USS Bunker Hill (CV-17)
||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (February 2010)|
|Namesake:||The Battle of Bunker Hill|
|Builder:||Fore River Shipyard|
|Laid down:||15 September 1941|
|Launched:||7 December 1942|
|Commissioned:||24 May 1943|
|Decommissioned:||9 January 1947|
|Struck:||1 November 1966|
|Fate:||Sold for scrap in 1973|
|Class & type:||Essex-class aircraft carrier|
|Speed:||33 knots (61 km/h)|
|Range:||20,000 nautical miles (37,000 km) at 15 knots (28 km/h)|
USS Bunker Hill (CV/CVA/CVS-17, AVT-9) was one of 24 Essex-class aircraft carriers built during World War II for the United States Navy. The ship, the second U.S. Navy ship to bear the name, was named for the Battle of Bunker Hill. Bunker Hill was commissioned in May 1943, and served in several campaigns in the Pacific War, earning eleven battle stars and a Presidential Unit Citation. She was badly damaged on May 11, 1945 shortly after 10:00 a.m. by Japanese kamikaze attacks, with the loss of approximately 600 of her crew, becoming one of the most heavily damaged carriers to survive the war. She was struck by two kamikaze planes which were able to evade the carrier radar by following returning U.S. planes from other carriers in the strike force, and thus remained undetected. Bunker Hill had not yet launched her planes, and they were sitting on the flight deck fully loaded with fuel and munitions when the kamikazes hit, thus causing extensive damage and creating horrendous fires. She suffered over 600 casualties which included over 300 deaths. Many of the crew below deck lost their lives due to the flaming gasoline and toxic fumes from the fires which were sucked into the ventilation systems and pumped below deck. The order to abandon ship was given when the carrier started to list eleven degrees to her port side because of the weight of all of the water which had been needed to extinguish the fires that had drained into the decks below, but a small skeleton crew volunteered to stay aboard to try to save her. They were successful in their efforts.
After the attack she limped first to Subic Bay in the Philippines for immediate repairs to stabilise her, and then returned to the U.S. mainland. She was decommissioned in 1947. While in reserve she was reclassified as an attack carrier (CVA), then an antisubmarine carrier (CVS), and finally an Auxiliary Aircraft Landing Training Ship (AVT), but was never modernized and never saw active service again. Bunker Hill and Franklin were the only Essex-class ships never recommissioned after World War II.
Stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in 1966, she served as an electronics test platform for many years in San Diego bay, and was sold for scrap in 1973. An effort to save her as a museum ship in 1972 was unsuccessful.
Construction and commissioning
Bunker Hill was laid down on 15 September 1941 at the Bethlehem Steel Company, Quincy, Massachusetts, and launched on 7 December 1942, sponsored by Mrs. Donald Boynton. She was commissioned on 24 May 1943, with Captain J. J. Ballentine in command.
World War II
Reporting to the U.S. Pacific Fleet in the autumn of 1943, Bunker Hill participated in carrier operations during: the crucial carrier air raid on the major Imperial Japanese Navy base at Rabaul, along with USS Essex and USS Independence on 11 November 1943; Gilbert Islands operation, including support of the landings on Tarawa Atoll (13 November – 8 December); the air raids on Kavieng in support of the amphibious landings in the Bismarck Archipelago (25 December 1943, 1 January, and 4 January 1944); air raids in the Marshall Islands (29 January – 8 February); the huge carrier air raids on Truk Atoll (17–18 February), during which eight I.J.N. warships were sunk; air raids on the Marianas Islands (Guam, Saipan, and Tinian) (23 February); air raids on Palau, Yap, Ulithi, and Woleai in the Palau Islands (30 March – 1 April); raids in support of the U.S. Army landings around Hollandia (21–28 April); air raids on Truk, Satawan, and Ponape in the Caroline Islands (29 April – 1 May); combat operations in the Marianas in support of the amphibious landings on Saipan and Guam (12 June – 10 August), including the titanic Battle of the Philippine Sea, just west of the Marianas.
On 19 June 1944, during the opening phases of the landings in the Marianas, Bunker Hill was damaged when the explosion of a Japanese aerial bomb scattered shrapnel fragments across the decks and the sides of the aircraft carrier. Two sailors were killed, and about 80 more were wounded. Bunker Hill continued to fight, with her antiaircraft fire shooting down a few IJN warplanes.
During September, Bunker Hill carried out air raids in the Western Caroline Islands, and then she and her task force steamed a to the north to launch air raids on Luzon, Formosa, and Okinawa, through early November.
On 6 November 1944, Bunker Hill steamed eastward from the forward area, and she was taken to the Bremerton Naval Shipyard, for a period of major overhaul/upkeep work and weaponry upgrades, as all warships must undergo periodically. She departed from the Port of Bremerton on 24 January 1945, and then she steamed westward back into the combat area in the Western Pacific.
During the remaining months of World War II, Bunker Hill fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima; the 5th Fleet raids against Honshū and the Nansei Shoto (15 February – 4 March); and the 5th and 3rd Fleet raids in support of the Battle of Okinawa. On 7 April 1945, Bunker Hill's planes took part in an attack by the Fast Carrier Task Force of the Pacific Fleet on Imperial Japanese Navy forces in the East China Sea. The super battleship Yamato, one light cruiser, and four destroyers were sunk during this Operation Ten-Go, as it was called by the Japanese Navy.
On the morning of 11 May 1945, while supporting the invasion of Okinawa, Bunker Hill was struck and severely damaged by two Japanese kamikaze planes. An A6M Zero fighter plane piloted by Lieutenant Junior Grade Seizō Yasunori emerged from low cloud cover, dove toward the flight deck and dropped a 550-pound (250 kilogram) bomb that penetrated the flight deck and exited from the side of the ship at gallery deck level before exploding in the ocean. The Zero next crashed onto the carrier's flight deck, destroying parked warplanes full of aviation fuel and ammunition, causing a large fire. The remains of the Zero went over the deck and dropped into the sea. Then, a short 30 seconds later, a second Zero, piloted by Ensign Kiyoshi Ogawa, plunged into its suicide dive. The Zero went through the antiaircraft fire, dropped a 550-pound bomb, and then crashed into the flight deck near the carrier's "island", as kamikazes were trained to aim for the island superstructure. The bomb penetrated the flight deck and exploded. Gasoline fires flamed up and several explosions took place. Bunker Hill lost a total of 346 sailors and airmen killed, 43 more missing (and never found), and 264 wounded. She was heavily damaged and was sent to the Bremerton Naval Shipyard for repairs. She was still in the shipyard when the war ended in mid-August 1945.
In September 1945, Bunker Hill reported for duty with the Operation Magic Carpet fleet, returning veterans from the Pacific. She remained on this duty as a unit of TG 16.12 until January 1946, when she was ordered to Bremerton for deactivation. She was decommissioned into reserve on 9 January 1947.
While she was laid up in mothballs, she was reclassified three times, becoming CVA-17 in October 1951, CVS-17 in August 1953, and AVT-9 in May 1959, with the latter designation indicating that any future commissioned operations would be as an "Auxiliary Aircraft Landing Training Ship". As all Essex-class carriers survived the war, Bunker Hill was surplus to the needs of the navy. She and Franklin, which also had sustained severe damage from an aerial attack, were the only aircraft carriers in the Essex-class that did not experience any active duty after the end of World War II, despite their being repaired. Stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in November 1966, Bunker Hill was used as a stationary electronics test platform at the Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego, during the 1960s and early 1970s.
Bunker Hill was sold for scrapping in May 1973.
- Bruce Meyers served aboard Bunker Hill during World War II. He survived the May 1945 Kamikaze attack, and would go on to create the original fiberglass dune buggy, the Meyers Manx.
- Paul Newman, as a radioman-gunner in a Grumman TBF Avenger torpedo bomber, served aboard USS Bunker Hill during the Battle of Okinawa in the spring of 1945.
- E. Cardon ("Card") Walker served as Flight Control (flight deck officer) 1943–45. He returned to work at the Walt Disney Studios after the war, eventually becoming CEO, President, and finally Chairman of the Walt Disney Company. Walker retired from the Disney Board of Directors in 2000, having served 50 years on the board.
- List of aircraft carriers and list of aircraft carriers of the United States Navy
- List of World War II ships
- President on Tour, 1945/06/25. Universal Newsreels. 1945. Retrieved 20 February 2012.
- Friedman, p. 156
- Jacobs, Jan; Tillman, Barrett (August 1990), "The Wolf Gang: A History of Carrier Air Group 84", The Hook 18 (special), p. 84.
- "The Father of the Dune Buggy Rides Again – Feature". Car and Driver. 12 March 1926. Retrieved 2012-08-31.
- Friedman, Norman; Baker, A. D III (1983). U.S. Aircraft Carriers: An Illustrated Design History. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-0-87021-739-5.
- Kennedy, Maxwell Taylor (2008). Danger's Hour: The Story of the USS Bunker Hill and the Kamikaze Pilot Who Crippled Her. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-6080-5.
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