An island group containing 16 atolls in the western Pacific Ocean on the equator, southeast of the Marshalls and northeast of the Solomons. On 20 November 1943 Marines made an amphibious assault on Makin [sic: 165th Infantry] and Tarawa Islands, seizing the former without difficulty, but winning Tarawa only after a 100-hour battle in which over 3,500 Americans were killed or wounded.
(CVE-107: 11,373; l. 577'1"; b. 75'; ew. 105'2"; dr. 32'; s. 19 k.; cpl. 1,066; a. 2 5"; cl. Commencement Bay)
Gilbert Islands (CVE-107) was launched 20 July 1944 the Todd-Pacific Shipyards, Inc., Tacina, Wash.; sponsored by Mrs. Edwin D. McMorries; and commissioned 5 February 1945, Captain L.R. Rice in command.
After shakedown training, Gilbert Islands departed San Diego 12 April 1945 for exercises in Hawaiian waters. She sailed 2 May with an escort carrier force that closed Okinawa 21 May. Her aircraft (24-31 May) blasted and strafed concrete dugouts, troop concentrations, ammunition and fuel dumps on Okinawa. In the following days She helped neutralize outlying Japanese airfields and installations with repeated bomb and rocket attacks. Five of her Marine pilots were killed in action. She departed Okinawa 16 June to replenish at San Pedro Bay, thence to Balikpapan, Borneo. She gave air cover to Australians storming that shore 1 July and remained 4 days to attack all targets in sight. With the Australians securely established, she returned to Leyte 6 July.
Gilbert Islands departed San Pedro Bay 29 July to screen logistic ships replenishing 3d Fleet striking forces along the coast of Japan. On that station 15 August she joined a task group that included nearly all the 3d Fleet and heard Admiral Halsey's laconic direction: "Apparently the war is over and you are ordered to cease firing; so, if you see any Jap planes in the air, you will just have to shoot them down in a friendly manner." After replenishment at Okinawa, she departed 14 October to participate in a show of air strength during occupation of Formosa by the Chinese 70th Army. She was then routed onward via Saipan and Pearl Harbor to San Diego, arriving 4 December 1945. She remained in port until 21 January 1946, then set course for Norfolk where she decommissioned 21 May 1946 and was placed in reserve.
Towed to Philadelphia in November 1949, Gilbert Islands recommissioned 7 September 1951 and put in at Boston 25 November for overhaul. She joined the Atlantic Fleet 1 August 1952, sailed 8 days later with a cargo of jets for Yokohama, Japan, arriving 18 September, and returned to her homeport of Quonset Point, R.I., 22 October. She sailed 5 January 1953 for the Caribbean to conduct training exercises off Cuba and returned to New England waters to continue these duties through the summer and fall of the year. Following a cruise to Halifax and overhaul at Boston, the escort carrier stood out 5 January 1954 for a Mediterranean cruise, returning to Quonset Point 12 March 1954 for reserve training and other exercises. She became the first of her class to have jets make touch-and-go landings on the flight deck while she had no way on, a dangerous experiment successfully conducted 9 June 1954.
She left Rhode Island 25 June for Boston and decommissioned there 15 January 1955.
Reclassified AKV-39 7 May 1959, Gilbert Islands remained in reserve until her name was struck from the Navy List June 1961. She was reclassified (AGMR-1) 1 June 1963 and renamed Annapolis 22 June 1963. Annapolis recommissioned 7 March 1964, Captain John J. Rowan in command. As the Navy's first major communication relay ship, Annapolis was busy with acceptance trials for the rest of the year. In the fall she handled communications during Operation "Teamwork" and "Steel Pike" before final acceptance into the fleet 16 December.
After operations out of Norfolk during the first half of 1965, Annapolis was assigned Long Beach as home port 28 June 1965. In September she was sent to Viet Nam to assist communications between naval units fighting Communist aggression. With the exception of periodic visits to Hong Kong, Formosa, and the Philippines for upkeep and training, she continued this important service into 1967 assuring a smooth, steady and speed flow of information and orders so necessary to effective conduct of the war.
Gilbert Islands received three battle stars for World War II service.