The USS Coral Sea (CVB-43) was a Midway-class aircraft carrier serving in the US Navy between 1947 and 1990. Nicknamed "Ageless Warrior," the vessel was the second vessel to be named for the World War II battle and was first commissioned on 1 October 1947 under the command of Captain A.P. Storrs.
The hull of Coral Sea was laid down at the Newport News Shipbuilding company near Norfolk in July 1944; the completed vessel was launched in April 1946. As built, she displaced 45,000 tons and measured 968 from bow to stern. With a crew compliment of over 4100, Coral Sea was initially able to carry 130 prop-driven aircraft.
Repairs and Upgrades
Designed for prop-driven aircraft, Coral Sea underwent numerous upgrades and modifications as naval aviation evolved rapidly during the post-World War II years.
The vessel underwent her first overhaul in Norfolk between August 1948 and late February 1949. Two months of repairs and maintenance was carried out in February and March of 1951.
The carrier was decommissioned in Bremerton in May 1957 for conversion work that laid her up until January 1960. By the time she was recommissioned, she had received an angled flight deck, new steam catapults and an enclosed hurricane bow. Hull blisters were added to provide stability for the added topside weight.
Another major refit was done from 1970-71. Decommissioned for the last time in April 1990, the hulk was sold to Seawitch Salvage of Baltimore, Maryland for scrap, Because of numerous environmental and legal issues, dismantling of the vessel took over ten years.
Six months after her commissioning, Coral Sea become the first carrier from which jet-assisted take-offs were made. Her first eighteen months were spent off the Atlantic coast before her first Mediterranean deployment between early May and late September 1949.
During the Korean conflict, Coral Sea continues to make tours of the Mediterranean from her home port of NS Norfolk. During these years, the vessel served as a test and training platform for the new jet aircraft and their pilots, while simultaneously fulfilling the US Navy's diplomatic functions and participating in NATO exercises.
In 1957, Coral Sea was shifted to the NS Kitsap in Bremerton, Washington for refits. Upon completion of the work in 1960, she joined the Seventh Fleet in the Far East. She made a number of combat tours of Vietnam between 1964 and 1975. The vessel was present during the fall of Saigon in April of that year.
In February 1980, Coral Sea relieved USS Midway in the Arabia Sea in anticipation of hostilities with Iran during the hostage crisis. Her crew played a role in the abortive attempt to rescue the American hostages in April of that year during Operation Evening Light. Following this, the vessel proceeded to the Pacific, arriving at the Alameda NAS in June.
In August 1981, Coral Sea was deployed to the Far East for the last time, during which she visited several ports and participated in joint exercises with the British Royal Navy in the Indian Ocean.
Coral Sea was reassigned to Norfolk in 1985. From this home port, she was deployed to the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean numerous times for the remainder of her career.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Coal Sea (CVB-43)
Asbestos aboard ships like Coral Sea was made even more dangerous if damaged in battle or by fire. In 1971, a fire broke out aboard the carrier in the communications room while she was off the California coast; it spread so quickly that the captain was prepared to give orders to abandon ship.
The use of asbestos insulation in the construction of marine vessels was required by Congress in the early 1930s, after a fire at sea aboard the SS Morro Castle killed more than 100 people. Coral Sea made use of asbestos insulation heavily, especially in ship's boilers and engineering rooms, as well as to insulate compartments throughout the ship.
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Mooney, James. Dictionary of American Fighting Ships. (Washington DC; Department of the Navy, 1991).
N/A. "Ship's History." USS Coral Sea Tribute Site (http://www.usscoralsea.net/pages/mtjas.php) Retrieved 14 December 2010.