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Thursday, May 17, 2018

MRC: Jesse Davis USS Cape Gloucester

Jessie Lee Davis was a son-in-law of John & Kizzie (Comer) Littrell, husband of Leatha Mae Littrell (Davis). He served aboard the Carrier Escort USS Cape Gloucester during World War II.

jesse navy wnameWe have very little information on the service of Jessie during WW II other than what was past down as oral history. We are in need of additional information. Obviously any military records are crucial, but even the most insignificant memory, picture, or document would be of help. Please click this link for more information on how you can contribute to this serviceperson’s or any service person’s history: MRC: Putting Together Individual Histories of Service.

UPDATE: 5-31-2018:


UPDATE: 5-28-2018

Recently discovered World War II Draft Registration Card for Jessie Lee Davis:



The National Archives in St. Louis, Missouri; St. Louis, Missouri; WWII Draft Registration Cards for Missouri, 10/16/1940 - 03/31/1947; Record Group: Records of the Selective Service System, 147; Box: 77

see Crew Roster below for other updates to this article

ORIGINAL POST: 5-17-2018

The USS Cape Gloucester (name changed from Willapa Bay on 26 April 1944) was launched on 12 September 1944, commissioned on 5 March 1945, and reported to the Pacific Fleet.

0310902The Cape Gloucester arrived at Leyte, Philippine Islands on 29 June 1945 to join the 3rd Fleet engaged in the Battle of Okinawa. Arriving as the battle was concluding the USS Cape Gloucester's planes flew combat air patrol fighting off Japanese kamikazes attempting to attack minesweepers operating east of Okinawa from 5–17 July. They then took part in air raids and photographic reconnaissance of shipping and airfields along the China coast until 7 August. During this time, her aircraft shot down several Japanese planes, and aided in damaging a 700-ton cargo ship.

clip_image001After a period covering minesweeping along the Japanese coasts, and just two weeks after the Japanese formally surrendered, the Cape Gloucester sailed into Nagasaki, stripped of her planes, to serve as an early participant in the celebrated “Magic Carpet” fleet that returned thousands of ragged and half-starved prisoners of war from Australia, New Zealand, Britain and Holland, together with a handful of Americans, to their homes. Many of these POWs were from prison camps on Kyūshū. In that role, Cape Gloucester sailed to Okinawa to unload the allied POWs, and made four voyages returning U.S. servicemen from Okinawa and Pearl Harbor to the west coast.


USS Cape Gloucester (CVE-109) underway off the U.S. West Coast in 1945. USN photo.;

On a website for the USS Tyron I found a conversation that relates to the USS Gloucester and Operation Magic Carpet.

“My Dad was captured in Singapore and sent to work on the Burma/Siam railway, after this he was railed back to Singapore and shipped to Japan on the Rakuyo Maru, torpedoed by USS Sealion, rescued by the Japanese and continued to Japan to be interned in Fukoka 25b Branch Camp in Omuta near Nagasaki. After the bomb was dropped on Nagasaki the war ended and then he was liberated by the Americans (he was British). To my knowledge he sailed from Nagasaki to Okinawa on the USS Cape Gloucester and then sailed from Okinawa (45.09.21??) via Manila, Ulithi Atoll and Hawaii en route to San Francisco. Then on to New York and back home on the Queen Mary…” 

“…I am not 100% sure my Dad sailed to San Francisco aboard the Tryon. What I am sure of is that two other British POWs that were in the same camp as him were sent from Nagasaki to Okinawa on the Aircraft Carrier Cape Gloucester and then transferred to the Tryon some days later. With regard to the route, yes I am sure of this. I have a had written note from my Dad showing all the ‘ports of call’ from when he left England. This was written by him not long after he returned to England so I believe this is correct. The sailing date of Tryon from Okinawa is from the other two pow accounts. However I have found that many of these dates are inaccurate and can only be used as a guide…” from the son (David M.) of Sgt. Harold Madderson 848338, 135 Field Regiment, Royal Artillery

By October 1945, Magic Carpet was operating worldwide with the Army, Navy and WSA pooling their resources to expedite the troop-lift. December 1945 became the peak month with almost 700,000 returning home from the Pacific. With the final arrival of 29 troop transports carrying more than 200,000 soldiers and sailors from the China-Burma-India theater in April 1946, Operation Magic Carpet came to its end. The last of the troops to return from the Pacific war zone (127,300) arrived home in September 1946.[4]

Within a month of the end of Operation Magic Carpet the escort carrier USS Cape Gloucester returned to Tacoma, Wash., 22 May 1946, and was placed out of commission in reserve there on 5 November 1946


USS Cape Gloucester (CVE-109)underway in 1945. By USN - U.S. Navy bureau of Ships photo 19-N-92916 from Navsource.org, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39408273


  • Dale, Paul: Hemet, CA
  • Beauregard,Robert: Leominster, MA
  • Davis, Jesse: East Prairie, MO
  • Carry Orcarrie: Newberryport, MA
  • Cummings, Alvin: Omaha, NE
  • Defenbaugh, Robert: Bardstown, IL**
  • Rapp, Albert: Tacoma, WA
  • Peat, Robert: North Hollywood, CA
  • Runyan, Vernon: Was K.C., Mo
  • Wolford, Charles: Omaha, NE
  • Vanfossen, Dean: Smyrna, OH
  • Hager, Lloyd: Duluth, MN**
  • Smallwood, Ken: Miamisburg, OH
  • Greenia, Fredrick Henry: Louisville, KY
  • Hayes, Paul: Dillon, SC**
  • Gregg, James: Harrisburg, PA
  • Morrow, Robert: Oconto Falls, WI

Obviously there are many more crew members than the above list(1066 officers and men). Those listed above have been registered on the website http://www.hullnumber.com/CVE-109 by themselves or their families.

**I have sent inquiries to all the above. The following are responses received from them to date:

as of 5-18-2018

“My father Lloyd John Hager (dec) served aboard the USS CAPE GLOUCHESTER (CVE-109) in 1944-45. He was an electricians mate (EM). Before joining the ship he went to boot camp in Idaho and aviation electricians training in Florida. Given the crew of over a 1000 it is unlikely he knew your uncle. Other than information about the ship and its activities which can be found on numerous websites (use correct full name above to search) the only information I can add is that he once told me that the ship held boxing matches in the hanger bay in which he participated.
Note: the CAPE GLOUCHESTER was only in commission from late 1944 until decommissioned in 1946 so your uncle was probably onboard during that period.        Dennis L Hager, CAPT USN (ret)”

“I am writing in reference to My Fathers assignment on CVE-109 towards end of WWII. He is still alive and has some pics and a book on CVE-109. Whether or not they were active at same time you would have to contact him for that info. I registered him on this site long time ago but he does not use computer. His name is Robert G. Defenbaugh. He was a Gunners Mate and they were in Nagasaki area after bomb drop. You could give him a call for any info you might be able to acquire. He is located in Central Illinois telephone xxx-xxx-xxxx. Be aware he is hard of hearing, 90 years old and cantankerous. He loves to talk to anyone related to CVE-109. Please identify yourself when calling and I will let him know in advance of our contact. I believe he still may have contact with others from CVE-109. Not many left.                             Robert L. Defenbaugh”

“Dear Glenn, My father, Paul Hayes, USN passed away 5 years ago.  He was a proud member of USS Cape Gloucester.  The only information I have is that the ship sailed out of San Diego.  I wish I had more information to help you in your search. Blessings,    From Donnie Hayes, Vicar Christ Church Florence, SC”


The Gloucester was commissioned late in the war on 3-5-1945 and decommissioned 11-5-1946. After the war It was later repurposed as a Helicopter Carrier (CVHE-109, then a Cargo Ship and Aircraft Ferry (AKV-9) and sold for scrap in 1971.

USS Cape Gloucester (CVE-109) anchored in mid-stream at Nagasaki, waiting to take aboard liberated Allied prisoners of war. Photographed by Private First Class L.F. DeRycke, 5 September 1945. Official U.S. Marine Corps Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), # 127-GW-1643-138641.

USS Cape Gloucester (CVE-109) anchored in mid-stream at Nagasaki, waiting to take aboard liberated Allied prisoners of war. Photographed by Private First Class L.F. DeRycke, 5 September 1945. Official U.S. Marine Corps Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), # 127-GW-1643-138641.

The Gloucester was a Commencement Bay-Class escort carrier built specifically for WWII.
The escort carrier or escort aircraft carrier (US hull classification symbol CVE) was a small and slow type of aircraft carrier used in World War II. They were typically half the length and a third the displacement of larger fleet carriers. While they were slower, carried fewer planes and were less well armed and armored, escort carriers were cheaper and could be built quickly, which was their principal advantage. However, the lack of protection made escort carriers particularly vulnerable and several were sunk with great loss of life.
Escort carriers were too slow to keep up with the main forces consisting of fleet carriers, battleships, and cruisers. Instead, they were used to escort convoys, defending them from enemy threats such as submarines and planes. In the invasions of mainland Europe and Pacific islands, escort carriers provided air support to ground forces during amphibious operations. Escort carriers also served as backup aircraft transports for fleet carriers and ferried aircraft of all military services to points of delivery.

From <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Escort_carrier>


Note: After operational training at Pearl Harbor,


Note: The navy hastily converted many of its warships into temporary transports, including aircraft carriers, where three-to five-tiered bunks were installed on the hangar decks to provide accommodation for several thousand men in relative comfort. The navy fleet of 369 ships included 222 assault transports, 6 battleships, 18 cruisers, 57 aircraft carriers and 12 hospital ships.[4]



In 2015 based on some information I obtained from Bill Davis I began trying to research his father's service during World War II. According to Bill, Jesse Davis served on a carrier escort in DSC00595smallthe South Pacific. Bill remember the name of the escort being the Gloucester. Unfortunately, Bill was not able to provide a copy of Jessie's discharge papers which would have provided more information. As a result, all I was able to do was established that there was a USS Gloucester and it was a carrier escort. Without the discharge papers, the next best option was to look for a cruise book but I was unable to find any. I attempted to also do an online search for military records for Jesse as well as any newspaper articles that might have included him but was unable to find any such information. That does not mean that such a book or information on Jessie Davis doesn't exist. A few days ago I received an email from a website called hullbuddy.com referencing Jesse Davis. With the arrival this email I restarted the research on Jessie to see what this website had come up with, unfortunately, it turns out that this was a newsletter sent from a website that I had registered Jessie on in the hopes of somebody would respond to it. The newsletter contained an article referencing Flight Deck operations for escort carriers and aircraft carriers but nothing specifically on the USS Gloucester or Jesse Davis. But I began backtracking on the 2015 research. Fortunately, it turns out that new information has made its way on the internet, but so for not anything specifically pertaining to Jesse Davis but a significant amount of information pertaining to the USS Gloucester. Primarily pictures of the ship and a short record of movements. I also found references that prove a cruise ship book for the USS Gloucester was published1, but have not been able to find a reference to a known location of a copy of the book. But based on new information from various sources we can now piece together the above World War II record of the USS Gloucester.

1 https://www.history.navy.mil/research/library/cruise-books/wwii-cruise-books-biblography/ship-books.html Cape Gloucester (CVE 109): U.S.S. Cape Gloucester Album: A Pictorial Log. Anon. Chicago: Rogers Printing Co., [1945?]. 107 pp., 28 cm, photos, ports. Dornbusch 1950: 866, Smith: 7168. No known copy location.

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