The Revolutionary War battle fought on 17 January 1781, seven miles north of the town of Cowpens, S.C., marked an American victory in the campaign which led to the British surrender at Yorktown, Va.
(CV-25: displacement 11,000; length 622'6"; beam 71'6"; extreme width 109'2"; draft 26'; speed 32 knots; complement 1,569; armament 26 40-millimeter; aircraft; class Independence)
Cowpens (CV-25) was laid down as light cruiser Huntington (CL-77) on 17 November 1941, by New York Shipbuilding Corp., Camden, N.J.; converted into an aircraft carrier (CV-25) during construction; launched on 17 January 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Margaret B. Spruance, née Halsey; daughter of Vice Adm. William F. Halsey Jr.; and commissioned on 28 May 1943, Capt. Robert P. McConnell in command. Cowpens was reclassified to a small aircraft carrier (CVL-25) on 15 July 1943.
Departing Philadelphia, Pa., on 29 August 1943, Cowpens arrived at Pearl Harbor, T.H., on 19 September to begin the active and distinguished war career which was to earn her a Navy Unit Commendation. She sailed with Task Force (TF) 14 to strike the Japanese garrison Wake Island (5–6 October), then returned to Pearl Harbor to prepare for strikes on the Marshall Islands preliminary to invasion. She sortied from Pearl Harbor on 10 November to launch air strikes on Mille and Makin atolls (19–24 November), and on 4 December Kwajalein and Wotje, returning to her base on 9 December.
Joining the vast carrier TF 58, Cowpens sailed from Pearl Harbor on 16 January 1944, for the invasion of the Marshalls. Her planes pounded Kwajalein and Eniwetok the last three days of the month to prepare for the assault landing on the 31st. Using Majuro as a base the force struck at Truk in the Carolines (16–17 February) and then (21–22 February) the Marianas before putting in to Pearl Harbor on 4 March. Returning to Majuro, TF 58 based here for attacks on the western Carolines; Cowpens supplied air and antisubmarine patrols during raids on Palau, Yap, Ulithi and Woleai (30 March–1 April). After operating off New Guinea during the invasion of Hollandia (21–28 April), Cowpens took part in the strikes on Truk, Ponape, and Satawan (29 April–1 May), returning to Majuro on 14 May for training.
From 6 June to 10 July 1944 Cowpens operated in the Marianas operation. Her planes struck the island of Saipan to aid the assault troops, and made supporting raids on Iwo Jima in the Volcano Islands, Pagan, Rota, and Guam. They also took part in the Battle of the Philippine Sea (19–20 June), accounting for a number of the huge tally of enemy planes downed. After a brief overhaul at Pearl Harbor, Cowpens rejoined the fast carrier task force at Eniwetok on 17 August. On the 29th she sailed for the pre-invasion strikes on the Palaus, an assault considered by many planners to be a preliminary to the return to the Philippines. From 13 to 17 September she was detached from the force to cover the landings on Morotai, then rejoined it for sweep, patrol, and attack missions against Luzon (21–24 September). Cowpens with her task group flew strikes to neutralize Japanese bases on Okinawa and Formosa (10–14 October), and when Japanese torpedoes ripped open heavy cruiser Canberra (CA-70) and Houston (CL-81), Cowpens provided air cover for their safe withdrawal, rejoining her task group on 20 October.
En route to Ulithi, she was recalled when the Japanese Fleet threatened the Leyte invasion, and during the Battle of Surigao Strait phase of the decisive Battle for Leyte Gulf (25–26 October) planes flying from her flight deck provided combat air patrol for the ships pursuing the fleeing remnant of the Japanese fleet. Continuing her support of the Philippines advance, Cowpens' planes struck Luzon repeatedly during December. During the disastrous typhoon of 18 December Cowpens lost one man, planes, and equipment but skillful work by her crew prevented major damage, and she reached Ulithi safely on 21 December to repair her storm damage.
Between 30 December 1944 and 26 January 1945 Cowpens was at sea for the Lingayen Gulf landings. Her planes struck targets on Formosa [Taiwan], Luzon, the Indo-Chinese coast, and the Hong Kong-Canton [Guangzhou] area, and Okinawa during January. On 10 February Cowpens sortied from Ulithi for the Iwo Jima operation, striking the Tōkyō area, supporting the initial landings (19–22 February), and hitting Okinawa in the Ryūkyū Islands on the 1st of March.
After an overhaul at San Francisco, Calif., and training at Pearl Harbor, Cowpens sailed on 13 June for San Pedro Bay, Leyte, on her way striking Wake Island on 20 June. Rejoining TF 58 Cowpens sailed from San Pedro Bay on 1 July to join in the final raids on the Japanese mainland. Her planes pounded Tōkyō, Kure, and other cities of Hokkaido and Honshū until 15 August. Remaining off Tōkyō Bay until the occupation landings began on 30 August, Cowpens launched photographic reconnaissance missions to patrol airfields and shipping movements, and to locate and supply prisoner-of-war camps. Men from Cowpens were largely responsible for the emergency activation of Yokosuka airfield for Allied use. Between 8 November 1945 and 28 January 1946 Cowpens made two voyages to Pearl Harbor, Guam, and Okinawa to return veterans as part of Operation Magic Carpet. Placed in commission in reserve at Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Calif., on 3 December 1946, Cowpens was decommissioned on 13 January 1947.
In addition to her Navy Unit Commendation, Cowpens received 12 battle stars for World War II service.