By Frank Johnson Five years after Great Britain had launched HMS Argus, the world’s first aircraft carrier, in 1917, and following the signing of the Washington Naval Treaty on February 6, 1922, the U.S. Navy Department ordered the conversion of a fleet collier, the 11,050-ton USS Jupiter. Commissioned in 1913, the collier had the Navy’s first turbo-electric powerplant, was the first American naval vessel to transit the Panama Canal in October 1914, and ferried a naval aviation unit to France in June 1917. Now, the Jupiter was designated to become the carrier USS Langley (CV-1), named for Samuel Pierpoint Langley, the famous 19th-century astronomer, physicist, and aviation pioneer. While the collier was being converted at the Norfolk Navy Yard in Virginia through the spring and summer of 1922, Lt. Cmdr. Godfrey de Courcelles “Chevy” Chevalier led 15 pilots in flight training to operate from the Langley. They made touch-and-go landings on a 100-foot wooden platform laid on a coal barge. At the same time, Navy pilots trained on an 836-foot wooden flight deck at North Island, San Diego, California. Commissioned on March 20, 1922, the nation’s first carrier was designed to carry up to 34 airplanes—12 single-seater “chasing” planes, a dozen two-seater “spotters,” four “torpedo-dropping” aircraft, and six “80-knot torpedo seaplanes.” The vessel’s first skipper, Commander Kenneth Whiting, was assigned, and the conversion work was completed in Septemb


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