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USS Kasaan Bay

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USS Kasaan Bay (CVE-69) in Narragansett Bay 1944.jpg
USS Kasaan Bay anchored in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, 16 September 1944
History
United States
NameKasaan Bay
NamesakeKasaan Bay, Prince of Wales Island, Alaska
Orderedas a Type S4-S2-BB3 hull, MC hull 1106[2]
Awarded18 June 1942
BuilderKaiser Shipyards
Laid down11 May 1943
Launched24 October 1943
Commissioned4 December 1943
Decommissioned6 July 1946
Stricken1 March 1959
IdentificationHull symbol: CVE-69
Nickname(s)"Sassy Kassy"[1]
Honors and
awards
1 Battle star
FateScrapped in March 1960
General characteristics [3]
Class and typeCasablanca-class escort carrier
Displacement
Length
  • 512 ft 3 in (156.13 m) (oa)
  • 490 ft (150 m) (wl)
  • 474 ft (144 m) (fd)
Beam
Draft20 ft 9 in (6.32 m) (max)
Installed power
Propulsion
Speed19 knots (35 km/h; 22 mph)
Range10,240 nmi (18,960 km; 11,780 mi) at 15 kn (28 km/h; 17 mph)
Complement
  • Total: 910 – 916 officers and men
    • Embarked Squadron: 50 – 56
    • Ship's Crew: 860
Armament
Aircraft carried27
Aviation facilities
Service record
Part of:
Operations:

USS Kasaan Bay (CVE-69) was the fifteenth of fifty Casablanca-class escort carriers built for the United States Navy during World War II. She was named after Kasaan Bay, a name assigned to the bay by the local Haida Indians. The bay is located within Prince of Wales Island, which at the time was a part of the Territory of Alaska. The ship was launched in October 1943, commissioned in December, and served as a transport carrier in both the Atlantic and the Pacific, as well as taking part in Operation Dragoon, the Allied invasion of occupied Southern France. Her aircraft provided air support and strategic bombing capabilities, disrupting German supply lines, and earning Kasaan Bay a battle star. Postwar, she participated in Operation Magic Carpet. Ultimately, she was broken up in March 1960.

Design and description[edit]

A profile of the design of Takanis Bay, which was shared by all Casablanca-class escort carriers.

Kasaan Bay was a Casablanca-class escort carrier, the most numerous type of aircraft carrier ever built,[3] and was designed specifically to be rapidly mass-produced using prefabricated sections, in order to replace heavy early war losses. By the end of their production run, the time taken between laying down the hull and launching the ship had been cut down to nearly one month. Standardized with her sister ships, she was 512 ft 3 in (156.13 m) long overall, had a beam of 65 ft 2 in (19.86 m), and a draft of 20 ft 9 in (6.32 m). She displaced 8,188 long tons (8,319 t) standard and 10,902 long tons (11,077 t) with a full load. She had a 257 ft (78 m) long hangar deck and a 477 ft (145 m) long flight deck. She was powered with two Skinner Unaflow reciprocating steam engines, which drove two shafts, providing 9,000 horsepower (6,700 kW), thus enabling her to make 19 knots (35 km/h; 22 mph). The ship had a cruising range of 10,240 nautical miles (18,960 km; 11,780 mi) at a speed of 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph). Her compact size limited the length of the flight deck and necessitated the installment of an aircraft catapult at her bow, and there were two aircraft elevators to facilitate movement of aircraft between the flight and hangar deck: one each fore and aft.[3][4][5]

One 5 in (127 mm)/38 caliber dual-purpose gun was mounted on the stern. Anti-aircraft defense was provided by eight Bofors 40 mm (1.6 in) anti-aircraft guns in single mounts, as well as twelve Oerlikon 20 mm (0.79 in) cannons, which were mounted around the perimeter of the deck.[5] By the end of the war, Casablanca-class carriers had been modified to carry thirty 20 mm (0.79 in) cannons, and the amount of Bofors 40 mm (1.6 in) guns had been doubled to 16, by putting them into twin mounts. These modifications were in response to increasing casualties due to kamikaze attacks. Casablanca-class escort carriers were designed to carry 27 aircraft, but the hangar deck could accommodate more.[6] During Operation Dragoon, she carried 24 F6F-5 Hellcat fighters, 3 TBF Avenger torpedo bombers, and 8 F6F-3N Hellcat variant night fighters for a total of 35 aircraft, a rare occurrence, as Hellcats typically tended to operate on fleet carriers, rather than escort carriers.[6]

Construction[edit]

Her construction was awarded to Kaiser Shipbuilding Company, Vancouver, Washington under a Maritime Commission contract, on 18 June 1942. The escort carrier was laid down on 11 May 1943 under the name Kasaan Bay, as part of a tradition which named escort carriers after bays or sounds in Alaska.[7] Her namesake, Kasaan Bay, was in turn derived from the local Kaigani Haida, who named the bay after the nearby settlement of Gasa'áan, the name of which had originated from the Tlingit name Kasa'aan, meaning "pretty town".[8][9] She was laid down as MC hull 1106, the fifteenth of a series of fifty Casablanca-class escort carriers. She therefore received the classification symbol CVE-69, indicating that she was the sixty-ninth escort carrier to be commissioned into the United States Navy. She was launched on 24 October 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Robert W. Morse, the wife of Captain Morse, who would later become best known as the advising Aviation Officer for the Fifth Fleet; transferred to the Navy and commissioned on 4 December 1943, with Captain Bradford Ellsworth Grow in command.[2][10]

Service history[edit]

World War II[edit]

A FM-1 Wildcat fighter aircraft takes off from the deck of Kasaan Bay, 6 February 1944.

Upon being commissioned, Kasaan Bay underwent a shakedown cruise down the West Coast to San Diego. Upon finishing, she was assigned to transport duty, and sailed from San Francisco on 8 January 1944 with a load of aircraft and passengers, bound for Pearl Harbor. After returning to Naval Air Station San Diego, she was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet and sailed for Norfolk, arriving on 28 February for overhaul and operations along the East Coast. On 28 May, she left New York City in conjunction with her sisters Tulagi and Mission Bay, ferrying aircraft on a round trip to Casablanca, French Morocco. She arrived at Casablanca on 6 June, departed on 8 June, and returned to New York on 17 June, carrying onboard 342 survivors of the Bogue-class escort carrier Block Island, which had been torpedoed by a German U-boat on 29 May.[11]

Upon returning to the East Coast, Kasaan Bay and Tulagi were informed that they were to take part in Operation Dragoon, the Allied landings in Southern France. She first took on her fighting aircraft contingent Fighter Squadron (VF) 74, commanded by Lieutenant Commander H. Brinkley Bass, before heading to Quonset Point, Rhode Island, arriving on 29 June, where Rear Admiral Calvin T. Durgin and his staff turned Tulagi into his flagship. The next day, on 30 June, Kasaan Bay and Tulagi left port, accompanied by six destroyer escorts as a part of Task Group 27.7, heading for Oran, French Algeria. En route, the two carriers conducted extensive exercises, as both the carriers' crews and their aircraft contingents were relatively inexperienced.[6]

Arriving at Oran on 10 July, Task Group 27.7 dissolved, with Durgin heading for Naples, Allied occupied Italy for invasion planning. In the meantime, Kasaan Bay participated in training and spotting exercises off of the Algerian coast. On 17 July, the force, now reconstituted as Task Group 80.2, which now had a wholly new complement of escorting destroyers, left Oran for Malta. During the passage, the screening Gleaves-class destroyer Niblack picked up a suspicious contact on sonar and dropped depth charges. As one of Kasaan Bay's Avengers was up on anti-submarine patrol at the time, it headed for Niblack's course and assisted in dropping more depth charges, albeit their combined efforts resulted in no apparent results.[6]

Tulagi (foreground) and Kasaan Bay photographed anchored at Malta.

The task group, stopping at Malta on 26 July, took Durgin back on board, and had the British Bogue-class escort carriers Hunter and Stalker join the force. Both of the British ships had 24 Supermarine Seafire fighters on board, and would assist in providing a fighter screen throughout the operation. Later that same day, the task group departed for Alexandria, Egypt, for additional training operations. Arriving at Alexandria, the task group was assigned to operate under the command of Rear admiral Thomas Hope Troubridge, as a part of Task Force 88. Thus, her task group's code was changed to Task Group 88.2. Altogether, Task Force 88 would consist of nine carriers, two British light cruisers, six U.S. destroyers, and six British minelayers. After conducting exercises, the Task Group returned to Malta on 3 August, and then proceeded onwards to Salerno on 7 August in order to take part in a dress rehearsal of the invasion. During the transit, Kasaan Bay's Avengers and Hellcat night fighters were detached and sent to Corsica. On 10 August, the Task Force was back in Malta.[12]

Kasaan Bay photographed through the signal flags of Tulagi, 15 August 1944.
Multiple F6F Hellcats, with their wings folded up, on the flight deck of Kasaan Bay, 15 August 1944. One of the Hellcats is being maneuvered into a launching position.

On 12 August, the Task Force sortied from Malta, this time to support the invasion. In order to deceive enemy observations regarding the force's intentions, the Task Force first headed due west, and upon reaching the longitude of Provence on the night on 13 August, turned due north. On the morning of 15 August, D-Day, the Allied surface forces opened fire on the German coastal defenses. For the next six days, Kasaan Bay and Tulagi provided close air support for the Seventh Army as it established its beachheads and pushed inland. There was generally very little resistance from the Germans in the air, with the Luftwaffe having been stretched thinly across multiple fronts, but the anti-aircraft fire was heavy at times. The initial targets for VF-74 were a group of four coastal batteries situated on Porquerolles, whilst the aircraft contingent of Tulagi, Observation Fighting Squadron (VOF) 1, directed naval surface fire. On the initial day of the landings, VF-74 tallied up sixty sorties.[12]

A F6F-5 variant Hellcat fighter of VF-74 preparing to be launched from the flight deck of Kasaan Bay in support of Operation Dragoon, 15 August 1944.
The pilots of VF-74 are briefed on a ground mission over Southern France in support of Operation Dragoon in Kasaan Bay's "Ready Room".

On 17 August, VF-74 launched a successful attack on a coastal battery situated on Port-Cros. However, on the last flight of the day, eight of VF-74's Hellcats had been launched, with instructions to opportunistically strike targets. Whilst the Hellcats were strafing a German truck convoy under the fading light, two of the Hellcats went missing, albeit whether it was due to German anti-aircraft fire or thunderstorms was never determined. Returning to the carrier, another Hellcat went into the flight deck's crash barrier, blocking the deck, and forcing the remaining Hellcats to divert to Tulagi. [13]

On the morning of 19 August, a Junkers Ju 88 bomber was intercepted by eight of Kasaan Bay's Hellcats, led by VF-74's skipper, Bass, and shot down. Later that same day, six of Kasaan Bay's Hellcats intercepted and shot down a lone Dornier Do 217 bomber. On the morning of 20 August, the second flight of the day for VF-74, consisting of six Hellcats, involved strafing a train of ammunition wagons. In the course of the action, one of the wagons exploded, bringing down one of the Hellcats, and damaging two others, forcing them to return to ship. Near Villefranche-sur-Mer, one of the three remaining Hellcats was hit and downed by anti-aircraft fire, albeit the pilot escaped back to Allied lines via Bordeaux. On the afternoon of that same day, Bass was leading a group of eight Hellcats up the Rhône valley striking targets of opportunity. Spotting what appeared to be a German motorcycle, Bass dived his plane for an attack, but much too low. His Hellcat's belly tank was torn off, destabilizing the aircraft, and sending it into the ground, killing Bass. Later in that same mission, another Hellcat clipped an electrical transmission line, tearing off a part of its left wing. However, the pilot was able to maneuver the plane into a safe landing onto a ground runway at Ramatuelle.[14]

At the end of the day on 21 August, after the escort carriers had retrieved their aircraft, (incidentally, during this process, Kasaan Bay recorded her 2,000th landing), Task Group 88.2 retired to Maddalena, Sardinia, to refuel and resupply. However, finding bombs trimmed to the American standard that would enable them to be utilized by her Hellcats proved to be an elusive task, even after proceeding southwards to Propriano, Corsica. Thus, the ordnancemen on Kasaan Bay found it necessary to grind the bomb suspension lugs of other bombs in order to trim them to the extent such that they would be compatible with her Hellcats' bomb racks. The task group was back off the coast of the French Riviera on 23 August, but by then, the frontlines had proceeded farther inland and quieted down. Kasaan Bay's F6F-3N night fighters had their radar gunsights stripped off, with the intention of only using them for screening missions from then onwards. Nonetheless, both Kasaan Bay and Tulagi continued conducting close air support missions until 30 August, when the task group headed for Ajaccio, Corsica, and dissolved, with ground based air bases having been secured and repaired to the extent as to render the escort carriers redundant. In the course of thirteen days of frontline duty, the two escort carriers had lost 11 Hellcats, but shot down 8 German planes, destroyed 825 trucks and other vehicles, damaging 334 more, destroyed 84 locomotives, and recorded significant damage on German supply lines and infrastructure. Three of the men from VF-74 and VOF-1 received Navy Crosses during that short period of combat.[15]

Leaving her aircraft contingent behind, Kasaan Bay first headed back to Oran, before leaving port on 6 September, arriving back at Norfolk on 18 September. She conducted another roundtrip aircraft transport mission to Casablanca in late October, returning to the East Coast in November. There, Captain Albert Noble Perkins took over command of the vessel, and she was assigned to the United States Pacific Fleet. Steaming westwards, she arrived at San Diego on 2 January 1945, and ferried aircraft to Pearl Harbor, Guam, and Ulithi throughout January, where they would be used to resupply the frontline Fast Carrier Task Force. Having completed her mission, she returned to Pearl Harbor on 14 February, where she served as a training carrier, providing pilot qualifications in the waters off of Hawaii. She continued this duty until early June, when she was assigned to conduct antisubmarine operations in the shipping lines between the Marshall and Mariana Islands. Whilst she was undergoing these duties, word came of the Japanese surrender.[10]

Post-war[edit]

Upon hearing of the end of the war, Kasaan Bay returned to Guam, where she joined the Operation Magic Carpet fleet, which repatriated U.S. servicemen from throughout the Pacific. She departed Saipan on 13 September with her first load of servicemen, steaming into San Diego on 30 September. Throughout the next three months, she made three cruises to Hawaii and the Philippines. Upon returning to San Francisco on 28 December, she headed for the East Coast on 29 January 1946, arriving at Boston on 22 February. She was decommissioned and mothballed on 31 July 1946, joining the Boston group of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. On 12 June 1955, she was redesignated as a helicopter escort carrier, receiving the hull symbol CVHE-69. She was struck from the Navy list on 1 March 1959, and she was sold for scrapping on 2 February 1960. She was ultimately broken up in Hamburg, West Germany during March 1960. Kasaan Bay received one battle star for her World War II service.[5][10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Y'Blood 2012, p. 212.
  2. ^ a b Kaiser Vancouver 2010.
  3. ^ a b c Chesneau & Gardiner 1980, p. 109.
  4. ^ Y'Blood 2014, pp. 34–35.
  5. ^ a b c Hazegray 1998.
  6. ^ a b c d Y'Blood 2012, p. 200.
  7. ^ Maksel 2012.
  8. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Kasaan Bay
  9. ^ Bright 2004, p. 204.
  10. ^ a b c DANFS 2016.
  11. ^ Y'Blood 2012, p. 180.
  12. ^ a b Y'Blood 2012, pp. 201–202.
  13. ^ Y'Blood 2012, pp. 203–204.
  14. ^ Y'Blood 2012, pp. 205–206.
  15. ^ Y'Blood 2012, pp. 208–209.

Sources[edit]

Online sources[edit]

  • "Kasaan Bay (CVE-69)". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Naval History and Heritage Command. 27 April 2016. Archived from the original on 21 March 2021. Retrieved 10 July 2021.Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  • "Kaiser Vancouver, Vancouver WA". www.ShipbuildingHistory.com. 27 November 2010. Archived from the original on 16 June 2019. Retrieved 14 June 2019.
  • "World Aircraft Carriers List: US Escort Carriers, S4 Hulls". Hazegray.org. 14 December 1998. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
  • Maksel, Rebecca (14 August 2012). "How Do You Name an Aircraft Carrier?". Air & Space/Smithsonian. Retrieved 23 December 2019.

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]