Small Carriers Helped Allies Win Battle of the Atlantic
One of the many factors in the Allied victory in the Battle of the Atlantic during WWII was the development of small aircraft carriers, termed escort carriers. Initially they accompanied large convoys of merchant vessels across the Atlantic, providing protection against German submarines and long-range aircraft along the way. Escort carriers were about half the length and a third the weight of a standard carrier. They were relatively slow and had less armor. Their crew normally numbered near 890 and they carried 20 to 24 aircraft. The aircraft were a mix of F4F Wildcat fighters and TBF/TBM Avenger torpedo bombers, like the two that reside at the museum
Read more about the Grumman TBM Avenger
The Avenger’s air-to-ship radar proved valuable as most German submarines cruised on the surface at night to charge the batteries used for underwater power. By late 1943, the Avengers were also equipped with sonobuoys that were dropped in the water, transmitted their data back to the Avenger, and could locate submarines based on the sound emitted by the sub. About this same time, acoustic homing torpedoes were introduced that would self-guide toward a submarine. By 1943, a number of escort carriers were combined with destroyer escorts in what came to be called hunter-killer groups. These groups would prowl known German submarine hunting areas.
One of the most successful escort carriers was the USS Bogue. Launched in September 1942, the Bogue first saw action in March 1943. By war’s end the Bogue’s hunter-killer groups sank, or assisted in sinking, eleven German submarines. Many others were damaged, driven under, or forced to abort their attacks on Allied ships. No convoy lost a ship while escorted by the USS Bogue. None of her aircraft were shot down by the enemy during the war. With the surrender of Germany, the Bogue was transferred to the Pacific where she transported aircraft and supplies. Of the 151 aircraft carriers built in the U.S. during World War II, 122 were escort carriers. Come see the Museum’s Battle of the Atlantic displays.