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Exploring the History of USS Saratoga (CV-3) A Legendary Aircraft Carrier

USS Saratoga (CV-3), also known as “Sara”, was one of the most iconic and influential aircraft carriers in the history of the United States Navy. It played a crucial role in World War II, serving as a flagship for numerous operations and earning a reputation as a “lucky” ship due to its ability to withstand significant damage and still remain in service. In this blog post, we will delve into the rich history of USS Saratoga (CV-3), from its construction to its eventual decommissioning and beyond. This legendary aircraft carrier has left a lasting legacy that continues to be celebrated today.

Exploring the History of USS Saratoga (CV-3) A Legendary Aircraft Carrier

History of USS Saratoga (CV-3)

USS Saratoga (CV-3) was the second ship to bear the name “Saratoga” in the US Navy. The first Saratoga, a steam frigate, was commissioned in 1843 and served in the American Civil War before being decommissioned in 1889. The second Saratoga, which is the focus of this blog post, was a Lexington-class aircraft carrier built in the 1920s. It was originally planned to be named the USS Lexington (CV-2), but the name was changed to Saratoga to honor the previous Saratoga’s distinguished service.

Construction and Design of USS Saratoga (CV-3)

The construction of Saratoga began in 1920 at the New York Shipbuilding Corporation in Camden, New Jersey. It was launched on April 7, 1925, and commissioned into service on November 16, 1927. With a length of 888 feet and a displacement of over 33,000 tons, it was considered one of the largest and most powerful warships of its time. Saratoga was capable of carrying up to 90 aircraft and had a top speed of 33 knots.

Exploring the History of USS Saratoga (CV-3) A Legendary Aircraft Carrier

What made Saratoga unique was its “flush deck” design, which eliminated the island structure found on most other aircraft carriers. This allowed for a larger flight deck and more efficient movement of aircraft. It also had an armored flight deck, making it the first US carrier to have this feature. The carrier was armed with eight 8-inch guns, twelve 5-inch anti-aircraft guns, and numerous smaller caliber guns for defense against enemy aircraft.

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USS Saratoga (CV-3) in World War II

At the start of World War II, Saratoga was stationed at Pearl Harbor as part of the Pacific Fleet. However, it was away from the harbor when the Japanese attacked on December 7, 1941. In January 1942, Saratoga was deployed to the Pacific theater and became the flagship of Task Force 17 under the command of Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher.

Notable Battles and Operations of USS Saratoga (CV-3)

One of the most significant battles that Saratoga participated in was the Battle of Midway in June 1942. Saratoga’s planes were instrumental in sinking one of the Japanese carriers, Hiryu, which played a crucial role in turning the tide of the battle in favor of the US Navy. This battle also marked the first time that US and Japanese aircraft carriers engaged in combat against each other.

Exploring the History of USS Saratoga (CV-3) A Legendary Aircraft Carrier

Saratoga continued to serve in various operations throughout the Pacific during the war, including the Solomon Islands campaign and the Battle of the Philippine Sea. In February 1945, the carrier was hit by a kamikaze attack during the Iwo Jima operation, causing significant damage and resulting in several casualties among the crew. However, Saratoga was quickly repaired and back in action within a week.

Post-War Service of USS Saratoga (CV-3)

After the end of World War II, Saratoga was briefly decommissioned in 1947. However, it was recommissioned in 1950 to support the Korean War effort. During this time, the carrier underwent significant modernization, including the addition of an angled flight deck and upgraded weapons systems.

Saratoga continued to serve in various operations and exercises throughout the 1950s and 1960s, including a deployment to the Mediterranean as part of the US Sixth Fleet. In 1972, Saratoga made history by becoming the first aircraft carrier to have a female commanding officer, Captain Eleanor Creighton.

USS Saratoga (CV-3) Decommissioning and Fate

In 1994, after over six decades of service, Saratoga was finally decommissioned and struck from the Naval Vessel Register. It was the second-longest-serving aircraft carrier in US Navy history, behind only the USS Enterprise (CVN-65). The carrier was eventually sold for scrap in 1998, marking the end of a significant chapter in US naval history.

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Exploring the History of USS Saratoga (CV-3) A Legendary Aircraft Carrier

However, the legacy of Saratoga did not end with its decommissioning. A section of the carrier’s flight deck was preserved and used as a memorial at the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Florida. In 2015, the USS Saratoga Association, a non-profit organization formed by former crew members, successfully lobbied for the naming of a new aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), after the legendary Saratoga.

Crew and Personnel of USS Saratoga (CV-3)

Throughout its years of service, thousands of service members served on board Saratoga, making it their home and workplace. From pilots to sailors, mechanics to officers, the carrier was a diverse and dedicated community. The crew of Saratoga faced numerous challenges, including the harsh conditions of the Pacific theater during World War II, but they always rose to the occasion.

Among the notable personnel who served on Saratoga was future US President Gerald Ford, who was a lieutenant aboard the carrier from 1943 to 1945. Other notable figures include Medal of Honor recipients James Howard and Thomas Hudner, as well as renowned naval aviator Butch O’Hare.

Exploring the History of USS Saratoga (CV-3) A Legendary Aircraft Carrier

USS Saratoga (CV-3) Memorials and Commemorations

Over the years, several memorials and commemorations have been held in honor of USS Saratoga (CV-3) and its crew. In 2012, on the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Midway, a plaque was placed at the former site of Saratoga’s shipyard in Camden, New Jersey. This plaque serves as a fitting tribute to the carrier’s construction and its role in the battle that changed the course of the war in the Pacific.

Additionally, the “Sara’s Grill” restaurant at the Naval Station Newport in Rhode Island is named after Saratoga, serving as a reminder of the carrier’s presence in the area during World War II. Various commemorative items, such as coins, patches, and t-shirts, are also available for purchase through the USS Saratoga Museum Foundation, allowing individuals to show their support and honor the carrier’s legacy.

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Exploring the History of USS Lexington (CV-2) A Legendary Aircraft Carrier

Legacy of USS Saratoga (CV-3)

The legacy of USS Saratoga (CV-3) lives on through its notable service record, its influential design, and the memories of those who served on board. Its contributions to the victory in World War II, as well as its continued service in subsequent conflicts, solidify its place in history as one of the most legendary aircraft carriers in the US Navy.

Exploring the History of USS Saratoga (CV-3) A Legendary Aircraft Carrier

Not only did Saratoga pave the way for future aircraft carriers with its innovative design, but it also set the standard for naval operations and tactics in the Pacific. Its success in battles like Midway and Iwo Jima, as well as the resilience of its crew, continue to inspire current and future generations of sailors.

Comparison to Other Aircraft Carriers of its Time

During its years of service, Saratoga faced stiff competition from other aircraft carriers, both domestically and internationally. The Japanese carrier Hiryu, which was sunk by Saratoga’s planes during the Battle of Midway, was one of its main rivals. Other notable US Navy carriers at the time included the USS Enterprise (CV-6), which also played a crucial role in numerous battles, and the USS Yorktown (CV-5), which was lost in the Battle of Midway.

Exploring the History of USS Saratoga (CV-3) A Legendary Aircraft Carrier

Saratoga was also compared to other Lexington-class carriers, including its sister ship USS Lexington (CV-2). However, Saratoga’s unique design and its successful combat record set it apart from these other carriers, solidifying its place as one of the most influential ships of its time.


In conclusion, USS Saratoga (CV-3) has left an indelible mark on the history of the United States Navy and the nation as a whole. From its construction and design to its illustrious combat record and eventual decommissioning, Saratoga has a fascinating and inspiring story that continues to be celebrated today. Its legacy lives on through various memorials and commemorations, as well as the continued use of its name in the US Navy. The “lucky” ship has truly earned its place as a legendary aircraft carrier, and its impact will never be forgotten.

Exploring the History of USS Saratoga (CV-3) A Legendary Aircraft Carrier

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