The fourth Essex (CV-9) was launched 31 July 1942 by Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co. and commissioned 31 December 1942 with Captain D. B. Duncan as the commanding officer. She was reclassified (CVA-9) on 1 October 1952, and (CVS-9) on 8 March 1960.
Following her shakedown cruise USS Essex sailed to the Pacific in May 1943 to begin a succession of victories which would bring her to Tokyo Bay. USS Essex participated with TF 15 in carrier operations against Marcus Island in August 1943; was designated flagship of TF 14 and struck Wake Island in October; launched an attack with TG 50.3 against the Gilbert Islands where she also took part in her first amphibious assault, the landing on Tarawa in November 1943. Essex cruised as flagship of TG 50.3 to attack Kwajalein in December and participated in her second amphibious assault with TG 58.2 against the Marshalls in January 1943 until February 1944.
Essex was in TG 58.2 as it joined with TG 58.1 and 58.3 to constitute the most formidable carrier striking force to date. They launched an attack against Truk in February 1944 during which eight Japanese ships were sunk. En route to the Marianas to sever Japanese supply lines, the carrier force was detected and attacked by Japanese aircraft. The carrier force fought off the attack and continued with the scheduled attack upon Saipan, Tinian and Guam.
After this operation Essex joined carriers Wasp (CV-18) and San Jacinto (CVL-30) in TG 12.1 to strike Marcus Island and Wake in May 1944. She then deployed with TF 58 to support the occupation of the Marianas in June through August; sortied with TG 38.3 to attack the Palau Islands and Mindanao in September and remained in the area to support landings on Peleliu. In October she weathered a typhoon and four days later departed with TF 38 for the Ryukyus.
For the remainder of 1944 Essex continued her frontline action. In October she participated in strikes against Okinawa and Formosa, covered the Leyte landings and took part in the battle for Leyte Gulf, and continued the search for enemy fleet units until she returned to Ulithi, Caroline Islands, for replenishment. She then delivered attacks on Manila and the northern Philippine Islands during November. On 25 November a kamikaze hit the port edge of her flight deck landing among planes gassed for takeoff, causing extensive damage, killing 15, and wounding 44.
Following quick repairs Essex joined with the 3rd Fleet off Luzon supporting the occupation of Mindoro in December 1944. With TG 38.3 in January 1945 Essex participated in the Lingayen Gulf operations, launched strikes against Formosa, Sakishima, Okinawa, and Luzon, entered the South China Sea in search of enemy surface forces and conducted strikes on Formosa, the China coast, Hainan, and Hong Kong. Essex struck again at Formosa, Miyakp Shima and Okinawa.
During the remainder of the war she operated with TF 58 which conducted attacks against the Tokyo area in February. She also supported missions against Iwo Jima and neighboring islands, but in May was employed primarily to support the conquest of Okinawa. In the closing days of the war, Essex took part in the final telling raids against the Japanese home islands. Following the surrender, she continued defensive combat air patrols until 3 September when she was ordered to Bremerton, Wash., for inactivation. On 9 January 1947 she was placed out of commission in reserve.
Essex was modernized with a new flight deck and a streamlined island superstructure on 15 January 1951 and recommissioned with Captain A. W. Wheelock as the commanding officer.
After a brief cruise in Hawaiian waters USS Essex began the first of three tours in Far Eastern waters during the Korean War. She served as flagship for Carrier Division 1 and TF 77. Essex was outfitted and reclassified (CVA-9) on 1 October 1952. She was the first carrier to launch F2H "Banshee" twin-jet fighters on combat missions. Essex launched strikes up to the Yalu River and provided close air support for U.N. troops.
In December 1953 she started her final tour of the war, sailing the China Sea with the Peace Patrol. From November 1954 to June 1955 she engaged in training exercises, operated for 3 months with the 7th Fleet, assisted in the Tachen Islands evacuation, and engaged in air operations and fleet maneuvers off Okinawa.
In July 1955 Essex entered Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for repairs and extensive alterations, including installation of an angled flight deck. She rejoined the Pacific Fleet in March 1956. For the next fourteen months the carrier operated off the west coast. Ordered to join the Atlantic Fleet for the first time in her long career, she sailed from San Diego to in Mayport, FL August 1957.
In the fall of 1957 Essex participated as an antisubmarine carrier in the NATO exercises, "Strike Back," and in February 1958 deployed with the 6th Fleet until May when she shifted to the eastern Mediterranean. Alerted to the Middle East crisis on 14 July 1958 she sped to support the U.S. Peace Force landing in Beirut, Lebanon, launching reconnaissance and patrol missions until August. Once again she was ordered to proceed to Asian waters, and transited the Suez Canal to arrive in the Taiwan operational area where she joined TF 77 in conducting flight operations before rounding the Horn and proceeding back to Mayport.
Essex joined with the 2d Fleet and British ships in Atlantic exercises and with NATO forces in the eastern Mediterranean during the fall of 1959. In December she aided victims of a disastrous flood at Frejus, France.
In the spring of 1960 she was converted into an ASW Support Carrier (CVS-9) and was thereafter homeported at Quonset Point, R.I. Since that time she operated as flagship of Carrier Division 18 and Antisubmarine Carrier Group Three. She conducted rescue and salvage operations off the New Jersey coast for a downed blimp; cruised with midshipmen, and was deployed on NATO and CENTO exercises that took her through the Suez Canal into the Indian Ocean. She also was designated as the recovery carrier for some of the Apollo space flights, recovering Apollo 7's crew on 22 October 1968. She was decommissioned 30 June 1969, struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 June 1973 and sold for scrap in 1975.
Essex received the Presidential Unit Citation, and 13 battle stars for World War II service; 4 battle stars and the Navy Unit Commendation for Korean War service.
For more detailed history on the fourth USS Essex visit the Navy Archive page at http://www.history.navy.mil/danfs/e5/essex-iv.htm.