THE NEWPORT NEWS SHIPBUILDING AND DRY DOCK CO.
NEWPORT NEWS VIRGINIA U.S.A.
KEEL LAID 10 JULY 1944
LAUNCHED 2 APRIL 1946
COMMISSIONED 1 OCTOBER 1947
NAMED IN COMMEMERATION OF THE
HISTORIC BATTLE OF THE
FOUGHT MAY 1942
(Our Hull No. 440)
Shortly after dawn on Wednesday, October 1, 1947, the latest of fifteen huge aircraft carriers constructed in our plant backed slowly away from her outfitting pier to start on her journey to become part of the United States Navy. The Coral Sea, completing this country's trio of the world's largest warships, was beginning her great adventure, one which we hope will be for the preservation of peace.
Because of the early hour, few of our personnel were on hand to bid their latest creation bon voyage. Such was not the case aboard Coral Sea however; her hangar deck was humming with activity and heads were popped out in all directions to watch the movement of the tugs and the crews of riggers releasing the vessel from the pier. Below decks, the Yard's operating crew in the engine and boiler rooms had been at work many hours preparing the giant vessel to move under her own power for the first time.
As the lines were let go, the ship eased away from the pier so slowly that her motion was barely discernible on board. After she was well out in the stream, two Navy tugs pushed against the carriers port bow to assist in swinging the ship around to head downstream towards Hampton Roads. A cold raw wind was blowing across the choppy water and the sun was not yet old enough to lend comfort to watchers on the ship's decks.
Preceded by a small convoy led by a Coast Guard cutter, the Coral Sea moved past the Casino Grounds and the Chesapeake and Ohio piers. There were only a few people on the shores to witness the event and no salutes from other vessels in the harbor were rendered.
As the ship passed the Navy base, signal lights flashed a message of congratulations on the carrier's commissioning which was accompanied with wishes for the best of luck. The members of the signal crew of the Coral Sea were on the Flag Bridge to answer this and other signals as she passed Sewell's Point, Craney Island, Hospital Point and up the busy Elizabeth River
One standing on the carrier's Flag Bridge could look down on the streets and housetops of Norf6lk and Portsmouth as if standing on their tallest buildings.
With some aid from the tugs in navigating the sharp bends in the Elizabeth River, the Coral Sea reached her berth in the Norfolk Naval Shipyard at 9:30 a.m. and was secured to the pier some minutes later. Berthed just aft was the battleship Massachusetts, a part of our active reserve fleet. Off in the distance in the Navy Yard could be seen two big stacks bearing the numbers 41 and 42; these were on the Midway (Our Hull No. 439) and the Franklin D. Roosevelt, sister ship of Coral Sea.
Activity on the hangar deck had now increased in proportion for the' commissioning. Sweepers had "manned the brooms" to remove almost nonexistent dirt. The flight deck exhibits were being completed by the assembling of small plane models. For inspection by the commissioning guests on the hangar deck were two of the actual planes to be used by the air personnel of the ship and also a plastic model of the Coral Sea itself. One of the planes was a Corsair F4U Navy fighter and the other, a dive bomber Douglas Skyraider (AD-1). Both were fully armed and appeared ready for action.
Shortly before eleven o'clock sailors began to form along lines for "chow", which has to consist of turkey with all the trimmings. The personnel of the Yard were also guests of the Coral Sea for this advanced Thanksgiving feast.
The Flight Deck had now been prepared for the ceremony. Hundreds of chairs
had been placed in long rows. Radio people began to set up their microphones
for the four stations broadcasting the event.
By 1:30 P.M., the time set for the admission of visitors, a sizeable crowd had gathered at the foot of the ship's gangway. From then until commissioning time an almost continuous line of Army, Navy, and civilian dignitaries arrived. At 2:45 P.M. a nineteen-gun salute signaled the arrival of the Secretary of Navy John L. Sullivan. Several companies of marines and a Navy band were stationed along side to greet the Secretary in a colorful ceremony as he approached the gangway.
All was now in readiness for the commissioning exercises. The military personnel of the ship were at attention, and all of the seats were filled. The sun was shining, but a cool fall breeze still swept the Flight Deck so that an overcoat felt comfortable.
At 3:00 P.M. the commissioning ceremony began with Captain A.P. Storrs, III, USN, Prospective Commanding Officer of the Coral Sea, reported to Rear Admiral W. L. Ainsworth, Commandant of the Fifth Naval District, that all was in readiness for the ceremony.
The invocation was given by Chaplain J.S. Rankin. Rear Admiral Ainsworth then introduced Roger Williams, Chairman of the Executive Committee of our yard. During this introduction he paid tribute to the heads of our company and to the personnel for the ability to build such fine ships. He stated that no doubt that all officers and men of the Coral Sea are proud of the fact that the craft was built at Newport News. The Admiral citied our tremendous construction program during the past war and said, "The Navy takes pride in the Newport News Shipbuilding Company."
Roger Williams, before he delivered the Coral Sea, thanked Admiral Ainsworth for his kind remarks, saying, "We of the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company are very much touched by your praise. Thousands of men who had a part in building this and other ships for the United States Navy will appreciate it." He then added a touch of humor in delivering the vessel by remarking that upon coming aboard he had noted that the Coral Sea seemed to be so securely moored to the Navy Yard Pier and so completely surrounded by armed vessels of the United States Navy that it was certainly doubtful whether we could get the vessel back even if we so desired, "so here she is."
The ceremony continued as Admiral Ainsworth accepted the ship for the Navy, read the Commissioning Directive, and ordered the ship placed in commission. He then ordered "Sound Colors," the Marine Guard presented arms, and the band played the Star Spangled Banner; National Ensign and Commission Pennant were hoisted simultaneously. Honors were now rendered the Secretary of the Navy. The commission Pennant was lowered and the personal flag of the Secretary of the Navy was broken; the band sounded ruffles and flourishes for the Secretary.
Rear Admiral Ainsworth turned the ship over to its Prospective Commanding Officer, Captain A.P. Storrs, III, USN; Captain Storrs read his orders and accepted command of the Coral Sea. He then directed the Executive Officer, Commander P.K. Will, USN, to "Set the Watch." Captain Storrs reported to the Commandant that the USS Coral Sea was in commission.
Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid, USN, the senior naval officer present, was introduced by Rear Admiral Ainsworth. Admiral Kinkaid referred to the Battle of the Coral Sea as the major factor in turning back the Japanese from their attempt to invade Port Moresby. He said that he was present because he had a part in that famous battle and also because his wife, who was present at the commissioning, was the Sponsor of the vessel.
The Secretary of the Navy, John L. Sullivan, made the final address. He traced some of the early adversities of the fighting in the Pacific Theater and said that the Battle of the Coral Sea marked a turning point in naval warfare. From that time forward no one doubted the importance to America of its Navy planes and carriers. Aviation was recognized as the striking power of the fleet. That was the naval lesson of the Coral Sea. As he spoke, over one hundred planes of the Coral Sea roared overhead as if to emphasize the words of the Secretary as to their importance.
Continuing, Secretary Sullivan perhaps like the carriers at Coral Sea this ship may be called upon to hold the line while the nation musters its power for war. Every American hopes that such a situation will never develop. We are confident that this vessel will help to preserve the peace, because she will demonstrate the determination of the United States to resist aggression.
During his address the Secretary named several of the participants in the Battle of the Coral Sea who were present for the commissioning.
Concluding the program, Captain Storrs introduced some of the many distinguished guests present and delivered a brief address to his crew. Captain H.W. Howe gave the benediction.
After the ceremony guests descended by way of the forward elevator to the Hanger
Deck. Here ice cream, cake and lemonade were served. Perhaps never again in
the life of the Coral Sea will such a colorful scene be repeated on shipboard.
From the Newport News 1947 Shipyard Bulletin: