Thursday, November 30, 2017
MERCHANT MARINE MANNED AIRCRAFT CARRIER?
USS CARD, IMAGE U.S. NAVY
THE USS CARD (AVG-11/ACV-11, ) was a Bouge -class escort ("jeep") aircraft carrier built in WWII. She started out in construction as a merchant ship a C-3 cargo ship, but was turned over to the Maritime Commission while under construction and converted into a Navy manned Escort carrier. The Card was launched as hull 178 in February 1942 originally designated AVG11 (Aircraft escort vessel No.11) but was reclassified ACV-11 (Auxiliary Aircraft Carrier No.11) in May of 1942 and commissioned on November 8 1942 with Captain J.B.Sikes, USN in command. She served with distinction in WWII and after the war saw several reincarnations in the 1950s including service as a helicopter carrier as the big and eventually nuclear powered carriers began to dominate the air craft carrier scene.
In 1958 the USS CARD became the civilian manned (Civil Service Merchant Mariners) USNS CARD operated by the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS) as an aircraft transport. As such she was used to transport helicopters and other aircraft and their crews into South Vietnam for deployment to air fields ashore or to combatant Navy ships with operational combat flight decks.
While moored dockside in Saigon on May 2, 1964 North Vietnamese combat swimmers planted an explosive charge sending her to the bottom of the harbor alongside the dock and killing 5 U.S. Civil Service Merchant Mariners ("Civ MARs" in "Nav Speak"). These were probably the first U.S. Merchant Mariners to become casualties of war in the Vietnam conflict. The ship was patched and re-floated within 17 days of the sinking and towed to Subic Bay , Philippines for initial repair and then to Yoksuka for finishing. She actually returned to service on December 11, 1964 and served as a Merchant Marine manned air craft transport until decommissioned in 1970 and sold for scrap. At the time the sinking of the USNS CARD the Gulf of Tonkin incident hadn't happened as yet. The public was only told that the ship was damaged and repaired, the sinking never mentioned in the press of the day. Once again American Merchant Mariners gave their lives for the nation without so much as passing notice. Merchant Mariners historically have not only been casualties of war, but are often among the first.
Enough time has passed now that maybe the American people have gotten past the idea that they were lied to by the Federal government in the case of the USNS CARD. Maybe now the event and crew could be memorialized?