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The USS Langley (CV-1/AV-3) was the United States Navy's first aircraft carrier, converted in 1920 from the collier USS Jupiter (AC-3), and also the US Navy's first electrically-propelled ship. Conversion of another collier was planned but canceled when the Washington Naval Treaty required the scrapping of the partially-built battlecruisers Lexington and Saratoga, freeing up their hulls for conversion to the aircraft carriers and . The Langley was named after Samuel Pierpont Langley, an American aviation pioneer. Following another conversion, to a seaplane tender, Langley fought in World War II. She was so badly damaged by Japanesemarker bombing attacks that she was sunk by her escorts on 27 February 1942.


President William H. Taft attended the ceremony when Jupiter's keel was laid down on 18 October 1911 at the Mare Island Naval Shipyardmarker of Vallejo, Californiamarker. She was launched on 14 August 1912 sponsored by Mrs. Thomas F. Ruhm; and commissioned on 7 April 1913 under Commander Joseph M. Reeves. Her sister ships were , which disappeared without a trace (allegedly in the Bermuda Trianglemarker) during World War I, and , and , which disappeared on the same route as Cyclops in World War II.

After successfully passing her trials, Jupiter embarked a United States Marine Corps detachment at San Francisco, Californiamarker, and reported to the Pacific Fleet at Mazatlánmarker Mexicomarker, 27 April 1914, bolstering U.S. naval strength on the Mexican Pacific coast during the tense days of the Veracruz crisis. She remained on the Pacific coast until she departed for Philadelphia, Pennsylvaniamarker, 10 October. En route the collier steamed through the Panama Canalmarker on Columbus Day, the first vessel to transit it from west to east.

Prior to America's entry into World War I, she cruised the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexicomarker attached to the Atlantic Fleet Auxiliary Division. The ship arrived Norfolk, Virginiamarker, on 6 April 1917, and, assigned to NOTS, interrupted her coaling operations by two cargo voyages to Francemarker in June 1917 and November 1918. The first voyage transported a naval aviation detachment of 7 officers and 122 men to England. It was the first United States aviation detachment to arrive in Europe and was commanded by LT Kenneth Whiting, who became Langeleys first executive officer five years later. Jupiter was back in Norfolk 23 January 1919 whence she sailed for Brestmarker, Francemarker, 8 March for coaling duty in European waters to expedite the return of victorious veterans to the United States. Upon reaching Norfolk 17 August, the ship was transferred to the west coast. Her conversion to an aircraft carrier was authorized 11 July 1919, and she sailed to Hampton Roadsmarker, Virginiamarker, 12 December where she decommissioned 24 March 1920.


Jupiter was converted into the first U.S. aircraft carrier at the Navy Yard, Norfolk, Virginiamarker, for the purpose of conducting experiments in the new idea of seaborne aviation. On 11 April 1920, her name was changed to Langley in honor of Samuel Pierpont Langley, an American astronomer, physicist, aeronautics pioneer and aircraft engineer, and she was given hull classification symbol CV-1. She recommissioned 20 March 1922 with Commander Kenneth Whiting in command. The naming of Langley was one of many shots in a long feud between Orville Wright and the United States Government.
Langley being converted at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in 1921

As the first American aircraft carrier, Langley was the scene of numerous momentous events. On 17 October 1922 Lieutenant Virgil C. Griffin piloted the first plane, a Vought VE-7, launched from her decks. Though this was not the first time an airplane had taken off from a ship, and though Langley was not the first ship with an installed flight-deck, this one launching was of monumental importance to the modern U.S. Navy. The era of the aircraft carrier was born introducing into the Navy what was to become the vanguard of its forces in the future. With Langley underway nine days later, Lieutenant Commander Godfrey de Courcelles Chevalier made the first landing in an Aeromarine 39B. On 18 November Commander Whiting, at the controls of a PT, was the first aviator to be catapulted from a carrier's deck.

A relatively unique feature of Langley was provision for a carrier pigeon house on the stern between the 5"/51 caliber guns. Pigeons had been carried aboard seaplanes for message transport since World War I and were to be carried on aircraft operated from Langley. The pigeons were trained at the Norfolk Naval Shipyardmarker while Langley was undergoing conversion. As long as the pigeons were released a few at a time for exercise, they returned to the ship; but when the whole flock was released while Langley was anchored off Tangier Island the pigeons flew south and roosted in the cranes of the Norfolk shipyard. The pigeons never went to sea again and the former pigeon house became the executive officer's quarters; but the early plans for conversion of Lexington and Saratoga included a compartment for pigeons.

By 15 January 1923 Langley had begun flight operations and tests in the Caribbean Seamarker for carrier landings. In June she steamed to Washington, DCmarker, to give a demonstration at a flying exhibition before civil and military dignitaries. She arrived Norfolk 13 June and commenced training along the Atlantic coast and Caribbean which carried her through the end of the year. In 1924 Langley participated in more maneuvers and exhibitions, and spent the summer at Norfolk for repairs and alterations, she departed for the west coast late in the year and arrived San Diego, Californiamarker, on 29 November to join the Pacific Battle Fleet. For the next twelve years she operated off the Californiamarker coast and Hawaiimarker engaged in training fleet units, experimentation, pilot training, and tactical-fleet problems.

Seaplane tender

USS Langley after conversion to a seaplane tender, 1938.
On 25 October 1936 she put into Mare Island Navy Yardmarker, Californiamarker, for overhaul and conversion to a seaplane tender. Though her career as a carrier had ended, her well-trained pilots had proved invaluable to the next two carriers, USS Lexingtonmarker and USS Saratogamarker (commissioned 14 December and 16 November 1927).

Langley completed conversion 26 February 1937 and was assigned hull classification symbol AV-3 on 11 April. She was assigned to Aircraft Scouting Force and commenced her tending operations out of Seattle, Washingtonmarker, Sitka, Alaskamarker, Pearl Harbormarker, and San Diego, Californiamarker. She departed for a brief deployment with the Atlantic Fleet from 1 February to 10 July 1939, and then steamed to assume her duties with the Pacific fleet at Manilamarker arriving 24 September.

On the entry of the US into World War II, Langley was anchored off Cavitemarker, Philippinesmarker. On 8 December, following the invasion of the Philippines by Japan, she departed Cavite for Balikpapanmarker, in the Dutch East Indiesmarker. As Japanese advances continued, Langley departed for Australia, arriving in Darwinmarker on 1 January 1942. She then became part of the American-British-Dutch-Australian Command (ABDACOM) naval forces. Until 11 January, Langley assisted the Royal Australian Air Force in running antisubmarine patrols out of Darwin.
USS Langley hit on 27 February 1942 off Java.
Langley went to Fremantle, Australiamarker, to pick up Allied aircraft and transport them to Southeast Asia. Carrying 32 P-40 fighter planes belonging to the United States Army Air Forces 49th Pursuit Group, she and a convoy departed Fremantle on 22 February. Langley left the convoy five days later and delivered the planes to Tjilatjapmarker (Cilacap), Javamarker.

In the early hours of 27 February, Langley rendezvoused with her antisubmarine screen, destroyers and . At 11:40, about 75 miles (120 km) south of Tjilatjap, nine twin-engine Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" bombers of the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service's Takao Kokutai, led by Lieutenant Jiro Adachi, attacked her. The first and second Japanese strikes were unsuccessful, but during the third, Langley took five hits and 16 crew members were killed. The topside burst into flames, steering was impaired, and the ship developed a ten-degree list to port. Unable to negotiate the narrow mouth of Tjilatjap harbor, Langley went dead in the water, as her engine room flooded. At 13:32, the order to abandon ship was passed. The escorting destroyers fired nine four-inch shells and two torpedoes into Langley, to ensure she didn't fall into enemy hands, and she sank.

(This article is derived from CV-1 Langley in Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, DANFS, U.S. Dept. of Navy.)

See also

External links


  1. Tate, Jackson R., RADM USN "We Rode the Covered Wagon" United States Naval Institute Proceedings October 1978 p.62
  2. Tate, Jackson R., RADM USN "We Rode the Covered Wagon" United States Naval Institute Proceedings October 1978 p.66
  3. Tate, Jackson R., RADM USN "We Rode the Covered Wagon" United States Naval Institute Proceedings October 1978 p.67
  4. Tate, Jackson R., RADM USN "We Rode the Covered Wagon" United States Naval Institute Proceedings October 1978 p.65
  5. Pride, A.M., VADM USN "Comment and Discussion" United States Naval Institute Proceedings January 1979 p.89


  • USS Langley (CV-1) (formerly Jupiter (Collier #3); later AV-3), NavSource Online,
  • Tagaya, Osamu. Mitsubishi Type 1 Rikko Betty Units of World War 2 ISBN 1 84176 082 X
  • Messimer, Dwight (1983). Pawns of War: The Loss of the USS Langley and the USS Pecos. United States Naval Institute

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