During World War II, Cowpens businessman Georg D. Martin wrote to President Franklin Roosevelt asking that an aircraft carrier be named after the town of Cowpens. The town already had a distinguished history as the site of pivotal Revolutionary War battle, and Martin and others felt the naming of the ship would be an appropriate honor. On May 28, 1943, the USS Cowpens, a light carrier of the Independence class, was commissioned in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
What followed was a distinguished combat career that saw 11,275 safe landings aboard the ship; 5,147 planes successfully launched; 93 enemy aircraft shot down, 2 ships sunk, and 620 tons of bombs being dropped. The USS Cowpens was also present in the Tokyo Bay when the treaty was signed aboard the USS Missouri to end the war in the Pacific Theater. Planes from the USS Cowpens are believed to have been first to land on Japanese soil after the war.
Mr. Carswell Wynne, who served as Plane Captain aboard the USS Cowpens recalls, “Going into Tokyo Bay on the first American Air Craft Carrier, [being] anchored close to the Battleship Missouri when all the dignitaries came aboard to sign the surrender, [and] walking the streets of Tokyo two weeks after the surrender [were] all exciting to participate in. [But,] the most exciting time was when the going home pennant went up and our ship was headed for home. ”
The USS Cowpens earned 12 battle stars and a Navy Unit Commendation for her service in World War II.The ship was nicknamed “The Mighty Moo” by its crew. No one is quite sure why, but it was perhaps because of the terrific “mooing” sounds she made as she moved through the water. In 1968, Cowpens High School chose The Mighty Moo as the title of its newspaper, and in 1977, it became the namesake of the town’s annual festival to honor veterans of the ship.
Cerney, Allene Mosely. “The Aircraft Carrier, USS Cowpens, World War II.” History of Cowpens, South Carolina. Ed.
Linda Dearybury Taylor. Inter-Collegiate Press, 1982. 88-89.
Wynne, Carswell. Personal Interview. 10 February 2010.