Aircraft carriers function as seagoing airbases, with a flight deck and facilities for transporting, arming, deploying, and recovering aircraft. They are typically the capital ships of a fleet because they project air power around the world without relying on local bases for operational support. But did you know that the US only started with 4 airplanes during World War II?
The United States entered World War II with only four aircraft carriers and finished the war with nearly 100 carriers of all classes and types.
World War Aircraft Carriers
During a war, an aircraft carrier serves many purposes. Consider it a floating city from which planes can depart, supplies can be moved, servicemen and women can be relocated in times of need, and planes can land. An aircraft carrier is a large ship carrying military aircraft with a long, flat surface where they can take off and land.
Because most aircraft during WWII could only carry a small amount of fuel, flying to where they were needed was only sometimes practical. A carrier could bring the planes much closer to the battleground. (Source: History For Kids)
Aircraft Carrier History
The HMS Hermes, for the British Navy, was the first aircraft carrier to be built. This started in 1918. It was, however, commissioned or sent out for work in February 1924. The Japanese began construction on the Hsh carrier in 1919, but it was completed in December 1922. As a result, the Hosho is regarded as the first aircraft carrier.
Japan had the most carriers by 1941, with nine in use. The largest Japanese aircraft carriers, known as the Kaga and Akagi, could hold up to 90 planes. (Source: History For Kids)
Aircraft Carriers and Pearl Harbor
The Allies possessed some excellent aircraft carriers. The largest aircraft carriers, such as the Enterprise, were over 245 meters long and 30 meters wide and transported an incredible 1000 crew members. British carriers, such as the Ark Royal, and large carriers from the United States, such as the Enterprise, could move up to 100 planes on their decks.
An aircraft carrier’s impact was first noticed following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Hundreds of planes had been brought in by Japanese carriers, who then took off to bomb Pearl Harbor. The six carriers, Akagi, Kaga, Sry, Hiry, Shkaku, and Zuikaku, brought 408 planes to an area northwest of Hawaii for the six carriers to take off and then attack.
Destroyers usually escorted Carriers to their destinations. Carriers often moved slowly and could be a good target for the enemy, so Destroyers and, on occasion, Battleships could protect them.
With the advent of World War II, the number of planes and men that could be transported increased as vessels grew in size. The plane wings were then designed to fold up, allowing more planes to be loaded onto the carrier. The Allies and Axis increased the number of carriers in their respective fleets. During the war, the United States had 36 carriers, the Royal Navy had 24, the French had one, the Japanese had over 40, and Germany had one called the KMS Graf Zeppelin. (Source: History For Kids)