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Built during World War Two, USS Essex was the lead of her class of aircraft carriers. She was commissioned in December 1942 and went on to serve in several campaigns in the Pacific Theatre of operations. For her efforts, she received the Presidential Unit Citation and 13 battle stars. She operated right until the finale of the war, participating in the final raids against the Japanese home islands between 10 July to 15 August 1945.
Though already moderately armed, the primary offensive capability of a carrier was, of course, its aircraft, known as “Sunday Punch”. This comprised up to 36 fighters, 36 dive bombers and 18 torpedo bombers. Typically, the standard fighter would be the Grumman F6F Hellcat, the dive-bomber/scout the Curtiss SB2C Helldiver and the torpedo bomber the Grumman TBF Avenger as the torpedo bomber.
At the close of the war, Essex was decommissioned but modernized and recommissioned in the 1950s, serving as an anti-Submarine carrier. During this time, she participated in the Korean War and was key in the Cuban Missile Crisis. She also has the distinction of being the primary recovery carrier for the Apollo 7 space mission.