36,000 tons (standard)
On December 15, she arrived at Pearl Harbor, stopping only long enough to refuel. She then rendezvoused with USS Tangier, which had troops and supplies aboard, while Lexington and Enterprise provided distant cover for the operation. However, the Saratoga force was delayed on December 21 by the low speed of their oilier and a decision to refuel their destroyers. After receiving reports of Japanese carrier aircraft over Wake Island and the Japanese landing, the relief force was recalled on December 22 and Wake fell the next day.
Afterwards, Saratoga continued operations in the Hawaiian region. On January 11, 1942 heading towards a rendezvous with USS Enterprise 500 miles south-west of Oahu, she was hit without warning by a deep-running torpedo fired by Japanese submarine I-6. Although six men were killed and three fire rooms flooded, the carrier reached Oahu under her own power. Her 8-inch guns, were removed for installation of inshore defenses, and the carrier proceeded to the Bremerton Navy Yard for permanent repairs and installation of a modern anti-aircraft battery.
Saratoga departed Bremerton on May 22 bound for San Diego, arriving May 25. While trraining her air group, intelligence was received of an impending Japanese assault on Midway. Due to the need to load planes and stores and to collect escorts, the carrier was unable to sail until June 1 and arrived at Pearl Harbor on June 6, after the Battle of Midway had ended.
Departed Pearl Harbor on 7 June after fueling and, on June 11, transferred thirty-four aircraft to USS Hornet to replenish their depleted air groups. The carriers turned northward to counter Japanese activity reported in the Aleutians, but the operation was canceled and instead Saratoga returned to Pearl Harbor on June 13.
Between 22 June and 29 June, Saratoga ferried Marine and Army aircraft to Midway. On July 7, she sailed for the South Pacific, and from July 28 to July 30, provided air cover for landing rehearsals in Fiji.
A Japanese transport force was detected on August 23 and Saratoga launched an air strike, but her planes were unable to find the enemy, and instead landed at Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. As they were returning the next day, the first contact report on enemy carriers was received. Two hours later, Saratoga launched an air strike that sank Ryojo. Later in the afternoon, as an enemy strike was detected and Saratoga hastily launched the aircraft on her deck, and these found and damaged seaplane tender Chitose. Meanwhile, due to cloud cover, Saratoga escaped detection by Japanese aircraft, which damaged Enterprise. The American force fought back fiercely and weakened enemy air strength severely and the Japanese recalled their transports before they reached Guadalcanal.
After landing her returning aircraft at night on 24 August, Saratoga refueled on the 25th and resumed her patrols east of the Solomons. A week later, a destroyer reported torpedo wakes heading toward the carrier, but the 888' flattop could not turn quickly enough. A minute later, a torpedo from B1 type Japanese submarine I-26 slammed into the blister on her starboard side. The torpedo killed no one and only flooded one fireroom, but the impact caused short circuits which damaged Saratoga's turbo-electric propulsion system and left her dead in the water. Cruiser Minneapolis took the carrier under tow while she flew her aircraft off to shore bases. By early afternoon, Saratoga's engineers had improvised a circuit out of the burned wreckage of her main control board and had given her a speed of 10 knots (19 km/h). After repairs at Tongatabu from 6 September to 12 September, escorted by the cruiser New Orleans, Saratoga arrived at Pearl Harbor on 21 September for permanent repairs.
Saratoga sailed from Pearl Harbor on 10 November 1942, and proceeded via Fiji to Nouméa, which she reached on 5 December 1942. She operated in the vicinity of Nouméa for the next twelve months, providing air cover for minor operations and protecting American forces in the Eastern Solomons. Between 17 May and 31 July 1943, she was reinforced by the British carrier, HMS Victorious, and on 20 October, she was joined by USS Princeton (CVL-23).
November 1943 Raids on Bougainville and Rabaul
On November 5, 1943 in response to reports of Japanese cruisers concentrating at Rabaul, Saratoga aircraft penetrated the heavily defended port and disabled most of the Japanese cruisers, ending the surface threat to Bougainville. Saratoga herself escaped unscathed. Lost were SBD 28404, F6F 26117, TBF 24401.
On November 11, lanuched an attack against Rabaul. Lost were TBF 23973, TBF 24422, TBF 06127, TBF 06117, SBD 10923, Also, radioman ARM2 James M. Claycomb was KIA and 2 radiomen WIA (Alva J. Parker ARM2 & Forest B. Webb ARM2).
USS Saratoga and USS Princeton were then designated the Relief Carrier Group for the offensive in the Gilberts, and after striking Nauru Airfield on 19 November, they rendezvoused on 23 November with the transports carrying garrison troops to Makin and Tarawa. The carriers provided air cover until the transports reached their destinations and then maintained air patrols over Tarawa. By this time, Saratoga had steamed over a year without repairs, and she was detached on 30 November to return to the United States. She underwent overhaul at San Francisco from 9 December 1943 to 3 January 1944, and had her antiaircraft battery augmented for the last time, receiving 60 x 40mm guns in place of 36 x 20mm guns.
The carrier arrived at Pearl Harbor on 7 January, and after a brief period of training, sailed from Pearl Harbor on 19 January with light carriers, Langley and Princeton, to support the drive in the Marshalls. Her aircraft struck Wotje and Taroa for three days, from 29 January to 31 January, and then pounded Engebi, the main island at Eniwetok, the 3rd to the 6th and from the 10th to the 12th of February. Her planes delivered final blows to Japanese defenses on the 16th, the day before the landings, and provided close air support and CAP over the island until 28 February.
Saratoga then took leave of the main theaters of the Pacific war for almost a year to carry out important but less spectacular assignments elsewhere. Her first task was to help the British initiate their carrier offensive in the Far East. On 4 March, Saratoga departed Majuro with an escort of three destroyers, and sailed via Espiritu Santo; Hobart, Tasmania; and Fremantle, Australia, to join the British Eastern Fleet in the Indian Ocean. She rendezvoused at sea on 27 March with the British force, composed of carrier HMS Illustrious, HMS Renown (flagship of Vice-Admiral second-in-command Eastern Fleet), HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Valiant with escorts, and arrived with them at Trincomalee, Ceylon, on 31 March. On 12 April, the French battleship Richelieu arrived, adding to the international flavor of the force, which also included warships from Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands. During the next two days, the carriers conducted intensive training at sea during which Saratoga's fliers tried to impart some of their experience to the British pilots.
On 16 April, the Eastern Fleet, with Saratoga, sailed from Trincomalee, and on the 19th, the aircraft from the two carriers struck the port of Sabang off the northwest tip of Sumatra (Operation Cockpit). The Japanese were caught by surprise by the new offensive ("caught with their kimonos up"), and much damage was done to port facilities and oil reserves, with minimal losses. The raid was so successful that Saratoga delayed her departure in order to carry out a second. Sailing again from Ceylon on 6 May, the force struck at Soerabaja, Java, on 17 May with equally successful results. Saratoga was detached the following day, and passed down the columns of the Eastern Fleet as the Allied ships rendered honors to and cheered each other.
Saratoga arrived at Bremerton, Washington, on 10 June 1944, for overhaul. On 24 September, she arrived at Pearl Harbor and commenced her second special assignment, training night fighter squadrons. Saratoga had experimented with night flying as early as 1931, and many carriers had been forced to land returning aircraft at night during the war, but only in August 1944 did a carrier, Independence, receive an air group specially equipped to operate at night. At the same time, Carrier Division 11, composed of Saratoga and Ranger, was commissioned at Pearl Harbor to train night pilots and develop night flying doctrine. Saratoga continued this important training duty for almost four months, but as early as October, her division commander was warned that "while employed primarily for training, Saratoga is of great value for combat and is to be kept potentially available for combat duty." The call came in January 1945. Light carriers like Independence had proved too small for safe night operations, and Saratoga was rushed out of Pearl Harbor on 29 January 1945, to form a night fighter task group with Enterprise for the Iwo Jima operation.
Saratoga arrived at Ulithi on 7 February and sailed three days later with Enterprise and four other carrier task groups. After landing rehearsals with Marines at Tinian on 12 February, the carrier force carried out diversionary strikes on the Japanese home islands on the nights of 16 February and 17 February, before the landings on Iwo Jima.
Saratoga was assigned to provide fighter cover while the remaining carriers launched the strikes on Japan, but in the process, her fighters raided two Japanese airfields. The force fueled on 18 February and 19 February, and on 21 February, Saratoga was detached with an escort of three destroyers to join the amphibious forces and carry out night patrols over Iwo Jima and night heckler missions over nearby Chi-chi Jima.
However, as she approached her operating area at 17:00 on the 21st, an air attack developed, and taking advantage of low cloud cover and Saratoga's insufficient escort, six Japanese planes scored five hits on the carrier in three minutes. Saratoga's flight deck forward was wrecked, her starboard side was holed twice and large fires were started in her hangar deck, while she lost 123 of her crew dead or missing. Another attack at 19:00 scored an additional bomb hit. By 20:15, the fires were under control, and the carrier was able to recover aircraft, but she was ordered to Eniwetok and then to the West Coast for repairs, arriving at Bremerton on 16 March.
On 22 May, Saratoga departed Puget Sound fully repaired, and she resumed training pilots at Pearl Harbor on 3 June. She ceased training duty on 6 September after the Japanese surrender.
Assigned to Operation Crossroads at Bikini Atoll to test the effect of the atomic bomb on naval vessels. She survived Test ABLE an air burst on July 1, 1946, with only minor damage.