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USS Liscome Bay: Hit By a Torpedo Near Makin Atoll During World War II

6/12/2006 • World War II

She began life as a nameless Hull in the Kaiser shipyards in Vancouver, Washington, on December 12, 1942. And she ended her short, 11-month span in 23 terrifying minutes off Makin Atoll in the Pacific, after being struck by a single torpedo from a Japanese submarine.

She was the first of her flock to go, but before war’s end in 1945, the ill-fated CVE-56 would be joined by five more American-built escort carriers (CVEs) sunk by enemy action. They were: Block Island (CVE-21), sunk by the German submarine U-549 in the Atlantic on May 29, 1944; Gambier Bay (CVE-73), sunk in the Battle of Samar by Japanese cruiser gunfire on October 25, 1944; St. Lo (CVE-63), sunk by a Japanese kamikaze plane attack on October 25, 1944; Ommaney Bay (CVE-79), scuttled after being struck by a kamikaze on January 4, 1945; and Bismarck Sea (CVE-95), sunk by a kamikaze off Iwo Jima on February 21, 1945.

The loss of these ships, tragic and costly in lives as they were, did not compare to the shock that went through America’s CVE crews when that first escort carrier was sunk in November 1943. Relatively speaking, it should also be noted, no other single carrier in World War II, escort, light or fast, suffered higher casualties — 600 men killed out of a crew of 900, 70 percent of the crew gone in only 20-plus minutes.

CVE-56 had a name, of course — the USS Liscome Bay.

She began her life as Maritime Commission Hull No. 1137. And when work began on her in earnest as an auxiliary aircraft tender, her designation was changed to Kaiser Shipyards Hull No. 302.

The name she would be given upon her completion, and when she was turned over to the British Royal Navy, would be HMS Ameer (ACV-56).

By April 19, 1943, Ameer‘s Hull and part of her flight deck were finished. She was launched in a special ceremony at the Kaiser shipyards by her sponsor, Mrs. Clara Morrell. Mrs. Morrell was the wife of Rear Adm. Ben Morrell, founder of the U.S. Navy ‘Seabees.’ Also attending the ceremony was Mrs. Walter Krebs, matron of honor; Lt. Cmdr. H.C. Zitzewitz, liason officer at the Vancouver yards; and James MacDonald, the British consul in Portland, Ore., who spoke at the ceremony.

After an invocation by Dr. Perry C. Hoffer of the Westminster Presbyterian Church, Mrs. Morrell stepped up to the platform built near the bow of the partially finished Hull and smashed the traditional bottle of champagne against the bow section, sending Ameer sliding down the ways into the Columbia River.

On the same day, tugs took the powerless Hull and towed it downstream 100 miles from Vancouver to the Astoria (Oregon) Naval Station for final fitting out and delivery.

By that time, 3 1/2 months later, in August 1943, the Ameer would have new owners and even a new name.

On June 28, 1943, the vice chief of U.S. Naval Operations, Admiral J.H. Newton, endorsed a recommendation that 29 auxiliary aircraft carriers built for the British navy be assigned to the United States. He further recommended changing their British names and redesignating their class as CVE (aircraft carrier, escort) instead of ACV (auxiliary aircraft carrier).

And so HMS Ameer, formerly Hull No. 302, become USS Liscome Bay, named after a small bay on the south coast of Dall Island, which lies off the southern coast of Alaska. This followed the practice of naming escort carriers after bays, islands and sounds of the United States, or after major U.S. operations, battles and engagements.

On July 15, 1943, Liscome Bay‘s redesignation from ACV-56 to CVE-56 was completed. The fitting out continued in Astoria. On August 7, 1943, Liscome Bay was delivered to the U.S. Navy. Her log records the event: ‘1105. Pursuant to orders…. Vessel commissioned U.S.S. Liscome Bay….Capt. I.D. Wiltse assumed command.’

Like all escort carriers, Liscome Bay was built mostly from a converted merchant-ship Hull. Her primary functions were to serve as a convoy escort, to provide aircraft for close air support during amphibious landing operations, and to ferry aircraft to naval bases and fleet carriers at sea.

Accordingly, she was built no larger than her original Hull, given no more armament than was considered necessary for self-defense, and allowed no more speed than she needed to perform the tasks assigned her.

She was 512 feet long, with a beam of 108 feet. She displaced 7,800 tons. Her flight deck was only 400 feet long and 80 feet wide. Two elevators had been installed, one forward, one aft, and a single catapult was located forward on the port side, over the bow.

Her armament consisted of a single l5-inch, .38-caliber open gun mounted in a gun tub overhanging her square stern. Sixteen 40mm cannons in two mounts and twenty 20mm machine guns, scattered below the flight deck on both port and starboard sides, were her chief anti-aircraft armament.

Liscome Bay‘s ‘black gang’ worked with her two Skinner Uniflow reciprocating steam engines in twin, split-plan engine rooms, using superheated steam running at 4,500 ihp (indicated horsepower) and 161 rpm to turn the ship’s twin propellers and produce her top speed of 16 knots.

Liscome Bay carried a crew of 960 men. Most were recent graduates from boot camp. Others, like the aerology crew, had served on board the aircraft carrier USS Wasp (CV-7) before she was sunk in the South Pacific by a Japanese submarine in September 1942. Others had served on the ill-fated heavy cruiser Quincy (CA-39), sunk in the Battle of Savo Island in August 1942. A few had been on the legendary carrier Enterprise (CV-6), and several of her crewmen had witnessed the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Veteran or recruit, old salt or recent landlubber, all had to consider that the most important member of the crew was their skipper, Captain Irving Day Wiltse, 56, Liscome Bay‘s first and last commanding officer. He had served as a navigator on the U.S. carrier Yorktown (CV-5) during the Battle of Midway and had commanded a seaplane tender, the Albemarle, before assuming command of Liscome Bay on the day of her commissioning. Wiltse was respected by his crew.

A month after the commissioning, after all the initial trials and shakedown cruises around Astoria, Liscome Bay got underway under her own power for the first time.

Arriving at Puget Sound on September 8, Liscome Bay proceeded to Bremerton Naval Station for degaussing and adjusting of her compasses and radio equipment. She spent four days undergoing further ship’s trials before sailing for Seattle, Wash. There, her 20mm AA guns were test-fired. She docked until September 17, 1943, and then sailed for San Francisco. Liscome Bay docked at the Alameda Naval Air Station for refueling and to take on more personnel. The next stop would be San Diego, for an extensive series of shakedown drills and exercises off the southern California coast.

On October 11, while the escort carrier was docked in San Diego for refueling, she received an addition to her complement in the form of Rear Adm. Henry Maston Mullinnix, who would be commanding a carrier division, with Liscome Bay as his flagship.

Called by a former classmate ‘one of our outstanding young admirals,’ Henry Mullinnix had graduated first in his Navel Academy class of 1916, had served in World War I on a destroyer, had helped design the Navy’s first diesel engine, had become a Navy pilot, and had commanded the carrier Saratoga (CV-3) before being appointed to the rank of admiral on August 28, 1943.

A sailor who served on his staff later said, ‘As a man, you couldn’t find a person any better… ‘

He was accompanied by his chief of staff, Captain John G. Crommelin. An outstanding pilot and officer, Crommelin had served aboard the Enterprise at the Battle of Santa Cruz in 1942, and was the oldest of five brothers, all Annapolis graduates, all naval officers who would serve in the war. ‘He was as fine a man as the admiral,’ one sailor said of Crommelin. ‘You could talk to him about any problem you had.’

Crommelin’s job as chief of staff was to ensure the efficient operation of the staff for Carrier Division 24, Mullinnix’s first flag command. At 1000 hours in October 11, Mullinnix, in the words of the log, ‘Hoisted his flag aboard Liscome Bay.’

More time was now spent in extensive drills and shakedown cruises. On October 14, the carrier received its aircraft, 12 FM-2 and F4F Wildcat fighters and 16 TBM-1C Avenger torpedo bombers as Composite Squadron No. 39. The commander of Composite Squadron 39 (known as VC-39 in Navy records), Lt. Cmdr. Marshall U. Beebe, became responsible for flight operations of the squadron and for the lives of its 36 officers and 41 enlisted men.

After further drills, along with landing and takeoff practice by VC-39’s planes, Liscome Bay set sail October 22 for Pearl Harbor — and the new ship’s first battle mission.

The carrier reached Pearl Harbor on October 28 and moored at the Ford Island Naval Air Station. There were additional drills and exercises in Hawaiian waters, including rehearsals for the upcoming Gilbert Islands invasion, until on November 10, Liscome Bay, accompanied by her sister ships Coral Sea (CVE-57) and Corregidor (CVE-58), sortied from Pearl Harbor with the ships of Rear Adm. Richmond Kelly Turner’s Northern Attack Force, Task Force 52. Included in the force were the battleships New Mexico, Mississippi, Idaho and Pennsylvania, four heavy cruisers and 14 screening destroyers, all escorting six transports carrying units of the 165th Regimental Combat Team of the 27th Infantry Division.

The Liscome Bay and her companion ships soon joined the most powerful U.S. naval force assembled in the Pacific up to that time-13 battleships, 8 heavy cruisers, 4 light cruisers, 4 Essex-class and 4 Independence-class aircraft carriers, 4 escort carriers, 70 destroyers and destroyer escorts. In all, 191 warships in four task forces, coming together from six different directions, all closing in on three tiny Japanese-held atolls in the Central Pacific: Tarawa, Makin and Abemama in the Gilbert Islands.

The pending operation was code-named Galvanic. Its objective was the capture of all three atolls as a steppingstone for future landings in the nearby Marshall Islands. The planners wanted to establish airfields and naval bases in the Gilberts, and to give U.S. forces valuable experience in amphibious operations.

The Southern Attack Force, or Task Force 53, under the command of Rear Adm. Harry W. Hill, was assigned the capture of Tarawa Atoll in the central Gilberts. The northern Attack Force, Task Force 52, under Admiral Turner, was given the objective of capturing Makin Atoll in the northern Gilberts. Marine raiders, operating from the submarine Nautilus, would take Abemama in a separate operation while the main forces were assaulting Tarawa and Makin.

It was with these objectives laid out that Task Force 52 had sortied from Pearl Harbor on the morning of November 10, 1943.

Between November 11 and 19, Liscome Bay, along with the other carriers of CarDiv24, conducted flight operations and anti-aircraft gunnery practice and provided aircraft for anti-submarine patrols around the task force as it steamed for its distant objective.

Even these routine aircraft operations were not without cost. On November 15, Liscome Bay suffered her first operational casualty when Ensign F.C. Fairman’s FM-1 Wildcat crashed at sea three minutes after launching. Ensign Fairman was killed in the crash.

By ‘Dog Day,’ November 20, Task Force 52 had arrived off Makin Atoll and commenced its pre-landing bombardment of the landing beaches. There was no reply from the outnumbered Japanese defenders on Makin’s main island, Butaritari, but an accidental explosion in the main gun turret of the battleship Mississippi killed 43 men and wounded 19 others.

The landing forces went ashore and, overcoming fierce Japanese resistance, secured the island on November 23 after nearly 76 hours of fighting.

Throughout this time, Liscome Bay‘s aircraft played their assigned part by providing direct support of the landings and subsequent ground operations, and flying combat air patrols and anti-submarine patrols around the task force. But again, not without cost. One Avenger was lost in a crash at sea, another in an emergency landing near Makin Island; and a Wildcat was so seriously damaged in a barrier crash that it was dismantled for spare parts.

Then on November 23, five Wildcats took off from Liscome Bay on a late-afternoon patrol. After takeoff the patrol was vectored out to intercept radar ‘bogies’ northwest of Makin. The patrol, led by Lieutenant Foster J. Blair, proceeded a distance of 40 miles from the ship, then lost contact with her.

When the patrol returned to the spot where Liscome Bay should have been, they could not find her. Bad weather and growing darkness, along with the lack of real navigational equipment carried by the planes (hardly more than a compass and a plot board), compounded their problem.

They radioed for help and were directed to land on the big carriers of Rear Adm. C.A. ‘Baldy’ Pownall’s Task Group 50.1, 60 miles south of Makin and the escort carriers. Two of the Wildcats successfully made night landings on the Yorktown, but the third had trouble. This plane bounced off the carrier’s flight deck and into the planes parked on Yorktown‘s bow.

The Wildcat’s pilot bolted clear of his plane without injury, but its belly tank exploded, killing five deck crewmen and setting fire to the parked aircraft. Only quick thinking and heroism by Yorktown‘s crew saved the carrier from further damage. The two remaining Liscome Bay Wildcats landed safely on the nearby USS Lexington.

As the five VC-39 pilots in the errant flight hit the sack that night, they had no idea how lucky they were.

Near Makin, a tragedy was in the making.

At sundown on November 23, the ships of the now precisely named Task Group 52.13 had maneuvered into night cruising disposition, forming a circular screen around the three escort carriers.

Liscome Bay was in the middle, as guide for the surrounding ships. In the first circle surrounding Liscome Bay were battleships New Mexico and Mississippi, the cruiser Baltimore on the left flank, and Coral Sea and Corregidor on the right flank. The outer circle was formed by the destroyers Hoel, Franks, Hughes, Maury and Hull.

The task group, commanded by Rear Adm. Robert M. Griffin on the New Mexico, steamed at 15 knots, without zigzagging, throughout the night 20 miles southwest of Makin.

At 0400, the destroyer Hull left the task group and proceeded to Makin. Hull had been operating off Liscome Bay‘s starboard rear quarter, so her departure did not alter the task group’s disposition.

At 0435, the Franks, also operating off Liscome Bay‘s starboard side, reported a dim light on the surface in the distance and was directed to investigate.

A minute later, New Mexico‘s surface search radar picked up a radar contact six miles from the formation-‘apparently closing,’ in the words of the official report. A few moments later the contact faded from the radar screen without any identification being made.

On Liscome Bay, preparations were being made to launch the day’s first aircraft. For the carrier’s crew and the men of VC-39, the past three days had been hectic, and they expected the 24th to be the same.

Today was also the eve of Thanksgiving. Down in the galleys, the cooks broke out the frozen turkeys that had been packed aboard at Pearl Harbor. There was a lot of work ahead if the traditional meal was to be done up right.

At 0450 flight quarters were sounded. The deck crew began manhandling 13 planes into position on the flight deck in preparation for a dawn launch, while seven planes rested on the hangar deck, armed but not fueled, ready for later launch. Stowed in the carrier’s magazine were more than 200,000 pounds of bombs, including nine 2,000-pound, semi-armor-piercing bombs, 78 1,000-pound bombs, 96 500-pound bombs and a large number of torpedo warheads.

At 0505 Liscome Bay‘s crew was called to general quarters. Dawn was only 30 minutes away as pilots and aircrewmen climbed into their planes.

Five minutes later, Rear Adm. Griffin ordered the task group to turn northeast. Liscome Bay, as guide of the formation, started her turn, followed by the other ships. The formation was a bit ragged because of the absence of the two destroyers, so Admiral Griffin ordered the remaining destroyers to close up the gap left by the Franks‘ departure.

Not far away, hidden by the blackness of night, lay the Japanese submarine I-175, under the command of Lt. Cmdr. Sumano Tabata. Having approached Task Group 52.13 on the surface to avoid detection, Tabata found that his submarine was perfectly positioned to attack through the hole left in the outer circle by the double departure of Hull and Franks. With the American ships now turning toward him, no zigzagging, at 15 knots, Tabata had a setup that submariners dream of.

He made the most of it. Taking a firing bearing on the ships with I-175‘s sound gear, he gave the fateful order-a spread of torpedoes streaked from I-175‘s four bow tubes toward the unsuspecting task group. That done, he took the submarine deep to escape the depth-charging sure to follow.

None of the destroyers in TG 52.13 detected I-175 on sonar, nor did anyone see a torpedo wake on the surface until it was too late.

At 0513, an officer stationed at one of Liscome Bay‘s 40mm guns on the starboard side screamed, ‘Here comes a torpedo!’ into his telephone.

A moment later, it struck the carrier with a shattering roar, throwing up a column of bright orange flame, flecked with white-hot pieces of metal. Seconds later a larger explosion followed, as the torpedo warheads and bombs stowed below the ship’s waterline detonated.

The consecutive explosions hurled large fragments of the ship and the airplanes that had been parked on its flight deck 200 feet into the air. A huge mass of wreckage, thrown into the sea, drifted away from the carrier, burning fiercely. The intensity of the blast stunned lookouts on the surrounding vessels. Debris from the stricken carrier rained down on them. New Mexico, 1,500 yards away, was showered with oil particles, burning deck fragments 3 feet long, molten metal droplets, bits of clothing and human flesh.

The destroyer Maury, 5,000 yards astern, was also splattered. The flames from Liscome Bay were so intense they lighted up the sea around the task group and were seen from the battleship Pennsylvania near Makin, 16 miles away.

Liscome Bay had been hit in the worst possible spot-the bomb stowage area, which had no protection from a torpedo hit or fragment damage. The bombs stowed there had detonated en masse. The resulting explosion disintegrated half of the ship. No one aft of the forward bulkhead of the after engine room survived. In an instant, the interior of the aft portion of the carrier blazed with blast-furnace intensity.

Few survived on the flight deck. The blast caught most, flying shrapnel cut down the others.

Flaming material was flung the length of the hangar deck and into the forward elevator well. The hangar deck became a roaring wall of flame.

The blast sent the ship’s bullhorn and radar antenna crashing down on the bridge, killing two men. Lieutenant Gardner Smith, a radio announcer before the war, went to the open bridge looking for Captain Wiltse and found it a shambles. Two sailors were pinned alive beneath the bullhorn; Smith had to try several times before he could free them.

Tremendous waves of heat engulfed the carrier’s island, making the bridge rails too hot to touch. From the nearby Corregidor, Liscome Bay‘s bridge seemed to ‘glow a cherry red.’ The heat abated for a moment, and the men threw knotted lines over the bridge railing on the island’s inboard side and scrambled down to the flight deck.

Marshall U. Beebe, commander of VC-39, had been in the head when the torpedo hit. ‘There was a terrific rumbling throughout the ship, and an explosion that lifted me off the deck. The next thing I knew I was trying to get out the door in the darkness, but I could find no passage….’

Beebe somehow made it to the flight deck and found it ablaze, with oil burning on the water near the bow, and nearby ammunition beginning to explode.

Captain Wiltse ordered all hands to go as far aft as possible, then go over the side. On his way aft he met Beebe, and they proceeded aft along the remains of a catwalk. ‘The fire was spreading rapidly,’ Beebe recalled, ‘making it apparent that we weren’t going to get very far. I called to the captain to go over at this point, but he did not answer….’ Wiltse instead disappeared into the mass of flame and smoke, never to be seen again.

Beebe lowered himself into the water by a line running from the catwalk, holding an uninflated life raft he had found. Unable to maintain his grip on the line due to an injury to his left arm, Beebe fell heavily into the water and surfaced next to the raft, where two of his pilots joined him. They pushed the raft 200 yards from the carrier before inflating it.

All over the ship, crewmen realized that it was hopeless to try fighting the raging fires without water pressure in the fire mains, and they began to abandon ship. One sailor, trapped below decks, groped his way to a ladder so overcrowded he could not go up. He then climbed a superheated steam pipe, burning both his hands.

Another climbed 40 feet up electrical wires to a gun plot before jumping overboard. A pilot, Frank Sistrunk, of VC-39, recovering from an appendectomy done only six days earlier, and no swimmer, jumped overboard and managed to make it to a life raft several hundred yards away with the help of his friends and a small piece of floating debris.

Other VC-39 pilots, scheduled for a later flight, had been asleep when the torpedo hit. The explosion trapped some in their bunks temporarily and threw some out of theirs. Like most survivors, they had to crawl through the jumble of wreckage scattered throughout the ship before going over the side. Fifteen VC-39 pilots were later picked up by destroyers. Fourteen others had died in their planes when the aft flight deck disappeared in the fireball caused by the torpedo.

The fate of Admiral Henry Mullinnix is unknown. He was in air plot when the torpedo struck and was apparently injured by the blast. Several men remembered seeing him seated at a desk, head cradled on his folded arms; others recalled seeing him swimming away from the ship after it went down. In any event, he did not survive.

John Crommelin, Admiral Mullinnix’s chief of staff, was stepping out of the shower when Liscome Bay exploded. ‘The violent shaking knocked me off my bare feet,’ he recalled, ‘and I hit the deck. The lights went out but flames lighted the ship’s interior instantly….’

Naked, Crommelin fought his way through burning compartments of the flight deck. ‘I felt like a fool-caught stark naked when even a boot [recruit] knows one should be protected against fire. My fingers looked like boiled wieners popped open.’ He received burns on the right side of his face, legs and arms. Despite this, he took charge of the men in his area and directed the evacuation at that point before jumping overboard himself.

‘I jumped off the flight deck with less than I was born with,’ he later said, ‘on account of the fact I left part of my hide behind.’ Crommelin swam for nearly an hour, supported only by a cork float, before being rescued, still stark naked. In Liscome Bay‘s final moments, the ship’s senior medical officer, Lt. Cmdr. John B. Rowe, displayed what survivors called’splendid’ conduct in his concern for the safety of his patients and in administering to the wounded aboard a rescue ship, despite a leg injury of his own.

Rowe rushed into the operating room to prepare his patients for evacuation. The flight deck was ablaze, and Dr. Rowe made a number of trips back and forth through the sick bay, forming his group for evacuation and picking up first aid gear. Rowe’s group grew to 15 men, including the ships’ damage control officer, Lt. Cmdr. Welles W. ‘Buzz’ Carroll, who refused Rowe’s offer to dress his wounds, and Liscome Bay‘s chaplain, Lt. j.g. Robert H. Carley.

Chaplain Carley, like Beebe, had been in the head when the blast came. Carley picked himself up from the jumble of smashed sinks, toilets and urinals, and staggered out into the passageway. There he joined up with Dr. Rowe and his group.

Carroll and his men attempted to fight the fires they saw flickering through holes in the overhead, but were unable to get any water pressure in the fire main. Giving that up, Carroll and his men groped their way through smoke-filled passages and joined Rowe and Carley’s party.

The group clambered over piles of debris and squeezed through passageways crushed inward like tin cans until they reached the forward elevator well, where a sailor named Hunt was trying to extinguish the blaze with portable CO2 bottles. Seeing that Hunt’s efforts were useless, Carroll told him to get out before he was trapped, but Hunt refused to leave and returned to his firefighting.

The group climbed to the flight deck. To them the scene was Dante’s Inferno brought to life. The fire was roaring so loudly that men had to shout to be heard. Constant explosions of ammunition added to the tumult.

Three men huddled around a 20mm gun made no reply when Carley told them to abandon ship-they were dead. Three other sailors standing numbly nearby ‘woke up’ when they heard Carley’s order and slid down a rope into the water, followed by Carley.

Carroll, although weakening due to blood loss from his injuries, paced up and down the flight deck giving orders and helping men to abandon ship.

Carroll refused to leave the ship until Seaman Hunt (who had come up from below after giving up his firefighting efforts) told him that he would not leave without him. Medical officer Rowe, Carroll and Hunt all went over the side together. Once they were in the water, Hunt swam off to find a raft for the injured Carroll, while Rowe held his head out of the water. Hunt returned with a raft a short time later and asked how the commander was. Rowe looked down at the man he was holding. ‘He’s dead,’ he said and let Carroll’s body slip beneath the water.

Twenty-three minutes after the torpedo hit, Liscome Bay sank stern first, still burning furiously. ‘Looking like a gigantic Fourth of July display,’ said one survivor.

‘I watched her go,’ said aerographer Lyle D. Blakely, ‘and heard her death gurgle. There was no suction, only a loud hissing.’

Liscome Bay went down gracefully,’ said Commander Beebe. ‘Settling by the stern, going down fast, and sliding backwards. Her final farewell was an audible hiss as the white hot metal cooled. The ships’ bow was enveloped by a cloud of steam obliterating our view.’

Liscome Bay was gone, taking with her Admiral Mullinnix, Captain Wiltse, 51 other officers and 591 enlisted men. Only 55 officers and 217 enlisted men, many badly injured with shattered limbs, frightful burns, and severe concussions from the enormous blast, had survived.

They were rescued from the oil-thick water-many clinging to life rafts, bits of wreckage, or floating in kapok life jackets — primarily by the destroyers Morris and Hughes. The destroyers picked up the last few by 0730. Morris and Hughes then transferred them to the transports Neville and Leonard Wood, anchored in Makin lagoon.

Neville and Leonard Wood set out for Pearl Harbor with the Liscome Bay‘s survivors on November 25, arriving December 2, 1943, after an eight-day voyage.

The same day, the Navy Department issued an epitaph of sorts for CE-56: ‘The USS LISSCOME BAY (an escort carrier) was sunk as a result of being torpedoed by a submarine on November 24, 1943, in the Gilbert Islands area. This is the only ship lost in the Gilbert Islands operation.

‘The next of kin of casualties aboard the Liscome Bay will be notified as soon as possible.’

This article was written by William B. Allmon and originally appeared in the July 1992 issue of World War II. For more great articles subscribe to World War II magazine today!

98 Responses to USS Liscome Bay: Hit By a Torpedo Near Makin Atoll During World War II

  1. Lenora Whitbourne says:

    My cousin Joseph Guerino was part of the crew when the Liscone bay was torpedo. I would like to know his rank. He was very young and did not survive the attack Any information re: him or where he may have been on the ship would be appreciated

  2. Deb says:

    Your cousin was an AMM3, Aviation Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class.
    See web page for NAR “State Summary of War Casualties from World War II for Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard Personnel from: New Jersey” page 12

  3. says:

    Lieutenant J.G. Roger Safford from Spokane Wa., a pilot who was my dad’s best friend lost his life on Liscome Bay. I am proud to be named after him, 63 years ago.

  4. G Thompson says:

    My family was under the impression that my Great-Uncle who
    died on the USS Liscome Bay was listed on the Pearl Harbor
    memorial. My husband and I were just at Pearl Harbor last week
    and did not find my uncle’s name listed on any of the memorials.
    Is there a memorial elsewhere that lists those that perished on the
    Liscome Bay? We have a photo showing my uncle’s name listed
    on a memorial wall and assumed it was located in Pearl Harbor
    but now we wonder where this memorial is.

    • Craig Norman Breskin says:

      I am named after my Great Uncle Norman Breskin who died in the attack on the USS Liscome Bay. My father was in Hawaii about fifteen years ago and found a memorial to the USS Liscome Bay in the Punch Bowl memorial. That is the place to start.

      • Linda Wolfe Kelley says:

        I am a relative of Ike Breskin, Norman’s grandfather. Please reply via email! Thanks!
        Linda Wolfe Kelley

      • Linda Wolfe Kelley says:

        Craig, I phoned you two years ago. I am positive now that we are related. Please email me. I have some updates to share. Thank you!! Linda


    Soy un apasionado de las historias de la WWII.- Tengo entendido
    que en el USS Liscome murio Doris Miller, uno de los heroes de
    Pearl Harbor.-

  6. S Bennett says:

    My dad, Elmo B. Blackmon of Louisiana, was a torpedoman. He
    says that his name appeared on the posted list of enlisted men who
    were to board the Liscome Bay. His name was posted on the
    bulletin board with orders to be ready to board . On the appointed
    boarding day, the names of the crew we called as the men
    boarded. He was left alone at the staging area, since his name
    was never called to board. When he asked the man who was
    calling out the names, the man told Dad to go back because they
    already had boarded enough torpedomen. I only recently heard
    this story from Dad. Is there any place where I can find the
    original list of names that might show my dad’s name? If you
    can’t help me, could you point me in the right direction?

  7. Linda Beck says:

    My mom’s brother Rueben Horn was on the Liscome Bay. I would appreciate any information about him He was a very dear brother, held in great regard by all of his family. I only know of him from the memories of my mother and aunts and uncle, but I would love to know more memories to treasure.

  8. Lesha says:

    For Linda Beck-
    Hi Linda – this is your cousin, Lesha (Karen Gardner’s daughter). I do have some pictures and letters from Uncle Reuben to my Grandmother. If you are interested in copies, I would love to send some to you. My email address is

  9. JT Apgar says:

    My uncle was Lt. William (“Bill”) Lewis from NJ. He was lost when the Liscomb Bay was first hit. Someone thought he was on the flight deck and trapped by the falling radar tower and bridge support. Any further information posted here by reporters or suvivors would be much appreciated. Thank you.

  10. t.w. broaddus says:

    looking for info on grandfather who was on liscombe bay.his name was hurley broaddus.

    • Milhaus says:

      According to the American Battle Monuments Commission website:

      Herley C. Broaddus was a Gunners Mate First Class (GM1c) who enlisted from the state of Missouri. His date of death is listed as 25 November 1944, or 1 year and 1 day after the actual sinking of USS LISCOME BAY because this is a presumptive finding of death based in accordance with the Missing Persons Act of 1941(?).

      His rating as a gunners mate offers a clue to where he might have been located onboard before the ship was torpedoed. I say this because the ship was apparently at General Quarters (battle stations), which would have put all hands in a position to fight the ship, or poised to repair battle damage. As a gunners mate he might have been on one of the gun crews for the ship’s defensive anti-aircraft guns, or in an armory compartment issuing weapons and ammunition to others, or possibly assisting the squadrons with arming the airplanes before take-off. (those are just some thoughts on where he might have been – not a definitive list or meant to be the precise answer). I hope that helped…

  11. Linda Bluford says:

    My Uncle Willy Earl Callaway went down with the Liscome Bay, He was only 18. I have a group picture taken onboard when he finished his training, and also some letters that must have been mailed from the ship.

    • Donna Morgan says:

      Hello Linda,
      I was pleased to find your posting on the USS Liscome Bay history web site. I am a member of the Callaway Family Association and we are aware of the huge sacrifice that this family made during WWII. Three sons fought and two were lost in action.
      I publish the monthly email newsletter for the Callaway Family Association and am doing an article on Willy Earl Callaway’s brother, Jack Quentin Callaway. I have mentioned both of his brothers, and I see you have a group photo of Willy Earl. I was wondering if you might be willing to share a copy of that photo with us. Also if you would like to receive our newsletters, please let me know and I will be glad to sign you up. I look forward to hearing from you.

  12. Mike Shelton says:

    My uncle Jack Shelton died on the Lisbon Bay. If anyone has information or pictures I would love to see them.
    thanks Mike

    • aaron kimery says:

      Mike, Jack Shelton was my great uncle
      and my fathers namesake. I have a set of horns from a deer killed
      By him but know nothing else. I would love to know what you
      Have found out about him
      Thank you
      Aaron kimery

  13. Doris Powers Riggs says:

    My great uncle, Bernard Liptrap from Augusta County, Virginia died on the Lisbon Bay. I can remember the sadness of my mother and her family when they received word of the ship being hit.

  14. Jerry M. Graham says:

    My father, Whitney Adam Rodriguez survived the sinking of the Liscome Bay. Anyone know anything about him? He left my mother when I was 3 yrs. old. I’m a Vietnam vet. I would have liked to have known him.

    • Kristina says:

      Hi Jerry,
      I am researching my family tree and it appears Whitney is the brother of my grandpa, Clifford Joseph Rodriguez, son of Ferdinand Joseph Rodriguez and Estelle Martin. If you thing the information looks accurate to you, I would love to get any information you may have acquired on Whitney, his siblings, his parents or grandparents.

      I appreciate you taking the time to read my note. I hope you are finding the answers you are searching for.

      Kristina Rodriguez

  15. Carl Ball says:

    There is a memorial of the Liscombe Bay onboard the USS Yorktown moored at patriiots Point in Mount Pleasant, SC. It list all the names of the men who were lost that day. I took a picture of my grandson, Grayson Roy Ball, standing next to a portion of this memorial. I explained to him that his greatgrandfather had seen the carrier sunk from the deck of the USS New Mexico.

    My dad, Roy Ball and another sailor, Harry Craft, were on the deck of the USS New Mexico that predawn morning. I heard the story many times. It was a routine morning with the bombardment of the island having ended the day before. Dad and Craft had stowed away their hammocks, got dressed, and hit the deck for a smoke before general quarters. As they looked out over the Pacific and the other ships in the task force. the suddeness of the explosion surprised and shocked them. Dad said that they saw the fireball and felt debris from the carrier hit them. They watched as the fires raged and the Liscombe Bay sank.

    In the 1990’s, I took dad for his first visit to a reunion of the USS New Mexico. I finally got to meet some of the men whose pictures I had seen from dad’s collection. Dad and Harry Craft talked about that morning in November some 50+ years before. As they talked, their faces went totally blank and their eyes turned as cold as steel. I had never seen this expression: before or since. It was then I heard for the first time that after daylight they discovered the debris included human flesh, bone fragments, and pieces of teeth. In this moment of recall, these two veterans went back to a morning in the south Pacific that changed their young lives.

    I submit this in memory of my dad, who died in 2001, with the utmost respect for those who gave all that morning, those that survived, and those who witnessed this horrific event.

  16. Michael D. Aden says:

    This account of the sinking of the USS Liscome Bay is the most extensive decription I have ever read. I lost my Uncle Laurent Aden on that boat and my father (his brother) was always understandibly reluctant to talk about it. The loss gravely affected him. I want to personnally thank the staff of this magazine for their contributions.

  17. Charles wm(bill) Greenshield says:

    Bill Greenshield & I were school chums in Sanger,ND,as well as in the little town of Freeland on Whidby Island, Wa. We also went thru bootcamp together in Camp Farragut, ID. He opted to go home on a 30 day leave, that meant he would go directly to sea after returning to duty. And I opted to go West Coast Sound School in San Diego(I had passed the sound school test. He never took the test.) I never saw him after boot camp, and I didn’t know what ever happened to him till I returned home. I helped put the YMS 393(a` wooden hull yard mine sweeper) into commission in San Pedro,CA, and served on her till I returned to Treasure Island after the japanese surrender.
    I,m wondering if any one knew Bill Greenshield, or anything about his work.

  18. florence l.muse says:

    i have done my research on my family and my husbands family. we all knew of our bro.s death way back in 45 but the account of his death was never revielled, i am a sister inlaw to the boy who was killed on the liscome bat. he was a gunner behind the pilot, as you can see im not literate on the plane he flu in. i have wanted to know more of these boys his name was virgil muse i named my second son after virgil and aonther bro johnny who was also killed in belgium. virgil was lost at sea so never came home to rest john is buried in tx. there is an emty grave next to john i am now alone i am 81 the last bro my husband died in2009 h e was the baby. but i decided to take up and retrieve what i can for my family. i have printed out what i can but it comes so tiny print . , i wishes it was larger sincerey florence muse

  19. Penny (Penelope) Nalls Gardner says:

    I have gone through some personal items of my uncle’s and came across a letter from a Lieut. Harold E. Jones addressed to my uncle. In this letter was a LISBAYTOTEMPOLE dated October 16, 1943. Does anyone know if this Lieut., Com Air Pac, communications officer, survived the sinking of the U.S.S. Liscome Bay? There is a picture enclosed and a class graduation picture with the letter. I would like to get in touch with the family of this Lieut. Thank you.

    • Barbara Bedrossian says:

      I am Barbara Bedrossian, niece of Harold E. Jones. Harold died in the sinking. Can you email me the picture

  20. Sandra Partlow Dougherty says:

    My mother’s first husband was on the USS Liscome Bay and was killed that horrible day in November. His name, Jerry Partlow. My mom a few years later married Jerry’s brother, Pat Partlow, my dad. Jerry died not ever seeing his one and only daughter, my half sister, just one month old when her dad died at sea.
    I would love to get any stories or photos of Jerry Partlow, for my family records. I have a few, but would like any that are connected to the USS Liscome Bay. Thank you.

  21. m j joly says:

    Searching for info about Charles Rick Hill. Was aboard the Liscome Bay and did not survive. Have no serial number for him, his son was a baby at the time, and would like any info on his father. Please identify information in RE box. thanks

  22. Kenneth Fink, Jr. says:

    My cousin, Frandk,Sistrunk was a pilot aboard the Licomb Bay.
    He was a survivor due to the fact that he was opeerated two days befor she was sunk and was in sick bay at the time. I was told that a chaplain helped hi to the top deck, and into the water. had nothing on but his
    underaare. He was an”ace” having later gone back to the Pacific where. He stayed in the he was credited with FIVE jap kills.. He remained in
    Navy reserve after the war, but unfortunatly he was recalled and sent to Korea, where he was shot down and killed.

  23. Robert Tienhaara says:

    My Gandpa. Dewey B. Smith was a corpsman in the Liscome. He was a survivor and passed away yesterday (9-31-10) and 12:00 p.m. in Longview WA. It’s hard to fathom loosing my war hero. It’s difficult to think, being a ww2 buff, my hero and inspiration for ww2 history is gone. My hero.

    • Ronald K Roberge says:

      I served with your Grandfather aboard the Whetstone LSD27 from 1957 to 1959. He was like a father figure to me and he was my hero too. I’ve never forgotten him over the years and was conforted in knowing he had a long life and a loving family.

  24. Dale Chitwood says:

    I have just come into the possession of a document, signed by FDR, honoring the death of Robert Augustus Argabright, who was a sailor on board the Liscome Bay when it was lost.
    I would very much like to return this document to a member of the family of Mr. Argabright, or failing that, to send the document to an organization that honors those who served on the Liscome Bay.
    Your suggestions/assistance will be greatly appreciated.

  25. Lori Rcaky says:

    My Uncle Richard Geswein wsa killed on the USS Liscome Bay.

  26. Ann Cravens says:

    Cloyd Cravens, my husband’s uncle was on the Liscomb Bay when it went down. This is the most information I have ever found about the ship. Thank you for some closure.

  27. Clayton Hollister says:

    The Three Hollister brothers were killed in WWII, the oldest was KIA at Anzio on the USS Plunkett. The younger twin brothers were on the Liscome Bay one KIA and one MIA.

  28. Roy Van Riper says:

    My brother, Garrette M. Van Riper, Radioman 3C, 19 years old, was declared MIA on board the USS Liscome Bay. A surviving buddy visited my folks at Suquamish,WA. Sorry I don’t recall his name. He said he saw Garrette run inside a burning hanger to help some shipmates who were calling for help when that whole area exploded. He never saw him again. His friend was covered with burn spots from swimming through burning oil. My sincere thanks to him for his effort to try and ease the pain of our parents. May god bless all who were on board that vessel.

  29. Leigh Skilling says:

    My Dad James CCulver Skilling was aboard the USS Nassau and saw the USS Liscom Bay sink. He said it was amazing how fast she went down. He never forgot that sight.

  30. gerard wolski says:

    I have a dear friend who was there that morning when the liscome bay was sunk.He was on the flight deck of her sister ship the uss corregidor (cve-58).He said you could read a newspaper on the flight deck it was so bright from the fire on liscome bay.he always wondered if it was the av gas that caused her to burn and sink so quickly? he says this because when they left arrived at astoria oregon for final fitting out they found av gas in the liscome bays bilges and had to pump them out and clean them.The same problem happened again when they arrived in san francisco california. he also believe,s it happened again when they reached pearl harbor,each time having to pump the bilges and clean them.after the sinking he was told not to bring the subject up again after the sinking because this would cause bad morale back home if the public heard about it,he was also told that he would be tossed overboard if this subject should be heard again! I for one believe him because he is still very sharp and has a very clear memory.he will be turning 90 this year .

  31. Pat says:

    Of the 644 men lost off the Liscome how many of the crew lost were father and son and brothers?

  32. spencer t. adams says:

    my grandfather was a surviving officer on the uss liscome bay. he died approximately 15 years ago. his name was ret. capt. spencer m. adams. family called him “papa red,” and he may have had the nickname of “red” back then, because of his red hair. any info or name listings of survivors would be incredibly appreciated. thank you.

  33. Malinda Sharp Dobson says:

    I had an Uncle who died aboard the USS Liscombe Bay. His name was Estras S. (Bud) Sharp, Jr. and he was from Oklahoma. I am curious if there are any survivors still living that may have known my uncle. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

  34. Ralph Jellison says:

    My cousin Seibert Jellison was lost that day. He had only been married for one month. He was like a brother to me. He was a radio operator on a torpedo plane.

    • Deborah Milne says:

      My mother, Madge, was married to Seibert. I have quite few photos and other items that were Seibert’s. Please contact me if you are interested in them.
      Debbie Milne

  35. Jana (Ferguson) Pace says:

    My father Edward Walter Ferguson ( Walter Edward) survived the sinking of the Liscome Bay. He said that Thanksgiving always held a special place in his heart because of the timing of the sinking. He said as he floated in the water waiting to be rescued, there were turkey floating all around him.

  36. Ivan Jones says:

    I am nominating GORDON RICHMOND for recognition for his service on the Liscome Bay and POW status in Japan after the sinking. (He was picked up by the very submarine that sank the Liscome) His is a unique story, but I can find no verification. Do you have any information on GORDON RICHMOND?

    • Harvey says:

      Interesting to see this note. I am researching for Gordies obit. I have known Gordie for a number of years and can verify the story. I would like to know how you became aware of his story.
      Thank you, Harvey

  37. Viola Jones says:

    My uncle Herbert Graham was aboard the USS Liscombe he was 19 years old. Most of the men aboard the ship appeared to be extremely very young. My family and I would like to find out more information about him. If anyone can provide me with more information please let me know.

  38. Darrell Jacobson says:

    My uncle Bernard Jacobson died aboard the USS Liscome Bay before I was born. My father suffered the loss of his brother and the guilt of not being able to be home to comfort his mother as he was with Pattons VII
    at the time. I would really like to say thank you, this post contains the most info I have found about that horrible morning. I realize we are running out of time to talk to any survivors, but if there are any out there I would love to hear more. You are not forgotten uncle B.

  39. Clayton A. Hollister says:

    Everyone should check this out. Make sure to scroll down to the comments section as well.

    Look for the book, Twenty-three Minutes to Eternity, by the University of Alabama Press.

  40. Karen says:

    My father was a survivor of the USS Liscome Bay. He would rarely talk about it but I have memorys of someone (perhaps my mother) that the ship my father was on was sunk and many men killed. This article has helped me to understand a lot more of the details of the fate of this ship and crew. I will read the book twenty three minutes to eternity. My father passed away in sept. 1997 of natural causes. I inherited his navy blue uniform and purple cross with a short newspaper article from his home town welcoming him back. In the picture dad was wearing the uniform and the purple cross that I have now. Now that I understand more of what my father lived through the uniform and medal have a new meaning and they will be treated with honor and prouldy handed down to my son and grandsons. thank you

    • Robert Johnson says:


      The same story applies to my dad – William J Johnson, SN at the time, age 16, who survived the sinking and went on to fly as tail gunner in TBM3’s – Avengers. He rarely talked about the War and details. He got stationed at NAS Patuxent River, MD after the war, and was pulled over to the US Air Force up at Andrews AFB and ended up as Crew Chief and (CMS) for President Eisenhower and served in the White House for a spell. He passed on Aug of 1999. He did serve in Korean War with Gen Clark. I am researching his history. To the Greatest Generation ever – I salute you – God Speed….RMCS, USNR B Johnson, retired

  41. Kimberly Quintero says:

    My cousin, Robert Wiechert, was a junior officer on the Liscome Bay and did not survive the sinking. Until I read this article, I didn’t know there were any survivors. We are going to visit the Cemetery of the Pacific in April, where I planned to look for his name on the memorial walls there, which is how I found this article doing research on the Web. If there is someone out there who knew him on the ship, I would love to hear from them. Both of his siblings are dead now but I was very close to them and we have children and grandchildren named after Robert and other members of his family.

  42. augie lombardozzi says:

    Doris Miller who was a Black sailor and was awarded the navy cross at pearl harbor was lost with the liscome bay

  43. Sonia flores says:

    my great uncle was on the uss liscome bay his name is Santos Cervantes please e-mail me if anyone has any information about him. Thank you. We hold yearly vigils for him with his only brother ( who is my grandfather Eaustaquo a.k.a. granpa Taco Cervantes ) in Monterey Ca. every veterans day.

  44. joe trabucco says:

    I was very young when my uncle,Joe Trabucco went down withj the Liscomb Bay. My dad was in the Navy at the same time and was out in the Pacific when he heard about his brother. As with many other families,it was much later that the Navy confirmed his apparent death. Later on,a couple of his shipmates contacted his mom,my grandmother, and told her that they last saw him in the water but everyone was so covered with oil that it was very difficult to really identify anyone for sure. This story and so very many more happened to brave men and women that took pride in serving our country and I honor their sacrifices..

  45. Viola Jones says:

    My father’s youngest brother Herbert Robert Graham a young black 18 years old soldier. I’mtold that he was a cook aboard the Liscombe Bay. We only know that he was listed as MIA. Does anyone have a infomation on him that they will be will to share.

  46. Viola Jones says:

    My father’s youngest brother Herbert Robert Graham a young black 18 years old soldier. I’m told that he was a cook aboard the Liscombe Bay. We only know that he was listed as MIA. Does anyone have any infomation on him that they will be willing to share.

  47. Gerald Braley says:

    I had the pleasure of meeting Maurice Wells a few years ago. I believe he was the last of the VC39 pilots to land on the USS Lexington when they “lost” the USS Lipscomb Bay. Although twenty years my senior he was a great man. That whole story concerning the last flight of VC39 was covered in a “True Comics” summer edition number 44, entitled “Third Escape”. He had a copy of the relavent pages framed, I was able to find him a complete copy. He passed away in February 2012.

  48. augie lombardozzi says:

    I posted concerning Doris Miller who was lost on the Liscombe Bay. I have recieved EM from other poasters and it pleases me that more than I want to keep the memory of these heroes alive.

    • John McKenna says:

      Lt. Harry Taylor was the Communication Officer and a survivor. He told the family he went through a hole in the hull. That he kept his officers cap on while in the water and that the rescue boats thought he was the Admiral.
      My connection with Doris Miller. In 1966 I was on duty as an officer in the Civil Engineer Corp. I was the Public Works Officer at NAS Chase Field, Beeville, TX. The station needed a new enlisted mess building. I was able to dictate the design to the architect. It was a five sided flutter building with narrow floor to ceiling windows. The design got national publicity for the design. the Navy named it, THE DORIS MILLER Dinning Hall. If you google NAS CHASE FIELD, you can see a picture of the building.

  49. Judy (Pfeffer) Shelley says:

    I am looking for any information regarding Leroy Pfeffer. He was my dad’s brother. I was told as a child he was listed lost at sea on 11/24/43 but I have not found any concrete evidence that he was aboard the Liscombe Bay. He died on his birthday.

    Is there anywhere on line that I might acquire a list of the servicemen aboard that shipsd the day it was torpedoed and would anyone know if there were any other naval vessels sunk other than the Liscombe Bay that day.

    Thank you in advance for any help given.

    Judy (Pfeffer) Shelley

  50. Dawn Potaracke says:

    My dear friend’s husband Carl Mittelsteadt was on board the U.S.S. Liscombe Bay. He never made it home. They had only been married 9 months when the ship sank. Elizabeth never re married. Carl was the love of her life. She never received any personal effects. Only two letters from the Navy. The first to declare him missing, and one a year later to declare him dead. I would love to give her some closure. If there is anyone who knew Carl, and could give me any information about him, please contact me.

    Sincerely, Dawn Potaracke

  51. D. Blankenship says:

    My father-in-law is a survivor of Liscombe Bay. He also mentioned floating in the water with turkeys around him. He was a Seebie, although I don’t know if that was after the Liscombe Bay. He has gone to many of the reunions of the ship, but stopped going a few years ago because so many had since passed. He turned 87 this year. I could listen for many hours of the details of his service. This article has been forwarded to my sister-in-law and the next time we have a family gathering, I will ask him to look at some of the names posted here to find out if he knows or remembers them.

  52. David Fickle says:

    July 3rd & July 4th 2012 my family was finally able to visit Pearl Harbor. But my main mission was to visit the “Punch Bowl” to find
    the name of my uncle “Sidney D. Messenger, Jr” on their memorial
    wall. “Bud” as everyone always called him. Bud was a seaman 2nd
    class (raw recruit) who boarded the Liscome Bay when it docked at
    San Diego. Relatively at the same time, Rear Adminal Henry M. Mullinnix boarded to use the Liscome Bay as his flag ship. I was born
    in 1942 and I know that the loss that took place on 24Nov43 changed
    the lives of my grandmother, grandfather & mother. Too make a long story short, I still have my uncle’s picture on my wall, which I am looking at right now. I have lived the Liscome Bay everyday of my
    life. I have read the books, found people around me that saw the
    blast. Received e-mails from people who’s relatives were pilots on
    the bay, and one who lost her brother and lives in the same town I do.
    So, in my 69th year of life I finally made it to the “Punch Bowl”.
    Of all the 1000’s of names on all the walls, (In Alpha Order) we found Bud’s name at one of the corners, remember his last name was “Messenger”; on the opposite side of this corner directly across from Bud’s name was the name Rear Adm Henry M. Mullinnix. I had to cry a little at this point because, just think, after all this time a little known raw recruit and his Rear Adm. both who boarded the Liscome Bay at San Diego are still together today and eternity. Along with all
    whos names are on those walls and will never come home.

  53. Craig Nicewicz says:

    I had the honor of working with Robert E. Keeton, who after surviving his experiences on the USS Liscome Bay went on to be a Partner at Baker Botts in Texas, Professor at Southern Methodist, Harvard Law and served as a U.S. District Judge for several decades. Undoubtedly, one of the greatest men I’ve ever know, personally or professionally. It took me a decade to pry the story of the sinking of the Liscome Bay from him over lunch. If my memory is correct, he was on the bridge at the time of the torpedoing as he was covering a shift for someone who was either ill or overslept, otherwise he would have perished. He was knocked unconcious and if my memory is correct was freed from debris by Capt. Wiltse who later perished. The story for someone like me was of unimaginable terror, bravery, courage and sacrifice. Judge Keeton passed July 1, 2007, but remains in my thoughts daily. He was brilliant, modest, compassionate and full of life. I equate my time with him as working for a tireless worker, who believed in doing the right thing. I don’t believe I know anyone who has been as fortunate to work with someone you think of as a best friend, a grandfather/father figure and mentor. If you knew him or one of his crew you know what I’m saying. If anyone can get their hands on a copy of Baker Botts in WWII his account of the sinking is in there as well as many others service in WWII. God bless them all. Thank you all for your comments.

  54. Thomas Robert Matthews says:

    I was named after my mother’s cousin, Thomas Roberts, who lost his life in the service of our country aboard the USS Liscome Bay. Thomas was the only child of Frank and May Roberts and they never got over the loss of their son. I remember as a child the grief in their eyes every day of their lives. My cousin, Jack Gallagher, and I continue to keep his memory alive. Thomas was recently recognized during the Honor-a-Vet ceremony conducted by the Rensselaer County Veterans’ Office in Troy, NY. We remain proud of his service and all those brave men who made the ultimate sacrifice to keep our nation free. May God bless them all and keep them forever in our thoughts and prayers.

  55. David Miller says:

    I am trying to find any information regarding my uncle, Robert George Leach, Jr., who parished on the Licome Bay. Anyone with information as to where I can find a crew manifest, list of duties or where he he was stationed at the time of the attack who be musch appreciated. God Bless them all!

  56. Elizabeth Anderson says:

    My only uncle, Robert McAlpine Maxwell (Tuscaloosa, Alabama) was among the missing. I never met him, but, thankfully, came to know him because, despite being heartbroken about his loss, my grandparents kept his memory alive in the stories and pictures that they shared with my sister and I while we were growing up. If anyone knew my uncle, I would love to hear from them. Thanks in advance.

  57. Staci Corey says:

    My grandfather, A. Ward, was a chief radio man aboard the USS Liscombe Bay. My grandmother as well as my mother have shared many a great story of him, but I would like to hear from others and survivors if they have any stories they would like to share. Thank you.

  58. Butch dreser says:

    My uncle Francis Curly was a survivor of this terrible tragedy.
    I lost touch with him thru the years. Last I heard when I was a teen, that he lived in grandmother told me he had nightmares throughout his life. Any info on my uncle would be greatly appreciated. I’m a Vietnam vet and I thank you for creating this site and honoring all those who served our great nation.

  59. scott hurley says:

    Dalton m. Teague was my great uncle.he did not survive the sinking.wanting info.on where he was when the torpedo struck and what his rank and duties.thanks

  60. Phyllis Le says:

    The names of the crew are on the wall at ‘The Punch Bowl\ memorial in Honolulu. If you go to the office building on site, you can get information on the location of your relative’s name. My brother-in-law’s name is listed and we visited the memorial.

    The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (locally known as Punchbowl) is a cemetery located in Honolulu, Hawaii that serves a memorial to those men and women who served in the United States Armed Forces. It is administered by the National Cemetery Administration of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Millions of visitors visit the cemetery each year, and it is one of the more popular tourist attractions in Hawaii.

  61. Robert B. Tienhaara says:

    My Grampa, Dewey Smith, was on the Liscomb(e) Bay. He was a Corpsman, the Captains Corpsman. He was in the wheel house when the Liscomb was struck by Japanese sub I-175. He was ordered to abandon ship but wouldn’t leave the Captain, Wiltsie. Finally he was ordered overboard. The Captain told Grampa he had to make it to his quarters (retain documents). Grampa said he never returned from down below. Grampa was ordered to swim to shore, he refused. Grampa swam under several patches of burning oil, saving over a 1/2 dozen injured soldiers and sailors. He could never grow hair on his legs or head because of the burn. The Wildcats were on a mission to aid another carrier North West of Kiribati (Gilberts), two found another carrier after unable to locate the Liscombe, some had to ditch in the sea my Grampa said. Here’s the story of why my Grampa is still alive: He and another Corpsman had to coin toss to see who was going to breakfast 1st. My Grampa lost and had to stay with the Captain, a very short time later, the torpedo struck the Liscombe, the mess hall was right by the ammunition holds.

  62. K."Mike" Critchett says:

    My uncle Arthur Lee Critchett,was on the Liscome Bay CVE56 he also was a Navy Hospital Corpsman .He was also on the USS Dewey DD349.a Pearl Harbor Survivor.He was on the flight deck when the torpedo’s hit,all he remember was awaking up in the water and being helped by another survivor

    • Robert B. Tienhaara says:

      I’ll bet my bottom dollar K. “Mike” Critchett, you’re uncle, and my Grandpa knew one another.

  63. Georgine Smith says:

    My uncle, George Francis Fielding was aboard the Liscomb Bay when it was hit by torpedo–he did not survive. Any information would be appreciated. I was named after him & although this was before I was born, of course, I have always had a connection.

    I do have the original article that was printed in our local paper.

    Thank you.

  64. Kym says:

    \One sailor, trapped below decks, groped his way to a ladder so overcrowded he could not go up. He then climbed a superheated steam pipe, burning both his hands.\

    That sailor was my father, Kenneth Bracken, one of the survivors of the attack. He was also a witness to the attack on Pearl Harbor.

    He died in 2007 at the ripe age of 90. He carried the burn scars of his escape on his hands and shrapnel from the explosions in his body to the day he died.

  65. Dave Turner says:

    My uncle DUANE ERNSTEN was on the Liscome Bay that morning and was one of the survivors. He had a stroke a few years after and so I never had a chance to talk to him about it. I am building a 1/72 scale model of the LISCOME BAY and need any information I can get regarding its details. Does anyone have any photos of the airwing? VC-39 I believe. I have all the models but I want to detail every one of the aircraft correctly as well as the ship. Thanks in advance for any information, photos or details you can provide. I will love building this and keep the memories alive……..

    Dave in Utah

  66. Pete in PA says:

    My Dad’s very good friend, Frank X Daily survived the sinking. Like my Dad, Frank was the paymaster on his vessel. His unpublished memoirs are evidently used quite extensively in the book mentioned in the posts, \Twenty Three Minutes to Eternity\. Mr Daily and his lovely wife Gloria lived in suburban Philadelphia all their lives…both passed within the last 4-5 years. I remember reading his unpublished memoir on the sinking, loaned to our family.. I believe it was called the ‘Forgotten Flattop’ where Mr Daily went into great and lucid detail on the sinking. I remember as a kid growing up Mr Daily being very reluctant to talk about his experiences. If anyone has any memory of our dear friend Mr Daily my email is thanks

  67. Brey Arrasmith says:

    My Great Grandfather was on the USS Liscome Bay and survived! He was in Pearl Harbor for six months after in a coma. I would love to know more information about him. I asked him a lot but he was unsure because of old age. He just recently passed away January 20th 2014 RIP Grandpa

  68. Linda W. Kelley says:

    I do genealogy for fun. Do you want me to look up your great grandfather and family, get military records, etc.?

  69. Debbie K says:

    My uncle, Richard \Dick\ Owens died on the Liscome Bay. He was 18 years old at the time the carrier was sank. From what we knew, he had gone down to the bomb area to run an errand for someone when the torpedo hit, otherwise he would have been on deck and possibly survived. This ship was commissioned on my birthday, April 19.

  70. Peter C says:

    My Uncle Fran McCrone was a survivor of the Liscome Bay tragedy. He was a ships carpenter and lost consciousness after being blown clear from the ship in the initial explosion. He spent eight hours in the water before being rescued. Later he was reassigned to the USS Lexington.

    He was burned badly but recovered and lost part of his hearing, which he struggled with for the remainder of his life. I often wonder whether or not he and the rest of his crew should have received well-deserved Purple Heart medals for their sacrifice. If anyone knows, I’d love to understand this.

    Frannie lived a long and productive life, beloved by all, and a role model to his daughter, grandchild, and numerous nieces and nephews. He taught carpentry to many of us and befriended many, many people in the Cleveland area. He didn’t talk much about his wartime experiences, but I now understand that he obviously was determined to live his life to honor his shipmates.

    I am so proud to be a blood relative to this everyday hero and to be linked to the extraordinary men of the Liscome Bay, God Bless all.

    • Kimberly B says:

      The crew members of the ship who were lost in the sinking did receive Purple Hearts. My cousin was one of them. You can check with the National Archives or the Navy to see if your uncle was awarded one. If he was not, and you can document his injuries as a result of the explosion, you can apply for this honor posthumously. If your understanding of the circumstances is accurate, he would certainly qualify. Best wishes in your quest.

  71. Patricia LeBlanc says:

    My uncle, Etienne (Bill) LeBlanc died on the Liscome Bay, Thanksgiving morning November 24, 1943. My dad, Maurice LeBlanc and mom, Eloise heard the news of Liscome Bay sinking on the radio where they lived in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Uncle Bill had two daughters, Audrey (deceased) & Janelle. I have lost track of Uncle Bill’s grandchildren. Thank you for posting this article. God bless all military & familes.

  72. Karlene says:

    Errol \Jack\ Shelton was born April 17, 1923 – at his parents John Shelton and Bertha \Hazel\ FLEMING Shelton home – Rural Scio, Oregon in Linn County.

    Jack died Nov. 24, 1943 on the Liscome Bay flat top air craft carrier.
    Family was told that he was on deck but had went below when the ship was hit. There is a memorial Stone for Jack at the Bilyeu Den Cemetery Rural Scio, Oregon – Linn County.

    Jack has one sister still living and and will be 85 years of age this Dec.

    She lives in Bend, Oregon – But I do not have her address or phone.
    You can contact me via email:
    Phone 503-749-2585. I will try and get Colleen’s phone etc.

    Jack’s brother was Haman and he married my Aunt. I knew your father, mother and the whole Shelton clan.
    Karlene in Oregon

  73. Russell Bakken says:

    My father Conrad (Connie) Bakken was a survivor of the Liscome Bay. He received a purple heart. I understand that the explosion blew him off the ship. He never talked in length about the experience but occasionally would mention some detail about the time in the water. He was actually not comfortable with the water and never learned to swim. Only after he read a story about the ship written by one of the surviving officers did he talk about it. That story helped bring those demons out into the open and was very helpful to him.

  74. […] 1943: The USS Liscome Bay is torpedoed near Tarawa and sinks, killing 650 men […]

  75. […] 1943: The USS Liscome Bay is torpedoed near Tarawa and sinks, killing 650 men […]

  76. […] 1943: The USS Liscome Bay is torpedoed near Tarawa and sinks, killing 650 men […]

  77. Tom Staniszewski says:

    Would any of the survivors or relatives be willing to offer some information on the meals served aboard ship? I am researching for a book on the meals served in the service and would love to recognize the sailors and Marines of this gallant ship (including Doris Miller) regarding any of the meals served on board. I did read that the Thanksgiving turkey dinner was being prepared at the time of the sinking. Thanks and may God bless those who served and those who gave all in that service.

  78. Penny says:

    Was Walter Krebs on the Liscome Bay?

  79. Robert B. Tienhaara says:

    Ronald. This is my Son’s computer. You replied nearly 4 years ago, and this never came up on my personal computer. I would love to talk to you if that is o.k.. I apologize for such an incredible delayed response. Not privy to computers and this means a lot to me. -Robby.

  80. Stella Tridente McCready says:

    My brother, Samuel John Tridente, was 18 yrs old on Nov. 24, 1943 when he went down with his ship the USS Liscome Bay. I was only 8 yrs old at the time and remember very little prior to that day but remember almost all that happened afterward. I was with my mother when she accidentally heard the announcement of the sinking on the radio. She lost it and collapsed amid shrieks and tears. It was days before a telegram came from government and then more days of misinformation and confusion. The next 50+ years … Sammy was thought of or mentioned at least once each day. My Mom used to say \I waved goodbye to my 18 year old son … and nothing came back.\ So, for her and my Dad it was always and open wound and in our home Sammy was always 18. Now, my Mom and Dad are gone and I find I still feel a strong connection to them and my brother … I miss them all. So gathering all this information is very therapeutic as well as interesting.

    For you diehard family historians there are about 30 second of film showing the Liscome Bay being hit. The video series is called \War Chronicles\ a seven-video (VCR only) collection and the Liscome Bay sighting is on Video 6, about 15 minutes in.

    Also, a wonderful article in \World War II\ Magazine, July, 1992 issue.

  81. Scott Hurley says:

    Wanting information on my uncle Dalton M. Teague at time of sinking

  82. Robby Tienhaara says:

    Here’s what happened to Rear Adm. Henry Maston Mullinnix from what I can gather and remember. Rear Adm. Henry Maston Mullinnix was in the wheel house that morning. My Grandpa Dewy B. Smith was the Corpsman assigned to him that morning, (Admirals had personal Corpsmen present with them) by chance. It was early morning and Grandpa and another Corpsman were both hungry. They decided to flip to see who went to breakfast first, my Grampa lost the coin toss and had to stay with the Admiral. The torpedo struck and the Admiral worked his way below deck, Dewy Smith in tow, not leaving his side by order. Adm. Mullinnix order Smith to stay at the top of the stairs while he went below to his quarters. Grandpa waited. An Officer came by the railing and ordered Dewy overboard, Grandpa said he had orders to wait and stay by the Admiral. Another officer, then another came by, both telling Dewy B. Smith to get overboard, Grandpa refused. Finally another officer said for Grandpa to get overboard, the flames were increasing and Dewy tried to explain he was waiting for the Admiral, the officer said he wasn’t coming back up (had caught fire in the location Mullinix was going). So the officer said to get overboard and swim to shore immediately. My Grampa disobeyed that order also. He had to swim under burning oil to save 3 people, got them to full life rafts, and then swam to shore with the rafts (Grampa suffered burns from the burning oil he swam under to get to the men crying out for help). He was returned to Hawaii, then Oakland via Leonard Wood,

    • Scott A. Sumner says:

      Great story of you’re grandpa’s service. I’m sure he never thought of himself as a hero, but he was. My interest in the Liscombe Bay is not personal. I’m just a history nut who has researched a person for a TV show whose brother died on the ship. Delbert More, brother of Alton More from the Band of Brothers HBO mini series

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