The USS Bogue Hunter-Killer Groups
by Forest Garner and Ralph Hiestand
USS Bogue was the name ship of a class of 11 escort carriers (CVEs) built for the US Navy, and the fourth ship of that class to be completed. The United Sates had already built six escort carriers (four for Britain) on the C3 cargo hull, but the Bogues were the first truly effective C3-based carriers due to their higher speed (turbines instead of diesels), larger flight decks and hangars, and a second elevator. These improvements were possible because the Bogue-class ships were converted before completion, while the earlier types were converted after completion as cargo ships. However, the hangar deck of the Bogue was not flat, having retained the C3 hull's sheer and camber, and this made it more difficult to handle aircraft, especially in heavy seas. This was remedied in classes based on the T3 tanker hull (Sangamon and Commencement Bay classes) and the S4 hull (Casablanca Class). After completing the Bogue class, the US Navy acquired no further escort carriers based on the C3 hull, although the United States used C3 hulls to build 11 of the Attacker class and 23 of the Ameer class for the Royal Navy. Many found the Bogues superior to the mass-produced Casablanca class.
The Bogue class could operate as many as 28 aircraft, but it was more common to carry 19 to 24 aircraft. When serving as aircraft transports, the Bogues could carry nearly 100 aircraft. During Atlantic patrols, the Bogues would carry a mix of Wildcats (Grumman's F4F or GM's similar FM-1 and FM-2) and Avengers (Grumman's TBF, or GM's TBM). The number of Wildcats was gradually reduced to accomodate more Avengers. Dive bombers were seldom used.
Initially the CVEs were closely attached to specific convoys, and sometimes even sailed within the convoys. The latter technique proved impractical, and escort carriers gradually found increased independence. Intelligence derived from HF/DF (high-frequency direction finding) and code breaking compelled CVEs and their screens to form hunter-killer groups for patrolling waters infested with U-boats, while convoys sensibly avoided such waters. Each hunter-killer group consisted of a CVE and several escorts. In the US Navy, the escorts initially were destroyers, with emphasis on old "flush deckers" (or "four-pipers") left over from First World War construction programs. As destroyer escorts (DE) became available, they came to dominate the screens of hunter-killer groups. The escorts protected the CVE and, if needed, would be sent to hunt U-boats sighted by aircraft.
USS Bogue was commissioned at Puget Sound Navy Yard on 26 September, 1942, under Captain Giles Short. She had been designated AVG-9 during conversion until 20 August 1942, then designated ACV-9 from that date until changed to CVE-9 on 15 July, 1943. Her crew included some 400 regular Navy personnel among her complement, including many survivors of USS Lexington, USS Yorktown, and other ships. She underwent sea trials in the Seattle area, and sailed for San Diego on 17 November, 1942. There, she received her first squadron, VC-9 under Lieutenant Commander William Drane. Off San Diego on 4 December, two Avengers collided in midair within sight of the ship, losing three crewmen. Bogue set out on 11 December for Norfolk, Virginia, arriving on New Years Day. In and around Norfolk, she and her air group underwent training in anti-submarine operations, during which the Landing Signal Officer was killed when struck by a Wildcat. Also in Norfolk, Bogue's 5-inch 51-caliber weapons were exchanged for 5-inch 38-caliber guns, the 1.1-inch antiaircraft guns were traded for 40mm Bofors (and more sponsons were added), concrete ballast was added to improve stability, and her anti-fire systems were upgraded. Bogue then set out for Argentia, Newfoundland on 24 February, 1943, arriving on 28 February. There she took aboard several British officers and enlisted communications personnel to enable coordination with the convoy systems.
Bogue set out on 5 March, 1943 with 12 F4F-4 Wildcats and 8 TBF-1 Avengers aboard, screened by the old destroyers USS Belknap and George E. Badger, and joined UK-bound convoy HX-228 the next day. There was no combat action until 10 March, when Bogue aircraft first sighted and attacked a U-boat. However, Ensign McAuslan's depth bombs failed to release in two passes, and the U-boat escaped. Bogue detached from HX-228 on 10 March, after which the convoy suffered losses to U-boat attacks. Bogue again set out from Argentia on 20 March, this time to support convoy SC-123. Seeing no action, she detached from this convoy on 26 March, after which the convoy was attacked by U-boats. Bogue returned to Argentia, then proceeded to Boston to repair her catapult, and returned to Argentia on 20 April. Departing Argentia on 23 April, she joined convoy HX-235 on 25 April. On the afternoon of 28 April, Avenger pilot Lieutenant Roger Santee attacked a U-boat, but failed to inflict serious harm. On 29 April, Bogue patrolled ahead of the convoy, but found nothing. Detaching from HX-235 on 30 April, she arrived in Belfast on 2 May. She spent two weeks at the British anti-submarine training center in Belfast. There she parted with the British officers brought aboard in Argentia, received a HF/DF set, and the number of Avengers embarked was increased to 12./p>
Bogue left Belfast on 15 May and joined westbound convoy ON-184 off Iceland on 19 May. Unlike previous sorties, Bogue and her screen sailed outside this convoy, but within range of visual signals. On 21 May, Bogue Avenger pilot Lt. Cdr. Drane sighted and attacked U-231 some 60 miles ahead of the group and about 500 miles southeast of Greenland. The U-boat's bridge was damaged and she retired in need of repair. On the next day, Avenger pilot Lieutenant (jg) Roger Kuhn sighted U-468 making temporary repairs on the surface. He attacked with his machine gun and four depth bombs, but only damaged the U-boat. The U-boat circled on the surface for more than one hour, leaking fuel in her wake. Bogue, 60 miles away, responded to Kuhn's calls for support by sending additional aircraft, but Kuhn reported his position incorrectly, and U-468 escaped. A Wildcat searching for U-468 sighted U-305 instead, but that U-boat submerged before an attack could be made. Three hours later, Avenger pilot Ensign Stewart Doty sighted U-305 after she had surfaced, and his attack damaged her. Doty thought he sank the sub, but U-305 submerged and effected repairs in spite of destroyer USS Osmond Ingram's efforts to locate and finish her. Three hours later, U-305 surfaced again and was immediately attacked by an Avenger piloted by Lieutenant Robert Stearns. The U-boat submerged and effected emergency repairs while again evading destroyers. After that, U-305 gave up the hunt and set course for Brest. That afternoon, Avenger pilot Lieutenant (jg) William Chamberlain attacked and damaged U-569, a type VIIC, just 20 miles astern of Bogue. The U-boat submerged but damage forced her to surface, whereupon Avenger pilot Lieutenant Howard Roberts bombed her. The boat up-ended and plunged to 350 feet before the crew regained control, when the U-boat's skipper ordered the tanks blown. Roberts and his gunner strafed the surfaced U-569 in an attempt to keep the crew inside and prevent them from scuttling. However, while Roberts' gunner was reloading his machine gun, many of the U-boat's crew went overboard. HMCS St. Laurent managed to get within a few yards of U-569, but the U-boat had already been scuttled and soon sank. There were 24 survivors picked up by St. Laurent. Convoy ON-184 suffered no losses./p>
Bogue left Argentia on 30 May, with four old destroyers, USS Clemson, George E. Badger, Greene, and Osmond Ingram. This time the orders were to offensively seek out U-boats attempting to intercept convoys bound for North Africa. Left to their own discretion, the Bogue group chose to support convoy GUS-7A bound for the United States from Gibraltar. On the afternoon of 4 June, Bogue's Avengers sighted and attacked three U-boats, but sank none. On the following day Avenger pilot McAuslan, teamed with a Wildcat flown by Lt. Richard Rogers, sank U-217 (a type VIID). This boat was the southernmost member of Group "Trutz," a team of U-boats strung out along a north-south line about halfway between the East Coast of the United States and Casablanca, and hoping to intercept troop convoys bound for North Africa. McAuslan's attack was aided by three firing passes by Rogers, which silenced the antiaircraft guns. On 8 June, Avengers and Wildcats made repeated attacks on U-758, damaging her. That boat put up heavy antiaircraft fire from her new quadruple 20mm cannons. She eventually submerged, withstood depth charge attacks by destroyer Clemson, and escaped despite a flooded compartment. The U-boat's skipper, Kapitänleutnant Helmut Manseck, reported shooting down one aircraft, but was mistaken. U-118 and U-460 were directed to assist U-758, but their orders were read by Tenth Fleet. Bogue was ordered to intercept. On 12 June, seven aircraft from Bogue attacked and sank U-118 (a Type XB minelayer on supply duty) only 20 miles astern of the carrier. Fourteen depth bombs were used before she sank. A raft was dropped to the 17 survivors (one died later), some of which were wounded men received from U-758 on June 9. The Bogue group returned to Hampton Roads on 20 June 1943./p>
In July, Bogue set out again, this time under command of Captain Joseph B. Dunn, in general support of Gibraltar-bound convoy UGS-12. Although attempting to chase down several HF/DF fixes, the group failed to attack any U-boats until 23 July. On that day, George E. Badger made sonar contact on U-613, a type VIIC carrying mines to Jacksonville. The destroyer delivered four depth charge attacks, heard the U-boat break up, and observed debris, including a German translation of E. A. Poe's "Murders in the Rue Morgue". At noon that day, an Avenger flown by Lt. Robert Stearns sighted U-527 and U-648. U-648 submerged, but U-527 (a type IXC-40) ran toward a fog bank. The Avenger was faster than the German skipper expected, and an accurate salvo of depth bombs sank U-527, leaving 13 survivors. Bogue separated from UGS-12 on 26 July to hunt around Madeira, after which she proceeded to Casablanca, arriving on 1 August./p>
Bogue had a less eventful cruise back to Norfolk, arriving on 23 August. In September she again searched Atlantic waters for U-boats, this time with VC-19 aboard, but without success, and arrived in Casablanca on 26 September. Setting out on 29 September in support of convoy GUS-16, she again achieved nothing on her way back to Norfolk, despite separating from the convoy to search waters east of the Azores. Her aircraft sighted, but failed to attack, one submarine. Bogue arrived in Norfolk on 20 October./p>
Bogue departed Norfolk on 14 November in company with old destroyers USS DuPont, George E. Badger, Osmond Ingram, and Clemson, and in support of convoy UGS-24, but distanced herself from the convoy to hunt the waters east of Bermuda. On November 30, her aircraft inflicted so many casualties on the crew of U-238 that the U-boat was ordered home. Bogue arrived in Casablanca on 5 December, 1943./p>
Departing Casablanca on 9 December in support of westbound convoy GUS-23, Bogue stayed close to the convoy until it had cleared an area which HF/DF had indicated to contain a concentration of U-boats. On 12 December Avenger pilot Lt. (jg) E. Gaylord damaged U-172 with a Mark 24 Fido homing torpedo. Twenty subsequent hedgehog and depth charge attacks by George E. Badger and DuPont failed to finish the job, perhaps partly because the U-boat went as deep as 700 feet in evading the onslaught. The destroyers continued the hunt, and that evening U-172 surfaced and proceeded slowly away, perhaps not realizing that even these old destroyers had radar. George E. Badger obtained radar contact and closed the U-boat, opening fire at 4,000 yards. The U-boat countered with an acoustic torpedo (which missed), then submerged. Sonar contact was established and two additional, damaging depth charge attacks were delivered. Contact was lost however, and the destroyers returned to screen the carrier. On the morning of 13 December, Bogue's aircraft sighted a moving oil slick not far from the earlier action, betraying the presence of a submerged and damaged U-boat. USS Clemson, George E. Badger, and Osmond Ingram were sent to the scene, made sound contact, and delivered five more depth charge attacks. U-172 finally surfaced. Several of the crew abandoned the boat, but others manned the deck gun and managed one hit on Osmond Ingram. Three destroyers and two Avengers overwhelmed the surfaced U-boat, and two explosions aboard U-172 were large enough to be seen from the distant Bogue. The tough U-172 (a type IXC) sank, leaving 46 survivors./p>
On 20 December, Bogue Avenger pilot Lt. (Jg) W. LaFleur surprised U-850 (a type IXD-2). However, his bombs would not release on the first pass. On the second pass, the U-boat was alert and shooting, and LaFleur missed by 200 feet. Bogue catapulted four additional aircraft to assist. While the U-boat crew remained focused on the LaFleur's Avenger, two Wildcats closed and strafed U-850, silencing her antiaircraft guns. Then an Avenger flown by Ensign Goodwin dropped four depth bombs very close to U-850. The U-boat seemed to intentionally dive, but soon began surfacing. LaFleur and Lt. (Jg) Bradshaw each dropped a Mk 24 Fido. Both struck U-850 starboard aft just as her bow was coming out of the water. There were no survivors./p>
The Bogue group spent Christmas in Bermuda. Bogue's next assignment was the less glamorous (but still important) mission of carrying P-47 aircraft to Britain. One the return trip, she was damaged by heavy seas, and require some repairs at Norfolk. She also took aboard a new air group, VC-95, and set out with a new screen of new DEs. On 13 March 1944, the Bogue group was investigating a HF/DF contact, when an Avenger pilot reported an oil slick. Sonobuoys revealed the sound of a submarine, and DE USS Haverfield was sent to investigate. She and HMCS Prince Rupert, made contact and attacked, joined later by DE USS Hobson and more Avengers. Hobson delivered an attack which forced U-575 to the surface where gunfire and depth bombs sank the schnorkel-equipped U-boat, ending her weather-reporting duty. Thirty-eight survivors were rescued. Bogue put in briefly at Casablanca, then hunted unsuccessfully west of the Cape Verde Islands in early April, before proceeding to Trinidad, then to Hampton Roads on 19 April./p>
On 5 May, 1944, Bogue departed Hampton Roads under command of Captain Aurelius B. Vosseller with 9 FM-2 Wildcats and 12 TBF-1C Avengers of VC-69 aboard, accompanied by DEs Haverfield, Francis M. Robinson, Janssen, Willis, and Wilhoite. On 13 May, Francis M. Robinson obtained a sound contact, attacked with hedgehogs and depth charges, and sank the Japanese submarine RO-501 (former U-1224, a type IXC-40). The Bogue group arrived at Casablanca on 29 May, 1944. 15 June 1944 found Bogue at sea again, covering a convoy. On that day she was ordered to hunt for one German and one Japanese submarine about 850 miles west of the Cape Verdes. On the night of 23 June, Bogue Avenger pilot Lt. Commander Jesse Taylor picked up Japanese submarine I-52 on his malfunctioning radar (only the right half of its sweep was working). Bordeux-bound I-52 carryied 228 tons of molybdenum, tungsten, and tin, 54 tons of rubber, 3 tons of quinine, 2 tons of gold, and 14 Japanese industrial experts. She had met U-530 only hours earlier to pick up a German navigator and a radar warning device. Taylor dropped flares to illuminate the submarine, and followed these with two 500-pound depth bombs which forced I-52 to submerge. Guided by sonobuoys, Taylor attacked again with a Mk 24 Fido, and heard an explosion and what he thought were noises of the submarine breaking up. However, Bogue's war diary states that, more than one hour after Taylor's attacks, two additional Avengers both heard the propeller beats of I-52. Lt. (jg) William Gordon dropped a Fido and, 18 minutes later, heard a long rolling explosion, break-up noises, and further propeller beats which quickly faded. There were no survivors. Debris, including some of the cargo, found by the destroyer escorts confirmed the kill. Displacing 3,644 tons submerged, I-52 was the largest Axis submarine sunk in the Atlantic during the Second World War.
Bogue spent most of July in Norfolk, where she received air group VC-42 along with four TBM-1D aircraft equipped with radar and searchlights. In late July, Bogue set out on a training cruise, then put in at Bermuda. On 1 August, Bogue departed Bermuda carrying 9 Wildcats and 14 Avengers, and relieved CVE USS Wake Island on 5 August. On August 16, Bogue was stalked by U-802, but foiled the undetected U-boat by turning away before torpedoes could be aimed and launched. Three nights later, a Bogue Avenger used radar and searchlight to find and attack U-802. Three 250-pound British depth bombs failed to damage U-802, which nevertheless had an unproductive patrol off the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Moving north to the Grand Bank of Newfoundland, Bogue's path crossed that of U-1229 on 20 August, about 300 miles southeast of Cape Race. This boat was en route from Trondheim to put a spy ashore on the coast of Maine. Avenger pilot Lieutenant A. Brokas sighted and attacked U-1229 (a type IXC-40) with rockets (which missed) and with two depth bombs. Five of the U-boat's crewmen were blown overboard, and many battery cells were damaged. Aircraft arriving an hour later began investigating each end of a u-shaped oil slick. The dim outline of the submerged U-boat was spotted. Because the damaged batteries did not provide sufficient power, the U-boat skipper tried to raise the schnorkel and start the diesels, but this failed. The U-boat surfaced and was met by two Avengers attacking from opposite directions. To avoid collision, they released depth bombs too early and pulled away. Subsequent rocket attacks hit the stationary U-boat an estimated 7 times. An attempt to drop two more bombs failed because one would not release and the other failed to explode, but U-1229 sank anyway. There were 42 survivors (including Oskar Mantel, the spy)./p>
The difficulty of spotting U-boats using the schnorkel, along with the scarcity of U-boats in American waters, induced the US Navy to use CVEs in other roles in late 1944 and early 1945. Bogue was assigned training duties during this time, and also performed an uneventful ferry mission to deliver 60 P-51 aircraft to Liverpool on 23 February, 1945, returning to Norfolk on 12 March./p>
Bogue's last call to real combat came when a false alarm was raised about U-boats approaching the American coast to launch rockets at American cities. On 16 April, 1945, Bogue, screened by 10 DEs, departed Quonset under Captain George J. Dufek. Reunited with VC-19, she carried 3 FM-2 Wildcats and 16 TBM-3 Avengers. The Bogue group coordinated with a group built around veteran CVE USS Core and 12 DEs, and the entire force was called the Second Barrier Force under Captain Dufek. Fourteen DEs from both groups, spaced five miles apart, formed a 70-mile north-south patrol line. Bogue, with four DEs in her immediate screen, was positioned 25 miles south of the patrol line, while the USS Core group was 25 miles north of it. On 23 April, the skipper of Bogue's VC-19 sighted and attacked the surfacing U-546, which then submerged near the very center of the patrol line. The DEs searched vigorously, and at 0829 24 April, USS Frederick C. Davis obtained sonar contact. That DE had a reputation for competence and alertness, but U-546 torpedoed and sank her at 0835, inflicting heavy casualties (only 66 of 192 being rescued). Other DEs executed a series of depth charge and hedgehog attacks on U-546. The U-boat responded with a Pillenwerfer, the sound of which made the DEs believe U-546 had fired another torpedo. After a depth charge attack by USS Flaherty at 1025, sonar contact was lost until 1156. USS Varian executed a series of depth charge attacks, and USS Janssen and USS Hubbard made attacks also. At 1341, USS Neunzer, Hubbard, and Flaherty made a three-ship attack. Varian then determined the U-boat's depth at 600 feet, and another three-ship attack was made at 1556. Contact was lost, and the search line formed again. Varian relocated U-546 at 1728, after which USS Keith estimated the U-boat to be at 160 feet. Attacks resumed, and flooding aboard the damaged U-boat forced the use of pumps, the noise of which made it difficult for her hydrophone to estimate the position of attacking DEs. At 1810, a hedgehog blew a 15-inch hole in the pressure hull and ruptured battery cells, which released chlorine gas. The U-boat skipper ordered tanks blown, and U-546 surfaced at 1838. She tried to torpedo Flaherty, but missed. Flaherty aimed two torpedoes at U-546, but these also missed. Overwhelmed by gunfire from five DEs, U-546 sank at 1845, leaving 33 survivors, including the skipper. A type IXC-40, she was the last victim of the Bogue hunter-killer group, although credit must be shared with the USS Core group. Some historians give full credit for this sinking to Core, but it was one of Bogue's aircraft which started the attack, and some of the DEs attacking U-546 were from Bogue's screen.
Bogue finished the war transporting aircraft and personnel in the Pacific, and was placed in reserve on 30 November, 1946. She was sold and towed to Japan for scrapping in 1960.
The hunter-killer groups formed around USS Bogue sank, or assisted in sinking 10 German U-boats, one former U-boat in Japanese service, and the Japanese I-52, for a total of 12 kills. Many other submarines were damaged, driven under, or otherwise hindered in their attacks. This exceeds the kills achieved by any other escort carrier group in any navy. The closest rival was USS Card with 11 kills. No convoy lost a ship while escorted by Bogue, and no Bogue aircraft were shot down by the enemy during the war. For such impressive service, and for pioneering US Navy escort carrier techniques, Bogue was awarded 3 Battle Stars and a Presidential Unit Citation.
- Bagnasco, Ermino, Submarines of World War Two (1973, 1977), Naval Institute Press, Annapolis MD.
- Chesneau, R. Aircraft Carriers of the World, 1914 to the Present, An Illustrated Encyclopedia (1984), Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD.
- Hiestand, R., Historian of the USS Bogue Association, interviews of July-August, 1997.
- Morrison, S. E. History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, volume X, The Atlantic Battle Won May 1943-May 1945 (1956), Atlantic-Little Brown Books, Boston, MA.
- USS Bogue War Diaries and Deck Logs, 1943-1945.
- Y'Blood, W. T. Hunter Killer, US Navy Escort Carriers in the Battle of the Atlantic (1983), Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD.
- Y'Blood, W. T. The Little Giants, US Escort Carriers Against Japan (1987), Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD.
This article was published on 10 Feb 1998.