The United States commissioned eight carriers before the outbreak of World War II; when it finished the war, it had added some one hundred additional carrier decks to the fleet. The vast majority of new-construction ships were of a ship class which had had its debut only a year before war started in earnest for the United States: the escort carrier. These ships carried the designation AVG until early 1943, when they were re-designated CVE.
In October 1940, President Roosevelt asked that the Navy design a merchant-ship conversion aircraft carrier to escort Atlantic convoys across the “air gap” in the middle of the northern Atlantic, where no land-based patrol plane could reach. Since the U.S. Fleet desired a similar small ship for aircrew training, in January 1941, initial design proposals were filed, asking for a flush deck and diesel propulsion. The obvious source for all merchant-ship conversions were the various incarnations of the “Liberty” Ship, the C-3 class.
In early January, while the decision on the specifics of the conversion was yet to be made, the U.S. Navy acquired to ships to convert, one for itself and one for the Royal Navy, the Mormacmail and Mormacland, the latter for conversion into a Royal Navy escort carrier. The design was necessarily swift; although the Navy desired a ship with close-to full carrier specifications, Roosevelt demanded that it settle for something less elaborate, realizing that speed was of the essence. In the event, the ship leaving the yard on June 2nd, 1941, Long Island (ex-Mormacmail) had a flight deck from aft to slightly before midships, a catapult to launch planes, retained the original merchant ship bridge below the forward edge of the flight deck, and carried a 5” L/51 gun, two 3” L/50 anti-air guns and a machine gun battery of four .50-caliber guns. She retained her merchant ship characteristics as to vulnerability and speed, but since she displaced slightly less, made a higher speed in service.
Shortly after commissioning, aircraft operations had made it obvious that the original short flight deck was pointless, and it was enlargened by 77-feet at Norfolk in September, 1941. She also received better subdivision to resist damage. In early 1942, she surrendered her .50-caliber machine guns for 20mm guns. In late 1942, she sported 20 20mm guns. In February 1944, she was redesignated an aircraft transport, loosing her arresting gear and the ability to land planes. She also received an L/38 gun in due course.
Long Island served as a testbed for the various roles supposed to be in for a the new austere wartime carriers. She conducted air operations, illustrating the stable platform the escort carrier offered in comparison to its small size. She supported landing exercises in the summer of 1941, then escorted a number of convoys on the Atlantic route. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, in May 1942, she re-deployed to the West Coast, joining the Pacific Fleet’s Task Force 1 of old battleships. After the Battle of Midway, she left her company and returned to the West Coast for carrier aviator training. In August 1942, she deployed Marine Air Group 22 to Guadalcanal, then returned to the United States. She conducted training operations until early 1944, from when on she was used for transporting various airplanes to the combat zones.
Ships in class:
CVE-1 Long Island
Standard: 13,342 tons
Full: 14,937 tons
Length: 149,96m / 492ft
Beam: 21,18m / 69ft 6"
Draft (Full Load): 7,56m / 24ft 9 3/4"
Height: ???? / ????
Crew (Officers/Men): 408
Endurance: ????? at ?? knots
Speed: 16.5 knots
Belt: No belt armor
Deck: No deck armor
Barbettes: No barbette armor
Conning Tower: No conning tower armor
Main: 1 x 127mm L/55, one single on the stern
AA: 4 x 76mm L/50 in four single mounts, 4 x 12.7mm L/90 in single mounts.