From the Archives: Arrival of the Langley, first US aircraft carrier, marked beginning of an era

The USS Langley in the 1920s.


By MERRIE MONTEAGUDO | The San Diego Union-Tribune | Published: November 29, 2019

(Tribune News Service) — On Nov. 29, 1924, the nation's first aircraft carrier, the Langley, arrived at San Diego to join the Pacific Battle Fleet. The ship was originally built to carry coal for the World War I fighting fleets but had been converted into an experimental aircraft carrier.

The Langley was described by the Evening Tribune as "the queerest looking vessel in the United States navy, and the first vessel of its type to be constructed." The Union simply dubbed it the "Deadliest Ship Afloat."

From The San Diego Union, Sunday, November 30, 1924:



S.D. Fliers to Practice Sea Take-Offs From Langley, Based Here in Preparation For Pacific Maneuvers.

Heralding a new era in the development of America's aerial forces in the Pacific, the naval aircraft carrier Langley, unique, bulky, but of a type that within a comparatively few years will comprise the major units of the battle fleet, arrived from Hampton Roads at 8 o'clock yesterday morning.

Its potential power as a fighting craft, deadlier than any battleship ever built because of the mobility of the aircraft of which it is the mothership, was illustrated vividly when the Langley still was many miles from port.

Friday afternoon, when the aircraft carrier was 100 miles distant from Point Loma, three seaplanes were launched from the Langley. One of these ships has a cruising range of approximately 2000 miles. It could carry a ton of bombs. The other two planes are equipped for carrying 1100-pound torpedoes.


Sweeping in from seaward under cover of darkness Friday evening, these planes could have destroyed many lives and property valued at millions of dollars had they been enemy instead of friendly aircraft.

Shortly after breakfast yesterday morning, with the Langley still hull down on the horizon, 10 battle planes soared off from her spacious deck in rapid succession, whirled with high speed into formation and winged their way over the harbor and city. Under their protection, in war time, could have come squadrons of bombing planes launched from the Langley.

If any one doubts the terrific punishing power of the Langley with her fleet of aircraft one has but to converse a few moments with her officers. These officers also will tell one that the Langley is the only aircraft carrier in the world that never has had a fatal aircraft accident. So spacious is her flying deck, extending from bow to stern and 56 feet above the waterline, so efficient the arresting devices for alighting airplanes, that not a single airman has been injured seriously.

The Japanese navy has aircraft carriers, but no Japanese naval aviator to date ever has landed successfully on their decks. Foreign airmen who are instructing the Japanese have done so.

Historical photos and articles from The San Diego Union-Tribune archive compiled by merrie.monteagudo@sduniontribune.com. For content from 1871 forward visit the Union-Tribune archives at NewsLibrary.com/sites/sdub.

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