USS Sangamon (CVE-26)
|Owner:||Standard Oil Company|
|Builder:||Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, Kearny, New Jersey|
|Laid down:||13 March 1939|
|Launched:||4 November 1939|
|Sponsored by:||Mrs. Clara Esselborn|
|Fate:||Purchased by the US Navy|
|Acquired:||22 October 1940|
|Commissioned:||23 October 1940, as (AO-28) fleet oiler|
|Decommissioned:||25 February 1942|
|Reclassified:||AVG-26, 14 February 1942|
|Refit:||Converted to escort carrier|
|Recommissioned:||25 August 1942|
|Decommissioned:||24 October 1945|
|Struck:||1 November 1945|
|Fate:||Sold, 11 February 1948, Scrapped in Osaka, Japan, August 1960|
|General characteristics as escort carrier|
|Class and type:||Sangamon-class escort carrier|
|Displacement:||11,400 long tons (11,600 t) standard, 24,275 long tons (24,665 t) full|
|Length:||553 ft (169 m)|
|Beam:||114 ft 3 in (34.82 m)|
|Draft:||32 ft 4 in (9.86 m)|
|Speed:||18 kn (21 mph; 33 km/h)|
|Complement:||830 officers and men|
|Sensors and |
|Aviation facilities:||2 × elevators|
|Operations:||World War II|
|Awards:||8 battle stars. Her three air groups were each awarded the Presidential Unit Citation|
USS Sangamon (CVE-26) was an escort carrier converted from a T3 Tanker oiler, the second ship to carry her name. She was one of 12 Cimarron class oilers built on a joint Navy-Maritime Commission design later duplicated by the T3-S2-A1 type. Sangamon was laid down as Esso Trenton (MC hull 7) on 13 March 1939 by the Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, Kearny, New Jersey; launched on 4 November 1939, sponsored by Mrs. Clara Esselborn; operated by Standard Oil of New Jersey on runs from gulf coast ports to the east coast; and acquired by the United States Navy on 22 October 1940. Renamed Sangamon and designated a fleet oiler, AO-28, she was commissioned on 23 October 1940, with Commander J. H. Duncan in command.
World War II
After service off the west coast and in Hawaiian waters, Sangamon shifted to the Atlantic Fleet in the spring of 1941, and through the Neutrality Patrol period, carried fuel from the gulf coast oil ports to bases on the east coast, in Canada, and in Iceland. On 7 December 1941, when the U.S. entered World War II, she was at Naval Station Argentia, Newfoundland, offloading her liquid cargo. Within the week, she started south again to renew her schedule on a tighter time frame.
In early 1942, she was designated for conversion to an auxiliary aircraft carrier. On 11 February, she arrived in Hampton Roads. Three days later, she was reclassified AVG-26; and on 25 February, she was decommissioned and conversion was begun at the Norfolk Navy Yard.
During the spring and summer, the need for auxiliary carriers, later called escort carriers, increased. Work on Sangamon, three other Cimarron-class oilers, and 20 C-3 merchant hulls was continued and sped up. In August, Sangamon — the first of her class of escort carriers – was ready. Her conversion had added a flight deck 502 ft (153 m) long and 81 ft (25 m) wide, elevators, a hangar deck, an aircraft catapult, sonar gear, aircraft ordnance magazines, workshops, and stowage space for aviation spares. Her accommodations had been enlarged to house her increased complement and embarked aviation personnel, and her armament had been changed to two 5"/127mm guns, eight 40 mm guns, and twelve 20 mm cannons to increase her anti-aircraft defense. On 20 August, she was redesignated ACV-26; and five days later, she was recommissioned, with Captain C. W. Wieber in command.
Sangamon and her three sister T3 conversions were considered very successful escort-carrier designs, larger and more stable than the smaller C3-derived Bogue class; additionally, they retained substantial oil bunkerage, useful in refueling destroyers in company. The late-war purpose-built Commencement Bay-class escort carriers were derived from the Sangamons.
Shakedown in Chesapeake Bay and off Bermuda followed a return to the yard for repair and improvements to her ventilation system, and on 25 October she sailed east with Task Force 34 (TF 34) to provide air cover for Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa. Assigned to the Northern Support Force, she arrived off Port Lyautey on 8 November. Prior to and during the landings, and subsequent action, her air group, Composite Squadron 26 (VC-26) flew combat air patrol (CAP), anti-submarine patrol (ASP), and ground support missions. At mid-month, she got underway to return to Norfolk, Virginia, whence, after repairs, she sailed for Panama and the Pacific.
By mid-January 1943, Sangamon had arrived at Éfaté, New Hebrides. As a unit of Carrier Division 22 (CarDiv 22), she operated in the New Caledonia—New Hebrides—Solomon Islands area for the next eight months. With Suwannee and Chenango, she provided protection for resupply convoys en route to Guadalcanal and for the assault forces moving on the Russell Islands.
Captain E. P. Moore took over as captain on 5 April 1943. Redesignated CVE-26 on 15 July 1943, Sangamon shifted her base of operations from Efate to Espiritu Santo in August, and, in September, she returned to the United States for an overhaul at Mare Island. There she received more modern equipment for her flight deck and a combat information center.
On 19 October, she departed San Diego with VC-37 embarked and sailed for Espiritu Santo. She got underway from the latter on 13 November, rendezvoused with Task Force 53 the next day, and on 20 October arrived in the Gilberts to support the assault on Tarawa Atoll. During the first two days of this operation, her planes struck enemy positions on the island. Then, through 6 December, they were sent out on CAP and ASP missions to protect the escort carrier group and the target area.
The escort carrier then set course to return to San Diego. In early January 1944, she trained off southern California, and on 13 January sailed west. Steaming via Pearl Harbor, she pushed on toward her next amphibious operation, the assault on Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands. At 16:51 on 25 January, during routine flight operations, a returning fighter failed to hook a wire on landing, broke through the barriers, and crashed into parked planes on the forward flight deck. Its belly tank, torn loose, skidded forward, spewing flaming fuel. Fire soon spread among the planes.
It raged along the flight deck and flames beat up over the bridge, making ship control extremely difficult. The former oiler was turned out of the wind, so that the fire could be fought. By 16:59, it was under control. Seven of the crew died in those eight minutes. Seven others were seriously injured, and of the 15 who jumped over the side to escape the flames, 13 were picked up, two were missing.
Temporary repairs were made at sea, and from 31 January to mid-February, Sangamon supported the assault and occupation of Kwajalein. She then moved on to Enewetak, where her planes covered the landing forces from 17–24 February. On the latter date, she departed the Marshalls and headed back to Pearl Harbor to complete repairs. Captain M. E. Browder flew aboard on 1 March to relieve Captain Moore and assume command.
On 15 March, the CVE got underway again. Departing Hawaii, she rendezvoused with Task Group 50.15 (TG 50.15) — the fast carrier force support group – on 26 March. For the remainder of the month and into April she escorted that group as it operated north of the Admiralty Islands to refuel and resupply the fast carrier force after it had conducted strikes on the Palaus. In early April, Sangamon retired to Espiritu Santo and at mid-month, sailed for New Guinea. Briefly attached to the 7th Fleet, she covered the landing at Aitape from 22–24 April; retired to Manus Island for two days, then returned to the Aitape area where she conducted patrols until 5 May.
Sangamon then returned to Espiritu Santo, whence she departed on 19 May. Rehearsals for the Marianas campaign followed, and on 2 June, she sailed for the Marshalls. Rendezvousing with TF 53 en route, she covered that force to Kwajalein, then to the Mariana Islands. From 17–20 June, she guarded the force as it steamed to the east of Saipan as a backup force for TF 52, which was then engaged in the assault on, and the occupation of, the island.
After the Battle of the Philippine Sea, Sangamon was detached from TF 53. On 21 June, she joined TF 52, and into July conducted operations in support of the occupation of Saipan. On 4 July, she steamed for Eniwetok; arrived on 7 July; and sortied again on 10 July. From 13 July – 1 August, she covered the bombardment groups engaged in the capture of Guam. On 4 August, she returned to Eniwetok, where on 9 August she proceeded to Manus where she was anchored for almost a month.
On 9 September, Sangamon departed Seeadler Harbor and steamed for Morotai. There, from 15–27 September, she again covered Allied assault forces. After the initial waves had landed, her planes shifted from combat support to bombing and strafing missions to destroy Japanese airfields on nearby Halmahera.
The CVE again anchored in Seeadler Harbor on 1 October. Twelve days later, she sortied with TG 77.4, the escort carrier group of the Leyte invasion force. That group, composed of 18 CVEs, was broken down into Task Units 77.4.1, 77.4.2, and 77.4.3 (TU 77.4.1, 77.4.2, and 77.4.3), and referred to as "Taffy 1, 2, and 3", respectively. During the operation, they would steam to the east of Leyte Gulf: Taffy 1, including Sangamon, was off northern Mindanao, Taffy 2 off the entrance to Leyte Gulf; and Taffy 3 off Samar.
Prior to the 20 October landings on Leyte, Sangamon launched regular flights in support of the advance units of the invasion force and sent strikes against Leyte and Visayan airfields. On the 20th, her planes covered the landing forces and the ships in the transport areas. That day, she also came under enemy air attack and took a hit at the main deck level. The bomb, dropped by an A6M5 Zero, tore a 2 ft × 6 ft (0.61 m × 1.83 m) section of plating loose, then fell into the sea and exploded some 300 yd (270 m) away from the "jeep" carrier.
Enemy airfields again became Sangamon's primary targets in the days immediately following the landings. On 24 October, however, her planes fought off waves of Japanese aircraft over the landing area. Early on 25 October, two flights took off: one toward the Mindanao Sea to locate and finish off Japanese survivors of the Battle of Surigao Strait, the other toward Leyte for CAP missions. About an hour later, Sangamon received word that Taffy 3, 120 mi (190 km) to the north, had been attacked by the Japanese Center Force which had transited San Bernardino Strait during the night.
Battle off Samar
Within a half-hour, Sangamon's CAP flight had been diverted to Samar and she had launched another smaller group to further aid the attacked unit. Soon thereafter, however, at about 07:40, as Taffy 1 planes were being recovered, rearmed, and launched, the unit became the target of the first strike of the kamikaze.
Santee took the first hit, and as her flight and hangar decks blazed, Suwannee was attacked. Antiaircraft fire from that CVE scored on the planes, which then dived toward Sangamon. A 5"/127mm shell from Suwannee finished one plane only 50 yd (46 m) from Sangamon. By 07:55, Japanese submarine I-56 (2) had joined the fight, and – as Santee's crew brought her fires under control — sent a torpedo into that luckless CVE. Minutes later, Suwannee was hit by a Zero forward of the after elevator.
During the intense fighting, several of Sangamon's crew were injured and one was killed by strafing fire. Later in the morning, as the attacks fell off, she sent medical personnel to assist casualties of the damaged ships, then began bringing them aboard for treatment. At mid-day, she suffered malfunctions in her steering gear, electrical generators, and catapult, but repairs were completed in time for her to launch afternoon strikes as scheduled. Those flights gave chase to the retreating Japanese Center Force.
On 26 October, Sangamon recovered her scattered planes and again launched CAP flights. At 12:15, however, enemy planes were reported coming in from the north. Several broke through the air defenses, and Suwanee suffered another kamikaze hit. On 29 October, the escort carriers retired.
Sangamon anchored in Seeadler Harbor on 3 November. Six days later, she headed back to the United States for a shipyard overhaul at Bremerton, Washington. From 30 November 1944 – 24 January 1945, the yard installed rocket stowage racks, a second catapult, improved radar gear, new 40 mm mounts, a bomb elevator, and additional fire-fighting equipment. In mid-February, the CVE arrived in Hawaiian waters to train a new squadron, VC-33, which included night fighters. On 5 March, she continued westward, and on 16 March she arrived at Ulithi. There she was temporarily detached from her division to join TU 52.1.1, one of the escort carrier groups assigned to the initial assault phase of Operation Iceberg, the invasion of the Ryukyu Islands.
On 21 March, Sangamon departed Ulithi with other ships assigned to the Kerama Retto assault force. Covering the force en route, she operated to the south of Okinawa and launched planes for CAP and landing force support as Kerama Retto was secured. On 1 April, as the landings on the Hagushi beaches of Okinawa were taking place, she shifted to TU 52.1.3, thus rejoining CarDiv 22. Through 8 April, however, she continued to launch supporting strikes and patrol groups from an area some 50 mi (80 km) south of Okinawa.
On 9 April, she moved with her unit into an area 70 mi (110 km) east of Sakishima Gunto. From there, her planes raided airfields on Miyako and Ishigaki. Detached on 12 April, she again provided air support for the forces fighting on Okinawa, then covered the occupation of Ie-shima. On 18 April, she returned to Sakishima Islands. Dawn and dusk strikes were launched daily, and heckler flights were sent over the fields at night. On 22 April, eight fighters and four bombers of a dusk strike caught 25–30 enemy planes warming up on Nobara Field, central Miyako. Seven Nakajima Ki-43 "Oscars" attempted to intercept Sangamon's planes, but the attack was pressed home. After delivering their loads, the bombers were sent back to the CVE, while the fighters engaged the "Oscars" and downed five. Night fighters from Sangamon were diverted to the area and arrived as four more enemy planes joined the fight. The latter, also "Oscars", were engaged, and two of the four were shot down before the fight was over.
Through the end of the month, Sangamon continued to launch her planes to neutralize Japanese airfields. On 4 May, she put into Kerama Retto to rearm. Loading, frequently interrupted by the presence of bogies in the area, was not completed until evening. At 18:30, the CVE got underway. Japanese attackers, however, were soon reported only some 29 mi (47 km) off. Land-based fighters were vectored out to intercept the enemy planes and shot down nine. One got through and, at about 19:00, began circling toward a position on Sangamon's port quarter. The CVE went into a hard left turn to avoid the enemy and to maneuver into a launching position. She then opened fire and was joined by her escorts. The enemy crashed into the water some 25 ft (7.6 m) off the starboard beam.
Other bogies followed the first. At 19:25, another broke through the interceptor screen, ran into clouds to avoid anti-aircraft fire, then came out and, with increased speed, headed for Sangamon. At 19:33, the kamikaze dropped his bomb and crashed into the center of the flight deck. The bomb and parts of the plane penetrated that deck and exploded below, hurling flames and shrapnel in all directions. Initial damage was extensive, fires broke out on the flight deck, the hangar deck, and in the fuel deck, communications from the bridge were lost within 15 minutes, and the ship was soon out of control.
The action of Sangamon swinging through the wind caused the flames and smoke to change direction, spreading the fires. By 20:15, however, steering control had been established, and the ship was brought back to a course which helped the crew fight the myriad fires scattered over the CVE. But water pressure was low, as the firemain and risers had ruptured. Carbon dioxide bottles were brought into action. Nearby ships came alongside to assist. By 22:30, all fires were under control. Communication with other units had been regained; at first through the radio of Fullam, then by using a VHF channel in the sole remaining aircraft aboard. At 23:20, Sangamon — with 11 dead, 25 missing, and 21 seriously wounded – got underway to return to Kerama Retto for temporary repairs.
From Kerama Retto, Sangamon proceeded on to Ulithi, thence headed for Pearl Harbor and the U.S. On 12 June, she arrived at Norfolk, Virginia, and commenced repairs. Work was suspended with the cessation of hostilities in mid-August, and in September, she was ordered inactivated. Decommissioned on 24 October, Sangamon was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 November.
She was subsequently sold to Hillcone Steamship Company, San Francisco, and was delivered to that company's representative at Norfolk on 11 February 1948. She passed through multiple owners through the 1950s, and ultimately was scrapped in Osaka, Japan starting in August 1960.