History of the CVE 106

continued - pg 2

Page 1          Page 2         Page 3         

Welcome        Association        Ships        Reunions        Memories        News        Photo Gallery

 

Operational Training     

Departing Tacoma 10 Jan 1945 CVE 106 ran brief exercises, loaded ammunition and supplies from the Puget Sound Navy Yard and additional supplies at Seattle until 20 Jan 1945. She headed for San Francisco arriving 22 Jan 1945. She took on a number of damaged aircraft and departed for San Diego arriving 24 Jan 1945.

The crew of CVE 106 was preparing for an entirely different kind of war than they had fought in the Battle of the Atlantic. The war in the Pacific with Japan depended on naval superiority. Island hopping from Australia to Japan with sea battle after sea battle was much different than the war with Germany. Task Forces in the Pacific were large and involved hundreds of ships including battleships, cruisers, large aircraft carriers, full size destroyers, troopships, tenders and supply ships. Unlike the Atlantic Ocean the US submarines controlled the Pacific Ocean rather than the enemy. CVE 106 and the crew had to defend against enemy surface vessels, enemy aircraft and other actions. The aircrews and pilots had to defend and attack enemy aircraft, ships, land based guns, and at the same time provide protection to the allied troops undertaking the task of retaking the islands from the Japanese.

There were six major Escort Carrier Forces in the Pacific when the CVE 106 Block Island went into service. Six admirals commanded least 38 carriers, 50 escort ships, tankers, supply ships, and 90 aircraft squadrons with more than 700 planes. CVE 106 Block Island was the flagship of Carrier Division 27 which included seven carriers. This was dramatically different than the one carrier plus four escorts that made up Atlantic task forces. The esprit de corps that had existed with the small task forces in the Atlantic was not possible in the large groups of the Pacific. The comradeship among CVE 106 Navy crewmen remained strong as they had developed a bond in combat, during the sinking, and as a group of survivors. That bond is still there today and is always apparent at their annual reunions.

For the Block Island one of the biggest changes was the transfer of over 90% of the Navy  “air department” personnel. They were replaced by Marine Air Groups. That caused more than 400 Navy personnel that had served on the CVE 21 Block Island to be spread all over the world.

On 3 Feb 1945 an initial contingent of 226 officers and men of Marine Carrier Air Group One reported aboard CVE 106. Planes and support personnel from Marine Fighting Squadron 511 followed. On 4 Feb 1945 CVE
106 proceeded to an area off of San Diego to conduct flight operations. The honor of the first takeoff went to the group commander, Lt. Colonel John F. Dobbin. Augmenting VMF-511 was VMTB-233 equipped with TBM-3 Avengers. The photo at left shows the distinctive white block with I insignia that was added after leaving Pearl Harbor and then later removed to prevent Japanese identification.
Four different types of missions of aircraft operated from the decks of the FBI (“Fighting Block Island”) and made its nights as busy as its days.  CVE pil
ots flew as many as four long support missions every day, which Rear Admiral Durgin had said, "Meant nine hours in the air of constant flying and fighting. That's too much."  The Block Island had twelve Corsairs (F4U-1D and FG-1) which fought brilliantly by day.  Ten Hellcats (F6F-5N) continued the battle into the night.  Twelve Avengers (TBM-3) launched torpedoes and bombs at strategic points. The painting at right shows the Corsair with the distinctive Block Island Marine Squadron insignia painted on the tail.

On 10 Feb 1945 Block Island departed with DD 779 Douglas H. Fox for 10 days operational training off San Clemente and San Nicolas islands. On 14 Feb 1945 the planes from CVE 106 were to conduct strikes with live ammunition against a bombing area on San Clemente. Dobbin led the morning flight but found the weather unsatisfactory and returned to the ship. One plane crashed due to engine failure but the pilot was rescued. That afternoon six Avengers, three Corsairs, and two Hellcats were launched to continue training. A severe storm approached rapidly so Block Island recalled all aircraft. One Avenger successfully landed but the others were unable to land so they were vectored to San Nicolas about 120 miles away. The weather prevented landing and as a result eight aircrew and seven planes were lost.

Combat Operations

Most of the next several weeks were devoted to training first in the San Diego area and later in the Pearl Harbor, HI area. On 17 Apr 1945 CVE 106 sailed for Ulithi in the Carolinas with DD 748 Harry E. Hubbard. While anchored in Ulithi Captain Hughes reported that his ship was ready for duty.
She now headed for Okinawa to provide close air support. CVE 106 was escorted by DE 183 Samuel S. Miles and DD 388 Helm. The photo at right shows a silhouette of CVE 106 with Corsairs, Hellcats, and Avengers on her flight deck 30 Apr 1945. On 10 May 1945 Block Island launched her first offensive mission vectoring her TBM-3s to drop bombs and fire rockets at Japanese positions near the town of Naha. That afternoon eight TBMs and eight Corsairs launched from the flight deck led by Colonel Dobbin toward the airfields at Hirara and Nobara in the Sakashima Gunto. The attack was successful, however, one TBM was hit by enemy fire and crashed losing all crew; a second plane took a hit but managed to return and ditched near the Block Island and the crew was rescued. This first day of combat operations was completely different than what the crew had experienced in the Atlantic.
Over the next ten days CVE 106 participated in similar operations off of Okinawa. On 22 May 1945 she headed for Kerama Retto for replenishment. Back on line her planes bombed Shuri Castle, the Japanese
strong point in southern Okinawa, helping to destroy that fortress. On 27 May 1945 VMF-233 lost its commanding officer, R.C. Maze. He was leading a fighter sweep and dove for a rocket attack on boatyards but his plane never recovered from the dive and he crashed into the water. He was replaced by the XO of the squadron, James Secrest.
On 29 May 1945, the one year anniversary of the sinking of CVE 21, Block Island launched 28 attack sorties on airfields at Ishigaki and Miyako using bombs that had been specially autographed by the CVE 106 crew (see photo at right).
One TBM and crew was lost in the operation. CVE 106 lost another plane and pilot, an F6F-5N, in a strafing run on 16 Jun 1945, it would be the last plane CVE 106 lost. Five days later Okinawa was declared secured, 82 days after the invasion had begun. That same day Block Island now the flagship for Carrier Division 27 under the command of Rear Admiral Dixwell Ketcham, sailed for the Phillipines. Between 4 May and 6 Jun CVE 106 flew 1,202 sorties. The Block Island crew had gained great skill when on 20 May she received urgent orders; fourteen minutes later the first plane was in the air as a total of eight planes were launched in just 4 minutes.

After a week in the Philippines, Block Island weighed anchor and set course for Borneo. She was accompanied by CVE 107 Gilbert Islands, CVE 27 Suwannee, and six destroyers. On 30 Jun 1945 amphibious landings commenced at dawn. Over the next three days aircraft from the Block Island flew 98 sorties providing bombing, strafing, and air cover to support the invasion. No aircraft or crew were lost in the CVE 106 operation. On 3 Jul 1945 an inbound Japanese plane was shot down by an F6F-5N.

Block Island sailed to Guam where Captain Wallace Beakley relieved Captain Hughes. CVE 106 was anchored in Apra Harbor when the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After completing some repairs CVE 106 with CVE 29 Santee and four destroyers sailed for Leyte Gulf on 13 Aug 1945. The next day formal word was received of the Japanese surrender. Admiral Ketcham ordered three volleys of 40mm fire and a 21 gun salute from the 5 inch  batteries. The ship’s chaplain, Gordon MacInnes, offered prayers and a minute of silence.

For the members of the crew, most of which had served their country fighting the Germans in the Atlantic and the Japanese in the Pacific, Admiral Ketcham congratulated them “On a job well done”.


 

<< Prev Page        Page 1          Page 2         Page 3          Next Page >>