The concept of amassing a large number of aircraft, launched from a mobile airfield, which can have a devastating impact on the enemy's readiness for war, belonged to the Japanese forces. The decimation of the U.S. Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in late 1941 was the result of this idea. Most battles of World War II were fought at sea, making technological advancements for the naval forces a must.
An aircraft carrier brings a large number of fighter airplanes closer to battle areas. As most wars were waged in the Pacific like the battle of the Coral Sea, it made more sense to take ships closest to the islands or coastal areas of Japan. Although the U.S. navy had aircraft carriers, their production was accelerated between 1944 and 1945. Here are some of them, used during World War II.
USS Bennington (CV-20)
USS Bennington was one of the 24 Essex-class aircraft carriers, built for World War II by the United States Navy, and was commissioned in August 1944. She reached Pearl Harbor on 8th January, 1945 and proceeded further to Caroline Islands, and joined Task Group 58.1. Her planes participated in various attack operations on Japanese forces. She sank the Japanese battleship Yamato, light cruiser Yahagi, and four destroyers. She continued her offense on the Japanese in the western Pacific and took part in various strikes against the Japanese home islands between February till June. It earned three battle stars for service in the Pacific Theater of Operations.
USS Enterprise (CV-6)
USS Enterprise was commissioned in 1936, and was one of the three carriers to survive the World War II. She sailed towards the South Pacific to reinforce U.S. Carriers already stationed there. Her planes participated in most number of attacks. On 28th May, 1942 she entered the Battle of Midway with orders, "to hold Midway and inflict maximum damage on the enemy by strong attrition tactics." Her bombers destroyed Hiryu, an aircraft carrier of the Japanese navy, with the help of Yorktow squadron. She took part in many other air-sea engagements including the battles of Solomons, Santa Cruz Islands, Philippine Seathe, Guadalcanal campaign, Leyte Gulf, and the 'Doolittle Raid' on Tokyo. She scouted enemy aircraft and battleships, and enforced maximum damage on them. USS Enterprise earned 20 battle stars, the most by any U.S. Warship for her enduring service in the war.
USS Lexington (CV-16)
USS Lexington was commissioned in February 1943, and sailed towards Pearl Harbor. After reaching there, she participated in raids on the Tarawa and Wake Islands. Her fighters downed 29 enemy aircraft in just two days ― 23rd and 24th November ― while providing air-cover to the landings in the Gilbert Islands. She was the only carrier painted dark blue, hence the nickname, The Blue Ghost, "She sinks beneath the deep blue seas each evening, all hands aboard, only to re-appear each morning on the horizon." In June 1944 , Lexington's planes played a pivotal role in the victory of the Marianas Turkey Shoot. Between July to August that year, she was a member of the task force, that launched attacks on Honshū and Hokkaidō airfields, and Yokosuka and Kure naval bases, completely flattening the Japanese fleet and industrial areas of Tokyo. For her service in the Pacific Theater of Operations, USS Lexington received the Presidential Unit Citation and 11 battle stars as well.
USS Wasp (CV-18)
USS Wasp was one of 24 Essex-class aircraft carriers built during World War II and commissioned in November 1943. She set sail and arrived on Pearl Harbor on 4th April, 1944. She joined a newly formed Task Group 58.6 at the Marshall Islands. On 6th June, she was reassigned to TG 58.2. This carrier and a group of other carriers launched strikes against Japanese air bases on Saipan and Tinian, shooting down 30 land-based fighters. They provided close air support for American marines, fighting on the Saipan beach. Wasp participated in many group attacks all along the Japanese coast. On 25th August, 1945 she was engulfed in a severe typhoon, however, that did not deter her pilots from launching her planes on missions of mercy, as they carried food and medicine to American prisoners of war at Narumi, near Nagoya. By the time the war was over, she had transported 5,500 passengers and 400 officers. USS Wasp was honored with eight battle stars for her heroic stint.
Besides the above aircraft carriers, many others played their part in destroying the Japanese arm strength and their powerful naval fleet. They proved worthy as an offensive air warfare weapon, and changed the way wars were fought and won at sea and in air.