USS Marcus Island
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|Name:||USS Marcus Island|
|Laid down:||15 September 1943|
|Launched:||16 December 1943|
|Commissioned:||26 January 1944|
|Decommissioned:||12 December 1946|
|Fate:||Sold for scrap on 29 February 1960|
|Class and type:||Casablanca-class escort carrier|
|Length:||512 ft 3 in (156.13 m) overall|
|Beam:||65 ft 2 in (19.86 m), 108 ft (33 m) maximum width|
|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 (127 mm)/38 cal dual purpose gun, 16 × Bofors 40 mm guns (8×2), 20 × Oerlikon 20 mm cannons (20×1)|
|Part of:||United States Pacific Fleet (1943-1946), Atlantic Reserve Fleet (1946-1959)|
|Operations:||Mariana and Palau Islands campaign, Battle off Samar, Battle of Mindoro, Philippines campaign, Battle of Okinawa, Operation Magic Carpet|
|Awards:||4 Battle stars|
She was laid down as Kanalku Bay under Maritime Commission contract by Kaiser Co., Inc., Vancouver, Washington on 15 September 1943; renamed Marcus Island on 6 November 1943; launched on 16 December 1943; sponsored by Mrs. S. L. La Hache; acquired by the Navy on 26 January 1944; and commissioned at Astoria, Oregon on 26 January 1944, Captain Charles F. Greber in command.
World War II
After shakedown and training along the West Coast, Marcus Island made a round trip aircraft ferry run to U.S. bases in the South Pacific from 19 May-1 July. Then she embarked Composite Squadron 21 (VC-21), departed San Diego on 20 July, and arrived Tulagi in the Solomon Islands on 24 August to prepare for operations in the Palaus. As flagship for Rear Admiral W. D. Sample's Carrier Division 27 (CarDiv 27), she began preinvasion strikes against Peleliu and Angaur on 12 September. She provided close air support as assault troops hit the beaches beginning the 15th, and until 2 October, she launched scores of sorties during embittered fighting on the rugged islands.
Marcus Island arrived at Manus in the Admiralty Islands on the 4th, and after completing preparations for the invasion of the Philippines, she sortied with the Task Group 77.4 (TG 77.4) on 12 October for Leyte as part of the task unit known as "Taffy 2". Beginning on 18 October, she launched airstrikes against enemy positions and during the next week, her pilots flew 261 target and air cover missions.
The Battle for Leyte Gulf and the running fight of "Taffy 3" in the Battle off Samar on 25 October are well chronicled elsewhere; Marcus Island's war diary succinctly recorded the pace of action on the 25th - "A day of intense activity". During the heroic stand of "Taffy 3", fighters and bombers from Marcus Island struck hard at the Japanese force. One Grumman TBM Avenger put a torpedo into the portside aft of a heavy cruiser, probably Chikuma. Amidst intense antiaircraft fire, her fighters made repeated strafing runs against battleships, cruisers, and destroyers. Her planes joined in two strikes against the retreating Japanese ships that afternoon, and her pilots claimed 14 hits on enemy ships including a torpedo and six bomb hits on an Agato class cruiser. In addition, her fighters battled and shot down five Japanese planes. On the 26th, she sent 12 bombers and fighters to the Visayan Sea where they helped sink Kinu and Uranami with repeated hits from bombs, rockets, and machine guns.
Marcus Island departed the Philippines 30 October but returned less than two weeks later as part of the escort for the Mindoro attack group. Departing Kossol on 10 December, she transited Surigao Strait on the 13th. Her patrolling aircraft shot down one enemy fighter on 14 December and shot down three more planes on the 15th. Marcus Island came under attack the morning of the Mindoro invasion, and from 08:10-09:30, enemy planes made three suicide runs and one bombing strike against the carrier. All the planes were shot down or deflected by intense antiaircraft fire, although two kamikazes crashed close off the bow to port and starboard causing minor damage and several casualties.
Between 16–23 December, Marcus Island returned to the Admiralties; on the 29th she departed once more for the western Philippines, steaming with units of the Luzon Attack Force for operations in Lingayen Gulf. As she steamed through the Mindanao Sea on 5 January 1945, one of her planes depth-bombed a Japanese midget submarine, which was subsequently rammed and sunk by Taylor. Three days later, her planes shot down four enemy aircraft in spirited dogfights. As the amphibious landings began the 9th, Marcus Island launched close support and strafing strikes over the Lingayen beaches. In addition they attacked and sank two small enemy coastal ships north of Lingayen Gulf along the Luzon coast that same day. Marcus Island continued to provide coordinated airstrikes in support of the Lingayen operations until steaming down the Luzon coast on 17 January. On the 29th, she furnished close air support during an unopposed landing at Zambales Province, Luzon, then she steamed to Ulithi, arriving on 5 February.
Rear Admiral Sample hauled down his flag on 6 February, and on the 8th, Marcus Island became flagship of Rear Admiral Felix Stump's CarDiv 24. The carrier debarked hard-hitting VC-21 on 14 February and embarked VC-87 the same day. After completing training out of Ulithi, she steamed to Leyte Gulf on 4–7 March to conduct rehearsal exercises for the impending invasion of the Ryukyu Islands.
Departing on 21 March, Marcus Island arrived south of Kerama Retto on the 26th and began launching airstrikes. She provided close air support and air cover during operations in the Ryukyus. From 26 March-29 April, she operated primarily south and southeast of Okinawa while launching attack and spotter strikes. Composite Observation Squadron 1 (VCO-1) replaced VC-87 on 5 April. Planes of both the squadrons flew 1,085 sorties during this period and pounded enemy airfields, gun emplacements, supply dumps, and troop concentrations. Her pilots shot down 11 Japanese aircraft and destroyed another 13 on the ground.
Marcus Island departed Okinawa on 29 April, and after loading damaged aircraft at Guam, she sailed on 5 May for the United States, arriving San Diego on 22 May. She sailed west again on 10 July, carrying replacement troops and aircraft to Pearl Harbor and Guam before returning to Alameda, California on V-J Day. Sailing once more via Pearl Harbor and Guam, she reached Okinawa on 28 September and embarked returning troops, arriving San Francisco on 24 October. By early-January 1946, she completed additional "Magic Carpet" runs to Guam and Pearl Harbor.
Departing San Diego on 12 January, Marcus Island sailed via the Panama Canal and Norfolk, arriving Boston on 2 February. She remained at Boston, decommissioned there on 12 December 1946, and entered the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. She reclassified to CVHE-77 on 12 June 1955 and to AKV-27 on 7 May 1959. She was sold at Boston to Comarket, Inc. on 29 February 1960.
- Photo gallery at navsource.org