History of the Yorktown Ships

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18th May 2020 History Reference this

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The Yorktowns


My historical topic for this paper will be on the Five Yorktown ships. The reason for this is two of the ships are world famous because of their time in both World Wars but the other three have been lost to history and I plan on bringing them back. These gallant ships were named after the Battle of Yorktown which took place in the Revolutionary War in Yorktown, VA. This is the spot that George Washington got his last chance to win the war. Which he did by boxing Lord Cornwallis in the harbor so he could not move forward or retreat. The historical lenses that will be used through out this paper will be both political and military in nature since all of these ships are in fact military ships. I started to do research on these ships in the class before this one (History 502) and now I am going to attempt to continue my research here in (History 520). I will be bringing up some points from the first paper just to refresh my memory at different points through out this paper. As far as I know, I am the only one that has done any type of research on these vessels in quite a while. The gap between the first two (2) Yorktowns is pretty large considering it is almost a forty-year gap between the building of them.

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My argument on the first two (2) ships should be mentioned a little more during a time of horrible and vile times. They were a part of making something right that should have never happened in the first place, The African Slave Trade. The Yorktown I (Sloop) was part of the African Squadron and the other Yorktown PG-1 (16-gun, Gunboat) was part of the Squadron of Evolution. Both squadrons were part of the new United States Navy. (1,6,7,8,9,10) One of my biggest complaints about these two vessels is there does not seem to be a lot written about them so where these two vessels are concerned, I will have to make do with the information I have.

 During this paper there will be one photograph (maybe two) of each vessel so you can get an idea of what they looked like for their time period. Plus, the resources will help me describe the materials and technology used in the construction of these vessels. After doing some refreshing of memory, I will also be detailing who christened the vessels. Sometimes something as small as that type of detail is what someone would want to know. I also realize my introduction is long, but I am just trying to make sure I cover everything.

All my resources are significant and relevant to my topic. All of them are of my topic specifically or with in the domain. I do not think that because of the topic matter there will be any way I can draw from outside sources from my chosen lenses.


The thesis of this paper is that history has forgotten about three (3) of these vessels and let them down where I will not let them be forgotten again.


The historiography on the first two (2) Yorktowns will be a challenge due to the amount of information that is available, is not much, but what there is has been strong and creditable since it is coming from the Department of the Navy and NHHC. Comparing the lenses from the introduction section of this paper, I truly believe that I do have the right lenses for this paper in use. The historiography of the other three (3) Yorktowns will be more informative because there is more information on them.

As explained in the introduction paragraph of this paper the first two Yorktowns do not have a lot written about them, but from what I can gather from just the sources I do have they both did their jobs diligently. When Yorktown “1840” sank in 1850 it took almost another forty years to get another one. Yorktown II or PG-1 (16-gun, gunboat) was built towards the end of the 1880’s (approx.) Again, this one was built with the same mission as the one before her. This mission was known as the Squadron of Evolution. When she was not sailing the western seaboard of Africa looking for slave ships, she could be found sailing the Gulf of Mexico, and around the tropical islands. When she was not looking for her targets she was being used as a target to familiarize the other Naval vessels small arm target practice and torpedo practice. She even perfected land sea ops that were used about fifty years later in WWI. (8)

 “1840” Yorktown Sloop of War


Yorktown PG-1 (16-Gun, Gunboat)

Historiography continued

 The first two Yorktowns do not get the credit that they deserved for helping to stop the vile and horrible Slave trade, but they also helped the Navy learn other things about ocean life as well. They taught others how to sail in open waters, rough waters, calm waters, stormy waters and hurricanes. The first Yorktown was made of wood, while the second one was a combination of wood and metal. The designs and technology used for building ships had drastically changed over the course of the forty years between the first two Yorktowns. (8)

 Now the technology and ship designs are going to change again to even larger and all metal. This will be what was the biggest ship on the ocean for its time and that is the Aircraft Carrier known as the USS Yorktown CV-5. This Yorktown was unique because planes could land on her and take off on her flight deck. She was what was known as a Yorktown class aircraft carrier.  Her hull was laid in 1934 and by the time she was finished being constructed she was launched and commissioned and went through her sea trials all in 1936 and 37. Soon leaving San Diego in 1940 for patrols in a new fleet called Fleet Problem XXI that April. The Fleet Problem XXI was set up into two sections the first being training in scouting and screening, and the second part was convoy protection training. (11) These exercises were considered minor at the time because they needed to teach the Army and Navy to coordinate with each other for defense of the Hawaiian Islands (11). With the war coming, all of the planes and exercises and training that they had done will prove to be significant for the high altitude tracking of surface forces. After receiving news from Pearl Harbor early in the morning that they had fallen under attack the Yorktown finished suppling up and headed to the pacific. Once reaching Pearl and accessing the damage, realizing there was nothing that could be done in the main harbor they went around to the other harbors where other subs and ships were moored to see what all survived if anything.

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By the stroke of luck the other side of the island had not been bombed which is where a lot of the submarines and other vessels were located. Then you had those that had not even come into port yet when Pearl Harbor was bombed. CV-5 started heading towards the Coral Sea in March where she rendezvoused with a unit known as TF11 which was formed around the carrier Lexington CV-2. The battle of Coral Sea started around the 5th of May both the Lexington and Yorktown both entered the battle shortly after entering the area. With all of the fighting the American aircraft sank a Japanese light carrier named Shoho and severely damaged another by the name of Shokaku. By this time the Lexington was under attack and in the process of being lost while the Yorktown’s captain, Captain Elliot Buckmaster was able to avert being hit by seven or eight Japanese torpedoes. But the Yorktown was hit by a bomb forcing her to go back to Pearl. The repairs were estimated to take around three months to complete but the Captain did not want to wait that long and only had the more dire of emergency repairs done and the Yorktown was back at sea quickly thereafter.

Yorktown CV-5 before the Battle of Midway 1942.

The battle of Midway was a pivotal battle in the Pacific Ocean. TF16 and TF17 which (Enterprise and Hornet) were fought on June 4-7, while sister ships like the Yorktown were coming in to help. Some of the aircraft that came from the Yorktown sank the Japanese carrier Soryu while other aircrafts from other American carriers sank the carriers Kaga and the Akagi. Later that afternoon the last surviving Japanese carrier named the Hiryu launched every aircraft it could. They located the Yorktown and scored three (3) massive bomb hits which one was enough to take out the boilers on the ship. This caused the ship to reduce its speed to around six knots.

The sailors moved as fast as they could to get the fires contained and repair as much as the damage as could plus restore what power could be restored. A little after two hours after the first wave of attacks happened a second wave came from above. Torpedo planes from the carrier Hiryu started dropping torpedoes hitting the Yorktown. This time seriously wounding the carrier to the point where she lost power for a second time and she started listing to the port side. With fires being put out, flooding still out of hand, and getting worse, the Yorktown was in danger of capsizing, her Captain decided it was time to abandon ship. The Yorktown showed she was not ready to give up the fight just yet. She fought that night and the next day to stay afloat so salvage efforts could start to save the carrier. As these efforts started a Japanese submarine got through the defenses and shot off four torpedoes towards the Yorktown hitting her twice. A torpedo hit the Hammann sinking her which was helping with the rescue operation of the Yorktown. The American forces chased the Japanese submarine away and grabbed the survivors from the water and quickly decided that the Mighty Yorktown could not be saved so on June 7, 1942 at 7:01am she capsized and sank.

U.S.S Yorktown CV-5 Final Resting Place.

U.S.S Yorktown CV-10

This carrier has a split personality. I say this because she was really named Bon Homme Richard until September of 1942 when they changed her name to Yorktown CV-10 or CVS-10. This will be a little confusing because both Yorktowns were in Pearl Harbor but at different times. Neither one was there during the bombings. CV-10 was able to launch an early onset attack during the early days of the Japanese conflict when CV-5 could not. CV-10 served through most of WWII where CV-5 only served just a few short years before being sunk. Her name sake would have been proud of CV-10 because she not only finished WWII, she went to Korea, and Vietnam. CV-10 has awards coming out of every hanger on her and they even keep them in storage on the bridge. I get emotional talking about this one because in my family she is known as the “Fighting Lady”. For every sailor that has ever served on her that was her name, that will always be her name. not just because of CV-10 but because CV-5 was so hard to sink at least that is my opinion. She fought to stay afloat for her crew. The “Fighting Lady” was decommissioned in 1974, where she is a museum ship at Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant South Carolina.

U.S.S. Yorktown CV-10 or CVS-10

U.S.S Yorktown CG-48

U.S.S Yorktown CG-48 is that last ship to be named Yorktown to my knowledge. Her hull was laid in 1981 and she was commissioned in 1984 on the fourth of July. She was a new type of cruiser that had guided missiles. She was a prototype of vessel so information on her is limited at best but what I have found is that she spent some of her time in the Mediterranean Sea doing black ops. Her service only lasted until December of 2004 when she was decommissioned and as of 2009 she was sold for scrap. (4,5)


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