USS Bismarck Sea
USS Bismarck Sea (CVE-95) was a Casablanca class escort carrier of the United States Navy during World War II; she was the only ship of the United States Navy to be named for the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. On 21 February 1945, she sank due to two Japanese kamikaze attacks, killing 318 crewmen. Notably, she was the last aircraft carrier of the United States Navy to sink in World War II.
|Name:||USS Bismarck Sea|
|Laid down:||31 January 1944|
|Launched:||17 April 1944|
|Commissioned:||20 May 1944|
|Fate:||Sunk by kamikazes during the Battle of Iwo Jima on 21 February 1945|
|Class and type:||Casablanca-class escort carrier|
|Length:||512 ft 3 in (156.13 m) overall|
|Draft:||22 ft 6 in (6.86 m)|
|Speed:||19 knots (35 km/h)|
|Range:||10,240 nmi (18,960 km) at 15 kn (28 km/h)|
|Part of:||United States Pacific Fleet (1944-1945)|
|Awards:||3 Battle stars|
Bismarck Sea was a Casablanca-class escort carrier, the most numerous class of aircraft carriers ever built, and designed specifically to be mass-produced. She was laid down on 31 January 1944 under a Maritime Commission contract, MC hull 1132, by Kaiser Shipbuilding Company, Vancouver, Washington. She was launched on 17 April 1944; sponsored by Mrs. M. C. Wallgren, wife of Senator Monrad Wallgren, under the name Akikula Bay. She was renamed Bismarck Sea on 16 May 1944, and was transferred to the United States Navy and commissioned on May 20, with Captain John L. Pratt in command.
After being commissioned, Bismarck Sea engaged in training exercises off the West Coast throughout June. On July 1, she left San Pedro ferrying aircraft to Pearl Harbor. After unloading her aircraft, she loaded more aircraft and ferried them to the Marshall Islands, arriving at Majuro Atoll on July 16. She then proceeded back to Pearl Harbor, carrying damaged aircraft, arriving on 29 July, along with her sister ship USS Saginaw Bay (CVE-82). Throughout August, she was stationed at San Diego for a four-week overhaul. Between September 7, and October 16, she engaged in additional training exercises. She then steamed to Ulithi, Caroline Islands, to join Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid's 7th Fleet on November 1. Between November 14 and November 23, she operated off Leyte in support of the operations. On November 21, a Japanese aircraft made a strafing run along the carrier, but without inflicting any damage. She later took part in the Lingayen Gulf landings (9–18 January 1945). On 16 February, she arrived off Iwo Jima to support the invasion.
On 21 February 1945, despite heavy gunfire, two Japanese kamikazes hit the Bismarck Sea, first on the starboard side under the first 40 mm gun (aft), crashing through the hangar deck and striking the ship's magazines. The fire was nearly under control when the second plane struck the aft elevator shaft, exploding on impact and destroying the fire fighting salt water distribution system, thus preventing any further damage control. Shortly after, the order was given to abandon ship. The USS Bismarck Sea sank with the loss of 318 men, and was the last US Navy aircraft carrier to be lost during World War II. Three destroyers and three destroyer escorts rescued survivors over the next 12 hours, between them saving a total of 605 officers and men from her crew of 923. Survivors were then transferred to Dickens and Highlands.
According to the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, USS Edmonds directed the rescue operations of the remaining hands, saving 378 of the carrier's crew including the commanding officer, in spite of darkness, heavy seas and continuing air attacks. Thirty of Edmonds' own crew went over the side to bring the wounded and exhausted carrier men to safety.
Bismarck Sea received three battle stars for her World War II operations.
- "Bismarck Sea". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Naval History and Heritage Command. 6 February 2006. Retrieved 14 June 2019. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
- "Kaiser Vancouver, Vancouver WA". www.ShipbuildingHistory.com. 27 November 2010. Retrieved 14 June 2019.
- Smiyh, Peter (2014), Kamikaze: To Die for the Emperor, Barnsley, England: Pen and Sword Books, ISBN 9781473847828