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USS Kadashan Bay VC-20
compiled by Walter E. Skeldon
USS Kadashan Bay and VC-20 Association, 1998, 216 pages

On January 8, 1945, the escort carrier Kadashan Bay (CVE-76) got hit by a kamikaze plane west of the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines as the ship was heading north toward the area for the invasion of Luzon planned to begin the next day. The crash wounded three men and tore a hole 17.5 feet long by 9 feet high in the 5/8-inch shell plating at the waterline on the starboard side. Kadashan Bay had to return to the States for repairs, which were completed on April 8, 1945, but the ship never returned to the Pacific War's front line and instead spent the remainder of the war in transport duties.

The men of Composite Squadron Twenty (VC-20), with 16 FM-2 Wildcat fighters and 12 TBM-1C Avenger torpedo bombers, were aboard Kadashan Bay during the war. During the Pacific War, VC-20 had about 2,300 carrier landings with 35 crashes, which are described in one section of this book. On January 18, 1944, Kadashan Bay was commissioned and participated in the invasions of Palau, Leyte, and Mindoro in 1944 and Luzon in January 1945.

Walter E. Skeldon, a member of VC-20 during WWII, compiled this book from contributions of more than 50 men who served on Kadashan Bay or in VC-20. The contributions do not have any particular order or grouping, so the book seems disjointed if reading it from beginning to end. Many contributors provided a photograph from the war and one from the 1990s when the book was put together. The historical photos of Kadashan Bay and the crew during the war are generally low quality, and the book has no map to identify the locations where the escort carrier and VC-20 fought.

On December 15, 1944, an incoming Judy dive bomber trying to crash into Kadashan Bay was shot down by the ship's gunners. Although several contributors describe or mention the kamikaze attack on January 8, 1945, the best report comes from the ship history based on official Navy records in the book's first section (pp. 5-6):

Action started early on 8 JAN 45 with a prolonged air attack commencing at 0245. The first aircraft patrols were launched at 0700 and at 0745 a second patrol was launched when a heavy air raid was detected approaching. Shortly thereafter the lookouts reported a dogfight ahead and one plane was seen to break away. It crossed ahead of the ship from port to starboard at 8,000 yards at an altitude of 5,000 feet, then made a sharp turn and started a long, fast dive headed directly for the ship. As soon as it came within range, the ship's batteries opened fire and scored repeated hits on the plane. In the last few seconds the plane started to dive abruptly but its momentum carried it into the ship's side at the waterline directly below the bridge.

KADASHAN BAY listed twenty degrees to starboard and went down by the bow. Damage control parties swung into action immediately to fight the fires threatening the gasoline tanks and to control flooding. In an hour and a half the fires were out and the flooding checked. However, the ship was drawing 7 more feet of water by the bow. Part of officers country, store rooms and the pump room were flooded.

It was determined that the plane was a Jap Oscar carrying two 250 kilo bombs with incendiary pellets which fortunately did not function properly thus lessening the fire fighting problem around the gasoline tanks. The only personnel casualty was (three enlisted slightly injured) one officer missing. He was Lt. A. F. Buddington, who had ferried replacement planes aboard. He had been in officers country and was knocked unconscious by the explosion. When he came to, he was floating in the water astern of the ship. He had apparently floated out through the hole in the ship's side. He was shortly reported as having been picked up by the PC-1600 suffering from internal injuries from which he later recovered.

KADASHAN BAY could still conduct operations but she handled sluggishly and heeled alarmingly in turns due to the free surface and sloshing of tons of water in the flooded areas. A few planes were launched and landed during the day, but most had been transferred to other carriers by the end of the day.

One veteran has the following unbelievable statement about Lt. Buddington: "Being unconscious, he floated for a number of hours before he was spotted and pulled out of the sea by that alert PC boat crew." More likely he was in the water a few minutes before being picked up as suggested by most of the descriptions of his miraculous survival.