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VC-4 | Composite Squadron Four


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VC-4 | Composite Squadron Four

Composite Squadron Four consisted of 16 Grumann F4F Wildcat fighters and 12 Grumann TBM Avenger torpedo bombers, aboard Escort Carrier USS White Plains (CVE 66) 1943-1945.


In April 1943 White Plains embarked her own permanently assigned air unit, Composite Squadron VC-4 composed of 16 Wildcat fighters and 12 Avenger torpedo bombers. LT E. R. Fickenscher was squadron commander.



Embroidered on twill.




Saipan - 15 through 22 June 1944

At the end of May she stood out of Pearl Harbor in company with units of the task force assembled to invade the Marinas. WHITE PLAINS' portion of the Fleet sortied from Eniwetok Atoll and during the voyage from there to the Marinas, her aircraft provided anti-submarine and combat air patrol. On June 17, her anti-aircraft gunners earned their first definite kill. Later, VC-4 Avengers successfully torpedoed an enemy transport during a sweep of the island of Rota. Peleliu - 15 to 28 September 1944.



White Plains CVE-66



In July she supported the Tinian assault. WHITE PLAINS and ten of her sister ships provided a portion of the pre landing bombardment and support for the troops landing on Palaus in mid-September. In October, after repairs at Manus, WHITE PLAINS headed for the invasion of the Philippines at Leyte.

Leyte Gulf/Samar - 17 to 25 October 1944

Because of the strategic importance of the Philippines which lay athwart their lines of communication with the West Indies, the Japanese chose to oppose the Leyte landings with their surface fleet. They launched their surface counterattack in three distinct phases, intending to disrupt the landing at Leyte. Admiral Halsey's Third Fleet attacked the Centre Force, heavily damaging one heavy cruiser and sinking one battleship; several other capital ships were damaged. Shortly thereafter Halsey received information that a carrier force lay to the north. He left the Leyte area and steamed northward after Vice Admiral Ozawa's decoy force of four aircraft carriers and two hybrid carrier-battleships. Meanwhile, to the south at Leyte, RADM Oldendorf's Seventh Fleet old battleships and support forces in Surigao Strait obliterated VADM Nishimura's Southern Force Van in a brilliantly successful night action.


VC-4 aboard ship




VC-4 torpedoes hit Japanese cargo ship.


The IJN Centre Force, under the leadership of Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita, recovered from its pounding in the Sibuyan Sea, turned back toward San Bernardino Strait, and emerged undetected by the Americans at 0035 on October 25, 1944. Only the ships of "Taffy 3" lay between his still-formidable warships and the support craft and shipping in Leyte Gulf. WHITE PLAINS was an element of Task Unit 77.4.3, which bore the brunt of Kurita's surface onslaught.

After a 90-minute respite, the WHITE PLAINS and her surviving colleagues suffered harassment from a different quarter. At 1050 a formation of five "Zeke 52" fighters appeared and began simultaneous kamikaze attacks. Two of them singled out WHITE PLAINS as their victim. Her anti-aircraft gunners responded with a hail of gunfire and scored a hit on one of the attackers, and he immediately changed course and succeeded in fatally crashing into escort carrier USS SAINT LO (CVE 63). His comrade Explosion close aboard USS WHITE PLAINS continued on toward WHITE PLAINS, but her anti-aircraft finally brought him down mere yards astern. The subsequent impact with the water scattered debris all over the deck and sides and caused 11 relatively minor casualties.


Japanese kamakaze near-miss of the White Plains.





White Plains, seen from the Kitsun Bay.




WHITE PLAINS steamed to Manus with the other surviving escort carriers and arrived there on October 31. The battered escort carrier was then returned to the United States for complete repairs. She arrived in her homeport of San Diego, California on November 27 and immediately began repairs.


More on White Plains CVE-66, here.




Campbell, Donald E. U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Coast Guard Aircraft Lost. Vol. 1 pp 278-280.

Cox, Robert Jon. The Battle Off Samar - The Tragedy of Taffy II. 1996.


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