The USS Langley (CVL-27) was an Independence- class aircraft carrier serving in the US Navy between 1943 and 1947. In 1951, she was transferred to the French Navy, serving as La Fayette (R-96) until 1963. She was the second USN ship to have the name Langley.
The Independence class was a stopgap measure undertaken during the months leading up to US entrance into WWII and the first several months of the conflict. As involvement became increasingly likely in 1940 and 1941, the US had few operational carriers – yet because of the nature of the impending war with Japan, taking place over small islands over a vast ocean – the necessity for aircraft carriers was clear.
Independence-class carriers were initially laid down as cruisers. The second USS Langley was laid down at the New York Shipbuilding Corporation yard in Camden, New Jersey as the USS Fargo in April 1942. The plans were changed even as construction began, and she was completed as a carrier using the original hull and machinery.
Displacing 11,000 tons, Langley was over 622 feet in length with a beam of just over 109 feet. She carried a crew of 1,569 officers and seamen in addition to 45 aircraft.
Repairs and Upgrades
After almost eighteen months in the Pacific combat zone, Langley returned to San Francisco in June 1945 for repairs and upgrades. The work was completed by the beginning of August.
The vessel underwent refurbishment at the Philadelphia Naval Yard in 1951 prior to her transfer to France.
Langley was commissioned at the end of August 1943 under the command of Captain W.M. Dillon. Following shakedown trials, she got underway from Philadelphia for the Pacific in December, reporting to Task Force 58 in mid-January. For the first six months, she supported landings on virtually every one of the major islands in the Marshal Group. In June, she and her task group moved on to the Marianas.
At the end of August, Langley was transferred to Admiral Halsey's Task Force 38. and her air wing began making strikes against Japanese targets in the Philippines, Formosa (present-day Taiwan) and other bases in the region. These operations culminated in the Battle of Leyte, which effectively resulted in the destruction of Japan's naval offensive capabilities.
The following January, Langley' s crew and airmen took part in raids along the South China Sea, including enemy bases on Formosa, Indochina (present-day Vietnam) and the Chinese mainland. Before returning to the States in May, Langley played important parts during the end of the war, carrying out strikes against Okinawa and the Japanese mainland.
Langley returned to the States for repairs and maintenance in June 1945. On her way back to the Pacific in August, the Japanese Empire surrendered. For the next several months, she served as a troop transport during Operation Magic Carpet, making voyages to the Pacific as well as Europe. She reported to the Philadelphia Naval Yard in January 1946, and was decommissioned a year later.
In 1951, the vessel was transferred to the French Navy. She sailed under the French flag as La Fayette for the next twelve years under the Mutual Defense Assistance Program. Upon her return to the US in 1963, her hulk was sold to the Boston Metals Company of Baltimore, Maryland.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Langley (CVL-27)
Asbestos insulation and lagging was present throughout all naval vessels built between the mid-1930s and early 1980s. Although Langley did not suffer serious damage while in the US Navy, the presence of these materials by themselves constituted a serious health risk.
Even though all of the service branches used asbestos-containing products in various types of locations and environments, exposure to asbestos was much more pervasive on ships and in drydock, and as a result studies find a larger number of mesothelioma navy victims than in the other services. Ships like Langley used asbestos-containing materials heavily, especially in engines and engineering rooms, and to insulate compartments all over the ship.
Tragically, a mesothelioma prognosis is generally not good - typically mesothelioma sufferers survive for a few months to a few years after they are diagnosed. Asbestos-caused cancers such as malignant mesothelioma are relatively uncommon, and as a result, clinics for mesothelioma are also generally uncommon. Trustworthy information concerning malignant mesothelioma is not easy to find, so we've produced a mesothelioma information package with complete information on legal options and treatment options, as well as a list of mesothelioma clinical trials underway across the U.S. All you have to do is complete the form on this page and we'll mail a packet to you at no cost.Sources
Friedman, Norman. US Aircraft Carriers: An Illustrated Design History (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1983)
Mooney, James. Dictionary of American Fighting Ships. (Washington DC; Department of the Navy, 1991).