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Re: Escort carrier off Samar

October 12 2009 at 11:47 PM
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Nelson  (no login)
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Response to Escort Carrier off Samar


The caption of the photo you posted IS correct. The escort carrier shown is MANILA BAY (CVE 61), the 1944 battle is that of the Philippine Sea, and the story gets even better than the one only hinted at in the caption. By coincidence, four months ago, I encounted this precise photo and another, similar one published in Antony Preston's DECISIVE BATTLES OF THE PACIFIC WAR (1979), which I stumbled across at a local library. My curiosity aroused by army pursuit aircraft aboard an aircraft carrier during battle, I looked a bit farther and found the second photo, of a P-47 about to be catapulted, with the pilot wearing a dark leather (and thus army) flying helmet. No additional info was provided for that shot, so I went to the relevant entry--for MANILA BAY--in the DICTIONARY OF AMERICAN NAVAL FIGHTING SHIPS (DANFS), and found this description:

"On 7 May 1944 MANILA BAY sailed for overhaul at Pearl Harbor, where she arrived 18 May. After loading 37 Army P-47 fighters, MANILA BAY sailed 5 June for the Marianas. Steaming via Eniwetok, she reached the eastern approaches to Saipan 19 June. During the next four days she remained east of the embattled island as ships and planes of the Fast Carrier Task Force repulsed the Japanese Fleet in the Battle of the Philippine Sea, and inflicted staggering losses on the enemy, thus crippling the Imperial Japanes Navy's air strength permanently. On 23 June, MANILA BAY came under enemy air attack during refueling operations east of Saipan. Two fighter-bombers attacked her from dead ahead, dropping four bombs which exploded wide to port. Intense antiaircraft fire suppressed further attacks, and as a precautionary and rather unusual move which Admiral Spruance later characterized as "commendable initiative," MANILA BAY launched four of the Army P-47s she was ferrying to fly protective CAP until radar screens were clear of contacts. The Army fighters then flew to Saipan, their intended destination. She launched the remaining planes the next day and returned to Eniwetok, arriving 27 June. After embarking 207 wounded troops, MANILA BAY departed 1 July, touched Pearl Harbor the 8th, and reached San Diego 16 July 1944."

Although almost certainly the first and last time that army fighters flew combat air patrol over an American carrier, it was not the first or last time that USN carriers ferried army aircraft. WASP (CV 7) did so in the Atlantic: P-40Cs and PT-17s to Iceland in July and August 1941, and Spitfires to Malta in April and May 1942. Also aircraft were ferried to various Pacific outposts before and after December 7, 1941.


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