USS Guadalcanal (CVE-60)
|Career (United States)|
|Laid down:||5 January 1943|
|Launched:||5 June 1943|
|Commissioned:||25 September 1943|
|Decommissioned:||15 July 1946|
|Struck:||27 May 1958|
|Fate:||Sold for scrap on 30 April 1959|
|Class & type:||Casablanca-class escort carrier|
|Length:||512 ft (156 m) overall|
|Beam:||65 ft (20 m)|
|Draft:||22 ft 6 in (6.86 m)|
|Speed:||19 knots (35 km/h)|
|Range:||10,240 nmi (18,960 km) @ 15 kn (28 km/h)|
|Armament:||1 × 5 in/38 cal dual purpose gun, 16 × Bofors 40 mm guns (8x2), 20 × Oerlikon 20 mm cannons (20x1)|
|Part of:||Task Group 21.12 (1943-44)
Task Group 22.3 (1944-45)
Atlantic Reserve Fleet (1946-58)
|Commanders:||Daniel V. Gallery|
|Operations:||Battle of the Atlantic|
|Victories:||U-544, U-515, U-68, U-505 (1944)|
|Awards:||Presidential Unit Citation, 3 Battle stars|
She was converted from a Maritime Commission hull by Kaiser Co., Inc., of Vancouver, Washington. Originally Astrolabe Bay (AVG-60), she was reclassified ACV-60 on 20 August 1942 and launched as Guadalcanal (ACV-60) on 5 June 1943, sponsored by Mrs. Alvin I. Malstrom. She was reclassified CVE-60 on 15 July 1943; and commissioned at Astoria, Oregon on 25 September 1943, Captain Daniel V. Gallery in command. After shakedown training in which Capt. Gallery made the first take off and landing aboard his new ship, Guadalcanal performed pilot qualifications out of San Diego, California, and then departed on 15 November 1943, via the Panama Canal, for Norfolk, Va., arriving on 3 December. There she became flagship of Task Group 22.3 (TG 22.3), and with her escort destroyers set out from Norfolk on 5 January 1944 in search of enemy submarines in the North Atlantic.
First hunter-killer cruise
Earlier patrols by escort carriers had taught U-boats the danger of surfacing during daylight while aircraft were patrolling; but surfacing at night was safer because the escort carriers considered night flight operations too dangerous. The best the escort carriers could do was substitute extra fuel tanks for depth charges on a Grumman TBF Avenger, launch at sunset, and recover at dawn after the Avenger flew around all night.
When Ultra intelligence revealed a planned U-boat refueling rendezvous 500 miles west of the Azores just before sunset on 16 January 1944, Guadalcanal stayed clear of the area until launching eight Avengers just before sunset to comb the rendezvous area. The Avengers found two U-boats engaged in refueling with another standing by, and dived out of the clouds to drop depth charges. All three submarines disappeared; but 32 survivors of U-544 were floating in a pool of oil. In their excitement to see the effects of their first successful attack, the Avenger pilots stayed aloft so long they returned to the carrier after sunset.
Aircraft recoveries were slow because of bad approaches in the gathering dusk. After four landed successfully, the fifth Avenger landed too far right and put both wheels into the gallery walkway with its tail fouling the flight deck. The flight deck crew was unable to move the Avenger; and the three remaining planes were running out of fuel in total darkness. Guadalcanal turned on the lights and urged the pilots to try landing on the left side of the flight deck. The nervous pilots came in too high, too fast, and too far to port until one of them desperately cut power, bounced, and landed inverted in the water off the port side. The plane guard destroyer rescued the three crewmen from the unsuccessful landing and the crewmen from the two remaining planes which were instructed to ditch.
No more night flying was attempted, and no more U-boats were discovered during daylight patrols. Gallery kept his flight deck crew busy training with the wrecked Avenger between flight operations. The Avenger was cabled to the ship so it wouldn't be lost; and the crew was timed with a stopwatch to see how long it took them to push it over the side. The plane would then be winched back aboard for another drill. After they could reliably clear the flight deck within four minutes; they were allowed to finally push the battered Avenger overboard with no cable attached. After replenishing at Casablanca, the task group headed back for Norfolk and repairs, arriving on 16 February.
Second hunter-killer cruise
Departing again with her escorts on 7 March, Guadalcanal sailed with newly assigned air group VC-58 to Casablanca and got underway from that port on 30 March with a convoy bound for the United States. After three weeks of daylight flights finding no U-boats, Guadalcanal attempted night flight operations under the full moon of 8 April 1944. Four fully armed Avengers were launched just before sunset with recovery scheduled for 22:30. One of the Avengers found U-515 recharging batteries on the surface northwest of Madeira, and forced the U-boat to submerge by dropping a stick of depth charges with U-515 silhouetted in a down-moon approach. Guadalcanal kept four Avengers aloft at all times through the night, and U-515 was repeatedly forced to submerge when attempting to surface to recharge batteries. Each sighting gave another fix on U-515's position; and Chatelain, Flaherty, Pillsbury and Pope detected the U-boat with SONAR at 07:00. The ships made coordinated attacks until U-515 was forced to the surface with depleted batteries and foul air at 14:00, and Kapitaenleutenant Werner Henke scuttled his ship.
Guadalcanal Avengers had detected a second U-boat about sixty miles away while holding down U-515; so they maintained patrols through the night of 9 April. U-68 was discovered at daybreak on 10 April recharging batteries on the surface 300 miles south of the Azores. Three Avengers attacked out of the dark western sky with depth charges and rocket fire. U-68 sank leaving three lookouts swimming in the wreckage, but only Hans Kastrup survived to be rescued when destroyers arrived an hour later.
With the confidence gained through sinking two U-boats in the first two nights of flight operations, Guadalcanal continued night flight operations as the moon waned, and aircrew were well trained when the convoy arrived safely at Norfolk on 26 April 1944. Guadalcanal's success encouraged other carriers to practice night operations.
Capture of U-505
After voyage repairs at Norfolk, Guadalcanal and her escorts departed Hampton Roads for sea again on 15 May 1944. Two weeks of cruising brought no contacts, and the task force decided to head for the coast of Africa to refuel. Ten minutes after reversing course, however, on 4 June 1944, 150 miles West of Cape Blanco in French West Africa, Chatelain detected U-505 as it was returning to its base in Brest, France after an 80-day commerce-destroying raid in the Gulf of Guinea. The destroyer loosed one depth charge attack and, guided in for a more accurate drop by circling TBF Avengers from Guadalcanal, she soon made a second. This pattern blew relief valves all over the boat and cracked pipes in the engine room of the submarine, and rolled the U-boat on its beam ends. Shouts of panic from the engine room led Oberleutnant Harald Lange, making his first patrol as her captain, to believe his boat was mortally wounded. He blew his tanks and surfaced, barely 700 yards from the USS Chatelain in an attempt to save his crew. The destroyer fired a torpedo, which missed, and the surfaced submarine then came under the combined fire of the escorts and aircraft, forcing her crew to abandon ship.
Captain Gallery had been waiting and planning for such an opportunity, and having already trained and equipped his boarding parties, ordered Pillsbury's boat to make for the German sub and board her. Under the command of Lieutenant, junior grade Albert David, the party leaped onto the slowly circling submarine and found her abandoned. David and his men quickly captured all important papers, code books and the boat's Enigma machine while closing valves and stopping leaks. As Pillsbury attempted to get a tow-line on her the party managed to stop her engines. By this time a larger salvage group from Guadalcanal led by Commander Earl Trosino, Guadalcanal's Chief Engineer, arrived, and began the work of preparing U-505 to be towed. After securing the towline and picking up the German survivors from the sea, Guadalcanal started for Bermuda with her priceless prize in tow. Abnaki rendezvoused with the task group and took over towing duties, the group arriving in Bermuda on 19 June after a 2,500-mile tow .Gallery later apologized to Trosino, a pre-war Merchant Marine chief engineer by training who had long since figured out the U-Boat's propulsion system, for not allowing him as prize captain to bring her in under her own power.
U-505 was the first enemy warship captured on the high seas by the U.S. Navy since 1815. For their daring and skillful teamwork in this remarkable capture, Guadalcanal and her escorts shared in a Presidential Unit Citation. Lieutenant David received the Medal of Honor for leading the boarding party, and Captain Gallery received the Legion of Merit for conceiving the operation that led to U-505's capture. The captured submarine proved to be of inestimable value to American intelligence (for the remainder of the war she was operated by the U.S. Navy as the USS Nemo to learn the secrets of German U-boats), and its true fate was kept secret from the Germans until the end of the war. U-505 is the submarine exhibited in the Museum of Science and Industry (Chicago).
Arriving in Norfolk on 22 June 1944, Guadalcanal spent only a short time in port before setting out again on patrol. She departed Norfolk on 15 July and from then until 1 December, she made three anti-submarine cruises in the Western Atlantic. She sailed on 1 December for a training period in waters off Bermuda and Cuba that included refresher landings for pilots of her new squadron, gunnery practice, and anti-submarine warfare drills with Italian submarine R-9. Guadalcanal arrived Mayport, Fla., for carrier qualifications on 15 December and subsequently engaged in further training in Cuban water until 13 February 1945, when she arrived back in Norfolk. After another short training cruise to the Caribbean, she steamed into Mayport on 15 March for a tour of duty as carrier qualification ship, later moving to Pensacola, Florida for similar operations. After qualifying nearly 4,000 pilots, Guadalcanal returned to Norfolk, Va., and decommissioned there on 15 July 1946.
Guadalcanal entered the Atlantic Reserve Fleet at Norfolk and was redesignated CVU-60 on 15 July 1955, while still in reserve. She was finally stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 27 May 1958 and she was sold for scrap to the Hugo Neu Corp. of New York on 30 April 1959. She was in the process of being towed to Japan for scrapping, when Capt. Gallery also made the very last landing and take off from the ship, using a helicopter, off Guantanamo, Cuba.
First Person Accounts
Howard Sherer, one of the many men who served on the carrier, chronicled his experiences on the USS Guadalcanal in his book My Navy Career.
Captain Daniel Gallery wrote of the carrier's accomplishments in his books U-505, and Eight Bells and All's Well.
Guadalcanal was awarded three battle stars and a Presidential Unit Citation for service in World War II. Her Presidential Unit Citation was personally ordered by Admiral Ernest J. King, Chief of Naval Operations.
- Gallery, D.V. (1969). "Nor Dark of Night". Naval Institute Proceedings (United States Naval Institute) 95 (4): 85–90.
- Gallery, Daniel V. Eight Bells and All's Well (New York: W.W. Norton & Company), 1965; page 195
- Gallery, Daniel V. Eight Bells and All's Well (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.), 1965, page 209.
- Gallery, Daniel. Clear the Decks. New York: Morrow, 1951.
- Gallery, Daniel V. Eight Bells and All's Well. W.W. Norton & Co. 1965.
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