An Experiment Proves Her Mettle in War
Shortly before Christmas of 1940, on board the heavy cruiser Tuscaloosa (CA-37), President Franklin Delano Roosevelt brooded over a missive from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. An appended table showed how U-boats had seriously impeded the flow of supplies from America—the “Arsenal of Democracy”—to Britain. How could the New World help the Old if much of that arsenal’s output lay at the bottom of the Atlantic?
Auto-gyros (small airplanes with low landing speeds), Roosevelt reasoned, could operate from partial flight decks on a vessel moving at less than 15 knots. Such an expedient might be the answer. On 7 January 1941, the President told Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Harold R. Stark to discard any plans for ship-to-carrier conversions that “would take more than about three months.” Roosevelt believed that needed carriers could be “thrown together quickly by some foreman . . . not worried about stability.”