The Boxer (CV-21) was an Essex-class aircraft carrier serving the US Navy between 1945 and 1971. She was one of 24 such vessels ordered for duty during WWII. During her 26 years in the water, Boxer underwent numerous classifications and conversions, functioning as an attack carrier (CVA), anti-submarine carrier (CVS) and ending her days as an amphibious assault vessel (LPH).
As one of the later Essex-class vessels, Boxer was of a "long-hull" design. These carriers had a longer bow above the waterline and a slightly shorter flight deck to allow for enhanced armaments. Construction began on Boxer in mid-September 1943 at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company in Virginia. She was launched in December 1944 and commissioned in April 1945 under the command of Captain D.F. Smith.
Repairs and Upgrades
Because of their size and complexity, aircraft carriers require frequent maintenance and upgrades. This was especially true during the 1950s – 1970s, when aviation and combat technology was undergoing many advances.
Boxer underwent her first major overhaul in the fall of 1950 at a west coast facility. In August of 1952, the vessel underwent emergency repairs at Yokosuka Japan following a fire on the hangar deck; more extensive repairs were carried out at the San Francisco Navy Yard between November 1952 and March 1953.
According to photographic records, Boxer was again at the San Francisco Navy Yard during February 1955 for antenna installation and upgrades. The following year, she underwent modifications at a West Coast facility that converted her into an anti-submarine aircraft carrier.
Boxer was commissioned too late to see any combat action in the Pacific during World War II. She reported for duty with the Pacific Fleet at San Diego just after the Japanese surrender in August 1945, then proceeded to the Far East for post-war occupation duty and mopping up operations for the next year.
From September of 1946 until 1950, Boxer carried out routine peacetime operations out of San Francisco. On 10 March 1948, the vessel and her crew made history when they carried out the first naval operations involving the new jet-powered FJ-1 fighter. During the first six months of 1950, Boxer made a tour of the Far East, returning to the port of San Diego the same day hostilities broke out on the Korean peninsula.
Ordered to Korea a little over two weeks later, the Boxer established a new speed record, crossing the Pacific in just over eight days with a full load. After delivering planes and troops, she turned around and made it home in even less time.
Boxer made three combat tours of Korea with Task Force 77 between September 1950 and the cease-fire established in 1953. During this time, she was reclassified as an attack carrier (CVA).
Over the next several years, Boxer continued to make deployments to the Far East. In 1958, the vessel took part in her last Pacific deployment for eight years in Operation Hardtack, a nuclear test program. A few months later, she was transferred to the Atlantic Fleet and undertook new duties as an amphibious assault ship, carrying Marine troops and helicopters. In the fall of 1964, these new capabilities were tested during Operation Steel Pike, a landing exercise on the Spanish coast.
During the 1960s, Boxer spent time in the Caribbean, playing parts in the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 and the Dominican Republic intervention in 1965. In the summer of that year, Boxer was sent to Vietnam to deliver aircraft for the United States Army's 1st Cavalry Division, a mission she would undertake again for the Marine Corps a year later.
Between those assignments, the Boxer was the prime recovery vessel for an early Apollo mission, AS-201, of 26 February 1966.
The Boxer was decommissioned in December of 1969 and sold to a shipbreaker in Kearny, New Jersey two years later.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Boxer (CV-21)
The use of asbestos throughout marine vessel construction was mandated by Congress in the mid-1930s. On aircraft carriers, areas of particular hazard were the engine room, fuel tanks and facilities were aviation fuel was stored.
During a combat tour in the Sea of Japan on the morning of 6 August 1952, the fuel tank of one of the aircraft stored on the hangar deck caught fire, causing extensive damage as well as ten casualties. Repairs were carried out at Yokosuka and San Francisco over the next several months.
The installation of asbestos-containing materials in the construction of marine ships was mandated by the United States Congress in the 1930s, after a deadly fire on a luxury liner killed 137 people. Boxer deployed asbestos insulation extensively in engines and engineering compartments and throughout the ship.
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Faultum, Andrew. The Essex Aircraft Carriers (Baltimore: Nautical and Aviation Publishing Company of America, 1996).
N/A. "USS Boxer (CV-21, CVA-21, CVS-21 and LPH-2), 1945-1969." USS Boxer Veterans Association
http://www.ussboxer.com/USS_Boxer_History.htm Retrieved 10 December 2010.
N/A. "USS Boxer (CV-21). NavSource Online: Aircraft Carrier Photo Archive.
http://www.navsource.org/archives/02/21.htm Retrieved 10 December 2010
Raven, Alan. Essex-Class Carriers (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1988).