The 2nd Bismarck Sinking Of WW2
The sinking of the USS Bismarck Sea, the last US aircraft carrier ever lost by enemy action. She had 5 battle stars, she was commissioned on the 20th of May 1944 and sunk during the Battle of Iwo Jima by kamikaze attack on the 21st of February 1945.
As the war was increasingly turning against Japan on the 16th of February, Vice-Admiral Kimpei Teroaka authorized the formation of a kamikaze special attack unit to counter the imminent landings on Iwo Jima. The kamikaze force consisted of thirty-two aircraft in total, and on the early morning of 21 February, they took off from Katori Naval Air Base, in Asahi, Chiba and proceeded towards the U.S. naval forces surrounding Iwo Jima, arriving in the evening.
When the kamikazes arrived, the USS Bismarck Sea was performing close air support with the rest of the task group, the escort carrier task group had split in two, consisted of the Bismarck Sea, her sister ships the carrier’s USS Makin Island, USS Lunga Point, USS Saginaw Bay, USS Rudyerd Bay, and USS Anzio, along with a destroyer contingent.
The task group was steaming approximately twenty-one miles east of Iwo Jima. At 17:30, the aircraft on the Bismarck Sea were sent to deal with incoming aircraft which turned out to be friendly aircraft.
After Bismarck Sea’s planes had landed, she had three planes from other carriers land on her and due to the lack of deck space, she had to shelter four of her fighters below-decks without emptying their fuel tanks.This brought the number of aircraft aboard the carrier to thirty-seven aircraft: 19 fighters, 15 torpedo bombers, 2 reconnaissance aircraft, and a separate Hellcat fighter.
Later in the evening the task group spotted Japanese planes headed for the task force, when a Mitsubishi G4M dived towards USS Lunga Point the gunners from Bismarck Sea shot it down. Then five Nakajima B6Ns dove towards the ships. All four of the kamikazes missed Lunga Point, and none of them made successful contact, then the third kamikaze’s that got hit had her wreckage skid across the carrier’s deck causing a brief gasoline fire on Lunga Point. Damage to Lunga Point was minimal, and only eleven of her crew were wounded. There were no fatalities, and she was able to continue operating in support of troops during the Battle of Iwo Jima.
The fifth plane, however, switched targets, and proceeded towards the Bismarck Sea. At about one thousand yards it was spotted by, and engaged by gunners aboard Bismarck Sea. However, despite the heavy gunfire, which damaged the plane, it quickly approached Bismarck Sea from the starboard side at a low angle, which the anti-aircraft guns couldn’t suppress full fire at.
The plane smashed under the first 40 mm gun, crashing through the hangar deck and striking the ship’s magazines.
At the time of the crash, the aircraft elevator was in motion , and nearly up to the flight deck, when its cables were cut by the kamikaze explosion, it caused the elevator to drop and the force of the explosion distributed munitions, including torpedoes, across the deck, and started a huge fire.
The ship’s steering was also destroyed by the blast. The sprinkler system and the water curtains were destroyed, despite all this the fire was nearly put under control when a second plane attracted by the ship’s glow against the darkness, approaching from the port side and crashed into the aft elevator shaft, exploding on impact, killing the majority of the fire-fighting party and destroying the fire fighting salt-water distribution system, completely preventing any further damage control from taking place.
The second plane detonated amongst the four fighters which were belowdecks, and the fighters, with full gasoline tanks, quickly turned the fire into an uncontrollable fire, enveloping the entire aft side of the ship.
Then the munitions on board the ship began to detonate from the fire including bombs and torpedoes , and with no firefighting equipment available the situation became impossible. At 19:00, the crew assembled at their abandon-ship locations.
Captain John L. Pratt issued the order to abandon ship at 19:05. As the crew abandoned ship, a large explosion, likely from the detonation of the torpedoes within the hangar deck tore much of the aft-end of the ship to shreds, and she straight away caused a large list to the starboard side. The majority of the crew made it off the ship within half an hour. At 20:07, the ship’s island detached from the hull and smashed down into the water. Two hours after the kamikaze attacks, at 21:15, the Bismarck Sea sank with the loss of 318 men, and became the last US Navy aircraft carrier to be lost during World War II.
Many casualties were inflicted once the crew abandoned ship, through hypothermia, drowning and Japanese aircraft machine gunning survivors.
Three destroyers and three destroyer escorts managed to rescue survivors, between them saving a total of 605 men from her crew of 923.
The destroyer escort Edmonds directed the rescue in darkness, heavy seas and constant air attacks from the Japanese rescuing a majority of the surviving crew. Thirty of Edmonds’ own crew went over the side to bring the wounded and exhausted carrier men to safety. USS Edmonds hauled up 378 men, the destroyer escort USS Lawrence C. Taylor retrieved 136 men, and the destroyer USS Helm recovered 39 survivors. Survivors were then transferred to the attack transports USS Dickens and USS Highlands.
The special kamikaze attack unit which attacked on February 21st, in addition to sinking the Bismarck Sea, also heavily damaged the USS Saratoga, USS Keokuk, and slightly damaged the USS Lunga Point, and two Landing Support Transports.
The USS Bismarck Sea was the only ship to sink as a result of the attacks. She is and remains the last US aircraft carrier lost due to enemy action.
The kamikaze attacks on the USS Bismarck Sea caused 43 Japanese deaths in total.
The 2nd Bismarck Sinking Of WW2 Written by Harry Gillespie
Harry Gillespie is a military historian who resides with his wife in the United Kingdom.
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The 2nd Bismarck Sinking Of WW2 Written by Harry Gillespie