USS Savo Island (CVE-78)
Originally named USS Kaita Bay (AVG-78), the USS Savo Island was a 7,800-ton Casablanca-class escort carrier that, under the Maritime Commission contract, was laid down for the Navy in Vancouver, Washington in September 1943. The USS Savo Island is named for an important battle between the Japanese and Allied forces that occurred early on in WWII, in August 1942. First launched in December 1943, the USS Savo Island was ordered to operate under the command of Captain C. E. Eckstrom in February 1944.
While her initial missions involved performing shakedowns, ferrying equipment and undergoing training exercises, the USS Savo Island's first combat-related mission, which was assigned in September 1944, involved supporting air strikes and raids in Palaus. Subsequently, she joined the 7th Fleet and headed for Leyte, where these vessels supported a successful invasion.
By late October 1944, the USS Savo Island was participating in a seminal battle against the Japanese, the battle of Samar. With other aircraft carriers, the USS Savo Island launched aggressive airstrikes and, after enduring fierce attacks, successfully forced the Japanese to retreat. The battle of Samar, “Taffy 3,” is a crucial turning point for Allied forces, as the Japanese were never able to fully recover from such a devastating defeat.
After serving a few patrol and escort missions, the USS Savo Island was commissioned to bolster the bombardment of Mindanao (and, subsequently, of Lingayen Gulf) by conducting air strikes in support of ground troops. Following the Lingayen Gulf battle, the USS Savo Island endured a kamikaze attack, which happened to only graze the vessel. Surviving this attack, the USS Savo Island performed a minor defense mission and then underwent repairs and training exercises at Ulithi.
Reinvigorated, the USS Savo Island was ordered to support invasions in Kerama Retto and, when successfully complete, in Okinawa. By the end of April 1945, the USS Savo Island had prevailed in its Okinawa duties and steamed home to San Diego to perform a ferrying mission that would land her in the Aleutians on the day the Japanese surrendered.
Like other escort carriers of the time, in the months following the Japanese surrender, the USS Savo Island participated in the “Magic Carpet” operation that brought battle-worn U.S. troops home. After three voyages of bringing soldiers home, the Navy decommissioned the USS Savo Island and ordered her to join the Atlantic Reserve Fleet in Boston in December 1946. After receiving two reclassifications (to CVHE-78 in 1955, and to AKV-78 in 1959), the USS Savo Island was struck from the Naval Register in September 1959 and sold to a company in Hong Kong for scrap in June 1960.
In addition to receiving a Presidential Unit Citation, the USS Savo Island was also awarded four battle stars for her dedicated, courageous service in WWII.