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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
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Willapa

 

A bay off southwestern Washington state, adjacent to Pacific County.

 

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Willapa (ACV-53)—a "Ruler"-class auxiliary aircraft carrier built for the United Kingdom—was laid down on 21 May 1943 at Seattle, Wash., by the Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Co. and reclassified CVE-53 on 10 June 1943. Launched on 8 November 1943, the ship was transferred under lend-lease to the Royal Navy on 5 February 1944 to be manned by a Canadian crew. Renamed HMCS Puncher (D.79), the carrier served the Royal Canadian Navy in the Atlantic and Mediterranean for the duration of hostilities, mainly in a training role.

 

Decommissioned on 16 February 1946 at Norfolk, Va., and returned to American custody on that day, the escort carrier was struck from the Navy list on 12 March 1946, having never seen active service with the United States Navy.

 

Initially sold to William B. St. John, of New York City, on 9 January 1947, the carrier was subsequently resold to a British firm on 4 February 1947 and converted for mercantile service. She later served successively as Muncaster Castle, Bardic, and Bennevis, into the 1970's.