The USS Valley Forge (CV-45) was an Essex-class aircraft carrier serving the United States Navy from the late 1940s through the Vietnam era. She was commissioned in November 1946 under the command of Captain John W. Harris.
Valley Forge was built at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard after her construction was financed by a war bond drive among the citizens of that city. The keel was laid in September 1944 and the nearly-complete vessel hit the water the following July. She was equipped with four geared turbines from Westinghouse, which were powered by eight boilers supplied by Babcock & Wilcox (now part of Siemens AG).
When she was launched, she measured 888 feet in length and 147 feet across the flight deck, displacing over 27,000 tons. She carried a crew of approximately 3800 officers and seamen in addition to pilots and crew for up to 100 aircraft.
Repairs and Upgrades
As is normal with new vessels, Valley Forge returned to Philadelphia after her shakedown trials in the Gulf of Mexico for final adjustments and repairs. Following extensive service in Korea, Valley Forge underwent long-deferred maintenance in San Diego in the fall of 1953. After a transfer to NS Norfolk, she underwent conversion into an anti-submarine warfare vessel and was redesignated CVS-45.
In 1961, her career as an aircraft carrier ended when she entered the Norfolk Navy Yard for conversion into an Amphibious Assault Ship. She was again redesignated as LPH-8 in July of that year. Two years later, she underwent a seven-month "Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization (FRAM) overhaul at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard. During this period, she received upgrades to her electronic systems and improved facilities for crew, passengers and equipment (including helicopters).
Valley Forge underwent a major overhaul in 1967 following a number of deployments to the Pacific and Vietnam. A strenuous and difficult combat deployment the following year required another overhaul during the last five months of 1968.
Following retirement, the vessel was sold for scrap to Nicolai Joffre Scrap Metals of Beverly Hills in October 1971.
The carrier's first years in the water were routine; after a training period out of Pearl Harbor and joint maneuvers with the Royal Australian Navy in 1948, Valley Forge continued westward to make a circumnavigation of the globe.
In 1950, Valley Forge was anchored in the port of Hong Kong when hostilities broke out on the Korean peninsula. The initial air strikes of that conflict were launched from the carrier's deck. Valley Forge made a total of three combat deployments to Korea before the cease-fire in 1953.
During the remainder of the 1950s, Valley Forge engaged in exercises involving anti-submarine warfare. In 1957, she was used in experiments that pointed toward what she would eventually become – an amphibious attack vessel. These experiments, called "vertical envelopment," involved the deployment of troops from the ship to the beachhead using helicopters.
In December 1960, Valley Forge was the recovery vessel for the first unmanned Mercury space mission. After being converted to an amphibious assault ship, Valley Forge – now LPH-8 – was posted with the Atlantic Fleet in 1961. That fall, she was deployed off the coast of the Dominican Republic to evacuate US citizens in the wake of the assassination of that country's dictator.
The following summer, then-President John F. Kennedy ordered Valley Forge to Southeast Asia as the political situation in that region began to deteriorate. Over the next several years, Valley Forge was deployed to Vietnam on several occasions. Her career ended after she returned from her last deployment in December 1969. She was decommissioned a month later and after unsuccessful attempts to raise funds to preserve her as a museum, was scrapped.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Valley Forge (CV-45)
Asbestos materials were installed throughout Valley Forge, but there were no unusual accidents aboard the vessel during her quarter-century of service, nor did she sustain any major battle damage during the two major conflicts in which she was involved.
Using asbestos insulation in the construction of all vessels was required by law in the United States in the early 1930s, after a deadly fire on a luxury liner caused the deaths of more than 100 passengers and crew. If asbestos is worn or damaged it becomes friable, which means that the fibers can be broken off and escape into the surrounding air, where they are inhaled or ingested by ship's crew and repair workers, increasing the chances of contracting mesothelioma.
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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).