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Valor and Courage: The Story of the USS Block Island Escort Carriers in World War II
University of Alabama Press, 2021
Paper: 978-0-8173-6069-6 | eISBN: 978-0-8173-9366-3 | Cloth: 978-0-8173-2099-7
Library of Congress Classification D770.H725 2021
Dewey Decimal Classification 940.545973
ABOUT THIS BOOK | AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY | REVIEWS | TOC
ABOUT THIS BOOK
Recounts the stories of the USS Block Island CVE 21 and CVE 106 and their crews, many of whom served on both ships in the Atlantic and Pacific theatres
In Valor and Courage: The Story of the USS Block Island Escort Carriers in World War II Benjamin Hruska explores the history and commemoration of the USS Block Island—or, more properly, the Block Islands, as two escort carriers bore that name during WWII. The first, CVE 21, bears the distinction of having been the only American aircraft carrier sunk in the Atlantic Theatre after being torpedoed by a German U-boat off the coast of North Africa.
Of the CVE 21’s 957 crew members, six sailors were killed and eighteen injured in the strike, and four of the Block Island’s fighter pilots were lost later in the day searching for a safe place to land their planes. When the CVE 106 was commissioned to replace its predecessor, Captain Massie Hughes successfully persuaded the Navy to keep the CVE 21’s crew together in manning the new ship. After resurrection as the CVE 106, the Block Island was assigned to the Pacific theater where it fought until the end of the war. The saga of these two ships and the crew that navigated two very different theaters of war offers a unique lens on naval strategy and engineering as it evolved during WWII, especially as pertains to the escort carrier class—generally underappreciated both in naval studies and in public memory.
Using archival materials, dozens of oral histories, primary sources, and official records, Hruska traces the life of the Block Island from the CVE 21’s construction through its missions in the Atlantic, its work as an antisubmarine hunter, its destruction, and the lasting impact of those experiences on its crew. Hruska’s study juxtaposes traditional military history with an examination of the acts of remembrance and commemoration by veterans who served on the escort carriers, how those practices evolved over time, and how the meanings of personal wartime experiences and memories gradually shifted throughout that process.
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