The USS Ranger (CV-4) was an aircraft carrier serving in the US Navy and the sole vessel of her class. Launched in 1933, she was the first "true" carrier; although the Navy had built three before her (Langley, Lexington and Saratoga), these "flattops" were converted from vessels originally designed for other purposes. Ranger was the first vessel specifically designed from the keel up to function as an aircraft carrier.
Ranger was commissioned in June 1934 under the command of Captain Arthur Bristol.
The US Navy ordered Ranger from the Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Company near Norfolk, Virginia. Construction began in late September 1931, and the completed vessel was launched in February 1933.
Repairs and Upgrades
Naval aviation was still a relatively new science when the Ranger was launched, and aviation technology was advancing quite rapidly. Regular refits and upgrades were necessary, and these became even more frequent and extensive during wartime.
In March 1942, Ranger was ordered to the Norfolk Navy Yard, where she became one of the first naval vessels to receive the new RCA CXAM Radar, the most modern of its time and a proven ability to detect incoming aircraft at a range of nearly 70 miles.
Following her first mission to North Africa, Ranger returned to the Norfolk Navy Yard for a two-month overhaul from December 1942 until the following February. From mid-May through July of 1943, Ranger underwent reinforcement of her flight deck and received new aircraft catapults and radar upgrades that allowed for night fighter operations.
The Ranger underwent her last overhaul at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard starting in mid-November 1945. She was decommissioned a year later and sold to the Sun Shipbuilding and Drydock Company of Chester, Pennsylvania for scrapping in January 1947.
After her initial shakedown trials in the South Atlantic, Ranger was assigned to NS Norfolk in October 1934, remaining for six months. From April 1935 until January 1939, her home port was San Diego, During her time on the west coast, Ranger lived up to her name, sailing from Alaska for the Navy's first cold weather trials to Hawaii for battle exercises (known as "Fleet Problems") and as far south as Peru. In January 1939, Ranger was sent to Guantanamo Bay for winter fleet operation in the Caribbean. That spring, she returned to Norfolk.
With the outbreak of WWII in Europe in September 1939, Ranger was assigned to Neutrality Patrol operations, monitoring the waters from Bermuda to Newfoundland. She remained at this duty until December 1941, when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor pulled the US into the conflict.
Ranger found herself the largest and most important carrier in the Atlantic. In 1942, after undergoing upgrades and refits, Ranger's first task was the transport of 140 Army Air Force Curtiss P-40 fighters to bases in West Africa for the invasion of Axis-held North Africa (Operation Torch). Throughout the fall of 1942, Ranger provided aerial support for the initial invasion of Morocco, launching nearly 500 aerial missions in the space of three days, a high operational tempo for the time.
Following a three-month maintenance period in Norfolk and another run to North Africa, Ranger returned to her routine patrols along the east coast. In August of 1943, Ranger joined vessels of the Royal Navy in an operation to destroy a German naval base located in Bodø, Norway. She returned to the US in December 1943 and was assigned to naval aviation training duties out of Quonset Point, Rhode Island.
Following a mission to deliver new P-38 fighters to North Africa and refits that took her through July 1944, Ranger was transferred to San Diego. There she spent the balance of the war as a training platform for Naval and Marine pilots.
Following the war, Ranger returned to NS Norfolk. After a final overhaul at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, she spent her final months on routine patrol along the Atlantic seaboard. Ranger was decommissioned in October 1946.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Ranger (CV-4)
The use of asbestos was particularly heavy on carriers such as the Ranger. The reason was that carriers were obliged to store hundreds of thousands of gallons of high-octane aviation fuel. Other areas of high exposure were engine rooms, steam turbines, and oil tanks.
The installation of asbestos insulation in the construction of marine ships was required by Congress in the early 1930s, after a deadly fire aboard a cruise ship killed 137 passengers and crew. Navy ships like Ranger used asbestos-containing materials extensively around engines and engine rooms, and to insulate steam pipes all through the vessel. The harm brought about by asbestos occurs when microscopic fibers are inhaled or ingested; they invade the mesothelial lining and sometimes the stomach, causing scar tissue in the case of pleural plaques and cellular damage in the case of mesothelioma cancer.
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Mooney, James. Dictionary of American Fighting Ships. (Washington DC; Department of the Navy, 1991).