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NavSource Online: Escort Carrier Photo Archive

RABAUL   (CVE-121)
(later CVHE-121 and AKV-21)

Flag Hoist/Radio Call Sign: November - Juliet - Romeo - Oscar
Displacement 21,397 Tons (full load), Dimensions, 557' 7" (oa) x 75' x 30' 8" (Max)
Armament 2 x 5"/38AA 36 x 40mm, 20 x 20mm, 33 Aircraft.
Machinery, 16,000 SHP; Allis-Chambers, Geared Turbines, 2 screw
Speed, 19 Knots, Crew 1066.

Operational and Building Data

Fate: Stricken from the Navy list 1 September 1971. Sold to Nicolai Joffe Corporation, Beverly Hills, CA, 25 August 1972, for $133,261. Scrapped by Marine Salvage Co., Pier 54, Oakland, CA. (Thanks to Ron Reeves for the information.)

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CVE-121 was assigned the name Rabaul after a port on the northeast coast of New Britain (NS0312104) which was used by the Japanese as a naval and air base during World War II. Frequently bombed by Allied air forces, its military value was neutralized by Allied landings at Arawe, Cape Gloucester, and Talasea, December 1943 to March 1944.

NS0312104a: Aircraft of the USAAF 3rd Bomb Group attack Japanese ships in Simpson Harbor, Rabaul, New Britain, 2 November 1943. The heavy cruiser Haguro is in the foreground. She had been somewhat damaged during the battle of Empress Augusta Bay the previous night. The burning transport at right appears to be one of the Hakone Maru class, of which Hakone Maru, Hakozaki Maru and Hakusan Maru were still afloat at the time. The ship in the left distance, partially hidden by smoke, appears to be the submarine tender Chogei or Jingei. Official U.S. Air Force Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command, # NH 95558.

(Map courtesy of Google Maps.)

CVE-121 Rabaul

Launching Rabaul. She was sponsored by Mrs. Henry A. Schade.

National Archives photo # 80-G-345308.

Daniel Dunham
CVE-121 Rabaul

Launching Rabaul. Bow-on view of vessel.

National Archives photo # 80-G-345309.

Daniel Dunham
CVE-121 Rabaul

Rabaul (CVE-121) afloat immediately after launching at the Todd Pacific Shipyard, Tacoma, Washington, 14 July 1945. At this time she had been constructed only up to the hangar deck level. Though completed and delivered to the Navy in mid-1946, this ship went directly into the Reserve Fleet and had no commissioned service.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command photograph (#NH 85461), courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1977.

Naval History & Heritage Command, via Robert Hurst
In the Movies
CVE-121 Rabaul

Magnum Force, 1973. Directed by Ted Post. Starring Clint Eastwood, Hal Holbrook, Mitchell Ryan, David Soul.

Near the end of the film Detective "Dirty" Harry Callahan (Eastwood) is chased by the bad guys aboard two former escort carriers that were at Marine Salvage in Oakland, California, to be scrapped. One of the CVEs is almost certainly Rabaul, sold to Nicolai Joffe Corporation, Beverly Hills, California, and scrapped by Marine Salvage Co., Pier 54, Oakland. The second CVE is often identified as ex-USS Badoeng Strait (CVE-116/AKV-16), but she was assigned to the Inactive Ship Facility, Pacific Reserve Fleet, at Bremerton, Washington, and sold for scrapping to American Ship Dismantlers, Inc., Portland, Oregon, 8 May 1972. A more likely candidate is ex-USS Commencement Bay (CVE-105/CVHE-105/AKV-37), assigned to the Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility, Naval Station, San Diego, California, and sold as well to Nicolai Joffe Corporation, 25 August 1972.

The April 2019 issue of Sea Classics has an article about the CVEs in this film. According to the article, the scene was filmed at Richmond's Red Rock Marina, where three former escort carriers were tied up waiting to be scrapped. The CVEs are identified as Commencement Bay, Badoeng Strait and Rabaul, but confirmation from readers is solicited. (Thanks to David Lewis for sharing the article.)

Another interesting article discussing the identity of the carriers can be found at the wwiiafterwwii website.

Suggested by
William Stevens, USN (Ret.);
and David Lewis
CVE-121 Rabaul
CVE-121 Rabaul
CVE-121 Rabaul
CVE-121 Rabaul

USS RABAUL CVE-121 History
View This Vessels
DANFS History Entry
(Located On The Hazegray & Underway Web Site, This Is The Main Archive For The DANFS Online Project.)

Crew Contact And Reunion Information

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Additional Resources
Hazegray & Underway World Aircraft Carrier Pages By Andrew Toppan.
Escort Carrier Sailors & Airmen Association

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This page was created by Paul Yarnall and is maintained by Fabio Peña
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Last update: 26 November 2021