USS Anzio (CVE-57)
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|Career (United States)|
|Name:||USS Coral Sea (1943-44), USS Anzio (1944-59)|
|Laid down:||12 December 1942|
|Launched:||1 May 1943|
|Commissioned:||27 August 1943|
|Decommissioned:||5 August 1946|
|Struck:||1 March 1959|
|Fate:||Sold for scrap|
|Class and type:||Casablanca-class escort carrier|
|Displacement:||9,570 long tons (9,720 t)|
|Length:||512 ft 4 in (156.16 m) o/a|
|Beam:||65 ft 3 in (19.89 m)
108 ft 1 in (32.94 m) (extreme width)
|Draft:||22 ft 6 in (6.86 m)|
|Installed power:||9,000 ihp (6,711.2988 kW)|
|Propulsion:||2 × 5-cylinder Skinner Unaflow reciprocating steam engines
4 × 285 psi (19.7 bar) boilers
2 × screws
|Speed:||19.3 kn (22.2 mph; 35.7 km/h)|
|Range:||10,240 nmi (11,780 mi; 18,960 km) @ 15 kn (17 mph; 28 km/h)|
|Armament:||1 × 5 in (127 mm)/38 cal dual purpose gun
16 × 40 mm anti-aircraft guns (8x2)
20 × 20 mm anti-aircraft cannons (20x1)
|Aviation facilities:||2 × elevators|
|Part of:||United States Pacific Fleet (1943-46), Atlantic Reserve Fleet (1946-1959)|
|Operations:||Battle of Kwajalein, Western New Guinea campaign, Battle of Saipan, Battle of Okinawa, Operation Magic Carpet|
|Awards:||11 Navy Unit Commendations, 9 Battle Stars|
Originally classified as auxiliary aircraft carrier ACV-57, was laid down on 12 December 1942 by the Kaiser Shipbuilding Co., Vancouver, Washington, under a Maritime Commission contract (MC hull 1094); named Alikula Bay on 22 January 1943; renamed Coral Sea on 3 April 1943; launched on 1 May 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Frank J. Fletcher, wife of Frank J. Fletcher; redesignated CVE-57 on 15 July 1943; and commissioned at Astoria, Oregon on 27 August 1943, Captain Herbert W. Taylor in command.
World War II
Gilbert and Marshall Islands
On 24 September, Coral Sea got underway for shakedown in Puget Sound. She arrived at San Diego, California on 8 October to load aircraft and hold flight operations off the California coast. The carrier sailed for Hawaii on 25 October and upon arrival at Pearl Harbor, joined by sister ship Liscome Bay for exercises off Oahu. On 10 November, Coral Sea steamed southwest to join the American forces about to invade the Gilbert Islands. She launched strikes on Makin Island from 20–28 November. When Tarawa Atoll had been captured, Coral Sea headed for Pearl Harbor and arrived there on 5 December. She paused to embark passengers and load aircraft for transport to the U.S. and departed on 8 December. She arrived at Alameda, California on 14 December to take on new planes. She put to sea on 22 December and steamed back to Hawaii. On 28 December, Coral Sea anchored at Pearl Harbor and began preparations for the impending assault on Kwajalein.
Coral Sea was underway on 3 January 1944 for a series of exercises in Hawaiian waters. After final fitting out, she sailed on 22 January in Task Group 52.9 (TG 52.9) and arrived in the vicinity of Kwajalein on 31 January, two days after planes of the Fast Carrier Task Force began pounding airfields on the atoll. She provided direct and indirect air support for the amphibious landings. On 24 February, she set course for Eniwetok, but was recalled to Hawaii and arrived at Pearl Harbor on 3 March.
Solomon Islands and New Guinea
After a brief respite, Coral Sea got underway again on 11 March and proceeded to the Solomon Islands. She anchored at Tulagi on 21 March, topped off with fuel, and loaded stores. Sailing again on 30 March, she headed for Emirau Island. From 1–11 April, she launched planes in support of forces occupying Emirau and returned to Port Purvis on 15 April.
The next day, Coral Sea left Tulagi to assist in the reconquest of New Guinea. On the 19th, she joined TG 78.2, which was formed to support Allied footholds at Hollandia (currently known as Jayapura) and Aitape. Her planes joined in strikes on 22 April, and on 26 April, the escort carrier sailed to Seeadler Harbor for replenishment, and on 7 May headed for Espiritu Santo for availability.
Occupation of the Marianas Islands
Her repair period completed, the ship got underway on 8 June for Kwajalein, the staging point for the invasion of the Marianas. The American forces sortied on 10 June, and Coral Sea helped to provide air support for landings by the 2d Marine Division on Saipan. She endured numerous Japanese air attacks during the next few days but received only minor damage. The carrier had moved south to Guam on 17 June to begin softening-up operations against that island but returned to Saipan the next day to assist the bogged-down American forces. Coral Sea and her escorts retired to Eniwetok on 28 June but returned to Saipan on 4 July. Her planes made further air strikes before she put into Eniwetok on 15 July for repairs to her engines. Ultimately, Coral Sea was ordered back to the United States for a much needed overhaul, and the carrier sailed on 23 July. Two days later, she paused at Kwajalein to unload most of her aircraft and ammunition and then continued via Pearl Harbor for the naval base at San Diego. Coral Sea arrived in California on 9 August and entered drydock at San Diego on 31 August. While she was still undergoing overhaul, Coral Sea received word that her name was being changed to Anzio as of 15 September.
Anzio held sea trials off the California coast and was ready to sail for the western Pacific on 16 September. She reached Hawaii on 23 September and entered Pearl Harbor for a tender availability. On 8 October, the carrier began a series of training exercises, and on the 16th, she set out for Eniwetok. There, Anzio joined a hunter/killer group and carried out an antisubmarine warfare (ASW) mission while she was en route to Ulithi. On 4 November, she was ordered to assist light cruiser Reno which had been torpedoed in the Philippine Sea. When Anzio was relieved by Extractor, she resumed her ASW patrols and worked at that task through mid-February 1945, when she steamed to Iwo Jima.
Occupation of the Bonin Islands
Anzio resumed combat support operations on 16 February. Three days later, she launched a strike to the north on Chichi Jima in the Bonin Islands. From 19 February-4 March, she followed a schedule of launching her first flight just before sunset and recovering her last just after dawn. During these nocturnal operations, she completed 106 sorties without a single accident. She departed the Iwo Jima area on 8 March and entered San Pedro Bay at Leyte on 12 March. After 10 days of upkeep and being joined by a newly redeployed VC-13 from the USS Tripoli, she sailed to join the invasion of Okinawa.
After providing air cover for an Okinawa-bound amphibious group, Anzio joined other forces in the vicinity of Kerama Retto in seizing that island group to provide an advanced base for the Fleet. The Okinawa attack began on 1 April, and she remained on line until she retired to Ulithi on 30 April for repairs to her rudder bearings. On 21 May, the carrier resumed ASW operations in the Okinawa area. This role ended on 17 June, when she sailed to San Pedro Bay, Leyte, for upkeep after finding that her aviation fuel tanks had been contaminated during a replenishment at sea. One TBM didn't get a radio heads-up in time when a pair of Wildcats encountered engine problems right after takeoff and had to ditch when it switched to its spare fuel tank. Anzio dumped her thousands of gallons of bad gas overboard before pulling into Leyte, and this caused a passing outbound carrier to radio with concern when they smelled the fumes.
Anzio left the Philippines on 6 July to begin what proved to be her last stint of combat duty. She joined TG 30.8 and positioned herself about 600 mi (970 km) east of Tokyo. She made ASW patrols in support of Admiral Halsey's attacks on the Japanese home islands. She received word of the Japanese capitulation on 15 August and sailed for Guam on 19 August. After refitting and training new flight crews, the escort carrier headed for Okinawa. From that point, she was to provide air cover and ASW patrol services for transports carrying occupation troops to Korea. On 8 September, she anchored at Jinsen, Korea, whence she provided air support for the landings of the occupation force. She left Korea on 13 September and returned to Okinawa. On 19 September, she broke her homeward-bound pennant, became a member of a "Magic-Carpet" group, and reached San Francisco on 30 September.
Operation Magic Carpet
While at San Francisco, Anzio was modified to provide maximum passenger accommodations. The carrier made two trips to the western Pacific and back, one to Pearl Harbor and one to Shanghai, China, to shuttle American troops home as part of Operation Magic Carpet. She arrived at Seattle, Washington, on 23 December and ended the year at that port.'
Memories of a Wildcat pilot
Anzio was then Ensign John J Sharer's (Lt Cdr USN ret) first tour of duty where he flew a Grumman F4F Wildcat in Beaver Squadron (VC-13). After flying into Hilo from the mainland, he practiced carrier landings at the airport before joining what was probably the USS Casablanca on a ferry operation to Guam.
The ferry operations re-deployed entire squadrons from the Atlantic theatre to the Pacific in the later stages of the war. In this case VC-13 transferred from the USS Tripoli to Anzio, but there were additional replacement planes for other carriers. Sharer was tasked to ferry a Wildcat to another Jeep carrier. After delivery, he transferred via bosun's chair to a destroyer who took him over to Anzio. This in itself rates as an activity that would surpass the zipline feature of a modern day cruise ship, but the transfer from the destroyer to Anzio was halfway through when GQ sounded. Sharer watched helplessly as crewman frantically winched the chair over while the crew of the destroyer broke out axes and proceeded to cut the line. This may have been the day when he realized that 13 was a lucky number.
Anzio used a hydraulic catapult to launch planes, and these imposed a much higher G-force than the steam ones that later replaced them. When launching, Sharer had to brace his head against the headrest, but more importantly, he had to put his right elbow against the back of the arm rest. Since this hand held the throttle, if it wasn't braced this way, the cat launch would force his hand to move the throttle back to idle. The plane would end up stalling and likely be run over by the carrier after falling into the drink after launch.
It wasn't always necessary to use the catapults. Depending on headwind speed, aircraft loadout, recovery operations and number of aircraft on the flight deck, it was often possible to free launch a Wildcat from a position just at or stern of the of conn tower.
The top speed of the Casablanca class escort carrier was supposed to be 19 knots, but Sharer doubts it ever got over 15. Even then, the deck plates would be shaking. Modern pilots probably don't think twice about the orders to "turn her into the wind" when launching and recovering, but with the escort carriers it was crucial. After coming back in from a patrol once "Beaver 2" was cleared by "Beaver Base" to come in with glassy seas and maybe a knot or so of wind. About halfway through the pattern, Sharer was told to "belay that" and so he watched while "Beaver Base" proceeded to make a 180 degree turn while it looked for that elusive head wind. The LSO eventually gave in and cleared Sharer to land. Depending on aircraft load, the F4F had a stall speed of 70-80 mph at idle.
On 18 January 1946, Anzio sailed for Norfolk, Virginia. She paused at San Francisco then continued southward to transit the Panama Canal before finally reaching the east coast. Anzio was placed out of commission on 5 August, and became a unit of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet berthed at Norfolk. The ship was redesignated CVHE-57 on 15 June 1955. Anzio was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 March 1959 and sold to the Master Metals Co. on 24 November.
One of Anzio's anchors escaped salvage and may still be on display on the grounds of the Navy Yard in Washington DC.
The Secretary of the Navy commended the men of Anzio "For outstanding heroism in action against enemy Japanese forces in the air, ashore and afloat. Operating in the most advanced areas"
- personal narrative of John J Sharer (Lt Cdr USN ret)
- This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.