Famous American Ships That Sank in World War II

During World War II, the United States faced significant challenges against formidable foes at sea. While American battleships, carriers, cruisers, and destroyers played a pivotal role overcoming the Axis powers, many vessels faced tragic fates, succumbing to enemy forces and sinking into the ocean’s depths. This article looks into the most notable American ship losses from WWII.

To identify the major American ships sunk during World War II, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed Allied War Losses compiled by Uboat.net, an online database of ships sunk during the two world wars. Only the largest U.S. Navy ships – battleships, heavy cruisers, anti-aircraft cruisers, and aircraft carriers – that were sunk in WWII are included, ordered by when they were sunk. Supplemental information about the type and class of these ships, where they were sunk, and when they were originally launched from, also came from Uboat.net.

The infamous date of December 7, 1941, marked one of the most catastrophic naval assaults in U.S. history – the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, forever etched in memory. This surprise offensive led to the sinking of several American battleships, including the USS Arizona (BB-39) and the USS Oklahoma (BB-37). (Also see, the most mass produced U.S. naval ships in WWII.)

Another significant battleship lost was the USS Indianapolis (CA-35). This cruiser of the Portland class was en route to Guam after a covert mission delivering atomic bomb components to Tinian Island. Struck by torpedoes from Japanese submarine I-58, the USS Indianapolis sank in the Philippine Sea within 12 minutes. Out of its crew of 1,196, only 316 survived, with many perishing due to injuries, dehydration, and shark attacks. (A battle with Japan during WWII was the largest in U.S. naval history.)

All the ships on this roster met their fate in the Pacific Theater, with the timeline stretching from the outset at Pearl Harbor to the final incidents in the Philippine Sea. Notably, some ships were considerably older than others. While a handful had been launched prior to World War I, others had just entered service a year before WWII’s end.

These sunken vessels stand as poignant reminders of one of the most monumental naval conflicts in history. Here is a look at the major American ships sunk during WWII.

Click here to see the American battleships sunk during WWII.

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