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USS Lake Champlain (CV/CVA/CVS-39) was one of 24 s 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 Champlainmarker in the War of 1812.

Commissioned in mid-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 1950's, 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 1950's, 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 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.

Construction and Commissioning

Lake Champlain was one of the "long-hull" ships. She was laid down in a drydock at the Norfolk Navy Yardmarker, Portsmouth, Virginia on 15 March 1943. The hull was launched from drydock on 2 November 1944. Lake Champlain commissioned on 3 June 1945 with Captain Logan C. Ramsey in command. The ship was sponsored by Mrs. Warren Austin, wife of Senator Austin of Vermontmarker.

Service history

Operation Magic Carpet

USS Lake Champlain on 23 June 1945


After shakedown and visits to New Yorkmarker and Philadelphiamarker, Lake Champlain was assigned to "Magic Carpet" duty to repatriate US military personnel. She departed Norfolk for Englandmarker on 14 October, and arrived Southamptonmarker 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 Roadsmarker, Virginia, having completed a run from Cape Spartelmarker, Africa, in 4 days, 8 hours, 51 minutes. This record stood until surpassed by SS United States in the summer of 1952.

Korean War

Lake Champlain was laid up in the reserve fleet at Norfolk on 17 February 1947. A few years later, the Korean War began and she was needed again. In August 1950, Lake Champlain began herSCB-27A modernization program at Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co. She recommissioned on 19 September 1952 with Captain G. T. Mundroff in command.

A shakedown cruise in Cubanmarker and Haitianmarker waters lasted from 25 November-25 December. The carrier departed Mayportmarker, Florida for Korea on 26 April 1953 via the Red Seamarker, Indian Oceanmarker, and China Sea. Lake Champlain became the largest ship to date to transit the Suez Canalmarker. She moored at Yokosuka, Japanmarker 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 on 11 October, Lake Champlain headed toward the South China Sea arriving Singaporemarker on 24 October. Bidding farewell to the Pacific Ocean on 27 October, she steamed toward home touching at Colombomarker, Port Saidmarker, Cannesmarker, and Lisbonmarker before arriving Mayport, Florida on 4 December 1953.

Postwar Years

NATO, Middle East and reclassification

In the years that followed, Lake Champlain made several cruises to the Mediterraneanmarker, participating with NATOmarker forces. On 25 April 1957, she joined elements of the fleet in a high-speed run to the scene of tension in the Middle East, cruising in the vicinity of Lebanonmarker and backing Jordanmarker's stand against the threat of Communism. The swift and firm reaction averted a near catastrophe in the Middle East. Tensions eased and Lake Champlain returned to Mayport 27 July. Converted to an antisubmarine carrier and reclassified (CVS-39) on 1 August, Lake Champlain trained off the eastern seaboard to master her new role.

Lake Champlain was near the island of Majorcamarker when the Spanish city of Valenciamarker was devastated by floods on the night of 14 October 1957. The American ambassador to Spain, John Davis Lodge, requested that Lake Champlain provide assistance for rescue operations. The ship's Chickasaw helicopters undertook numerous rescue missions, and the ship's crew fought in the "mud battle" that followed the disaster.

She departed Bayonnemarker, New Jersey on 8 February 1958 for another Mediterranean cruise returning to Mayport, Florida on 30 October. After a yard overhaul, she departed for the Mediterranean on 10 June and visited Spainmarker, Denmarkmarker, and Scotlandmarker, before returning to Mayport on 9 August.

The carrier operated off Florida and in the Caribbean until 15 June 1958, when she sailed on another Mediterranean cruise returning to her newly assigned home port, Quonset Point, Rhode Island on 4 September.

The carrier operated out of Quonset Point until 29 June 1960, when she made a midshipmen's cruise to Halifaxmarker, Nova Scotiamarker, returning on 12 August. Beginning on 7 February, she made a cruise to the Caribbean, returning on 2 March.

Project Mercury



Lake Champlain was selected as the prime recovery ship for America's first manned space flight. She sailed for the recovery area on 1 May, and was on station on the 5th when Commander Alan Shepard was recovered along with spacecraft Freedom 7 after splashdown some 300 mi (480 km) down range from Cape Kennedy. Helicopters from the carrier visually tracked the descent of the capsule and were over it two minutes after splashdown. They skillfully recovered Shepard and the Freedom 7 capsule, delivering them safely to Lake Champlain s flight deck.

Caribbean and Cuban Blockade

For the next year, the ship operated along the Atlantic coast and in the Caribbean. In June 1962, she embarked Naval Academy midshipmen for a summer cruise to Halifax, Nova Scotia and Kingstonmarker, Jamaicamarker, where she represented the US at the island's celebration of its independence on 3 August.



On 24 October, Lake Champlain joined in a classic exercise of seapower - the quarantine of Cubamarker, where the Soviet Unionmarker was constructing bases for offensive missiles. To block this grave threat, U.S. warships deployed throughout the western Atlantic, choking off the flow of military supplies to Cuba and enforcing American demands for the withdrawal of the Russian offensive missiles.

After the American demands were substantially complied with, Lake Champlain sailed for home on 23 November via St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, and arrived Quonset Point on 4 December 1962. For the next few months the carrier was in New Englandmarker waters for operations and overhaul. In September 1963, while she was on a cruise to Guantanamo Baymarker, her training schedule was interrupted when she was ordered to Haiti to relieve distress caused by Hurricane Flora. Her helicopters located homeless victims and flew them food and medical supplies.

North Atlantic and Project Gemini

Lake Champlain returned to Quonset Point on 9 November for operations in New England waters. She visited Bermudamarker briefly in spring of 1964 and steamed to Spain in the fall for landings near Huelvamarker. She sailed on 6 November from Barcelonamarker for the United States, touched at Gibraltarmarker and arrived at Quonset Point the 25th. The first half of 1965 found Lake Champlain performing training duties and conducting exercises up and down the East Coast. For FY 1966, the Navy proposed a modernization program for Lake Champlain. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara refused to authorize the proposal, citing the limited effectiveness of anti-submarine carriers.

Lake Champlain completed her last major duty on 5 August when she served as the primary recovery ship for Gemini 5. Shortly afterward, she sailed to Philadelphia Navy Yardmarker, where she commenced inactivation. She was decommissioned on 2 May 1966 and was laid up in the Reserve Fleet.

The 24-year-old Lake Champlain was stricken from the Navy List on 1 December 1969, and sold by the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service (DRMS) for scrapping on 28 April 1972.

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