(CVE-80: dp. 6,730; l. 512'3"; ew. 108'1"; dr. 20'; s. 19 k.; cpl. 860; a. 1 5", 16 40mm.; cl. Casablanca; T. S4-S2-BB3)
Petrof Bay (CVE-80) was laid down under a Maritime Commission contract by the Kaiser Shipbuilding Co., Vancouver, Wash., 15 October 1943; launched 5 January 1944; sponsored by Mrs. J.G. Atkins; acquired 18 February 1944 and commissioned the same day at Astoria, Oreg., Capt. Joseph L. Kane in command.
Petrof Bay departed Naval Air Station, San Diego, Calif. 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 planes to other ships in the harbor.
On the morning of 29 April, she made rendezvous with fast carrier Task Force 58 to furnish replacement planes, prior to its first strike against the then powerful Japanese stronghold of Truk. The ship then proceeded to Majuro, arriving 3 May and rejoined Task Force 58 after its successful strike on Truk. There, she unloaded all planes and most aviation spares and materiel and took on duds, planes in need of major overhaul, and salvage equipment.
With Barnes (CVE-20) 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 for shakedown air operations. On 30 July, the ship shoved off for Pearl Harbor, arriving 6 August.
The extra planes were unloaded and all resemblance to a ferry transport disappeared. On 12 August, she was underway in Task Group 32.4 enroute Guadalcanal. She anchored in Tulagi Harbor, Solomon Islands, the afternoon of 24 August. On 4 September, Petrof Bay, as a part of Task Unit 32.7.3 in company with Saginaw Bay (CVE-82) and Kalinin Bay (CVE-68), 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 planes. From D-Day until 29 September, with the exception of one day when bombs and ammunition were replenished at Kossol Passage, her planes bombed and strafed the Japanese, and searched for enemy shipping, planes, and submarines. She encountered no air opposition during the operation. By 30 September, when the airstrip on Peleliu was operational, Petrof Bay retired to Manus Island.
On 14 October, she sortied from Seeadler Harbor, Admiralty Islands, with Saginaw Bay enroute to Leyte Gulf for the first step in the liberation of the Philippines.
The two CVEs rendezvoused with Task Unit 77.4.2 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 Task Unit 77.4.1 which had been under air attack by enemy planes. 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: TU 77.4.3, east of the southern portion of Samar; TU 77.4.2, just south of that position; and TU 77.4.1, with Petrof Bay, south of TU 77.4.2 and east of Surigao Island.
The Japanese Central Force, which had earlier been sighted and attacked by planes 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 dawn, TU 77.4.3 reported that they were being attacked by heavy units of the Japanese fleet and land-based planes. Two special strikes from Petrof Bay joined in the air attack against these enemy ships. The attacks by the planes from the CVEs and the gallant DDs and DEs of TU 77.4.3's screen turned back the Japanese force. Both flights hit the enemy while TU 77.4.3 was actually under attack. During the two strikes, Petrof Bay's pilots claimed: one probable hit on Yamato, two probable hits on Nagato, two on Kongo and one on an unidentified cruiser, plus strafing runs on Yamato, the cruisers, and destroyers.
Petrof Bay launched a final strike to search for and attack the enemy then in retreat. After rendezvousing with other planes 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.
On 26 October, the only remaining Japanese force within range of the CVE planes was one light cruiser and four destroyers sighted in the Visayan Sea. Petrof Bay launched torpedo planes 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.
While her planes hit enemy ships, Petrof Bay fought off attacking Japanese land-based planes. The raids against the ship began in earnest on the morning of 25 October. The first warning of what was to come appeared on the radar screen at 0729: a bogey was reported closing on the formation. The ship went to General Quarters and so remained for the next 108 hours. The raider eluded combat air patrol and proved to be a combination torpedo attack and the beginning of the Japanese suicide attacks.
Three distinct raids got in and attacked between 0730 and 0810, one after the other. The first plane to dive on Petrof Bay approached from the starboard bow to be hit by her guns. He turned away from his original target, smoking, and hit Suwannee's (CVE-27) flight deck. Santee (CVE-29) was hit by an aerial torpedo as well as a suicide plane. Later a "Judy" made a strafing and bombing attack on Petrof Bay. The plane dove, without warning, out of the clouds from the port side, strafing as he came in, dropped his bomb, which missed by approximately ten feet, and flew off.
At noon, four Japanese planes started suicide runs on Petrof Bay from astern. The first plane 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 plane looped into the clouds, came straight down, missed and hit the water twenty feet in front of the bridge. The plane as it hit the water, exploded, drenching the ship with gas. The fourth Japanese plane dove straight for the flight deck, its tail and wing were shot off as it fell aft of the fantail.
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 (DE-217) attacked with depth charges and was believed successful in destroying the submarine. During the night of 28 October, Petrof Bay retired to the fueling area. That night, the ship returned to rendezvous with TU 77.4.2, TG 77.2 and TG 77.3, and, in company with them, triumphantly and proudly proceeded to Manus Island.
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 November.
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 29-30 January for the landings in the San Narciso and San Antonio areas. With the reconquest of Luzon well underway, Petrof Bay departed for Ulithi.
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, planes from the CVEs began strafing and bombing attacks. The troop transports arrived 18 February and the Marines established a beachhead the next day. Planes 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 VC-93 embarked 10 March.
As a part of TU 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 planes supported landings on Kiese Shima. Thereafter, she launched daily strike groups, patrols and special missions.
"L" Day was 1 April, Easter Sunday, and the landings on Okinawa were made at 0830 with slight opposition. Planes 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 planes were shot down, but the pilots rescued. On 16 April, the formation was back southeast of Okinawa.
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 planes.
On 26 May, Petrof Bay departed for Guam, where she arrived and entered Apra Harbor 30 May. Composite Squadron 93 was disembarked and Composite Squadron 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 14 August. The next day, Japan accepted the terms of the Potsdam Ultimatum. The carrier proceeded to Tokyo Bay, returning to the States 11 October with veterans of the Pacific war. Docking at San Pedro, she disembarked the veterans, picked up a load of replacements and again set out for Pearl Harbor. By 31 October, she was again in San Francisco. She sailed out through the Golden Gate and proceeded on a southwesterly course to the Marianas. Arriving at Guam 13 December, the carrier loaded another group of veterans into her emergency quarters and sailed home, arriving San Pedro 18 January 1946.
Departing San Pedro, she steamed south, touching at San Diego, and transiting the Panama Canal, steamed up the eastern seaboard to Norfolk. From there, she headed northward again, mooring at Boston, Mass., 23 February. On 31 July 1946, she was placed out of commission, in reserve, in the Boston Group of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. She was reclassified CVU-80 on 12 June 1955. She was struck from the Navy Vessel Register 27 June 1958, and sold 30 July 1959 to J. Berkurt and scrapped.
Petrof Bay received five battle stars for World War II service.