USS Lake Champlain (CV/CVA/CVS-39) was one of 24 Essex-class aircraft carriers completed during or shortly after World War II for the United States Navy. She was the second US Navy ship to bear the name, and was named for the Battle of Lake Champlain in the War of 1812.
Commissioned on 3 June 1945, Lake Champlain did not participate in World War II, but did serve as a transport, bringing troops home from Europe as part of Operation Magic Carpet. Like many of her sister ships, she was decommissioned shortly after the end of the war, but was modernized and recommissioned in the early 1950s, and redesignated as an attack carrier (CVA). She participated in the Korean War but spent the rest of her career in the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Mediterranean. In the late 1950s, she was redesignated as an antisubmarine carrier (CVS). She was the prime recovery ship for the first manned Mercury and for the third manned Gemini (Gemini V) space missions.
Lake Champlain had a unique modernization history. She was the only Essex-class ship to receive the SCB-27 conversion, which was a rebuild of the superstructure, flight deck and other features, but not also receive the SCB-125 conversion, which would have given her an angled flight deck and hurricane bow. Therefore she had the distinction of being the last operational US aircraft carrier with an axial flight deck.
Lake Champlain was decommissioned in 1966 and sold for scrap in 1972.
Operation Magic Carpet
After shakedown and visits to New York and Philadelphia, Lake Champlain was assigned to "Magic Carpet" duty to repatriate US military personnel. She departed Norfolk for England on 14 October, and arrived at Southampton on the 19th where she embarked veterans and returned them to New York.
She set a speed record, averaging 32.048 kn, for crossing the Atlantic on 26 November 1945 when she arrived at Hampton Roads, Virginia, having completed a run from Cape Spartel, Africa, in 4 days, 8 hours, 51 minutes. This record stood until surpassed by SS United States in the summer of 1952.
Lake Champlain was laid up in the reserve fleet at Norfolk on 17 February 1947.
Lake Champlain was needed again for the Korean War. In August 1950, she began her SCB-27A modernization program at Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company. She recommissioned on 19 September 1952.
A shakedown cruise in Cuban and Haitian waters lasted from 25 November to 25 December 1952. The carrier departed Mayport, Florida, for Korea on 26 April 1953 via the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and South China Sea. Lake Champlain became the largest ship to date to transit the Suez Canal. She moored at Yokosuka, Japan on 9 June 1953.
Lake Champlain in 1953–54.
As flagship of Carrier Task Force 77 (TF 77), she sailed from Yokosuka on 11 June and arrived off western Korea on 14 June. The carrier's air group immediately launched sorties cratering runways; assaulting enemy troops; attacking trenches, bunkers, gun positions; and giving close air support to hard pressed ground forces. Her planes also escorted B-29 Superfortress heavy bombers on their way to enemy targets. Lake Champlain continued to strike at the enemy until the truce was signed on 27 July. Relieved by Kearsarge on 11 October, Lake Champlain headed toward the South China Sea arriving Singapore on 24 October. Bidding farewell to the Pacific Ocean on 27 October, she steamed toward home touching at Colombo, Port Said, Cannes, and Lisbon before arriving Mayport, Florida on 4 December 1953.
- ATO, Middle East and reclassification
- Project Mercury
- Caribbean and Cuban blockade
- North Atlantic and Project Gemini
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