NOAA, working with private industry partners and the U.S. Navy, has confirmed the location and condition of the USS Independence, the lead ship of its class of light aircraft carriers that were critical during the American naval offensive in the Pacific during World War II.
Resting in 2,600 feet of water off California’s Farallon Islands, the carrier is “amazingly intact,” said NOAA scientists, with its hull and flight deck clearly visible, and what appears to be a plane in the carrier’s hangar bay.
Independence (CVL 22), was built by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation and commissioned in January 1943. She took part in the attacks on Rabaul and Tarawa before being torpedoed by Japanese planes, having to be repaired and refitted in San Francisco from January to July 1944. After repairs, she launched many strikes against targets in Luzon and Okinawa. Independence was part of the carrier group that sank the remnants of the Japanese Mobile Fleet in the Battle of Leyte Gulf and several other Japanese ships in the Surigao Strait. Damaged by shock waves, heat and radiation, Independence survived the Bikini Atoll tests and, like dozens of other Operation Crossroads ships, returned to the United States where she was later sunk with nuclear waste near the Farallon Islands. Her sinking is considered at fault for the contamination of the wildlife refuge in the area.
“After 64 years on the seafloor, Independence sits on the bottom as if ready to launch its planes,” said James Delgado, chief scientist on the Independence mission and maritime heritage director for NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. “This ship fought a long, hard war in the Pacific and after the war was subjected to two atomic blasts that ripped through the ship. It is a reminder of the industrial might and skill of the “greatest generation’ that sent not only this ship, but their loved ones to war.”
NOAA’s interest in Independence is part of a mandated and ongoing two-year mission to locate, map and study historic shipwrecks in Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and nearby waters. The carrier is one of an estimated 300 wrecks in the waters off San Francisco, and the deepest known shipwreck in the sanctuary.
Source: National Marine Sanctuaries and U.S. Naval History