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512' x 65 x 22'
1 x 5"
16 x 40mm AA
20 x 20mm AA single
USN January 5, 1945
A week later she embarked Rear Admiral Ralph Davidson and became flagship for Carrier Division 24. Joining Task Force 52 (TF 52), she sortied January 22, 1944 for the invasion of the Marshall Islands. Between January 31 to February 6, she launched air and antisubmarine patrols as well as dozens of combat missions. Her planes bombed and strafed enemy positions from Kwajalein to Bigej and destroyed ammunition dumps and ground installations. She remained in the Marshalls during the next month and extended her operations late in February first to Eniwetok and Majuro.
Departing Majuro on 7 March, Manila Bay reached Espiritu Santo on the March 12. Three days later she joined TF 37 for airstrikes and surface bombardments against Kavieng on March 19-20. During the next month she cruised between the Solomons and the Bismarck Archipelago supporting the protracted offensive to neutralize the Archipelago and the Japanese fortress at Rabaul.
On 19 April she steamed so that her planes could strike Aitape, Hollandia, and Tanahmerah Bay on April 22, 1944. During and after the invasion Manila Bay launched protective air patrols and sent fighters and bombers to attack and destroy Japanese installations in the Aitape area. On 4 May she returned to Manus where Rear Admiral Felix Stump relieved Admiral Davidson as Commander, Carrier Division 24. Admiral Stump transferred his flag to Corregidor on 6 May, and the following day Manila Bay sailed for overhaul at Pearl Harbor where she arrived on 18 May.
After loading 37 Army P-47 Thunderbolts, Manila Bay sailed on 5 June for the Mariana Islands. Steaming via Eniwetok, she reached the eastern approaches to Saipan on 19 June. During the next 4 days, she remained east of the embattled island as ships and planes of the Fast Carrier Task Force repulsed the Japanese Fleet in the Battle of the Philippine Sea.
On 23 June, Manila Bay came under enemy air attack during refueling operations east of Saipan. Two fighter bombers attacked her from dead ahead, dropping four bombs which exploded wide to port. Intense anti-aircraft fire suppressed further attacks, and as a precautionary and rather unusual move which Raymond A. Spruance later characterized as "commendable initiative", Manila Bay launched four of the P-47s she was ferrying to fly protective CAP until radar screens were clear of contacts. The Army fighters then flew to Saipan, their intended destination. Manila Bay launched the remaining planes the next day and returned to Eniwetok, arriving on 27 June. After embarking 207 wounded troops, she departed on 1 July, touched Pearl Harbor on the 8th, and reached San Diego on 16 July.
Manila Bay returned to Pearl on 31 August. Two days later, Captain Fitzhugh Lee took command of the veteran carrier, and after embarking VC-80, Manila Bay departed on 15 September as a unit of Carrier Division 24 (CarDiv 24). Steaming via Eniwetok, she reached Manus 3 October and began final preparations for the invasion of the Philippines at Leyte Gulf.
As Manila Bay cruised to the east of Leyte Gulf with other carriers of Admiral Stump's "Taffy 2" (Task Unit 77.4.2, TU 77.4.2), powerful Japanese naval forces converged upon the Philippines and launched a three-pronged offensive to drive the Americans from Leyte. In a series of masterful and coordinated surface attacks, an American battleship, cruiser, and destroyer force met and destroyed enemy ships in the Battle of Surigao Strait early on 25 October. Surviving Japanese ships retreated into the Mindanao Sea pursued by destroyers, PT boats, and after sunrise by carrier-based bombers and fighters.
Manila Bay sent an eight-plane strike against ground targets on Leyte before sunrise; subsequently, these planes bombed and strafed retiring enemy ships southwest of Panaon Island. A second strike about midmorning pounded Mogami. In the meantime, however, Manila Bay turned her planes against a more immediate threat: the enemy attack against ships of Taffy 3.
A running battle ensued between the escort carriers of Rear Adm. Clifton Sprague's Taffy 3 and the larger, vastly more powerful surface ships of Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita's Center Force. The self-sacrificing attacks by American destroyers and destroyer escorts, and the prompt, aggressive, and unceasing torpedo, bomb, and strafing strikes by planes from Taffy 2 and Taffy 3 contributed to the American victory against great odds in the Battle off Samar.
Manila Bay launched two airstrikes during the enemy pursuit of Taffy 3 and two more as the Japanese retreated. At 0830, she sent four torpedo-laden TBM Avengers and a seven-plane escort to join the desperate fight. Three launched torpedoes at a battleship, probably Yamato, but they missed. The fourth plane launched her torpedo at a heavy cruiser, most likely Chikuma. It hit the ship to starboard near the fantail, forcing her out of control. The second strike an hour later by two Avengers resulted in one torpedo hit on the portside amidships against an unidentified battleship.
As the Japanese ships broke off attack and circled off Samar, the airstrikes continued. At 1120, Manila Bay launched four Avengers, carrying 500 pound bombs, and four bombers from other carriers. Escorted by FM-2 Wildcats and led by Commander R. L. Fowler, they soon joined planes from other Taffy carriers. Shortly after 1230, some 70 planes surprised and attacked the retiring Center Force, strafing and bombing through intense antiaircraft fire. Manila Bay's bombers made a hit and two near misses on the lead battleship, probably Kongō or Haruna. Manila Bay launched her final strike at 1245, strafing destroyers and getting two hits on a cruiser.
Later that afternoon, Manila Bay's CAP intercepted a Japanese bomber-fighter strike about 50 miles north of Taffy 2. Her four fighters broke up the enemy formation, and with reinforcements drove off the attackers before they reached the carriers. Her planes continued to attack enemy ships the following day. Laden with rockets and bombs, one of her Avengers scored two hits on Kinu and several rocket hits on Uranami. Both ships sank about noon in the Visayan Sea after numerous air attacks.
Manila Bay resumed air operations in support of Leyte ground forces on 27 October. During ground support and air cover missions, her planes claimed a D3A Val on the 27th and two Ki-43 Oscars on the 29th. Late on 30 October she sailed for the Admiralties, arriving at Manus on 4 November.
During and after the Mindoro landings on 15 December, Manila Bay sent her planes on ground support and air cover missions. As troops poured ashore, more kamikazes attempted to break the air cover and crash into ships of the covering and carrier group. The few that escaped the combat air patrols were either shot down or driven off by accurate antiaircraft fire. The Manila Bay helped down three of the raiders and her fighters knocked out two more. After recovering her planes on 16 December, she sailed in convoy via Surigao Strait and reached Kossol on 19 December.
After a trip to Manus, the Manila Bay sortied New Year's Day 1945 with ships of the Luzon Attack Force. With five other CVEs she provided air cover for Vice Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf's Bombardment and Fire Support Group, and direct air support for Vice Admiral Daniel E. Barbey's San Fabian Attack Force.
The task groups steamed via Surigao Strait and the Mindanao Sea into the Sulu Sea where they turned north for the Mindoro Strait. Enemy nuisance and suicide raids began in earnest on January 4.
Just before 1750, two kamikazes that had taken off from Malabacat Airfield dove at the Manila Bay from the portside. The first A6M Zero piloted by Lt. Mariama hit the flight deck to starboard abaft the bridge, causing fires on the flight and hangar decks, destroying radar transmitting spaces, and wiping out all communications. 14 men were killed and 52 wounded. The second plane, aimed for the bridge, missed the island close aboard to starboard and hit the sea off the fantail.
Firefighting parties promptly brought the blazes under control, including those of two fueled and burning torpedo planes in the hangar deck. Within 24 hours, she resumed limited air operations. Most repairs to her damaged electrical and communication circuits were completed by January 9.
Departed was a convoy late on January 17 via Leyte, Ulithi, and Pearl Harbor, then arrived at San Diego on February 15. Battle damage repairs completed late in April, with VC-72 embarked she trained in Hawaiian waters until sailing for the western Pacific on 24 May, arriving off the coast of Okinawa on 13 June and during the next week launched rocket and strafing strikes in the Ryukyu Islands. She departed for the Marianas on 20 June and operated out of Guam and Eniwetok during the closing weeks of the war.
In the middle of August 1945, Manila Bay operated in the Aleutians. As a unit of TF 44, she departed Adak on 31 August to support occupation operations against northern Japan. From 7-12 September her planes carried out photographic and reconnaissance missions over northern Honshū and southern Hokkaidō and dropped emergency supplies at POW camps. She returned to Pearl Harbor on 24 September, unloaded her aircraft, and steamed to the Marshalls carrying replacement troops.
Next to Boston April 15-17, decommissioned there on July 31, 1946, and entered the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. She was reclassified CVU-61 on 12 June 1955; her name was struck from the Navy list on 27 May 1958. Sold for scrap to Hugo New Corp., 2 September 1959.
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