Tuesday, September 11, 2012

USS Bataan (CVL-29, AVT-4)

Figure 1:  USS Bataan (CVL-29) off the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania, 2 March 1944. She is painted in Measure 32 Design 8A camouflage pattern. Official US Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 2:   USS Bataan (CVL-29) off the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania, 2 March 1944. Aircraft parked on her flight deck, forward, are TBM "Avenger" torpedo planes. Official US Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 3:  Carrier strikes on Japan, March 1945. A Japanese Navy "Judy" (Yokosuka D4Y3) bomber passes near USS Bataan (CVL-29) during an unsuccessful dive bombing run on Task Force 58, while the US ships were operating off Japan on 20 March 1945. The Japanese plane was soon brought down by anti-aircraft fire. Photographed from USS Hancock (CV-19). Bataan is the ship in the center of the view. Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 4:  USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) on fire after being hit by two "kamikaze" suicide planes off Okinawa, 11 May 1945. Photographed from USS Bataan (CVL-29), which was sailing in the same task force as Bunker Hill. This photograph shows how deadly kamikazes were during the battle for Okinawa. Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 5:  Enemy mine layers are attacked with napalm in a Korean port, during strikes by First Marine Air Wing F4U "Corsair" aircraft flying from USS Bataan (CVL-29). Photo is dated 16 April 1951. Note other small craft hauled out on marine railways nearby. Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 6:  USS Bataan (CVL-29) arrives at San Diego, California, with her crew paraded on deck, as she returns from seven months in Korean waters. Photograph is dated 25 June 1951. Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 7:  USS Bataan (CVL-29) underway in January 1952 with F4U-4B "Corsair" fighter-bombers of VMF-314 on board. Photo was taken as she was working up in preparation for her second Korean War deployment. Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 8:  HMS Belfast coming alongside USS Bataan (CVL-29) while operating off the coast of Korea on 27 May 1952. One of Bataan's 40mm twin-gun mounts is in the left foreground. Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 9:  USS Bataan (CVL-29) photographed on 22 May 1953, as she was en route to Naval Air Station San Diego, California, following a deployment to Korean waters. Note crew is on the flight deck spelling out the word "HOME" and an arrow pointing over her bow. Aircraft on deck include 19 Grumman AF "Guardian" anti-submarine planes and a solitary Vought F4U "Corsair" fighter (parked amidships on the starboard side). US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Named after the famous peninsula on the island of Luzon in the Philippines, the 11,000-ton light aircraft carrier USS Bataan (CVL-29) was built by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation at Camden, New Jersey, and was commissioned on 17 November 1943. The ship was originally going to be built as the Cleveland class light cruiser USS Buffalo (CL-99), but the urgent wartime need for aircraft carriers necessitated that the warship be converted into an Independence class light aircraft carrier. Bataan was approximately 622 feet long and 71 feet wide, had a top speed of 31 knots, and had a crew of 1,569 officers and men. The ship was armed with 26 40-mm guns and 10 20-mm guns, and could carry roughly 45 aircraft, depending on their size.
After being commissioned, Bataan was assigned to combat operations in the Pacific. From April to June 1944, Bataan participated in attacks on Japanese positions in New Guinea; the Caroline, Mariana, and Bonin Islands; and in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Bataan’s aircraft attacked and destroyed numerous land targets, shot down a considerable number of Japanese aircraft, and even sank a large enemy merchant ship.
Following an overhaul in the United States in early 1945, Bataan and her aircraft took part in assaults on targets in the western Pacific, including the Okinawa Campaign. Bataan’s air group broke up numerous attacks by Japanese kamikaze aircraft that were attempting to hit American warships off Okinawa. Bataan’s gunners managed to shoot down several of the oncoming suicide planes as well. On 7 April 1945, Bataan’s planes participated in the Battle of the East China Sea, when American aircraft spotted a Japanese task force built around the huge Japanese battleship Yamato. Dozens of American carrier aircraft attacked the Japanese task force as it steamed south in a desperate effort to disrupt the American invasion of Okinawa. Bataan’s pilots claimed four torpedo hits on the giant battleship, as well as hits on a cruiser and two destroyers. On 18 April, Bataan launched an antisubmarine patrol that assisted in the sinking of Japanese submarine I-56. The Japanese then launched massive counterattacks by aircraft against the ships off Okinawa. The heaviest of these attacks occurred on 14 May, which resulted in a huge barrage of anti-aircraft fire from the American warships, creating a veritable “rain” of shrapnel over Bataan which killed eight crewmen and wounded 26 others. During operations in April and May 1945, Bataan’s gunners and pilots claimed a share in dozens of Japanese aircraft “kills,” at a cost of nine planes lost and four air crewmen killed. On 29 May, Bataan steamed south to the Philippines and arrived at San Pedro Bay on 1 June for some minor repairs and to re-arm and re-fuel the ship.
After roughly a month of minor repairs and making the ship ready for sea again, Bataan returned to the fighting. The ship participated in the final attacks on the Japanese home islands and her aircraft hit airfields in the Tokyo Bay area on 10 July 1945. Her aircraft also attacked shore installations on northern Honshu and Hokkaido on 14 and 15 July, and damaged the battleship Nagato in Yokosuka harbor on 18 July. Bataan’s aircraft then struck the Japanese naval base at Kure on 24 July, assisting in the destruction of the battleship Hyuga and 15 small ships that were in the harbor. Bataan’s aircraft continued attacking ground targets on the Japanese home islands until 15 August, when all further strikes were canceled following news that the Japanese intended to surrender. The Japanese formally surrendered on 2 September 1945.
In October 1945, Bataan returned to the United States and subsequently helped transport servicemen home from overseas. The ship was inactive after January 1946 and was decommissioned in February 1947. Because of rising tensions between the United States and the communist nations of China and the Soviet Union, Bataan was re-commissioned in May 1950 and was sent to the Far East after the start of the Korean War. On 14 December 1950, Bataan joined Task Force (TF) 77 off Korea’s northeastern coast. On 22 December, Vought F4U-4 “Corsair” fighter-bombers began operations off Bataan and provided air cover for United Nations infantry forces on land. Bataan’s aircraft then flew armed reconnaissance and close air support missions over the central mountains along Korea’s 38th parallel. On 31 December, after a major communist offensive pushed south toward Seoul and Hanchon, Bataan was re-assigned to Task Group (TG) 96.9 off Korea’s west coast. After arriving there, Bataan’s aircraft attacked enemy troop concentrations below Seoul, helping to stall the communist’s southern advance.
After a brief replenishment period at Sasebo, Japan, from 9 to 15 January 1951, Bataan relieved the British carrier HMS Theseus in the Yellow Sea on 16 January. Bataan’s mission was to assist other Allied aircraft carriers in the blockade of the west coast of Korea. Bataan’s air wing flew roughly 40 sorties a day: eight defensive combat air patrols (CAPs), with the remainder divided between close air support (CAS), armed reconnaissance (AR), and interdiction missions. During CAS missions, Bataan’s aircraft attacked enemy positions on land using bombs, rockets, and napalm. Daylight AR missions concentrated on halting enemy road traffic and bombing rail yards and bridges. This was very dangerous work for the carrier’s pilots and between 16 and 26 January 1951 Bataan lost three Corsairs and two pilots to enemy anti-aircraft fire.
Over the next two months, Bataan conducted three more Yellow Sea patrols. In February and March 1951, Bataan supported the UN counterattack toward Inchon and Seoul, concentrating her air attacks on the Chinnampo area. These flights also included air spotting missions when the cruisers USS St. Paul (CA-73) and HMS Belfast fired on targets ahead of advancing UN troops. Of the three Corsairs shot down by communist forces during these missions, two pilots were safely recued by search and rescue (SAR) helicopters, a relatively new development in naval warfare.
On 8 April 1951, after the bigger fast carriers of TF 77 were sent south to Formosa (because intelligence reports suggested the Chinese communists might attack there), Bataan and HMS Theseus were sent to replace the larger carriers in the Sea of Japan. Bataan and Theseus were escorted by two American destroyers and four British Commonwealth warships. Together they maintained a naval blockade off Korea’s west coast and their fighters bombed and strafed communist supply routes near Wonsan, Hamhung, and Songjin. Five aircraft were lost to communist antiaircraft defenses, but only one pilot was killed while the other four were rescued.
After a brief return to Sasebo for supplies and ammunition from 16 to 20 April 1951, Bataan resumed her patrols with HMS Theseus off the west coast of Korea.  On 21 April, a rare incident took place when two Corsairs from Bataan were attacked by four Yakovlev Type 3U fighters (known as “Yaks”) near Chinnampo, Korea. Marine Corps Captain Philip C. DeLong shot down two of the Russian-made planes and heavily damaged a third, while First Lieutenant Harold D. Daigh, USMCR, shot down the fourth. It was a rare air-to-air confrontation between propeller-driven aircraft in a war that was known for its jet versus jet dogfights.
On 22 April 1951, communist troops began another heavy attack toward Seoul, and Bataan’s aircraft flew 136 close air support sorties against them over the next four days. After a brief period of replenishment and upkeep at Sasebo between 27 and 30 April, Bataan returned to the Yellow Sea on 1 May.  Sailing with HMS Glory, Bataan launched 244 offensive sorties against enemy troop concentrations, helping to stall and then reverse the communist offensive by 10 May. Later in the month, Bataan’s Corsairs concentrated on the destruction of junks and sampans in the Taedong Gang estuary until bad weather canceled flight operations. During these air strikes, Bataan lost one plane and its pilot to enemy ground fire.
Bataan was relieved on 3 June 1951 by a British carrier and returned to Japan. After that, Bataan began her journey back to the United States, arriving at San Diego, California, on 25 June. Following two weeks of rest and recreation for the crew, Bataan steamed to Bremerton, Washington, on 9 July for an extensive overhaul at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. After those repairs were completed, Bataan returned to San Diego on 7 November for refresher training exercises. Over the next 10 weeks, the carrier conducted landing qualifications and ASW exercises in preparation for a second deployment to the Far East.
Bataan left for Yokosuka, Japan, on 27 January 1952 and arrived in Tokyo Bay on 11 February after weathering a severe winter storm. After arriving in Japan, Bataan embarked a new squadron of aircraft and then underwent several weeks of anti-submarine warfare (ASW) training off the coast of Okinawa from 24 February to 12 April. After returning to Yokosuka and Sasebo for refueling and replenishment, Bataan left Japan and returned to Korea, resuming combat operations on 30 April. Ever since June 1951, the war in Korea had been bogged down in a military stalemate, with both sides heavily dug in along the 38th parallel. Given the task of interdicting communist supply routes between Hanchon and Yonan, Bataan’s aircraft flew 30 offensive sorties per day, bombing enemy supply dumps, railway tracks, bridges, and road traffic. Bataan continued providing air support for UN ground forces in Korea until 4 August, when she returned to Japan and then was ordered back to San Diego, arriving there on 26 August.
After completing another overhaul, this time at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard at Long Beach, California, Bataan returned to the Far East for her final major tour of duty, which lasted from October 1952 to May 1953. After completing weeks of ASW exercises off the coast of Japan, Bataan steamed to Korea and conducted combat operations which took place between 7 March and 5 May 1953. Despite bad weather, aircraft from Bataan continued attacking enemy troop concentrations, supply dumps, roads, railways, and bridges. On 10 May, Bataan was ordered to return to the United States and, after making a brief stop at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, arrived at San Diego on 26 May.
Following a final brief deployment to Japan from July to August 1953, Bataan was decommissioned on 9 April 1954. The ship was reclassified as an aircraft transport (AVT-4) on 15 May 1959, but was stricken from the Navy List on 1 September 1959. USS Bataan was ultimately sold for scrapping on 19 June 1961. She received six battle stars for her service during World War II and three battle stars for her service during the Korean War.