USS Petrof Bay
|Ship Class||Casablanca-class Escort Carrier|
|Builder||Kaiser Shipbuilding Co., Inc., Vancouver, WA|
|Laid Down||15 Oct 1943|
|Launched||5 Jan 1944|
|Commissioned||18 Feb 1944|
|Decommissioned||31 Jul 1946|
|Displacement||7800 tons standard; 10400 tons full|
|Machinery||Two Skinner, Uniflow engines with two screws|
|Power Output||9000 SHP|
|Armament||1x5in anti-aircraft guns, 8x40mm guns, 12x20mm guns|
|Aircraft||28 total (16 FM-2 Wildcat fighters, 12 TBM-1C Avenger torpedo bombers)|
Contributor: David Stubblebine
The naming convention for Escort Carriers in the United States Navy was to use names of sounds and bays of the United States; although many CASABLANCA-class Escort Carriers followed the convention for fleet carriers and were named for famous USN naval battles. Escort Carrier PETROF BAY (CVE-80) was named for a bay in Alaska on the west side of Kuiu Island. The bay was named in 1924 for U.S. Census Bureau employee Ivan Petrof, whose reports of his travels in the late 1800s are a valuable source of Alaska history for that period.
USS PETROF BAY was commissioned 18 February 1944 at Astoria, Oregon, Capt. Joseph L. Kane in command.
The primary mission of the Escort Carriers early in the war was as aircraft ferries. PETROF BAY made one trip to the Pacific combat area as an aircraft ferry and before returning to San Francisco, she delivered replacement aircraft to Task Force 58 on their way to strike Truk.
As the role of Escort Carriers was shifting, PETROF BAY prepared for combat and embarked Composite Air Squadron 76, made up of 16 FM-2 Wildcat fighters and 12 TBM-1C Avenger torpedo bombers. She sailed from San Diego, California and anchored in Tulagi Harbor, Solomon Islands, the afternoon of 24 August 1944.
Part of the Third Fleet, PETROF BAY sortied toward Peleliu in the southern Palau Islands to support the Marine landings. Over a two week period, PETROF BAY planes bombed and strafed the Japanese positions 13 out of the 14 days, while also searching for enemy shipping, planes, and submarines.
In October 1944, PETROF BAY sailed once again; this time toward Leyte Gulf to support the Army's landings there. On the day MacArthur waded ashore, PETROF BAY launched 40 air sorties in support of the landings. That night, she was reassigned to join five other CVEs and eight supporting destroyers & destroyer escorts into Task Unit 77.4.1 - radio call sign: "Taffy One." Along with two other similarly configured "Taffys" they formed Task Group 77.4 and took positions off Leyte's eastern coast; Taffy One to the south, Taffy Two in the middle, and Taffy Three to the north. For three days, all carriers, including PETROF BAY, launched aircraft in support of the landings while the Task Group's northern flank was protected by Admiral Halsey's Task Force 34.
By dawn of 25 October 1944, Halsey had moved his Task Force far to the north in pursuit of Admiral Ozawa's decoy Northern Force and Admiral Kurita's formidable Center Force had completed its daring nighttime transit of the San Bernardino Strait. Kurita was bearing down on the northernmost collection of CVEs, Taffy Three - the most "David and Goliath" match-up since David and Goliath.
When Kurita's force was sighted, Ernest Evans, the Captain of the US destroyer USS JOHNSTON, acting without orders, attacked the vastly superior Japanese force and the Battle off Samar was joined. Taffy Three commander, Admiral "Ziggy" Sprague, sent several radio signals pleading for support. By this time, Halsey was too far away to help and the only real help available were the aircraft from the other Taffys.
All carriers from Taffy One and Taffy Two, including PETROF BAY, launched planes to support Taffy Three. Two special strikes from PETROF BAY hit the enemy while Taffy Three was actually under attack. During the two strikes, PETROF BAY's pilots claimed: one probable hit on YAMATO, two probable hits on NAGATO, two on KONGO and one on an unidentified cruiser, plus strafing runs on YAMATO, the cruisers, and destroyers.
PETROF BAY launched a final strike to search for and attack the enemy then in retreat. After rendezvousing with other planes from the CVEs, the flight proceeded to San Bernardino Strait where it found and attacked a cruiser of the MOGAMI class, scoring two torpedo hits and one probable hit.
On 26 October, the only remaining Japanese force within range of the CVE planes was one light cruiser and four destroyers sighted in the Visayan Sea. PETROF BAY launched torpedo planes to participate in a strike against the five ships.
While her planes hit enemy ships, PETROF BAY fought off attacking Japanese land-based planes. The ship remained at General Quarters for 108 hours as she fought off persistent bombing and torpedo attacks. The Japanese also introduced the aerial suicide attacks during this battle, including multiple kamikaze attempts against PETROF BAY.
PETROF BAY survived the battle and remained in full service. Throughout November, December, and into mid-January of 1945, PETROF BAY and the planes of Composite Squadron 76 patrolled the shipping lanes around Leyte and, later, Manila. In late January, PETROF BAY supported the Lingayen Gulf landings with raids against the San Narciso and San Antonio areas on Luzon's west coast.
As January turned to February in 1945, the objective became Iwo Jima. As the fleet began shelling the island, planes from PETROF BAY began strafing and bombing attacks. Planes from PETROF BAY supported the Marine landings and furnished the troops with air support during the operation, making 786 air sorties.
Following Iwo Jima, after 5-and-a-half months of intense combat, Composite Squadron 76 disembarked PETROF BAY at Guam and Composite Squadron 93 replaced them, just in time for the more intense campaign for Okinawa.
As Marines landed, PETROF BAY's new squadron got its first taste of combat during strikes supporting the Okinawa operation. Anti-aircraft fire was exceptionally heavy and accurate. Thereafter, she launched near-daily strike groups, patrols and special missions for two months until late May. During the Okinawa operation, PETROF BAY's combat air patrols shot down 17 enemy planes.
On 26 May 1945, PETROF BAY started her hopscotch journey stateside. After a general overhaul at San Pedro, California, she sailed to rejoin the fleet; but the day after sailing, Japan accepted the terms of surrender.
The carrier proceeded to Tokyo Bay, returning to the States 11 October as part of Operation Magic Carpet with veterans of the Pacific war. PETROF BAY transported another group of veterans before transiting the Panama Canal and steaming up the eastern seaboard, eventually arriving at Boston, Massachusetts. PETROF BAY was placed out of commission on 31 July 1946 to be sold for scrap.
PETROF BAY received five battle stars for World War II service:
P30: Western Caroline Islands Operation
P30-2: Capture and occupation of southern Palau Islands (Peleliu)
P31: Leyte Operation
P31-1: Leyte Landings
P31-8: Battle off Samar
P32: Luzon Operation
P32-1: Lingayen Gulf Landings (San Narciso & San Antonio)
P33: Iwo Jima Operation
P33-3: Bombardments of Iwo Jima
P34: Okinawa Gunto Operation
P34-1: Assault on Okinawa
USS Petrof Bay Operational Timeline
|15 Oct 1943||The keel of future escort carrier Petrof Bay was laid down.|
|5 Jan 1944||Petrof Bay was launched.|
|18 Feb 1944||Escort carrier USS Petrof Bay (CVE-80) was commissioned with Captain Joseph L. "Paddy" Kane in command.|
|31 Jul 1946||USS Petrof Bay was decommissioned from service.|
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Thomas Dodd, late 1945