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  USS Sangamon CVL-26 (AO-28)
USN
Cimarron class oiler (built)

Sangamon-class escort carrier (conversion)

11,400 Tons (Standard)
24,275 Tons (Full)
553' x 114' 3" x 34' 4"
2 × 5" guns
8 × 40 mm AA
12 × 20mm AA
Aircraft: 25


USN c1942
Ship History
Built by Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company in Kearny, New Jersey. Laid down March 13, 1939 as Esso Trenton (MC hull 7) as one of twelve Cimarron class oilers built on a joint Navy-Maritime Commission design later duplicated by the T3-S2-A1 type. Owned by Standard Oil Company to transport fuel between ports on the Gulf of Mexico and the east coast.

On October 22, 1940, acquired by the United States Navy (USN) and renamed USS Sangamon AO-28. Commissioned the next day for use as a fleet oiler assigned to Commander J. R. Duncan and operated off the west coast and Hawaii. During the spring of 1941 assigned to support the Atlantic Fleet by transporting fuel from the Gulf of Mexico oil ports to destinations in the east coast, Canada and Iceland.

Wartime History
On December 7, 1941 at Naval Station Argentia on Newfoundland offloading fuel. Within the week, she started south again to renew her schedule on a tighter time frame. During early 1942, Sangamon was designated for conversion to an escort aircraft carrier. On February 11, 1942 arrived in Hampton Roads and three days days later, she was reclassified AVG-26.

On February 25, 1942 at Norfolk Navy Yard decommissioned and began a conversion into an escort carrier adding a flight deck of 502' in length and 81' wide plus elevators, aircraft catapult and a hanger deck, magazines, work shops, sonar gear, stowage space and crew spaces. Her armament was changed to 2 x 5" guns, 8 x 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft guns and twelve 20mm cannons. By August 1942 the conversion was complete as the lead ship of the Sangamon-class escort carrier and embarked Composite Squadron 26 (VC-26).

On August 20, 1942 redesignated as ACV-26 and five days later recommissioned with Captain C. W. Wieber in command. Afterwards conducted a shakedown cruise in Chesapeake Bay and Bermuda then returned to Norfolk Navy Yard for repairs and improvements to the ventilation system.

Operation Torch
On October 25, 1942 departed with Task Force 34 (TF-34) to provide air cover for "Operation Torch" the invasion of North Africa as part of the Northern Support Force. On November 8, 1942 arrive off Port Lyautey near Kenitra in Morocco. Meanwhile, her carrier aircraft provided Combat Air Patrol (CAP), antisubmarine patrols and ground support for the operation. During the middle of November 1942 departed for Norfolk and underwent repairs.

Afterwards, departed via Panama Canal across the Pacific to Éfaté arriving in middle of January 1943. Assigned to Carrier Division 22 (CarDiv 22) and for the next eight months operated between New Hebrides, New Caledonia and Solomon Islands. During this period operated with USS Suwannee (CVE-27) and USS Chenango (CVE-28) and protected convoys to Guadalcanal.

On April 5, 1943 assigned to Captain E. P. Moore. On July 15, 1943 redesignated CVE-26 and the next month began operating from Espiritu Santo. In September 1943 crossed the Pacific for an overhaul at Mare Island and was upgraded with new equipment and added a Combat Information Center (CIC).

On October 19, 1943 departs San Diego with Composite Squadron 37 (VC-37) across the Pacific to Espiritu Santo. On November 13, 1943 departed and the next day rendezvoused with Task Force 53 (TF-53). On November 20, 1943 arrived off Tarawa to support the U. S. Marine Corps (USMC) landing. During the first two days of this operation, her carrier planes attacked enemy positions on Tarawa and provided Combat Air Patrol (CAP) and anti-submarine patrols. On December 6, 1943 departed across the Pacific back to San Diego.

During early January 1944, conducted training off southern California. On January 13, 1944 departed across the Pacific via Pearl Harbor then participated in operations against Kwajalein. On January 25, 1944 at 4:51pm a returning fighter failed to hook the wire, crashed through the barriers and hit parked planes tearing loose the drop tank causing a fire from flaming fuel across the flight deck and up over the bridge. By 4:59pm the fire was under control but the accident resulted in the death of seven crew and seven wounded. Fifteen of the crew jumped overboard with two Missing In Action (MIA). Afterwards, temporary repairs were made at sea and continued to provide support until the middle of February 1944. She then moved on to Enewetak, where her planes covered the landing forces from 17–24 February. On the latter date, she departed the Marshalls back to Pearl Harbor to complete repairs. Captain M. E. Browder flew aboard on March 1 to relieve Captain Moore and assume command.

On March 15, 1944 Sangamon got underway again. After departing Pearl Harbor rendezvoused with fast carrier force support group Task Group 50.15 (TG 50.15) on March 26, 1944 and until the end of April 1944 escorted the group north of the Admiralty Islands for strikes against Palau and afterwards was refueled and resupplied at sea.

In early April 1944 withdrew to Espiritu Santo and in the middle of the month departed for New Guinea and was attached to the 7th Fleet. On April 22-24, 1944 her carrier aircraft covered the U. S. landings at Aitape then withdrew to Manus for two days then back to Aitape to conducted support missions.

On May 5, 1944 Sangamon withdrew to Espiritu Santo then departed on May 19, 1944 for rehearsals for the upcoming landings in the Marianas. On June 2, 1944 departed for the Marshalls and en route rendezvoused with Task Force 53 (TF-53) and provided air cover to Kwajalein then the Marianas. Between June 17-20, 1944 guarded the force to the east of Saipan as backup for Task Force 52 (TF-52).

After the Battle of the Philippine Sea, Sangamon detached from Task Force 53 (TF-53). On June 21, 1944, joined Task Force 52 (TF-52) and continued to conducts operations off Saipan. On July 4, 1944 departed for Eniwetok; arrived on 7 July, and sortied again on 10 July. From July 13, 1944 until August 1, 1944 covered the bombardment groups engaged in the capture of Guam. On August 4, 1944 returned to Eniwetok then five days later proceeded to Seeadler Harbor for rest and recuperation.

On September 9, 1944, Sangamon departed Seeadler Harbor and departed for Morotai. During September 15-27, 1944 covered the Allied assault on Morotai with combat support and afterwards attacked Japanese airfields on Halmahera. On September 16, 1944 lost was F6F Hellcat 58043 (MIA).

Philippines
The CVE again anchored in Seeadler Harbor on 1 October. Twelve days later, she sortied with TG 77.4, the escort carrier group of the Leyte invasion force. That group, comprised of 18 CVEs was broken down into Task Units 77.4.1, 77.4.2, and 77.4.3 (TU 77.4.1, 77.4.2, and 77.4.3), and referred to as "Taffy 1, 2, and 3", respectively. During the operation, they would steam to the east of Leyte Gulf: Taffy 1, including Sangamon, was off northern Mindanao, Taffy 2 off the entrance to Leyte Gulf; and Taffy 3 off Samar.

Prior to 20 October landings on Leyte, Sangamon launched regular flights in support of the advance units of the invasion force and sent strikes against Leyte and Visayan airfields. On the 20th, her planes covered the landing forces and the ships in the transport areas. That day, she also came under enemy air attack by A6M Zeros from the 201 Kokutai that release a bomb that hit the main deck level that tore a 2' by 6' section of plating loose, then fell into the sea and exploded some 300 yards / 270m away from the "jeep" carrier.

Enemy airfields again became Sangamon's primary targets in the days immediately following the landings. On 24 October, however, her planes fought off waves of Japanese aircraft over the landing area. Early on 25 October, two flights took off: one toward the Mindanao Sea to locate and finish off Japanese survivors of the Battle of Surigao Strait, the other toward Leyte for CAP missions. About an hour later, Sangamon received word that Taffy 3, 120 miles (190 km) to the north, had been attacked by the Japanese Center Force which had transited San Bernardino Strait during the night.

Battle off Samar
Within a half hour, Sangamon's CAP flight had been diverted to Samar and she had launched another smaller, group to further aid the attacked unit. Soon thereafter, however, at about 0740, as Taffy 1 planes were being recovered, rearmed, and launched, the unit became the target of the first strike of the kamikaze. Santee took the first hit, and as her flight and hangar decks blazed, Suwannee was attacked. Antiaircraft fire from that CVE scored on the planes, which then dived toward Sangamon. A 5-inch (130 mm) shell from Suwannee finished one plane only 50 yards (46 m) from Sangamon. By 0755, Japanese submarine I-56 (2) had joined the fight, and, as Santee's crew brought her fires under control, sent a torpedo into that luckless CVE. Minutes later, Suwannee was hit by a Zero forward of the after elevator.

During the intense fighting, several of Sangamon's crew were injured and one was killed by strafing fire. Later in the morning, as the attacks fell off, she sent medical personnel to assist casualties of the damaged ships, then began bringing them aboard for treatment. At mid-day, she suffered malfunctions in her steering gear, electrical generators, and catapult, but repairs were completed in time for her to launch afternoon strikes as scheduled. Those flights gave chase to the retreating Japanese Center Force.

On 26 October, Sangamon recovered her scattered planes and again launched CAP flights. At 1215, however, enemy planes were reported coming in from the north. Several broke through the air defenses, and Suwanee suffered another kamikaze hit. On 29 October, the escort carriers retired. Sangamon anchored in Seeadler Harbor on November 3, 1944 and departed six days later for overhaul at Bremerton, Washington.

During November 30, 1944 until January 24, 1945, Sangamon underwent an overhaul at Bremerton, Washington including the installation of rocket stowage racks, a second catapult, improved radar gear, new 40mm gun mounts, a bomb elevator, and additional fire fighting equipment.

During the middle of February 1945, Sangamon arrived at Pearl Harbor to train a new squadron Composite Squadron 33 (VC-33) which included night fighters. On March 5, 1944 departed across the Pacific and arrived at Ulithi on March 16, 1944. Temporarily detached from her division to Task Unit 52.1.1 (TU 52.1.1) as part of the escort carrier groups assigned to cover the initial assault of Operation Iceberg the invasion of the Ryukyu Islands.

On March 21, 1945 Sangamon departed Ulithi with other ships assigned to the Kerama Retto assault force. Covering the force en route, she operated to the south of Okinawa and launched planes for CAP and landing force support as Kerama Retto was secured. On 1 April, as the landings on the Hagushi beaches of Okinawa were taking place, she shifted to TU 52.1.3, thus rejoining CarDiv 22. Through 8 April, however, she continued to launch supporting strikes and patrol groups from an area some 50 miles (80 km) south of Okinawa.

On 9 April, she moved, with her unit, into an area 70 miles east of Sakishima Gunto. From there, her planes raided airfields on Miyako and Ishigaki. Detached on 12 April, she again provided air support for the forces fighting on Okinawa, then covered the occupation of Ie-shima. On 18 April, she returned to Sakishima Islands. Dawn and dusk strikes were launched daily, and heckler flights were sent over the fields at night. On 22 April, eight fighters and four bombers of a dusk strike caught 25 to 30 enemy planes warming up on Nobara Field, central Miyako. Seven Nakajima Ki-43 "Oscars" attempted to intercept Sangamon's planes, but the attack was pressed home. After delivering their loads, the bombers were sent back to the CVE, while the fighters engaged the "Oscars" and downed five. Night fighters from Sangamon were diverted to the area and arrived as four more enemy planes joined the fight. The latter, also "Oscars", were engaged, and two of the four were shot down before the fight was over.

Kamikaze
On 4 May 1945, at 1933, Sangamon was hit by a kamikaze aircraft. This photo the next day shows both aircraft elevators have been blown out of place by explosions below. At this time the only functional radio aboard was in the last surviving aircraft, an F6F Hellcat missing most of its starboard wing.

Through the end of the month, Sangamon continued to launch her planes to neutralize Japanese airfields. On 4 May, she put into Kerama Retto to rearm. Loading, frequently interrupted by the presence of bogies in the area, was not completed until evening. At 1830, the CVE got underway. Japanese attackers, however, were soon reported only some 29 miles off. Land based fighters were vectored out to intercept the enemy planes and shot down nine. One got through and, at about 19:00, began circling toward a position on Sangamon's port quarter. The CVE went into a hard left turn to avoid the enemy and to maneuver into a launching position. She then opened fire and was joined by her escorts. The enemy crashed into the water some 25 feet (7.6 m) off the starboard beam.

Other bogies followed the first. At 1925, another broke through the interceptor screen, ran into clouds to avoid antiaircraft fire, then came out and, with increased speed, headed for Sangamon. At 1933, the kamikaze dropped his bomb and crashed into the center of the flight deck. The bomb and parts of the plane penetrated that deck and exploded below, hurling flames and shrapnel in all directions. Initial damage was extensive, fires broke out on the flight deck, the hangar deck, and in the fuel deck, communications from the bridge were lost within 15 minutes, and the ship was soon out of control.

The action of Sangamon swinging through the wind caused the flames and smoke to change direction, spreading the fires. By 2015, however, steering control had been established, and the ship was brought back to a course which helped the crew fight the myriad fires scattered over the CVE. But water pressure was low, as the firemain and risers had ruptured. Carbon dioxide bottles were brought into action. Nearby ships came alongside to assist. By 2230, all fires were under control. Communication with other units had been regained; at first through the radio of Fullam then by using a VHF channel in the sole remaining aircraft aboard. At 2320, Sangamon with 11 dead, 25 missing, and 21 seriously wounded, got underway to return to Kerama Retto for temporary repairs.

From Kerama Retto, Sangamon proceeded on to Ulithi, thence headed for Pearl Harbor and the United States. On June 12 arrived at Norfolk, and commenced repairs. In the middle of August 1945, work was suspended with the cessation of hostilities. In September 1945 was scheduled to be inactivated. On October 24, 1945 decommissioned. On November 1, 1945 struck from the Naval Vessel Register. For her World War II service, Sangamon earned 8 battle stars. Her three air groups each earned the Presidential Unit Citation.

Postwar
Sold to Hillcone Steamship Company in San Francisco and arrived at Norfolk on February 11, 1948. Afterwards, the ship had multiple owners.

Fate
During August 1960 scrapped at Osaka.

References
Naval History and Heritage Command - Sangamon II (AO-28/CVE-26)

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Last Updated
October 24, 2020

 

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