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NavSource Online: Aircraft Carrier Photo Archive

Contributed by Mike Smolinski

(later CVA-40, CVS-40 and AVT-12)

Flag Hoist/Radio Call Sign: November - Kilo - Delta - Tango
Tactical Voice Radio Call: "CHARGER"

Unit Awards, Campaign and Service Medals and Ribbons


Precedence of awards is from top to bottom, left to right
Top Row: China Service Medal (extended) / American Campaign Medal
2nd Row: World War II Victory Medal / Navy Occupation Service Medal ("Asia" and "Europe" clasps) / National Defense Service Medal
3rd Row: Korean Service Medal / United Nations Korean Medal / Republic of Korea War Service Medal (retroactive)
(Click here for further detail)

Special thanks to Bob Atkinson, Historian, Editor "Tradewinds", USS Tarawa Veterans' Association.

Displacement 27,100 Tons, Dimensions, 888' (oa) x 93' x 28' 7" (Max)
Armament 12 x 5"/38AA, 32 x 40mm, 46 x 20mm, 82 Aircraft.
Armor, 4" Belt, 2 1/2" Hanger deck, 1 1/2" Deck, 1 1/2" Conning Tower.
Machinery, 150,000 SHP; Westinghouse Geared Turbines, 4 screws
Speed, 33 Knots, Crew 3448.

Operational and Building Data
Built by Norfolk Navy. Laid down 5 Jan 1944, launched 12 May 1945, commissioned 8 Dec 1945.

Decommissioned to reserve 13 May 1960. Redesignated as an aviation transport (AVT 12) 1961 while in reserve.
Stricken for disposal 1 June 1967. Sold 3 Oct 1968 and scrapped at Baltimore.

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Size Image Description Contributed
By And/Or Copyright
As CV-40, 1945-1952
CV-40 Tarawa

Stern view of Tarawa (CV-40) shortly before her 12 May 1945 launching at the Norfolk Navy Yard.

U.S. Navy photo.

Norfolk Navy Yard, via Mike Green
CV-40 Tarawa

Mrs. Julian C. Smith, wife of Lieutenant General Julian C. Smith, USMC, who commanded the 2d Marine Division at Tarawa (November 1943), christened Tarawa (CV-40) on Saturday, 12 May 1945.

Dale Hargrave
CV-40 Tarawa

USS Tarawa (CV-40) goes down the ways at the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Virginia, after she was christened by Mrs. Julian C. Smith, 12 May 1945.

Copied from typescript History of the Norfolk Navy Yard in World War II, page 169. The original volume is in the collections of the Navy Department Library.

U.S. Naval Historical Center photograph (# NH 96330).

CV-40 Tarawa

USS Tarawa (CV-40) in a photo apparently taken soon after commissioning. U.S. Navy photo.

David Buell
CV-40 Tarawa
91k Undated, Good general layout of this class. USN
CV-40 Tarawa

USS Tarawa (CV-40), Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, 1946. Postcard.

Tommy Trampp
CV-40 Tarawa
144k Official US Navy Photograph of USS Tarawa (CV-40,) circa 1946. Robert M. Cieri
CV-40 Tarawa

"Here is a picture, that was taken in Cuba, this is the carrier [USS Tarawa (CV-40)]. Lower part of the picture is a spot light from my ship as we were coming into the harbor from Puerto Rico. April 27, 1946."

Photos by Ralph K. Lichtenberger RM3/c
USS LSM(R)-510,
submitted by his son, Ralph Lichtenberger AM3 USN
CV-40 Tarawa

"Here is another shot, this time were a little closer, the carrier was all set to get underway as we came into the harbor, notice, you can still see a little of my ship. There is the spot light, and our [aerial], (radio antenna) it makes a line across the picture. Well, this is really a big ship, six times as big as the one I'm on. April 27, 1946."

CV-40 Tarawa

Four F4U-4 Corsairs assigned to Bomber-Fighter Squadron (VBF) 4, deployed aboard USS Tarawa (CV-40), operating from Naval Air Base Kobler, Saipan, in August 1946.

VBF-4 was assigned to Carrier Air Group (CVG) 4 for a deployment to the Western Pacific, 1 August 1946–29 April 1947.

Photo from Dictionary of American Naval Aviation Squadrons, Volume 1, "The History of VA, VAH, VAK, VAL, VAP and VFA Squadrons," Chapter 2.

Robert Hurst
CV-40 Tarawa

Aerial view of USS Tarawa (CV-40) underway, circa 1946–1947.

Robert L. Lawson Photo Collection. US Navy and Marine Corps Museum/Naval Aviation Museum, Photo No. 1996.488.101.001.

Mike Green
David Buell
CV-40 Tarawa

Eleven Curtiss SB2C-5 Helldiver dive bombers of VA-1A "Tophatters" over Tinian Island, Marianas, in 1947. VA-1A (formerly VB-4, redesignated on 15 November 1946) was deployed as part of CVAG-1 (formerly CVG-4, redesignated on 15 November 1946) aboard the aircraft carrier USS Tarawa (CV-40) to the Western Pacific, from 1 August 1946 to 29 April 1947. U.S. Navy Naval Aviation News, September 1947 issue.

Robert Hurst
CV-40 Tarawa

We had just come back into SF Bay following one of the largest post WW2 exercises in 1948. The total number of ships included all the West Coast carriers, Boxer, Antietam, Valley Forge, Princeton, and Tarawa. Boxer, Valley Forge, and Tarawa went into SF the others into San Diego. Our force attacked the West Coast from Hawaii, the other force was defending.

Tim Leary PH1 USN Ret (1945-1965)
CV-40 Tarawa

A Grumman F8F Bearcat fighter landing on board the carrier at sunset, 4 November 1948, during operations in the western Pacific area.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives (photo # 80-G-411492.

Scott Dyben
CV-40 Tarawa

This appears to be the photo sequence of the loss of TBM-3E Avenger, BuNo 91556, aboard USS Tarawa (CV-40), 17 December 1948, in the Western Pacific, during the carrier's World Cruise.

Courtesy of Scott Koen &
CV-40 Tarawa
CV-40 Tarawa

This AD Skyraider had trouble recovering aboard USS Tarawa, most likely in the first half of the 1950s.

Courtesy of Scott Koen &
CV-40 Tarawa

Crewmen on the flight deck spell out "Connecticut", 16 July 1951.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center (# NH 97598).

CV-40 Tarawa

Vought F4U-5 Corsair fighters from USS Tarawa (CV-40) fly in formation over the Mediterranean, 15 December 1951.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives (# 80-G-443068).

Robert Hurst
CV-40 Tarawa

Official US Navy photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center (photo # NH 97596).

Original caption from the NHC: "Underway in the Mediterranean Sea, north of the Straits of Messina, Sicily, on 18 December 1952. She has F2H Banshee jet fighters on her catapults."

Note: Dewie Gaul comments: "it is impossible that this picture was taken on the day listed, since that is the day I boarded the Tarawa in Newport, Rhode Island. There is no doubt about this, since I have my diary which so shows. She left for the Med on Jan. 7, 1953 and I was on her". Mr. Gaul was a Seaman when he came on board the Tarawa on December 18, 1952. He became a third class petty officer in May 1953 and left the carrier in July 1953.

Note: Bob Atkinson, Historian, Editor "Tradewinds," USS Tarawa Veterans' Association, adds: "The picture was taken on 18 December 1951, a year earlier, during the Tarawa's 1951-1952 Med Cruise. I used the picture as the centerfold of that trip's cruise book."

CV-40 Tarawa

USS Tarawa (CV-40) underway, probably in the Mediterranea Sea (see above).

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center (# NH 97597).

CV-40 Tarawa

Lieutenant Commander Wyckoff inspects a radarscope on board the carrier, 1 February 1952.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center (# NH 97599).

CV-40 Tarawa

Two views of USS Tarawa (CV-40), possibly taken in 1951–1952.

Bob Atkinson, Historian, Editor "Tradewinds," USS Tarawa Veterans' Association, comments: "Noting the crewmen in whites and the landmass in the distance, I wouldn't be surprised if they were taken either while we were entrering or leaving Narragansett Bay, to or from Quonset Point."

David Buell
CV-40 Tarawa
As CVA-40, 1952-1955
CV-40 Tarawa

"Crewmen make final adjustments on radio-controlled drone on flight deck of USS Tarawa (CVA 40) before drone is launched as target for ship's guns." All Hands magazine, February 1953 issue.

Stanley Svec
CV-40 Tarawa
377k Circa 1953-1954. Anonymous
CV-40 Tarawa
356k Circa 1953-1954. Anonymous
CV-40 Tarawa

Sydney, Australia, 1954. Believed to be a US Navy photo.

Andrew Sibilla
CVA-40 Tarawa

USS Tarawa (CVA-40) approaches the Pedro Miguel Locks, while transiting the Panama Canal on 31 August 1954. The carrier was en route back to the Atlantic in the final stages of her September 1953 - September 1954 World cruise. Note Grumman F9F Panther fighter in the right foreground. Most of the other planes visible are swept-wing F9F Cougar fighters.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center (# NH 97600).

CVA-40 Tarawa

USS Tarawa (CVA-40) transiting the Panama Canal, August 31, 1954.

Photos by Robert L. Harlem; submitted by his son, Pete Harlem
CVA-40 Tarawa
CVA-40 Tarawa

A band welcomes the carrier to Naval Air Station Quonset Point, Rhode Island, at the completion of a nearly one-year-long World cruise, 6 September 1954.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center (# NH 97601).

CVA-40 Tarawa

USS Tarawa (CVA-40). From the World Cruise, 1953–54, Cruise Book.

Ron Reeves
As CVS-40, 1955-1960
CVS-40 Tarawa

Starboard bow view of USS Tarawa (CVS-40) underway off Guantanamo, Cuba on 14 July 1957. Parked forward on the flight deck are F2H-2 Banshees from VA‑172 "Blue Bolts," Det. 38, and an HSS-1 Seabat from HS-1 "Seahorses." Abaft the island are S2F Trackers from VS-32 "Norsemen."

National Naval Aviation Museum, Robert L. Lawson Photograph Collection, # NNAM.1996.488.101.025.

Mike Green
CVS-40 Tarawa

Men of the Sixth Marines ride up on the carrier's deck-edge elevator prior to boarding helicopters of Marine Air Group 26 to take part in a practice landing as part of the 1958 Atlantic Fleet Amphibious Exercises. Photo bears the rubber-stamped date 24 March 1958.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center (# NH 97602).

CVS-40 Tarawa

USS Tarawa (CVS-40) in 1958, operating as an antisubmarine carrier with Grumman S2F Trackers on her deck. She still mounts her original battery of 5-inch guns and most of her 40-millimeter AA guns.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph (# USN 1046501).

Courtesy of Scott Koen &
CV-40 Tarawa

Good general layout of this class.

Allyn Howard, VS-32 & VS-22, 1957–1960, comments: "The picture [...] had to be taken in Aug–Sep 1958 during the cruise below the equator [...] Project Argus. Note the truck in front of the forward big guns on the flight deck. That truck was there with 'US Air Force' painted on it."

Operation Argus was a series of nuclear weapons tests and missile tests secretly conducted by the Defense Nuclear Agency in the South Atlantic during August–September 1958, in conjunction with the Explorer IV mission. Task Force 88 staff, aboard Tarawa, was in overall command of Operation Argus. The commanding officer of Tarawa served as Task Group 88.1 commander. Tarawa carried Air Force MSQ-1A radar and communications vans for missile tracking and gathering scientific data. VS-32 aircraft (19 S2F Trackers) flew search and security missions as well as scientific measurement, photographic, and observer missions for each shot.

CVS-40 Tarawa

Two S2F Trackers of VS-32 "Norsemen" fly by an iceberg during Tarawa's August–September 1958 cruise to the South Atlantic.

Allyn Howard comments: "I was an Aircrewman abord one of the S2F's [in this photo]. We were going out on a routine flight and we were directed to fly by the iceberg for pictures. [...] The iceberg was a beautiful blue green color [...]" Tarawa herself can barely be seen in the left background.

Allyn Howard, VS-32 & VS-22, 1957–1960
CVS-40 Tarawa

A glimpse of everyday life aboard USS Tarawa (CVS-40), and Pollywog Initiation, written by a then (1958) 24-year old sailor with no writing experience.

James humorously comments: "I'm fully aware of the poor spelling and melodrama accompanying this, but chose not to re-write it for historical reasons (if that's appropriate)."

James R. "Jeff" Giles,
VS-32, June '56–Dec. '59
AVT-12 Tarawa

USS Hake (AGSS-256) tied up pierside at Philadelphia, May 1964. Note the aircraft carrier at the other side of the pier, which is most likely Tarawa, as she appears to be the only unmodified Essex berthed in Philadelphia at the time.

Photo courtesy of 1966–67 edition of Jane's Fighting Ships, courtesy of Dr. Ian S. Pearsall via Robert Hurst
CVS-40 Tarawa

USS Tarawa (CVS-40).

Mike Smolinski
CV-40 Tarawa

Mascot paw print and retirement.

Don Schroeder, USS Sangamon (CVE-26)

For more photos and information about this ship, see:

Read the USS TARAWA (CV-40 / CVA-40 / CVS-40 / AVT-12) DANFS History
Crew Contact and Reunion Information
Web site:  

Related Links
Hazegray & Underway World Aircraft Carrier Pages By Andrew Toppan.
Official U.S. Navy Carrier Website

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Last update: 3 December 2017