- Casablanca class escort carrier
The "Casablanca" class
Escort aircraft carriers were the greatest number of not only escort carriers, but also any size aircraft carrier ever built to a like-design by any nation at any time. Fifty were laid down, launched and commissioned within the space of less than two years - November 3, 1942through July 8, 1944. These were nearly one third of the 151 carriers built in the United States during the war. No example remains of the class; five were lost to enemy action during WWII and the remainder were scrapped.
The first class to be designed from keel up as an escort carrier, the Casablanca class had a larger and more useful hangar deck than previous conversions. It also had a larger flight deck than the Bogue class. Unlike larger carriers which had extensive armour, protection was limited to splinter plating.
"Casablanca" class carriers were built by Kaiser Company, Inc.'s Shipbuilding Division, Vancouver Yard on the
Columbia Riverin Vancouver, Washington. The Vancouver yard was expressly built in 1942 to construct Liberty Ships, but exigencies of war soon saw the yard building LST landing craft and then Escort Aircraft Carriers all before the end of the yard's first year in operation. The yard had twelve building ways and an enormous 3,000 foot outfitting dock along with a unique additional building slip originally intended to add prefabricated superstructures to Liberty ships. Their small size made them useful for transporting assembled aircraft of various sizes, but combat fighters were usually smaller and lighter models such as the Avenger and Wildcat. The hull numbers are consecutive, from CVE-55 ("Casablanca") to CVE-104 ("Munda"). Although designated as escort carriers, the "Casablanca" class was far more frequently used in fleet operations, where their light wings of fighters and bombers could combine to provide the effectiveness of a much larger ship. The shining moment of the class came in the Battle off Samar, when Taffy 3, a task unit composed of six of these ships and their screen of destroyers and destroyer escorts gave battle against the Japanese main force and succeeded in turning them back. Two of their numbers, "St. Lo" (ex-"Midway") and "Kalinin Bay", became the only US aircraft carriers to ever record a hit on an enemy warship by its own guns. "St. Lo" hit a Japanese destroyer with a single round and "Kalinin Bay" damaged a "Myoko" class cruiser with two hits from the only weapon with which the escort carriers could respond, their 5"/38cal guns. Each vessel had one in an aft-mounted position.
Of the eleven U.S. aircraft carriers of all types lost during World War Two, six, or 55% were Escort Carriers. Of those six Escort Carriers lost, five, or 83% were of the Kaiser-built "Casablanca" class. The five "Casablanca" class carriers lost during World War Two were:
* CVE-56 "Liscome Bay"Sunk
24 November 1943. Submarine torpedo launched from IJN I-175 SW of Butaritari (Makin).
* CVE-73 "Gambier Bay"Sunk
25 October 1944. Concentrated surface gunfire from IJN Center Force during Battle off Samar.
* CVE-63 "St. Lo" (ex-"Midway")"Sunk
25 October 1944. Kamikazeaerial attack during Battle of Leyte Gulf.
* CVE-79 "Ommaney Bay"Sunk
4 January 1945. Kamikaze aerial attack in the Sulu Sea en route to Lingayen Gulf.
* CVE-95 "Bismarck Sea"Sunk
21 February 1945. Kamikaze aerial attack off Iwo Jima.
Unlike virtually every other warship since HMS|Dreadnought|1906|6, the "Casablanca" class ships were equipped with uniflow
reciprocating engines instead of turbine engines. This was done in view of bottlenecks in the gear-cutting industry, but greatly limited their usefulness after the war. Some ships were retained postwar as aircraft transports, where their lack of speed was not a major drawback. Some units were reactivated as helicopter escort carriers (CVHE and T-CVHE) or utility carriers (CVU and T-CVU) after the war, but most were deactivated and placed in reserve once the war ended, stricken in 1958-9 and scrapped in 1959-61. One ship, USS|Thetis Bay, was heavily modified into an amphibious assault ship (LPH-6), but was scrapped in 1964.
Originally, half of their number were to be transferred to the
Royal Navyunder Lend-Lease, but instead they were retained in the US Navy and the Batch II "Bogue" class escort carriers were transferred instead as the "Ameer" class (the RN's Batch I "Bogues" were the "Attacker" class).
hips in class
pps. 1 & 2 - "Kaiser Company, Inc. - Vancouver", BuShips QQ files, NARA, College Park, MD.
- "The Ships We Build", Kaiser Company, Inc., n.d., circa immediate post-war, 1945.
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