Forrestal: Step Aboard America's First 'Super' Aircraft Carrier

Sebastien Roblin
Wikimedia Commons

Sebastien Roblin

Security, Americas

The ship that started it all.

Forrestal: Step Aboard America's First 'Super' Aircraft Carrier

As the United States prepares to deliver its second one-hundred-thousand-ton Gerald Ford-class supercarrier later in 2019, it’s easy to forget that until the mid-1950s the Navy’s carriers displaced between a third or half that much.

The Essex and larger Midway-class carriers built during World War II were designed to launch smaller, slower piston-engine warbirds. But a new generation of carrier-based jet aircraft took up more deck space, required longer decks to takeoff and land, and consumed more fuel.

In 1948, the country’s first secretary of defense, James Forrestal, ordered the USS United States, a supercarrier displacing seventy thousand tons designed to carry up to eighteen large strategic bombers off its deck. The CVA-58 attack carrier was essentially the Navy’s bid to compete with the Air Force’s plans for a large force of B-36 Peacemaker nuclear bombers. However, mere days after the United States was laid down, Forrestal’s successor Louis Johnson canceled construction, resulting in an inter-service furball detailed in a companion article.

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