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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORY AND HERITAGE COMMAND
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060

Breton

A sound in Louisiana located between the Mississippi River delta and the mainland.

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(CVE-10: dp. 7,800; l. 495'8"; b. 69'6"; ew. 111'6"; dr. 26'0"; s. 17.6 k. (tl.); cpl. 1,205; ac. 28; a. 2 5", 20 40mm.; cl. Bogue; T. C3-S-A1)

Breton (AVG-10) was laid down under a Maritime Commission contract (MC hull 162) on 28 June 1941 at Pascagoula, Miss., by the Ingalls Shipbuilding Corp.; launched on 19 June 1942; sponsored by Mrs. Eugene T. Oates; reclassified ACV-10 on 20 August 1942; reclassified CVE-10 on 9 April 1943; transferred the same day to the United Kingdom under lend-lease; and commissioned in the Royal Navy as HMS Chaser.


The escort carrier left Norfolk on 20 June 1943 with her British crew and joined a convoy out of New York bound for England, where she arrived on 6 July. In late February 1944, she served in the escort for convoy JW-57 as the first escort carrier assigned to provide protection for large convoys as they steamed to Russia. Chaser's aircraft succeeded in damaging one of the 15 U-boats that the Germans had stationed in two patrol lines across the convoy's path and kept the rest out of torpedo range. Then, on the return voyage, Chaser protected a convoy of 31 ships and enjoyed even greater success. Good weather helped her planes to sink three U-boats and to damage four others. After work on her hull in drydock, the escort carrier remained out of action through the summer and into early fall because the build up for the invasion of France brought a lull in convoy activity to Russia.


Chaser resumed convoy escort duties in the autumn and continued through the winter and spring of 1944 and 1945. She then was assigned to the Pacific Fleet to ferry replacement planes to the forward areas and to fly combat air patrols over ships in the replenishment areas. Following the Japanese surrender in August 1945, she transported Allied prisoners of war homeward. The escort carrier was returned to the United States on 12 May 1946, and her designation was struck from the Navy list on 3 August 1946. She was sold to the Waterman Steamship Co. on 20 December 1946, and later resold to the Netherlands on 27 August 1947.


I


(ACV-23: dp. 7,800; l. 495'8"; b. 69'6"; ew. 111'6"; dr. 26'0"; s. 17.6 k.; cpl. 1,205; a. 2 5", 20 40mm.; ac. 28; cl. Bogue; T. C3-S-A1)

Breton (AVG-23) was laid down on 25 February 1942 at Tacoma, Wash., by the Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Corp. under a Maritime Commission contract (MC hull 239); launched on 27 June 1942; sponsored by Mrs. Albert H. Rooks; reclassified ACV-23 on 20 August 1942; and commissioned on 12 April 1943, Capt. Edward C. Ewen in command.


On 3 May, the new auxiliary aircraft carrier got underway for San Diego, where she was assigned to the Operational Training Command as a training ship. For three months, Breton provided aviation squadrons experience in carrier operations. Reclassified an escort carrier and redesignated CVE-23 on 15 July 1943, Breton also received orders to report to Commander, South Pacific, at Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides Islands. The escort carrier loaded aircraft, men, and cargo and got underway.


Breton arrived at Pallikula Bay, Espiritu Santo, on 1 August and conducted training and tactical exercises from that base until 16 October. She then assumed duties as a carrier transport, becoming an important part of the logistics pipeline that supported naval aviation in the Pacific. Her first assignment took her to Pearl Harbor in company with Ballard (AVD-10). After stopping in the North Fiji Islands and Tutuila, Samoa, the two ships arrived in Pearl Harbor on 25 October. Breton got underway again on the 30th, carrying a full load of fuel for Turtle Bay, Espiritu Santo. The escort carrier made another round-trip from the New Hebrides to Pearl Harbor in December and then sailed via Tutuila for a general overhaul in San Francisco.


With the yard work complete, Breton sailed on 8 March 1944 for the New Hebrides, where she resumed transport duties. In April, she returned to the west coast at San Diego to embark the officers and men of Marine Night Fighting Squadron (VMF(N) 534 for transportation to Espiritu Santo. The escort carrier returned to San Diego in May and picked up planes and other supplies in order to support the upcoming Marianas invasion. Breton arrived in Eniwetok, the forward staging area for the Marianas operation, in mid-June and joined the Fueling Group of the Joint Expeditionary Force Reserve. On 17 June, the warship set sail with that unit bound for Saipan, which had already been assaulted by the amphibious forces on the 15th. She and Copahee (CVE-12) stood by with replacements, both aircraft and pilots, while the carriers of TF 58 supported the conquest of Saipan and destroyed most of what remained of Japanese naval aviation in the Battle of the Philippine Sea on 19 and 20 June.


After several days in the transport areas off Saipan, Breton reentered Eniwetok on 30 June to replenish her stores and take on still more replacement aircraft. She returned to sea again on 18 July and, after briefly resuming support for the Marianas operation, took up her former routine of supply voyages between the various bases of the Pacific. For the next month, the escort carrier shipped aircraft as necessary to Majuro, Pearl Harbor, and California. On 17 August, she entered the naval shipyard in San Francisco for a short availability. Upon completion of the repairs, Breton returned to Pearl Harbor, where officers and men of VMF-323 embarked for transportation to Emirau Island. On 8 September, she got underway with two other escort carriers and three destroyer escorts. Upon arrival at Emirau, the ships discharged their passengers and cargo.


Then, on 2 April, Breton joined Hollandia (CVE-97), White Plains (CVE-66), Sitkoh Bay (CVE-86), and four escorts and headed for the Ryukyu Islands, where the invasion of Okinawa had already begun. The escort carriers ferried Marine Corps aircraft and personnel to Okinawa to operate from the newly captured airfields. Following their arrival on 4 April, the escort carriers unloaded aircraft as needed in spite of frequent air attacks. On 7 April, a Marine Corps F4U "Corsair" from Breton's combat air patrol teamed up with Sitkoh Bay's antiaircraft guns to splash an attacking kamikaze plane just 100 yards short of that warship on her port beam. The escort carriers cleared the area on the 8th and set course for Guam.


After replenishing her supplies, Breton put to sea for Alameda, Calif., where she underwent a brief overhaul during May. She then returned to transport duty in the Pacific. Following the Japanese surrender in August, Breton continued to serve in the western Pacific until 4 January 1946, when she received orders to Tacoma, Wash., for preinactivation overhaul. She was decommissioned there on 30 August 1946 and berthed with the Pacific Reserve Fleet.


Breton remained inactive with the reserve fleet for nearly 12 years. During that time, she changed hull designations twice, to CVHE-23 on 12 June 1955 and to CVU-23 on 1 July 1958. She was transferred to the Military Sea Transportation Service on 14 July 1958 and began operating in the Pacific as USNS Breton, first as T-CVU-23 and then, after 7 May 1959 as T-AKV-42. Manned by a civil service crew, Breton continued service as an aircraft ferry based in San Francisco until some time in the late 1960s when she was returned to Maritime Administration custody to be berthed at Olympia, Wash. She was declared excess to the Navy's needs, and her name was struck from the Navy list on 6 August 1971. She was sold to American Ship Dismantlers, Inc., of Portland, Oreg., in February 1972 and was scrapped.


Breton earned two battle stars for World War II service.

Mary P. Walker


7 December 2005