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Wreck site confirmed for USS Ommaney Bay escort carrier

Ommaney Bay (CVE-79) burning in the Sulu Sea, off Luzon on 4 January 1945 during the Lingayen Operation. She had been hit by a kamikaze. A destroyer is standing by with fire hoses ready. Copyright owner: Naval History and Heritage Command. Catalog#: NH 89350

The final resting place of US Navy Casablanca Class escort carrier USS Ommaney Bay has been confirmed by Naval History and Heritage Command to be in the Sulu Sea, south-west of the Philippines.

The final resting place of US Navy Casablanca Class escort carrier USS Ommaney Bay has been confirmed by Naval History and Heritage Command to be in the Sulu Sea, south-west of the Philippines.

NHHC’s underwater archaeology branch confirmed the ship’s wreck site using survey information provided by the Sea Scan Survey team, video footage provided by a DPT Scuba dive team, and location data provided by Vulcan LLC in 2019.

USS Ommaney Bay (CVE-79) was originally laid down in October 1943 and launched in December 1943. It completed cargo and training missions before joining the invasion of Leyte during the Pacific campaign of World War II.

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After operations in the Mindanao and Sulu Seas in December 1944, she transited the Surigao Strait into the Sulu Sea and was attacked by a twin-engine Japanese suicide plane on 4 January 1945.

The plane crashed into USS Ommaney Bay’s starboard side and released two bombs. One penetrated the flight deck and detonating below among fully-gassed planes, while the other passed through the hanger deck and ruptured the fire main on the second deck.

Efforts to suppress the numerous fires were ineffective due to exploding ammunition, burning planes and the likelihood of detonating stored torpedo warheads. The order to abandon ship was given and the ship was sunk by a torpedo from the destroyer USS Burns.

A total of 95 Navy men were lost, including two killed on an assisting destroyer when torpedo warheads on the carrier’s hangar deck exploded. USS Ommaney Bay received two battle stars for its World War II service.

NHHC director and retired US Navy rear admiral Samuel J Cox said the wreck represents the final resting place of sailors who gave their life in defence of the nation and should be respected by all parties as a war grave.

Ommaney Bay is the final resting place of American sailors who made the ultimate sacrifice in defence of their country,” he said.

“It is with sincere gratitude that I thank the Sea Scan Survey team; Mick Stefurak, Neil “Snake” Krumbeck, and Joe Brothers for confirming the location of this wreck site.

“We would also like to thank the team of Australian divers from DPT Scuba, David Tipping, Chris McCran, Aimee McCran, Samir Alhafith, Heeman Lee and John Wooden 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.”

The wreck of USS Ommaney Bay is a US sunken military craft protected by US law and under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Navy. Non-intrusive activities, such as remote sensing documentation, on US Navy sunken military craft are allowed, however, any activity that may result in the disturbance of a sunken military craft must be coordinated with NHHC.

The wreck site confirmation coincides with recent reports of Chinese cargo ships allegedly excavating ammunition and steel from World War II warship wrecks in the Indo-Pacific.

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