Nearly all of them sold to commercial shipbuilders after the war and were stripped down to their base mercantile hulls, then rebuilt as cargo vessels, many of which, at nearly 500 feet long, were the largest of their day. These often-beautiful merchant vessels continued on for another 20–25 years or more, with most going to the breakers in the 1970s.A year ago, I decided that I would do a story on these escort carriers and their role in the expedition of the war.Following completion they underwent sea trials, then were transferred to and commissioned in the Royal Navy with a Royal Navy Captain taking command with a new crew. Once this was completed, many had further work done in Esquimalt followed by a shakedown cruise, a short ammunitioning trip to Bremerton, Washington, then a maiden voyage that usually took them to San Francisco, San Diego, through the Panama Canal, and then up to Norfolk, Virginia where they would most often pick up Lend-Lease airframes (Corsairs, Hellcats, Avengers and other types built in the USA) and fill their hangar and flight decks for the ferry trip across the Atlantic.Then they would all sail north to Vancouver, British Columbia for modifications to suit Royal Navy standards—a long list of nearly 150 different mods to the hangar and flight decks, fuel handling systems, communications equipment and much more. Sometimes it was both the aircraft and personnel of new Fleet Air Arm squadrons that had trained and formed in America.
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Though all of these carriers were launched with American names, many did not serve with the United States Navy.In fact, the first warship to be sunk by a kamikaze attack was the -class carriers at Ulithi Atoll during the Second World War, sometimes called Murderer’s Row (named after the name given the six big hitters of the 1920s New York Yankees—Earle Combs, Mark Koenig, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bob Meusel and Tony Lazzeri), demonstrates the ascendency of American naval aviation near the end of the Second World War.Most of the escort carriers (CVEs) that served with the United States Navy and the Royal Navy were built by shipbuilding companies on the Northwest Coast of the United States, like the Seattle–Tacoma Shipbuilding Corporation, Kaiser Shipyards, and Western Pipe and Steel.Of these, the largest number were escort carriers, the ships we have come to know as “baby flattops”.