Kalinin Bay, originally designated an AVG, was classified ACV-68 on 20 August 1942; laid down under a Maritime Commission contract 26 April 1943 by the Kaiser Shipbuilding Co., Inc., Vancouver, Wash; reclassified CVE-68 on 15 July 1943; launched 15 October 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Anna Mary Updegraff; and commissioned 27 November at Astoria, Oregon, Captain C.R. Brown in command. After shakedown along the Pacific Coast, Kalinin Bay departed San Diego 3 January 1944 for replenishment duty in the Pacific. Laden with troops and a cargo of planes, she steamed via Pearl Harbor for the Gilbert Islands, arriving off Tarawa Atoll 24 January to supply 5th Fleet carriers then engaged in the conquest of the Marshalls. For more than 2 weeks she provided logistic support from Tarawa to Majuro Atoll before returning to Alameda, Calif., 24 February.
With Composite Squadron 3 embarked 9 April, Kalinin Bay reached Majuro, Marshalls, 23 April; conducted ASW air patrols off Mili Atoll; and proceeded to Pearl Harbor 1 May to prepare for the Marianas operation. She departed Pearl Harbor 30 May; and while en route to Saipan, she successfully evaded a Japanese torpedo that crossed her bow close aboard. Touching at Eniwetok 9 June, Kalinin Bay reached the eastern coast of Saipan 15 June, and commenced air operations in support of the invasion. After repelling an enemy air attack at dusk on the 17th, she sailed 19 June to ferry planes to and from Eniwetok. Returning to Saipan 24 June, she resumed effective air strikes against enemy positions on the embattled island until 9 July when she steamed via Eniwetok for similar duty at Guam. Arriving 20 July, she launched direct support and ASW sorties until 2 August, then returned to Eniwetok to prepare for operations in the Palau Islands.
Kalinin Bay cleared Eniwetok 18 August and proceeded via Tulagi, Florida Island, to the Southern Palaus where she arrived 14 September with units of the 3rd Fleet. Ordered to furnish air support for the capture, occupation, and defense of Peleliu, Angaur, and Ngesebus, she 1aunched air strikes to support landing operations. For 2 weeks her planes, flying almost 400 sorties, inflicted heavy damage on enemy ground installations and shipping. On 25 September, alone, they sank or destroyed three cargo transports and six landing barges. She departed the Palaus 30 September; and upon arriving Seeadler Harbor, Manus Island, 8 October, she received a new commanding officer, Captain T.B. Williamson. Kalinin Bay departed Manus 12 October en route to the Philippine Islands. Ordered to provide air coverage and close air support during the bombardment and amphibious landings on Leyte Island, she arrived off Leyte 17 October. After furnishing air support during landings by Ranger units on Dinagat and Homonhon Islands in the eastern approaches to Leyte Gulf, she launched air strikes in support of invasion operations at Tacloban on the northeast coast of Leyte. Operating with Rear Admiral C.A.F. Sprague's "Taffy 3" (TU-77.4.8), which consisted of 6 escort carriers and a screen of 3 destroyers and 4 destroyer escorts, Kalinin Bay sailed to the east of Leyte and Samar as her planes, flying 244 sorties from 18 to 24 October, struck and destroyed enemy installations and airfields on Leyte, Samar, Cebu, Negros, and Panay Islands.Steaming about 60 miles east of Samar before dawn 25 October, "Taffy 3" prepared to launch the day's initial air strikes. At 0647 Rear Admiral Sprague received word that a sizable Japanese fleet was approaching from the northwest. Comprised of 4 battleships, 8 cruisers, and 12 destroyers, Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita's Center Force steadily closed and at 0658 opened fire on "Taffy 3."
So began the Battle of Samar - one of the most memorable engagements in U.S. Naval history. Outnumbered and outgunned, the slower "Taffy 3" seamed fated for disaster; but American ships defied the odds and gamely accepted the enemy's challenge. Kalinin Bay accelerated to flank speed; and, despite fire from three enemy cruisers, she launched her planes, ordering the pilots "to attack the Japanese task force and proceed to Tacloban airstrip, Leyte, to rearm and re-gas." As salvos fell "with disconcerting rapidity" increasingly nearer Kalinin Bay, her planes, striking the enemy force with bombs, rockets, and gunfire, inflicted heavy damage on the closing ships.
As the trailing ship in the escort carrier van, Kalinin Bay cam under intense enemy fire. Though partially protected by chemical smoke, by a timely rain squall, and by valiant counterattacks of screening destroyers and destroyer escorts, she took the first of 15 direct hits at 0750. Fired from an enemy battleship, the large' caliber shell (14-inch or 16-inch) struck the starboard side of the hanger deck just abaft the forward elevator. By 0800 the enemy cruisers, which were steaming off her port quarter, closed to within 18,000 yards. Kalinin Bay gamely responded to their straddling salvos with rapid fire from her single 5-inch gun, which only intensified the enemy fire. Three 8-inch, armor-piercing projectiles struck her within minutes of each other. At 0825 the spirited carrier's barking 5-inch scored a direct hit from 16,000 yards on the No. 2 turret of a Nachi-class heavy cruiser, and a second hit shortly thereafter forced the enemy ship to withdraw temporarily from formation.
At. 0880 five enemy destroyers steamed over the horizon off her starboard quarter. The closing ships opened fire from about 14,500 yards; and as screening ships engaged the cruisers and laid down concealing smoke, Kalinin Bay shifted her fire and for the next hour traded shots with the guns of Japan's Destroyer Squadron 10. Many salvos exploded close aboard or passed directly overhead; and, though no destroyer fire hit Kalinin Bay directly, she took ten more 8-inch hits from the now obscured cruisers. One shell passed through the flight deck and into the communications area, where it destroyed all radar and radio equipment.
Under heavy attack from the air and harassed by incessant fire from American destroyers and destroyer escorts, the enemy cruisers broke off action and turned northward at 0920. At 0915 the enemy destroyers, which were kept at bay by the daring and almost single-handed exploits of Johnston (DD-557), launched a premature torpedo attack from 10,500 yards. As the torpedoes approached the escort carriers, they slowed down. An Avenger torpedo-bomber from doomed St. Lo (CVE-63) strafed and exploded two torpedoes in Kalinin Bay's wake about 100 yards astern, and a shell from the latter's 5-inch gun deflected a third from a collision course with her stern. At about 0930, as the enemy ships fired parting salvos and reversed course northward, Kalinin Bay scored a direct hit amidships on a retreating destroyer. Five minutes later she ceased fire and retired southward with the surviving ships of "Taffy 3." At 1050 the task unit came under concentrated air attack; and, during the 40-minute battle with enemy suicide planes, all escort carriers but Fanshaw Bay (CVE-70) were damaged. One plane crashed through St. Lo's flight deck and exploded her torpedo and bomb magazine, mortally wounding the gallant carrier. Four diving planes attacked Kalinin Bay from astern and the starboard quarter. Intense fire splashed two close aboard; but a third plane crashed into the port side of the flight deck, damaging it badly. The fourth hit destroyed the aft port stack.
As one of the fearless ships of "Taffy 3," Kalinin Bay had prevented a Japanese penetration into Leyte Gulf and saved General MacArthur's beachhead in the Philippines. At a cost of five gallant ships and hundreds of brave men "Taffy 3," aided by her own planes and those of "Taffy 2," sank three enemy cruisers, seriously damaged several other ships, and turned, back the "most powerful surface fleet which Japan had sent to sea since the Battle of Midway." Domination of the skies, superior seamanship, and prudent, timely maneuvers helped to nullify the over—whelming odds. In the highest tradition of naval service, the finest qualities of the American sailor became commonplace during the heroic fight. Devotion to duty, during courage, uncommon bravery, and an indomitable spirit were part and parcel of this victory.
Despite the battle damage, "Taffy 3" cleared the air of attacking planes; and at noon the escort carriers retired southeastward while their escort searched for survivors from St. Lo. Though Kalinin Bay suffered extensive structural damage during the morning's furious action, she counted only 5 dead among her 60 casualties. Weary and battle scarred, Kalinin Bay was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for heroic conduct as a unit of "Taffy 3". She steamed via Woendi, Schouten Islands, to Manus, arriving 1 November for emergency repairs. Getting under way for the United States 7 November, the escort carrier reached San Diego 27 November for permanent repairs and alterations.
Repairs completed 18 January 1945, the veteran escort carrier departed San Diego 20 January to ferry planes and men to Pearl Harbor and Guam. For more than 8 months she served as a replenishment carrier in the Pacific Carrier Transport Squadron; and, during six cruises between the West Coast and Pearl Harbor, Eniwetok, and Guam, she transported more than 600 planes. Departing San Diego 2 September, she steamed to the Philippines, arriving Samar 28 September for "Magic-Carpet" duty. With 1,048 men embarked, she departed Samar 1 October and arrived San Francisco 19 October.
After conducting two more voyages between California and Pearl Harbor, Kalinin Bay departed San Diego 8 December for the Far East. On 25 December while she steamed to Yokosuka, Japan, an intense storm heavily damaged her flight deck. Arriving the 27th, she received emergency repairs, then sailed 3 January 1946 for the West Coast and arrived San Diego 17 January. On 13 February she proceeded to the eastern seaboard, reaching Boston 9 March, Kalinin Bay decommissioned 15 May, and she was sold for scrapping 8 December to Patapaco Steel Co., Baltimore, Md. In addition to the Presidential Unit Citation, Kalinin Bay received five battle stars for World War II service.
Prepared by Jim Cawley 457th