VF-17 Squadron History and Base Locations
The First Home base for VF-17 was the USS Bunker Hill. Here is a short history of the USS Bunker Hill and the beginning of the end of the usage of the F4U from a carrier by VF-17 until later in the war. During the transit to Pearl Harbor VF-17 received word that they were no longer going to be allowed to operate from the USS Bunker Hill. This was due to the way logistics would have to operate to keep them supplied while on board the ship. They were instead transferred off the Bunker Hill and sent to Ondonga, New Georgia in October of 1943. VF-17 operated from Ondonga (which means "the Place of Death" in the local language). During their operations from Ondonga they covered the invasion of Bougainville and were moved up to Piva Yoke in January of 1944. From January to April of 1944 VF-17 was involved with the systematic take down of Rabaul as an effective base of operations for the Japanese in the Solomon Islands area. On 10 April 1944 VF-17 was de-established and the personnel were transferred to other squadrons throughout the US Navy. At this time Lcdr. Roger Hedrick formed VF-84 and VF-17 was re-established at Alameda Naval Air Station under command of Lcdr. M.U. Beebe and assigned to the USS Hornet during this same month. VF-17 then later participated in the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. While taking part in the invasions, VF-17 was responsible for knocking down 146.5 Japanese aircraft during fighter sweeps from 18 March to 17 April 1945.
USS BUNKER HILL (CV 17) "The Holiday Express"
The first ship to bear the name USS BUNKER HILL was one of the ESSEX Class Fast Carriers. Commissioned May 20, 1943, she quickly earned the nickname "HOLIDAY EXPRESS" because many of her slashing attacks were made during the Christmas and New Year's holidays.
The BUNKER HILL was significant improvement of the ESSEX Class ships over the other U.S. carriers at the time. In addition to more guns and armament, they were equipped with a more heavily armored deck, plus a second armored deck on the hangar level designed to detonate armor-piercing shells and bombs before they reached the vital machinery and electronic spaces below.
BUNKER HILL was one of the few carriers to survive through the entire Pacific Island Hopping Campaign to engage the largest battleship ever built - the YAMATO. In the attack on the Japanese super battleship, the YAMATO was hit by several bombs and almost a dozen torpedo strikes to the hull before she finally sank along with five of her escorts. But the victories of the HOLIDAY EXPRESS and her deadly air wing were soon to come to an end.
On May 11, 1945, off the coast of Okinawa, two Japanese aircraft swept down on the BUNKER HILL so quickly that her exhausted gunners barely had time to respond. The first aircraft released it's 500 pound bomb which smashed through the flight deck and skidded over the side, destroying nearly all the ready deck aircraft. The second aircraft dove at the carrier at nearly a vertical dive, dropping another 500 pound bomb just before it hit the deck. The bomb smashed through the flight deck, but did not penetrate the hangar deck where it exploded. The thickened armor protecting the machinery spaces below had proved effective.
After several hours of fighting fires, BUNKER HILL was able to sail under her own power to dock for repairs. A total of 346 men lost their lives, 43 were counted missing and 264 had been wounded.
BUNKER HILL was repaired just as the war had ended. Her final act of World War II was to bring thousands of servicemen home from the Pacific Theater. In 1947, she was decommissioned. In the years following her decommissioning, BUNKER HILL (CV 17) served as an Anti-Submarine Warfare Support Carrier, a Aviation transport and as an Electronics test ship before being sold to Zidell Explorations INC in 1973.
During the few short years of active duty in World War II, BUNKER HILL was awarded eleven Battle Stars and the Presidential Citation in 1946.
USS Hornet (CV-12 )
"A HERITAGE OF EXCELLENCE" is the ship's creed: