USS Liscome Bay

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USS Liscome Bay CVE56.jpg
USS Liscome Bay (CVE-56), underway, 20 September 1943, with a load of SBD Dauntlesses, TBF Avengers and F4F Wildcats.
Name: Liscome Bay
Namesake: bay off the eastern coast of Dall Island
Awarded: Kaiser Shipbuilding Company, Vancouver, Washington
Yard number: 302[1]
Laid down: 9 December 1942
Launched: 19 April 1943
Sponsored by: Mrs. Ben Moreell
Commissioned: 7 August 1943
Reclassified: CVE, 15 July 1943
Fate: Lost in action, 24 November 1943
General characteristics [2]
Class and type: Casablanca-class escort carrier
  • 7,800 long tons (7,900 t) (standard)
  • 10,902 long tons (11,077 t) (full load)
  • 498 feet (152 m) oa
  • 490 feet (150 m) wl
  • 65 ft 2 in (19.86 m)
  • 108 ft (33 m) (extreme width)
Draft: 22 ft 4 in (6.81 m) (max)
Installed power:
Speed: 19 kn (35 km/h; 22 mph)
Range: 10,240 nmi (18,960 km; 11,780 mi) at 15 kn (28 km/h; 17 mph)
  • Total:910–916 officers and men
    • Embarked Squadron:50–56
    • Ship's Crew:860
Aircraft carried: 27 aircraft
Aviation facilities:
Service record
Part of: United States Pacific Fleet (1943)
Commanders: Captain I.D. Wiltsie

USS Liscome Bay (ACV/CVE-56), a Casablanca-class escort carrier during World War II, was the only ship of the United States Navy to be named for Liscome Bay in Dall Island in the Alexander Archipelago of Alaska. She was lost to a submarine attack by Japanese submarine I-175 during Operation Galvanic, with a catastrophic loss of life, on 24 November 1943.


Liscome Bay was laid down on 9 December 1942, under a Maritime Commission (MARCOM) contract, MC hull 1093, by Kaiser Shipbuilding Company, Vancouver, Washington; she was launched on 19 April 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Ben Moreell, wife of the Chief of the Navy's Bureau of Yards & Docks; she was named Liscome Bay on 28 June 1943, and assigned the hull classification symbol CVE-56 on 15 July 1943: she was acquired by the Navy and commissioned on 7 August 1943, Captain Irving D. Wiltsie in command.[3]

Service history[edit]

After training operations along the West Coast, Liscome Bay departed from San Diego, California, on 21 October 1943, arriving at Pearl Harbor one week later. Once additional drills and operational exercises were completed, the escort carrier set off on what was to be her first and last battle mission. As a member of Carrier Division 24 (CarDiv 24), she departed from Pearl Harbor on 10 November, attached to TF 52, Northern Attack Force, under Rear Admiral Richmond K. Turner, bound for the invasion of the Gilbert Islands.[3]

The invasion bombardment announcing the United States's first major thrust into the central Pacific began on 20 November, at 05:00. Just 76 hours later, Tarawa and Makin Islands were both captured.[3] Liscome Bay's aircraft had not yet taken part in any of the[4] 2,278 action sorties by carrier-based planes, which neutralized enemy airbases, supported US Army landings and ground operations in bombing-strafing missions, and intercepted enemy raids. With the islands secured, US naval forces began retiring.[3]


On 23 November, the Japanese submarine I-175 arrived off Makin. The temporary task group, built around Rear Admiral Henry M. Mullinnix three escort carriers, Liscome Bay, Coral Sea and Corregidor, was steaming 20 mi (32 km) southwest of Butaritari Island at 15 kn (28 km/h; 17 mph).[3]

At 04:30 on 24 November, reveille was sounded in Liscome Bay. Flight quarters was sounded at 04:50. The crew went to routine general quarters at 05:05, when flight crews prepared their planes for dawn launchings. Thirteen planes, including one forward on the catapult, had been spotted on the flight deck. These had all been fueled and armed. There were an additional seven planes in the hanger that were not fueled or armed. Since this was to be the first operations for Liscome Bay since leaving Pearl Harbor she still had her complete allowance of bombs still in the bomb magazine minus the bombs already loaded. This included nine 2,000-pound (910 kg) GP bombs, nine 1,600-pound (730 kg) AP bombs, twenty-four 1,000-pound (450 kg) GP bombs, ninety-six 500-pound (230 kg) GP bombs, one hundred and twenty 100-pound (45 kg) GP bombs, and ninety-six 350-pound (160 kg) depth charges. In addition, she had 12 torpex-loaded aircraft torpedoes in the port side of the hanger aft.[4]

At about 05:10, a lookout stationed at the 40mm director on the gallery walkway at frame 160 starboard, reported over the telephone that he saw a torpedo headed for the ship.[4] The torpedo struck abaft the after engine room[3] and detonated the aircraft bomb magazine, located between frames 152 to 168, causing a major explosion which engulfed the ship and sent shrapnel flying as far as 5,000 yd (4,600 m).[5] Considerable debris fell on New Mexico, about 1,500 yd (1,400 m) distant from Liscome Bay. The explosion completely demolished and killed everyone aft of the forward bulkhead of the after engine room. The hanger deck aft of frame 110 and the flight deck aft of 101 were destroyed and missing. The forward part of the hanger was immediately engulfed in an intense fire, igniting the few remaining planes on the flight deck. All services, steam, compressed air, and firemain pressure were lost in the remaining portion of the ship. [4] "It didn't look like a ship at all", wrote Lieutenant John C. W. Dix, communications officer on Hoel, "We thought it was an ammunition dump... She just went whoom — an orange ball of flame."[5]

Burial at sea aboard Leonard Wood of two Liscome Bay sailors, victims of the submarine attack by I-175. Foreground facing ceremony are survivors of Liscome Bay. Ship in background is Neville carrying remainder of the survivors.

At 05:33, only 23 minutes after the explosion, Liscome Bay listed to starboard and then sank, carrying 54 officers and 648 enlisted men,[4] including Admiral Mullinix, Captain Wiltsie,[3] and Pearl Harbor hero Ship's Cook Third Class Doris Miller, down with her. Of the 916 crewmen, only 272 were rescued, by Morris, Hughes and Hull.

Including the sailors lost on Liscome Bay, American casualties in the assault on Makin Island exceeded the strength of the entire Japanese garrison. Future legal scholar Robert Keeton, then a Navy lieutenant, survived the attack.[6]


Liscome Bay received one battle star for her World War II service.[3]

See also[edit]



Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 2°34′N 172°30′E / 2.567°N 172.500°E / 2.567; 172.500