After shakedown and
training along the West Coast, Marcus Island made a round trip
aircraft ferry run to U.S. bases in the South Pacific from 19 May-1
July. Then she embarked Composite Squadron 21 (VC-21), departed San
Diego on 20 July, and arrived Tulagi in the Solomon Islands on 24
August to prepare for operations in the Palaus. As flagship for Rear
Admiral W. D. Sample's Carrier Division 27 (CarDiv 27), she began
preinvasion strikes against Peleliu and Angaur on 12 September. She
provided close air support as assault troops hit the beaches
beginning the 15th, and until 2 October, she launched scores of
sorties during embittered fighting on the rugged islands.
Marcus Island arrived at Manus in the Admiralty Islands on the 4th,
and after completing preparations for the invasion of the
Philippines, she sortied with the Task Group 77.4 (TG 77.4) on 12
October for Leyte as part of the task unit known as "Taffy 2".
Beginning on 18 October, she launched airstrikes against enemy
positions and during the next week, her pilots flew 261 target and
air cover missions.
The Battle for Leyte Gulf and the running fight of "Taffy 3" in the
battle off Samar on 25 October are well chronicled elsewhere; Marcus
Island's war diary succinctly recorded the pace of action on the
25th - "A day of intense activity". During the heroic stand of "Taffy
3", fighters and bombers from Marcus Island struck hard at the
Japanese force. One TBM Avenger put a torpedo into the portside aft
of a heavy cruiser, probably Chikuma. Amidst intense antiaircraft
fire, her fighters made repeated strafing runs against battleships,
cruisers, and destroyers. Her planes joined in two strikes against
the retreating Japanese ships that afternoon, and her pilots claimed
14 hits on enemy ships including a torpedo and six bomb hits on an
Agato class cruiser. In addition, her fighters battled and shot down
five Japanese planes. On the 26th, she sent 12 bombers and fighters
to the Visayan Sea where they helped sink Kinu and Uranami with
repeated hits from bombs, rockets, and machine guns.
Marcus Island departed the Philippines 30 October but returned less
than two weeks later as part of the escort for the Mindoro attack
group. Departing Kossol on 10 December, she transited Surigao Strait
on the 13th. Her patrolling aircraft shot down one enemy fighter on
14 December and shot down three more planes on the 15th. Marcus
Island came under attack the morning of the Mindoro invasion, and
from 0810-0930, enemy planes made three suicide runs and one bombing
strike against the carrier. All the planes were shot down or
deflected by intense antiaircraft fire, although two kamikazes
crashed close off the bow to port and starboard causing minor damage
and several casualties.
Between 16–23 December, Marcus Island returned to the Admiralties;
on the 29th she departed once more for the western Philippines,
steaming with units of the Luzon Attack Force for operations in
Lingayen Gulf. As she steamed through the Mindanao Sea on 5 January
1945, one of her planes depth-bombed a Japanese midget submarine,
which was subsequently rammed and sunk by Taylor. Three days later,
her planes shot down four enemy aircraft in spirited dogfights. As
the amphibious landings began the 9th, Marcus Island launched close
support and strafing strikes over the Lingayen beaches. In addition
they attacked and sank two small enemy coastal ships north of
Lingayen Gulf along the Luzon coast that same day. Marcus Island
continued to provide coordinated airstrikes in support of the
Lingayen operations until steaming down the Luzon coast on 17
January. On the 29th, she furnished close air support during an
unopposed landing at Zambales Province, Luzon, then she steamed to
Ulithi, arriving on 5 February.
Rear Admiral Sample hauled down his flag on 6 February, and on the
8th, Marcus Island became flagship of Rear Admiral Felix Stump's
CarDiv 24. The carrier debarked hard-hitting VC-21 on 14 February
and embarked VC-87 the same day. After completing training out of
Ulithi, she steamed to Leyte Gulf on 4–7 March to conduct rehearsal
exercises for the impending invasion of the Ryukyu Islands.
Departing on 21 March, Marcus Island arrived south of Kerama Retto
on the 26th and began launching airstrikes. She provided close air
support and air cover during operations in the Ryukyus. From 26
March-29 April, she operated primarily south and southeast of
Okinawa while launching attack and spotter strikes. Composite
Observation Squadron 1 (VCO-1) replaced VC-87 on 5 April. Planes of
both the squadrons flew 1,085 sorties during this period and pounded
enemy airfields, gun emplacements, supply dumps, and troop
concentrations. Her pilots shot down 11 Japanese aircraft and
destroyed another 13 on the ground.
Marcus Island departed Okinawa on 29 April, and after loading
damaged aircraft at Guam, she sailed on 5 May for the United States,
arriving San Diego on 22 May. She sailed west again on 10 July,
carrying replacement troops and aircraft to Pearl Harbor and Guam
before returning to Alameda, California on V-J Day. Sailing once
more via Pearl Harbor and Guam, she reached Okinawa on 28 September
and embarked returning troops, arriving San Francisco on 24 October.
By early-January 1946, she completed additional "Magic Carpet" runs
to Guam and Pearl Harbor.
Departing San Diego on 12 January, Marcus Island sailed via the
Panama Canal and Norfolk, arriving Boston on 2 February. She
remained at Boston, decommissioned there on 12 December 1946, and
entered the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. She reclassified to CVHE-77 on
12 June 1955 and to AKV-27 on 7 May 1959. She was sold at Boston to
Comarket, Inc. on 29 February 1960.