Warrior Wednesday Salutes


Part 3 of the Aircraft Carrier during WW2

by Walter Mow


The emergence of the Fast Carrier Task Force and its major architect, Admiral Marc Mitscher with its devastating abilities would begin to exert its influence. “The ideal composition of a fast-carrier task force is four carriers, six to eight support vessels and not less than 18 destroyers, preferably 24. More than four carriers in a task group cannot be advantageously used due to the amount of air room required.

Less than four carriers requires an uneconomical use of support ships and screening vessels”. Admiral Marc Mitscher A little chicanery allowed the Americans to mask the strength of the Pacific Fleet, making it appear the US had more resources at hand than was actually available. Task Force Command rotated between Admirals Spruance and Halsey. Under Spruance’s Fifth Fleet, Task Force 58 was commanded by Admiral Mitscher; Under Halsey’s Third Fleet, Task Force 38 was commanded by Admiral McCain.

January 1, Aircraft from the Bunker Hill (CV-17) and Monterey (CVL-26) attack a convoy off New Ireland. January 12, USS Hake (SS-256) sinks aircraft transport Nigitsu Maru S/E of Okinawa. January 16, Guadalcanal (CVE-60) sinks U-544. January 17, Naval air units damage aircraft transport Lyon Maru.

January 29, Task Force 58 begins operations in the Marshall Islands. These raids will continue thru Feb. 6. January 30, Aircraft from the Carriers Enterprise (CV-6), Yorktown (CV-10), Bunker Hill (CV-17), and Belleau Wood CVL-24) sink auxiliary sub chasers Cha 14, Cha 18, Cha 19, Cha 21 and Cha 28. January 31, Task Force 58 supports landings while attacking installations in the Marshall Island group.

February 17, Elements of Task Force 58 attack installations on Truk. February 19, Allied air strikes force the Japanese to no longer protect Rabaul. February 22, Task Force 58 (part of TF 50) begin attacks against the Marianas. February 23, Carriers Essex (CV-9), Yorktown (CV-10), and Bunker Hill (CV-17) attack shipping on Saipan and Tinian. March 13, Bogue (CVE-9) participates in sinking U-575. March 17, Block Island (CVE-21) shares in sinking of U-801.

March 18, Lexington (CV-16) and battleships Iowa (BB-61) and New Jersey (BB-62) pound installations in the Marianas.  March 19, Block Island (CVE-21) sinks U-1059. March 30 – April 1, Task Force 58 attacks installations across the Carolines.

April 9, Guadalcanal (CVE-60) and escorts sink U-515. April 10, Guadalcanal (CVE-60) sinks U-68.  April 15, Alaska Sea Frontier established, Admiral Frank Fletcher commander. April 21-22, Elements of Task Force 58 support landings in New Guinea. April 29-30, (CVL-26) sinks I-174; Task Force 58 continues to pound Truk.

May 1, Elements of task Force 58 strike sea plane base on Ponape Island, Carolines. May 6, U-22 sinks after battle with Block Island (CVE-21) and Buckley (DE-51). May 17, Allied naval air bomb the harbor at Surabaya, Java. May 20, San Jacinto (CVL-30) sinks guardboat Yawata Maru off Marcus Island. May 23, Task Group 58.3 begins to bomb Wake Island. May 29, Block Island (CVE-21) is sunk by U-549.

June 4, Guadalcanal (CVE-60) and escorts force the surrender and capture of U-505. June 10-11, Task Force 58 establishes air superiority over the Marianas. June 11, Croatan (CVE-25) and escorts sink U-490. June 12, Aircraft from Task Force 58 pound islands in the Marianas. June 13-14, Attacks continue on islands, meanwhile Task Group 58.4 attacks a Japanese convoy sinking and or damaging 18 vessels. June 15, Elements of task force 58 begin operations against islands in the Bonin chain; Solomons (CVE-67) sinks U-860. June 16, Attacks continue against islands in the Bonin chain continue. June 17, Fanshaw Bay (CVE-70) is damaged off the Marianas; Croatan (CVE-25) damages U-853. June 19, The Battle of the Philippine Sea begins as Japanese contest landings on Saipan. Japan will lose over 400 aircraft in what is called “The Marianas Turkey Shoot; Suwannee (CVE-27) sinks I-184 off Guam; Albacore (SS-218) sinks Taiho N.W of Yap; Cavalla (SS-244) sinks Shokaku North of Yap. June 20, The Battle of the Philippine Sea concludes as carrier aircraft from task Force 58 attack the Japanese Fleet in a mission that becomes known as the “Mission Beyond Darkness”. In a daring move Vice Admiral Mitscher orders ships of TF 58 to show lights to guide its pilots home.

The two day battle would cost the Americans 130 planes and 76 airmen while the Japanese lost 395 carrier aircraft, numerous airmen and 50 land based planes, a loss the Japanese cannot overcome. June 21, White Plains (CVE-66) sinks Shoun Maru off Saipan. June 24, Bogue (CVE-9) sinks I-52 of Azores.

July 2, Wake Island (CVE-65) sinks U-543. July 4, Carrier aircraft carry out attacks on islands in the Bonin chain. July 6, Carrier aircraft commence daily bombings on Guam and Rota in the Marianas. July 25-28, TF 58 attacks the western Carolines; Bunker Hill (CV-17) sinks Ryojin Maru and landing ship T.150.

August 4, Elements of TF 58 hit a Japanese convoy sinking and or damaging 10 Japanese vessels. August 5, Carrier aircraft repeat attacks in the Bonin Islands; Fast Carrier Task Force is reorganized; 1st Fast Carrier Task Force, Pacific Fleet under Vice Admiral Mitscher and 2nd Fast Carrier Task Force, Pacific Fleet under Vice Admiral McCain. August 18, Rasher (SS-395) sinks escort carrier Taiyo. August 19, Bluefish (SS-222) sinks fast fleet tanker/seaplane carrier Hayasui. August 20, Bogue (CVE-9) sinks U-1229. August 24, British Carrier forces attack Padang, Sumatra.

August 31- September 2, TF 38 attacks Iwo Jima and Chichi Jima; Franklin (CV-13) sinks an auxiliary minesweeper. 

September 3, Monterey (CVL-26) and escorts hit installations on Wake Island. September 6, TF 58 arrives off Palauto in the western Carolines; Independence (CVL-22) begins operations with specially trained air group for night work. September 7-8, Elements of TF 38 conduct full scale air strikes throughout the Palaus to augment strikes the previous day by TF 58. September 9-10, TF 38 begins air operations against installations on Mindanao; Langley (CVL-27) and escorts sink and or scatter a convoy of coastal supply ships. September 12, TF 38 begins operations against Visaya sinking some 24 vessels on Cebu and Biliran. September 13-15, TF 38 continues attacks on Cebu, Negros, Legaspi and Panay; TG 38.1 under Vice Admiral McCain is detached in order to support landings on Morotai. September 17, Barb (SS-220) sinks escort carrier Un’yo south/east of Hong Kong.

September 21-22, TF 38 strikes shipping in Manila and Subic Bays, attacks Clark and Nichols Fields and Cavite Navy Yard. The raids will sink and or damage a number of Japanese transports, tankers and general cargo vessels. September 24, As Japanese shipping tries to avoid the heavy attacks by moving south TF 38 aircraft will hit targets from the Visayas to the Calamian group.

October 10, All four carrier groups operate together as one unit pounding shipping and installations on Okinawa and other islands in the Ryuku chain sinking and or damaging 34 Japanese vessels. October 11, TG 38.1 and 38.4 attack airfields and installations on the north coast of Luzon in preparation for operations against Formosa. October 12, TF 38 attacks Japanese stronghold Formosa hitting shipping, air fields and industrial plants while sinking and or damaging 25 vessels. October 13, Counter attacks by Japanese aircraft will damage the Franklin (CV-13). October 14, TF 38 provides cover for the heavy cruiser Canberra (CA-70) damaged the day before; the Hancock (CV-19) is damaged by Japanese air raids. October 15, TG 38.4 attacks installations near Manila; Japanese aircraft respond further damaging the Franklin (CV-13).

October 23, Sawfish (SS-276) sinks seaplane carrier Kimikawa Maru west of Luzon. The three day Battle for Leyte Gulf begins; an effort by the Japanese to drive US forces out of the Philippines. October 24, TG 38.2, 38.3 and TG 38.4 attack Japanese naval forces, sinking the battleship Musashi, damaging the battleships Yamato and Nagato, the heavy cruiser Tone and 3 destroyers of the “Center Force”. As TG 38.4 attacks the “Southern Force” in the Sulu Sea sinking a destroyer and damaging the battleships Fuso and Yamashiro. The Princeton (CVL-23) is severely damaged, only to be scuttled later in the day. In an effort to challenge the “Northern Force”, Admiral Halsey orders TF38 to proceed north to strike the “Northern Force” early on the 25th.

Meanwhile what was left of the “Center Force” re-enters the fray via the San Bernardino Strait. Admiral Kurita’s forces would ravage Task Unit 77.4.3, a force of 6 escort carriers, three destroyers and four destroyer escorts. The escort carriers White Plains (CVE-66), St. Lo (CVE-63) and Kitkun Bay (CVE-71) were targeted by naval gunfire but escaped unscathed; The Gambier Bay (CVE-73) and 5 of the escort vessels were sunk. But the furious attack by the escort carrier aircraft and its escort vessels convinced Kurita he is facing a much more robust force and retires.

TU 77.4.3 is attacked by Kamikazes and sink St. Lo (CVE-63). As the Japanese attack TU77.4.1, the Suwannee (CVE-27) and Santee (CVE-29) are damaged. Halsey will strike the “Northern Force” and sink the Japanese carriers Zuikaku, Chitose, Chiyoda and Zuiho. October 29, Kamikaze attack damages the Intrepid (CV-11). October 30, Franklin (CV-13) and Belleau Wood (CVE-24) are damaged by Kamikazes.

November 5-6, TF 38 returns to renew attacks on Luzon. November 10, As the ammunition ship Mount Hood (AE-11) explodes unexpectedly, the Petrof Bay (CVE-80) and Saginaw Bay (CVE-82) are damaged. November 13-14, Aircraft from TF 38 pound Luzon and Manila and sink 13 Japanese vessels. Carrier aircraft operating around Cavite sink six more vessels. November 17-18, Anzio (CVE-57) and escort sink I-26 and I-41. November 19, TF 38 continues to attack airfields on Luzon. November 25, Elements of TF 38 continue to attack shipping and shore installations on Luzon. November 29, Archerfish (SS- 311) sinks carrier Shinano.

December 9, Sea Devil (SS-400) and Redfish (SS-395) damage carrier Junyo. December 14, Hornet (CV-12) aircraft sink landing ship T.109 off Philippines. December 15, Marcus Island (CVE-77) damaged by Kamikazes. December 18, Typhoon damages light carriers Cowpens (CVL-25), Monterey (CVL-26), Cabot (CVL-280, San Jacinto (CVL-30); escort carriers Altamaha (CVE-18), Nehenta Bay (CVE-74), Cape Esperance (CVE-88) and Kwajalein (CVE-98). December 19, Redfish (SS-395) sinks carrier Unryu off Chinese coast.

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