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USS Ommaney Bay – a group of technical divers has identified the wreck of the 1945 aircraft carrier

Published: July 16, 2023 - 13:17
Updated: July 23, 2023 - 02:48
USS Ommaney Bay –  a group of technical divers has identified the wreck of the 1945 aircraft carrier
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The Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) has announced the identification of the wreck of the USS Ommaney Bay aircraft carrier (CVE79) from World War II.

Discovery and identification

The US Navy said that the shipwreck found in 2019 off the coast of the Philippines is the USS Ommaney Bay, a World War II-era aircraft carrier. The ship was a victim of an attack by Japanese kamikaze aircraft in January 1945. As a result of the collision and detonation of two bombs, a series of fires broke out on the deck of the aircraft carrier. The damage suffered by the unit was so extensive that the command decided to sink the aircraft carrier. During the attack 95 American sailors were lost at the time.

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USS Ommaney Bay
Burning in the Sulu Sea, off Luzon, on 4 January 1945, during the Lingayen Operation, Photo: Robert O. Baumrucker, NHHC

 

Researchers exploring the depths off the coast of the Philippines have confirmed that the wreck found several years ago is the USS Ommaney Bay Casablanca class aircraft carrier. The ship was on only its second combat mission when it was attacked on 4 January 1945, ending its brief career on the battlefields of World War II.

A statement issued by the military said the identification of the Ommaney Bay was possible thanks to a collaboration between NHHC’s Underwater Archaeology Branch, the Sea Scan Survey team and the DPT Scuba technical diving group.

“Our team’s extensive experience in deep wreck exploration made the planning and execution of these sub 100m dives possible. We were able to capture footage which assisted the US Naval History and Heritage Command in confirming the identity of the wreck,” wrote members of DPT Scuba on their social media profiles.

Wreck of the USS Ommaney Bay

The wreck of the aircraft carrier rests at a depth of more than 100 metres at the bottom of the Sulu Sea, which is located between the Malaysian part of Borneo and the Philippine islands of Palawan, Mindoro, Panay, Negros and Mindanao. It is also connected by straits to the Celebes Sea and the South China Sea.

The first to come across the wreckage of the aircraft carrier were in 2019 researchers from Vulcan LLC, a private company founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. They then reported their discovery to the Naval History and Heritage Command. Last Monday, 10 July, the NHHC released an announcement that the Underwater Archaeology Branch had identified the wreck as the USS Ommaney Bay.

“Ommaney Bay is the final resting place of American Sailors who made the ultimate sacrifice in defence of their country. It is with sincere gratitude that I thank the Sea Scan Survey team for confirming the location of this wreck site. We would also like to thank the team of Australian divers from DPT Scuba for their deep diving expertise and assistance identifying the Ommaney Bay. This discovery allows the families of those lost some amount of closure and gives us all another chance to remember and honour their service to our nation,” said Samuel Cox, retired US Navy Rear Admiral and NHHC Director.

CVE-79 aircraft carrier
(CVE-79) At Manus, Admiralty Islands, prior to entering floating drydock ABSD-2, 22 November 1944, Photo: NHHC

 

History

Measuring 156 metres in length, USS Ommaney Bay was a Cassablanca class escort aircraft carrier built by the Kaiser Shipbuilding shipyard in Vancouver, Washington. The ship entered service in the spring of 1944, and the new unit’s first task was to transport troops and aircraft from Oakland to Brisbane, Australia.

The aircraft carrier then docked in San Diego, where it took part in drills and also underwent maintenance. The ship returned to combat operations in the Pacific on June 10th. It took part in the invasion of the Palau Islands and the Battle of Samar, as well as the crucial Battle of Leyte Gulf. As a result of this, much of the Japanese fleet was disabled and the US tipped the balance of victory to its side. The USS Ommaney Bay was awarded two battle stars for her services in combat.

DPT Scuba
Members of the DPT Scuba team

 

Members of the DPT Sbuba technical divers team were: David Tipping, Chris McCran, Aimee McCran, Heeman Lee, Samir Alhafith and John Wooden.
Sea Scan Survey team members: Mick Stefurak, Neil “Snake” Krumbeck and Joe Brothers.

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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