operations along the West Coast, the Liscome Bay departed San Diego,
California, on 21 October 1943, arriving at Pearl Harbor one week
later. Once additional drills and operational exercises were
completed, the escort carrier set off on what was to be her first
and last battle mission. As a member of Carrier Division 24 (CarDiv
24), she departed Pearl Harbor on 10 November attached to TF 52,
Northern Attack Force, under Rear Admiral Richmond K. Turner, bound
for the invasion of the Gilbert Islands.
The invasion bombardment announcing the United States's first major
thrust into the central Pacific began on 20 November at 05:00. Just
76 hours later, Tarawa Atoll and Makin A were both captured. Liscome
Bay's aircraft took part in the 2,278 action sorties by
carrier-based planes, which neutralized enemy airbases, supported
U.S. Army landings and ground operations in bombing-strafing
missions, and intercepted enemy raids. With the islands secured,
U.S. naval forces began retiring.
On 23 November, the Japanese submarine I-175 arrived off Makin. A
temporary task group, built around Rear Admiral Henry M. Mullinnix
three escort carriers - Liscome Bay, Coral Sea and Corregidor - was
steaming 20 miles southwest of Butaritari Island at 15 knots. At
04:30 on 24 November, reveille was sounded in Liscome Bay. The crew
went to routine general quarters at 05:05, when flight crews
prepared their planes for dawn launchings.
At about 05:10, a lookout shouted, "Here comes a torpedo!" The
torpedo struck abaft the after engine room and detonated the
aircraft bomb stockpile, causing a major explosion which engulfed
the ship and sent shrapnel flying as far as 5,000 yards. "It didn't
look like a ship at all", wrote Lieutenant John C. W. Dix,
communications officer on Hoel, "We thought it was an ammunition
dump... She just went whoom — an orange ball of flame."
Burial at sea aboard the Leonard Wood of two Liscome Bay sailors,
victims of the submarine attack by I-175. Foreground facing ceremony
are survivors of Liscome Bay. Ship in background is Neville carrying
remainder of the survivors.
At 05:33, Liscome Bay listed to starboard and then sank, carrying 53
officers and 591 enlisted men – including Admiral Mullinix, Captain
Wiltsie, and famous Pearl Harbor hero Ship's Cook Third Class Doris
Miller - down with her. Of the 916 crewmen, only 272 were rescued by
Morris, Hughes and Hull. The survivors had reached the deck soon
after the initial torpedo impact. The bombs in storage exploded
minutes later, possibly due to a second torpedo.
Including the sailors lost on the Lisome Bay, American casualties in
the assault on Makin Island exceeded the strength of the entire
Japanese garrison. Future legal scholar Robert Keeton, then a Navy
lieutenant, survived the attack.