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The Battle for Leyte Gulf
23-26 October 1944

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'Casablanca' Class escort carrier  -  line drawing (starboard profile).

Kaiser / Casablanca Class Escort Carriers

Escort aircraft carriers - also known informally (in the US Navy) as "jeep carriers" and (in the British Navy at least) as "Woolworth" carriers -  were originally developed primarily in order to give anti-submarine cover for Atlantic convoys.

For this purpose they did not need the high speed  or other expensive features of fleet carriers - the emphasis instead was on simplicity and speed of production.

The first escort carriers were conversions from existing merchant vessels, or from the hulls of war-standard merchant ships or fleet auxiliaries still under construction. The Kaiser or Casablanca Class were the first escort carriers to be built as such from the keel up.

The success of this class was a tribute to the ability of US designers to produce an eminently practical design in a very short time,  and the speed with which the Casablancas were built was a demonstration -  astonishing even by the standards of US  industry in World War Two - of the prodigious energy of the American workforce and the effectiveness of US mass-production techniques.  The fiftieth ship was finished exactly one year after the completion of the first ship of the class.

Escort carriers transformed the Battle of the Atlantic and played an essential role in the defeat of the U-boats.  Although this had been intended as their primary role they quickly proved themselves invaluable in supplying fighter cover and air-to-ground support for amphibious operations,at first in the Mediterranean and later in the Pacific.

In the Leyte operation 14 of the Seventh Fleet's 18 escort carriers, including all six carriers of Taffy Three - the task unit at the centre of the Battle off Samar -  were ships of the Casablanca Class.


Displacement:  7,800 tons standard displacement

Length at waterline:  490 feet

Length Overall:  512.25 feet

Beam (hull):  65.25 feet

Extreme beam:  108 feet

Draught:  22 feet

Propulsion:  Reciprocating - two shaft - shaft horse power 9,000

Speed (designed):  19.25 knots

Speed (actual service speed):  17.5 to 18 knots

Gun armament:   1 - 5-inch 38 cal. gun mounted at stern
                           16 - 40mm. AA in twin mounts
                           24 - 20mm. AA in single mounts

Aircraft:  28

Complement:  860

 Photograph of USS St Lo (92k)

The Battle for Leyte Gulf, 23-26 October 1944