Mar 20

Navy’s First Carrier Commissioned, 20 March 1922

Sunday, March 20, 2011 12:01 AM


USS Langley (CV 1) was commissioned on 20 March 1922 as the first U.S. aircraft carrier, under the command of Cdr. Kenneth Whiting. The Norfolk Navy Yard had converted Langley from the collier Jupiter (AC 3), replacing her coal-handling derricks with a wooden flight deck, and converting holds to hangars and fuel tanks. While the ship was officially named in honor of aviation pioneer Samuel P. Langley, pilots also endearingly nicknamed her the “Covered Wagon.” The Navy’s first carrier takeoff took place on board Langley on 17 October 1922, followed nine days later by the first carrier landing.

Transferred to the Pacific in 1924, Langley was the platform from which naval aviators, guided by Capt. Joseph M. Reeves, undertook the development of carrier operating techniques and tactics. Though newer, larger, and faster aircraft carriers began arriving in the fleet by the late 1920s, Langley remained an operational carrier until October 1936, when she began conversion to a seaplane tender.

Reclassified AV 3 following completion of this work in early 1937, Langley was mainly employed in the Pacific for the rest of her days. Through the early months of World War II she supported seaplane patrols and provided aircraft transportation services. While carrying Army fighters to the Netherlands East Indies on 27 February 1942, Langley was attacked by Japanese aircraft. Hit by several bombs and disabled, she was scuttled by her escorting destroyers.