The third USS Albemarle (AV-5) was laid down on 12 June 1939 at Camden, N.J., by the New York Shipbuilding Corp.; launched on 13 July 1940; sponsored by Mrs. Beatrice C. Compton, the wife of the Honorable Lewis Compton, Assistant Secretary of the Navy; and commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 20 December 1940, Comdr. Henry M. Mullinnix in command.
Albemarle remained at Philadelphia, fitting out, through mid-January, 1941. Underway for Newport, R.I., on the morning of 28 January, the seaplane tender arrived at her destination on the 30th, and loaded torpedoes. She sailed the following day for Norfolk, arriving on 1 February, and over the ensuing days remained in that area, loading bombs and pyrotechnics and calibrating her degaussing gear, before she sailed on her shakedown cruise on the afternoon of 6 February, setting course for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The seaplane tender shifted thence to Havana on the morning of 18 February, and over the days which followed her captain made the usual formal calls dictated by diplomatic protocol. In Havana harbor, Albemarle dressed ship for Washington's Birthday, her 21-gun salute to the American national holiday returned gun-for-gun by the Cuban gunboat Yarn. On the morning of 24 February, the ship got underway for the Canal Zone.
Diverted while en route, Albemarle anchored in the harbor at San Juan, Puerto Rico, on the morning of 28 February, and that afternoon received the official call of Rear Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, Commandant of the 10th Naval District. That same day, she embarked 91 men from VP-51 and VP-61 from VP-52 for temporary duty and transportation, and sailed for Norfolk, Virginia on the morning of 2 March. While en route, Comdr. Mullinnix was relieved as commanding officer by Comdr. H. B. Sallada.