Year
1942
Month Day
February 27

U.S. aircraft carrier Langley is sunk

The U.S. Navy’s first aircraft carrier, the Langley, is sunk by Japanese warplanes (with a little help from U.S. destroyers), and all of its 32 aircraft are lost.

The Langley was launched in 1912 as the naval collier (coal transport ship) Jupiter. After World War I, the Jupiter was converted into the Navy’s first aircraft carrier and rechristened the Langley, after aviation pioneer Samuel Pierpont Langley. It was also the Navy’s first electrically propelled ship, capable of speeds of 15 knots. On October 17, 1922, Lt. Virgil C. Griffin piloted the first plane, a VE-7-SF, launched from the Langley's decks. Although planes had taken off from ships before, it was nevertheless a historic moment. After 1937, the Langley lost the forward 40 percent of her flight deck as part of a conversion to seaplane tender, a mobile base for squadrons of patrol bombers.

On December 8, 1941, the Langley was part of the Asiatic Fleet in the Philippines when the Japanese attacked. She immediately set sail for Australia, arriving on New Year’s Day, 1942. On February 22, commanded by Robert P. McConnell, the Langley, carrying 32 Warhawk fighters, left as part of a convoy to aid the Allies in their battle against the Japanese in the Dutch East Indies.

On February 27, the Langley parted company from the convoy and headed straight for the port at Tjilatjap, Java. About 74 miles south of Java, the carrier met up with two U.S. escort destroyers when nine Japanese twin-engine bombers attacked. Although the Langley had requested a fighter escort from Java for cover, none could be spared. The first two Japanese bomber runs missed their target, as they were flying too high, but the Langley's luck ran out the third time around and it was hit three times, setting the planes on her flight deck aflame. The carrier began to list. Commander McConnell lost his ability to navigate the ship. McConnell ordered the Langley abandoned, and the escort destroyers were able to take his crew to safety. Of the 300 crewmen, only 16 were lost. The destroyers then to sank the Langley before the Japanese were able to capture it.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Dominican Republic declares independence as a sovereign state

On February 27, 1844, revolutionary fervor boiled over on the eastern side of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. Finally coming into the open after years of covert planning, a group known as La Trinitaria seized the fortress of Puerta del Conde in the city of Santo Domingo, and ...read more

Union inmates begin arriving at deadly Andersonville prison

On this day in 1864, the first Union inmates begin arriving at Andersonville prison, which was still under construction in southern Georgia. Andersonville became synonymous with death as nearly a quarter of its inmates died in captivity. Henry Wirz, who ran Andersonville, was ...read more

Shirley Temple receives $50,000 per film

On February 27, 1936, Shirley Temple receives a new contract from 20th Century Fox that will pay the seven-year-old star $50,000 per film. Temple was born in 1928 in Santa Monica, California, and started appearing in a series of short films spoofing current movies, called Baby ...read more

Supreme Court defends women’s voting rights

In Washington, D.C., the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, providing for female suffrage, is unanimously declared constitutional by the eight members of the U.S. Supreme Court. The 19th Amendment, which stated that “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall ...read more

“I Will Survive” wins the first—and last—Grammy ever awarded for Best Disco Recording

After watching it utterly dominate the musical landscape of the late 1970s, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences gave disco their stamp of approval, deciding to give a Grammy award for Best Disco Recording, just as the musical style was preparing to die. The first ...read more

Italian government asks for suggestions for how to fix Leaning Tower of Pisa

On February 27, 1964, the Italian government announces that it is accepting suggestions on how to save the renowned Leaning Tower of Pisa from collapse. The top of the 180-foot tower was hanging 17 feet south of the base, and studies showed that the tilt was increasing by a ...read more

AIM occupation of Wounded Knee begins

On the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, some 200 Sioux Native Americans, led by members of the American Indian Movement (AIM), occupy Wounded Knee, the site of the infamous 1890 massacre of 300 Sioux by the U.S. Seventh Cavalry. The AIM members, some of them armed, took 11 ...read more

New Orleanians take to the streets for Mardi Gras

On February 27, 1827, a group of masked and costumed students dance through the streets of New Orleans, Louisiana, marking the beginning of the city’s famous Mardi Gras celebrations. The celebration of Carnival–or the weeks between Twelfth Night on January 6 and Ash Wednesday, ...read more

U.S. Olympic hockey team beats Soviet Union

The underdog U.S. Olympic hockey team defeats the Soviet Union in the semifinals at the Winter Games in Squaw Valley, California on February 27, 1960. The next day, the U.S. beats Czechoslovakia to win its first-ever Olympic gold medal in hockey. The 1960 U.S. team was led by ...read more

Mathew Brady photographs presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln

On February 27, 1860, President Abraham Lincoln poses for the first of several portraits by noted Civil War-era photographer Mathew Brady. Days later, the photograph is published on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar with the caption, "Hon. Abram [sic] Lincoln, of Illinois, Republican ...read more

Video recreation used in murder trial

Artie Mitchell is shot to death by his brother Jim in his Corte Madera, California, house. When police responding to a 911 call by Artie’s girlfriend arrived at the house they found Jim wandering aimlessly outside carrying a rifle. Artie had been shot multiple times in the chest ...read more