USS Gilbert Islands received three battle stars for her World War II service
USS Gilbert Islands (CVE-107) (ex-St. Andrews Bay) was a Commencement Bay class escort carrier of the United States Navy.
She was launched on 20 July 1944 the Todd-Pacific Shipyards, Inc., Tacoma, Washington; sponsored by Mrs. Edwin D. McMorries; and commissioned on 5 February 1945, Captain L. K. Rice in command.
She was reclassified as AGMR-1 on 1 June 1963, renamed USS Annapolis on 22 June 1963 and finally recommissioned on 7 March 1964.
After shakedown training, Gilbert Islands departed San Diego on 12 April 1945 for exercises in Hawaiian waters. She sailed on 2 May with an escort carrier force that closed Okinawa on 21 May. Her aircraft blasted and strafed concrete dugouts, troop concentrations, ammunition and fuel dumps on Okinawa from 24–31 May.
In the following days she helped neutralize outlying Japanese airfields and installations with repeated bomb and rocket attacks. Four of her Marine pilots and three TBM Avenger gunners were killed in action in all of 1945. She departed Okinawa on 16 June to replenish at San Pedro Bay, thence to Balikpapan, Borneo. She gave air cover to Australians storming that shore 1 July and remained 4 days to attack all targets in sight. With the Australians securely established, she returned to Leyte on 6 July.
Gilbert Islands departed San Pedro Bay on 29 July to screen logistic ships replenishing 3rd Fleet striking forces along the coast of Japan. On that station 15 August she joined a task group that included nearly all the 3rd Fleet and heard Admiral Halsey's laconic direction: "Apparently the war is over and you are ordered to cease firing; so, if you see any Jap planes in the air, you will just have to shoot them down in a friendly manner." After replenishment at Okinawa, she departed on 14 October to participate in a show of air strength during occupation of Formosa by the Chinese 70th Army. She was then routed onward via Saipan and Pearl Harbor to San Diego, arriving on 4 December 1945. She remained in port until 21 January 1946, then set course for Norfolk where she decommissioned on 21 May 1946 and was placed in reserve.
Towed to Philadelphia in November 1949, Gilbert Islands recommissioned on 7 September 1951 and put in at Boston on 25 November for overhaul. She joined the Atlantic Fleet on 1 August 1952, sailed 8 days later with a cargo of jets for Yokohama, Japan, arriving 18 September, and returned to her homeport of Quonset Point, R.I. on 22 October. She sailed on 5 January 1953 for the Caribbean to conduct training exercises off Cuba and returned to New England waters to continue these duties through the summer and fall of the year. Following a cruise to Halifax and overhaul at Boston, the escort carrier stood out on 5 January 1954 for a Mediterranean cruise, returning to Quonset Point on 12 March 1954 for reserve training and other exercises. She became the first of her class to have jets make touch-and-go landings on the flight deck while she had no way on, a dangerous experiment successfully conducted on 9 June 1954. She left Rhode Island on 25 June for Boston and decommissioned there on 15 January 1955.
Reclassified AKV-39 on 7 May 1959, Gilbert Islands remained in reserve until her name was struck from the Naval Vessel Register in June 1961. She was reclassified AGMR-1 on 1 June 1963 and renamed USS Annapolis (AGMR-1) on 22 June 1963. Annapolis recommissioned on 7 March 1964, Captain John J. Rowan in command. As the Navy's first major communication relay ship, Annapolis was busy with acceptance trials for the rest of the year. In the fall, she handled communications during Operations Teamwork and Steel Pike before final acceptance into the fleet on 16 December.
After operations out of Norfolk for the first half of 1965, Annapolis was assigned Long Beach, California as home port on 28 June 1965. In September, she was sent to Vietnam to assist communications between naval units. In 1966, the first ship-to-shore satellite radio message ever transmitted and received was between the USS Annapolis (AMGR 1) in South China Sea to Pacific Fleet Headquarters at Pearl Harbor. With the exception of periodic visits to Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the Philippines for upkeep and training, she continued this important service into 1967, assuring a smooth and steady flow of information and orders. Annapolis was decommissioned 20 December 1969 at Norfolk, VA and was placed in the Pacific Reserve Fleet then towed to Philadelphia Naval Shipyard where she was placed in mothball. The ship was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register 15 October 1976 and sold for scrap 1 November 1979.