The USS Wasp (CV-18) was originally planned as the USS Oriskany. She was ordered for the U.S. Navy during World War II. Her keel was laid down at Bethlehem Steel Company on March 18, 1942. She was launched on August 17, 1943 and commissioned on November 24, 1943 under the command of Captain Clifton A.F. Sprague.
USS Wasp spent time training in Hawaii before joining Rear Admiral Alfred F. Montgomery’s Task Group 58.6 at Majuro in May 1944. She raided Marcus Island and Wake Island before the Mariana Islands campaign. On June 6, she joined TG 58.2 for the invasion of Saipan. The aircraft carrier remained there until moving on to strike at Chichi Jima and Iwo Jima.
Later the month, the USS Wasp became involved in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. In July, she headed out to strike at Iwo Jima, Chichi Jima, Guam, Rota, the Palaus, the Bonins, and the Volcano Islands. When she headed to Eniwetok for replenishment, Admiral Halsey replaced Admiral Spruance in command. The result was that the Fifth Fleet became the Third Fleet, and Task Force 58 was redesignated as Task Force 38.
As part of Task Group 38.1, USS Wasp sailed for the Palaus in early September. She moved on to support operations at Morotai, Peleliu, Ulithi, Mindanao, and the Visayan Islands. In October, the aircraft carrier helped neutralize airfields in support of the upcoming invasion of Leyte. She launched air strikes against Okinawa, Amami, Miyaki, Formosa, Luzon, and Manila.
The USS Wasp covered the troop landings at Leyte on October 20. Her aircraft struck at targets on Mindanao, Cebu, Negros, Panay, and Leyte. The ensuing battle became known as the Battle of Leyte Gulf, which was a decisive victory for American forces.
USS Wasp struck next at Luzon in early November. She became the flagship for Vice Admiral John S. McCain, Sr., Commander Task Group 38.1, after a kamikaze struck the USS Lexington. The aircraft carrier remained in the Philippines until the end of the month before returning to Ulithi to replenish and conduct training exercises to prepare them to counter kamikaze attacks.
After striking at Luzon in early December, the USS Wasp and the rest of her task force were caught in a violent typhoon. Three destroyers were lost in the storm, but the aircraft carrier remained relatively unscathed. After Christmas, she launched air strikes at Sakishima Gunto and Okinawa.
In January 1945, USS Wasp headed to the South China Sea before bombing Formosa, the Pescadores, the Sakishimas, and the Ryukyus. When Admiral Spruance replaced Admiral Halsey, the Third Fleet again became the Fifth Fleet. The carrier then headed to Tokyo to take out Japanese aircraft in February. From there, she sailed to the Volcano Islands to provide air support for the invasion of Iwo Jima. She then launched air strikes at Tokyo, Okinawa, and the Ryukyus before returning to Ulithi.
During March, USS Wasp and the rest of her task force came under heavy enemy resistance. With several close call kamikaze attacks and relentless attacks by shore-based aircraft, the carrier was hit by an enemy bomb. She sailed for Bremerton in April to repair the damage, returning to the World War II battle one in July. The carrier struck at Wake Island before rejoining her task force.
The USS Wasp struck at Yokosuka and other airfields near Tokyo. She was nearly hit by a kamikaze on August 9, except for the quick work of one of her gunners. After word of the surrender came on August 15, two Japanese planes still tried to attack the task group. The carrier was still flying combat air patrol, so the planes were gunned down before they could damage the American ships.
After weathering a severe typhoon on August 25, 1945 that damaged her bow, aircraft from the USS Wasp continued to fly air patrol missions and drop supplies to POW camps. She sailed for home, returning in time for Navy Day in Boston on October 27. The carrier then took part in Operation Magic Carpet, bringing American servicemen home from war. She was decommissioned on February 17, 1947.
USS Wasp was converted to accommodate the newer aircraft. She was recommissioned on September 10, 1951 and assigned to the Atlantic Fleet. While conducting night flying operations near Gibraltar on April 26, 1952, the carrier collided with the destroyer USS Hobson. The destroyer lost 176 of her crew, but 52 men were able to be rescued. The aircraft carrier did not lose any men, but her bow was severely torn, and she headed to New Jersey for repairs.
When repair work was completed, the USS Wasp joined Carrier Division 6 in the Mediterranean on June 2. The next year would involve goodwill visits to a number of ports of call, NATO exercises, overhaul, and training before she rejoined the Pacific Fleet in the fall of 1953.
The USS Wasp joined Task Force 77, making ports of call at Hong Kong, Manila, Yokosuka, and Sasebo. She hosted several foreign dignitaries in 1954, including Chinese Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and President Ramon Magsaysay of the Philippines. Her next deployment later that year saw her as a member of Task Group 70.2 before she rejoined Task Force 77. She provided air cover for the evacuation of Chinese Nationalists from the Tachen Islands in 1955.
After another conversion from May to December 1955 that gave her a new angled flight deck, the USS Wasp headed back to the Far East. She took part in Armed Forces Day ceremonies at Guam on May 14, 1956 before rejoining Task Force 77 for Operation Sea Horse. The carrier made several ports of call and spent a brief period in dry dock before performing another ceremonial duty during the commissioning of the new Naval Air Station at Cubi Point in the Philippines. At the end of August, she tried to help search for survivors of a Navy patrol plane that had been shot down off the coast of China, but the search was unsuccessful.
USS Wasp returned to her homeport of San Diego on October 15. She was reclassified on November 1 as an antisubmarine warfare aircraft carrier, CVS-18. The carrier was then transferred back to the Atlantic Fleet with her new homeport at Boston. She spent several months training with her crew before participating in NATO Operation Seaspray and Operation Strikeback. The carrier then headed back to Boston Naval Shipyard for overhaul from October 23, 1957 until March 10, 1958.
The USS Wasp trained in Guantanamo Bay before becoming the hub of the antisubmarine Task Force 66 in May. As she sailed for the Mediterranean, tensions arose in Lebanon. She spent 10 days in antisubmarine warfare exercises with the Italians before patrolling the waters off Lebanon. Her helicopter squadron flew reconnaissance missions and helped transport sick and injured Marines to the evacuation hospital at Beirut International Airport. The carrier headed back from on September 17.
Soon after arriving in Boston, USS Wasp became the flagship of the antisubmarine defense group Task Group Bravo. She operated with Task Group Bravo off the East Coast and in the Caribbean throughout 1959 until she headed back to Boston for overhaul on February 27, 1960. The carrier then supported operations in the South Atlantic when civil war broke out in the Congo, returning home in August.
USS Wasp spent the next few years in training and exercises. She made goodwill cruises to Europe and participated in ceremonial duties. It was November 1962 when she was ordered to join in the naval blockade during the Cuban Missile Crisis. After that, she resumed her exercises and served as the backup recovery ship for the Mercury space capsule in May 1963. The aircraft carrier returned to Boston for Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization (FRAM) overhaul in the fall.
The spring of 1964 brought more training and exercises for the USS Wasp. She sailed for the Mediterranean at the end of the year, making ports of calls in Spain, France, and Italy before returning home on December 18. Early 1965 brought more fleet exercises in the Caribbean. The aircraft carrier also served as the primary recovery ship for the Gemini IV space capsule and astronaut Ed White on June 7. In December, she would also recover the astronauts from the Gemini VI and Gemini VII space missions.
During 1966 and 1967, USS Wasp was involved in more fleet exercises, including Operation Springboard. She hosted several special guests, including a filming crew from NBC, Austrian Ambassador Ernst Lemberger, and then a number of people from NASA for the recovery of astronauts Lieutenant Colonel Thomas P. Stafford and Lieutenant Commander Eugene Cernan. More fleet exercises passed the time before she recovered Captain James A. Lovell and Major Edwin E. Aldrin from the Gemini XII space mission in November 1966. She underwent overhaul at Boston Naval Shipyard from April 21, 1967 until January 1968.
Following her overhaul, the USS Wasp got right back into training and exercises. She was involved in Operation Fixwex C and NATO Exercise Silvertower before joining Task Group 67.6 in the Mediterranean on October 25, 1968. The carrier participated in exercises, training, and carrier qualifications through the 1970s, including Exercise Trilant, NATO Exercise Night Patrol, National Week VIII, Operation Exotic Dancer, Exercise Squeeze Play IX, and Exercise Lantcortex 1-72.
The USS Wasp was decommissioned and removed from the Naval Vessel Register on July 1, 1972. She was sold for scrap on May 21, 1973. The aircraft carrier earned eight battle stars for her service in World War II.
Like many ships from the World War II era, the USS Wasp was built using many asbestos-containing materials. Asbestos was prized for its resistance to water, fire, heat, and corrosion, so it could be found in virtually all areas of the ship and in the aircraft she carried. Anyone who served on or around the USS Wasp was put at risk of developing serious asbestos-related illnesses like mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer.
USS Wasp 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 Wasp, and is diagnosed with mesothelioma, should also consider contacting a lawyer to discuss their legal rights.