9 photos of the USS Wolverine, a strange WWII aircraft carrier that was originally a luxury paddlewheel steamer

US Navy National Museum of Naval AviationUSS Wolverine lying at anchor in Lake Michigan on 6 April 1943.

The USS Wolverine is one of the oddest aircraft carriers in US Navy history.

Built in 1912, the Wolverine was originally a side-wheel steamer called the SS Seeandbee that was used for luxury cruises on the Great Lakes. But it got a second career when it was bought by the US Navy in 1942 as the service rapidly stood up a carrier force to answer Japanese aggression.

By January 1943, the Wolverine had been converted into an aircraft carrier to train naval aviators and flight deck crews for World War II.

It was based in Navy Pier in Chicago so that it could operate in Lake Michigan, but it lacked many features that combat carriers have, such as elevators and hangar decks.

Check it out below:


This is the SS Seeandbee in 1912, decades before the US purchased it in March 1942.

Maritime History of the Great Lakes

The president of the company that owned the SS Seeandbee, Thomas J. McGuire, reportedly even overcharged the US by $US500,000 for the ship. He was later fined only $US5,000 for the fraudulent price.


To convert the ship into a carrier, the US stripped off the large wooden superstructure and exhausts.

US Naval History and Heritage Command

And built a flight deck in its place.

US Naval History and Heritage Command

The USS Wolverine was commissioned in August 1942. It landed its first aircraft in September 1942.

US NavyUSS Wolverine as she completes her fitting out in the summer of 1943.

It had a 550-foot flight deck, about a long as modern-day guided missile cruiser.

US Navy National Museum of Naval AviationUSS Wolverine lying at anchor in Lake Michigan on 6 April 1943.

Source: globalsecurity.org


Twelve coal-fired Scotch boilers propelled its two side-wheels to a top speed of less than 23 mph.

US Navy

Source: navsource.org, globalsecurity.org


And had no armaments.

US Naval History and Heritage CommandUSS Wolverine shortly after it was converted from cruise ship.

During WWII, the Wolverine, along with its sister trainer, the USS Sable, conducted more than 120,000 landings and qualified more than 35,000 pilots.

US Navy

But the trainer carriers had a problem with what is called “wind over the deck.”

When there was little or no wind on Lake Michigan, training had to stop because the carriers couldn’t generate enough speed to support landings.

Source: globalsecurity.org


The Wolverine was later decommissioned in November 1945, a few months after the war’s end, and later sold for scrap.

US Navy

Source: US Navy

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.