USS Leyte was laid down as Crown Point by Newport
News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, Newport News, Virginia, on
21 February 1944. It was renamed Leyte on 8 May 1945
and launched on 23 August 1945 sponsored by Mrs. James M. Mead.
It was commissioned on 11 April 1946 with Capt. Henry F. MacComsey
Leyte joined the USS Wisconsin (BB 64) on a good
will cruise down the western seaboard of South America in the fall
of 1946 before returning to the Caribbean 18 November to resume
shakedown operations. The following three years were spent in
numerous fleet exercises in the Atlantic and Caribbean, training
naval reservists, and four deployments in the Mediterranean: April
to June 1947, July to November 1947, September 1949 to January 1950,
and May to August 1950. The latter included a demonstration of
airpower over Beirut, Lebanon, 13 August, supporting the Middle East
against Communist pressure. Leyte returned to Norfolk 24
August, and after two weeks of preparation, departed 6 September
1950 to join TF 77 in the Far East to support United Nations Forces
Leyte arrived in Sasebo, Japan, 8 October 1950 and made
final preparations for combat operations. From 9 October through 19
January 1951, the ship and her aircraft spent 92 days at sea and
flew 3,933 sorties against the North Korean aggressors.
On 4 December 1950, Ensign Jesse L. Brown, the Navy's first black
pilot, flying a close support mission from LEYTE, was forced
to make a crash landing near Hagaru-ri when his plane was hit by
enemy ground fire. Observing that Ensign Brown was unable to get out
of his cockpit, one of his squadron mates, Lt. (j.g.) Thomas J.
Hudner, fearlessly landed to assist. Ensign Brown died before he
could be removed from the wreckage. Lt. (j.g.) Hudner was rescued by
helicopter and later was awarded the Medal of Honor. Ensign Brown
was posthumously decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross.
All totaled, Leyte's pilots accumulated 11,000 hours in
the air while inflicting massive damage upon enemy positions,
supplies, transportation, and communications. Leyte returned
to Norfolk for overhaul 25 February 1951.
After fleet training exercises in the Caribbean terminated 21
August 1951, the carrier departed for her fifth tour of duty with
the 6th Fleet, 3 September. She returned to Norfolk 21 December for
operations out of Hampton Roads, and again steamed for the
Mediterranean 29 August 1952. Reclassified CVA 32 on 1 October 1952,
she returned to Boston 16 February 1953 for deactivation. On 8
August however, she was ordered to be retained in the active fleet,
and, redesignated CVS 32 on the same day, work was begun converting
her to an ASW support carrier.
On 16 October 1953, at 1515, while still under conversion to an
antisubmarine carrier, Leyte suffered an explosion in her
port catapult machinery room. Within minutes naval base and city
fire trucks were on the scene. After a hard and gallant fight, the
fire was extinguished at 1957. As a result of the fire, 37 men died
and 28 were injured.
Conversion completed 4 January 1954, Leyte departed Boston
for Quonset Point, Rhode Island, as flagship of CarDiv 18. She
conducted anti-submarine operations in the Atlantic and Caribbean
over the next five years. She also served briefly as an interim
amphibious assault ship in 1957, with her normal air group replaced
with Marine Corps transport helicopters.
Leyte departed Quonset Point in January 1959 for the New
York Navy Yard where she commenced preinactivation overhaul. She was
redesignated AVT 10 and decommissioned both on 15 May 1959, and was
assigned to the Philadelphia group of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet
with a berth in New York. The ship was stricken from the Navy List
on 1 June 1969, and was sold for scrapping in September 1970.
Leyte received two battle stars for Korean service.
Explosion - October 16, 1953
On August 16, 1953, the USS Leyte was badly damaged by an
explosion and subsequent fire caused by the accidental ignition of
hydraulic fluid in the port catapult machinery room while undergoing
conversion to a antisubmarine aircraft carrier. The ship was at the
Boston Naval Shipyard when 39 men were killed and 28 were injured.
Among the 39 were five civilians.
Casualty (Fatality) List:
- Ball, ABC Charles Thomas
- Bedford, ADC James Robert
- Bielecki, SN Thomas Harry
- Buzyk, Edward F. - civilian
- Capper, AOM1 Joseph Patrick
- Conrad, AB3 Roland Maurice
- Crespy, AMMN George David
- DeRose, Lt. Leonard Michael
- Faulkner, AMMN Gerald Norwin
- Fischer, ENS Charles Thompson
- Gagas, LT William Achilles
- Hackett, AN Jackie Paul
- Harrelson, AOM3 Arthur Danvis Jr.
- Hartley, AB2 Warren Vincent
- Herald, Selby - civilian
- Hildreth, AB3 James Arlin
- Holt, MMC Elmer Clearance
- Hult, Carl O. - civilian
- Jackson, AN Nathan Eugene - Jonesborough, TN
- Kadlec, AN Leo Francis
- Keenan, AB2 Gregory
- Lintz, AOM3 Riley Gene
- Macomber, MMC Walter Eugene
- Mayhew, AOM3 Kenneth Joe
- Meyers, Ltjg Thomas Joseph - age 26, son of Mr. and Mrs.
Herbert A. Meyers of Milwaukee and brother of Miss Mary Meyers
of Long Beach, CA. Lt. Meyers was the athletic officer on
- Mills, SN Sidney
- Mountain, ADMN Fulton Thomas
- Murphy, Charles J. Sr. (civilian)
- Nelson, AOMN Neil Higgins
- Patterson, AOMN Joe Albert - age 18
- Quinn, AB George John Jr.
- Randall, LT Clinton Howard
- Rosa, John J. - civilian
- Runowicz, BMC Taddeus
- Slater, ST2 Earl Hilmer
- Winslow, SN James Lynn
- Wooley, SN William David