USS St. Lo
USS St. Lo (CVE-63)
|Ordered:||as a Type S4-S2-BB3 hull, MCE hull 1100}|
|Awarded:||18 June 1942|
|Builder:||Kaiser Shipbuilding Company, Vancouver, Washington|
|Laid down:||23 January 1943|
|Launched:||17 August 1943|
|Sponsored by:||Mrs. Howard Nixon Culter|
|Commissioned:||23 October 1943|
|Struck:||27 November 1944|
|Fate:||Sunk by kamikaze aircraft, 25 October 1944|
|Status:||Wreck location, near Coordinates: |
|General characteristics |
|Class and type:||Casablanca-class escort carrier|
|Draft:||22 ft 4 in (6.81 m) (max)|
|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)|
|Aircraft carried:||27 aircraft|
|Part of:||United States Pacific Fleet|
|Operations:||Battle of Saipan, Battle of Tinian, Battle of Morotai, Battle off Samar, Battle of Leyte Gulf|
|Awards:||Presidential Unit Citation, 4 Battle stars|
USS St. Lo (AVG/ACV/CVE–63) was a Casablanca-class escort carrier of the United States Navy during World War II. On 25 October 1944, St. Lo became the first major warship to sink as the result of a kamikaze attack. The attack occurred during the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
St. Lo was laid down as Chapin Bay on 23 January 1943, under a Maritime Commission (MARCOM) contract, MC hull 1100; renamed Midway on 3 April 1943; launched on 17 August 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Howard Nixon Coulter; and commissioned on 23 October 1943, Captain Francis J. McKenna in command.
After shakedown on the west coast and two voyages to Pearl Harbor, and one to Australia, carrying replacement aircraft, Midway, with Composite Squadron 65 (VC-65) embarked, joined Rear Admiral Gerald F. Bogan's Carrier Support Group 1 in June, for the conquest of the Mariana Islands. She furnished air coverage for transports and participated in strikes on Saipan, on 15 June 1944. She fought off several air attacks but suffered no damage during her support of the Saipan campaign. VC-65′s FM-2 Wildcats shot down four and damaged one other Japanese plane during combat air patrol operations there.
On 13 July, she sailed for Eniwetok, for replenishment before joining the attack on Tinian, on 23 July. Furnishing air support for ground forces on the island and maintaining an anti-submarine patrol, Midway operated off Tinian, until she again headed out for supplies on 28 July.
On 13 September, she sortied with Task Force 77 (TF 77) for the invasion of Morotai. Catapulting her first plane to support the landings on 15 September, she continued to assist American troops ashore and to provide cover for the transports through 22 September.
After a refueling period, Midway resumed air operations in the Palaus until returning to Seeadler Harbor 3 October. There, word arrived that the escort carrier had been renamed St. Lo, 10 October, to free the name Midway for a new attack carrier and to commemorate an important victory of American troops in France who had captured the strongly defended town of Saint-Lô, on 18 July 1944.
Battle of Leyte Gulf
St. Lo departed Seeadler Harbor on 12 October, to participate in the liberation of Leyte. Ordered to provide air coverage and close air support during the bombardment and amphibious landings, she arrived off Leyte, on 18 October. She launched air strikes in support of invasion operations at Tacloban, on the northeast coast of Leyte. Operating with Rear Admiral Clifton Sprague's escort carrier unit, "Taffy 3" (TU 77.4.3), which consisted of six escort carriers and a screen of three destroyers and four destroyer escorts, St. Lo steamed off the east coasts of Leyte and Samar, as her planes sortied from 18–24 October, destroying enemy installations and airfields on Leyte and Samar islands.
Steaming about 60 mi (52 nmi; 97 km) east of Samar, before dawn of 25 October, St. Lo launched a four-plane anti-submarine patrol while the remaining carriers of Taffy 3 prepared for the day's initial air strikes against the landing beaches. The Battle off Samar began at 06:47, when Ensign Bill Brooks—piloting one of the TBF Avengers from St. Lo—reported sighting a large Japanese force comprising four battleships, eight cruisers, and twelve destroyers approaching from the west-northwest, only 17 mi (15 nmi; 27 km) away. At the same time, lookouts on St. Lo spotted the characteristic pagoda-like superstructures of Japanese battleships on the horizon. Rear Admiral Sprague ordered Taffy 3 to turn south at flank speed. Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita's force steadily closed and by about 06:58 opened fire on the slow, outnumbered, and outgunned ships of Taffy 3.
St. Lo and the other five escort carriers dodged in and out of rain squalls and managed to launch all available fighter and torpedo planes with whatever armament they had handy (general purpose bombs and even depth charges). Pilots were ordered "to attack the Japanese task force and proceed to Tacloban airstrip, Leyte, to rearm and refuel". The carriers dodged salvos from enemy cruisers and battleships. As salvos fell "with disconcerting rapidity" increasingly nearer St. Lo, her planes, striking the enemy force with bombs, rockets, and gunfire, continued to harass the closing ships.
By 08:00, the enemy cruisers, approaching from St. Lo's port quarter, had closed to within 14,000 yd (13,000 m). St. Lo responded with rapid fire from her single 5 in (127 mm) gun, claiming three hits on a Tone-class cruiser.
For the next 90 minutes, Admiral Kurita's ships closed in on Taffy 3, with his nearest destroyers and cruisers firing from as close as 10,000 yd (9,100 m) on the port and starboard quarters of St. Lo. Many salvos straddled the ship, landed close aboard, or passed directly overhead. Throughout the running gun battle, the carriers and their escorts were laying a particularly effective smoke screen that Admiral Sprague credited with greatly degrading Japanese gunfire accuracy. Even more effective were the courageous attacks by the destroyers and destroyer escorts at point-blank range against the Japanese destroyers and cruisers. All the while, Kurita's force was under incessant attack by Taffy 3 aircraft and planes from the two other U.S. carrier units to the south.
Under heavy attack from the air and harassed by incessant fire from American destroyers and destroyer escorts, the enemy cruisers broke off action and turned north at 09:20. At 09:15, the enemy destroyers—which had been kept at bay by the daring exploits of USS Johnston, USS Hoel, and USS Samuel B. Roberts as well as the other units of Taffy 3—launched a premature torpedo attack from 10,500 yd (9,600 m). The torpedoes had nearly run out of fuel when they finally approached the escort carriers, broaching the surface. A St. Lo Avenger, piloted by Lieutenant, junior grade Tex Waldrop, strafed and exploded two torpedoes in the wake of USS Kalinin Bay.
At 10:50, the task unit came under a concentrated air attack by the Shikishima Special Attack Unit. During the forty-minute engagement with enemy kamikazes, all the escort carriers except USS Fanshaw Bay were damaged. One Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero—perhaps flown by Lieutenant Yukio Seki—crashed into the flight deck of St. Lo at 10:51. Its bomb penetrated the flight deck and exploded on the port side of the hangar deck, where aircraft were in the process of being refueled and rearmed. A gasoline fire erupted, followed by six secondary explosions, including detonations of the ship's torpedo and bomb magazine. St. Lo was engulfed in flame and sank 30 minutes later.
Of the 889 men aboard, 113 were killed or missing and approximately 30 others died of their wounds. The survivors were rescued from the water by USS Heermann, USS John C. Butler, USS Raymond and USS Dennis (which picked up 434 survivors).
- "Midway II (CVE-63)". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Naval History and Heritage Command. 10 August 2015. Retrieved 18 December 2018. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
- "Kaiser Vancouver, Vancouver WA". www.ShipbuildingHistory.com. 27 November 2010. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
- "USS MIDWAY (CVE-63), later USS ST. LO (CVE-63)". Navsource.org. 21 October 2018. Retrieved 18 December 2018.
- "Midway". Retrieved 18 December 2018.
- "USS St. Lo (CVE-63) (+1944)". Retrieved 21 August 2018.
- Smith, Peter C (2014). Kamikaze To Die For The Emperor. Barnsley, UK: Pen & Sword Books Ltd. ISBN 9781781593134.
- Cox, Robert Jon (2010). The Battle Off Samar: Taffy III at Leyte Gulf (5th Edition). Wakefield, MI: Agogeebic Press, LLC. ISBN 0-9822390-4-1.
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