The sixth Ranger (CV 4), the first ship of the Navy to be designed and built from the keel up as an aircraft carrier was laid down 26 September 1931 by Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co., Newport News, Va.; launched 25 February 1933, sponsored by Mrs. Herbert Hoover; and commissioned at the Norfolk Navy Yard 4 June 1934, Capt. Arthur L. Bristol in command.
Ranger conducted her first air operations off Cape Henry 6 August 1934 and departed Norfolk the 17th for a shakedown training cruise that took her to Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, and Montevideo. She returned to Norfolk 4 October for operations off the Virginia Capes until 28 March 1935, when she sailed for the Pacific. Transiting the Panama Canal on 7 April, she arrived San Diego on the 15th. For nearly four years she participated in fleet problems reaching to Hawaii, and in western seaboard operations that took her as far south as Callao, Peru, and as far north as Seattle, Wash. On 4 January 1939, she departed San Diego for winter fleet operations in the Caribbean out of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. She then steamed north to Norfolk, Va., arriving 18 April.
Ranger cruised along the eastern seaboard out of Norfolk and into the Caribbean Sea. In the fall of 1939, she commenced Neutrality Patrol operations, operating out of Bermuda along the trade routes of the middle Atlantic and up the eastern seaboard up to Argentia, Newfoundland. She was returning to Norfolk from an ocean patrol extending to Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Arriving Norfolk 8 December, she sailed on the 21st for patrol in the South Atlantic. She then entered the Norfolk Navy Yard for repairs 22 March 1942.
Ranger served as flagship of Rear Adm. A. B. Cook, Commander, Carriers, Atlantic Fleet, until 6 April 1942, when he was relieved by Rear Adm. Ernest D. McWhorter, who also broke his flag in Ranger.
Steaming to Quonset Point, R.I., Ranger loaded 68 Army P-40 planes and men of the Army's 33d Pursuit Squadron, put to sea 22 April, and launched the Army squadron 10 May to land at Accra, on the Gold Coast of Africa. She returned to Quonset Point 28 May 1942, made a patrol to Argentia, then stood out of Newport 1 July with 72 Army P-40 pursuit planes, which she launched off the coast of Africa for Accra the 19th. After calling at Trinidad, she returned to Norfolk for local battle practice until 1 October, then based her training at Bermuda in company with four escort aircraft carriers that had been newly converted from tankers to meet the need for naval air power in the Atlantic.
The only large carrier in the Atlantic Fleet, Ranger led the task force comprising herself and four Sangamon-class escort carriers that provided air superiority during the amphibious invasion of German dominated French Morocco which commenced the morning of 8 November 1942.
It was still dark at 0615 that day, when Ranger, stationed 30 miles northwest of Casablanca, began launching her aircraft to support the landings made at three points on the Atlantic coast of North Africa. Nine of her Wildcats attacked the Rabat and Rabat-Sale airdromes, headquarters of the French air forces in Morocco. Without loss to themselves, they destroyed seven planes on one field, and 14 bombers on the other. Another flight destroyed seven planes on the Port Lyautey field. Some of Ranger's planes strafed four French destroyers in Casablanca Harbor while others strafed and bombed nearby batteries.
The carrier launched 496 combat sorties in the three-day operation. Her attack aircraft scored two direct bomb hits on the French destroyer leader Albatros, completely wrecking her forward half and causing 300 casualties. They also attacked French cruiser Primaugut as she sortied from Casablanca Harbor, dropped depth charges within lethal distance of two submarines, and knocked out coastal defense and anti-aircraft batteries. They destroyed more than 70 enemy planes on the ground and shot down 15 in aerial combat. But 16 planes from Ranger were lost or damaged beyond repair. It was estimated that 21 light enemy tanks were immobilized and some 86 military vehicles destroyed — most of them troop-carrying trucks.
Following training in Chesapeake Bay, the carrier underwent overhaul in the Norfolk Navy Yard from 16 December 1942 to 7 February 1943. She next transported 75 P-40-L Army pursuit planes to Africa, arriving Casablanca on 23 February; then patrolled and trained pilots along the New England coast steaming as far north as Halifax, Nova Scotia. Departing Halifax 11 August, she joined the British Home Fleet at Scapa Flow, Scotland, 19 August, and patrolled the approaches to the British Isles.
Ranger departed Scapa Flow with the Home Fleet 2 October to attack German shipping in Norwegian waters. The objective of the force was the Norwegian port of Bodö. The task force reached launch position off Vestfjord before dawn 4 October completely undetected. At 0618, Ranger launched 20 Dauntless dive bombers and an escort of eight Wildcat fighters. One division of dive bombers attacked the 8,000-ton freighter LaPlata, while the rest continued north to attack a small German convoy. They severely damaged a 10,000-ton tanker and a smaller troop transport. They also sank two of four small German merchantmen in the Bodö roadstead.
A second Ranger attack group of 10 Avengers and six Wildcats destroyed a German freighter and a small coaster and bombed yet another troop-laden transport. Three Ranger planes were lost to antiaircraft fire. On the afternoon of 4 October, Ranger was finally located by three German aircraft, but her combat air patrol shot down two of the enemy planes and chased off the third.
Ranger returned to Scapa Flow 6 October 1943. She patrolled with the British Second Battle Squadron in waters reaching to Iceland, and then departed Hvalfjord on 26 November, arriving Boston 4 December. On 3 January 1944, she became a training carrier out of Quonset Point, R.I. This duty was interrupted 20 April when she arrived at Staten Island, N.Y., to load 76 P-38 fighter planes together with Army, Navy, and French Naval personnel for transport to Casablanca. Sailing 24 April, she arrived Casablanca 4 May. There she onloaded Army aircraft destined for stateside repairs and embarked military passengers for the return to New York.
Touching at New York 16 May, Ranger then entered the Norfolk Navy Yard to have her flight deck strengthened and for installation of a new type catapult, radar, and associated gear that provided her with a capacity for night fighter interceptor training. On 11 July 1944 she departed Norfolk transited the Panama Canal 5 days later, and embarked several hundred Army passengers at Balboa for transportation to San Diego, arriving there 25 July.
After embarking the men and aircraft of Night Fighting Squadron 102 and nearly a thousand Marines, she sailed for Hawaiian waters 28 July, reaching Pearl Harbor 3 August. During the next 3 months she conducted night carrier training operations out of Pearl Harbor.
Ranger departed Pearl Harbor 18 October to train pilots for combat duty. Operating out of San Diego under Commander, Fleet Air, Alameda, she continued training air groups and squadrons along the California coast throughout the remainder of the war.
Departing San Diego 30 September 1945, she embarked civilian and military passengers at Balboa the Canal Zone, and then steamed for New Orleans, arriving 18 October. Following Navy Day celebrations there, she sailed 30 October for brief operations at Pensacola. After calling at Norfolk, she entered the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard 18 November for overhaul. She remained on the eastern seaboard until decommissioned at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard 18 October 1946. Struck from the Navy list 29 October 1946, she was sold for scrap to Sun Shipbuilding & Drydock Co., Chester, Pa., 28 January 1947.
Ranger received two battle stars for World War II service.
Last Update: 11 June 2009