20 March 1922: USS Langley (CV-1) was commissioned as the first aircraft carrier of the United States Navy. It was a former collier, USS Jupiter (AC-3), which had been converted at the Norfolk Navy Yard, 1921–1922.
The aircraft carrier was powered by General Electric turbo-electric drive, with a total of 7,200 shaft horsepower. 542 feet (165 meters) in length, she could make 15.5 knots (28.7 kilometers per hour). Her full load displacement was 14,100 tons.
As more modern aircraft carriers Lexington and Saratoga came in to service, Langley was once again converted, this time to a sea plane tender, AV-3. She was badly damaged by Japanese dive bombers, 27 February 1942, and was scuttled.
More aircraft carriers would follow and were the key to the United States Navy victory in the Pacific Ocean, bringing World War II to a close.
Ninety-five years after USS Langley was commissioned, the aircraft carrier is the center of the American fleet. The Nimitz-class carriers are the most powerful warships ever built.
17 October 1922: Lieutenant Commander Virgil C. (“Squash”) Griffin made the first takeoff from an aircraft carrier of the United States Navy when he flew a Chance Vought Corporation VE-7SF fighter from the deck of USS Langley (CV-1) while the ship was anchored in the York River along the west side of Chesapeake Bay, Maryland.
USS Langley was the United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier. The ship was named in honor of an American scientist, Samuel Pierpont Langley. It was a former collier, USS Jupiter (AC-3), which had been converted at the Norfolk Navy Yard, 1921–1922. The ship was 542 feet (165 meters) in length, overall, with a beam of 65 feet, 5 inches (19.939 meters) and draft of 24 feet (7.315 meters). The aircraft carrier had a full load displacement of 15,568 U.S. tons (14,123 Metric tons).
Langley was powered by a General Electric turbo-electric drive, with a total of 7,200 shaft horsepower. She could make 15.5 knots (17.8 miles per hour; 28.7 kilometers per hour). The aircraft carrier had a maximum range of 4,000 miles (6,437 kilometers).
In addition to her air group of up to 36 airplanes, Langley was defended by four 5-inch/51-calilber guns (127 mm × 6.477 meters). This gun could fire a 50-pound (22.7 kilogram) shell a distance of 20,142 yards (18.418 kilometers). Its maximum rate of fire was 9 rounds per minute.
As the more modern aircraft carriers Lexington and Saratoga came in to service, Langley was once again converted, this time to a sea plane tender, and reclassified as AV-3. She was badly damaged by Japanese dive bombers during the Battle of the Java Sea, 27 February 1942, having been struck by five bombs. The ship was scuttled to prevent capture, when her escorting destroyers fired two torpedoes into her.
The Chance Vought VE-7 was originally ordered as a two-place trainer, but its performance and handling qualities were so good that it was widely used as a fighter. The VE-7SF was a single-place, single-engine biplane built for the U.S. Navy.
The VE-7 was 22 feet 5-3/8 inches (6.842 meters) long, with a wingspan of 34 feet, 4 inches (10.465 meters), and height of 8 feet 7½ inches (2.629 meters). The two-bay wings were separated by a vertical gap of 4 feet, 8 inches (1.422 meters) and the leading edge of the lower wing was staggered 11 inches (27.9 centimeters) behind that of the upper wing. Both wings had 1.25° dihedral. The upper wing had +1.75° incidence, lower wing had +2.25°. The VE-7 had weighed 1,392 pounds (631 kilograms) empty and had gross weight of 1,937 pounds (879 kilograms)
The VE-7 was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 716.69-cubic-inch-displacement (11.744 liters) Wright-Hispano E3 Alert single overhead cam 90° V-8 engine, rated at 215 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. The engine drove a two-bladed fixed-pitch wooden propeller with a diameter of 8’8″ (2.642 meters). The Wright E3 weighed 465 pounds (211 kilograms).
The VE-7 had a maximum speed of 106 miles per hour (171 kilometers per hour) and service ceiling of 15,000 feet (4,572 meters). Its maximum range was 290 miles (467 kilometers).
The fighter was armed with two Vickers .30-caliber (7.62 mm) machine guns, synchronized to fire forward through the propeller arc.
Rear Admiral Jackson R. Tate, U.S. Navy (Retired) described the first takeoff:
“We were operating just north of the Tongue of the Shoe, seaward of the main channel from Norfolk, Va. A trough about 6 feet long, set up on sawhorses was rigged at the aft end of the flight deck. When the tail skid of the VE-7 used in the test was placed in the trough, she was in the flight attitude.
“We had no brakes, so the plane was held down on the deck by a wire with a bomb release at the end. This was attached to a ring in the landing gear. ‘Squash’ Griffin climbed in, turned up the Hispano Suiza engine to its full 180 hp and gave the “go” signal. The bomb release was snapped and the Vought rolled down the deck. Almost before it reached the deck-center elevator it was airborne. Thus, the first takeoff from a U.S. carrier.”