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Monday, August 09, 2010 - 12:02 PM UTC
Getting back on track we tackle two Navies with this one, Wasp.

There are several different meanings of the word, but the ships were named for the insect. A wasp is typically defined as any insect of the order Hymenoptera and the suborder Apocrita. They can be either a bee or an ant. Nearly all pest insects has one or more wasp species that preys on it or is parasitic toward it. As much as most people dislike wasps they are critical to natural pest control. Parasitic wasp species are used in agriculture as pest control.

There are well over 100,000 species of wasps world wide. Of these a majority are parasitic. The primary form of parasitism involves laying their eggs directly on the body of the host. Again most species of wasps have a venomous stringer. However there are a few which do not, these belong to the suborder Symphyta. Members of this order also have larvae that are herbivorous and caterpillar like.

Another smaller portion of the wasp group is the family Vespidae. This family includes the common yellow jacket and hornet. Many members of the wasp family are mistaken for bees.

Wasps have the following set of characteristics, two sets of wings, an ovipositor(stinger), few or no hairs, mainly terrestrial, and they are predators or parasitoids. So, how has the biology lesson been? Now take a moment to look over the wasp. It is a predator which mainly lives on land. Any of us who are fool hardy enough to disturb a nest know they can be viscous. So if you remember a few of the sea borne wasps you will recall they were basically the same. Strong ships with a fatal sting to those who messed with them.

The ships to be named for these small deadly predators include 11 from the Royal Navy and 10 belonging to the US Navy. Something I found interesting about these 21 sea going wasps is that many were exactly what you might think a ship named wasp would be, small, fast, and packing a punch.

The Royal Navy named small ships wasp. In 1749 an eight gun sloop was launched. She served until being sold in 1781. 1780 saw a 16 gun sloop launched. She was used as a fire ship in 1798 and officially expended in 1800. In 1782 a 16 gun French cutter named Espion was captured and named HMS Wasp. She was sold in 1784. A small 4 gun vessel was purchased from the Dutch in 1794. She was sold in 1801.

Another French ship was captured in 1800 and renamed HMS Wasp. Her French name was Guepe. After joining the Royal Navy she spent her time in and out of service. Most of her time was spent in the West Indies hunting down pirates and even a British ship taken over by mutineers. She also spent some time in the Mediterranean and patrolling with the British squadron off Cadiz. She returned the England in May of 1809 and was sold in 1811.

The next Wasp was an 18 gun Cruizer class brig-sloop. She saw service during the war of 1812 and was broken up in 1847. Three years later the next Wasp was launched. She was an Archer class wooden screw sloop. She served until 1869 when she was sold. In 1880 a Banterer class composite screw gunboat was named Wasp. She served for 4 years before being wrecked in 1884. In 1886 a Bramble class composite screw gunboat carried the name Wasp until she foundered in 1887 after leaving Singapore.

Torpedo Boat 191 was a second class spar torpedo boat built in 1884. She was called wasp by the builders. However during her career she was only called 191. In World war II Costal Forces named one of their forts in Dover HMS Wasp.

Moving to the US Navy the first Wasp was originally a merchant ship named Scorpion. She was purchased in 1775 for the Continental Navy. She ran aground in 1777 and was burnt.

In 1807 a schooner was built and named Wasp. She operated along the US coast during her early career. She was captured by the British during the War of 1812 and renamed HMS Peacock. She sunk off the Virginia Capes in 1813. Prior to being captured Wasp hunted down a small convoy of 6 merchant ship protected by HMS Frolic. After a short battle Frolic was captured. However a 74 gun ship of the line appeared and captured Wasp. In an interesting twist of fate Wasp was renamed for a British ship that was captured by USS Hornet.

In 1810 a schooner was built and named wasp. She only served in the Navy for two years before being sold in 1812. She spent the next couple of years as a privateer and was sold in 1814. During the war of 1812 the 4th wasp served on Lake Champlain. She was used mostly during the summer of 1813 and later returned to her original owners.

In 1814 the next wasp had a short but successful career. She carried out two raids against British merchant shipping. She fought and defeated three British warships. She also captured 12 different British Merchant ships, all of this from June to September 1814. She was lost with all hands sometime in the fall of 1814.

Jumping up to 1865 then next Wasp was a captured Confederate iron hulled sidewheel steam ship. She was originally known as the CSS Emma Henry. After the end of the war she spent most of her time in South American waters providing transport for US diplomats and other US officials. In 1876 she was found unfit for further duty and sold for scrap.

1898 saw the Navy commission a new training ship. As in other Wasps this ship had a different original name, Columbia. Her first commanding officer was a young Lieutenant Aaron Ward. During the Spanish American War she patrolled the coast of Cuba near Guantanamo Bay and even took part in sinking the Spanish sloop Jorge Juan. After the war she returned to Norfolk where she was laid up until being converted into training and recruiting ship. During World War I she did patrol off the coast of Long Island before returning to Annapolis. In 1919 she was decommissioned and sold for scrap in 1921.

In 1936 Wasp finally sprouted wings in the form of an aircraft carrier. USS Wasp CV7 would serve the Navy from 1940 until 1042. Because of limitations in warship tonnage the US had extra tonnage for a carrier so Wasp was built on a smaller version of the Yorktown hull. In order to get the most out of the new carrier she was built with no armor, smaller engines than previous carriers, and no torpedo protection. She was the first carrier to have elevators built on the edges of her flight deck. She spent the beginning days of World War II in the Atlantic before being transferred to the Pacific. She then took part in the invasion of Guadalcanal. The design short cuts in Wasp ended up being her down fall. She took 3 torpedoes from the Japanese submarine I-19 and sank 7 hours later. After her loss on USS Hornet remained the sole carrier for the US Navy. But, since Hornet is a species of wasp she stepped up and took care of business.

The next Wasp, CV-18, was actually laid down in March of 1942. Her name was changed to Wasp in early 1943. During World War II she took part in many operations for the US Navy in the PTO. After the war she was decommissioned like many other US Navy ships only to be reactivated and modernized in the early 1950’s. She remained in service until 1972 as an attack carrier and ASW carrier. The spent the remainder of her carrier in the Atlantic. Wasp was recovery ship for Gemini VI, VII, and IX. After she was decommissioned she was sold for scrap in 1973.

USS Wasp LHD-1 is the current edition of wasp in the US Navy. She is the lead ship in her class of amphibious assault ship. She was commissioned in 1989 and is currently home ported in Norfolk Va. She was the first ship to carry the V22 Osprey for the US Marines. Wasp carries 2200 Marines as well as multiple type of aircraft and landing craft. She has been active during her current life time taking part in operations including Operation restore Hope off Somalia in 1993, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Wasps are a pest, but a necessary pest. When confronted on your front porch you either leave them alone or try to remove them. People have applied names to ships they felt served a purpose. Wasp is a small animal with a big bite. The original sailing ships were small, fast, and packed a punch. Today’s wasp carriers just about as mean as its namesake, US Marines.

Images from Wikipedia, NAVSOURCE, and Navy Historic Society.

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Interesting - good read, thanks. Wonder if there ever will be a ship called BumbleBee.... Cheers/Jan
AUG 09, 2010 - 10:40 PM
Shame the USN has gone 'political" with their ship names... I love the old namesakes... another good read, cheers
SEP 08, 2010 - 09:54 AM

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