USS Valley Forge



USS Valley Forge
Underway in 1955


to the
USS Valley Forge
and all the men who ever served on her, whether they were ship's company or members of the squadrons that served onboard her during her long and distinguished career.


A brief history of the USS Valley Forge


1946 as CV-45
1946 as CV-45

CV-45, CVA-45

While the "Happy Valley" was the last of the Essex CV9 class carriers, she was also known as a Ticonderoga class (long hull) carrier.

She was built with money raised from a special war bond drive by the citizens of Philadelphia. In September of 1944 her keel was laid in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. She was commissioned in November of 1946.



36,380 tons


888' 0"


93' 0"




32.7 Knots




12 - 5" 38 caliber dual purpose guns
72 - 40mm anti-aircraft guns



The Valley Forge may have been the last of the Essex class fast carriers of World War II, but she had many firsts in her long and distinguished career.

In 1948, she along with her destroyer escorts, the USS Lawe and the USS Thomas, were the first American naval ships to make an around the world cruise since the "Great White Fleet" of 1907. During this cruise she was the first US Navy carrier to pass through the Suez Cannal and to conduct flight operations in the Persian Gulf.

Plank owner Stan S. Vitale (1946-1949) adds:

"...the name of the other two tin cans that were with us in our world cruise in 1948. They called them selves the 8 ball squadron - USS Law 763, USS Thomas 764, USS Kippler 765 & USS Wood 715."

Two years later, she would be the first US carrier to launch aircraft in the first naval air strikes of the Korean War. They were conducted by 12, F9F'3 of carrier air squadrons VF51 and VF52. These were the first US naval jets to go into battle. [A note here for all our British friends: the British carrier HMS Triumph got her planes in the air first.]

During her first deployment in Korea, her planes, consisting of Douglas AD Skyraiders, Vought F4U Corsairs and Grumman F9F's Panthers, flew more than 5,000 sorties and delivered over 2,000 tons of bombs and rockets. For your convenience we have a listing of squadrons attached to the Valley Forge during the Korean Conflict on a separate page.

She returned to San Diego in December of 1950 for overhaul. Upon arrival there, she received urgent orders directing her to sail back to Korea because during absence from her station, the Chinese communists had entered the Korean War. She hurriedly replenished her supplies and embarked a new air group, sailing back to Korea for her second deployment there. During this deployment her air craft would fly over 2,580 sorties and deliver some 1,500 tons of bombs.

The Valley Forge returned to the west coast in the summer of 1952. In October 1, 1952 aircraft carriers designated CV and CVB were reclassified as Attack Carriers and assigned the designation CVA. She was redesignated as CVA-45.

Later that year she was again deployed to Korea where her planes would drop some 3,700 tons of bombs on the enemy. This would be her last deployment to Korean waters during this war. She returned to San Diego in June of 1953. Her service in Korea would earn her eight battle stars along with a Navy Unit Commendation.


CVS 45 and group
CVS 45 and group


After a west coast overhaul the Valley Forge returned to the east coast, being assigned to the Atlantic Fleet. At this time she was reclassified to antisubmarine warfare support carrier CVS-45.

She was refitted at Norfolk Naval Shipyard for her new duties as an ASW carrier and returned to the fleet in January of 1954. She would operate on ASW duties in the Atlantic and Eastern Mediterranean, until March of '61.



Standard displacement

27,100 tons

Design draft


(of designing draft)

33,100 tons


888' 0"


93' 0"








Shaft Horsepower

150,000 ahead
48,000 astern


Main Battery

12 - 5" 38 caliber dual purpose guns

Second Battery

11 Quadruple 40MM mounts



40 ASW carrier type aircraft



Aircraft elevators






Admiral's Barge


Captain's Gig


Officers' motor boat


Motor whaleboats (26')


Motor launches (40')


1955 cruise map From pier 7 in Norfolk, Virginia, the Valley Forge departed on her September 1954 cruise. Along with visits to Belfast, Ireland; Barcelona, Spain; and "The Rock", Gilbraltar, she participated in Operation Black Jack.

Photos from this cruise may be viewed in an album on-line. They also serve as a graphical essay on ship-board life.

Another Naval first for the "Happy Valley" came in 1957 when operating out of Guantanamo Bay. Here she would embark a Marine detachment and twin engined HR2S-1 Mojave helicopters experimenting on the new concept of "vertical envelopment." These helo's air-lifted the Marines to the beachhead and then returned them to the ship in history's first ship-based air assault exercise.



1960's as LPH-8

In 1961 the Valley Forge was again to be reclassified. She returned to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard where she was overhauled and modified to an amphibious assault ship. Now classified as LPH 8, the carrier paticipated in a Project Mercury operation, her helicopters retrieving a space capsule launched by a rocket from Cape Canaveral in Decenber of 1960.

The Valley Forge would again distinguish herself as a great American naval fighting ship in the Pacific, this time in the Viet Nam War. Between the years 1966 to 1969, she was deployed several times, serving on stations in the waters off Viet Nam and Laos. Via helicopters, many Marines were ferried to and from battles. For her service in Viet Nam she would win another nine battle stars, as well as two Meritorious Unit Commendations.

On January 16th, 1970 the Valley Forge was placed out of commission and on the same day her name was struck from the Navy List. Sadly, after failed attempts to raise funds to preserve her as a museum, she was sold for scrap in October of 1971.

Although she is only a memory, the Valley's distinguished service record has earned her a place in America's naval history. During her 25 years of service, she earned seventeen battle stars (eight in Korea, nine in Viet Nam), three Navy Unit Commendations and several Battle Efficiency "E", as well as the campaign ribbons for the Korean and Viet Nam wars.


Visit the
Happy Valley Reunion Club Ship's Store

In the Happy Valley Reunion Club Ship's Store you will find patches, pins, ball caps, and more. All proceeds support the HVRC.

    It is easy to shop at our store.
  • Visit the store.
  • View the items currently available. Click on any picture to see a larger view.
  • Once you have made your choices, use the contact form listing your selections, quantity, and mailing address.
  • You will receive an e-mail from Jake with a total cost including shipping & handling charges.
  • Mail your check or money order payable to HVRC.
  • Your package will ship once payment is received.


Looking for Shipmates?

To connect with shipmates on line, I strongly suggest you visit Jake's Canteen here on my site. You will find posts from past visitors which you may browse and/or search. Share your own memories and stories. You may also subscribe to receive all new posts via e-mail.

The Happy Valley Reunion Club (HVRC) is an association open to anyone who served aboard either U.S.S. Valley Forge carrier CV-45, CVA-45, CVS-45, LPH-8 or cruiser CG-50 including squadrons and/or Marines. Besides having annual reunions, they maintain a website at Dues are only $20 for 6 years!! To join use this Membership Application Form. You may save it to your computer or print it. You may fill in the form before printing by placing your cursor in the Name field and type. Simply tab thru to complete the rest of the form fields. Finally, print the completed form, sign and mail with your dues.

Get FREE Adobe Acrobat ReaderTo view the application form you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your system. If the form does not appear, get the FREE Acrobat Reader from Adobe.

HVRC member Ron Harrison, 1959-1961, is a talented watercolor artist specializing in modern military marine paintings. Be sure to veiw his USS Valley Forge when you visit our Ship's Store, where you may order a print of her.



First and foremost I would like to thank my wife, MomJ of Mousehold Creations, for her long hours of work and tireless efforts in creating this site for me, even though she "doesn't speak Navy."

Special thanks go to Jim Butler AT2c of VS39, who loaned me his copy of the 1955 cruise log of the "Happy Valley," in which she took part in Operation Blackjack.

Thanks also to the USS Salem Web Team, creators of United States Naval & Shipbuilding Museum and USS Salem (CA 139) online. They originally maintained the Directory of American Naval Fighting Ships (DANFS) on-line which is now hosted by Haze Gray & Underway. A more complete history of the Valley Forge is available from DANFS.

I would be remiss if I failed to thank William E. Schnakenberg for inspiring me with his site dedicated to the USS Salem CA-139.

TheDepartment of the Navy has much information on several sites. Some specific links used in research for these pages are:

Quoting from Privacy and Security notice "All information on this site is considered public information and may be distributed or copied. Use of appropriate byline/photo/image credits is requested. "

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