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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
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Valley Forge

 

A locality in Chester County, Pa., where the Continental Army suffered bitter cold and privation during the winter of 1777 and 1778 while British troops basked in warmth and plenty in nearby Philadelphia. Yet, because of the inspiring example of leaders like Washington and skillful training by drill instructors like von Steuben, the American Army emerged from its winter encampment with renewed self confidence, courage, and fighting ability. The name Valley Forge has since become a symbol of the triumph of American patriotism and self-sacrifice.

 


 Valley Forge (CV-37) - an Essex-class aircraft carrier - was renamed Princeton (q.v) on 21 November 1944.

 

I

 

(CV-45: displacement 36,380 tons; length 888 feet; beam 93 feet; draft 28 feet, 7 inches; speed 32.7 knots; complement 3,448; armament 12 5-inch, 72 40 mm.; aircraft 80; class Ticonderoga)

 

Valley Forge (CV-45) - built with money raised by the citizens of Philadelphia in a special war bond drive - was laid down on 14 September 1943 by the Philadelphia Navy Yard; launched on 8 July 1945; sponsored by Mrs. Arthur A. Vandegrift, wife of the Commandant of the Marine Corps; and commissioned on 3 November 1946, Capt. John W. Harris in command.

 

Following fitting out, the new carrier got underway on 24 January 1947 for shakedown training which took her via Norfolk to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the Canal Zone. She completed the cruise on 18 March and returned to Philadelphia for post-shakedown overhaul. The ship left Philadelphia on 14 July, headed south, and transited the Panama Canal on 5 August. She arrived at her home port, San Diego, on the 14th and joined the Pacific Fleet. Following the embarkation of Air Group 11 and intensive air and gunnery training in coastal waters, the aircraft carrier—flying the flag of Rear Admiral Harold L. Martin, Commander of Task Force 38—got underway for Hawaii on 9 October. The task force devoted almost three months to training operations out of Pearl Harbor before sailing for Australia on 16 January 1948. After a visit to Sydney, the American warships conducted exercises with units of the Royal Australian Navy and then steamed to Hong Kong.

 

During a voyage from the British crown colony to Tsingtao, China, orders arrived directing the task force to return home via the Atlantic. With her escorting destroyers, the ship continued the round-the-world trip with calls at Hong Kong; Manila; Singapore; Trincomalee, Ceylon; and Ras Tanura, Saudi Arabia. After operating for a time in the Persian Gulf, she became the largest aircraft carrier to transit the Suez Canal. The ship finally arrived at San Diego, via the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Panama Canal.

 

Valley Forge deployed to the Far East, departing the west coast on 1 May 1950. While anchored in Hong Kong harbor on 25 June, the warship received electrifying news that North Korean forces had begun streaming across the 38th parallel into South Korea. Departing Hong Kong the next day, the carrier steamed north to Subic Bay, where she provisioned, fueled, and set her course for Korea.

 

The first carrier air strike of the Korean conflict was launched from Valley Forge's flight deck on 3 July 1950. Outnumbered and outgunned, the South Korean troops battled desperately against veritable tides of communist invaders. Waves of Douglas AD Skyraiders and Vought F4U Corsairs struck the North Korean airfield at Pyongyang while Grumman F9F-2 Panthers flew top cover. Tons of bombs from the attacking American planes pounded hangars, fuel storages, parked Russian-built aircraft, and railroad marshalling yards. Meanwhile, the escorting Panthers downed two Yak-9's and damaged another.

 

In spite of attempts by United Nations forces to interdict the steady flow of communist infantry and armor, the North Koreans steadily pushed the defending South Koreans back into a tenuous defense perimeter around Pusan. On 18 September 1950, the American landing at Inchon outflanked the communist forces while United Nations forces broke out of the perimeter to the south. During this period of bitter struggle, Valley Forge's Air Group 5 made numerous daily strikes against North Korean targets. Troop concentrations, defensive positions, and supply and communications lines were repeatedly "fair game" for the bombs of the Skyraiders and the rocket and cannon fire from the Panthers and Corsairs. Over 5,000 combat sorties delivered 2,000 tons of bombs and rockets between 3 July and 19 November 1950.

 

Returning to San Diego for overhaul, Valley Forge arrived on the west coast on 1 December, only to have sailing orders urgently direct her back to Korea. In the interim, between the carrier's leaving station and her projected west coast overhaul, the communist Chinese had entered the fray, launching a powerful offensive which sent United Nations' troops reeling back to the southward. Accordingly, Valley Forge hurriedly embarked a new air group, replenished, and sailed on 6 December for the Far East. Rendezvousing with TF 77 three days before Christmas of 1950, Valley Forge recommenced air strikes on the 23d— the first of three months of concentrated air operations against the advancing communist juggernaut. During her second deployment, the ship launched some 2,580 sorties in which her planes delivered some 1,500 tons of bombs.

 

The communist blitzkrieg wavered to a halt by the end of January 1951, and United Nations forces once again pushed the invaders northward past the strategic 38th parallel. After nearly 10 months continuous duty in frequently chilly and always inhospitable Korean coastal waters, Valley Forge sailed for the United States on 29 March 1951. Following a major overhaul that lasted into autumn, the ship emerged to become the first American carrier to return to Korea for a third deployment.

 

On 11 December 1951, Valley Forge launched her first air strikes in railway interdiction. Rockets, cannon fire, and bombs from the ship's embarked air group, and those of her sister ships also on station, hammered at North Korean railway targets—lines, junctions, marshalling yards, and rolling stock. Anything that could possibly permit the enemy to move his forces rapidly by rail came under attack. By June, Valley Forge's train-busting Skyraiders, Corsairs, and Panthers had severed communist rail lines in at least 5,346 places.

 

Valley Forge returned to the United States in the summer of 1952 but was again deployed to the Far East late in the year. In October 1952, she was reclassified an attack carrier and redesignated CVA-45. On 2 January 1953, she began the new year with strikes against communist supply dumps and troop-billeting areas behind the stalemated front lines. While the propeller-driven Skyraiders and Corsairs delivered tons of bombs on their targets, the jet Panthers conducted flak-suppression missions using a combination of cannon fire and rockets to knock out troublesome enemy gun sites. This close teamwork between old- and new-style planes made possible regular strikes against Korea's eastern coastlines and close-support missions to aid embattled Marine Corps or Army forces on the often bitterly contested battle lines. Valley Forge air groups dropped some 3,700 tons of bombs on the enemy before the ship left the Korean coast and returned to San Diego on 25 June 1953.

 

After a west-coast overhaul, Valley Forge was transferred to the Atlantic Fleet and reclassified—this time to an antisubmarine warfare support carrier—and redesignated CVS-45. She was refitted for her new duties at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard and then rejoined the Fleet in January 1954. The face-lifted carrier soon got underway to conduct exercises to develop and perfect the techniques and capabilities needed to carry out her new duties.

 

Conducting local operations and antisubmarine warfare exercises, Valley Forge operated off the east coast through late 1956, varied by a visit to England and the eastern Atlantic for exercises late in 1954. Her operations during this period also included midshipman and reservists' training cruises and occasional visits to the Caribbean.

 

Carrying out training operations out of Guantanamo Bay in 1957, Valley Forge accomplished a naval "first" in October, when she embarked a Marine detachment and twin-engined HR2S-1 Mojave helicopters. Experimenting with the new concept of "vertical envelopment," Valley Forge's helicopters air-lifted the marines to the beachhead and then returned them to the ship in history's first ship-based air assault exercise. On 1 April 1958, Rear Admiral John S. Thach—the pilot who, early in World War II, devised the famous "Thach Weave" fighter tactic which was used so successfully by American Navy pilots against the Japanese Zero fighter planes—hoisted his two-star flag to the carrier's main as the ship became flagship of Task Group (TG) Alpha. This group, built around Valley Forge, included eight destroyers, two submarines, and one squadron each of antisubmarine helicopters, planes, and a land-based Lockheed P2V Neptune. A significant development in naval tactics, TG Alpha concentrated solely on developing and perfecting new devices and techniques for countering the potential menace of enemy submarines in an age of nuclear propulsion and deep-diving submersibles.

 

Valley Forge remained engaged in operations with TG Alpha through the early fall of 1959, when she then entered the New York Naval Shipyard for repairs. The ship returned to sea on 21 January 1960, bound for maneuvers in the Caribbean. During her ensuing operations, the carrier served as the launching platform for Operation "Skyhook." This widely publicized scientific experiment involved the launching of three of the largest balloons ever fabricated, carrying devices to measure and record primary cosmic ray emissions at an altitude of between 18 and 22 miles above the earth's surface.

 

Following a deployment in the eastern Mediterranean —during which she called at ports in Spain, Italy, and FranceValley Forge returned to Norfolk to resume local operations on 30 August, continuing antisubmarine exercises as flagship of TG Alpha through the fall of 1961. The carrier participated in a Project "Mercury" operation, and her helicopters retrieved the space caosule launched by a rocket from Cape Canaveral on 19 December. Two days later off Cape Hatteras, in response to an SOS, Valley Forge sped to tanker SS Pine Ridge, which had broken in two during a storm. While the survivors of the stricken ship clung tenaciously to the after half of the tanker, the carrier's helicopters shuttled back and forth to pick up the men in distress. Soon, all 28 survivors were safe on board Valley Forge.

 

Entering the Norfolk Naval Shipyard on 6 March 1961 for overhaul and modification to an amphibious assault ship, Valley Forge was reclassified as LPH-8 on 1 July 1961 and, soon thereafter, began refresher training in the Caribbean. She returned to Hampton Roads in September and trained in the Virginia capes area with newly embarked, troop-carrying helicopters. In October, the ship—as a part of the Atlantic Fleet's ready amphibious force—proceeded south to waters off Hispaniola and stood by from 21 to 25 October and from 18 to 29 November to be ready to evacuate any American nationals from the Dominican Republic, should that measure become necessary during the struggle for power which afflicted that nation in the months following the assassination of the long-established dictator, Generalissimo Rafael Trujillo.

 

After returning home late in the year, Valley Forge sailed from Norfolk on 6 January 1962, bound for San Diego and duty with the Pacific Fleet. At the end of three months of training off the west coast, the amphibious assault ship steamed westward for duty in the Far East with the 7th Fleet. With the flag of the Commander, Ready Amphibious Task Group, 7th Fleet, at her main, Valley Forge closed the coast of Indochina under orders to put ashore her embarked marines. In Laos, communist Pathet Lao forces had renewed their assault on the Royal Laotian Government; and the latter requested President Kennedy to land troops to avert a feared, full-scale communist invasion of the country. The amphibious assault ship airlifted her marines into the country on 17 May; and, when the crisis had abated a few weeks later, carried them out again in July.

 

For the remainder of 1962, the ship operated in the Far East before returning to the west coast of the United States to spend the first half of 1963 in amphibious exercises off the coast of California and in the Hawaiian Islands.

 

Valley Forge entered the Long Beach Naval Shipyard on 1 July 1963 for a Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization overhaul, including the installation of improved electronics and facilities for transporting and handling troops and troop helicopters. Putting to sea again on 27 January 1964, the newly modernized assault ship rejoined the fleet and, following local operations and training, departed Long Beach once more for another WestPac deployment.

 

She stopped at Pearl Harbor and Okinawa, en route to Hong Kong, and then steamed to Taiwan. In June, she joined ships of other SEATO navies in amphibious exercises and then visited the Philippines where in July she was awarded the Battle Efficiency "E."

 

On 2 August 1964, North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked destroyer Maddox (DD-731) in the Gulf of Tonkin. Valley Forge then spent 57 days at sea off the Vietnamese coast in readiness to land her marines should the occasion demand.

 

Returning—via Subic Bay, Okinawa, and Midway— to Long Beach on 5 November, Valley Forge made two round-trip voyages to Okinawa carrying marines and aircraft before commencing a WestPac deployment in the South China Sea in the fall of 1965. With a Marine landing force embarked and flying the flag of Commander, Amphibious Squadron 3, Valley Forge conducted intensive training exercises in the Philippines while preparing for service in Vietnam.

 

In mid-November, the amphibious assault ship stood by in reserve during Operation "Blue Marlin" and then airlifted her marines ashore for Operations "Dagger Thrust" and "Harvest Moon" before spending the Christmas season "in the crisp freshness of an Okinawan winter." After embarking a fresh Marine battalion landing force and a medium transport helicopter squadron, she sailed for Vietnam on 3 January 1966. Following pauses at Subic Bay and Chu Lai, Valley Forge arrived off the Vietnamese coast on the 27th and, two days later, launched her landing forces to take part in Operation "Double Eagle."

 

Remaining on station off the coast, the ship provided logistic and medical support with inbound helicopters supplying the men ashore and outbound "choppers" evacuating casualties for medical treatment back on the ship. Reembarking her landing team on 17 February, Valley Forge proceeded northward, while her marines took a breather. The second phase of "Double Eagle" commenced two days later, and the ship's marines again went ashore via helicopter to attack enemy concentrations.

 

By February 26th, the operation had drawn to a close; and Valley Forge reembarked her marines and sailed for Subic Bay. Following a round trip to Danang, the carrier steamed back to the west coast for an overhaul and local training along the California coast before again deploying to WestPac. Upon her return to Vietnamese waters, the ship took part in operations off Danang before she again returned to the United States at the end of the year 1966.

 

After undergoing a major overhaul and conducting training off the west coast, Valley Forge returned to the Far East again in November 1967 and took part in Operation "Fortress Ridge," launched on 21 December. Air-landing her troops at a point just south of the demilitarized zone (DMZ), the ship provided continual supply and medical evacuation (MedEvac) services for this "search and destroy" operation aimed at eliminating North Vietnamese and Viet Cong units which threatened American and South Vietnamese troops. The completion of this operation on the day before Christmas 1967 did not mark the end of Valley Forge's operations for this year, however, as she was again in action during Operation "Beaver Tooth," near Quang Tri in northern South Vietnam.

 

Upkeep at Danang preceded her deployment to her new station off Dong Hoi, where she provided her necessary resupply and MedEvac support for Allied troops operating against communist forces. Operation "Badger Catch," commencing on 23 January 1968 and extending through 18 February, took off for the Cua Viet River, south of the DMZ, before the ship set her course for Subic Bay and much-needed maintenance.

 

Subsequently returning to the fray in Vietnam, Valley Forge operated as "Helo Haven" for Marine helicopter units whose shore bases had come under attack by communist ground and artillery fire. During Operation "Badger Catch II," from 6 March to 14 April, Marine "choppers" landed on board the carrier while their land bases were being cleared of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops. Following a routine refit at Subic Bay, the ship took part in Operation "Badger Catch III" from 28 April to 3 June. She then moved to Danang and prepared for Operation "Swift Saber" which took place from 7 to 14 June. Landing Exercise "Hilltop XX" occupied the ship early in July. Then, Valley Forge transferred her marines and helicopters to Tripoli (LPH-10) and headed home via Hong Kong, Okinawa, and Pearl Harbor. She reached Long Beach on 3 August.

 

Following five months on the west coast which included local operations and an overhaul, the amphibious assault ship returned to the Far East for the last time, departing Long Beach on 30 January 1969.

 

At San Diego, she embarked a cargo of Marine CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters for delivery to transport squadrons in Vietnam. The ship stopped at Pearl Harbor and paused near Guam while one of her helicopters carried a stricken crewman ashore for urgent surgery. She loaded special landing-force equipment at Subic Bay and embarked the Commander, Special Landing Forces Bravo and a squadron of Marine CH-46 transport helicopters. On 10 March, the carrier began operating in support of Operation "Defiant Measure," steaming off Danang as her helicopters flew missions "on the beach." This was completed by the 18th, and Valley Forge debarked her helicopters before steaming to Subic Bay for upkeep.

 

After her return to Danang on 3 May, the amphibious assault ship reembarked her helicopters as well as part of a battalion landing team of marines who had been taking part in fighting ashore. The carrier continued to operate in the Danang area during the weeks that followed, her helicopters flying frequent support missions, and her marines preparing for further combat landings.

 

During late May and early June, Valley Forge received visits from Secretary of the Navy John Chafee and Vice Admiral William F. Bringle, Commander, 7th Fleet. She offloaded her marines at Danang on 10 June and embarked a battalion landing team for transportation to Okinawa, where she arrived on the 16th. The landing team conducted amphibious exercises with Valley Forge for 11 days and boarded the ship for a voyage to Subic Bay where they continued the training process. Valley Forge returned to the Danang area on 8 July and resumed flying helicopter support for Marine ground forces in the northern I Corps area. The ship took evasive action to avoid an approaching typhoon and then began preparations for an amphibious operation.

 

Operation "Brave Armada" began on 24 July with a helicopter-borne assault on suspected Viet Cong and North Vietnamese positions in Quang Ngai Province. Valley Forge remained in the Quang Ngai-Chu Lai area to support this attack until its completion on 7 August. She then steamed to Danang to debark her marines. General Leonard F. Chapman, the Commandant of the Marine Corns, visited Valley Forge that same day. The ship sailed for Okinawa on the 13th, arriving four days later and debarking her helicopter squadron before getting underway again to evade another typhoon. She proceeded to Hong Kong, dropping anchor there on 22 August, the day on which she received a message announcing her forthcoming inac-tivation. She returned to Danang on 3 September to load material for shipment to the United States and sailed that evening for Yokosuka for three days of upkeep before leaving the Far East.

 

Valley Forge got underway from Yokosuka on 11 September and anchored at Long Beach on the 22d. After leave and upkeep, she offloaded ammunition and equipment at Seal Beach and San Diego. The ship returned to Long Beach on 31 October to prepare for decommissioning. This process continued through the new year; and, on 15 January 1970, Valley Forge was placed out of commission. She was turned over to the Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility at San Diego. Her name was struck from the Navy list on the same day.

 

While at San Diego, the interior of the aircraft carrier was used as a location for the filming of the 1971 science fiction film "Silent Running," shooting taking place there in February 1971. After the failure of attempts to raise funds for using the ship as a museum, she was sold on 29 October 1971 to the Nicolai Joffre Corp., of Beverly Hills, Calif., for scrap.

 

Valley Forge was awarded eight battle stars for Korean War service and nine for Vietnam service, as well as three Navy Unit Commendations.


29 March 2004 



 A 1946 view of Valley Forge (CV-45), with a single Curtiss SB2C-4 Helldiver and two Vought F4U Corsairs on her flight deck. (80-G-703585)