(CVE-78: dp. 9,750; l. 512'3"; b. 65'2"; s. 19.3 k.; cpl. 860; a. 1 5", 16 40mm., 20 20mm.; cl. Casablanca; T. S4-S2-BB3)
A naval battle fought off Savo Island in the Solomons on 9 August 1942.
The first Savo Island (CVE-78), originally Kaita Bay (AVG-78), was reclassified ACV-78 on 20 August 1942 and CVE-78 on 15 July 1943; laid down under Maritime Commission contract (MC hull 1115) on 27 September 1943 by Kaiser Shipbuilding Co., Vancouver, Wash.; renamed Savo Island on 6 November 1943; launched on 22 December 1943; sponsored by Miss Margaret Taffinder; and commissioned on 3 February 1944, Capt. C. E. Eckstrom in command.
After shakedown at San Diego, Savo Island made two voyages to the Southwest Pacific carrying replacement aircraft between 15 March and 2 July 1944. On 6 July, her air squadron reported on board; and, after training at San Diego and Pearl Harbor, she reported to the 3d Fleet at Pearl Harbor on 4 August.
Savo Island's first combat assignment was to provide air support for the landings on Peleliu Island in the Palaus. Between 11 and 30 September, she operated with a group of escort carriers near the island, while her planes conducted pre-invasion strafing, direct support of ground forces and patrol missions. On 3 October, she reported to the 7th Fleet at Manus, and sailed on the 12th in the screen of the bombardment and support group of battleships and cruisers of the Leyte invasion task force.
Upon arriving on the 18th, her aircraft carried out patrols and strikes against predesignated targets, and shifted to ground support missions as the troops went ashore on the 20th. Her planes remained at the task for the next few days.
On the morning of the 25th, an escort carrier force off Samar, "Taffy 3," some 20 miles to the north, reported a large enemy surface force. This turned out to be the central force in a three-pronged, Japanese naval assault on Allied forces at Leyte, consisting of 4 battleships, 6 cruisers, and many destroyers. The escorts of Savo Island's group also came under fire for about 30 minutes, as the carrier launched a total of 6 strikes in a desperate and successful effort to protect herself and the other carriers from annihilation. The Japanese retired in the face of the intense air opposition, losing three cruisers in the engagement.
During the afternoon, the American forces again came under fierce air attack, experiencing the first suicide attacks of the war. Savo Island remained off Leyte until 30 October, when she sailed for the Admiralties.
Savo Island departed Manus on 19 November and, between 22 and 27 November, served with two other escort carriers as a patrol and escort force in the convoy lanes leading to Leyte Gulf. After replenishing in Kossol Passage in the Palaus, she got underway on 10 December for her third amphibious operation, the landings on Mindanao. Once again, she covered the bombardment group during the approach and then provided direct support over the beaches until relieved by Army aircraft on 15 December. Threat of a Japanese surface raid delayed her departure until 17 December, when she sailed for Manus.
Savo Island performed similar duties during the Lingayen Gulf operation commencing 1 January 1945. During the approach, escort carrier, Ommaney Bay, was sunk by a kamikaze on the 4th and another grazed Savo Island the next day. After the Lingayen landings, Savo Island's group steamed to the westward of Mindanao between 17 and 29 January, as a defense against enemy surface attack. After supporting landings near Subic Bay on the 29th and the 30th, she retired to Ulithi for repairs and replacement of her air group.
After repairs and training exercises for her new pilots, Savo Island departed Leyte with the invasion force for Okinawa, providing air cover en route. On 26 March, with two other escort carriers, she supported the occupation of Kerama Eetto, which was to become the main replenishment base for the naval forces off Okinawa. The following day, her planes joined the assault on Okinawa, and flew antiaircraft and antisubmarine patrols as well. Between 7 and 16 April, she provided air cover for the replenishment group steaming to the east of Okinawa. She then resumed her support mission off Okinawa, and on 27 April carried out neutralizing strikes against Sakishima Gunto, halfway between Okinawa and Formosa. On 29 April, the carrier completed her mission and sailed for overhaul in San Diego.
On 11 July, Savo Island began a ferry voyage from San Diego to Pearl Harbor and back to Alameda, Calif. On 6 August, she sailed for the Aleutians and arrived on the day of the Japanese surrender. She departed on 31 August with a force of six escort carriers to support the occupation of northern Honshu and Hokkaido. The ship returned to Pearl Harbor on 25 September 1945, and was assigned to "Magic Carpet" duty. After picking up occupation troops at San Francisco, she made three voyages carrying troops home, one each from Guam, Pearl Harbor, and Okinawa. Released from "Magic Carpet" duty upon arrival at Seattle on 14 January 1946, she arrived at Boston, Mass., on 16 March for inactivation. The carrier was decommissioned on 12 December 1946 and assigned to the Boston group of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet.
Savo Island was reclassified CVHE-78 on 12 June 1955 and AKV-28 on 7 May 1959. She was struck from the Navy list on 1 September 1959; sold on 29 February 1960 to Comarket, Inc.; and broken up in Hong Kong in June 1960.
Savo Island received 4 battle stars for her World War II service. In addition, she received a Presidential Unit Citation for her service in the Western Carolines, the Philippines, and Okinawa between 6 September 1944 and 29 April 1945.