spitfires.

Click the image to open in full size.

Fleet carriers shown here. "Seen from the flight deck of HMS Victorious, a Fairey Albacore takes off from HMS Indomitable, while HMS Eagle brings up the rear. Eagle was lost during this operation."
Operation_Pedestal Operation_Pedestal


Escort carriers, for the RN role, were used in North Atlantic convoys, the Far East as well as the Arctic Convoys to Murmansk and Archangel. How they managed to take off and land from ice covered decks in those conditions is anyone's guess.

Click the image to open in full size.
HMS Nairana on an Arctic Convoy

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HMS Nairana in heavy seas


Further details:
RN Escort Carriers Home Page

Quote:
By the end of 1942 the RN had received 8 US escort carriers and completed two conversions in British shipyards. During 1943 it was to gain a further 30, 27 lend lease CVEs and 3 more British conversions; this was to be the height of escort carrier production for the RN, the final four US built vessels and the final British conversion had all arrived by the end of February 1944.

"Full protection could not be afforded to the convoys until it was possible to provide air escort for the whole of the Atlantic passage; and for some time there was a gap of some 600 miles in mid-Atlantic which land-based air forces could not reach. That was finally bridged partly by the provision of the V.L.R. (very long range) aircraft, but even more effectively by the provision of escort carriers which could accompany each convoy."
Rear-Admiral H. G. Thursfield
"Failure of the U-Boat Campaign."
Illustrated London News January 22, 1944


Tasking and carrier employment
The escort carriers were to fill various different roles other than convoy protect duties, especially after the battle for the Atlantic in 1944. Many of them were assigned to the British pacific Fleet and the East Indies Fleet from late 1944 onwards.

The various roles undertaken included:
Ferry carrier, transporting aircraft as deck cargo
Anti Submarine Warfare carriers
Combat Air Patrol Carriers
Assault carriers (Army co-operation role)
Replenishment carriers (BPF Air Train)
Secondary role -Auxiliary oiler capable of limited refuelling in addition to its primary role
Post war carriers provided humanitarian aid and assisted with POW evacuation and repatriation
Click the image to open in full size.
You can see they had some funky camo paint too

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Avenger class

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Fairy Swordfish Biplanes were common aircraft on escort carriers

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Later Seafires and Corsairs were used

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You can see the difference between escort and fleet carrier with the superstructure/bridge size



You can see a RN Fleet Carrier here being thrown about by the North Atlantic weather, so you can imagine what it would have been like for the smaller escort carriers. One chap on a 10k ton ship said he was on the bridge when the entire thing went over 47 degrees, he was hanging off the compass with his feet in the air.

Sailing the roughest seas for salvation: WWII Arctic convoys remembered: Voice of Russia

Last edited by Earl_of_Rochester; February 17th, 2012 at 10:09 AM.
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