Chapter 3 - A Changing Role

(Part 1)

The Post-War Carriers

After the end of World War II, the Royal Navy disposed of its escort carriers. For a time, however, it did keep most of the fleet carriers which were constructed during 1944 and 1945. The majority of these were of the Colossus and Majestic-classes. By the late 1950's even these had been disposed of. Several were transferred to other Allied nations, including the HMS Colossus (to France); the HMS Terrible, HMS Vengeance, and HMS Majestic (to Australia); the HMS Magnificent and HMS Powerful (to Canada); the HMS Venerable (to the Netherlands); the HMS Hercules (to India); and the HMS Warrior (to Argentina). During the 1950's, the Royal Navy did commission several larger carriers, which stayed in service through the late 1970's and early 1980's. Among these were the third HMS Ark Royal and the third HMS Hermes.

HMS Colossus
While Great Britain disposed of many of its wartime Colossus and . . .

HMS Terrible
. . . Terrible class carriers to Allied nations, . . .

HMS Malta
. . . it commissioned new carriers of the Malta . . .

HMS Centaur
. . . and Centaur classes

France acquired the light carriers USS Langley and USS Belleau Wood in the early 1950's and rechristened them the Lafayette and Bois Belleau, respectively. These two carriers served for about ten years, until they were replaced by the French-built carriers Clemenceau and Foch. Among their actions, the Lafayette and Bois Belleau provided air support for the unsuccessful French attempts to hold Indo-China from communist takeover. Spain acquired the light carrier USS Cabot, which served as the Dedalo until 1985.

Clemenceau
The French post-war carrier Clemenceau

In the United States, three large carriers were commissioned shortly after the end of World War II. These were the USS Midway, USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, and USS Coral Sea. However, public policy had turned against the Navy. With the Japanese, German, and Italian fleets destroyed and the age of the atomic bomb approaching, the need for a strong Navy was seriously questioned. The newly-organized Air Force felt that its strategic bombers could defeat any potential enemy, supported (if necessary) by Army forces to finish the job. The Truman administration supported this view, and within three years of the end of World War II, the total number of naval warships declined from 1,194 to 267. Carrier forces were reduced from 98 to 15. Plans for a super carrier, the USS United States, capable of carrying strategic bombers were scrapped in 1949 after fierce opposition from the Air Force, which has pushing for construction of its B-36 strategic bomber.

USS Midway
Although the United States commissioned three
large Midway-class carriers after the War, . . .

USS United States
. . . the even larger USS United States CV-58
was canceled after fierce political opposition from
the newly-formed Air Force.

Although few advancements were made in carrier design until after the Korean War, the post-World War II period saw many advances in the design of carrier aircraft. The most significant was the introduction of jet power. The McDonnell FH-1 Phantom became the Navy's first operational jet aircraft in 1947. Over the next ten years, more than 20 jet aircraft designs were tested for carrier use, and 12 of these actually became operational.

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Last Updated: January 1, 2003