Sunday, April 15, 2012

USS Long Island (CVE-1) in Norfolk, 1941

This a picture of the most confident looking Naval aviator of World War II. Specifically, this is Captain Donald B. Duncan, class of 1917 Naval Academy and holder of a master's degree in radio engineering from Harvard. He is standing alone on the flight deck of the Navy's newest weapon against the Axis powers, USS Long Island (CVE-1, ex-AVG-1, ex-ACV-1). Duncan was Long Island's first commanding officer.

Long Island was the Navy's first escort carrier. Shortly before the United States' official entry into World War II, the U.S. Navy wanted to experiment with converting ordinary cargo ships into scaled-down aircraft carriers that would carry between fifteen and twenty planes. The concept was so new that the Navy reclassified Long Island two times as her anticipated role changed. First she was supposed to be an "auxillary aircraft vessel" and then "auxillary aircraft carrier," as American flag officers saw her only as a means of transporting planes from base A to base B. But as the Battle of the Atlantic showed the desperate need for and the effectiveness of aircraft as an anti-submarine weapon, the ship was reclassified as an escort carrier, or CVE.

Long Island in "Measure 13" paint scheme operating out of Norfolk, November 1941.
She has on board Brewster Buffaloes and SOC-3A float planes.
Duncan stands on the flight deck as if to state, "I believe in this ship and the project it stands for." His confidence was well placed. The escort carrier was not intended for heavy battle; however, it did provide invaluable air support for trans-Atlantic convoys during the war and was responsible for sinking several U-boats.

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