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Cold Warriors: The Essex Class in the Cold War

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Author's Note: This is a timeline that I've been working on that explores a different Cold War where the United States Navy is forced to maintain a larger carrier fleet, one that the Essex class continues to play a large role in. The first few posts won't focus on the class themselves, but are the set up for the changed circumstances of the Cold War. Comments and criticisms are always welcome. (Some of you may recognize the premise of this TL from a thread that I started back on AH.com. If you enjoyed that discussion, I hope you enjoy seeing the fruits of it as well.)

April 10, 1957
Jakarta, Indonesia


Indonesian President Sukarno wadded up the message that had been sent to him from his ambassador to the United Nations and angrily threw it across the room. Within the neatly typed pages was the latest response from The Netherlands in regard to the sovereignty of West Irian. The Dutch were still refusing to budge on the issue. Like all such messages between countries, the document before him was phrased politely and diplomatically, but the message was the same: That they could all go to hell. The Dutch had not changed their negotiating position in regard to West Irian a dot in seven years. Indonesia had tried everything. Direct talks between the two nations and talks through the auspices of the United Nations. Both had now failed. And the United Nations was actually proving to be even worse than useless. Not one country in the West was willing to even remotely back them. The United States had initially made some vague noises about sympathizing with their position and he originally had some hope that perhaps the United States could serve as an arbiter, but in the end, nothing had come of it. The only support they had received that was worth a damn had been from the Soviets and the Chinese. While Israel had also voiced support for their position, they were not in a position themselves to do more than that.

The Chinese themselves couldn't offer much beyond moral support in the short term either. Though in the future their huge population base and potential for industry could be helpful. Especially if, as he now suspected it would, the disagreement with the Dutch boiled over into armed conflict.

And accepting aid from the Soviets came with it's own costs. He had to balance three competing interests within his own country. The military, the Islamists and the Communists. Show too much favor to one, and the others would revolt. Sometimes he felt like he was sitting in a house of cards and all it would take to knock the whole thing down would be a strong breeze. Unfortunately, the situation was fast reaching a tipping point.
 
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April 19, 1957
Jakarta, Indonesia


In a nationwide broadcast on Radio Rebuplik Indonesia, President Sukarno announces the nationalization of the Indonesian oil industry and the seizure of Dutch assets in Indonesian territory. In real terms, this meant the replacement of Bataafse Petroleum Maatschappij (BPM), a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell, Caltex and Stanvac, as the primary operator of Indonesia's oil fields and refineries with a new state owned company, Permina. The announcement by Indonesia came as a shock to Western intelligence agencies, though several analysts had warned that this was a distinct possibility over the last several months. These analysts were ignored as many such analysts are.

Though Western speculation was rampant that this move was in retaliation for the breakdown of negotiations over New Guinea, President Sukarno vigorously denied it. Proof of this denial seemed to be clear as BPM (acting for Royal Dutch Shell), Caltex and Stanvac were all allowed to retain minority stakes in the new state owned company. In truth, the minority stakes were attempts to retain the skilled engineers needed to keep the operation running efficiently.
 

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I will follow that closely. Very interesting. So the POD is kind of - "Konfrontasi goes hotter than OTL" ?
 

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I will follow that closely. Very interesting. So the POD is kind of - "Konfrontasi goes hotter than OTL" ?
One of them, yes. There are several different PODs in the early going that will alter the world enough to shift things where I want them
 

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I do hope you have plans for Bunker Hill and Franklin, having survived sheer destruction in late WWII only to be cleaned up and... send into mothballs for nearly two decades... and finally scrapped. OTL.
The RN and RAN just scream for them by 1960, you seem to have compatible PODs - and we have perfect OTL hindsight why it did not worked. If they are to be rebuild, unlike "in service and worn out Essex" their manpower requirements could be cut.
Having these two in RN service before or after CVA-01, sailing along Hermes and Eagle, and fighting in the Falklands, would be completely awesome.
 

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Plans for Bunker Hill and Franklin? Yes. Those plans? Weeeeelllllllll...
 

A Tentative Fleet Plan

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I do hope you have plans for Bunker Hill and Franklin, having survived sheer destruction in late WWII only to be cleaned up and... send into mothballs for nearly two decades... and finally scrapped. OTL.
The RN and RAN just scream for them by 1960, you seem to have compatible PODs - and we have perfect OTL hindsight why it did not worked. If they are to be rebuild, unlike "in service and worn out Essex" their manpower requirements could be cut.
Having these two in RN service before or after CVA-01, sailing along Hermes and Eagle, and fighting in the Falklands, would be completely awesome.
The RN did not, at any point want Essexes. If they wanted worn-out war-built ships, incapable of carrying new-generation aircraft, they had plenty already in service, built to RN standards, using equipment the Royal Navy was familiar with.
 
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Archibald

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I do hope you have plans for Bunker Hill and Franklin, having survived sheer destruction in late WWII only to be cleaned up and... send into mothballs for nearly two decades... and finally scrapped. OTL.
The RN and RAN just scream for them by 1960, you seem to have compatible PODs - and we have perfect OTL hindsight why it did not worked. If they are to be rebuild, unlike "in service and worn out Essex" their manpower requirements could be cut.
Having these two in RN service before or after CVA-01, sailing along Hermes and Eagle, and fighting in the Falklands, would be completely awesome.
The RN did not, at any point want Essences. If they wanted worn-out war-built ships, incapable of carrying new-generation aircraft, they had plenty already in service, built to RN standards, using equipment the Royal Navy was familiar with.
Read again. Franklin and Bunker Hill were wrecked by kamikazes in the Pacific in 1945, saved, patched up, send back to the United States and went to the mothball fleet. Crucially, the impact damage was completely repaired and the ships brought to 1946 Essex standard, ready to return service if needed.
And then...
They stay there for 25 years (1945-1970) waiting for a massive upgrade that never come.
And then they were scrapped.
 

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April 22, 1957
Washington, DC, USA


United States Secretary of State John Foster Dulles ushers Indonesian Ambassador Dr Ali Sastroamidjojo into his office. It is not a pleasant meeting. Following the normal exchange of pleasantries, the United States issues a formal protest of the nationalization of the Indonesian Oil Industry and the arbitrary seizure of assets owned by American Companies, in particular Caltex and Stanvac. Ambassador Sastroamidjojo is polite yet firm in his response that Indonesia is simply acting in it's own best interests. He also stresses that both companies are being given minority stakes in the new state owned enterprise.

During the course of the meeting, Secretary Dulles emphasizes the growing trade links between the two countries and urges Indonesia to reconsider. Ambassador Sastroamidjojo is cautioned that if Indonesia refuses to reconsider by the 26th, the United States will be forced to consider other options to seek redress. The threat is left unspoken, but it is clearly understood by both sides. Though Ambassador Sastroamidjojo suggests to Secretary Dulles that Indonesia may be willing to discuss compensation for the affected companies, the imposition of a deadline just days away is likely to derail the entire proceedings.
 

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April 29, 1957
New York, NY, USA


With the only reply from Indonesia to their formal protest being a request to extend the deadline, the United States calls a meeting of the United Nations Security Council. Henry Cabot Lodge Jr, Ambassador to the United Nations speaks from his seat in the Security Council Chambers. His speech is relatively short and the resolution he introduces is as well. The resolution formally condemns the illegal seizure of American, British and Dutch assets in Indonesia. Within the resolution, the United States demands restitution to the affected companies be made along with the return of their property. If the demands contained in the resolution are not met, the United States requests that the United Nations impose sanctions on the export of Indonesian oil, natural gas and certain agricultural exports. If implemented, the sanctions would collapse Indonesia's economy almost overnight. Following a protest from the Soviet Union, a vote is scheduled for May 1st.
 

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April 30, 1957
Jakarta, Indonesia


Formal protests from the United States, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands regarding Indonesia's seizure of BPM, along with the UN resolution, sat on President Sukarno's desk. He was fuming. Nationalizing the oil industry was the only way to solidify Indonesia's increasingly fragile internal stability and provide a boost to the economy. He had delayed making the move as long as he dared to give negotiations a chance. And when he had finally moved to nationalize BPM, he had expected the various companies to file complaints and take their grievances through the court system. While he had fully expected Indonesia to end up having to pay some form of reparations to the West, going through the courts was a process that would take years and give further diplomacy a chance to succeed. Instead, the Western powers had decided to escalate the situation by demanding immediate reparations and restoration of their companies' shares. And the threat of sanctions for failing to bow to their wishes was the equivalent of holding a loaded gun to his head.

As President Sukarno pondered his dwindling number of options, he came to one inescapable conclusion. That the Colonial powers had turned their backs on Indonesia and believed that they could order his country about like a wayward child. Well, no more. Reaching a decision, he picked up the phone and made a call.
 

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Grabs popcorn, and prepares to enjoy the show. Let the madness begin ! (I have this sneaking suspicion Sukarno won't last until 1965, and Suharto is bracing himself for the stab in the back...)

Sastroamidjojo
Indonesian names, I love you. This is no "John Smith" or "Jean Dupont" by any mean.
 

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Grabs popcorn, and prepares to enjoy the show. Let the madness begin ! (I have this sneaking suspicion Sukarno won't last until 1965, and Suharto is bracing himself for the stab in the back...)

Sastroamidjojo
Indonesian names, I love you. This is no "John Smith" or "Jean Dupont" by any mean.
Nope. And let me tell you, finding the names of Indonesian diplomats is a certified pain in the ass.
 

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May 1, 1957
Jakarta, Indonesia


The Soviet Ambassador to Indonesia, D.A. Zhukov, sat across from President Sukarno as the two men sipped tea. The Indonesian President had asked for this meeting just yesterday following the events at the UN in New York. President Sukarno was eternally grateful that his country was on the other side of the International Date Line as now he and Ambassador Zhukov would have additional time to discuss "matters of mutual interest." While no formal agreements are made, by the end of the day, both men reach an informal understanding with each other.

Upon his return to his embassy, Ambassador Zhukov sends a priority message to Moscow, both informing them of the outcome of his meeting and requesting their approval of the understanding he had reached with President Sukarno. Within hours, he receives a reply instructing him to proceed and assure President Sukarno of Moscow's support. After acknowledging Moscow's reply, Ambassador Zhukov returns to Merdeka Palace and informs President Sukarno of Moscow's decision.
 

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May 1, 1957
Manhattan, NY, USA


The United States proposed resolution fails. Despite the Security Council voting 10-1 in favor, no sanctions will be applied to Indonesia. The Soviet Union had used it's veto power to kill the resolution. Though the United States acted quickly to spin the defeat into a solid propaganda victory, claiming that their resolution had broad international support, in real terms it was a defeat.

The extent of the defeat was amplified when Ambassador Lodge tried to speak to Indonesian Ambassador Tjondronegoro following the defeat of the resolution. When Mr Lodge told Mr Tjondronegoro that he wished to discuss the seizures, he was informed in a curt tone of voice that the United States would receive Indonesia's response "in due time."
 

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May 1,1957
Brooklyn, NY, USA


The future USS Independence catches fire while under construction at the New York Naval Shipyard. The blaze begins when a cigarette butt is careless discarded at the end of the working day and lands on a pile of oily rags that had been used to wipe up grease during the installation of the ship's turbines. What began as a small fire is not noticed for hours. By the time the smoke and flames are seen rising from the ship, the blaze had already incinerated multiple compartments, including all the major machinery spaces and was in danger of spreading throughout the rest of the ship.
 

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May 4, 1957
Brooklyn, NY, USA


The fire on Independence is finally brought under control just before 1400, though parts of the vessel will continue to burn for several days still. Naval constructors, engineers and damage control experts begin inspecting the parts of the ship they can access almost immediately. Large parts of the ship are blackend almost beyond recognition. The fire in her Number 1 Turbine Room was the worst though. The massive turbine had been completely destroyed. Among the men inspecting the massive new ship, a single opinion was being formed: the Navy was not going to like this.
 

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Paf, one supercarrier bite the dust (the cinder, would be a more appropriate word). I was just wondering - where was USS Bonhomme Richard by 1957 ? I mean, the Essex carrier of course... :p
 

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You mean the Bon Homme Richard for CV/CVA-31.
 

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Yes, it was a very, very bad pun, forget that...
 

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Paf, one supercarrier bite the dust (the cinder, would be a more appropriate word). I was just wondering - where was USS Bonhomme Richard by 1957 ? I mean, the Essex carrier of course... :p
That update was actually written months before the current Bon Homme Richard decided to barbeque herself. And in April, 1957 she was returning to the US from a WESTPAC deployment before deploying back to WESTPAC again later that year
 

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May 12, 1957
Washington, DC, USA


Admiral Aleigh Burke, the Chief of Naval Operations sighed heavily. The fire in Brooklyn on the Independence had thrown a huge wrench into the Navy's plans. The initial damage reports were sitting on his desk and they weren't good. The best case estimate was a two year delay in completing the ship. The worst case was that she was a total constructive loss. They wouldn't know which it would end up being for at least another month. This was just one more problem pilled on top of all the other mundane issues he dealt with on a daily basis.

No one seemed to be on the same page as anyone else anymore. Congress wanted the Navy to reduce expenditures, his Fleet Commanders wanted more money for training, his Type Commanders wanted more new ships built and more older ones overhauled. In February he had finally worked out a deal where the planned overhaul of Lake Champlain was cancelled and instead the money would be used for training while Congress agreed not to delay, or outright cancel, awarding the contract for Enterprise, whose projected costs were continuing to climb. In his opinion, trading an Essex class for a new nuclear powered supercarrier was more than fair.

But now, with Independence delayed by at least two years he was having to juggle everything again. He needed the extra deck that Indy would have given him. His Fleet Commanders would howl about their extra training funds disappearing, but he really didn't have a choice. Lake Champlain's SCB-125A refit was back on. He'd have to go back to the drawing board to find a way to keep Congress from killing Enterprise before she could even be born. Calling for his aides to get in his office, he began rifling through their options.
 

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June 3, 1957
Moscow, Russian Soviet Socialist Republic


A formal, wide ranging treaty is reached between Indonesia and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics whereby the USSR agrees to provide technical assistance and information on oil exploration and production as well as arms to aid Indonesia in modernizing their economy and armed forces. In return, the USSR will receive preferential status for trade goods such as oil, natural gas, tin, copper and rubber. The groundwork for this treaty was laid during the May 1st meeting between Indonesian President Sukarno and the Soviet Ambassador to Indonesia, D.A. Zhukov. In return for these concessions to the Soviet Union, the USSR had agreed to support Indonesia diplomatically and militarily. Their use of their Security Council Veto to kill the resolution against Indonesia the previous month had been a "good faith" gesture to seal the deal.

Due to the ongoing transition in Indonesia from the "Liberal Democracy" system to President Sukarno's "Guided Democracy" system, President Sukarno himself is not in attendance and the agreement is signed by his Foreign Minister, Subandrio. An official State Visit by President Sukarno is proposed by Soviet Foreign Minster Andrei Gromyko to take place later in the year. Mr Subandrio also suggests a return visit to Indonesia by Premier Bulganin.

The rapid negotiations for the new treaty take some in the West by surprise, though both the American and British Intelligence services had predicted Indonesia's move further into the Soviet camp more than a month earlier. In the halls of the United States Department of State and the Central Intelligence Agency, analysts and regional experts are hurriedly consulted and called into meetings to provide suggestions on moving Indonesia out of the Soviet Camp.
 

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June 4, 1957
Beijing, People's Republic of China


A treaty similar to the one signed with the USSR, though far less comprehensive in scope, is signed between Indonesia and the People Republic of China. This treaty is almost entirely military in nature. In return for supplying advanced combat aircraft, the PRC will receive raw materials as payment in kind. Once the aircraft are paid in full, Indonesia agrees to grant China the same preferential trade status as the USSR.

While the Ambassador signed the formal treaty, the Indonesian Military Attache was signing the contract with the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation for the purchase of sixty Shenyang F-5 day fighters. The F-5 was a license produced copy of the Soviet MiG-17F made in Shenyang, China. The fighter is a highly maneuverable and faster development of the earlier MiG-15. Known as the Fresco in the West, the F-5 is planned to be the backbone of the Indonesian Air Force for years to come. The first F-5 will be delivered to Indonesia in August.
 

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June 4, 1957
Prague, Czechoslovakia


The Indonesian Ambassador signs a contract with the Government of Czechoslovakia for the purchase of twenty-four MiG-15UTI jet trainers and their associated spare parts. Deliveries are to begin by the end of July. The purchase of MiG-15s draws heavily on Indonesian hard currency reserves, but the drain is expected to only be temporary as the sale of oil and raw materials to the Soviet Bloc will provide a steady stream of hard currency for the treasury.
 

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The Netherlands, GB and Australia won't like this. How about a joint carrier force with RN flattops leading Doorman, Sidney and Melbourne ?
 

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The Netherlands, GB and Australia won't like this. How about a joint carrier force with RN flattops leading Doorman, Sidney and Melbourne ?
Doorman is in the middle of a 3 year refit getting an angled deck and steam cats, so she's not available. Sydney was completely unmodernised with a straight deck and had been reduced to a training ship in 1955 (and would ultimately decommission less than a year after this point in the story). And Melbourne had just returned from a deployment in East Asia as part of the Far East Strategic Reserve in Malaya and was in refit at the time.
 

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The Netherlands, GB and Australia won't like this. How about a joint carrier force with RN flattops leading Doorman, Sidney and Melbourne ?
Doorman is in the middle of a 3 year refit getting an angled deck and steam cats, so she's not available. Sydney was completely unmodernised with a straight deck and had been reduced to a training ship in 1955 (and would ultimately decommission less than a year after this point in the story). And Melbourne had just returned from a deployment in East Asia as part of the Far East Strategic Reserve in Malaya and was in refit at the time.
Side note: this exactly why the USN keeps so many carriers in commission. To ensure one deck is (usually) available, you need three total: one in pre-deployment work ups, one deployed and one in post deployment refit. And even then, you won't always have a carrier when you need one. Sometimes you'll have one in pre-deployment work ups, one in post deployment refit, and one getting a multi-year refit.
 

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June 5, 1957
Amsterdam, New Holland, Netherlands


Indonesia's increasingly close ties to the USSR and the PRC, along with the complete breakdown in negotiations over West New Guinea, begin to alarm the government of Prime Minister Willem Drees Sr. Dr Joseph Luns, the Foreign Minister orders his staff to asses the status of any and all potential flash points with their former colony. While it is left unspoken, the focus of the entire Ministry is to be on West New Guinea. In the Ministry of Defense, Cornelis "Kees" Staf quietly begins a review of military options should the disagreement over West New Guinea escalate. A committee is formed to present recommendations to Minister Staf over the best ways to defend West New Guinea. They are given a deadline of two weeks.
 

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June 8, 1957
Langley, VA, USA


The Central Intelligence Agency was busy analyzing the fallout from Indonesia's move deeper into the Soviet camp. Multiple options were reviewed. Everything from diplomatic bribery to military invasion was on the table. Indonesia's shift towards the USSR was causing massive ripples throughout the diplomatic community and the intelligence services. One of the primary concerns was Japan moving closer to the Soviets due to feeling isolated with their largest neighbor showing distinct signs of going Communist.

Over the following days, every option is examined in detail. Experts from the State and Defense Departments are called in and consulted. The Special Activities Division outlines multiple operations that would, in it's opinion, be feasible. These options, along with the opinions of the State Department and the Department of Defense are presented to the CIA Director on the twenty-first of June.
 

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And so, the CIA enter the fray. Will they try to drug Sukarno with LSD, or blow his face with food or cigars or anything else ?
(my favorite CIA whacky ideas: destroying Castro beard or drugging Khomeini into a babbling wreck before a speech - so that, in both cases, their people lose confidence in them).
 

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The CIA being involved is actually entirely OTL (though moved up a bit). In OTL, a huge concern of the US was that if Indonesia went Communist, Japan would get a lot closer to the USSR as a matter of self preservation.
 

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What country among the present 191 on this planet, wasn't screwed by the CIA at some point in history ? the list must not be very long...
 

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June 15, 1957
Washington D.C., USA


The interim report on the damage to Independence is delivered to Admiral Burke and Secretary of the Navy Thomas Gates. While the full incident report would take many more months to complete, the damage assessment was done. Independence was a total loss. There had originally been some hope that she could be salvaged, but the bean counters had put an end to that. By the time all the fire and water damaged equipment was removed, new equipment purchased and installed, the heat stressed steel cut away and replaced and the very likely increased maintenance costs over her projected life span, it would be cheaper to cancel her and order a replacement instead.

The Navy had been planning a second Enterprise class nuclear carrier to be laid down in 1960, but perhaps, with the assistance of Secretary Gates and Neil McElroy, the Secretary of Defense they could convince Congress to authorize both Enterprise and her sister together in Fiscal Year 1958 instead. While a nuclear carrier would be vastly more expensive up front, they were projected to have so many advantages over conventionally powered carriers that they would be more than worth it. That, combined with retaining Lake Champlain, would solve at least one of his problems with the fleet.

While this line of reasoning was partly wishful thinking and partly planning for the future, one thing that Admiral Burke did know for sure was that Congress would not be happy to learn to Independence was a lost cause and would have to be broken up on the ways.
 
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