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The Battle for Leyte Gulf
23-26 October 1944

Silhouette drawing of 'Independence' Class carrier  -  view from starboard beam

Independence Class light carriers

The nine Independence Class light carriers were laid down as light cruisers of the Cleveland Class,   but as an emergency wartime measure were completed as carriers.  They were by no means ideal for this role,  being cramped,  and having very limited maintenance facilities for their aircraft.   Nonetheless they made a vital contribution to the strength of the Fast Carrier Task Force at a time when the large carriers of the Essex Class were not yet available in sufficient numbers,  and all nine ships ofthe Independence Class achieved a very distinguished combat record.

Princeton,  sunk at Leyte Gulf after a bomb hit on 24 October 1944,  was the only wartime-built carrier of the Fast Carrier Force to sunk, and the only American fast carrier to be lost in action after October 1942,  when the older Hornet (CV-8) was sunk in the Battle of Santa Cruz.

With their four small funnels and diminutive bridge island they had a rather bizarre and quaint appearance. This was belied by their high maximum speed - 32 knots - three or more knots faster than their British or Japanese counterparts.  This enabled them to operate very well in company with the big Essex Class carriers.

The eight ships of this class participating in the Leyte operation were  -
Independence,  Princeton (sunk in this battle), Belleau Wood,  Cowpens,  Monterey,
Langley,Cabot and San Jacinto

Ships Launched
22 August 1942 onwards
600 feet (waterline)   622.5 feet (overall)
71.5 feet (hull)  /  109 feet (extreme beam)
26 feet
General Electric geared turbines,  4 shafts
Shaft horse-power  -  100,000
32 knots
Air complement

Up to 45 aircraft

(normally fewer  -  in the Marianas operation between 26 and 35 aircraft were carried)

  Gun armament (later ships)

26 x 40mm. AA guns in quadruple mounts
40 x 20mm. AA guns in single mounts
(note - early ships of the class had a single 5-inch 38-cal. gun mounted at the stern)

The Fast Carriers

The Battle for Leyte Gulf

The Battle of the Philippine Sea