An island in the northern Solomons. During World War II, it was the site of a major campaign between forces of the Allies and Japan. Allied troops stormed ashore at Cape Torokina on 1 November 1943. During the early morning hours of the 2nd, a Japanese surface force composed of four cruisers and six destroyers tried unsuccessfully to break up the invasion in what became known as the Battle of Empress Augusta Bay. Enemy land forces remained active on Bougainville through the end of the war because the purpose of the assault was to secure air bases to isolate the large Japanese base at Rabaul on New Britain and not necessarily to occupy the entire island.
(CVE-100: displacement 10,400; length 512'3"; beam 65'2"; draft 22'6"; speed 19.3 knots; compliment 860; armament 1 5-inch, 16 40-millimeter 12 20-millimeter; aircraft 28; class Casablanca; T. S4-S2-BB3)
Bougainville (CVE-100) was laid down under a Maritime Commission contract (M.C. Hull 1137) on 3 March 1944 at Vancouver, Wash., by the Kaiser Shipbuilding Co.; launched on 16 May 1944; sponsored by Mrs. Sally A. Monfort; and commissioned at Astoria, Oreg., on 18 June 1944, Capt. Charles A. Bond in command.
The escort carrier got underway on 7 July 1944, for shakedown training off the west coast. Those operations lasted until 25 July at which time she left San Diego, Calif., bound, via Pearl Harbor, T.H., for Majuro in the Marshalls with a load of replacement aircraft and passengers. Unlike most of her sisters, Bougainville did not operate in a direct combat role supporting amphibious assaults or conducting antisubmarine warfare. Rather, she performed logistic missions similar to that described above for both land bases and the fleet carriers.
Bougainville returned to San Diego on 23 August, and, after a 17 day availability, got underway with another load of replacement aircraft. The escort carrier steamed via Finschhafen, New Guinea, to Manus in the Admiralty Islands where she delivered her cargo of planes and picked up an air group returning to Pearl Harbor. Bougainville arrived back at Oahu in mid-October and, after disembarking the air group, began loading 64 fighter aircraft and another air group for transportation to the Marianas. At Saipan by the beginning of November, the escort carrier went to general quarters for her first air attack on the 3rd though she herself was not attacked. The next day, she stood out via Guam for the return voyage to Pearl Harbor. In late November and early December, Bougainville made another round-trip voyage from Pearl Harbor via Eniwetok to the Marianas and back. Then, in mid-December, the warship headed toward San Diego where she arrived on 22 December for an availability.
Bougainville again stood out of San Diego on 7 January 1945 and arrived in Pearl Harbor on the 13th. After flight training and gunnery exercises in the local operating area, she cleared Oahu on 30 January. The escort carrier arrived at Eniwetok a week later and, on 8 February, reported for duty with Service Squadron (ServRon) 6. On the 9th, Bougainville departed Eniwetok to rendezvous with the Fifth Fleet's mobile replenishment group, Task Group (TG) 50.8.
For the next four months, she provided replacement aircraft and pilots to the fleet carriers in the Fast Carrier Task Force. She also offered a limited amount of stores, replacement parts, and aviation gasoline. The escort carrier provided aviation logistics support for Task Force (TF) 58/38 throughout the Iwo Jima invasion, during carrier raids on Japan's inner defenses and the home islands, and for the first six weeks of the Okinawa campaign. During that time she operated from bases at Eniwetok in the Marshalls, Ulithi in the Carolines, and Guam. The latter island, however, proved to be her most frequent port of call. She would leave the logistics group, put into Guam for a 24-hour period to take on aircraft, pilots, air crewmen, parts, aviation gasoline, fuel oil, and stores, and then return to the logistics group.
That duty lasted until mid-June. At that time, the escort carrier delivered planes to bases on Leyte and Samar in the Philippines and then returned to Guam. From Guam, she headed via Pearl Harbor to San Diego where she underwent an availability until early August. On 9 August, Bougainville stood out of San Diego and headed for the western Pacific. After stops at Pearl Harbor and Guam, the warship anchored off Roi Island at Kwajalein Atoll on 2 September, the day Japan formally surrendered in Tokyo Bay. She loaded defective aircraft and headed back to Pearl Harbor where she arrived during the second week in September. The escort carrier loaded aircraft and vehicles and embarked passengers before departing Oahu on 12 September. She stopped in Apra Harbor, Guam, for two days to disembark passengers, embark others, and load additional aircraft before continuing her voyage. The warship arrived in Buckner Bay, Okinawa, on 27 September but stood out to sea the next day to evade a typhoon.
She returned to Okinawa on 3 October and began embarking two Marine Corps observation squadrons, VMO-3 and VMO-6, bound for occupation duty in China. On 10 October, Bougainville arrived at Taku [Dagu], China, where VMO-3 flew off to join the 3rd Marines in occupation duty. The escort carrier cleared the area immediately thereafter on her way to Tsingtao [Qingdao], China. She arrived at Tsingtao on 11 October; and, the following day, VMO-6 flew off to support the 6th Marines. After four days of voyage repairs and liberty at Tsingtao, Bougainville headed back to Okinawa on 16 October. She entered Buckner Bay on the 19th, loaded defective aircraft, embarked passengers, and put to sea on the 20th. The warship stopped at Pearl Harbor before arriving back in San Diego at the end of October. On 28 November, Bougainville stood out of San Diego on her last voyage to the western Pacific. She steamed via Pearl Harbor to Eniwetok. On the return voyage the escort carrier paused briefly at Pearl Harbor once more. She concluded her last Pacific crossing at San Diego on 12 January 1946.
By the end of January, Bougainville was at Tacoma, Wash., preparing for inactivation. She was placed in commission, in reserve, at Tacoma on 29 July 1946. The escort carrier was placed out of commission, in reserve, on 30 November 1946. While berthed with the Tacoma Group, Pacific Reserve Fleet, she was reclassified a utility aircraft carrier (CVU-100) on 16 June 1955. The ship was transferred to the San Diego Group, Pacific Reserve Fleet, on 30 April 1958. On 7 May 1959, Bougainville was reclassified a cargo ship and aircraft ferry (AKV-35). Finally, her name was stricken from the Navy List on 1 April 1960, and she was sold to the Cole Export Corp. on 9 September 1960. Delivered to that company's representative on 7 November, the former warship was ultimately scrapped in Japan.
Bougainville earned two battle stars for World War II service.
Raymond A. Mann
20 December 2005