The Pacific War was to a large extent the war of the aircraft carrier; from
Pearl Harbor to Okinawa, it was the effective use of the carrier forces which
proved decisive. For the first time, battles were fought with hundreds of
miles of ocean between the combatants
Like her sister Lexington, the USS Saratoga (CV.3) was launched in 1925 after three years of conversion from an incomplete battle-cruiser hull. Like her sister she played a major role in developing the concept of the fast carrier task force, and from 1928 the two ships took part in the annual 'Fleet Problem' or war game of the Pacific Fleet.
At the time of Pearl Harbor the 'Sara' was back at San Diego on the US west coast undergoing a short refit, but she sailed shortly afterwards and took part with her sister 'Lex' in an abortive attempt to relieve Wake Island. During her refit the four twin 203-mm (8-in) turrets were removed, and in their place she received four twin 127-mm (5-in) dual-purpose mountings. She was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine offHawaii, on 11 January 1942, and needed four months of repairs.
The 'Sara' was used to ferry fresh aircraft out to the Central Pacific, and so missed the Battle of Midway, but she was a welcome reinforcement by 8 June, the day after the sinking of the Yorktown. Her fighters and divebombers were given the task of softening up the defences of Guadalcanalon 7 August 1942 before the big amphibious landing by the US Marines. The Japanese responded vigorously to this challenge, and by 20 August a powerful carrier task force was nearing the
The Saratoga, Enterprise and Wasp were heavily engaged in the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, but ihe 'Sara' escaped lightly, Not until 31 August did she sustain damage, when she was torpedoed by the submarine 1-68 just after dawn. The carrier was not badly damaged by the hit, in spite of having one boiler room flooded and another partly flooded, but an electrical failure soon put her machinery out of action. Two hours later she got back limited power, and reached Pearl Harborsix days later; repairs took six weeks to complete.
In 1943-4 the Saratoga took part in the great 'island-hopping' drive across the Pacific, and in 1944 was detached to the East Indies, where she cooperated with the British and Free French in attacking Japanese positions in Java and Sumatra. On 21 February 1945 she was hit by a kamikaze while supporting the landings on Iwo Jima. By now she was showing her age, and although repaired was restricted to training duties at Pearl Harbor,
On 25 July 1946 the stripped hull of the Saratoga was sunk in Bikini Atoll during a series of nuclear tests.