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Virtual VF-17 Jolly Rogers of Aces High

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USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) was one of 24 Essex-class aircraft carriers built during World War II for the United States Navy. The ship, the second US Navy ship to bear the name, was named for the Battle of Bunker Hill. Bunker Hill was commissioned in May 1943, and served in several campaigns in the Pacific Theater of Operations, earning eleven battle stars and a Presidential Unit Citation. She was badly damaged in May 1945 by Japanese kamikaze attacks, with the loss of hundreds of her crew, becoming one of the most heavily damaged carriers to survive the war.

After the attack she returned to the U.S. mainland for repairs and was decommissioned in 1947. While in reserve she was reclassified as an attack carrier (CVA), then an antisubmarine carrier (CVS), and finally an Auxiliary Aircraft Landing Training Ship (AVT), but was never modernized and never saw active service again. Bunker Hill and Franklin were the only Essex-class ships never recommissioned after World War II.

Stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in 1966, she served as an electronics test platform for many years in San Diego bay, and was sold for scrap in 1973. An effort to save her as a museum ship in 1972 was unsuccessful.

Construction and Commissioning

Bunker Hill was laid down on 15 September 1941 at the Bethlehem Steel Company, Quincy, Massachusetts, and launched on 7 December 1942, sponsored by Mrs. Donald Boynton. She was commissioned on 24 May 1943, with Captain J. J. Ballentine in command.

Service history World War II 1943 - 44

Reporting to the U.S. Pacific Fleet in the autumn of 1943, Bunker Hill participated in carrier operations during: the crucial carrier air raid on the major Imperial Japanese Navy base at Rabaul, along with the USS Essex and the USS Independence on 11 November 1943; Gilbert Islands operation, including support of the landings on Tarawa Atoll (13 November 8 December); the air raids on Kavieng in support of the amphibious landings in the Bismarck Archipelago (25 December 1943, 1 January, and 4 January 1944); air raids in the Marshall Islands (29 January 8 February); the huge carrier air raids on Truk Atoll (17 18 February), during which eight I.J.N. warships were sunk; air raids on the Marianas Islands (Guam, Saipan, and Tinian) (23 February); air raids on Palau, Yap, Ulithi, and Woleai in the Palau Islands (30 March - 1 April); air raids on Truk, Satawan, and Ponape in the Caroline Islands (29 April - 1 May); raids in support of the U.S. Army landings around Hollandia (21 - 28 April); combat operations in the Marianas in suport of the amphibious landings on Saipan and Guam (12 June 10 August), including the titanic Battle of the Philippine Sea, just west of the Marianas.

On 19 June 1944, during the opening phases of the landings in the Marianas, the Bunker Hill was damaged when the explosion of a Japanese aerial bomb scattered shrapnel fragments across the decks and the sides of the aircraft carrier. Two sailers were killed, and about 80 more were wounded. The Bunker Hill continued to fight, with her antiaircraft fire shooting down a few I.J.N. warplanes.

During this Battle of the Philippine Sea, about 476 Japanese warplanes were destroyed, nearly all of them shot down by Navy F6F Hellcat fighter planes, such as were carried by the Bunker Hill

During September, the Bunker Hill carried out air raids in the Western Caroline Islands, and then she and her task force steamed a long way to the north to launch air raids on Luzon, Formosa, and Okinawa, through early November.

On 6 November 1944, the Bunker Hill steamed eastward from the forward area, and she was taken to the Bremerton Naval Shipyard, for a period of major overhaul/upkeep work and weaponry upgrades, as all warships must undergo periodically. She departed from the Port of Bremerton on 24 January 1945, and then she steamed westward back into the combat area in the Western Pacific.


During the remaining months of World War II, the Bunker Hill fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima; the 5th Fleet raids against Honshū and the Nansei Shoto (15 February - 4 March); and the 5th and 3rd Fleet raids in support of the Battle of Okinawa. On 7 April 1945, the Bunker Hill's planes took part in a attack by the huge Fast Carrier Task Force of the Pacific Fleet on Imperial Japanese Navy forces in the East China Sea. The superbattleship Yamato, one light cruiser, and four destroyers were sunk during this Operation Ten-Go, as it was called by the Imperial Japanese Navy.

After two kamikazes strikes in 30 seconds.

On the morning of 11 May 1945, while supporting the invasion of Okinawa, the Bunker Hill was crashed and severely damaged by two Japanese kamikaze planes. An A6M Zero fighter plane emerged from low cloud cover, dove toward the flight deck and dropped a 550-pound (250 kilogram) bomb that went all the way through the aircraft carrier and then exploded in the ocean. The Zero next crashed onto the carrier's flight deck, destroying parked warplanes full of aviation fuel and ammunition, causing a huge fire. The remains of the Zero went over the deck and dropped into the sea. Then, a short 30 seconds later, a second Zero, piloted by Ensign Kiyoshi Ogawa, plunged into its suicide dive. The Zero went through the antiaircraft fire, dropped a 550-pound bomb, and then crashed into the flight deck near the carrier's "island", as kamikazes were trained to aim for the island superstructure. The bomb penetrated the Bunker Hill's flight deck and exploded. Gasoline fires flamed up and several explosions took place. The crew of the Bunker Hill suffered from the loss of 346 sailors and airmen killed, 43 more missing (and never found), and 264 wounded. She was heavily damaged, and the Bunker Hill was sent all the way back to the Bremerton Naval Shipyard via Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, for months of very heavy repair work. The Bunker Hill was still in the shipyard when the War in the Pacific ended in mid-August 1945.

U.S.S. Bunker Hill

Namesake: The Battle of Bunker Hill

Builder: Fore River Shipyard

Laid down: 15 September 1941

Launched: 7 December 1942

Commissioned: 24 May 1943

Decommissioned: 9 January 1947

Reclassified: CV to CVA 1 October 1952

CVA to CVS 8 August 1953

CVS to AVT May 1959

Struck: 1 November 1966

Honors and awards:

Presidential Unit Citation

American Campaign Medal

Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (11 stars)

World War II Victory Medal

Philippine Presidential Unit Citation

Philippine Liberation Medal

Fate: Sold for scrap in 1973

General characteristics

Class and type: Essex-class aircraft carrier

Displacement: As built:

27,100 tons standard

36,380 tons full load

Length: As built:

820 feet (250 m) waterline

872 feet (266 m) overall

Beam: As built:

93 feet (28 m) waterline

147 feet 6 inches (45 m) overall

Draft: As built:

28 feet 5 inches (8.66 m) light

34 feet 2 inches (10.41 m) full load


As designed:

8 × boilers 565 psi (3,900 kPa) 850 °F (450 °C)

4 × Westinghouse geared steam turbines

4 × shafts

150,000 shp (110 MW)

Speed: 33 knots (61 km/h)

Range: 20,000 nautical miles (37,000 km) at 15 knots (28 km/h)


As built:

2,600 officers and enlisted


As built:

4 × twin 5 inch (127 mm) 38 caliber guns

4 × single 5 inch (127 mm) 38 caliber guns

8 × quadruple 40 mm 56 caliber guns

46 × single 20 mm 78 caliber guns


As built:

2.5 to 4 inch (60 to 100 mm) belt

1.5 inch (40 mm) hangar and protectice decks

4 inch (100 mm) bulkheads

1.5 inch (40 mm) STS top and sides of pilot house

2.5 inch (60 mm) top of steering gear

Aircraft carried: As built:

90100 aircraft

1 × deck-edge elevator

2 × centerline elevators

Virtual VF-17 Jolly Rogers of Aces High

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