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U.S. Navy Photograph

USS KALININ BAY (CVE 68)

CAPT Thomas B. Williamson, USN, Commanding Officer


As the six CVE's moved south in a circular formation after exiting the rain squall, their position to the approaching Japanese warships would change with each new course taken. KALININ BAY was eventually placed in the tail end of Taffy III and shortly before 0800 she was hit by about fifteen 8-inch shells from the heavy cruisers. Luckily all shells were armor-piercing and they went through her thin hull without exploding. She continued to receive non-fatal hits until the action concluded.

Crew List
Action Report
Call-sign GEORGIA
Class CASABLANCA
Displacement 7,800 tons
Length 512 feet 3 inches
Beam 65 feet
Draft 22 feet 6 inches
Flight Deck 498 x 108 feet
Speed 18 knots
Complement 764
Aircraft 18 FM-2 General Motors fighters
12 TBM-1C General Motors torpedo bombers
Armament 1 5-inch GP gun
8 twin 40mm AA guns
20 20mm AA guns
Laid Down 26 April 1943
Launched 15 October 1943
Commissioned 27 November 1943


Namesake Information

KALININ BAY is named for a bay on the northern shore of Kruzof Island of southeastern Alaska.

Originally designated an AVG, KALININ BAY was classified ACV-68 on 20 August 1942. She was laid down under a Maritime Commission contract on 26 April 1943 by the Kaiser Shipbuilding Company, Vancouver, Washington. Reclassified CVE-68 on 15 July 1943, launched 16 October 1943, she was sponsored by Mrs. Anna Mary Updegraff and commissioned on 27 November 1943 at Astoria, Oregon with Captain C. R. Brown in command.  

First Duties

After shakedown along the Pacific coast, KALININ BAY departed San Diego on 3 January 1944 for replenishment duty in the Pacific. Laden with troops and a cargo of planes, she steamed via Pearl Harbor for the Gilbert Islands, arriving off Tarawa Atoll on 24 January to supply Fifth Fleet carriers then engage in the conquest of the Marshalls. For more than two weeks she provided logistic support from Tarawa to Mauro Atoll before returning to Alameda, California on 24 February.  

Campaigns

Marshalls - 23 April through 1 May 1944

With Composite Squadron 3 embarked on 9 April, KALININ BAY reached Majuro, Marshalls on 23 April where she conducted ASW air patrols off Mili Atoll. She then proceeded to Pearl Harbor on 1 May to prepare for the Marianas operation. She departed pearl harbor on 30 May; and, while en route to Saipan, she successfully evaded a Japanese torpedo that crossed her bow close aboard.  

Saipan - 15 through 22 June 1944

Touching at Eniwetok on 9 June, KALININ BAY reached the eastern coast of Saipan on 15 June and commenced air operations in support of the invasion. After repelling an enemy air attack at dusk on the 17th, she sailed on 19 June to ferry planes to and from Eniwetok. Returning to Saipan on 24 June, she resumed effective air strikes against enemy positions on the embattled island until 9 July when she steamed via eniwetok for similar duty at Guam. Arriving 20 July, she launched direct support and ASW sorties until 2 August, then returned to Eniwetok to prepare for operations in the Palau Islands.

KALININ BAY cleared Eniwetok on 18 August and proceeded via Tulagi, Florida Island, to the Southern Palaus where she arrived 14 September with units of the Third Fleet. Ordered to furnish air support for the capture, occupation, and defense of Peleliu, Angaur, and Ngesebus, she launched air strikes to support landing operations. For two weeks her planes, flying almost 400 sorties, inflicted heavy damage on enemy ground installations and shipping. On 25 September, alone, they sank or destroyed three cargo transports and six landing barges.  

Leyte/Samar - 17 October through 25 October 1944

She departed the Palaus on 30 September and upon arriving Seeadler Harbor, Manus Island on 3 October, she received a new commanding officer, Captain T. B. Williamson. KALININ BAY departed Manus on 12 October en route to the Philippines Islands. Ordered to provide air coverage and close air support during the bombardment and amphibious landings on Leyte Island, she arrived off Leyte on 17 October. After furnishing air support during landings by Ranger units on Dinagat and Homonhon Islands in the eastern approaches to Leyte Gulf, she launched air strikes in support of invasion operations at Tacloban on the northeast coast of Leyte.

Operating with Rear Admiral C.A.F. "Ziggy" Sprague's "Taffy 3" (TU 77.4.3), which consisted of 6 escort carriers and a screen of 3 destroyers and 4 destroyer escorts, KALININ BAY sailed to the east of Leyte and Samar as her planes, flying 244 sorties from 18 to 24 October, struck and destroyed enemy installations and airfields on Leyte, Samar, Cebu, Negros, and Panay Islands.

Steaming about 60 miles east of Samar before dawn on 25 October, "Taffy 3" prepared to launch the day's initial air strikes. At 0647 Rear Admiral Sprague received word that a sizeable Japanese fleet was approaching from the northwest. Comprised of 4 battleships, 8 cruisers, and eleven destroyers, Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita's Centre Force steadily closed and at 0658 opened fire on "Taffy 3."

So began the Battle Off Samar - one of the most memorable engagements in U.S. naval history. Outnumbered and outgunned, the slower "Taffy 3" seemed fated for disaster; but the American ships defied the odds and gamely accepted the enemy's challenge.

KALININ BAY accelerated to flank speed; and, despite fire from three enemy cruisers, she launched her planes ordering the pilots "to attack the Japanese task force and proceed to Tacloban airstrip, Leyte, to rearm and regas." As salvos fell "with disconcerting rapidity" increasingly nearer KALININ BAY, her planes, striking the enemy force with bombs, rockets, and gunfire, inflicted heavy damage on the closing ships.

As the trailing ship in the escort carrier van, KALININ BAY came under intense enemy fire. Though partially protected by chemical smoke, by a timely rain squall, and by valiant counterattacks of screening destroyers and destroyer escorts, she took the first of 15 direct hits at 0750. Fired from an enemy battleship, the large calibre shell (14-inch or 16-inch) struck the starboard side of the hangar deck just abaft the forward elevator.

By 0800 the enemy cruisers, which were steaming off her port quarter, closed to within 18,000 yards (9 miles). KALININ BAY gamely responded to their straddling salvos with rapid fire from her single 5-inch gun, which only intensified the enemy fire. Three 8-inch, armor-piercing projectiles struck her within minutes of each other. At 0825 the spirited carrier's barking 5-incher scored a direct hit from 16,000 yards (8 miles) on the No. 2 turret of a NACHI-Class heavy cruiser, and a second hit shortly thereafter forced the enemy ship to withdraw temporarily from formation.

At 0830 five enemy destroyers steamed over the horizon off her starboard quarter. The closing ships opened fire from about 14,500 yards (7.25 miles); and, as screening ships engaged the cruisers and laid down concealing smoke, KALININ BAY shifted her fire and for the next hour traded shots with the guns of Japan's Destroyer Squadron 10. Many salvos exploded close aboard or passed directly overhead; and, though no destroyer fire hit KALININ BAY directly, she took ten more 8-inch hits from the now obscured cruisers. One shell passed through the flight deck and into the communications area, where it destroyed all radar and radio equipment.

Under heavy attack from the air and harassed by incessant fire from American destroyers and destroyer escorts, the enemy cruisers broke off action and turned northward at 0920. At 0915 the enemy destroyers, which were kept at bay by the daring and almost single-handed exploits of USS JOHNSTON (DD 557), launched a premature torpedo attack from 10,500 yards (5.25 miles). As the torpedoes approached the escort carriers, they slowed down. An Avenger torpedo-bomber from doomed USS SAINT LO (CVE 63) strafed and exploded two torpedoes in KALININ BAY's wake about 100 yards astern, and a shell from the latters 5-inch gun deflected a third from a collision course with her stern.

At about 0930, as the enemy ships fired parting salvos and reversed course northward, KALININ BAY scored a direct hit amidships on a retreating destroyer. Five minutes later she ceased fire and retired southward with the surviving ships of "Taffy 3." At 1050 the task unit came under a concentrated air attack; and, during the 40 minute battle with enemy suicide planes, all escort carriers but flagship USS FANSHAW BAY (CVE 70) were damaged, One plane crashed through SAINT LO's flight deck and exploded her torpedo and bomb magazine, mortally wounding the gallant carrier. Four diving planes attacked KALININ BAY from astern and the starboard quarter. Intense fire splashed two close aboard; but a third plane crashed into the port side of the flight deck, damaging it badly. The fourth hit and destroyed the aft port stack.

As one of the fearless ships of "Taffy 3," KALININ BAY had prevented a Japanese penetration into Leyte Gulf and saved General MacArthur's beachhead in the Philippines. At a cost of five gallant ships and hundreds of brave men "Taffy 3," aided by her own planes and those of "Taffy 2," sank three enemy cruisers, seriously damaged several other ships, and turned back the "most powerful surface fleet which Japan had sent to sea since the Battle of Midway." Domination of the skies, superior seamanship, and prudent, timely maneuvers helped to nullify the overwhelming odds. In the highest tradition of naval service, the finest qualities of the American sailor became commonplace during the heroic flight. Devoted to duty, daring courage, uncommon bravery, and an indomitable spirit were part and parcel of this victory.

Despite the battle damage, "Taffy 3" cleared the air of attacking planes; and at noon the escort carriers retired southeastward while their escorts searched for survivors from SAINT LO. Though KALININ BAY suffered extensive structural damage during the mornings furious action, she counted only 17 dead among her 60 casualties. Weary and battle scared, KALININ BAY was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for heroic conduct as a part of Taffy 3. She steamed via Woendi, Schouten Islands, to Manus, arriving on 1 November for emergency repairs. Getting underway for the United States on 7 November, the escort carrier reached her homeport of San Diego on 27 November for permanent repairs and alterations.  

1945

Repairs were completed on 18 January 1945. The veteran escort carrier departed San Diego on 20 January to ferry planes and men to Pearl Harbor and Guam. For more than 8 months she served as a replenishment carrier in the Pacific Carrier Transport Squadron; and during six cruises between the West Coast and Pearl Harbor, Eniwetok, and Guam, she transported more than 600 aircraft. Departing San Diego on 2 September, she steamed to the Philippines, arriving at Samar on 28 September for Magic-Carpet duty. With 1,048 men embarked, she departed Samar on 1 October and arrived San Francisco on 19 October.  

Final Service

After conducting two more voyages between California and Pearl Harbor, KALININ BAY departed San Diego on 8 December 1945 for the far east. On Christmas day 1945, while she steamed to Yokosuka, Japan, an intense storm heavily damaged her flight deck. Arriving the 27th, she received emergency repairs, then sailed on 3 January 1946 for the West Coast and arrived in San Diego on 17 January. On 13 February she proceeded to the eastern seaboard, reaching Boston on 9 March. KALININ BAY was decommissioned on 15 May 1946, and she was sold for scrap on 8 December to Patapsco Steel Company, Baltimore, Maryland,  recycled into appliance parts or something more noble, she will always hold a special place in history.

USS KALININ BAY (CVE 68) received five Battle Stars for her service in World War II.  

Source: Dictionary of American Fighting Ships, Vol. III, 1968, Navy Department, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Naval History Division, Washington, D.C.; and The Battle Off Samar - The Tragedy of Taffy III, by Robert Jon Cox, 1996