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Robert Hanley

Signalman, First Class, U.S. Navy

02439602

USS LISCOMBE BAY CVE-56

Entered the Service from: New Jersey
Died: November 24, 1943
Missing in Action or Buried at Sea
Tablets of the Missing at Honolulu Memorial
Honolulu, Hawaii
Awards: Purple Heart


SIGNALMAN FIRST CLASS ROBERT HANLEY was the son of Mr. and Mrs. John Hanley. The Hanley's lived at 409 Haakon Road in Brooklawn NJ. Robert Hanley was a student at Gloucester High School in Gloucester City NJ before enlisting in the United States Navy at the age of 17. In April of 1943 he was selected to become one of the crew of the new escort carrier USS Liscombe Bay CVE-56.

The Liscombe Bay had an interesting history. On December 9, 1943, the keel was laid for this carrier, the second built at Vancouver WA. She was launched on April 19 as the HMS Ameer and was intended to become a part of the British fleet. Her sponsor was Mrs. Benjamin Morrell, wife of Admiral Morrell, chief of the Bureau of Stocks and Yards. Before delivery, however, the Ameer  was turned over to the U. S. Navy and her name changed to the USS Liscombe Bay

Still shrouded in naval secrecy are details of the last hours of the USS Liscome Bay.  The Liscombe Bay was torpedoed by the Japanese submarine I-175 off of Makin Island in the Gilbert Islands on November 24, 1943. The Liscombe Bay was taking part in Operation Galvanic, the seizure of Makin and Tarawa Atolls in the Gilbert Islands. Liscome Bay's aircraft supported operations ashore between 20-23 November 1943. It was in the dark hours before dawn when her planes were warming up to take off on a scouting mission on November 24, 1943. At 5:10 AM, while cruising near Butaritari Island, a single torpedo from Japanese submarine I-175 struck the escort carrier aft of the machinery space, near the stern. The aircraft bomb magazine detonated a few moments later. Then followed other explosions - a terrific blast of the bomb storage quarters which blew an elevator loose and caused a large fire. Other explosions followed as the fire reached ammunition storage. With her hangar decks ablaze, the fantail gone, and a portion of the after starboard side blown away, the once mighty carrier turned in the water and sank by, the stern, within minutes.   

So violent were the blasts that hundreds of the carrier's personnel were trapped below decks and killed as they attempted to escape. In an outstanding act of heroism, Lieut. Commander Bizz Carroll, damage control officer, led at least a dozen men to safety, although he himself was mortally wounded. Among the dead were the carrier's skipper, Capt. Irving D. Wiltsie and Rear Admiral Henry M. Mullinix aboard the ship as a task force commander. Also lost was Medal of Honor awardee Ships Cook Third Class Doris "Dorie" Miller, a hero of Pearl harbor.

Assigned to the newly constructed USS Liscome Bay (CVE-56) in the spring of 1943, Hanley was on board  Listed as missing following the loss of that escort carrier, Robert Hanley was officially presumed dead 25 November 1944, a year and a day after the loss of Liscome Bay. Only 272 Sailors survived the sinking of Liscome Bay, while 646 died.
 
Robert Hanley last wrote home a letter that was posted on November 13, 1943. He was a veteran of seven campaigns against the Japanese. Besides his parents, he was survived by two brothers, Howard, who served in the Navy, and Robert, who entered the Army late in 1943.


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