The USS Boxer (CV-21) was ordered for the U.S. Navy during World War II. Her keel was laid down at Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company on September 13, 1943. She was launched on December 14, 1944 and commissioned on April 16, 1945 under the command of Captain D.F. Smith.
USS Boxer was finished too late to take part in the fighting during World War II. After the war, she served as the flagship of Task Force 77, operating out of Guam. This tour of duty brought her to Japan, Okinawa, China, and the Philippines.
Returning to San Francisco on September 10, 1946, the USS Boxer took on normal peacetime duties along the West Coast. The FJ-1 Fury landed on the carrier on March 10, 1948, the first landing of a Navy jet aircraft aboard an aircraft carrier. She later served with the 7th Fleet in the Far East from January until June of 1950 before returning home to San Diego.
When the Korean War began, USS Boxer carried 150 planes to the combat zone, crossing the Pacific in a record 8½ days from July 14 to July 20, 1950. Her return trip, beginning July 27, cut the record to 7 days, 10 hours, and 36 minutes.
After some quick repairs, the USS Boxer joined Task Force 77 to provide air support to American troops in Korea. She supported the troop landings at Inchon on September 15 and remained until November, when she sailed back to San Diego for an overhaul.
USS Boxer rejoined Task Force 77 for her second Korean tour of duty from March 2 until October 24, 1951. Her third tour of duty with Task Force 77 began on February 8, 1952. She conducted air strikes against the North Korean hydroelectric complex on June 23-24. A fire started aboard her hangar deck on August 5, which killed nine men and seriously injured two others. She received emergency repairs at Yokosuka from August 11 to August 23, and headed to San Francisco for permanent repairs from September 25 until March 1953. She was reclassified as CVA-21 in October 1952.
The USS Boxer served her last Korean tour of duty in the spring of 1953. After taking part in the final military actions, she remained in the area until November. The carrier returned to the west coast before making three cruises to the Far East.
USS Boxer was converted to an antisubmarine warfare carrier, CVS-21, early in 1956. In 1957, she then operated as an experimental assault helicopter carrier. In 1958, she served as the flagship for Operation Hardtack, a series of nuclear tests carried out in the South Pacific at Bikini Atoll, Eniwetok, and Johnston Island.
Late in 1958, USS Boxer was transferred to the Atlantic Fleet to serve as an interim amphibious assault ship. She was formally redesignated as LPH-4 on January 30, 1959. She served in this capacity for the next 10 years, participating in the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 and the Dominican Republic intervention in 1965.
During the Vietnam War, the USS Boxer served as an aircraft transport, bringing over 200 Army helicopters and airplanes to Vietnam for the 1st Cavalry Division. She later served as the prime recovery vessel for the first flight of the Apollo Command and Service Modules on February 26, 1966.
The USS Boxer was decommissioned and struck from the Naval Vessel Register on December 1, 1969. She was sold for scrap in February 1971. The aircraft carrier earned eight battle stars for her service in the Korean War.
Like all other ships built during World War II, USS Boxer was constructed using a number of asbestos-containing components. Prized for its resistance to heat, water, fire, and corrosion, the toxic substance asbestos could be found in virtually all areas of the ship and in the aircraft she carried. Anyone who served aboard the USS Boxer or participated in her repair and overhaul was put at risk of developing life-threatening asbestos-related illnesses like mesothelioma.
USS Boxer workers should monitor their health carefully, and consult a doctor if they experience any symptoms associated with mesothelioma. Anyone who worked on or around the USS Boxer, and is diagnosed with mesothelioma, should also consider contacting a lawyer to discuss their legal rights.