A small triangular island in the western Pacific about midway between Wake Island and the Bonins; named Minami Tori Shima by the Japanese; the site of an enemy naval base during World War II; subjected to U.S. naval bombardment beginning in March 1942; bypassed by the Allies during the westward advance across the Pacific; and surrendered by the Japanese 31 August 1945.
(CVE-77: dp. 7,800; l. 512'3"; b. 65'; ew. 108'1"; dr. 22'6"; s. 19 k.; cpl. 860; a. 1 5", 16 40mm., 20 20mm., 28 ac.; cl. Casablanca; T. S4-S2-BB3)
Marcus Island (CVE-77) was laid down as Kanalku Bay under Maritime Commission contract by Kaiser Co., Inc., Vancouver, Wash., 15 September 1943, renamed Marcus Island 6 November 1943, launched 16 December 1943; sponsored by Mrs. S.L. La Hache; acquired by the Navy 20 January 1944; and commissioned at Astoria, Oreg., 26 January 1944, Capt. Charles F. Greber in command.
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 between 19 May and 1 July. Thence, she embarked Composite Squadron 21, departed San Diego 20 July, and arrived Tulagi, Solomons 24 August to prepare for operations in the Palaus. As flagship for Rear Adm. W.D. Sample's CarDiv 27, she began preinvasion strikes against Peleliu and Anguar 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 Manus, Admiralties, the 4th, and after completing preparations for the invasion of the Philippines, she sortied with the Escort Carrier Group (TG 77.4) 12 October for Leyte as part of the task unit known as "Taffy 2." Beginning 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 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 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 cruiser Kinu and destroyer Uranami with repeated hits from bombs, rockets, and strafing.
Marcus Island departed the Philippines 30 October but returned less than 2 weeks later as part of the escort for the Mindoro attack group. Departing Kossol 10 December, she transited Surigao Strait the 13th. Her patrolling aircraft splashed one enemy fighter 14 October and shot down three more planes on the 15th. Marcus Island came under attack the morning of the Mindoro invasion, and between 0810 and 0930 enemy planes made three suicide runs and one bombing strike against the carrier. All the planes were splashed or deflected by intense antiaircraft fire, although two kamikazes splashed close on the bow to port and starboard causing minor damage and several casualties.
Between 16 and 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 6 January 1945, one of her planes depth-bombed a Jap midget submarine which was subsequently rammed and sunk by Taylor (DD-468). Three days later her planes splashed 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 17 January. On the 29th she furnished close air support during unopposed landing at Zambales Province, Luzon; thence she steamed to Ulithi, arriving 6 February.
Rear Admiral Sample hauled down his flag 6 February, and on the 8th Marcus Island became flagship of Rear Adm. Felix B. Stump's CarDiv 24. The carrier debarked hard hitting Composite Squadron 21 on 14 February and embarked Composite Squadron 87 the same day. After completing training out of Ulithi, she steamed to Leyte Gulf 4 to 7 March to conduct rehearsal exercises for the impending invasion of the Ryukyus.
Departing 21 March, Marcus Island arrived south of Kerama Retto the 26th and began launching airstrikes. She provided close air support and air cover during operations in the Ryukyus. Between 26 March and 29 April she operated primarily south and southeast of Okinawa while launching attack and spotter strikes. Composite Observation Squadron 1 replaced Composite Squadron 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 29 April; and, after loading damaged aircraft at Guam, she sailed 5 May for the United States, arriving San Diego 22 May. She sailed west again on 10 July, carrying replacement troops and aircraft to Pearl Harbor and Guam before returning to Alameda, Calif., on V-J Day. Sailing once more via Pearl Harbor and Guam, she reached Okinawa 28 September and embarked returning troops, arriving San Francisco 24 October. By early January 1946 she completed additional "Magic Carpet" runs to Guam and Pearl Harbor.
Departing San Diego, 12 January Marcus Island sailed via the Panama Canal and Norfolk, arriving Boston 2 February. She remained at Boston, decommissioned there 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., 29 February 1960.
Marcus Island received four battle stars for World War II service.