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USS Saratoga

Discussion in 'United States at Sea!' started by Jim, Oct 11, 2007.

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  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Saratoga was one of only two pre-war carriers that saw combat service in the Pacific and survived. The attack on Pearl Harbour saw the ship off the US west coast. She quickly headed west to take part in the aborted relief of Wake Island. On January 11, 1942, near Pearl Harbour, Saratoga received her first war damage when she was struck by a single torpedo from submarine 1-6. The damage did not threaten to sink the ship, but it did require a return to the west coast for repairs. Repairs and training of a new air group prevented Saratoga from taking part in the decisive phase of the battle of Midway.

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    Saratoga next headed into the South Pacific to support the first US offensive of the war, the invasion of Guadalcanal Island in the Solomon’s in August 1942. Later in August, Saratoga played a key role in the wars third carrier battle, the battle of the Eastern Solomon’s. Her 36-aircraft strike sank the light carrier Ryujo. Because of cloud cover, Saratoga escaped the retribution of the Imperial Navy’s fleet carriers, with Enterprise taking the brunt of the Japanese attack. On August 31, Saratoga was again struck by a submarine torpedo, this time from 1-26. The attack damaged her turbo-electric propulsion system and, after temporary repairs, the ship headed to Pearl Harbour for permanent repairs. After her return to service, Saratoga remained in the South Pacific until November 1943 providing cover for operations in the Solomon’s. In November 1943 her aircraft struck the Japanese bastion of Rabaul, damaging several heavy cruisers that had arrived to strike the US beachhead on Bougainville, New Britain. After another brief refit, Saratoga returned to Pearl Harbour in January 1944. Following attacks delivered against Japanese garrisons on several Central Pacific islands, Saratoga moved west to join the British Eastern Fleet in the Indian Ocean. Operating with a Royal Navy carrier, she struck the port of Sabang, Sumatra, on April 16. A later raid against Soerabaja, Java, was also successful.


    Following operations with the Royal Navy, Saratoga returned to the west coast for her second refit of 1944. This prepared her for duty as a night carrier and as such she operated with USS Ranger in the area of Pearl Harbour, training pilots in night operations and developing night fighter tactics. In January 1945, Saratoga received the call to return to combat operations, joining Enterprise to form a night fighter carrier division to support the invasion of Iwo Jima. In the course of these operations, Saratoga received her last damage of the war. On February 21, the ship was struck by a total of six bombs in two separate attacks. Despite damage to her flight deck and large fires in the hangar deck, she was able to recover aircraft in three hours. Saratoga returned to service in May, following repairs, and resumed her training duties. At the conclusion of the war, Saratoga was employed in duties to return servicemen to the US, transporting more than 29,000 personnel, more than any other ship.
    By war’s end, Saratoga was superfluous to requirements and was assigned to Operation Crossroads to test the effects of atomic blasts on naval units. The first blast on July 1, 1946 inflicted only minor damage, but a second blast the following day proved fatal. She sank the same day, as damage control efforts were impossible on her radioactive hull.


    21 February 1945: Attacked by six Zero fighters, with two bouncing off the water into the starboard side, one hitting the flight deck forward, the fourth hitting a large crane and the last two being shot down by AA fire. In addition, three bombs from these planes exploded inside the hull. Saratoga's flight deck forward was wrecked, her starboard side was holed in two places with large fires started in her hangar deck and she lost 123 of her crew dead or missing. Another attack at 19:00 scored an additional bomb hit, believed to have been a 500 kg bomb, but the kamikaze itself did little damage and slid over the side. By 20:15, the fires were under control and the carrier was able to recover aircraft. She was ordered to Eniwetok and then to the west coast for repairs, arriving at Bremerton on 16 March. On 22 May, Saratoga departed Puget Sound fully repaired and she resumed training pilots at Pearl Harbour on 3 June.

    When the war ended Saratoga was considered too old for continued use, and was given her last assignment as a target ship for the Atomic Bomb tests, at Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands. She survived the first test "Able" an air burst, but sank subsequent to the "Baker" test an underwater detonation. The 888ft ship now lies upright in 185 fsw of water in the lagoon at Bikini Atoll.


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