Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships

Office of the Chief of Naval Operations
Naval History Division • Washington

USS Guadalcanal (CVE-60)

A volcanic island 90 miles long and 25 miles wide in the Pacific Ocean, Solomon Islands group. Guadalcanal was captured by the Japanese in 1942. Before they could develop it as a bastion Admiral Kelly Turner's amphibious force struck in August. The next 4 months saw some of the bitterest fighting of World War II. Six major naval battles and uncounted smaller engagements were fought in the waters adjacent to the island. The victory on Guadalcanal was the next great step to victory following Midway.

(CVE-60: dp. 7,800; l. 512'; b. 65'; ew. 108'1"; dr. 22'6"; 2. 19 k.; cpl. 860; a. 1 5", 16 40mm., 20 20mm., 28 ac.; cl. Casablanca; T. S4-S2-BB8)

The first Guadalcanal (CVE-60) an escort aircraft carrier, was converted from a Maritime Commission hull by Kaiser Co., Inc., of Vancouver, Wash. Originally Astrolabe Bay (AVG 60), she was reclassified ACV-60, 20 August 1942 and launched as Guadalcanal (ACV-60) 5 June 1943, sponsored by Mrs. Alvin I. Malstrom. She was reclassified CVE-60 on 15 July 1943; and commissioned at Astoria, Oreg., 25 September 1943, Captain D. V. Gallery in command.

After shakedown training, Guadalcanal performed pilot qualifications out of San Diego, Calif., and then departed 15 November 1943, via the Panama Canal, for Norfolk, Va., arriving 3 December. There she became flagship of antisubmarine task group 21.12, and with her escort destroyers set out from Norfolk 5 January 1944 in search of enemy submarines in the North Atlantic. On 16 January aircraft from Guadalcanal sighted three submarines fueling on the surface and in a rocket and bombing attack succeeded in sinking German submarine U-544. Replenishing at Casablanca, the task group headed back for Norfolk and repairs, arriving 16 February.

Departing again with her escorts 7 March, Guadalcanal sailed without incident to Casablanca and got underway from that port 30 March with a convoy bound for the United States. Scouring the waters around the convoy 8 April northwest of Madeira, the task group discovered German submarine U-515 and closed in for the kill. Guadalcanal aircraft and destroyers Chatelain, Flaherty, Pillsbury, and Pope made several well coordinated attacks on the intruder with rockets and depth charges throughout the night. Losing depth control on the afternoon of 9 April, the submarine was forced to surface amid the waiting ships, and was immediately devastated by point blank rocket and gunfire. As Wildcat fighters from Guadalcanal strafed the submarine, her captain, German ace Kapitanleutenant Werner Henke, ordered abandon ship and she went to the bottom.

Again on the night of 10 April the task group caught German submarine U-68 on the surface in broad moonlight 300 miles south of the Azores and sank her with depth charges and rocket fire. The convoy arrived safely at Norfolk 26 April 1944.

After voyage repairs at Norfolk, Guadalcanal and her escorts departed Hampton Roads for sea again 15 May 1944. Two weeks of cruising brought no contacts, and the task force decided to head for the coast of Africa to refuel. Ten minutes after reversing course, however, Chatelain detected a submarine, U-505. The destroyer loosed one depth charge attack and, guided in for a more accurate drop by circling Avenger aircraft from Guadalcanal, soon made a second. This pattern blasted a hole in the outer hull of the submarine, and rolled the U-boat on its beam ends. Shouts of panic from the conning tower led her inexperienced captain to believe his boat was doomed, so he blew his tanks and surfaced, barely 700 yards from Chatelain. The destroyer fired a torpedo, which missed, and the surfaced submarine then came under the combined fire of the escorts and aircraft, forcing her crew to abandon ship.

Captain Gallery had been waiting and planning for such an opportunity, and having already trained and equipped his boarding parties, ordered Pillsbury's boat to make for the German sub and board her. Under the command of Lt. (jg) A. L. David, the party leaped onto the slowly circling submarine and found it abandoned. Braving unknown dangers below, David and his men quickly captured all important papers and books while closing valves and stopping leaks. As Pillsbury attempted to get a tow-line on her, like a cowboy roping a steer, the party managed to stop her engines. By this time a larger salvage group from Guadalcanal arrived, and began the work of preparing U-505 to be towed. After securing the tow-line and picking up the German survivors from the sea, Guadalcanal started for Bermuda with her priceless prize in tow. Fleet tug Abnaki rendezvoused with the task group and took over towing duties, the group arriving in Bermuda 19 June.

For their daring and skillful teamwork in this remarkable capture, Guadalcanal and her escorts shared in a Presidential Unit Citation. The captured submarine proved to be of inestimable value to American intelligence, and its true fate was kept secret from the Germans until the end of the war.

Arriving in Norfolk 22 June 1944, Guadalcanal spent only a short time in port before setting out again on patrol. She departed Norfolk 15 July and between then and 1 December made three anti-submarine cruises in the Western Atlantic. She sailed 1 December for a training period in waters off Bermuda and Cuba that included refresher landings for pilots of her new squadron, gunnery practice, and anti-submarine warfare drills with Italian submarine R-9. Guadalcanal arrived Mayport, Fla., for carrier qualifications 15 December and subsequently engaged in further training in Cuban water until 13 February 1946 when she arrived back in Norfolk. After another short training cruise to the Caribbean, she steamed into Mayport 15 March for a tour of duty as carrier qualification ship, later moving to Pensacola for similar operations. After qualifying nearly 4,000 pilots, Guadalcanal returned to Norfolk, Va., and decommissioned there 15 July 1946.

Guadalcanal entered the Atlantic Reserve Fleet at Nor folk and was redesignated CVU-60 on 15 July 1955, while still in reserve. Her name was finally stricken from the Navy List 27 May 1958 and she was sold for scrap to the Hugo Neu Corp. of New York 30 April 1959.

Guadalcanal was awarded three battle stars and a Presidential Unit Citation for service in World War II.

Excerpt From After-Action Report:

Part III The Capture

At 1135 ComCortDiv 4 ordered the Jenks and Chatelain to pick up survivors and sent away the Pillsbury's boarding party.

At 1203 the carrier headed back toward the scene of action to get her boarding parties aboard, having in the meantime recovered the fighter planes which had assisted the Chatelain. Carrier's boarding parties were called away at 1230.

After lowering her boat the Pillsbury pursued the sub around the circle trying to get lines aboard. From the carrier's bridge it looked for all the world like rodeo with a cowboy trying to rope a wild horse. The Pillsbury did rope the sub, several times. The first time she got a line aboard, CTG 22.3 broadcast by TBS:

"Bluejay to Dagwood-Ridem Cowboy. Out."

But in the struggle alongside the runaway sub the Pillsbury was holed by the bow planes of the sub, and one engine room was flooded to the water line, forcing her to haul clear and stop.

Meantime the Pillsbury's boarding party, commanded by Lieut. (j.g.) A. L. David, had gotten alongside and leaped from the whaleboat to the deck of the circling sub. There was only one dead man on deck, but the boarders did not know how many men might be below. The sub was still running at about 7 knots and it seemed highly probable that part of the crew was still below setting demolition charges and scuttling. Without hesitation this party took their lives in their hands and plunged down the conning tower hatch to capture and save the boat. They found no none below and immediately went to work closing valves, 6" in diameter, was pouring into the boat. Then, not knowing at what moment the boat might either blow up or sink, they turned to, seizing all the important looking papers they could find and passing them up on deck.

. . .


From the time that we sailed from Norfolk the whole task group was determined that we would come back dragging a sub behind us ... and they had what it took to do it. When remarkable luck was required, we had it. When perfect cooperation between aircraft and surface vessels was required it was there. When a clean cut knock out punch was needed, the Chatelain produced it. When outstanding heroism was required, it was commonplace among the boarding parties.

I believe every man in the task group would have volunteered for the boarding parties, and those who could not go were very envious of those who did.

It is a great pleasure to report that all hands in the task group did their duty in an exemplary manner in keeping with the highest traditions of the U. S. Navy.


Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Patrick Clancey (patrick@akamail.com)