The sinking of the USS Liscome Bay


USS Liscome Bay (CVE-56), a Casablanca-class escort carrier during World War II, was the only ship of the United States Navy to be named for Liscome Bay in Dall Island in the Alexander Archipelago of Alaska. She was lost to a submarine attack during Operation Galvanic, with a catastrophic loss of life, on 24 November 1943.

She was originally to have been given to the Royal Navy under the terms of Lend-Lease as HMS Ameer, but was appropriated by the U.S. Navy while still being built.


After training operations along the West Coast, the Liscome Bay departed from San Diego, California, on 21 October 1943, arriving at Pearl Harbor one week later. Once additional drills and operational exercises were completed, the escort carrier set off on what was to be her first and last battle mission. As a member of Carrier Division 24 (CarDiv 24), she departed from Pearl Harbor on 10 November attached to TF 52, Northern Attack Force, under Rear Admiral Richmond K. Turner, bound for the invasion of the Gilbert Islands.


The invasion bombardment announcing the United States’s first major thrust into the central Pacific began on 20 November at 05:00. Just 76 hours later, Tarawa Atoll and Makin A were both captured. Liscome Bays aircraft took part in the 2,278 action sorties by carrier-based planes, which neutralized enemy airbases, supported U.S. Army landings and ground operations in bombing-strafing missions, and intercepted enemy raids. With the islands secured, U.S. naval forces began retiring.

On 23 November, the Japanese submarine I-175 arrived off Makin.


A temporary task group, built around Rear Admiral Henry M. Mullinnix three escort carriers – Liscome Bay, Coral Sea and Corregidor – was steaming 20 miles southwest of Butaritari Island at 15 knots.

At 04:30 on 24 November, reveille was sounded in Liscome Bay. The crew went to routine general quarters at 05:05, when flight crews prepared their planes for dawn launchings.

At about 05:10, a lookout shouted, “Here comes a torpedo!” The torpedo struck abaft the after engine room and detonated the aircraft bomb stockpile, causing a major explosion which engulfed the ship and sent shrapnel flying as far as 5,000 yards.

At 05:33, Liscome Bay listed to starboard and then sank, carrying 53 officers and 591 enlisted men – including Admiral Mullinix, Captain Wiltsie, and famous Pearl Harbor hero Ship’s Cook Third Class Doris Miller – down with her.

Of the 916 crewmen, only 272 were rescued by Morris, Hughes and Hull.

The survivors had reached the deck soon after the initial torpedo impact. The bombs in storage exploded minutes later, possibly due to a second torpedo.

Including the sailors lost on the Liscome Bay, American casualties in the assault on Makin Island exceeded the strength of the entire Japanese garrison. Future legal scholar Robert Keeton, then a Navy lieutenant, survived the attack.


(Two enlisted men of the ill-fated U.S. Navy aircraft carrier LISCOME BAY, torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in the Gilbert Islands, are buried at sea from the deck of a Coast Guard-manned assault transport. November 1943)



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