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The issue is not war and peace, rather, how best to preserve our freedom.

-- General Russell E. Dougherty

USS Bennington (CV-20, later CVA-20 and CVS-20), 1944-1993

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USS Bennington, a 27,100-ton Essex class aircraft carrier built at the New York Navy Yard, was commissioned in August 1944. After shakedown training, she passed through the Panama Canal in December 1944 and arrived in the western Pacific in early February 1945. Her first combat operation took place in that month, when she participated in Task Force 58's raids on the Japanese home islands. Bennington also supported the invasion of Iwo Jima in February, hit the enemy home islands again in March and pounded the Ryukyus until Okinawa was secured in June. In April, her planes took part in the sinking of the huge Japanese battleship Yamato. The carrier suffered damage to her flight deck while steaming through a typhoon in early June. For the last two months of the Pacific War, Bennington joined in more attacks on Japan. She returned to the United States in October 1945 and, after limited operations in the west coast and Hawaiian areas, went to the U.S. east coast in April 1946 and decommissioned there later in the year.

In October 1950, Bennington was brought out of "mothballs" to receive a SCB-27A modernization. When recommissioned in November 1952, she was much more able to handle modern high-performance aircraft and had been redesignated CVA-20. For the next two years, she operated in the Atlantic and made a Mediterranean deployment in October 1953 - February 1954. She also suffered two major accidents: a boiler room explosion in April 1953 and a terrible hydraulic catapult explosion and fire on 26 May 1954. After the latter tragedy, which cost the lives of 103 officers and men, she entered the shipyard for further modernization, which gave her an angled flight deck and enclosed bow.

Bennington transferred to the Pacific in October 1955, and thereafter frequently operated with the Seventh Fleet in Asiatic waters. In June 1959, she became an anti-submarine warfare support aircraft carrier with the new designation CVS-20. She was in the Far East during the 1960-61 Laotian Crisis, guarding the fleet against the possibility of hostile submarine involvement, and also 1964 as the fighting in Vietnam intensified. After United States' forces became actively involved in the conflict, Bennington had three tours of duty off Southeast Asia, in 1965, 1966-67 and 1968. She decommissioned in January 1970 and entered the Reserve Fleet at Bremerton, Washington. Nearly two decades later, USS Bennington was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register. She was sold in September 1993 and subsequently towed across the Pacific Ocean to be scrapped in India.

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