Though smaller than Lexington and Saratoga , Ranger 's more efficient use of space permitted it to carry a similar number of aircraft. As these early carriers entered service, the US Navy and the Naval War College conducted several assessments and war games through which they hoped to determine the ideal carrier design.
These studies determined that speed and torpedo protection were of major importance and that a large air group was desirable as it offered greater operational flexibility. They also concluded that carriers employing islands had superior control over their air groups, were better able to clear exhaust smoke, and could better direct their defensive armament.
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Trials at sea also found that larger carriers were more capable of operating in difficult weather conditions than smaller vessels such as Ranger. Though the US Navy initially preferred a design displacing around 27, tons, due to the limitations imposed by the Washington Naval Treaty , it instead opted for one that provided the desired attributes but only weighed around 20, tons. Embarking an air group of approximately 90 aircraft, this design offered a top speed Sponsored by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, the carrier entered the water nearly two years later on April 4, Work on Yorktown was completed the following year and the vessel was commissioned at the nearby Norfolk Operating Base on September 20, Commanded by Captain Ernest D.
McWhorter, Yorktown finished fitting out and began training exercises off Norfolk. Departing the Chesapeake in January , Yorktown steamed south to conduct its shakedown cruise in the Caribbean. Returning to Norfolk, Yorktown underwent repairs and modifications to address issues that had arisen during the voyage.
A massive war game, the exercise simulated an attack on the East Coast of the United States.
After a brief refit at Norfolk, Yorktown received orders to join the Pacific Fleet. Conducted around Hawaii, the war game simulated a defense of the islands as well as practiced a variety of strategies and tactics which later would be used during World War II. As a result, Yorktown was ordered back to the Atlantic Fleet in April Taking part in neutrality patrols, the carrier operated between Newfoundland and Bermuda to prevent attacks by German u-boats. After completing one of these patrols, Yorktown put into Norfolk on December 2.
Remaining in port, the carrier's crew learned of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor five days later. Having received new Oerlikon 20 mm anti-aircraft guns, Yorktown sailed for the Pacific on December Fletcher 's Task Force 17 TF Striking targets on Jaluit, Makin, and Mili, Yorktown 's aircraft inflicted some damage but were hampered by poor weather. Completing this mission, the carrier returned to Pearl Harbor for replenishment.
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Though initially tasked with striking Japanese shipping at Rabaul, Brown redirected the carriers' efforts to Salamaua-Lae, New Guinea after enemy landings in that area. US aircraft hit targets in the region on March In the wake of this raid, Yorktown remained in the Coral Sea until April when it withdrew to Tonga to resupply. Departing late in month, it rejoined Lexington after the commander-in-chief of the Pacific Fleet, Admiral Chester Nimitz obtained intelligence regarding a Japanese advance against Port Moresby.
On August 15th, the Empire of Japan signaled surrender and put all further operations on hold.
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For the rest of the month, her aircraft were used to provide support to incoming occupation personnel. With the formal Japanese surrender signed on the decks of the battleship USS Missouri on September 2nd, Yorktown comprised a portion of the Allie's "show of strength" entering Tokyo Bay on September 16th. Leaving the bay on October 1st, she made for Buckner Bay where she took on passengers and was brought home on October 6th.
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In January of , USS Yorktown was set on reserve status but retained her commission until finally decommissioned on January 9th, In June of , Yorktown was reactivated again and, on December 15th, she was placed on active commission. Despite her return, the vessel did not partake in combat service during the Korean War for an armistice was signed on July 27th, - ending direct armed conflict between the two nations.
Yorktown nonetheless continued operational service and was used in various deployments throughout Asia-Pacific waters. On October 14th, , the work was completed and the Yorktown's status raised to active commission.
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As such, she was outfitted with various submarine tracking and engagement facilities as well as increased support for ASW aircraft. In , the Yorktown was officially deployed for service in the Vietnam War in another battle to thwart communist expansion. There, Yorktown provided extensive ASW actions as well as general support and also took part in rescues of downed airmen.
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In February of , she was pulled from service to undergo an extensive 7-month overhaul period. She was placed back into service during the Vietnam War by January Her final tour in the conflict was on June 16th before she left for Japan en route to the US. Also in December, Yorktown was tabbed as the recovery vessel for the Apollo 8 space capsule and its crew of three Borman, Lovell and Anders.
The capsule landed on December 27th, in the North Pacific Ocean after a six-day mission above Earth. From this point onwards, Yorktown set sail for the eastern American coast, rounding Argentina, before coming stateside at Norfolk, Virginia. She was then sent overseas to Europe and made stops at several American allies before returning to Norfolk in December of Her name was formally struck from the US Naval list on June 1st, She was then donated to the Patriot's Point Development Authority of Charleston, South Carolina where she was then moved to and dedicated on October 13th, as a floating museum.
In , she received a National Historic Landmark status. Each program gradually increased the vessel's operating displacement from 36, tons to 40, tons and, finally, 41, tons.