|HISTORY OF THE USS SOLOMONS CVE 67|
I have managed (with the help of Candy, one of my daughters) to put together, from four different sources, the First Complete, Pre-Launch History of the USS Solomons CVE 67, as well as Complete History of the ship after her Launching.
|REFERANCE MATERIAL USED|
|(1.) From the "Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships," (1976) Vol. 6, p.547.|
|(2.) Emil Buelher Naval Aviation Library & National Museum Of Naval Aviation|
|(3.) Department Of The Navy, Naval Historical Center|
|(4.) Division of Naval History, Ships' Histories Section, Navy Department|
|(1.) USS SOLOMONS CVE-67|
|Displacement: 10,400 tons (full load)|
|Extreme Width: 108'1"|
|Speed: 19.3 k. (trials speed)|
|Armament: 1 5"; 16 40mm|
|Maritime Commission standard type: S4-S2-BB3|
|The USS Solomons Motto, "Have The Will To Win"|
(2.) The first Solomons was named after the Maryland Island that is located in the mouth of the Patuxent River. It was laid down on 5 May 1942 in Seattle, Washington. The company that built the ship was the Shain Manufacturing Company. The ship was a wooden-hulled ferry. It was launched on June 20, 1942 and delivered on the 21 August 1942. The ship was assigned to the 14th Naval District and sea lifted to Midway via Pearl Harbor. The Solomons was placed in service on 8 December 1942.
The ship served her entire career in Midway. Its duties were to perform transport and ferry duties. On 6 November 1943 the ship was renamed the USS Sanibel YFB-23 ( Yard Craft Ferry Boat ). This was so that the name Solomons could be used for an aircraft carrier that was under construction at the time. The ship that would inherit the name was the CVE 67. The USS Sanibel remained in the Midway Island area until it was deleted from the 14th Naval District list of service craft on July 1, 1946. The ship was intentionally destroyed by fire two days later at Midway. The ship was stricken from the Navy list on 28 January 1947.
(1.) Naming: Most escort carriers were initially named for various bays, but a great many were renamed in Honor of WWII Battles prior to Commissioning. Numbering: Ships of this type were initially designated as auxiliary aircraft escort vessels AVG; this was changed to auxiliary aircraft carrier ACV; 20 August 1942. On 15 July 1943 all were redesignated Escort Aircraft Carriers, CVE. This designation is used throughout the list for convenience.
(2.) The second Solomons ( CVE 67 ) was named for the pivotal campaign in the South Pacific. A group of islands in the southwestern Pacific, east of New Guinea, containing 15 major islands and numerous smaller ones. United States forces invaded the group at Guadalcanal on 7 August 1942. This was the first amphibious operation directed against Japanese held territory in World War II. By February 1943, Guadalcanal had been secured, and landings were made on two other island of the group, Bougainville and New Georgia. The development of the campaign in New Guinea, however, enabled the Americans to bypass the approximately 120,000 remaining Japanese who were scattered among the other islands of the Solomons group.
(1.) The USS SOLOMONS CVE-67, an Escort Aircraft Carrier, was converted from a Maritime Commission hull ( MC hull 1104 ) built by the Kaiser Shipbuilding Company of Vancouver, Washington. (4.) The contract for her construction was signed on 18 June 1942, P.O. No. 1870/1RNV. (1.) Her keel was laid down on 19 April 1943. Soon thereafter, she was assigned the first of her three names, EMPEROR. (2.) The name EMPEROR had been given because originally the ship was to be turned over the Royal Navy. (3.) The lease agreement was canceled on 22 January 1943. The USS Pybus AVG 34 was sent instead. After being designated an auxiliary aircraft carrier, ACV-67, she was renamed NASSUK BAY on 28 June 1943. On 15 July 1943, she was redesignated an Escort Carrier, CVE-67. She was launched on 6 October 1943 by Mrs. F. J. McKenna while still bearing the name NASSUK BAY. One month later on 6 November 1943, she received her third and final name, USS SOLOMONS CVE 67, and as such, was commissioned on 21 November 1943, Capt. M. E. Crist in command.
(1.) USS SOLOMONS CVE 67 spent the next four weeks in the Astoria-Puget Sound area undergoing post-trial shakedown, tests, and exercises. Departing Astoria on 20 December 1943, and headed for Alameda, California. (4.) She sailed independently but did receive air coverage from Navy blimps during the day. (1.) She arrived three days later on 23 December 1943. She departed on 24 December 1943 headed for San Francisco and arrived Christmas day. Following operations out of San Diego, she sailed for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on 30 December 1943. On 6 January 1944, USS SOLOMONS CVE 67 loaded aircraft and supplies there, embarked passengers, and departed on the 9th for San Diego. (4.) She was escorted by the USS DUFFY DE 27. The ship also conducted firing exercises enroute to California.
(1.) Arriving at San Diego on 14 January 1944, USS SOLOMONS CVE 67 conducted battle practice off the coast of southern California until the end of the month.
On 16 January 1944, the first plane, Piloted by Lt. Comdr. G. E. Shecter lands on the deck of the USS Solomons CVE 67.
(4.) She departed San Diego on the 30 January 1944, accompanied by USS TRIPOLI CVE 64, USS FITCH DD 462 and USS DECATUR DD 341 bound for Norfolk, Va. During her approach to the Panama Canal, USS SOLOMONS CVE 67 planes participated in a simulated aerial attack on the canal. The carrier arrived at Balboa on 9 February 1944 embarked passengers, and departed for Norfolk two days later. On 12 February 1944 a radar contact was made and torpedo defense was sounded. The USS FITCH DD 462 left the formation to investigate but there was no further radar contacts. The ship arrived in Norfolk two days later on 16 February 1944.
Upon arrival the ship was put into dry-dock until the 19 March 1944. After repairs were finished the loading of planes, supplies, and aviation stores commenced and the USS SOLOMONS CVE 67 got underway on 21 March 1944 bound for Recife, Prenambuco Brazil where she was to report for duty to the Commander, FOURTH Fleet. The USS EISNER DE 192 and USS WILLIAM G. THOMAS DE 193 joined the USS SOLOMONS CVE 67 before they departed Norfolk. While enroute to Brazil air operations were conducted. On 25 March 1944 a torpedo bomber crashed into the after part of the SOLOMONS flight deck. The USS EISNER DE 192 quickly picked up the pilot and crew. On 30 March 1944 the USS SOLOMONS CVE 67 crossed the Equator. On 31 March 1944 the USS TRUMPTER DE 180, USS STRAUB DE 181, and USS GUSTAFSON DE 182 joined the USS SOLOMONS CVE 67. On 6 April 1944 a sound contact was reported but further investigation proved negative. They arrived in Recife, Brazil on 13 April 1944 and reported for duty with the 4th Fleet. The Composite Squadron NINE was disembarked to the Ibura Airfield, Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil. (1.) On the next day, she got underway for her first antisubmarine patrol. This cruise, which lasted until the 30 April 1944, Her next antisubmarine patrol, 4 - 20 May 1944, also proved uneventful. Her third patrol, however, was to be more successful.
Departing Recife in 1 June 1944, USS SOLOMONS CVE 67 was soon involved in her sole U-boat engagement of the war. (4.) On 15 June, while conducting air operations a sound contact was received. Ensign Edwards, a pilot from the USS SOLOMONS CVE 67 reported contact with an enemy submarine some 50 miles from the carrier. No further communication was ever received from Ensign Edwards. (1.) The escorts, USS STRAUB DE-181 and HERZOG DE-178 were immediately directed to the position of the contact (4.) and ordered to conduct, a square search. The pilot, who had made the initial contact on the submarine, was shot down by enemy antiaircraft fire. Lieutenant Commander Avery, another pilot from the USS SOLOMONS CVE 67 sighted the wake at 1654 of a fully surfaced submarine. When he was 8 miles from the submarine it altered course and as the plane closed the distance the sub began to run in circles of about 1,000 feet in diameter, successfully keeping the aircraft on its stern. During maneuvers intense anti-aircraft fire was directed at the plane as he circled the submarine at a range of 4,000 yards awaiting assistance. Ensign Wadsworth in Fighting Squadron-17, Ensign McMahon in Fighting Squadron-23, and Ensign Spear in Attack Bomber- Squadron-ll were about to land aboard the carrier when the contact report was made. They were vectored to the scene of the contact.
USS STRAUB DE-181 and HERZOG DE-178 were ordered to proceed to the scene of the contact immediately. McMahon and Wadsworth commenced strafing runs on the port and starboard quarters respectively, while Spear and Avery made rocket attacks on the submarine. The fighters effectively strafed the sub while Spear and Avery fired 14 rockets in pairs, 12 of which hit the submarine about the conning tower and forward of the conning tower. After this attack, in which four planes passed over the sub in a period of 10 seconds, the submarine straightened out, trailing oil, at a slow speed, and still directing anti-aircraft fire at the planes.
Lieutenant (j.g.) Chamberlain and Lieutenant (j.g.) Weigle then took off to proceed to the scene of the attack. Weigle was directed to make a rocket attack, preceded by McMahon, who made another strafing run on the submarine. Of eight rockets fired by Weigle, six of then hit in the lethal area directly in front of the conning tower. The fighters were out of ammunition and were ordered back to the carrier. The submarine's speed had been reduced to 3 knots and it was trailing large quantities of greenish-yellow oil. Chamberlain was directed to begin a depth charge run on the submarine and, in the face of anti-aircraft fire, went in at an altitude of less than 50 feet above the conning tower before he released two depth charges. The depth charges caused a violent explosion which engulfed his plane and started a fire in the, bomb bay and center cockpit. He was able to make a water landing about 500 yards ahead of the submarine. Immediately after his attack the submarine began to sink bow first. Thirty to forty survivors were observed in the water. USS STRAUB DE 181 reported that 21 survivors, including the commanding officer were rescued. It was learned from the rescued prisoners that Ensign Edwards who had made the original contact was shot down.
On 18 June 1944 a Memorial Service is held on the USS Solomons, for the American Airmen and German Seamen that were Lost during the sinking of U860. The ships then steamed on, conducting her air operations.
On 23 June 1944, USS SOLOMONS CVE 67 arrived in Recife and commenced refueling from the dock. The prisoners were transferred to Commander Fourth Fleet authorities. On 1 July 1944, the pilots that took part in the sinking of the submarine were decorated onboard the USS SOLOMONS CVE 67. The remainder of July was occupied by intense air operations off the coast of Brazil.
On 1 August 1944 found the USS SOLOMONS CVE 67 in company with the USS ALGER DE 101, USS TRUMPETER DE 180, and the USS STRAUB DE 181, conducting barrier operations against enemy submarines. However no contacts were made and on 8 August 1944 she entered the harbor of Rio de Janeiro. Accompanied by USS ALGER DE 101, USS TRUMPETER DE 180, and the USS STRAUB DE 181,she departed the following day for Recife. She arrived 12 August 1944 and commenced, loading stores and fresh provisions aboard.
On 15 August 1944 the USS SOLOMONS CVE 67 departed Recife enroute to Norfolk Virginia, arriving on 25 August 1944. Until 22 September 1944 she held gunnery exercises and various tests off the coast of Norfolk. She left on 23 September 1944 for Staten Island, N.Y with USS GENTRY DE 349 and USS TRAW DE 350. She arrived on 25 September 1944 and moored to pier #14. (1.) She embarked 150 Army Airmen together with their P-47 aircraft. (4.) Preparations were completed for a long voyage. She departed on 6 October 1944, ,she steamed to rendezvous with convoy UFG-15B enroute to Casablanca, French Morocco. The convoy was transporting the 100th and 103rd Infantry Divisions.
|Convoy UFG-15B consisted of the following ships,|
Arriving back in the United States on 17 October 1944, the ship departed ten days later in convoy, conducting operations enroute to Narragansett Bay Rhode Island. The ships arrived on 7 November 1944 and refueled. The remainder of the month saw USS SOLOMONS CVE 67 engaged in various types of carrier operations.
On 13 December 1944 in company with the USS BROOME she departed for Norfolk, Virginia for emergency repairs. After completing repairs, extensive drills were carried out until 3 January 1945 when the USS SOLOMONS CVE 67 departed for Port Everglades, Florida, arriving on 6 January 1945.
While moored at Port Everglades on 8 January 1945, Captain M. E. Crist, USN, was relieved as commanding officer by Captain R. S. Moss, USN.
On 26 January 1945, the 5,000th landing on the deck of the Solomons was made by an F6F. It is noted here that the Solomons Excelled at making More Landings Per Day and Qualifying More Pilots than any other ship in the CVE Atlantic Fleet. By the time the USS Solomons CVE 67 is decommissioned in 1946, she will have recorded a total of OVER 34,000 landings on her flight deck in just three years.
The remainder of January and the month of February were spent conducting rigid air drills off the coast of Florida.
Steaming in company with USS LEA DD118, and the USS BERNADOU, the USS SOLOMONS CVE 67 conducted air operations in which 43 F6F pilots were qualified on 1 March 1945. She returned to port shortly thereafter and picked up 12 pilots who reported aboard for temporary duty.
On 7 March 1945, additional planes reported aboard for flight operations, and when she moored on 10 March 1945, 42 officers departed, having completed their temporary duty. On 17 March 1945, 58 more fighter pilots were qualified in carrier landings. The remainder of the month was spent conducting air operations. The period 18 March 1945 to 30 September 1945 was occupied in more air operations off the East Coast.
On 15 April 1945, all hands were called to quarters on the Flight Deck for a Memorial Service for our late President and Commander In Chief, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The Ship's Chaplain led the Officers and Crew in Prayer. Several hymns were sung and the Ensign was brought to Half Mast , where it remained for thirty days in Tribute to a Great President. The Bugler sounded Taps and after a short period of respectful silence the crew dispersed to carry on the Ship's work.
When Germany surrendered the USS Solomons CVE 67, lost her opportunity to grasp a Surrender "Prize" when it was learned that the only U-Boat in the vicinity of the USS Solomons had already contacted the Naval Shore Authority regarding her surrender.
On 7 August 1945, 25,000th Landing aboard the USS Solomons CVE 67, being made by Ens. R. I. Jacobsen, in an SBF-4E, "Helldiver", Plane # 6, Bu. # 31925.
On 27 October 1945, the USS Solomons is in Mobile, Alabama, along with Destroyer Escorts USS Pillsbury, and USS Pope and also the Submarines USS Flasher and USS Gabalin for Navy Day. It was estimated that over 80,000 people visited the USS Solomons CVE 67.
On 5 December 1945 "Flight 19" NAS Ft. Lauderdale, 5 TBM Avenger Torpedo Bombers were warming up to take their last training hop. The Navy and Marine Combat Aircrewman needed one more flight to qualify for their wings. And the pilots, except for the flight leader, needed one more navigational training flight to finish. One Marine missed the flight. This was the famous "Flight 19", a composite training flight of both Navy and Marine Corps airmen, that would become the subject of every "Devils Triangle" story on TV and books for decades to come. After flying eastward and then northward for some hours, they became lost. They reported trouble with their compasses and couldn't orient directions correctly. As nightfall approached they were almost out of gas. And then all of the Florida East coast bases lost radio contact with them.
At NAS Banana River, Florida, two PBMs were alerted to take off on a Search and Rescue operation down to North of the Bahamas to fly a "box" pattern. Their long range meant that they could fly all night if necessary. They were fully gassed. They passed all pre-flight checks. The crew on PBM No. 59225 was made up of crew and other volunteers. Both PBMs took off and headed off in different directions. Radar had them both plotted. Suddenly, PBM 59225 disappeared from the radar. A merchant ship, the SS Gaines Mills, reported seeing a massive explosion high in the sky, which then gravitated down to the ocean and continued to burn with flames 100 feet high. A large search and rescue mission was already being formed by sea for the 5 TBMs. In the morning, the USS Solomons CVE 67 approached the approximate site of the crash and found only a small oil slick, no debris, no survivors. The plane and crew had apparently been vaporized. The other PBM and the search vessels and aircraft continued their search for the TBMs for several days with no results. On this day, 5 December 1945, 6 aircraft and 27 men disappeared and the cause has never been established.
On ? February 1946, Captain R. S. Moss, USN, was relieved as commanding officer by Captain Allen Smith Jr, USN. Captain Smith is the former Commander of the USS THETIS BAY CVE 90.
On 13 March 1946, the USS Solomons CVE 67 was in Savannah Georgia for St. Patrick's Day, along with the USS OTTER DE 210, USS BORUM DE 790, and USS DURIK.
(1.) On 15 May 1946, SOLOMONS was decommissioned at Boston Naval Shipyard and struck from the Navy List on 5 June 1946. Sold for scrap to the Patapsco Scrap Corp., Bethlehem, Pa., for the sum of $14,672.00. She was delivered to its agent on 22 December at Newport, R.I.
How things have changed . In 1946 you could buy a complete Aircraft Carrier for $14,672.00. Now, you are hard pressed to find a Good Used car for $14,672.00 !! I wonder how many cars you could build with one Aircraft Carrier?
Let's do the math just for the Fun of it. If the average car weights 1.5 tons. Dividing the Solomon's 10,400 tons by 1.5 tons, would give you 6,933 cars.
My Dad always told me that they melted the Solomons down and made Razer Blades out of her. (I have heard other crewmen from different ships say the same thing about their ship.) I do not know if this is true or not, but it makes for a nice story. No, I am not going to try and figure out how many Razor Blades that you could have made with the Solomons because, my Calculator can't count that high. BUT!, I do like a challenge. I found that 10 Double Edge Razors weighs 1/4 oz., which means you would get 640 from 1 lb., times 2,000 lbs., would give you 1,280,000 per ton, times 10,400 tons would equal 13,312,000,000 Razor Blades. NOW! the obvious next question is, How many shaves can you get out of all those blades? I'll leave that one up to you!
About This Book
This book is an Historical Account ( some say it is a Museum Exhibit all by itself ) of the USS SOLOMONS CVE 67 and U860 which was sunk by the USS Solomons CVE 67. It is told by the crewmen and their photos. It's in the format of a Family Photo Album, by the time you finish reading this book, you will know these men Personally.
This book makes it Blatantly clear how important it is that we talk to our Veterans, record their stories and make copies of their photos. Who would have ever thought that 60 men could have enough stories to fill 547 pages, and over 810 photos, and documents, or that they would be so Happy! And willing to share Their Memories. Additionally, this book shows just how little time we have left to record their memories. Since I started this project in February of 2002, until now, January 2005, Five of the men that contributed to this book have already passed away. They will Never! Get to see the book that they helped write. They are now Gone Forever! BUT! They will now be Remembered Forever!, along with their stories and photos. The five men are:
David R. Green S1/c, USS Solomons CVE 67
Passed Away 27 April 2002, Age 77
Frank S. Rojewski S1/c USS Solomons CVE 67
Passed Away 10 May 2003 Age 76
Joseph Ernest Comeau S1/c, USS Solomons CVE 67 (My Dad)
Passed Away 26 June 2003, Age 77
Adolf Lundquist, U860 Crewman (U860 was sunk by USS Solomons CVE 67)
Passed Away December 2003, Age 90
Joseph Montana, USS Solomons CVE 67
Passed Away 12 January 2005, Age 78
Read this book. Then talk to the Veteran that you know, write down His or Her stories and make copies of any photos. Put them in a folder, give each of His or Her Family members a copy, so that the Veteran will
NEVER BE FORGOTTEN!!
OUR VETERANS HAVE EARNED THE RIGHT TO BE REMEMBERED!!
Here is the "Introduction" from the book, which tells how the book got started.
For years when ever I asked my Dad ( Joseph E. Comeau Sr. ) about His
days in the Navy. He would simply say, "I was on an Escort Aircraft Carrier.
We were in the Atlantic the whole time I was aboard. We were never in any of
the Big Battles in the Pacific. We just Qualified Pilots for landing and
taking off of an aircraft carriers deck." and that was the end of the conversation.
Then in 2000, Dad started to tell me about his Navy Days. He told me that he had
several different jobs on the Flight Deck. He told me about the two times that he
was Injured and about a third time that he was almost Injured. He told me that he
had received a Letter of Commendation for Bravery, and he told me with Great Pride
how Captain Moss assembled the crew on the Flight Deck and called him forward and
shook his hand.
Dad was always disappointed that they were never in any of the Battles. I explain
to him that he was in a Battle Zone on the Flight Deck, where it was Very Dangerous
and where Men were Dying, from being hit by flying metal, being hit by a propeller,
or their plane crashed. I also explained to him that he and his Shipmates were doing
a Very Important Job, that of Qualifying Pilots on landing and taking off from the
Moving Deck of an Aircraft Carrier, ( the Solomons had a total of over 34,000 landings
from 1943 - 1946 ) and that this job was just as Important, Maybe Even More Important
than being in one of the Battles.
One of the other things that Dad was always sad about was that the Solomons never had
a Reunion. It is now February 2002, and I get the Idea, why not try and find some of
Dad's Shipmates on the Internet. Each time I found a Shipmate, I would ask him if
he could send me copies of any Photos that he had, and could he write down what he
remembers about the Solomons and send it to me. I took the Photos and Memories and put
them in a folder. I gave the folder to Dad for Father's Day 2002. In four short months
I had found 35 of Dad's Shipmates. I had only expected to find two or three of Dad's
Shipmates in such a short time. By the time that I gave the folder to Dad for Father's
Day 2002, it had grown to 235 pages containing over 300 scanned Documents and Photos.
(each of the Dad's 35 Shipmates that had contributed received a copy of the folder as a
Thank You! for their Help) This folder became the Reunion that my Dad had always wanted.
Voices from the Past Telling Stories that he had Lived and Remembered. A few of Dad's
Shipmates started to correspond with Dad through the mail on a regular basis. I Can Not
Begin to THANK! these crewmen for the Time that they took to correspond with Dad. He
Always got Very Excited when a letter arrived and he would call me and tell me all about
Sadly! on 26 June 2003, Dad Lost his Eight Year Battle with cancer, and He Answered His
Call to Final Muster. As I sit here Writing this Introduction, the Folder, is now a Book,
and has Swelled to 547 pages and Over 810 scanned Documents and Photos. You would think
that this is the end of my story but, it is just the Beginning! You see, as I continue
to Look for more Shipmates, and they continue to find me. I find that many of the Crewmen
Long to Tell someone about their Navy Days, as well as find and talk to some of their
Old Shipmates. Two of the first 35 Crewmen that I contacted, discovered when I sent
them their copy of the folder along with the names and addresses of the other Crewmen
that I found, that two of them had been living twenty miles apart for the last thirty
years. A few of these Old Salts broke down in tears when I tell them about the folder
( this was before it became a book ) and that I will be sending them a copy. They are
Always Excited to hear that someone is Finally! Writing about the Solomons. When I ask
them if they would like to Add their Photos and Memories, they are So Excited and
Happy you would think that they were 17 and had the world by the tail.
When I find a Son, Daughter, Grandson, Granddaughter, Son-in-Law, or Daughter-in-Law of
a Crewmen that has already Answered His Call to Final Muster, I Always hear that their
Dad, Grandfather, or Father-in-Law never talked much about their Navy Days, or they were
to young to remember what was said. They also will tell me that they only have one or two
Photos of their Dad, Grandfather, or Father-in-Law from His Navy Days. When I tell them
that I have 547 pages and Over 810 scanned Documents and Photos for them, I can hear
them fighting back the tears over the phone. BELIEVE IT ! OR NOT !, IT EVEN GETS BETTER !
than this because, every now and then one of the Sons, Daughters, Grandsons,
Granddaughters, Son-in-Laws, or Daughter-in-Laws calls me back after they received a copy
of the book. They are EXTREMLY EXCITED ! They tell me that in the 810 Plus Photos they
found two or three Photos of their Dad, Grandfather, or Father-in-Law with His Shipmates
that they did not have. Some have Even called their Dad's, Grandfather's, or Father-in-Law's
Shipmates to talk to them and learn more about their Dad, Grandfather, or Father-in-Law,
and His Navy Days.
Somehow I think that this Book will not be the end, but will instead only be "Volume One"
of many Volumes to follow on the History and Crew of the "USS SOLOMONS CVE 67".