USS Thetis Bay was commissioned on April 21, 1944 as a Casablanca-class aircraft carrier. Brief shakedown training took place in San Diego, followed by a trip to San Pedro to load passengers and planes bound for various destinations in the Pacific. She arrived at Pearl Harbor on June 11, 1944 and then continued on to Kwajalein via Makin and Majuro.
She picked up the 50th Engineer Battalion of the Army and took them to Pearl Harbor, picking up aircraft that needed repair. She headed back to Alameda with aircraft in tow, and then proceeded to Terminal Island for a three-week yard stint. The ship made many more trips from California to various Pacific bases before the war was over.
After a stint as a Magic Carpet carrier, responsible for bringing home veterans, the ship was placed in reserve at Bremerton in 1946. In May of 1955, Thetis Bay began modifications to become the first assault helicopter carrier. In July, she was reclassified as CVHA-1 and was recommissioned a year later.
The carrier was sent to Long Beach in September, and was used for training exercises. She helped with the 1959 Taiwan floods, and was transferred to the Atlantic Fleet in 1961. She was involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis, helped with the Haiti hurricane relief in 1963, and was decommissioned and sold for scrap in 1964.
USS THETIS BAY (CVE-90)
Thetis Bay (CVE-90) was laid down under Maritime Commission contract (MC hull 1127)
on 22 December 1943 at Vancouver, Wash., by the Kaiser Shipbuilding Co.; launched on 16 March
1944; sponsored by Mrs. Ricco Botta; and commissioned on 21 April 1944, Capt. Donald E. Wilcox in
Thetis Bay got underway for San Diego where she conducted brief shakedown training. On 2 June, she moved to San Pedro to load
planes and passengers for Pacific bases. The new escort carrier stood out to sea on 5 June; called at Pearl
Harbor on the llth; and continued on, via Makin and Majuro, to Kwajalein. There,
she embarked the Army's 50th Engineer Battalion which she offloaded at Pearl Harbor on 5
days later, the carrier got underway for Alameda with 41 aircraft that needed
repairs. She arrived on 13 July and, after offloading the aircraft, proceeded to Terminal Island for a
three-week yard period. Between 11 August and 13 September, the escort carrier
delivered spare parts, replacement aircraft, and pesonnel to Hawaii and the Marshalls.
From September 1944 through mid-April 1945, Thetis Bay made five round-trip voyages from
California ports to bases in the Pacific ranging from Pearl Harbor to Finschhaven, New Guinea
On 12 June 1945, Thetis
Bay arrived at Pearl Harbor from San Diego with a load of aircraft.
There, the aircraft were readied for combat
within 72 hours; and the ship got underway for Guam. She arrived at Apra
Harbor on 25 June and was assigned to Task
Group 30.8 for duty as a replenishment
carrier. Thetis Bay made her first rendezvous with Task Force 38 on 12 July when she transferred 40 planes to various
carriers. She returned to Guam on 22
July and remained there until 24 July
to load more aircraft before joining the fast carriers again on the 31st. The
ship reloaded at Guam once more and
resupplied the task force from 14 August to 8 September when she
returned to Apra Harbor en route to the
Thetis Bay arrived at Alameda on 7 September 1945 and was assigned to "Margie-Carpet"
duty, returning veterans from overseas bases to the United States. She served in this capacity until January 1946 when
she began inactivation. The ship was
placed out of commission, in reserve,
at Bremerton, Wash., on 7 August 1946.
In May 1955, Thetis
Bay was towed to the San Francisco
Naval Shipyard where she began conversion to the Navy's first assault helicopter aircraft carrier. On 1 July 1955, her designation was changed from
CVE-90 to CVHA-1. With that change,
she became a complement to the attack
transport. Her helicopters supplemented
landing craft to give the Navy and Marine Corps the flexibility of a vertical assault capability. She was recommissioned on 20 July 1956, Capt.
Thomas W. South, II, in command, and completed conversion six weeks later on 1 September.
The carrier arrived at
her new home port, Long Beach, on 20
September. There, helicopter teams from Marine Corps Test Unit No. 1, Camp
Pendleton, demonstrated landing and take-off techniques. Thetis Bay participated
in amphibious training exercises off the California
coast before deploying to the Far East on 10 July 1957. She returned to
Long Beach on 11 December 1957 and resumed
local operations. On 28 May 1959,
her designation was changed to LPH-6, amphibious assault ship.
In August 1959, Thetis
Bay was serving with the 7th Fleet when floods on Taiwan left thousands
homeless. On the 12th, she was
ordered to proceed from Hong Kong to Taiwan and use her 21 large
troop-carrying helicopters to aid the flood
victims. By the end of the assistance operation, at noon of the 20th,
the ship had delivered a total of 1,600,540
pounds of supplies to the destitute Chinese. In addition, her
helicopters had lifted 850 passengers to
and from various sites in the flooded area.
In May 1960, Thetis Bay
participated in a practice night
assault landing at Camp Pendleton during which her helicopters carried 1,300 troops and 33 tons of cargo to the objective area. This was the first
large-scale night landing of ground forces by carrier-based helicopters.
Thetis Bay deployed to the western Pacific in the spring of 1961. After the assault ship returned to
Long Beach, she was transferred to the Atlantic Fleet. She arrived at Norfolk, her new home port, in early
During the next three
years, the ship operated along the
Atlantic coast and in the Caribbean. The highlight of her service with
the Atlantic Fleet came during the Cuban
missile crisis in October 1962 when she proceeded to the quarantine area with her embarked marine landing
team and helicopter squadron ready for action.
Fortunately, the resolute response of the United States to the challenge of
offensive Soviet missiles in Cuba convinced the Soviet leaders that
America would go to war rather than tolerate
this threat to the Western Hemisphere.
Rather than face a nuclear war, Russia withdrew its missiles, resolving
the crisis. Another memorable event in her
service occurred in September 1963
when Thetis Bay proceeded to hurricane-stricken Haiti. She anchored off Port-au-Prince and launched Marine helicopters carrying medical aid
and food supplies to thousands of
victims of Hurricane "Flora."
Thetis Bay stood out of Norfolk on 5 January 1964 en route to
Philadelphia for inactivation and arrived there the next day. She was decommissioned and struck from the Navy
list on 1 March 1964. Her hulk was sold in
December 1964 to Peck Iron & Metal Co., Inc., Portsmouth, Va., for scrap.
Thetis Bay received one battle star for World War II service.
[Note: The above USS THETIS BAY (CVE-90) history may, or may not, contain text provided by crew members of the USS THETIS BAY (CVE-90), or by other non-crew members, and text from the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships]