Mar 20

Comissioning of the Navy’s First Aircraft Carrier

Tuesday, March 20, 2012 1:00 AM


March 20th, 1922

USS Jupiter is recommissioned as USS Langley

90 years ago, the U. S. Navy’s first aircraft carrier, the USS Langley was commissioned, after having been converted from a collier, the USS Jupiter. Before this conversion, the USS Jupiter was already notable, as the first large ship in the world equipped with an electric drive, a quality which made her transformation into the Navy’s first aircraft carrier a fitting one. The November 1922 issue of Proceedings recounts this conversion in its Professional Notes, and gives a detailed account of the USS Langley‘s many new and innovative features which would allow it to carry and support the Navy’s aircraft.

The U. S. S. Langley is now on her shakedown cruise preparatory to taking her place in the fleet as the Navy’s first airplane carrier.

The new Langley was originally built at Mare Island as the collier Jupiter—famous as the first large ship in the world to have electric drive—and launched in 1912. The work of conversion was done at the Norfolk Yard.

The flying-off deck of the Langley is 520 feet long and 65 feet wide. Telescopic masts 50 feet high are housed like periscopes when not up in position. The ship is a combined floating aviation field hangar and repair plant for aeroplanes. The repair plant includes an armory, carpenter, and wing repair shops, machine shop, blacksmith shop and foundry, metal shop and torpedo repair shop, besides photographic and aerological laboratories. There is an electric elevator for lifting fuselages and wings from the main deck to the flying-off deck. When lowered the top of the elevator forms a part of the flying-off deck. There are two electric traveling cranes on the main deck for shifting planes fore and aft, and there are four cranes on the topside for hoisting planes from the water to the flying-off deck. The navigating bridge is below the flying-off deck, and there are “T-booms” along the ship’s sides for the auxiliary radio antennas. There are two catapults on deck, one forward and one aft—there is a testing room and stand for aeroplane engines, a pigeon loft, a kite balloon filling station, and all the features which make a large modern naval vessel, virtually a floating city. The ship has been converted from a coal burner to an oil-burner, and her armament is four 5-inch guns. The ship is fitted to accommodate ten ship’s officers, thirty-five commissioned and warrant aviators, thirty-one chief petty officers, and 229 men for the crew.

  • Marvin

    “The ship is fitted to accommodate ten ship’s officers, thirty-five commissioned and warrant aviators, thirty-one chief petty officers, and 229 men for the crew.”

    Wow, with the embarked ‘airwing’ a total of 305 souls were onbaord the Langley. Times have changed.

  • Jim Valle

    That’s a lot of chiefs! Approximately one for each seven sailors.

  • David Bristow

    What was the rating of the pigeon wrangler?

  • David Powers

    My oldest brother Fred E Powers, was aboard the USS Langley in February 1942 when the Japanese launched their attack on the Langley.

  • Milt

    I have a better photo of the USS Langley than the San Diego Air Museum has. It is a ‘sweetheart’ photo with an oval picture of a woman included in the upper left corner. The Langley is at anchor, possibly Coronado, CA, and is actually launching a biplane.

  • James Todd

    Response to David Bristow’s question,
    The rating was called Pigeon Quartermaster. I believe the pigeon loft was located on the fantail below the flight deck.
    Regards, Jim Todd

  • scott ebelhardt

    It is nice to get the real story of our first carrier. According to the History Channel the Jupiter was a cruiser and the first carrier battle was the battle of Midway. It will be a sad day when people forget our past.

  • Brian Boenigk

    Scott Ebelhardt is exactly right when he points out that the Military History Channel keeps playing a one minute video in between commercial breaks on some its shows in which Andres “Drew” Brugal, who was the Executive Officer for CVN-76 (USS Ronald Reagan), makes a number of misstatements, such as Midway being the first major naval battle in which neither side directly saw the opposing ships (see Battle of Coral Sea). He also states that the Jupiter was a cruiser….it was a collier. He states there have been 56 US carriers built since the Langley…I’m not even going to dispute that but every reference I can find says there have been 67 US carriers built. If a network with the word “History” in its name is willing to play something like that over and over and over again, how much faith should we have in its editorial integrity?

  • Jim Valle

    Unfortunately the guy on the History Channel got it wrong. The Jupiter was originally a collier and the first entirely air to air battle was the Coral Sea engagement a month or so prior to Midway. The Japanese had to go to Midway with four carriers instead of six because two of their best ones were shot up at the Coral Sea Battle.