The Bataan Campaign, though unsuccessful for the Fil-Am defenders by April, 1942, was an inspiring example to the citizens of the Philippines and the United States. “Remember Bataan!” became a rallying cry during world War II, and the name Bataan was often invoked in a myriad of ways to commemorate the sacrifice, and focus the energy of the nations as they strove to repel the Imperial Japanese invaders.
The United States Navy chose to name one of its aircraft carriers Bataan to remember the fighting spirit of the Fil-Am defenders. A fighting lady, the warship United States Ship Bataan, CVL-29, was an Independence-class light aircraft carrier (CVL), converted from the hull of the USS Buffalo, CL-99, a Cleveland-class light cruiser planned for construction. The United States built nine of these light carriers converted from light cruisers in order to speedily bolster the carrier fleet. The Office of Naval Intelligence data sheet for the Independence-class provides a ready summary of characteristics:
As for the particulars on USS Bataan, from the USS Bataan Association website, comes this explanation of the name of the ship:
USS BATAAN CVL-29 THE UNITED STATES SHIP BATAAN WAS NAMED IN HONOR OF THAT GALLANT GROUP OF AMERICAN AND FILIPINO FIGHTING MEN WHO DEFENDED THE PENINSULA OF BATAAN. IN THE EARLY DAYS OF THE WAR, THESE MEN PUT UP ONE OF THE MOST MAGNIFICENT BATTLES IN THE WHOLE HISTORY OF HUMAN WARFARE. DEPRIVED OF AIR SUPPORT, FACED BY VAST SUPERIOR NUMBERS, SHORT OF AMMUNITION, SUPPLIES AND FOOD, THESE BRAVE MEN FOUGHT A BITTER STRUGGLE AGAINST INSURMOUNTABLE ODDS, BUT, A STRUGGLE THAT PROVED THE FIGHTING METTLE OF FILIPINO AND AMERICAN ALIKE. BATAAN FELL, BUT THE SPIRIT THAT MADE IT STAND FOR MONTHS AGAINST THOSE OVERWHELMING ODDS — A BEACON TO ALL THE LIBERTY LOVING PEOPLES OF THE WORLD — THAT SPIRIT, INVINCIBLE, THE SPIRIT OF BATAAN, CAN NEVER FALL. IT IS TO THE MEMORY OF THE BRAVE HEROES WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES AT BATAAN THAT THE ACTIVITIES OF THE USS BATAAN, IN OUR ENDEAVOR TO ASSIST IN MAKING THIS WORLD A BETTER PLACE IN WHICH TO LIVE, ARE DEDICATED.
On Sunday, 1 August 1943, Bataan was christened and launched at the New York Shipbuilding Corporation in Camden, New Jersey. Miss Maria Osmeña, daughter of Philippine Commonwealth Vice President Sergio Osmeña, served as the Maid of Honor in the ceremony.
Aboard the new vessel were two plaques giving moral support to the ship’s name and her purpose. One carried remarks by Manuel Quezon, President of the Philippine Commonwealth, and the other from Navy Secretary Frank Knox.
The remarks by President Quezon on the plaque were as follows:
The remarks by Navy Secretary Knox were as follows:
Bataan joined the fleet on 17 November 1943, the month the US landed at Tarawa and Makin in the Gilbert Islands as the American juggernaut gathered steam in its return across the Pacific. She was commissioned into service on that day at Pier #2 at the Philadelphia Navy yard. The ship’s first commanding officer, Captain Valentine H. Schaeffer, USN, made the following remarks:
“THE UNITED STATES SHIP BATAAN IS NOW IN COMMISSION. THE DESIGNERS, SHIPBUILDERS, AND WORKERS HAVE DONE THEIR JOB. OUR WORK IS NOW CUT OUT FOR US: PLENTY OF IT. I CAN PROMISE YOU DRILLS AND MORE DRILLS, AND THEN SOME DRILLS, INTENSIVE TRAINING ACTIVITY TO UTILIZE TO THE UTMOST THE LIMITED TIME THAT IS AVAILABLE.
“A LARGE PERCENTAGE OF HIS SHIP’S COMPANY ARE INEXPERIENCED. FOR MANY OF YOU, THIS IS YOUR FIRST TOUR OF DUTY ABOARD A FIGHTING SHIP. HOWEVER, WE ALSO HAVE ON BOARD A NUMBER OF OFFICERS AND ENLISTED MEN WHO ARE SEASONED VETERANS OF MANY OF THE MAJOR BATTLES OF THIS WAR.
“WE HAVE BEEN GIVEN A NAME WHICH HAS AS MEANING TO IT — BATAAN. THE USS BATAAN COMMEMORATES A CAMPAIGN THAT HAS BECOME A SYMBOL OF THE FORTITUDE AND ENDURANCE OF FREE MEN IN THE FACE OF OVERWHELMING ODDS. IT HAS A RENDEZVOUS WITH DESTINY THAT SHALL NOT BE DENIED.
“FROM THE SOUTHWEST PACIFIC COMES THE FOLLOWING MESSAGE FROM GENERAL MAC ARTHUR; ‘I FEEL THAT IF GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY, THE USS BATAAN WILL ADD FRESH LAURELS TO THAT HALLOWED NAME’.
“I UNDERSTAND THAT MAC ARTHUR’S HEADQUARTERS IN AUSTRALIA STILL ANSWER ALL PHONE CALLS WITH THE WORDS ‘BATAAN SPEAKING.’
“BEFORE LONG THIS SHIP GOES INTO ACTION, THE WORLD AGAIN WILL KNOW THAT BATAAN IS SPEAKING — THIS TIME FROM THE DECK OF AN AIRCRAFT CARRIER BEARING THAT NAME.
“BATAAN FEEL, BUT THE SPIRIT THAT MADE IT STAND FOR MONTHS AGAINST THOSE OVERWHELMING ODDS — A BEACON TO ALL THE LIBERTY LOVING PEOPLES OF THE WORLD — THAT SPIRIT, INVINCIBLE, THE SPIRIT OF BATAAN CAN NEVER FALL.
“IT IS IN HONOR OF THESE MEN THAT THIS SHIP BEARS THE NAME THE UNITED STATES SHIP BATAAN. IT IS A FIGHTING NAME AND WITH GOD’S HELP, WE WILL MAKE IT A FIGHTING SHIP.”
Accompanying Captain Schaeffer at a reception after the commissioning ceremony were Commonwealth Vice-President Sergio Osmeña and daughter Miss Rosalina “Rosie” Osmeña. Their presence lent an appropriate Philippine element to the proceedings and the mission of the ship.
Of note, Rosie Osmeña, now Rosie Osmeña Valencia, celebrated her 90th birthday in June, 2014. After the war, she married her father’s junior aide-de-camp, Dr. Elpidio Valencia, who was 11 years her senior. Dr. Valencia chose wisely, as there’s something special about a gal named Rose – the couple was married for 65 years before he passed away.
After workup training for her new crew, which included the ship’s first two fatalities in an aircraft landing accident, Bataan deployed to the Pacific and joined the US Navy fast carrier task force in April, 1944. She operated Grumman F6F Hellcat fighters and Grumman TBM Avenger torpedo bombers during her World War II service. Footage taken of her sister-ship USS Monterey (CVL-26), gives a little idea of flight operations aboard such light carriers:
Bataan participated in actions at Hollandia, New Guinea, the invasion of the Mariana Islands and the epic carrier clash in the Battle of the Philippine Sea, after which she returned to the US and underwent refit at the Hunters Point Naval Dry Docks near San Francisco.
The work finished, Bataan sailed to Hawaii where from 18 October 1944 to 1 March 1945 she served in a training capacity supporting carrier pilot qualifications. Thus she ironically missed the campaign for liberation of the Philippines which began in October 1944. It was probably just a matter of timing and availability for the Navy to assign her training duties at this time.
Bataan returned to action in the western Pacific on 18 March 1945 with air strikes on Japan in preliminary operations for the invasion of Okinawa. The Japanese did their best to oppose these actions against their Home Islands, and Bataan’s gun crews had the opportunity to knock down their first enemy aircraft in the air-sea battles that occurred.
As part of Task Group 58.2, her crew witnessed the devastating Japanese air attack on the fleet carrier USS Franklin (CV-13) on the morning of 19 March 1945. At one point after the franklin was struck and burning, she suddenly veered towards Bataan, but alert crewman maneuvered Bataan out of the way and avoided a collision with the stricken Franklin.
She was heavily involved in Okinawa operations and late war strikes against the Japanese Home Islands. Bataan’s aircraft also played a part in the large-scale naval air attack on the Japanese superbattleship Yamato which sank that mighty ship on 7 April 1945.
Bataan was not immune to the casualties of war, among aircrew, and on 17 April 1945, the ship’s company as well. On that day a stray 40mm anti-aircraft gun shell exploded over the ship’s forecastle and the signal bridge as a Japanese air attack was repelled. Seaman First Class R. B. Short died of wounds killed and another 14 were wounded. He was buried at sea and is remembered on the tablets of the missing at the Manila American Cemetery, Manila, Philippines. He received the Purple Heart for his sacrifice.
On 14 May Bataan was in formation with famous carrier Enterprise (CV-6) when a kamikaze hit the “Big E” just before 0700. The immediate result was captured for posterity by a photographer on Bataan, PhoM3c Joe Midolla. It was the hit that put Enterprise out of action for the rest of the war.
This was also the day when Bataan suffered its greatest number of casualties during the war, eight dead and 26 wounded from shell fire on the port side amidships received at 0816. With the kamikazes all around, “friendly” anti-aircraft shells were flying everywhere, and even if not aimed directly at the ship, what goes up must come down. Bataan lost of total of 34 men during World War II, between air group and ship’s company.
In June, 1945, Bataan sailed for Leyte Gulf for replenishment and recreation. During her stay in the Philippines, she entertained a visit by the President of the Philippines, who by this time was Sergio Osmeña, the former Vice-President, and family members. The touring party comprised Mrs. Edilbertio Osmeña, daughter-in-law of President Osmeña; Mr. & Mrs. Juan Veloso, son-in-law and daughter of the President; and Miss Veloso. Conducting the guests on the tour of the ship was Captain Ward C. Gilbert, USN. Also accompanying the party were various Philippine and United States officials.
Bataan also hosted another Filipino visitor, entertainer Mr. Pascacio Alinangohan who was a guerilla captain during the war. He led a troupe of dancers, singers and entertainers that put on a show for the crew of the carrier.
Bataan earned six Battle Stars for her combat service in World War II. After flying former Prisoner of War supply missions over Japan, and participating in Operation Magic Carpet bringing home American servicemen from overseas, Bataan was placed in reserve, out of commission at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard on 11 February 1947. But with the changing security environment of the Cold War, she was recommissioned on 13 May 1950. A month later, the Korean War began, and Bataan once again sailed for the Pacific.
She arrived at a Bataan-like time in the war, December, 1950, for action over the Korean peninsula, when UN Forces were under heavy siege from Chinese Communist ground forces. She joined Task Force 77 and played a vital role in supporting US Marines and other forces in their fighting departure evacuating from the port of Hungnam, commencing operations with USMC Vought F4U-4 Corsair fighter-bombers on 22 December 1950. She remained in Far east waters until June, 1951, returning to the States. It was on this first Korean combat deployment beginning in March, 1951, that USS Bataan worked with another warship named Bataan, but that is a separate story for another post.
Bataan returned to the Far East for a second Korean War deployment, which lasted from February to August, 1952. At first she embarked an anti-submarine squadron for participation in Anti-Submarine Warfare training exercises, but by the end of April embarked F4U Corsairs once again for combat operations off Korea, operating in the Yellow Sea on the west side of the peninsula. Five personnel were killed in this deployment.
One more time Bataan returned to the Far East, in November, 1952, for more ASW training. In February 1953 she again embarked F4U Corsairs for combat over Korea until May of 1953, when she sailed for the States. One pilot was lost in action on this deployment. All in all Bataan received seven battle stars for her Korean War service.
This completed her naval service and in April, 1954, USS Bataan was decommissioned and placed into reserve, where she rested until being sold for scrap on 19 June 1961.
It took some years but in 1997, another USS Bataan, LHD-5, joined the US Navy, an amphibious assault ship of the Wasp-class.
She is homeported in Norfolk, Virginia, and thus the name Bataan lives on in a US Navy warship, to remind another generation of that epic campaign of World War II. In addition to helicopters. She also embarks AV-8 Harrier attack jets, so like her WWII/Korean-era predecessor, still has the capability to strike an enemy from the sky.
Harrier Operations USS Bataan (LHD-5) (Beware your hearing!)
So let us remember the valorous Fil-Am defenders of Bataan anyway we can, land, air or sea!
USS Bataan Association, CVL-29 and LHD-5 website, at: http://www.bataancvl29.org/index.html
USS Bataan (CVL-29), Wikipedia page, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Bataan_%28CVL-29%29
USS Bataan (CVL-29), NavSource Online: Aircraft Carrier Photo Archive, at: http://www.navsource.org/archives/02/29.htm
Jacinto, Frannie, “A birthday full of memories for Rosie Osmeña Valencia,” PhilStar, 18 June 2014, at: http://www.philstar.com/fashion-and-beauty/2014/06/18/1335859/birthday-full-memories-rosie-Osmeña-valencia
CVL-29 USS Bataan, embarked air groups in World War II and Korea, at: http://www.wings-aviation.ch/22-USNavy-Carrier/Fleet-Carrier/CV-29-USS-Bataan.htm
USS Bataan (LHD-5), Wikipedia page, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Bataan_%28LHD-5%29
Independence Class CVL, ONI data sheet, at: http://forum.worldofwarships.eu/index.php?/topic/717-uss-independence-cv-22/
R. B. Short, American Battle Monuments Commission Burials and Memorializations database entry, at: https://www.abmc.gov/search-abmc-burials-and-memorializations/detail/WWII_133351#.VhYDBWvm7Pc
Bataan 18 April 1945 burial at sea, at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dougsheley/6705214045
The USS Bataan, 1 August 1943 – 17 October 1945, cruise book, at Fold3 subscription website.
SB2C Helldiver over Yamato task force, at: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/444378688208357421/