USS St. Lo

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 off Samar, part of the larger Battle of Leyte Gulf.

USS St. Lo Cve63.jpg
USS St. Lo (CVE-63)
History
United States
Name
  • Chapin Bay (1942–1943)
  • Midway (1943–1944)
  • St. Lo (1944)
Namesake
Orderedas a Type S4-S2-BB3 hull, MCE hull 1100[1]
Awarded18 June 1942
BuilderKaiser Shipbuilding Company, Vancouver, Washington
Cost$6,033,429.05[2]
Yard number309[1]
Way number3[2]
Laid down23 January 1943
Launched17 August 1943
Sponsored byMrs. Howard Nixon Culter
Commissioned23 October 1943
Renamed
  • Midway, 3 April 1943
  • St. Lo, 10 October 1944
Stricken27 November 1944
Identification
FateSunk by kamikaze aircraft, 25 October 1944
General characteristics [3]
Class and type Casablanca-class escort carrier
Displacement
Length
  • 512 ft 3 in (156.13 m) (oa)
  • 490 ft (150 m) (wl)
Beam
Draft20 ft 9 in (6.32 m) (max)
Installed power
Propulsion
Speed19 knots (35 km/h; 22 mph)
Range10,240 nmi (18,960 km; 11,780 mi) at 15 kn (28 km/h; 17 mph)
Complement
  • Total:910–916 officers and men
    • Embarked Squadron:50–56
    • Ship's Crew:860
Armament
Aircraft carried27 aircraft
Service record
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

ConstructionEdit

St. Lo was laid down as Chapin Bay on 23 January 1943,[4] under a Maritime Commission (MARCOM) contract, MC hull 1100;[2] renamed Midway on 3 April 1943; launched on 17 August 1943; sponsored by Mrs Howard Nixon Coulter, commissioned on 23 October 1943 with Captain Francis J. McKenna in command.[4]

Service historyEdit

Midway left Astoria, Oregon on 13 November 1943. She went dry docking on 10 April 1944. 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 Mariana Islands. She provided air cover for the transports and participated in airstrikes on Saipan[4] VC-65's FM-2 Wildcats claimed to have shot down four and damaged one other Japanese aircraft 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.[4]

Midway remained at anchor in Eniwetok Atoll, until she got under way on 9 August, for Seeadler Harbor, at Manus, Admiralty Islands, arriving on 13 August.[4]

On 13 September, she sortied with Task Force 77 (TF 77) for the invasion of Morotai. Launching her first aircraft to support the landings on 15 September. She continued to assist allied troops ashore and provide cover for the transports through 22 September.[4]

After a refueling period, Midway resumed air operations in the Palaus until returning to Seeadler Harbor on 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 the Battle of Saint-Lô, on 18 July 1944.[4]

Battle off SamarEdit

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 airstrikes 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 and her aircraft sortied from 18 to 24 October, attacking enemy installations and airfields on Leyte and Samar islands.[4]

Steaming about 60 mi (52 nmi; 97 km) east of Samar, before dawn of 25 October, St. Lo launched a four-aircraft anti-submarine patrol while the remaining carriers of Taffy 3 prepared for the day's initial airstrikes 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 closed and by about 06:58 opened fire on the slow, outnumbered and outgunned ships of Taffy 3.[4]

St. Lo and the other five escort carriers dodged in and out of rain squalls and managed to launch all available fighter and torpedo aircraft with whatever armament they had available. Pilots were ordered, "to attack the Japanese task force and proceed to Tacloban airstrip, Leyte, to rearm and refuel" as the carriers managed to dodge salvos from enemy cruisers and battleships.[4]

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 fire from her single 5 in (127 mm) gun,[4] claiming three hits on a Tone-class cruiser.[citation needed]

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.[4] Throughout the battle, the carriers and their escorts used smoke screens that Admiral Sprague credited with degrading Japanese gun accuracy. More effective were the attacks by the destroyers and destroyer escorts against the Japanese ships. All the while, Kurita's force was under attack by Taffy 3 aircraft and aircraft from the two other U.S. carrier units to the south.

Under attack from the air and fire from American destroyers and destroyer escorts, the enemy cruisers broke off the action and turned north at 09:20. At 09:15, the enemy destroyers which had been kept at bay by the 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).[4] 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 two torpedoes in the wake of USS Kalinin Bay.[citation needed]

KamikazeEdit

 
A kamikaze strikes St. Lo

At 10:50, the task unit came under a concentrated air attack by the Shikishima Special Attack Unit.[citation needed] During the forty-minute engagement with enemy kamikazes, all the escort carriers except USS Fanshaw Bay were damaged.[4] One Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero—perhaps flown by Lieutenant Yukio Seki—crashed into the flight deck of St. Lo at 10:51. Seki was originally aiming to strike the carrier White Plains but damage from ati-aircraft fire made him change course to the St. Lo. 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 secondary explosions, including detonations of the ship's torpedo and bomb magazine. St. Lo was engulfed in flame and sank 30 minutes later.[5]

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).[5]

The wreck is located near 11°01′N 126°02′E / 11.02°N 126.04°E / 11.02; 126.04Coordinates: 11°01′N 126°02′E / 11.02°N 126.04°E / 11.02; 126.04[6]

AwardsEdit

WreckEdit

The wreck of St. Lo was found by RV Petrel on 14 May 2019 and surveyed on 25 May 2019. The main wreck sits upright in 4,736 meters (15,538 feet) of water, on the edge of the Philippine Trench.[7]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.

BibliographyEdit

  • Cressman, Robert J. (19 February 2020). "Midway II (CVE-63)". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Naval History and Heritage Command. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  • "Kaiser Vancouver, Vancouver WA". ShipbuildingHistory.com. 27 November 2010. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
  • "USS Midway (CVE-63), later USS St. Lo (CVE-63)". NavSource Naval History. 10 December 2019. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  • Gerhardt, Frank A. "Midway". U.S. Maritime Commission Database. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  • "USS St. Lo (CVE-63) (+1944)". Wreck Site. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  • Smith, Peter C (2014). Kamikaze: To Die for the Emperor. Barnsley, UK: Pen & Sword Books. ISBN 9781781593134.

External linksEdit