Naval History and Heritage Command

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USS Block Island (ACV-21/CVE-21)

Please see below for item level images and donated collections containing photographs of USS Block Island (ACV-21/CVE-21)

USS Block Island (AVG-21) was laid down under a Maritime Commission contract (M.C. Hull 237) without a name on 19 January 1942 at Tacoma, Wash., by the Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Co.; named Block Island on 19 March 1942; launched on 6 June 1942; sponsored by Mrs. H. B. Hutchinson; reclassified as an auxiliary aircraft carrier (ACV-21) on 20 August 1942; and commissioned on 8 March 1943, Capt. Logan C. Ramsey in command.

After fitting out at the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Wash., USS Block Island (AVG-21) exercised in Puget Sound for ten days and on 3 April sailed for San Diego, Calif. She made a two-day stop at San Francisco before pushing on to San Diego, where she moored on 9 April. Underway on 17 July with a convoy of eight troopships and escorts, USS Block Island (AVG-21) was detached on 26 July and tied up at Siddenham Airport, near Belfast, Northern Ireland. On 5 November, Block Island and her escorts entered Casablanca, Morocco, to refuel, take on provisions, and share tactical intelligence. While Bogue (CVE-9) and Card (CVE-11) pioneered new antisubmarine warfare (ASW) techniques in the Battle of the Atlantic in mid-1943, USS Block Island (AVG-21) drew the task of ferrying aircraft to England. Mooring at Staten Island on 8 July, the warship took on board the shrouded hulks of Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fighters to be delivered to Europe. While there, she was reclassified an escort aircraft carrier (CVE-21).

For her third Atlantic combat cruise, USS Block Island (CVE-21) sailed with a different screen, Escort Division (CortDiv) 48 comprising four new destroyer escorts: Bronstein (DE-189), Bostwick (DE-103), Breeman (DE-104) and Thomas (DE-102), and the new destroyer Corry (DD-463). An adverse weather report, however, cut the number to a pair of Avengers spotted for catapulting. The reversed course brought the formation back over the enemy submarine's supposed position, a supposition which proved to be fatally accurate for USS Block Island (CVE-21). Without warning, U-549's first torpedo slammed into USS Block Island (CVE-21)'s bow at about frame 12; and, approximately four seconds later, a second struck her aft between frames 171 and 182, exploding in the oil tank, through the shaft alley and up through the 5-inch magazines without causing any further fires or explosions.

Meanwhile, Robert I. Paine closed to join in picking up USS Block Island (CVE-21) survivors as the escort carrier settled lower and lower into the Atlantic. As she sank, the Avengers on USS Block Island (CVE-21)'s flight deck slid off into the sea like toys, their depth charges exploding deep under the surface. USS Block Island (CVE-21) took her final plunge at 2155. The following morning, after standing by her through the night, USS Eugene E. Elmore took the crippled Barr in tow and set out for Morocco with her two survivor-laden consorts. The warships ultimately pulled into Casablanca harbor on 1 June. Army-issued fresh khakis and toilet gear went to each man, but the USS Block Island (CVE-21) crew remained isolated for several days to keep news of the ship's loss from leaking out. USS Block Island (CVE-21)'s name was stricken from the Navy List on 28 June 1944.

For a complete history of USS Block Island (CVE-21) please see its DANFS page.