USS Independence Historical Timeline

The fourth Independence (CVL 22), which began as the light cruiser USS Amsterdam (CL 59) was launched in August 1942 and commissioned in January 1943. Independence represented the first of a new class of carriers built on converted cruiser hulls. She joined the Pacific Fleet in June 1943. She participated in attacks on Rabaul, Tarawa, Luzon, and Okinawa. Most notably, Independence was part of the carrier group that sank the last remaining vestige of the Japanese Mobile Fleet at the Battle of Leyte Gulf. She was later used as a target during the Operation Crossroads atomic testing and subsequently towed and sunk near the Farallon Islands in 1951.

Click the segments below for a detailed timeline history of USS Independence.

Christening and LaunchClick to Read

USS Independence is christened at New York Shipbuilding Corporation, Camden, N.J. The ship is christened by ship sponsor Mrs. Rawleigh Warner. Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox and COMINCH/CNO Admiral Ernest J. King are also in attendance. USS Independence is commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 14 January 1943, Captain George Richard Fairlamb, Jr., commanding.

Photo Captions:
Captain George Richard Fairlamb, Jr. (Photo Courtesy Author John Lambert)
Christening of the future USS Independence (CV-22) by Mrs. Dorothy Warner, wife of Rawleigh Warner, President of the Pure Oil Company. Saturday, 22 August 1942. (NAVSOURCE/Dale Hargrave)
(L to R) Assistant Secretary of the Navy Ralph Bard, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, Ship Sponsor Mrs. Rawleigh Warner, Maid of Honor Ms. Suzanne Warner, and COMINCH Admiral Ernest J. King (Photo Courtesy Author John Lambert)

Marcus IslandsClick to Read

After joining the fleet on the West Coast, USS Independence got underway for Pearl Harbor on 14 July 1943. The ship spent the next two weeks in training exercises to prepare for conflict. Alongside carriers USS Essex (CV 9) and USS Yorktown (CV 10), Independence and Task Force 15, RADM Charles Alan Pownall commanding, departed Pearl Harbor for the Marcus Islands on 22 August. The strike began on 31 August when planes from the three carriers launched nine strike groups against Japanese installations on the island. The attack destroyed over 70 percent of installations on the island. Independence was involved in a similar engagement at Wake Island on 5-6 October.

Note: This was the first time the Grumman F6F Hellcat was used in combat.

Photo Captions:
Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat fighters and two Grumman TBF-1 Avenger torpedo bombers on the light aircraft carrier USS Independence sometime in 1943.  (NAVSOURCE)
Aerial view attack on Marcus Island on 31 August 1943. The attack was carried out by a task force consisting of the U.S. aircraft carriers USS Essex (CV-9), USS Yorktown (CV-10), and USS Independence (CVL-22), the battleship USS Indiana (BB-58), two cruisers, and ten destroyers. The photo was taken from a plane from the USS Yorktown. (NARA)
Marcus Island (Minami Torishima) under attack by U.S. Navy aircraft of Carrier Air Group 5 (CVG-5) from the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV-10), on 31 August 1943. (NNAM Photo #  2003.143.015)

Rabaul

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“Up until this time, we had not seen any Japanese planes. Then all at once, there were about 110 of them over us. They made several strafing runs on our ship; however, they did very little damage. I was told, in fact, that as the Japanese strafed our flight deck, some of our crew members were digging the lead out of the deck for souvenirs.”

– Herman Brown, “My Navy Story and Life on the Independence”

Following the Allied invasion of Bougainville, the Japanese sent a large force of cruisers from Truk to Rabaul in order to engage Allied supply lines and disrupt shipping. Task Group 50.3 of the 5th Fleet, including the carriers USS Bunker Hill, USS Essex, and USS Independence, arrived outside Rabaul on 7 November. Rabaul was considered one of the most important and heavily defended bases of the Japanese Army and Navy in the South Pacific. According to Independence historian John G. Lambert, the island was fortified “with over 350 antiaircraft guns, and over 40 coastal guns and numerous airbases.” Fighting alongside Halsey’s TF 38, carrier-based planes struck in a combined offensive on 11 November.  Gunners aboard Independence shot down six Japanese planes during the attack.

Photo Captions:
Rear Admiral Frederick C. Sherman, Task Force commander, gets good news from Commander Joseph Clifton, fighter group commander on the raid, on board USS SARATOGA (CV-3). With Admiral Sherman (in cap, center) are (l-r): Captain Robert C. Sutliffe, Commander Robert E. Dixon, & Lieutenant Albert F. Howard. Commander Clifton’s fighters escorted the strike, in which 24 Japanese planes were shot down. Photo released 15 Dec. 1943. The two strikes on Rabaul occurred on 5 & 11 November 1943. (NHHC Photo # 80-G-44090)
A Japanese bomber explodes on the water just astern of USS ESSEX (CV-9), after being shot down by anti-aircraft fire. USS INDEPENDENCE (CVL-22) is in the right background. (NHHC Photo # 80-G-206615)


Tarawa

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“I dove to the deck, and all Hell broke loose. We did get hit by a very powerful aerial torpedo from a twin-engine Betty. Then word came over the speaker to abandon ship. I surely hated to hear such a command. Luckily, almost immediately, the order was cancelled. This was good news, since I really was not looking forward to going into the water with all the sharks, and possibly the Japanese coming back to finish us off.”

– Herman Brown, “My Navy Story and Life on the Independence”

Following the engagement at Rabaul, Independence went to refuel at Espiritu Santu and headed for the Gilbert Islands for pre-landing strikes on Tarawa. On the last day of the strikes, the Japanese counterattacked the American carriers. Independence was targeted by a group of Japanese planes low to the water. Although six planes were shot down, one of their torpedoes managed to score a direct hit on the ship’s starboard quarter, causing serious damage.

Independence steamed to Funafuti on 23 November for repairs, eventually making it to San Francisco on 2 January 1944 for more repairs. During that time, an extra catapult was fitted onto the ship, which helped in the crew’s training in night carrier operations after arriving at Pearl Harbor in July. She became the first aircraft carrier to do so. The crew continued to train at Eniwetok in late August before sailing with a large task group to support the Palau operation. There, Independence provided night reconnaissance and night combat air patrol for Task Force 38.

Photo Captions:
Burial at sea, Battle of Tarawa, Nov. 22, 1943. (Al Hiegel, CVL 22 Reunion Group)
USS Independence (CVL-22) torpedo damage diagram, 20 November 1943, off Tarawa. Source: Navy Department Library, USS Independence (CVL-22) War Damage Report No. 52.
USS Independence (CVL-22) torpedo damage diagram, 20 November 1943, off Tarawa. Source: Navy Department Library, USS Independence (CVL-22) War Damage Report No. 52.


Philippines

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“I remember during a short break in the action, I had a chance to relax and look around and saw the three big carriers in TG 38.2 with flight deck fires causes by kamikaze hits.”

– RADM M. Dick Van Orden, “Operation of the Fast Carrier Task Force in the Battles of Leyte Gulf, October 25, 1944”

In September the fast carrier task force regularly pounded the Philippines in preparation for the invasion. When no Japanese counterattacks developed in this period, Independence shifted to regular daytime operations, striking targets on Luzon. After replenishment at Ulithi in early October, the great force sortied 6 October for Okinawa. In the days that followed the carriers struck Okinawa, Formosa, and Philippines in a striking demonstration of the mobility and balance of the fleet. Japanese air counterattacks were repulsed, with Independence providing day strike groups in addition to night fighters and reconnaissance aircraft for defensive protection.

As the carrier groups steamed east of the Philippines 23 October, it became apparent, as Admiral Carney later recalled, that “something on a grand scale was underfoot.” And indeed it was, as the Japanese fleet moved on a three-pronged effort to turn back the American beachhead on Leyte Gulf. Planes from Independence’s Task Group 38.2, under Rear Admiral Bogan, spotted Kurita’s striking force in the Sibuyan Sea 24 October and the carriers launched a series of attacks. Planes from Independence and other ships sank giant battleship Musashi and disabled a cruiser.

That evening Admiral Halsey made his fateful decision to turn Task Force 38 northward in search of Admiral Ozawa’s carrier group. Independence’s night search planes made contact and shadowed the Japanese ships until dawn 25 October, when the carriers launched a massive attack. In this second part of the great Battle for Leyte Gulf, all four Japanese carriers were sunk. Meanwhile, American heavy ships had won a great victory in Suriago Strait; and a light carrier force had outfought the remainder of Kurita’s ships in the Battle of Samar. After the great battle, which virtually spelled the end of the Japanese Navy as a major threat, Independence continued to provide search planes and night fighter protection for Task Force 38 in strikes on the Philippines. In these operations the ship had contributed to a major development in carrier group operations.

Independence returned to Ulithi for long-delayed rest and replenishment 9 to 14 November, but soon got underway to operate off the Philippines on night attacks and defensive operations.

On 17 December 1944, the ships of Task Force 38, seven fleet and six light carriers, eight battleships, 15 cruisers, and about 50 destroyers were operating about 300 miles east of Luzon in the Philippine Sea. The carriers had just completed three days of heavy raids against Japanese airfields, suppressing enemy aircraft during the American amphibious operations against Mindoro in the Philippines. Although the sea had been becoming rougher all day, the nearby cyclonic disturbance gave relatively little warning of its approach. On 18 December, the small but violent typhoon overtook the Task Force while many of the ships were attempting to refuel. According to an official casualty report on the Naval History and Heritage Command website, one sailor was confirmed killed or missing from the Typhoon aboard USS Independence. In all, approximately 790 officers and men were lost or killed, with another 80 injured.

From 3 to 9 January, carriers of Task Force 38 supported the Lingayen landings on Luzon, after which Halsey took his fleet on a daring foray into the South China Sea. In the days that followed the aircraft struck at air bases on Formosa and on the coasts of Indo-China and China. These operations in support of the Philippines campaign marked the end of the carrier’s night operations, and she sailed 30 January 1945 for repairs at Pearl Harbor.

Photo Captions:
Units of task force 38 at anchor, at Ulithi Atoll, Caroline Islands, on 6 November 1944, following the Battle of Leyte Gulf. (NHHC Photo # 80-G-291054)
Four Japanese ships under attack by task force 38 planes, off the north tip of Luzon, 18 October 1944. Ships may be the HOTEN MARU, TSINGTAO MARU, TAIHO MARU and TERUKUNI MARU. Photographed from a USS INTREPID (CV-11) plane. (NHHC Photo # NH 95946)
One of many violent rolls during typhoon in the Pacific, Oct 4, 1944. (Photo courtesy Al Hiegel, USS Independence Reunion Group/NAVSOURCE)


Okinawa

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Independence returned to Ulithi 13 March 1945 and got underway next day for operations against Okinawa, last target in the Pacific before Japan itself. She carried out preinvasion strikes 30 to 31 March, and after the assault 1 April remained off the island supplying Combat Air Patrol and strike aircraft. Her planes shot down numerous enemy planes during the desperate Japanese attacks on the invasion force. Independence remained off Okinawa until 10 June when she sailed for Leyte.

During July and August, the carrier took part in the final carrier strikes against Japan itself, attacks which lowered enemy morale and had much to do with the eventual surrender. After the end of the war 15 August, Independence aircraft continued surveillance flights over the mainland locating prisoner of war camps, and covered the landings of Allied occupation troops. The ship departed Tokyo 22 September 1945, arriving San Francisco via Saipan and Guam 31 October.

Independence joined the “Magic Carpet” fleet beginning 15 November 1945, transporting veterans back to the United States until arriving San Francisco once more 28 January 1946.



Crossroads

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Assigned as a target vessel for the Bikini atomic bomb tests, she was placed within one-half mile of ground zero for the 1 July explosion (Test Able). The ship did not sink, however, and after taking part in another explosion 25 July (Test Baker) was taken to Kwajalein and decommissioned 28 August 1946. The highly radioactive hulk was later taken to Pearl Harbor and San Francisco for further tests, and was finally sunk in weapons tests off the coast of California 29 January 1951.

Photo Captions: 
A view of the target fleet immediately after the “Able” Day aerial burst, 1 July 1946. USS SARATOGA (CV-3) is in the center with USS INDEPENDENCE (CV-22) burning at left-center. Ex-Japanese battleship NAGATO is between them. (NHHC Photo # 80-G-K-20262)
Afire aft, soon after the Able Day atomic bomb air burst test at Bikini on 1 July 1946. The bomb had exploded off the ship’s port quarter, causing massive blast damage in that area, and progressively less further forward. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. (Photo # 80-G-627502)
iew of the ship’s port quarter, showing severe blast damage caused by the Able Day atomic bomb air burst at Bikini on 1 July 1946. Photographed at Bikini anchorage on 23 July 1946. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. (Photo # 80-G-627471)
3.25 USS INDEPENDENCE (CV-22) and USS SARATOGA (CV-3) burning at Bikini Atoll, 1 July 1946. (NHHC Photo # NH 85251-K)
Correspondents aboard an LCU view the badly damaged USS INDEPENDENCE (CVL-22) on 3 July 1946, two days after the “Able Day” burst. This was the unengaged side of the ship. (NHHC Photo # 80-G-627512)


Present Day

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In 2009, the position of the wreck was located in 2,600 feet of water in NOAA’s Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary off the Farallon Islands. In March 2016, NOAA embarked aboard the R/V Fulmar to survey the wreck, using an Echoscope 3-D imaging sonar for a number of images. According to the images, the ship is “resting upright with a slight list to starboard with most of the flight deck intact.” According to the NOAA report, there appears to be a plane on the hangar deck visible through the aircraft elevator. Most importantly, no signs of radioactive contamination were detected, and a NOAA spokesperson described it as “amazingly intact.”

From 22-26 August of 2016, Dr. Bob Ballard’s team is scheduled to dive on Independence as part of their “Greater Farallones Cruise Plan.” The plan includes a number of survey dives on Independence, including visual inspection and imaging of the wreck as well as a photomosaic of the largely intact flight deck.

Photo Captions:
An autonomous underwater vehicle scanned the USS Independence, taking several sonar images of each section of the ship, giving a high-resolution picture with colors denoting topography. (NOAA/Boeing)
Comparison of historic photo and 2016 survey. (NOAA)


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