Chenango AO-31



(AO-31: dp. 11,400; 1. 553'; b. 76'; ew. 114'3"; dr. 32';
s. 18 k.; cpl. 1,080; a. 2 6"; cl. Sangamon)

The second Chenango (CVE-28) was launched 1 April 1939 as Esso New Orleans by Sun Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., Chester, Pa.; sponsored by Mrs. Rathbone;acquired by the Navy 31 May 1941; and commissioned 20 June 1941 as AO-31, Commander W. H. Mays in command.

Assigned to the Naval Transportation Service, Chenango steamed in the Atlantic, the Caribbean and the Pacific as far as Honolulu on tanker duty. Chenango was present at Aruba, N.W.I., 16 February 1942 when a German submarine shelled one of the island's refineries. She was decommissioned at New York 16 March 1942 for conversion to an escort carrier.

Her conversion complete, she was recommissioned as ACV-28, 19 September 1942. Carrying Army aircraft, Chenango sailed 23 October with the assault force bound for North Africa and on 10 November, flew off her aircraft to newly won Port Lysutey, French Morocco. She put to Casablanca 13 November to refuel 21 destroyers before returning to Norfolk 30 November 1942, battling through a hurricane en route which caused extensive damage.

Quickly repaired, Chenango was underway for the Pacific by mid-December 1942. Arriving at Noumea 18 January 1943 she joined the escort carrier group providing air cover for supply convoys supporting the invasion and occupation of the Solomons. One of her air groups was sent to Henderson Field, Guadalcanal, to give close support to Marines ashore. One of Chenango's duties during this period was to stand sentry off the fiercely contested island. As part of her Solomons operations, Chenango's planes formed an air umbrella to escort to safety St. Louis (C~49) and Honolulu (CL-48) after the cruisers were damaged in the Battle of Kolombangara on 13 July 1943. Redesignated CVE-28 on 15 July 1943, Chenango returned to Mare Island 18 August 1943 for an overhaul then acted as training carrier for new air groups until 19 October when she steamed from San Diego to join the Gilbert Islands invasion force at Espiritu Santo 5 November. During the invasion of Tarawa (20 November-8 December), her planes covered the advance of the attack force, bombed and staffed beaches ahead of the invading troops, and protected off-shore convoys. She returned to San Diego for another period of training duty.

Steaming from San Diego 13 January 1944, Chenango supported the invasion landings on Roi, Kwajalein and Eniwetok in the Marshalls operation. After protecting the service group refueling fleet units engaged in the Palau strikes, Chenango arrived at Espiritu Santo 7 April. She sortied for the landings at Aitape and Hollandia (16 April-12 May), then joined TG 53.7 for the invasion of the Marianas. Her planes crippled airfleld installations, sank enemy shipping, and hammered harbor facilities on Pagan Island, as well as conducting valuable photographic reconnaissance on Guam. From 8 July, she joined in daily poundings of Guam, preparing for the island's invasion. She returned to Manus 13 August to replenish and conduct training.

From 10 to 29 September 1944 Chenango joined in the neutralization of enemy airfields in the Halmaheras in support of the invasion of Morotai, stepping-stone to the Philippines. After preparations at Manus, Chenango cleared 12 October to conduct softening up strikes on Leyte in preparation for the invasion landings 20 October. Chenango and her sister ship Sangamon (26TH) were attacked by three Japanese planes on the afternoon of D-day and splashed them all, capturing one of the pilots. Shilling to Morotai to fond new aircraft, Chenango was not in action waters during the Battle for Leyte Gulf, but returned 28 October to provide replacement aircraft to her victorious sister escort carriers, who had held the Japanese fleet off from Leyte Next day she sailed for overhaul at Seattle until 9 February 1945.

Arriving at Tulagi in the Solomons 4 March 1946, Chenango conducted training, then sortied from Ulithi 27 March for the invasion of Okinawa. She gave air cover in the feint landings on the southern tip of the island, then was assigned to neutralize the kamikaze chases in Sakashima Gunto. On 9 April a crash-landing fighter started a raging fire among the strike-loaded aircraft on Chenango's deck. Skillful work by her crew saved the ship from serious damage and she remained in action off Okinawa until 11 June. After escorting a tanker convoy to San Pedro Bay, Chenango sailed 26 July to join the logistics force for the 3d Fleet, then engaged in the final offensive against Japan. Following the cease-fire, Chenango supported the occupation forces and evacuated some 1,900 Allied prisoners of war and 1,500 civilians from slave labor camps. She cleared Tokyo Bay 25 October and after a brief overhaul at San Diego, returned to "Magic Carpet" duty, transporting veterans from Okinawa and Pearl Harbor to the west coast. Chenango sailed from San Pedro, Calif., 6 February for Boston, and was placed out of commission in reserve there 14 August 1946. She was reclassified CVHE-28, 12 June 1955, stricken from the Navy List 1 March 1969, sold, and removed from naval custody 12 February 1960.

Chenango was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation and received 11 battle stars for World War II service.