Petrof Bay departed
Naval Air Station, San Diego, California 29 March for the southwest
Pacific; unloaded passengers, aircraft and cargo upon arrival
Espiritu Santo 14 April, and six days later sailed for Seeadler
Harbor, Manus Island, arriving there 25 April. She transferred eight
aircraft to other ships in the harbor.
On the morning of 29 April, she made rendezvous with Task Force 58
(TF 58) to furnish replacement aircraft, prior to its first strike
against the then powerful Japanese stronghold of Truk. The ship then
proceeded to Majuro, arriving 3 May, and rejoined TF 58 after its
successful strike on Truk. There she unloaded all her aircraft and
most aviation spares and materiel, and took on aircraft in need of
major overhaul, and salvage equipment.
With Barnes and three destroyers, the ship turned toward the States
7 May, arriving San Francisco Bay 20 May. At San Diego, she embarked
Composite Squadron 76 (VC-76), commanded by Lieutenant Commander
James W. McCauley, for shakedown air operations. On 30. July 1944 the
ship shoved off for Pearl Harbor, arriving 6. August 1944.
The extra aircraft were unloaded and all resemblance to a ferry
transport disappeared. On 12. August 1944 she was underway in Task Group
32.4. en route Guadalcanal. She anchored in Tulagi Harbor, Solomon
Islands, the afternoon of 24 August. On 4 September, Petrof Bay, as
a part of "Taffy 3" in company with Saginaw Bay and Kalinin Bay,
sortied with the Peleliu and Anguar Movement Group No. 2.
She launched her first strike against the enemy on 15 September. The
Marines successfully landed on Peleliu Island and established a
beachhead aided by her aircraft. From D-Day until 29 September, with
the exception of one day when bombs and ammunition were replenished
at Kossol Passage, her aircraft bombed and strafed the Japanese, and
searched for enemy shipping, aircraft, and submarines. She
encountered no air opposition during the operation. By 30 September,
when the airstrip on Peleliu was operational Petrof Bay retired to
On 14 October she sortied from Seeadler Harbor, Admiralty Islands
with Saginaw Bay en route to Leyte Gulf for the first step in the
liberation of the Philippines.
The two CVEs rendezvoused with "Taffy 2" for "A-Day" operations, and
made forty air sorties during the landing on this first day. That
night after being detached from the task unit, the carrier joined "Taffy
1", which had been suffering air attacks. From 21 October through 24
October Petrof Bay launched Air Support Groups.
On 24 October, contact reports accumulated describing major units of
the Japanese fleet moving out to fight what was to be the Battle for
Leyte Gulf. The CVEs were in three units: "Taffy 3" (Task Unit
77.4.3), east of the southern portion of Samar; "Taffy 2" (Task Unit
77.4.2), just south of that position; and "Taffy 1" (Task Unit
77.4.1) with Petrof Bay, south of "Taffy 2" and east of Surigao
The Japanese Central Force, which had earlier been sighted and
attacked by aircraft in the Sibuyan Sea, and which was thought to be
withdrawing, had slipped through San Bernardino Strait under cover
of darkness, and had steamed south toward the eastern entrance to
Leyte Gulf. At 0647, Taffy 3 reported that they were being attacked
by heavy units of the Japanese fleet and land-based aircraft. Two
special strikes from Petrof Bay joined in the air attack against
these enemy ships. Four FM-2 Wildcats and six TBM Avengers were
launched at 0724 to join a 0552 launch of four fighters redirected
to attack the Japanese surface ships.
At 0729, RADAR reported six Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zeros closing on
the formation. The ship went to General Quarters and so remained
for the next 108 hours. Anti-aircraft guns shot down two planes, but
one of the survivors crashed into the flight deck of Santee, another
crashed into Suwanee, and another narrowly missed Sangamon. A
Yokosuka D4Y "Judy" then strafed Petrof Bay and narrowly missed with
a bomb that failed to explode. Santee was hit by a torpedo a few
Meanwhile, Petrof Bays planes hit the enemy while Taffy 3 was
actually under attack. The Wildcats made strafing attacks while the
Avengers launched torpedoes. During the two strikes, her pilots
claimed one probable hit on Yamato, two probable hits on Nagato, two
on Kongō and one on an unidentified cruiser, plus strafing runs on
Yamato, the cruisers, and destroyers. Wildcats without enough fuel
to return to Petrof Bay landed at Tacloban airfield where they
received some friendly fire. Surviving Avengers landed on Fanshaw
Bay of Taffy 3 and Ommaney Bay of Taffy 2 with less than ten gallons
of fuel remaining. Only one torpedo plane and two fighters returned
to Petrof Bay.
Petrof Bay launched a final strike at 1530 to search for and attack
the enemy then in retreat. After rendezvousing with other aircraft
from the CVEs, the flight proceeded to San Bernardino Strait where
it found and attacked a cruiser of the Mogami class, scoring two
torpedo hits and one probable hit. These planes also landed at
Tacloban Airfield when their fuel was inadequate to return to Petrof
At 2232, one of the destroyers in the screen had a sound contact. A
90-degree emergency turn was made and almost immediately thereafter
two torpedoes straddled Petrof Bay, one twenty yards on the port and
the other passing under the overhang on the starboard side. Coolbaugh attacked with depth charges and was believed successful in
destroying the submarine.
On 26 October, the only remaining Japanese force within range of the
CVE's aircraft was one light cruiser and four destroyers sighted in
the Visayan Sea. Petrof Bay launched its only two remaining
torpedo-bombers to participate in a strike against the five ships.
One plane scored a hit with a 500 pound semi-armor piercing bomb and
a near miss on the cruiser and strafed a destroyer which caught on
fire and blew up.
Suwanee was crashed by another Zero at noon; and four Japanese
aircraft started suicide runs on Petrof Bay from astern. The first
aircraft exploded in mid-air from a hit from the five-inch gun aided
by gunfire from other ships. The second turned to starboard, smoking,
and withdrew. The third aircraft looped into the clouds, came
straight down, missed and hit the water twenty feet in front of the
bridge. The aircraft exploded as it hit the water, drenching the
ship with gas. The fourth Japanese aircraft dove straight for the
flight deck, its tail and wing were shot off as it fell aft of the
During the night of 28 October Petrof Bay retired to the fueling
area. That night the ship returned to rendezvous with Taffy 2, TG
77.2 and TG 77.3, and, in company with them, triumphantly and
proudly proceeded to Manus Island. All VC-76 aircrew were recovered.
The squadron logged 15,000 hours of flight time through eight months
of combat without a single personnel loss, while pilots were awarded
seventeen Navy Crosses. Captain Kane also received a Navy Cross.
Next, Petrof Bay, as a part of Task Unit 77.4.5, departed for the
traffic lanes leading to Leyte 19 November arriving in the area 23
In mid-January 1945, the ship was detached from Task Group 77.3 and
ordered to report for duty to Task Group 77.4, to prevent runs being
made by the enemy from and into Manila. Direct support was furnished
29 January–30 January for the landings in the San Narciso and San
With the reconquest of Luzon well underway, Petrof Bay departed for
The fortress island of Iwo Jima stood in the path of the advancing
Americans, and was needed as a base for fighter escorts for the B–29
raids on Tokyo and the Japanese Empire. After being in port for only
five days, Petrof Bay departed Ulithi, underway for Iwo Jima. On 15
February, she arrived at the objective area in company with Task
Group 52.19, the Advance Movement Group.
As the battleships, cruisers and destroyers began shelling the
island, aircraft from the CVEs began strafing and bombing attacks.
The troop transports arrived 18 February, and the Marines
established a beachhead the next day. Aircraft from Petrof Bay
supported these landings and furnished the troops with air support
during the operation, making 786 air sorties.
By 7 March, the airstrip on Iwo Jima was fully operational and the
ship was ordered to retire to Ulithi via Guam. Iwo Jima was the last
operation for the ship's original squadron, VC–76, and at Guam they
were disembarked and Composite Squadron 93 (VC–93) embarked 10 March.
As a part of Task Unit 52.1.2 the ship departed 21 March, escorting
TG 54.1, Fire Support Group, to furnish air cover and air support in
the invasion and capture of Okinawa. As Marines landed on Kerama
Retto, Petrof Bay's new squadron got its first taste of combat
during strikes supporting the operation. Anti-aircraft fire was
exceptionally heavy and accurate. The day before the landings on
Okinawa the escort carrier's aircraft supported landings on Kiese
Shima. Thereafter, she launched daily strike groups, patrols and
"L" Day was 1 April, Easter Sunday, and the landings on Okinawa were
made at 0830 with slight opposition. Aircraft from Petrof Bay
preceded the troops.
The unit was ordered to attack and neutralize Sakishima Gunto 13
April, and the first strike was launched from 228 miles. Heavy
anti-aircraft fire was encountered and two aircraft were shot down,
but the pilots rescued. On 16 April the formation was back southeast
During the period from 9 May until 26 May, the ship furnished direct
air support, on-target air and anti-submarine patrol. During the
Okinawa operation Petrof Bay's combat air patrol shot down 17 enemy
On 26 May, Petrof Bay departed for Guam, where she arrived and
entered Apra Harbor 30 May. VC-93 was disembarked and Composite
Squadron 90 (VC-90) embarked for transportation to Pearl Harbor. On
19 June, Petrof Bay moored at the Naval Operating Base, Terminal
Island, San Pedro, Calif., for a general overhaul.
Petrof Bay sailed for Pearl Harbor 13 August 1945. Two days later
Japan accepted the terms of the Potsdam Declaration. The carrier
arrived 20 August, took VC-20 aboard for qualifying exercises in
local seas, replaced VC-20 with VC-4, and sailed for Tokyo Bay 29
August by way of Eniwetok and Saipan . Flight operations continued,
consisting of scouting and antisubmarine patrols with the last
flight, a TBM Avenger, landing at 1628 on 10 September off Saipan.
She arrived at Saipan 11 September, did not continue to Tokyo Bay,
and departed for Pearl Harbor 25 September with 104 members of VC-7
and other military personnel aboard as passengers. All aircraft were
unloaded at Pearl Harbor, ending Petrof Bay's career as a warship.
The 123 men of VPB-152 and others were boarded as passengers. She
departed 5 October, arrived in San Francisco 11 October,
disembarking hundreds of veteran passengers including her
operational squadron, VC-4. On 18 October she made a round trip to
Pearl Harbor to pick up more veterans, returning 31 October.
Alterations were made at Hunters Point to accommodate more
passengers and she departed 17 November for Eniwetok where she
loaded 1,062 veterans, followed by 153 at Kwajalein. She arrived in
San Francisco 6 December, departed for Guam 12 December, embarked
944 veterans, and arrived at San Pedro 18 January 1946.
Departing San Pedro 29 January 1946, she touched at San Diego,
transited the Panama Canal, and steamed up the eastern seaboard to
Norfolk, arriving 15 February. From there she headed northward again,
and made her final mooring under her own power at Boston, Mass. 23
She was decommissioned and placed in the Boston Group of the
Atlantic Reserve Fleet 31 July 1955, reclassified CVU–80 12 June
1955, struck from the Navy Vessel Register 27 June 1958, sold to J.
Berkurt 30 July 1959, and subsequently scrapped.