The USS San Jacinto (CVL-30) was an Independence-class aircraft carrier serving the United States Navy during the Second World War. One of several "light" carriers built to meet the national emergency of the early months of the conflict, she was commissioned in November 1943. She is most notable for having been the vessel aboard which former US President George H.W. Bush served during his time as a Navy pilot during combat operations in the Philippines in 1944.
San Jacinto was one of a number of small carriers that were constructed on hulls intended for battle cruisers. Although in many ways inadequate, they served an important function as a "stopgap" during the early months of the war as the more advanced Essex-class carriers were being readied for service.
San Jacinto was laid down as the light cruiser Newark in October 1942. Built at the New York Shipbuilding Corporation of Camden New Jersey, the vessel was reclassified and eventually launched as a carrier in September 1943. She was commissioned two months later under the command of Captain H.M. Martin.
The Independence-class was over 622 feet long, with a beam of 109 feet at the flight deck. Displacing 11,000 tons, she carried 45 fighters and torpedo bombers and a crew compliment of 1550.
Repairs and Upgrades
Aside from periodic maintenance periods, San Jacinto underwent repair for storm damage at NS Ulithi in the Carolines following Typhoon Cobra.
Following shakedown trials in the Caribbean, San Jacinto got underway for the Pacific, reporting for duty with the Fast Carrier Force in the Marshall Islands in early 1944. In June of that year, the carrier's air wing provided cover for operations in the Marianas. This was followed by actions against enemy positions on Rota and Guam. As the year went on, her crew and air wing participated in the initial strikes against bases in the Ryukyu Islands, preparing the way for landings on Iwo Jima and Okinawa. In October, San Jacinto took part in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest naval action in history. After this, her air wing began raids on Japanese positions along the Southeast Asian mainland.
From February to August of 1945, San Jacinto took part in some of the most dangerous and heated battles of the war, including raids on Okinawa and the Japanese mainland. After the surrender on 15 August, San Jacinto's pilots flew food and medical supplies to prisoners-of-war in Japanese camps until rescue could be made.
The carrier then returned to the States, dropping anchor at NAS Alameda a month after the surrender.
San Jacinto never saw active service again. Decommissioned in March 1947, she was laid up at San Diego for the next twenty-four years before being sold to the National Metal and Steel Corporation in Los Angels in December 1971.
Asbestos Risk on the USS San Jacinto (CVL-30)
Despite many dangerous missions, San Jacinto emerged from the Second World War relatively unscathed. The only damage she suffered that would have exacerbated asbestos exposure danger occurred during Typhoon Cobra ("Halsey's Typhoon") in December 1944.
The installation of asbestos insulation in the construction of oceangoing ships was mandated by law in the US in the early 1930s, after a deadly fire aboard a luxury liner caused the deaths of more than 100 passengers and crew. San Jacinto deployed asbestos-containing materials heavily around boilers and engineering spaces, as well as to insulate pipes throughout the vessel.
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Friedman, Norman. U.S. 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).