Navy Escort Carriers based in Norfolk helped win the Battle of the Atlantic. They were the smallest, slowest, and most vulnerable of the Navy's aircraft carriers, but as noted World War II historian Samuel Eliot Morison wrote, "These escort carrier groups were probably the greatest single contribution of the United States Navy to victory over the enemy submarines."
The first Escort Carriers (CVEs) were converted oilers or built on merchant ship hulls and were originally used to train pilots, ferry aircraft, and provide air cover for ship convoys bound for Europe. Realizing their potential as an offensive weapon, these versatile little ships, their air squadrons, and destroyer escorts were formed into "hunter-killer" groups to search for German U-boats in the North Atlantic, including along the US Atlantic coast. The U-boat "wolf packs" were taking a heavy toll of ships, sinking 1,158 in 1942. The hunter-killer groups sank one enemy submarine in late 1942, twenty-seven in 1943, twenty-one in 1944 (plus the capture of U-505), and five through April 1945. The Germans surrendered May 7, 1945.