The name of the first U.S. aircraft carrier was the USS Langley, named in honor of Samuel Pierpont Langley, a former U.S. Naval Academy professor and Secretary of the Smithsonian. Langley was an early aviation pioneer and proponent of developing ships that could launch aircraft at sea.
The ship was converted from the USS Jupiter, an electrically powered collier transport that was the first to cross the Panama Canal. The first flights took off from and landed on its deck in October 1922. The USS Langley provided valuable training for the Navy and formed a prototype for the subsequent development of carriers. The Navy decommissioned the Langley in 1937, but restored it to service in the Pacific during World War II. The Langley came under fire during a Japanese missile attack off the coast of Indonesia in 1942. After taking several hits, the ship’s captain scuttled the vessel to prevent it from falling into enemy hands.