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Bataan I (CVL-29)


USS Bataan (CVL-29)

Bataan (CVL-29) underway in January 1952 with F4U-4B Corsair fighter-bombers of VMF-314 on board. Photo was taken as the ship was working up in preparation for her second Korean War deployment. Official U.S. Navy photograph now in the collections of the National Archives, 80-G-633888.

A peninsula 25 miles long and 20 miles wide at its base that forms the west side of Manila Bay on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. Following the Japanese landings on Luzon in mid-December 1941 and their successful advance toward Manila, General Douglas MacArthur, Commander, United States Army Forces in the Far East, ordered his forces to withdraw into the Bataan peninsula on 24 December. Just over two weeks later, on 9 January, elements of Lieutenant General Homma Masaharu's 14th Army attacked the American and Filipino troops defending the peninsula. Although driven back from their initial defensive positions, the American and Filipino troops held their secondary defensive line, forcing Homma to call off his offensive on 8 February. Japanese attempts to outflank the defensive lines through amphibious landings on the peninsula also failed.

The defenders of Bataan, however, were blockaded and isolated by the surrounding Japanese air and naval forces. Malnutrition and disease weakened the troops and, when they realized no Allied help was coming from Pearl Harbor or Australia, their morale plummeted as well. Meanwhile, Japanese reinforcements strengthened Homma's forces, and he launched a second offensive on 3 April. This attack, coming three weeks after MacArthur left for Australia, broke through the defensive lines and defeated an American counter-attack. On 9 April, in order to prevent unnecessary slaughter, the remaining 78,000 defenders surrendered. About 2,000 men escaped to the fortified island of Corregidor, where they held out against the Japanese air and artillery bombardment until themselves surrendering on 6 May.


(CVL-29: displacement 11,000; length 622'6"; beam 71'6"; extreme width (flight deck)109'2"; draft 26'0"; s. 31.6 k. (trial); complement 1,569; armament 26 40 millimeter, 10 20 millimeter, aircraft 45; class Independence)

The first Bataan (CVL-29), originally projected as the Cleveland-class light cruiser Buffalo (CL-99), was redesignated CV-29 and renamed Bataan on 2 June 1942; laid down on 31 August 1942 at Camden, N.J., by the New York Shipbuilding Corp.; redesignated CVL-29 on 15 July 1943; launched on 1 August 1943; sponsored by Mrs. George D. Murray; and commissioned on 17 November 1943, Capt. Valentine H. Schaeffer in command.

After fitting out at Philadelphia, Bataan conducted preliminary shakedown training in Chesapeake Bay before sailing to the West Indies on 11 January 1944. Two days later, while enroute to Trinidad, the light carrier suffered her first loss when a Grumman F6F fighter ("Hellcat") crashed her number 2 stack and burst into flames, killing three crewmen. After anchoring off Port of Spain on 16 January, Bataan spent the next three weeks conducting battle problems, damage control drills, gunnery practice, and flight operations in the Gulf of Paria.

Returning to the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 14 February, the aircraft carrier underwent post-shakedown repairs and inspections until early March. On the 2d, Bataan got underway for the Pacific in company with Bennion (DD-662). Transiting the Panama Canal on 8 March, she then headed up the coast to California and arrived in San Diego on the 16th. Two days later, she sailed for Hawaii with her flight and hangar decks jammed with passengers, planes, and cargo. Arriving at Pearl Harbor on the 22d, the light carrier conducted a week of pilot qualification drills in preparation for "forward area deployment." The warship lost her second plane on 31 March when a "Hellcat" crashed the landing barrier and went over the side, although, happily, the pilot survived without injury.

Bataan departed Pearl Harbor on 4 April and, in company with Remy (DD-688) and Herbert W. Grant (DD-644), steamed to the Marshall Islands. She arrived at Majuro Atoll on the 9th and reported for duty with the fast carriers of Task Force (TF) 58 that same day. On 13 April, the light carrier sailed with Hornet (CV-12), Belleau Wood (CV-24), Cowpens (CV-25) and the rest of Task Group (TG) 58.1 for air operations against Hollandia, New Guinea. These raids, following on the heels of a carrier sweep against the Caroline Islands in late March and early April, were intended to support American amphibious operations in the Humboldt Bay-Tanahmerah region of New Guinea.

On 21 April, Bataan launched five fighter sweeps to strafe enemy aircraft and installations at Sawar, Wakde, and Sarmi in New Guinea. The pilots claimed hits on numerous buildings, flak guns, coastal barges and three aircraft on the ground. Meanwhile, the carrier's CAP scored its first kills that day, shooting down a patrolling Mitsubishi G4M1 bomber ("Betty") that morning and splashing a Mitsubishi Ki.21 ("Sally") in the afternoon. According to the war diary, fires and explosions were "observed from the bridge of Bataan through out the night on Hollandia, New Guinea."

After refueling from Neshanic (AO-71) on the 23d, the light carrier sent her fighters back to Wakde the next day, hoping to catch any Japanese reinforcements by surprise. However, a dearth of targets prompted the task group to abandon the effort after only a few attacks and set a course for the Admiralty Islands to refuel at Seeadler Harbor on Manus. The carriers then headed north and struck the Japanese base at Truk on 29 April. Bataan launched a fighter sweep and three bombing raids, with the General Motors TBM torpedo bombers ("Avengers") dropping 13 tons of bombs on the Japanese base. One "Avenger" was shot down during the attack, but the crew was rescued by submarine Tang (SS-306), which had been assigned lifeguard duty off Truk. On 30 April, Bataan's task group turned toward Ponape, Caroline Islands; and, the next day, she flew CAP and ASP missions over the battleships bombarding that island. The warships then steamed to the Marshalls, arriving at Kwajalein lagoon on 4 May.

Bataan moved to Majuro on the 14th for repairs to her forward elevator, but local repair crews could not fix the problem. On 18 May, she sailed to Hawaii, arriving at Pearl Harbor on the 22d. After her elevator was repaired, she got headed back to the Marshalls on 30 May and anchored at Majuro on 2 June. Once there, Bataan began hurried preparations for Operation "Forager," the planned invasion of the Marianas. Tasked with neutralizing Japanese airfields in the Marianas, the 15 fleet carriers of TF 58 planned to attack Saipan, Guam, and nearby island groups. They also prepared for a major fleet battle in case the Japanese carriers attempted to interfere.

Bataan joined Hornet, Yorktown (CV-10), and Belleau Wood in TG 58.1 and put to sea on 6 June. Five days later, Bataan launched a fighter sweep against the Japanese base on Rota, in support of operations against Saipan. One section of four "Hellcats" flying "rescue submarine cover patrol" near that island bounced three Mitsubishi A6M carrier fighters ("Zekes") and shot them all down without loss. Another "Hellcat," flying CAP over Bataan, splashed a Japanese Army Nakajima Ki.49 bomber ("Helen"). That evening, TG 58.1 sailed south toward Guam.

On 12 June, Bataan flew CAP and ASP over the task group while the three other carriers launched strikes at Orote air field on Guam. Her "Hellcats" spotted two Japanese Aichi D4Y bombers ("Judys") that day and splashed both close to the task group. Another sweep pounded Rota on the 13th, bombing Japanese antiaircraft gun positions, Piti harbor, and the sugar mill. During recovery operations, a Curtiss SB2C dive bomber ("Helldiver") jumped Bataan's landing barrier and damaged four planes. On the 14th, while the task force refueled, a fighter from Bataan's CAP chased a "Betty" for 65 miles before finally splashing the Japanese bomber. The task group sailed for the Bonin Islands that evening.

Ordered to strike Iwo and Chichi Jima in an effort to catch the airfields full of Japanese planes staging to the Marianas, fighter and bomber raids hit the islands on the 15th. Meanwhile, Bataan's aircraft, flying CAP and ASP as usual, bombed and heavily damaged the 1,900-ton Tatsutagawa Maru. On 16 June, after a morning fighter sweep over Iwo Jima, the task group received reports of a large Japanese force closing the Marianas from the Philippines. Scratching the planned afternoon strikes on Iwo Jima, Bataan's task group hurried south to rejoin TF 58.

Her group rendezvoused with the other three fast carrier groups about noon on 18 June, some 150 miles west of Saipan. From her position on the northern edge of the task force, Bataan participated in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Although American search aircraft failed to spot the nine approaching Japanese carriers, the presence of Guam-based enemy "snoopers" around the American task force indicated the Japanese had found them.

On the morning of the 19th, while waiting to hear from dawn search missions, Bataan launched CAP and ASP aircraft to guard TG 58.1. These patrols proved useful when, at 0925, an "Avenger" shot down a Nakajima A6M2 seaplane fighter ("Rufe"). Less than an hour later, starting at 1014, reports of multiple enemy raids caused the light carrier to launch all her available fighters. Over the next six hours, Bataan's fighters helped break up four major raids, disrupting the resulting Japanese attacks. Only one enemy formation approached TG 58.1 and, of the 16 torpedo bombers in it, only a single plane got close enough to be splashed by screen antiaircraft fire. The light carrier also sent a TBM strike against Rota around mid-day to help suppress Japanese land-based aircraft. During the first day of the Battle of the Philippine Sea, Bataan aircraft claimed 10 enemy planes destroyed out of the 300 or so Japanese aircraft lost in the battle dubbed the "Great Marianas Turkey Shoot."

On the morning of the 20th, Bataan launched CAP and ASP as normal and steamed generally west as the task force prepared for a second day of battle. The enemy carriers, however, had begun retiring toward Japan the previous evening, and American search planes could not find them. The only excitement for Bataan's planes occurred at 1320 when a "Hellcat" splashed a lone "Betty" near the task group. Finally, upon hearing a sighting report at 1613, the light carrier launched 10 fighters to accompany a massive 206-plane strike. The raid, catching the retreating Japanese at dusk, sank light carrier Hiyo and damaged another. The American planes then returned to their carriers, landing with difficulty in the darkness after the task force turned on its deck and search lights. Eventually, two Yorktown planes landed on Bataan, the second of which crashed and fouled the deck. Nine of the light carrier's own fighters landed on other carriers, and one was lost.

After a futile stern chase the following day, the American task force gave up the pursuit and turned back toward the Marianas. On 23 June, the light carrier's planes bombed Pagan Island, damaging the airfield and shooting down four "Zekes" and a "Betty." That afternoon, TG 58.1 steamed northwest toward the Bonin Islands, attempting to finish off the attacks canceled on the 16th. Bataan launched 17 fighters for the attack on Iwo Jima at dawn on the 24th but these, and the 34 "Hellcats" from Yorktown and Hornet, met a Japanese incoming strike about halfway there. A second melee developed near the carriers when another Japanese raid tangled with task force CAP. Bataan's air group lost three planes in these battles but claimed 25 in return. The task group then retired toward the Marshalls, anchoring at Eniwetok on the 27th.

The brief respite ended when the task group sailed back to the Bonins on 30 June. The task force's planes struck at Iwo Jima on 3 and 4 July, interdicting Japanese efforts to reinforce Guam. The warship's crew, however, suffered another loss on the 4th when a snapped arresting gear cable killed one man and injured three others. In preparation for the landings planned for Guam in mid-July, Bataan's aircraft conducted sweeps over Pagan Island on the 5th and then repeatedly bombed Guam from 6 to 11 July. On the 12th, the light carrier's forward elevator broke for good; and she received orders to head home for repairs. She steamed by way of Eniwetok and Oahu before arriving in San Francisco on 30 July.

Bataan entered the naval drydocks at Hunters Point that same day; and, over the next two months, the yard workers repaired her elevator, painted the hull, and installed a second catapult, an air-search radar, deck lighting, rocket stowage, and a second aircraft landing barrier. She got underway for Hawaii on 7 October, arriving at Pearl Harbor on the 13th.

Assigned to TG 19.5, Bataan spent the next four months preparing for operations against the Bonin and Ryukyu Islands. These groups, particularly the islands of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, were the targets of American invasions planned for early 1945. The former was to provide emergency airfields for B-29s bombing Japan from the Marianas and a base for their fighter escorts, while the latter was needed to support any future invasion of the Japanese home islands.

Bataan spent most of November and December conducting pilot training exercises and night-fighter operations in Hawaiian waters. Seven planes were lost in accidents, including one "Wildcat" that crashed into her number 2 stack, but only two pilots were injured. In January and February 1945, the focus of training operations shifted to night-fighter direction and ground-attack exercises. Accidents claimed another five planes, including a Vought F4U fighter ("Corsair") that burned on the flight deck on 28 January 1945, but again no pilots were lost. The light carrier entered the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard on 16 February, undergoing repairs to her flight deck and receiving three new 40-millimeter antiaircraft guns.

Carrier raids on Japan, March 1945

A kamikaze plane crashes near Bataan (CVL-29) as Task Force 58 was enroute to raid the Japanese home islands, 17 March 1945. Photographed from Essex (CV-9).

On 3 March, Bataan departed Pearl Harbor for Ulithi, arriving at that atoll on the 13th. There she joined Task Unit (TU) 58.2.1, an ad hoc convoy comprising Franklin (CV-13), Hancock (CV-19), San Jacinto (CVL-30), two battleships, two heavy cruisers and a host of destroyers formed for the short trip back to the Fast Carrier Task Force. Once reconstituted, TF-58 embarked upon a wide-ranging series of raids to soften the enemy up for and to support the last major amphibious operation of the war, the invasion of Okinawa. Tasked with suppressing Japanese aircraft on Kyushu, one of the Japanese home islands, fighter sweeps and bomber strikes hit airfields on 18 March and struck at Japanese naval bases at Kure and Kobe. Over the next three days, vigorous counter-attacks by Japanese aircraft were mostly broken up by CAP, although a few planes got through and severely damaged Franklin. Other attacks targeted Bataan, whose antiaircraft guns fired in earnest for the first time, claiming kills on two "Judy's" and a Nakajima B6N bomber ("Jill"). Bataan's air group lost four aircraft in these actions while the ship's company suffered one man killed and eleven injured from shell fragments.

Between 23 and 28 March, Bataan's planes struck at Kerama Retto and conducted fighter sweeps over Okinawa. She then launched a single day's raid on Kyushu on the 29th, where her fighters claimed a "Judy," before returning to Okinawa operations. After the amphibious landings there on 1 April, the light carrier flew CAP over the amphibious forces and began intensive air strikes in support of Marine Corps operations ashore. Her planes also raided southern Kyushu, where Japanese kamikazes tended to "pile up" before major attacks.

On 7 April, Bataan's planes took part in the Battle of the East China Sea, when American search aircraft spotted a Japanese task force built around battleship Yamato. Swarms of carrier aircraft attacked the Japanese force as it steamed south in a desperate effort to disrupt the American invasion of Okinawa. Bataan's pilots claimed four torpedo hits on the giant battleship, as well as hits on a cruiser and two destroyers, that helped sink most of the Japanese task force.

Bataan spent the next 10 days alternating between CAP sweeps over Okinawa and air strikes on southern Kyushu and nearby islands. Every three days or so, she retired eastward to refuel or rearm and replenish at sea. During four enemy attacks on the task group over this period, one crew member was killed and 24 wounded when the ship was sprayed with shell fragments.

On 18 April, Bataan launched an antisubmarine patrol that assisted in the sinking of Japanese submarine I-56. Following this change of pace, her aircraft returned to several weeks of grueling air attacks on Okinawa and Kyushu. The heaviest Japanese counter-attack took place on 14 May, resulting in a veritable "rain" of shrapnel over Bataan, killing eight crewmen and wounding 26 others. During these April and May operations, the light carrier's gunners and pilots claimed a share in dozens of kills, at a cost of nine planes and four air crewmen. Finally, on 29 May, she steamed south to the Philippines, anchoring in San Pedro Bay on 1 June.

Following a month of minor repairs to the warship and liberty for her crew, Bataan sailed in company with TG 38.3 on 1 July for the Japanese home islands. There, the light carrier's planes struck airfields in the Tokyo Bay area on the 10th, hit shore installations in northern Honshu and Hokkaido on 14 and 15 July, and helped to damage the battleship Nagato in Yokosuka harbor on the 18th. Then, after a refueling retirement between 19 and 23 July, her planes struck the naval base at Kure on the 24th, helping to sink battleship-carrier Hyuga and 15 small craft in the harbor. Bad weather canceled most of her air strikes late in the month, limiting her planes to attacks on 28 and 30 July, and, because a typhoon passed through the area, raids did not resume until 9 August. On that day her planes struck Misawa airfield in northern Japan; and, on the 10th, they battered Aomori. She returned to Honshu on the 13th, working over the Tokyo area until 0635 on 15 August when all strikes were canceled following news that the Japanese intended to surrender.

From 16 to 24 August, Bataan loitered off Japan's east coast awaiting instructions on the surrender arrangements. Then, on 25 August, her planes began patrols over nearby destroyer rescue picket stations and search missions over Shikoku and southern Honshu. According to her war diary, the "only anti-aircraft activity consists of some stone-throwing by a few small boys." After the formal surrender ceremony on 2 September, Bataan's planes air-dropped supplies to Allied prisoners of war at Zentzuji Camp in Shikoku. The light carrier steamed into Tokyo Bay on the 6th to pick up crew members ashore before departing for Okinawa that afternoon. After picking up 549 passengers there, she sailed for home on 10 September, steaming via Pearl Harbor and the Panama Canal and arriving in New York on 17 October.

Bataan then sailed to Providence, R.I., on the 24th and then on to the Boston Naval Shipyard on the 30th. Following two weeks of repairs, she was converted to a troop transport in preparation for "Magic Carpet" operations. Bataan sailed for Europe on 21 November and, after passing through unfamiliar Atlantic and Mediterranean waters, moored in Naples harbor on the 29th. She embarked 2,121 Army officers and men and started for home on the 30th. Arriving at Norfolk on 8 December, the troop-carrying warship then transported 890 Italian prisoners of war back to Naples, arriving there on the 23d. The following day, Bataan steamed out of the Bay of Naples with 2,089 Army troops embarked and arrived at Norfolk on 2 January 1946.

On the 7th, Bataan got underway for Philadelphia where she reported for inactivation at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard on 10 January. After conversion to an antisubmarine warfare (ASW) carrier, she was placed out of commission, in reserve, on 11 February 1947.

In 1949, heightened international tensions between the United States and NATO on the one hand, and the Soviet Union and communist China on the other, led the Truman administration to ask for more military spending. In response, the Defense Department's budget, and the Navy's, began to expand in 1950. Bataan was recommissioned on 13 May 1950 at Philadelphia, Capt. Edgar T. Neale, in command. On 25 June, while fitting out the light carrier, her crew heard of the North Korean communist invasion of South Korea. Two days later, under United Nations (UN) auspices, the United States intervened in the conflict. Suddenly needed to train and deliver pilots and aircraft to the Korean theater, Bataan stood out for the west coast on 15 July, passed through the Panama Canal on the 21st, and arrived at San Diego on 28 July.

Bataan spent the next four months conducting training operations out of San Diego. These included general crew drills, ship handling, and task unit operations. She also embarked naval air squadrons for carrier landing qualifications and antisubmarine warfare exercises. On 16 November, Bataan loaded Air Force cargo and personnel and sailed for Japan, arriving at Yokohama on 28 November. After unloading her cargo there, and at Kobe and Sasebo, she sailed on 14 December to report for duty with Task Force (TF) 77 off Korea's northeastern coast.

Bataan joined the task force on 16 December at a critical juncture in the conflict. Since 24 November, when some 30 Chinese communist divisions had intervened in the Korean war, bitter fighting had forced UN troops to retreat from the Yalu and Taedong Rivers. By mid-December, the American and South Korean troops on the east coast had fallen back to Hungnam. The soldiers, along with their vehicles, supplies, and almost 100,000 Korean refugees, were being shipped south to the Pusan perimeter. On 22 December, Bataan began flying Vought F4U-4 fighters ("Corsairs") of Marine Fighter Squadron (VMF) 212 over Hungnam to help cover the final phase of this evacuation. Her planes, along with aircraft from Sicily (CVE-118) and Badoeng Strait (CVE-116), provided air cover to ground forces and shipping in the port area. Following the end of the evacuation on 24 December, her "Corsairs" then flew armed reconnaissance and close air support missions over the central mountains along the 38th parallel.

On 31 December, a second communist offensive pushed south toward Seoul and Hanchon. In an attempt to stem the tide, Bataan was reassigned to Task Group (TG) 96.9 on the west coast of Korea. There, her planes attacked enemy troop concentrations below Seoul, helping to stall the communist push south. After a replenishment period at Sasebo between 9 and 15 January 1951, Bataan relieved HMS Theseus in the Yellow Sea on the 16th.

Wearing the flag of Commander, Task Element (CTE) 95.1.1, Bataan's mission was to blockade the west coast of Korea. This duty, shared with a British escort carrier, consisted of nine days flying and one day of replenishment at sea, one day on passage to Japan and back, and then a week in Sasebo or Yokosuka for rest and maintenance. While on station, Bataan generally flew 40 sorties a day--eight defensive CAP flights with the remainder divided between close air support (CAS), armed reconnaissance (AR), and interdiction missions. For CAS of ground forces, tactical air controllers usually called in Bataan"s "Corsairs" for bomb, rocket, and napalm attacks on known enemy positions. Daylight AR missions concentrated on halting enemy road traffic and bombing rail yards and bridges. The first patrol revealed the dangerous nature of this work when, between 16 and 26 January, VMF-212 lost three "Corsairs," along with two pilots, to enemy small-arms fire.

Over the next two months, Bataan conducted three more Yellow Sea patrols. In February and March, the light carrier supported the UN counterattack toward Inchon and Seoul, concentrating her air attacks on the Chinnampo area. These flights also included air spotting missions when cruisers St. Paul (CA-73) and HMS Belfast fired on targets ahead of advancing UN troops. Of the three "Corsairs" shot down by communist antiaircraft fire during these missions, two pilots were safely rescued by search and rescue (SAR) helicopters.

On 8 April, after the fast carriers of TF 77 sailed south to Formosa, because intelligence reports suggested the Chinese communists might attack there, Bataan and HMS Theseus replaced them in the Sea of Japan. The two light carriers, screened by a pair of American destroyers and four British Commonwealth escorts, kept up their "multinational" part in maintaining the west coast blockade. "Corsairs" from VMF-312 along with British Fairey Mark 5 ("Firefly") and Hawker Mark 11 ("Sea Fury") fighters, bombed and strafed communist supply routes near Wonsan, Hamhung, and Songjin. Five aircraft and one pilot were lost to communist antiaircraft defenses.

After a short visit to Sasebo between 16 and 20 April, Bataan resumed her alternating patrols with HMS Theseus off the west coast of Korea. On 21 April, in an unusual incident, two "Corsairs" of VMF-312 were "jumped" by four Yakovlev Type 3U fighters ("Yaks") near Chinnampo. Marine Corps Capt. Philip C. DeLong shot down two of the Russian-made "Yaks," and heavily damaged a third, while 1st Lt. Harold D. Daigh, USMCR, shot down the fourth. According to Capt. DeLong, the North Korean pilots "were considerably inferior in flying ability to the Japanese of World War II."

The following day, communist troops began another heavy attack toward Seoul, and Bataan's planes flew 136 close air support sorties against them over the next four days. After a brief period of replenishment and upkeep at Sasebo between 27 and 30 April, Bataan returned to the Yellow Sea on 1 May. In company with HMS Glory, she launched 244 offensive sorties against enemy troop concentrations, helping to stall and then reverse the communist offensive by 10 May. Later in the month, Bataan's "Corsairs" concentrated on the destruction of junks and sampans in the Taedong Gang estuary until bad weather canceled flight operations. During these strikes, one pilot and plane was lost after being hit by 40-millimeter ground fire east of Anak.

Relieved on 3 June by a British carrier, Bataan proceeded to Japan that evening. The following morning, she flew off the planes of VMF-312 to Itami Air Force Base, and moored at Sasebo that afternoon. On 5 June, the light carrier steamed to Kobe, where the rest of VMF-312 left the ship. After moving on to Yokosuka for her annual administrative inspection, Bataan departed Japan for home on the 13th, eventually mooring in San Diego harbor on 25 June.

Following two weeks of rest and recreation for her crew, Bataan steamed to Bremerton, Wash., on 9 July for an extensive overhaul at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. When those repairs were complete, Bataansteamed to San Diego on 7 November for underway and refresher training. Over the next 10 weeks, she conducted carrier landing qualifications and ASW exercises in preparation for a second deployment to the Far East.

Bataan got underway for Yokosuka on 27 January 1952, arriving in Tokyo Bay on 11 February after weathering a severe winter storm. There, she embarked Scouting Squadron (VS) 25 and, in company withChevalier (DDR-805), steamed south to Buckner Bay, Okinawa, for ASW exercises. Between 24 February and 12 April, Bataan conducted three "hunter-killer" antisubmarine warfare exercises in the waters around Okinawa. Intended to prepare Allied forces to fight the Soviet submarine fleet in the event of Soviet intervention in Korea, these exercises pitted Bataan's aircraft, including helicopters, against "enemy" submarines Blackfin (SS-322), Caiman (SS-323), and Greenfish (SS-351).

After refueling and replenishing at Yokosuka and Sasebo, the light carrier embarked Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 312 at Kobe and departed Japan for operations off Korea on 29 April. She relieved HMS Glory as CTE-95.1.1 that same day and began combat sorties on the 30th. Ever since June 1951, the war in Korea had been bogged down in a military stalemate, with both sides heavily dug in along the 38th parallel. Tasked with interdicting communist supply routes between Hanchon and Yonan, Bataan's planes flew 30 offensive sorties a day, bombing supply dumps, railway tracks, bridges, and road traffic.

Her only aircraft loss of this "line tour" took place on 22 May when a "Corsair" was shot down by ground fire north of Pyongyang. While two other fighters provided cover, the pilot was rescued by an Air Force helicopter. That same day, another "Corsair" ejected a hung rocket while landing on Bataan. The rocket bounced forward on the flight deck and exploded, injuring three crewmen. She suffered no other losses that month and on 28 May she was relieved by HMS Ocean.

After sailing to Yokosuka for repairs to her flight deck, Bataan conducted three more Yellow Sea "line tours" in June and July, continuing the slow and frustrating task of attacking communist supply lines. The light carrier steamed to Kobe on 4 August, and then on to Yokosuka on the 8th, before sailing for home two days later. The warship arrived in San Diego, via Pearl Harbor, on 26 August.

Bataan entered the Long Beach Naval Shipyard on 11 September for an overhaul, remaining there for three weeks. She then conducted two weeks of carrier qualification landings, with VS-21, VS-23, and VS-871, until she began preparations for her third Far Eastern deployment on 19 October. The warship stood out for Okinawa on 28 October, steamed via Pearl Harbor, and anchored in Buckner Bay on 15 November.

Although fears of Soviet intervention in Korea had diminished, ASW exercises remained important to the units operating off Korea. Bataan conducted two such operations, one between 23 and 29 November and another between 17 to 23 December. The first operation included an "opposed" sortie against Sea Devil(SS-400) and Scabbardfish (SS-397), "hunter-killer" submarine searches, and general ASW patrols. She also practiced jet aircraft tracking with North American F-86 fighters ("Sabres") operating out of Kadena airfield in Japan. The second exercise included electronic counter-measure (ECM) intercept exercises against Segundo (SS-398) and long-range ASW training with Lockheed P2V "Neptunes."

USS Bataan (CVL-29)

Bataan (CVL-29) photographed on 22 May 1953, as she was enroute to Naval Air Station San Diego, California, following a deployment to Korean waters. Note crew paraded on the flight deck spelling out the word HOME and an arrow pointing over her bow. Aircraft on deck include 19 Grumman AF Guardian anti-submarine planes and a solitary Vought F4U Corsair fighter (parked amidships on the starboard side). U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command photograph, NH 95808.

On 9 February 1953, after two more transit ASW exercises between Buckner Bay and Yokosuka, Bataanembarked VMA-312 for operations off Korea. She relieved HMS Glory as Commander, Task Unit (CTU) 95.1.1 on the 15th and began flying combat missions that same day. In addition to the usual armed reconnaissance patrols along the coast, her Marine Corps "Corsairs" pummeled Chinese troop concentrations south of Chinnampo and on the Ongjin peninsula. These attacks were especially useful because friendly partisan reports indicated Chinese troops were massing for attacks on UN-controlled islands close to the mainland.

Bataan conducted four more "line tours" between 7 March and 5 May. Despite the bad flying weather associated with the spring thaw, VMA-312 continued to attack the enemy troop concentrations and supply dumps reported by friendly partisans. The "Corsairs" also worked over roads, railways, and especially bridges, as flood waters hampered communist repair efforts.

After two days of liberty at Yokosuka, Bataan sailed for home, via Pearl Harbor, on 10 May, arriving in San Diego on the 26th. She was undergoing repairs there on 27 July when her crew heard of the armistice signed at Panmunjom in Korea. She then loaded planes and equipment destined for Japan and sailed on 31 July for a round-trip voyage to Kobe and Yokosuka. Returning to Pearl Harbor later that month, she reported for a preinactivation overhaul on 26 August. After moving to the San Francisco Naval Shipyard, Bataan was decommissioned on 9 April 1954 and assigned to the Pacific Reserve Fleet at San Francisco. Although she was reclassified an auxiliary aircraft transport and redesignated AVT-4 on 15 May 1959, her name was stricken from the Navy List on 1 September 1959. She was sold to Nicolai Joffe Corp., Beverly Hills, Ca., on 19 June 1961 for scrapping.

Bataan received six battle stars for her World War II service and seven battle stars for her service during the Korean conflict.

Timothy L. Francis
27 February 2006

Published: Mon Mar 30 11:20:02 EDT 2020