USS MONTEREY (CVL-26) and LCdr GERALD FORD
Laid down 29 December 1941 by the New York Shipbuilding Corp., Camden, N.J. as light cruiser Dayton (CL-78) ; reclassified as aircraft carrier CV-26 on 27 March 1942; renamed Monterey 31 March 1942 ; launched 28 February 1943; sponsored by Mrs. P.N.L. Bellinger; and commissioned 17 June 1943, Capt. Lestor T. Hundt in command. Monterey was reclassified CVL-26 on 15 July 1943,
Shortly after commissioning and shakedown, Monterey departed Philadelphia for the western Pacific. She reached the Gilberts 19 November 1943, in time to help secure Makin Island. She took part in strikes on Kavieng, New Ireland, 25 December, as part of TG 37.2, and supported the landings at Kwajalein and Eniwetok until 8 February 1944. The light carrier then operated with TF 58 during raids in the Carolines, Marianas, northern New Guinea, and the Bonins from February through July 1944. During this time she was also involved in the Battle of the Philippines Sea on 29 and 30 April.
Monterey then sailed to Pearl Harbor for overhaul, departing once again on 29 August 1944. She launched strikes against Wake Island on 3 September, then joined TF 38 and participated in strikes in the southern Philippines and the Ryukyus. October through December 1944 were spent in the Philippines, supporting first the Leyte, and then the Mindoro landings.
Though enemy planes had been unable to damage Monterey, she did not complete her first full year of service unscathed. In December, she steamed into the path of a howling typhoon, with winds over 100 knots. At the height of the storm, which lasted 2 days, several planes tore loose from their cables, causing several fires on the hangar deck. Monterey arrived Bremerton, Washington, for overhaul in January 1945 where future President Ford detatched. Monterey rejoined TF 58 and supported Okinawa operations by launching strikes against Nansei Shoto and Kyushu from 9 May through 1 June. She rejoined TF 38 for the final strike against Honshu and Hokkaido from 1 July to 15 August when the war ended.
She departed Japanese waters 7 September 1945, having embarked troops at Tokyo, and steamed home, arriving New York City 17 October. Monterey left behind an impressive and enviable war record. Her planes sank five enemy warships, and damaged others. She was responsible for the destruction of thousands of tons of Japanese shipping, hundreds of planes, and vital industrial complexes. She was assigned "Magic Carpet" duty, and made several voyages between Naples and Norfolk. She decommissioned 11 February 1947, and was assigned to the Atlantic Reserve Fleet, Philadelphia Group.
With the outbreak of hostilities in Korea, Monterey recommissioned 15 September 1950. She departed Norfolk 3 January 1951, and proceeded to Pensacola, Fla., where she operated for the next 4 years under the Naval Training Command, training thousands of naval aviation cadets, student pilots, and helicopter trainees. Between 1 and 11 October 1954, she took part in a flood rescue mission in Honduras. She departed Pensacola 9 June 1955, and steamed to rejoin the Atlantic Reserve Fleet, Philadelphia Group. She decommissioned 16 January 1956. Reclassified AVT-2 on 15 May 1959, she remained berthed at Philadelphia into 1969.
Monterey received 11 battle stars for World War II service.
LCdr Gerald Ford
Ford received a commission as ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve on April 13, 1942. On April 20, he reported for active duty to the V-5 instructor school at Annapolis, Maryland. After one month of training, he went to Navy Preflight School in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where he was one of 83 instructors and taught elementary seamanship, ordnance, gunnery, first aid, and military drill. In addition, he coached in all nine sports that were offered, but mostly in swimming, boxing and football. During the one year he was at the Preflight School, he was promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade on June 2, 1942, and to Lieutenant in March 1943.
Naval service in World War II
Applying for sea duty, Ford was sent in May 1943 to the pre-commissioning detachment for the new aircraft carrier USS Monterey, at New York Shipbuilding Corporation, Camden, New Jersey. From the ship's commissioning on June 17, 1943 until the end of December 1944, Ford served as the Assistant Navigator, antiaircraft battery officer and athletic officer, on board the Monterey. While he was on board, the carrier participated in many actions in the Pacific Theater with the Third and Fifth Fleets during the fall of 1943 and in 1944. In 1943, the carrier helped secure Makin Island in the Gilberts, and participated in carrier strikes against Kavieng, New Ireland in 1943. During the spring of 1944, the Monterey supported landings at Kwajalein and Eniwetok and participated in carrier strikes in the Marianas, Western Carolines, and northern New Guinea, as well as in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. After overhaul, from September to November 1944, aircraft from the Monterey launched strikes against Wake Island, participated in strikes in the Philippines and Ryukyus, and supported the landings at Leyte and Mindoro.
Although the ship was not damaged by Japanese forces, the Monterey was one of several ships damaged by the typhoon that hit Admiral William Halsey's Third Fleet on December 18-19, 1944. The Third Fleet lost three destroyers and over 800 men during the typhoon. The Monterey was damaged by a fire, which was started by several of the ship's aircraft tearing loose from their cables and colliding during the storm. During the storm, Ford narrowly avoided becoming a casualty himself. After he left his battle station on the bridge of the ship in the early morning of December 18, the ship rolled twenty-five degrees, which caused Ford to lose his footing and slide toward the edge of the deck. The two-inch steel ridge around the edge of the carrier slowed him enough so he could roll, and he twisted into the catwalk below the deck. As he later stated, "I was lucky; I could have easily gone overboard."
After the fire the Monterey was declared unfit for service, and the crippled carrier reached Ulithi on December 21 before proceeding across the Pacific to Bremerton, Washington, where it underwent repairs. On Christmas Eve 1944 at Ulithi, Ford was detached from the ship and sent to the Navy Pre-Flight School at Saint Mary's College of California, where he was assigned to the Athletic Department until April 1945. One of his duties was to coach football. From the end of April 1945 to January 1946, he was on the staff of the Naval Reserve Training Command, Naval Air Station, Glenview, Illinois as the Staff Physical and Military Training Officer. On October 3, 1945 he was promoted to Lieutenant Commander. In January 1946, he was sent to the Separation Center, Great Lakes to be processed out. He was released from active duty under honorable conditions on February 23, 1946. On June 28, 1963, the Secretary of the Navy accepted Ford's resignation from the Naval Reserve.
For his naval service, Gerald Ford earned the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with nine engagement stars for operations in the Gilbert Islands, Bismarck Archipelago, Marshall Islands, Asiatic and Pacific carrier raids, Hollandia, Marianas, Western Carolines, Western New Guinea, and the Leyte Operation. He also received the Philippine Liberation Medal with two bronze stars for Leyte and Mindoro, as well as the American Campaign and World War II Victory Medals.
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