USS Charger CVE-30
by Bryan J. Dickerson
(Author’s Note: Some of my earliest childhood memories are of my grandfather - Andrew S. Futey - telling stories of his service in the United States Navy during World War Two. He only served aboard one ship - a small training aircraft carrier named
USS Charger. I would hang on his every word as he described life aboard ship, working in the engine room and watching pilots practicing their landings -- and not always being successful. He was proud of his time in the Navy. My grandfather passed away in October 2001 but it wasn’t until this year that I had the opportunity to research his ship. This paper is mostly based upon official Navy records kept in the National Archives, and my grandfather’s personnel records and is supplemented by several other primary and secondary sources. It is my tribute to my dearly departed grandfather and all those who served aboard this small but important aircraft carrier in World War Two.)
She never engaged in any battles. Her aircraft never sank or even damaged any enemy ships. Except for two brief forays, she never ventured far from the confines of the Chesapeake Bay. Yet, the escort carrier
USS Charger (CVE-30) contributed significantly to the defeat of the Axis Powers. US Navy and British Royal Navy pilots that trained upon her flight deck went on to defeat the Imperial Japanese Navy in the Pacific and wrest control of the Atlantic Ocean from the German U-Boats.
The Emergence of Escort Carriers
America’s first aircraft carrier was USS Langley (CV-1), which was basically the collier Jupiter reconstructed with a flat flight deck over her hull, a hangar deck to store aircraft and a new name. She entered service in 1922 and served as a test platform to develop and refine carrier operational methods.
Langley was followed by two large carriers - Lexington and Saratoga - that had been constructed on the hulls of incomplete battle cruisers.(1)
When World War Two began in September 1939, the aircraft carrier was barely twenty years old.
Even at this date, the idea of launching and recovering aircraft from a ship underway at sea was still a controversial and revolutionary concept. Britain, Japan and the United States were the primary naval powers that operated carriers before the start of World War Two. The United States entered World War Two when the Japanese launched air strikes from six of its carriers against the US Pacific Fleet’s base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Though the air strikes inflicted much destruction upon the fleet -- in particular its battleships, all three of the US carriers were out at sea and thus avoided the destruction.
From the beginning of the war, the British waged a desperate battle against German submarines (U-Boats) in the Atlantic Ocean to keep open its vital sea lanes to cargo ships. Aircraft were highly effective against the U-Boats but land-based aircraft could not adequately cover the entire routes taken by convoys. To solve this problem and close the gaps in air support coverage, the escort carrier was born.
Basically, the escort carrier was a small aircraft carrier constructed on the hull of a merchant ship and equipped with a small complement of aircraft --- very similar indeed to America’s first aircraft carrier. Escort carriers escorted convoys, provided air support for amphibious operations, ferried aircraft for carrier-based and land-based squadrons, and hunted down enemy submarines. Their service during the Battle of the Atlantic proved vital in wresting control of the ocean from German U-Boats. Due to wartime expediency, the CVEs were constructed on the hulls of former merchant ships and tankers. Altogether, 78 were constructed during World War Two.(2)
The first escort carrier was USS Long Island (CVE-1). She began life as the merchant ship Mormacmail at the Sun Shipbuilding and Drydock Company in Chester, Pennsylvania on 7 July 1939. She was launched on 11 January 1940 and was sponsored by Miss Dian B. Holt. On 6 March 1941, she was acquired by the U.S. Navy and was subsequently converted to become the first American CVE. She was commissioned into the US Navy on 2 June 1941 as
USS Long Island (AVG-1). Later her designation was changed to CVE-1. The conversion added a flight deck along with equipment and facilities to operate aircraft. After conversion, Long Island was 492 feet in length, had a beam of 69 feet 6 inches, displaced 13,499 tons and had a draft of 25 feet 8 inches. She could operate 21 aircraft and manned by 970 sailors. Her top speed was 16.5 knots. Tests conducted upon her proved the feasibility of using converted cargo ships as small aircraft carriers.(3)
Established in 1917 on the banks of the Delaware River in Chester, Pennsylvania, the Sun Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company constructed cargo ships, passenger ships and tankers. Its dry docks performed repairs and overhauls for thousands of ships. In 1989, the company closed and its property was sold to become a casino. Sun Shipbuilding played a major role, albeit unintended, in the construction of the Allies’ first escort carriers. Ultimately seven merchant ships constructed at Sun Shipbuilding would purchased by the U.S. Navy and converted to escort carriers for the U.S. and Royal Navies.(4)
Rio de la Plata Becomes USS Charger
USS Charger (CVE-30) began her life at Sun Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company on the banks of the Delaware River as the passenger ship
Rio de la Plata. She was one of four passenger liners ordered by the Moore-McCormick Line from Sun Shipbuilding. Each of the four ships was named for a South American river.
Rio de la Plata was launched on 1 March 1941 and was sponsored by Mrs. F. Espil. Rio de la Plata and her sister ships were intended to transport passengers and cargo between New York and the east coast of South America.(5)
Due to the need for aircraft support of trans-Atlantic convoys from German U-Boats, Rio de la Plata and her three sisters were purchased by the United States Government in the fall of 1941 for conversion to escort aircraft carriers. Under the Lend-Lease program, all four were transferred to the Royal Navy for their use.
Rio de la Plata was commissioned as the HMS Charger (BAVG-4) with Captain George Abel-Smith, RN, was her first commander. Her tenure with the Royal Navy was brief, however. On 4 October 1941,
Charger was transferred to the United States Navy. She was re-classified AVG-30 and then CVE-30.(6)
Today’s aircraft carriers are massive. The Nimitz-class nuclear-powered carriers are over 1,100 feet long and displace 97,000 tons. The
Nimitz-class carriers are significantly larger than the Navy’s carriers in World War Two.
USS Ranger (CV-4) was 769 feet long and displaced 14,500 tons. USS Yorktown (CV-5) was somewhat larger at 809 feet long and 19,800 tons displacement. The
Essex-class carriers, which shouldered the brunt of Navy carrier operations, were 872 feet long and displaced 27,100 tons. But even by World War Two standards,
USS Charger was a small in comparison. Her length was just 492 feet and she displaced only 8,000 tons.(7)
After her transfer to the U.S. Navy, Charger began the process of conversion to an escort aircraft carrier. She was towed to the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company in Newport News, Virginia, where the conversion work would be performed. The name
Charger was retained but her designation was changed to AVG-30. On 2 March 1942,
Charger was towed from Newport News across Hampton Roads to the Norfolk Navy Yard where the Captain of the Yard accepted her. She was tied port side to the dock at Berths 7 and 8.(8)
The following day, 3 March 1942, was a major milestone in the life of Charger, ex-Rio de La Plata. In early afternoon her new crew was assembled at her berth in the Norfolk Navy Yard. At 1458, Rear Admiral Felix X. Gygax, USN, read OPNAV order 38c BFM serial 38238 (dated 9 February 1942) to the crew, and officially placed
Charger in commission as a United States naval vessel. Colors were sounded, and the United States Ensign, Union Jack and Commission Pennant were hoisted.(9)
Then Captain Thomas Lamison Sprague, USN, read BUNAV order Nav-34-AS, 17056-106, Number 19099 (29 January 1942) naming him as commanding officer of
USS Charger. Thereupon Captain Sprague officially accepted command of the carrier to be. His orders were to complete fitting out of the new ship and then report for duty with the Atlantic Fleet’s Carrier Division Three.(10)
In Captain Sprague, the crew of USS Charger was receiving a well-experienced and highly proficient naval aviator and officer. Sprague was born in Ohio in 1894. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1917 and was assigned to the cruiser
USS Cleveland. In April 1918, he was transferred to the new destroyer USS Montgomery and was involved with her fitting out. In 1920, he became commander of
Montgomery. After several years of service in the surface fleet, Sprague decided to join the Navy’s fledgeling aviation program. He completed flight training at Naval Air Station Pensacola. Subsequent assignments included commanding Scout Squadrons 6 and 10, staff duty with Commander, Cruisers U.S. Fleet, and serving as superintendent of the engine lab at the Naval Aircraft Factory in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In the 1930s, Sprague served as Air Officer aboard the aircraft carrier
USS Saratoga (CV-3) and Navigator aboard USS Langley (CV-1). From 1937 to 1940, he was Superintendent of aviation training at NAS Pensacola. He next served as Executive Officer of
USS Ranger (CV-4) from 1940 until mid-1941.(11)
Sun Shipbuilding had completed Charger’s hull and machinery. Newport News Shipbuilding had added a flight deck. But there was still much work that needed to be completed to make
Charger ready for operations. Captain Sprague was ordered to complete extensive alterations to the ship. These alterations included:
1. An island structure was to be installed on the starboard side of the flight deck for the control of air operations
2. A mast structure with radar and other equipment necessary for the control of the ship, its air operations and its air defense was to be installed on the island structure.
3. The crew’s living and messing spaces were to be re-arranged and bunks installed.
4. The ship’s two forward 4-inch surface guns were to be replaced by two 3-inch anti-aircraft guns. Similarly, a 5- inch / 51 gun was to replace the ship’s aft 4-inch surface gun.
5. In order to improve stability, topside weight was to be reduced and ballast added below.
6. Watertight integrity was to be improved by eliminating doors and openings in the bulkheads athwartships.
Charger spent the next five weeks completing the necessary alterations. On 12 April 1942, Captain Sprague sent a message to the Commander in Chief of the U.S. Fleet reporting that
Charger was ready for duty. Thereafter followed her shakedown cruise.(12)
The extensive modifications had significantly changed the former merchant ship. The new escort carrier displaced 8,000 tons. At the waterline, her length was 492 feet. She had a beam of 69 feet 6 inches; with her flight deck she was 111 feet 2 inches wide. She had a draft of 26 feet 3 inches. She was powered by an engine that propelled her at a maximum speed of 17 knots on a single shaft. 856 officers and enlisted men manned her.(13)
On her shakedown cruise, problems emerged with her main engine similar to those experienced by her sister ship Avenger. Engine difficulties limited the ship’s top speed to fourteen knots. On 2 May 1942, Captain Sprague sent a message requesting that
Charger be brought into the Norfolk Navy Yard to correct the engine problems. Approved for repairs,
Charger entered the Navy Yard the following week and work commenced on correcting her engine problems.(14)
When the repair work was completed, Charger reported to the Atlantic Fleet for duty. For the rest of the summer, she operated in the Chesapeake Bay and its immediate vicinity. On 20 August 1942, the ship was re-classified ACV-30.(15)
USS Charger is Operational
One of the first squadrons to operate from the new escort carrier was Navy Escort Fighting Squadron VGF-29. Formed by Lieutenant Commander Tom Blackburn, VGF-29 consisted of 12 F4F Wildcat fighters. At the time, the Wildcats were the U.S. Navy’s top fighter. VGF-29 earned their carrier qualifications aboard
Charger then transferred to the escort carrier USS Santee for the North Africa invasion - Operation Torch - while still in the Chesapeake Bay.(16)
Charger’s first foray beyond the Chesapeake environs occurred in October 1942. Her mission was in support of the upcoming Allied landings on the North African coast known as Operation Torch. Late on the morning of 3 October, she cast off from North side pier 5 at the Norfolk Navy Yard and steamed off to war. She formed up with the carrier USS Ranger (CV-4) and five escort vessels. The ships constituted Task Group 22.1.(17)
Three days later, Charger arrived at the island of Bermuda, anchoring in Grossy Bay. Here she remained over a month, conducting training and flight operations in the waters around Bermuda. But
Charger was not destined to participate in Operation Torch. The American carrier force that supported Torch consisted of
USS Ranger and four Sangamon-class escort carriers. Two of the latter -- Santee and
Chenango - had also been constructed by Sun Shipbuilding. Several weeks later,
Charger returned to Norfolk Navy Yard and resumed her mission of training carrier pilots.(18)
Captain Sprague remained in command of Charger until the end of 1942. After leaving Charger, he was transferred to a staff position with Naval Air Forces Atlantic Fleet. In August of 1943, Sprague commissioned his second aircraft carrier – the
Essex-class carrier USS Intrepid (CV-11). Under his command, Intrepid conducted air strikes throughout the Pacific during the first half of 1944. In June he was promoted to Rear Admiral and placed in command of Carrier Division 22 and Task Group 77.4. On 25 October 1944, his TG77.4 took on a powerful force of Japanese surface warships including the super battleship
Yamato. Despite the overwhelming odds, his plucky little escort carriers and destroyers and destroyer-escorts managed to survive the ordeal at a loss of two carriers and several destroyers. For his heroism, Sprague was awarded the Navy Cross. He next commanded Carrier Division 3 during the Okinawa invasion. Then he commanded Task Force 38.1 for the final air strikes against the Japanese Home Islands.(19)
Charger remained in the Chesapeake Bay for the duration of the war. Her mission was to qualify U.S. Navy and Royal Navy pilots in carrier operations. Typically,
Charger would steam from either the Norfolk Navy Yard or an anchorage in nearby Hampton Roads and proceed to an operating area in the lower Chesapeake Bay. There she would conduct flight operations during the day and oftentimes at night as well. When flight operations were completed for the day, she would anchor in the operating area overnight and resume operations the next day. This cycle would be repeated for several days or weeks at a time.(20)
Flight operations aboard USS Charger were a busy affair. During the first two weeks of May 1945, for example, Charger conducted 1,327 landings, of which 130 were at night. Also during this time, 179 pilots were carrier-qualified, including 18 pilots from Royal Navy Squadron No. 738. U.S. Navy squadrons that conducted qualifications aboard Charger during this time included VBF-151, VT-150, VF-28 and VB-151. On both 1 May and 5 May, 187 day landings were performed on each day.(21)
Landing aboard the small flight deck of this escort carrier was no easy feat. With a flight deck less than five hundred feet long, flight operations aboard
USS Charger were often a dangerous affair. If a pilot failed to catch one of the arresting cables strung across the aft of the flight deck, he could apply power and circle around for another attempt. Oftentimes, a cable barrier was strung across the flight deck to catch planes that missed the arresting wires. Motor Machinist Mate 3rd Class Andrew Futey recalled witnessing several planes crash on deck or over the side of the flight deck.(22)
Mishaps often occurred aboard USS Charger as pilots made mistakes and equipment failed. Both occurred on 5 May 1945. Two aircraft caught the arresting wires but then their landing gear collapsed. Another aircraft missed the arresting wires altogether and crashed into the cable barrier. Yet another aircraft broke its tail hook while landing and also crashed into the barrier. No personnel were injured and each plane suffered only minor damage. The most serious mishap occurred when a pilot was waved off from landing and crashed into the water. The plane was lost but the pilot only suffered minor abrasions.(23)
On the morning of 20 June 1944, Charger weighed anchor and headed to its operating area. Over the next six days, Charger conducted a busy schedule of flight operations. A total of 522 landings were performed on her decks and 64 pilots from eight different squadrons were qualified. But those six days in late June 1944 were also a dangerous time with a total of ten serious mishaps occurring. One sailor was killed and three were injured. Three aircraft were lost and seven aircraft were slightly damaged.(24)
20 June 1944 proved to be a deadly day. On this day, pilots from Bombing Squadron VB-82 and Fighting Squadron VF-82 were performing their landing qualifications. A total of 119 landings were performed and 18 pilots from the two squadrons were qualified. However, one attempted landing ended in tragedy. One of the aircraft crashed into the starboard catwalk and ultimately went over the side into the water. The plane was lost and the pilot escaped with only minor injuries. Two
Charger sailors were not so fortunate. While on the catwalk, they were struck by the errant aircraft. One sailor was killed and the other suffered multiple injuries.(25)
In addition to their initial carrier training aboard Charger, pilots routinely sought their carrier qualifications requisite for deploying aboard the Navy’s combat carriers. Carrier Air Group 82, consisting of Fighting Squadron 82 (VF-82), Bombing Squadron 82 (VB-82) and Torpedo Squadron 82 (VT-82), earned their carrier qualifications aboard
Charger. In late 1944, the air group embarked on USS Bennington (CV-20). In February 1945, they participated in the Navy’s first carrier air strikes against the Japanese Home Islands. The pilots and aircrew of these squadrons would conduct missions from
Bennington until June 1945.(26)
Navy Fighting Squadron VF-17 and Charger
LCDR Tom Blackburn was back aboard Charger in March 1943, this time as commanding officer of Navy Fighting Squadron VF-17, nicknamed “the Jolly Rogers.” Their insignia was the Skull and Crossbones reminiscent of pirate flags. Their new F4U Corsairs were larger, heavier and much faster than the F4F Wildcats that Blackburn had previously brought aboard
Charger for carrier qualifications. On 1 March 1943, Blackburn attempted to qualify. His first actual carrier landing with a Corsair was very eventful. The Corsair had a long nose which made seeing the small carrier difficult on the landing approach. Blackburn hit the deck hard, bouncing high but catching an arresting wire. The impact blew out both of his main tires, but fortunately there was no other damage. “My next four touchdowns and arrests – all I needed to qualify for carrier ops in a Corsair – were not as exciting,” Blackburn would later write in his memoirs.(27)
Most of Blackburn’s pilots had never landed aboard a carrier before. “Moreover, Charger hardly qualified as a carrier; that spitkit rarely produced the 25 knots of relative wind over her flight deck that was considered the standard minimum for safe landing operations.” On his landing attempt, one of Blackburn’s pilots -- Ensign Jack Chasnoff -- bounced his Corsair higher than the ship’s masthead, an experience that convinced him to forego any further landing attempts. Instead he flew his plane back to Naval Air Station Norfolk. “VF-17 got through carrier qualifications with no personnel casualties. We busted a lot of wheels, blew a lot of tires, and totaled several of our airplanes, but everyone eventually made his five qualifying landings aboard
After earning their carrier qualifications aboard Charger, the pilots of VF-17 were assigned to the Essex-class fleet carrier
USS Bunker Hill (CV-17). In the midst of their deployment aboard Bunker Hill, the Navy determined that F4U Corsairs were not safe to operate from carriers. So VF-17 was removed from
Bunker Hill and replaced by the F6F Hellcats of VF-18. VF-17 instead operated from land bases in the Solomon Islands. During six months of combat, the pilots of VF-17 shot down an astounding 154.5 Japanese aircraft; thirteen of the pilots became aces. Blackburn himself shot down 13 of those aircraft and earned the Navy Cross for his exploits. The squadron was disbanded in 1944 but several of the pilots, including squadron executive officer LCDR Roger Hedrick, formed the nucleus of a new fighter squadron - VF-84 - which did operate from
Bunker Hill in 1945.(29)
Motor Machinist Mate 3rd Class Andrew S. Futey, USNR
Andrew Steve Futey was born on 16 January 1918 on a small farm in the coal and steel town of Monessen in southwestern Pennsylvania. His parents – John and Mary Futey – were Slovak immigrants who had come to the United States from the Austria-Hungary Empire only a few years before Andrew’s birth. He was one of nine children – seven girls and two boys.
Futey attended the local high school and studied auto mechanics. Not seeing a future in Monessen aside from working in the local coal mines or steel mills, Andrew dropped out of high school in his junior year. He eventually made his way east to the New York City area and got a job driving trucks. It was in New York that his sister Margie introduced him to Emily L. Fallat. The two fell in love and were married on November 1942. The couple relocated to Perth Amboy, New Jersey. In January 1943 Andrew began working at the City Service Oil Company transferring oil between tank cars and tanker ships. Their first son Andrew John was born in October of that year.
In early 1944, Andrew Futey received notification that he had been selected for military service by the draft. He left his job at City Service Oil Company and went to the Navy Recruit Station in Newark. On 25 February 1944, Andrew Futey enlisted in the U.S. Navy for a two-year enlistment. He was in-processed and was sent by bus to Naval Training Station Sampson, New York for recruit training.(30)
Apprentice Seaman Futey arrived at NTS Sampson on 26 February 1944. NTS Sampson was a sprawling recruit training center located on the eastern shore of Lake Seneca in New York State’s Finger Lakes region. Construction had begun in late May 1942 and completed only 270 days later. The first recruits arrived for training in October 1942 before the base was completed. Apprentice Seaman Futey was one of over 411,000 Navy recruits to complete Boot Camp at NTS Sampson.(31)
At the end of March 1944, Apprentice Seaman Futey completed recruit training. He was transferred to Receiving Station Norfolk, Virginia on 8 April 1944 and assigned the following day to the escort aircraft carrier
USS Charger (CVE-30). Now a Seaman 2nd Class, Futey was assigned to work in the carrier’s engine room due to his background in auto mechanics and fuel oil systems. Soon after, he received an American Red Cross message informing him that his father had passed away in Perth Amboy. On 1 May 1944, he was promoted to Fireman 2nd Class, a rate that he would hold for most of his time in service. Later that year, his wife Emily and son Andrew joined him in Norfolk and rented an off base apartment. In November of that year, he attended Fleet Firefighting School. Also that year, Futey earned qualifications for operating compressors and standing watch for throttles and purifiers in the engine room.(32)
Working in the engine room was hot, dirty and sometimes dangerous work. Engine problems had plagued the escort carrier early in her career. One particularly hazardous job involved checking, tightening and lubricating fittings in a confined space in the engine room after the engines had been shut down. Due to the fumes and high heat in the space, sailors could only work in there for a few minutes at a time. On one such occasion, Fireman 2nd Class Futey had taken his turn in the space. The sailor that followed him in the rotation became overcome by the heat and fumes. Despite having just emerged from the space, Futey went back inside and rescued the fallen sailor, losing his wedding ring in the process. Recognizing his bravery, Futey’s Chief Petty Officer gave him his own wedding ring to replace the one lost in the space. The Chief told him that he longer needed the ring since he was divorced. Futey accepted the ring as his own and when he told Emily the story, the two considered the gift as their forever bond. He wore this ring from then on.
Having been raised a Roman Catholic, Futey became friendly with the ship’s Roman Catholic chaplain. Often he would assist the chaplain at Mass as an altar server.
Charger After the War
Charger continued training pilots through the end of 1945. In September 1945,
Charger undertook her second and final voyage outside the Chesapeake Bay when she ferried aircraft to the Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Fireman 2nd Class Futey undertook the voyage.(33)
By 1946, the U.S. Navy no longer had a need for the small escort carrier. On 15 March 1946, she was decommissioned at New York. She was sold to the Sitmar Shipping Line on 30 January 1947. After major renovations which included removing her flight deck,
Charger was converted to a passenger liner capable of accommodating 1,800 passengers and re-named
Fairsea. She was the line’s first passenger ship. Sitmar Lines obtained a contract from the International Refugee Organization (IRO) to transport war refugees and immigrants from Europe to Australia for re-settlement. On 3 December 1949, she departed Genoa, Italy on her first voyage transporting immigrants and arrived in Sydney, Australia on 30 December 1949.(34)
Fairsea’s accommodations were far from luxurious. Because sleeping arrangements were in open spaces with triple-decked bunks, male and female passengers were berthed separately. Toilet and shower facilities were communal. There were no private cabins for passengers.(35)
In 1955, the Australia government chartered Fairsea to transport immigrants from Britain. She continued in this service until going in for an extensive renovation and refit in October 1957.
Fairsea’s refit lasted six months. During this time, major improvements were made to the berthing accommodations, air conditioning was installed, and her overall external appearance dramatically changed. Following her refit,
Fairsea re-entered charter service with the Australian government and New Zealand was included in her destinations. Altogether from 1949 to 1969,
Fairsea made 81 voyages to and from Australia.(36)
Fairsea’s sea service abruptly came to an end in 1969. While west of Panama, she suffered a major fire in her engine room which destroyed much of the machinery. She turned back to Panama and remained at Balboa while her fate was decided. Ultimately, it was decided that the damage was too extensive and that her advanced age was not worth the expense of repairs. She was sold for scrap and on 9 July 1969, she left Panama bound for the ship breakers at La Spezia, Italy. Later that summer,
MS Rio de la Plata / HMS Charger / USS Charger / Fairsea was broken up and scrapped.(37)
After the war, Rear Admiral Sprague served as Chief of the Bureau of Naval Personnel. Promoted to Vice Admiral, he was appointed Commander of the Pacific Fleet Air Force and held the post until retiring in April 1952. He passed away in California on 17 September 1972.(38)
CDR Tom Blackburn remained in naval aviation after the war. He served as the Commander of the aircraft carrier USS Midway (CV-41) air group and later as her commanding officer. He retired from the Navy in 1962 at the rank of Captain. He died from cancer in March 1994 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.(39)
In the fall of 1945, Andrew Futey was promoted to Motor Machinists Mate 3rd Class. Later that fall, he was transferred from
USS Charger. Afterwards, MoMM3c Futey was offered a promotion and a position maintaining the Navy’s decommissioned (mothballed) ships berthed near Bear Mountain on the Hudson River in New York. He declined the offer. Futey was discharged from the Navy on 7 December 1945 at USN Personnel Separation Center, Lido Beach, Long Island, New York. He and his family returned to New Jersey.(40)
Over the years, he and Emily would add another son (John) and two daughters (Elaine and Arleen) to their family. They eventually settled in Port Reading, New Jersey. Futey worked in the trucking industry for the next three decades. After that worked in a hospital until his retirement. Ultimately his family would grow to include six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. His years in the Navy were a source of great pride to him and he would often recall his time in service fondly.
After a prolonged illness, Andrew Futey passed away in October 2001. A Catholic Memorial Mass was said for him at the Church of St. Elizabeth of Hungary in Carteret, New Jersey. A Navy honor guard participated at his interment. He is buried in the Brigadier General Doyle New Jersey Veterans Cemetery in Arneytown, New Jersey.
For nearly thirty years, she sailed under three different names for four different owners. She underwent three major reconstructions which converted her from a passenger / cargo liner to an escort aircraft carrier and back to a passenger / cargo liner. During World War II, she trained thousands of U.S. Navy carrier pilots for war and significantly contributed to the Allied victory over Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Her wartime crew included a future Vice Admiral, a famed fighter pilot and my grandfather. After the war, she transported tens of thousands of war refugees to start new lives in Australia and New Zealand. During her time,
Charger sailed across the globe performing a wide variety of missions.
"The Aircraft Carrier Memorial in San Diego, California. Photos by author."
1. For more about the development of aircraft carriers, see Scot MacDonald, Evolution of Aircraft Carriers. Washington DC GPO: Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, 1962, pp. 49-53.; and Donald Macintyre, Aircraft Carrier: The Majestic Weapon. (NY: Ballantine Books, 1968).
2. The U.S. Navy website provides a brief history of escort carriers. See www.navy.mil/navydata/navy_legacy_hr.asp?id=3. See also Scot Macdonald’s Evolution of Aircraft Carriers.
3. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. [Hereafter cited as “DANFS.”] See entry for USS Long Island (CVE-1). Additional details on Mormacmail / Long Island’s construction provided by Mr. Dave Kavanaugh, Founder and President of the Sun Ship Historical Society. See his website at www.sunship.org
4. This brief history of Sun Shipbuilding was provided by Dave Kavanaugh and the Sun Ship Historical Society. See also www.sunship.org
5. Ibid.; “Post World War II Immigrant Ships: Fairsea.” Museum Victoria Fact Sheet (2007). Found online at http://museumvictoria.com.au/DiscoveryCentre/Infosheets/Fairsea/; DANFS. See entry for USS Charger.
6. DANFS. See entry for USS Charger.; Scot MacDonald, Evolution of Aircraft Carriers. Washington DC GPO: Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, 1962, pp. 49-53.
7. See DANFS entries for Ranger, Yorktown, Essex and Charger. Data on Nimitz provided by www.navy.mil and Robert Hutchinson Jane’s Warship Recognition Guide. London: HarperCollins, 2002. pp. 42-43.
8. U.S. Navy. USS Charger. CVE-30. War Diary. Found in Record Group 38. National Archives and Records Administration. Archives II. College Park, Maryland. (Hereafter cited as “War Diary.”)
9. See War Dairy entry for 3 March 1942.
11. Samuel Eliot Morison. History of United States Naval Operations in World War II. Volume XII - Leyte June 1944 - January 1945. (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1958.) See Footnote 16 on page 125. [Hereafter cited as “Morison XII.”]
12. War Diary. See Entries for March and April 1942.
14. War Diary. See entries for April and May 1942.
15. War Diary. See entries for May through August 1942.
16. Tom Blackburn and Eric Hammel. The Jolly Rogers: The Story of Tom Blackburn and Navy Fighting Squadron VF-17. St. Paul, MN: Zenith P, 1998. p. 19.
17. War Diary. See entries for October 1942.
19. Morison, XII.
20. See War Diary.
21. See War Diary for May 1945.
22. On several occasions, my grandfather described watching the pilots training (and not always landing) aboard Charger.
23. See War Diary for 5 May 1945.
24. See War Diary for June 1944.
25. See War Diary for 20 June 1944.
26. Samuel Eliot Morison. History of United States Naval Operations in World War II. Volume XIV - Victory in the Pacific. (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1960.) Appendix 1 details the composition of the carrier forces involved in the last campaigns in the Pacific Theater.
27. Blackburn, pp. 44-5.
29. See Blackburn’s memoirs The Jolly Rogers: The Story of Tom Blackburn and Navy Fighting Squadron VF-17 for more details. Interestingly enough, my great uncle was a pilot in VF-84.
30. Details about Andrew Futey’s naval service were provided by his personnel records. Copies of his personnel records were obtained from the National Personnel Records Center – Military Personnel Records Branch.
31. For more about NTS Sampson, visit the NTS Sampson Museum website at www.rpadden.com/sampson.htm. During the 1950s, the U.S. Air Force operated the base as a Basic Training center, training over 330,000 recruits. In 1960, the land was sold to the State of New York who now operates it as a state park and marina.
32. These details are from his personnel records.
33. See DANFS.
34. Ibid.; “Post World War II Immigrant Ships: Fairsea.” Museum Victoria Fact Sheet (2007). Found online at http://museumvictoria.com.au/DiscoveryCentre/Infosheets/Fairsea/
38. See Morison XII, footnote 16 on page 125.
39. See Blackburn’s memoirs The Jolly Rogers: The Story of Tom Blackburn and Navy Fighting Squadron VF-17 for more details. Additional information is from his Obituary published 6 April 1994 in the New York Times.
40. Discharge information provided by Futey’s personnel records.
Copyright © 2008 Bryan J. Dickerson.
Written by Bryan Dickerson. If you have questions or comments on this article,
please contact Bryan Dickerson at:
About the author:
Bryan J. Dickerson is a military historian specializing in World War Two and a Navy Reserve veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
He earned a Masters of Arts in American History from Monmouth University in New Jersey in 1999. He is the former Editor of Cold War Times -
the online newsletter of the Cold War Museum in Virginia.
Published online: 11/01/2008.
* Views expressed by contributors are their own and do not necessarily represent
those of MHO.