Your guide to the 5 aircraft carrier museums in the United States

There are five aircraft carrier museums in the United States on the west and east coasts and all have seen combat.

The United States is home to five impressive WWII-era aircraft carrier museums. Unfortunately, after the Navy’s decision to scrap the USS Kitty Hawk and USS John F. Kennedy last year, it’s unlikely there will be any new carrier museums for a very long time ( they were also super carriers and the last conventionally powered U.S. carriers). ).

Four of these aircraft carriers are Essex-class aircraft carriers (the United States built 24 of these aircraft carriers during the war). The fifth is a Midway-class aircraft carrier built towards the end of the war. They are scattered across the country in New York, South Carolina, Texas, and California (California has two).


USS Yorktown CV-10

USS Yorktown is an Essex-class aircraft carrier built during World War II. Named after the Battle of Yorktown during the American Revolutionary War and named after the former aircraft carrier USS Yorktown CV-5. The USS Yorktown CV-5 had fought in the Battle of the Coral Sea and then in the Battle of Midway where it met its end.

  • Commissioned: april 1943
  • Campaigns: Pacific War, Korean War, Vietnam War
  • Disused: 1970
  • Shift: 27,000+ tons (1943) 30,000+ tons (1956)

She was decommissioned shortly after the war, but reactivated and served in the Korean War. Eventually, she became an anti-submarine carrier and served in the Vietnam War (and earned another 5 battle stars).


Towards the end of her career, she served as a recovery ship for the Apollo 8 space mission and started in film Torah! Torah! Torah! and the movie The Philadelphia Experience.

In 1975, she became a museum ship in South Carolina and is a National Historic Landmark.

The USS Hornet CV-12

The USS Hornet is also an Essex-class aircraft carrier that was built for World War II. She was completed in 1943 and assigned to the Fast Carrier Task Force. She saw action in 1944, attacking Japanese installations in New Guinea, Palau and Truk, among other places. One of the biggest attractions for divers today is to see the Japanese fleet sunk in Truk (Chuuk) Lagoon.


Later, she participated in the Mariana Islands and Palau Campaign as well as the “Great Marianas Turkey Shoot” which was the Battle of the Philippine Sea.

Like other ships, it participated in the Korean War (it had to be removed from reserve) and was modernized as an anti-submarine aircraft carrier. She played a minor role in the Vietnam War and also participated in the Apollo program.

  • Commissioned: 1943
  • Campaigns: Pacific War, Korean War, Vietnam War
  • Disused: 1970
  • Shift: 27,000+ tons (1943)

Today it is a museum in Alameda, California (open since 1998) and it is also a National Historic Landmark. Admission is $20.00 for adults.


Related: Japan’s Truk Lagoon is home to an extraordinary number of wartime shipwrecks still visible today

USS Intrepid CV-11

It is another of only four surviving Essex-class aircraft carriers today (unfortunately the very iconic USS Enterprise was scrapped just after the war). She was also commissioned in August 1943 and saw action in the Pacific War against Japan – notably the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

Like many Essex-class aircraft carriers (there were so many after the war you could have tripped over them), she was decommissioned. But later she was modernized and reactivated and continued to participate in the Vietnam War and was also involved in the space program.


Her bad luck earned her the nicknames “Decrepit” and “the Dry I” – she was raised by four separate Japanese kamikaze planes.

  • Commissioned: 1943
  • Campaigns: Pacific War, Vietnam War
  • Disused: 1974
  • Shift: 27,000+ tons (1943)

The USS Intrepid is now part of the famous NYC USS Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

USS Lexington CV-16

The fourth surviving Essex-class carrier, she also saw action in the Pacific War. She was nicknamed “The Blue Ghost”. She was named after the loss of America’s first aircraft carrier – the USS Lexington CV-2 in the Battle of the Coral Sea. They are named in honor of the Battle of Lexington.

  • Commissioned: 1943
  • Campaigns: Pacific War
  • Disused: 1991
  • Shift: 27,000+ tons (1943)

Since 1992, she has been a museum and is moored in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Related: America’s Most Interesting and Historic Naval Museum Ships, and How to Visit Them

USS Midway CV-41

The USS Midway is the only museum carrier that is not an Essex-class carrier. She was the lead ship of her class and was commissioned just 8 days after the end of World War II.

She remained the largest ship in the world for a decade until 1955. In her day she saw action in Vietnam and participated in Operation Desert Storm in Iraq, but was decommissioned shortly afterwards in 1992.

  • Commissioned: 1943
  • Campaigns: Vietnam War, Operation Desert Storm
  • Disused: 1992
  • Shift: 45,000+ tons (1945)

Today it is a museum ship in San Diego, California.

Next: How to make the most of a historic visit to the Pearl Harbor Museum and Memorial

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