Barnes, the aircraft escort vessel AVG-20 was laid down on 19 January 1942 at Seattle, Wash., by the Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Co. under a Maritime Commission (MC hull 236); named Barnes on 19 March 1942 after AVG-7's 1 March 1942 reallocation to the Royal Navy; acquired from the Maritime Commission on 1 May 1942; launched on 22 May 1942; sponsored by Mrs. George L. Hutchinson; reclassified an auxiliary aircraft carrier and redesignated ACV-20 on 20 August 1942; and commissioned at the Puget Sound Navy Yard on 20 February 1943, Capt. Cato D. Glover in command.
After fitting out, Barnes, escorted by Endicott (DD-495), departed Port Townsend on 18 March 1943 for San Francisco and San Diego. Following shakedown training, the warship left San Diego for Hawaii on 20 April, arriving in Pearl Harbor on the 26th. Clearing Oahu two days later, the auxiliary aircraft carrier sailed for Noumea, New Caledonia, and reached that port on 10 May. Barnes lingered there for only three days before she pushed on for Espiritu Santo, reaching her destination on 15 May. She brought her maiden voyage to a close at San Diego on 3 June 1943.
She conducted two more ferry missions, transporting aircraft, men and materiel that summer, the first of these to Brisbane, Australia, and the second to Hilo and Pearl Harbor. During this time, Barnes was reclassified an escort aircraft carrier and was redesignated CVE-20 on 1 July 1943. Returning to Alameda on 2 September 1943, the warship entered Moore's Drydock yards at Oakland, Calif., a week later for an availability which lasted into October.
Shifting to Alameda, and thence to San Francisco, Barnes came back to Alameda again before sailing for Hawaii on 12 October. Reaching Oahu six days later, the warship operated in nearby waters through the first week of November, alternating periods spent training at sea with upkeep in port. Finally, Barnes embarked Fighting Squadron (VF) 1's Grumman F6F-3 "Hellcats" and set sail on 10 November with Task Force (TF) 53 bound for the invasion of the Gilbert Islands. On the 19th, she became part of Task Group (TG) 53.6 which also comprised Nassau (CVE-16), Sangamon (CVE-26), Suwanee (CVE-27) and Santee (CVE-29). Her task group's specific target during the invasion was Tarawa.
At 0751 on 20 November, Barnes turned into the wind and began catapulting off the first of 16 F6F-3s of VF-1. Splitting into four groups of four, Barnes' planes strafed Japanese targets behind the three Red Beaches on Betio Island in the face of light antiaircraft fire. She recovered the last of her planes at 1046, about three hours after she had launched them, and stood off Tarawa for the rest of the day while the marines ashore dug in for the night on their precarious beachhead. The following morning, Barnes put aloft a combat air patrol (CAP) flight of eight F6F-3s between 0630 and 0642. She then sent a second group of aircraft to conduct air patrol over Tarawa and a third to provide CAP for the transports off Betio. The last group also strafed of Japanese positions on Betio in support of the marines trying to wrest the atoll from determined defenders.
Barnes' fighters returned to the skies over Betio on the 22d and resumed CAP and close air support while the marines slowly wrested ground from the enemy. Her "Hellcats" made two runs on their targets, commencing their passes at 5,000 feet and pulling out at 100; enemy antiaircraft fire still rose to meet the attackers, but much reduced in volume. Early on the 23d, Cowell (DD-547) came alongside Barnes and completed the transfer of aircraft repair parts from Nassau between 0930 and 0935. Barnes then took up station astern of the destroyer and prowled the waters off Tarawa for the rest of the day.
Ashore, Major General Julian C. Smith, USMC, declared Betio "secure" at 1330 on the 23d, despite the resistance of isolated pockets of Japanese until the 28th. Barnes put aloft CAP flights on the 24th; and, the next afternoon, began catapulting off VF-1's 22 F6F-3s to base at the newly secured and repaired airfield on Betio. Her role in "Galvanic" completed, Barnes sailed for Hawaii on 30 November and reached the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard on 5 December.
There, she spent three days fueling, provisioning, and undergoing voyage repairs. Then, after taking on passengers, Barnes sailed for the west coast on 8 December, arriving in San Diego on the 14th. Following more voyage repairs and upkeep, the warship then proceeded independently to the South Pacific to deliver planes to the New Hebrides Islands. Rendezvousing with her local escort, Thornton (AVD-11) on 4 January 1944, Barnes made port at Espiritu Santo the following day. She remained at Espiritu Santo for six days before pushing on south on the 11th for her second stop on the voyage, at Efate on the 12th. Sailing again the same day, she set course for the west coast and reached San Diego on 27 January 1944, commencing upkeep at the Destroyer Base the next day.
In February and March, Barnes made another round-trip voyage from the west coast to Espiritu Santo and back. Arriving back at Alameda on 21 March with returned aviation materiel, she remained in port just two days before sailing on a more lengthy voyage. Departing Alameda on the 23d, Barnes touched briefly at Pearl Harbor at the end of March and then set out for the Marshalls on 1 April. Stopping first at Majuro from 7 to 10 April, the escort carrier then visited Espiritu Santo between 15 and 20 April before continuing on to the Admiralties. She reached Manus on 25 April and transferred aircraft to Hornet (CV-12) soon thereafter. Two days later, in company with Petrof Bay (CVE-80), the escort carrier transferred replacement aircraft to the fleet carriers in TG 58.2 and TG 58.3. Barnes returned to the west coast by way of Pearl Harbor, entering San Pedro, Calif., on 21 May. She then spent the last week in May undergoing repairs.
In June and July, Barnes made round-trip voyages to Hawaii, transporting aircraft and men to Pearl Harbor, before sailing from the west coast for the Marshall Islands once more on 15 July 1944. After pausing at Pearl Harbor between 21 and 23 July, the escort carrier pushed on for Majuro, arriving there at the end of the month. She returned to Pearl Harbor on 9 August and then spent the next ten days in an overhaul and upkeep status.
Departing Oahu on 30 August, Barnes set out for the Admiralties and reached Manus on 10 September. Assigned to TG 30.8, she got underway soon thereafter in company with Sitkoh Bay (CVE-86), four oilers and four destroyers to provide logistics support for the unfolding operations in the Western Carolines. On 16 September, Barnes rendezvoused with the 3d Fleet in an area generally southeast of the Palaus and, at 0840, sighted TGs 38.2 and 38.3. Accompanied by a plane guard, Swearer (DE-186), Barnes operated within sight of those groups to their southeast. At 1120, she commenced flight operations to deliver aircraft to the larger carriers and completed the evolution by 1640. During this time, she catapulted off 40 planes for delivery to Intrepid (CV-11), Essex (CV-9), Bunker Hill (CV-17), and Independence (CVL-22). Prichett (DD-561) brought ferry pilots from Essex to fly planes to that carrier, while Yarnall (DD-541) brought back the pilots later that afternoon. The following day, again accompanied by Swearer, Barnes launched 17 planes for delivery to Wasp (CV-18), Hornet, Cowpens (CVL-25), Belleau Wood (CVL-24) and TG 38.2 via Wasp. This task completed, Barnes set course for Manus, dropping anchor in Seeadler Harbor early on the 21st.
The next morning, Barnes began loading replacement airplanes and waiting at her berth for orders which finally arrived on 30 September. Those orders appear to have contained a change in the composition of Barnes' next delivery to the fleet, for she discharged "unwanted airplanes" later that morning and began loading passengers and equipment belonging to a pair of replacement light carrier air groups. Departing Manus on 1 October, with CVLG-29 and CVLG-44 embarked, she reached Ulithi on the 4th but waited until the next day to start flight operations. That day, Barnes delivered aircraft to Bunker Hill, Cabot (CVL-28), and Lexington (CV-16) and, then, entered Ulithi lagoon again to disembark "passengers for delivery to fleet units present" and to embark return passengers. The following afternoon, after turning an ammunition cargo over to a tank landing craft (LCT) for transfer to the ammunition ship Lassen (AE-3), Barnes set sail for Manus, where she disembarked her passengers on the 9th before unloading damaged airplanes to make room for more replacement aircraft for the fleet.
By 0940 the following day, Barnes had completed the embarkation and loading process, and got underway at 1000. She rendezvoused with TF 38 on 15 October and began launching planes at 1702 for delivery to the fleet. The escort carrier resupplied Independence with planes on the 15th and then moved on to Hornet, Wasp, and Monterey (CVL-26) on the 16th. Only one mishap marred the day's operations, when a Hornet-bound F6F-5 made a "forced water landing" shortly after being catapulted aloft. A plane guard destroyer rescued the pilot.
On 17 October, Barnes and Sitkoh Bay accompanied a group of fleet oilers to a fueling rendezvous, where the disposition maneuvered until the following morning. At that time, the escort carrier resumed replenishment operations, catapulting off planes to Essex and Princeton (CVL-23), and Langley (CVL-27), in addition to relieving Essex of a "dud." Meeting TG 38.2 early on 19 October, Barnes brought replacement pilots from Callaghan (DD-792) on board and delivered aircraft to Hancock (CV-19) and Intrepid. Having completed "replacement exercises" with TF 38 by 1506, Barnes then headed back to Manus in company with Riddle (DE-185).
Barnes returned to Ulithi on 1 November with Cape Esperance (CVE-88) and Sitkoh Bay and, the next day, transferred a draft of enlisted replacements to Turkey (ATO-143) to be distributed to their assigned ships. She then embarked 37 pilots from Wasp for ferry duty and transferred two torpedo plane crews to Anzio (CVE-57) before sending aircraft to Cowpens and Monterey via barge. The escort carrier then got underway to catapult off some planes to Wasp, losing an F6F-5 upon take-off to the failure of its catapult hook. Lardner (DD-487) picked up the unhurt pilot, and Barnes returned to anchor in Ulithi lagoon.
On 3 November, Barnes transferred planes, via LCT, to Enterprise (CV-6), Yorktown (CV-10), and Cape Esperance, receiving "dud" aircraft and salvaged aviation parts in return. She stood by ready to get underway when the weather worsened over the next few days as a typhoon passed by to the south. After the storm passed, the warship resumed her normal in-port routine. On 12 November, she transferred her last serviceable airplanes to Independence, Sitkoh Bay and Hancock, and passengers reported on board for passage to the rear areas. Underway five days later, Barnes paused briefly at Manus on the 30th before continuing on to Pearl Harbor and finally reached the west coast at Alameda on 13 December 1944.
Over the next eight months, Barnes maintained ferry and transport service to the western Pacific, carrying out four more cruises before the Japanese surrender. Departing Alameda on 2 August 1945, she reached Pearl Harbor on the 8th, getting underway the following day for Guam. The Japanese acceptance of the terms of the Potsdam Declaration found Barnes still en route. Reaching her destination on the 21st, the warship pushed on for Manus, and thence to Saipan and back to Guam before she arrived back at Alameda on 12 September.
Barnes then sailed for the Far East on 10 October, and after calling at Pearl Harbor, Guam, and Saipan en route, reached Yokosuka, Japan, on 27 October. There she loaded captured Japanese aircraft for transportation back to the United States, and sailed for Alameda on 2 November 1945. She arrived back on the west coast on 14 November.
Although originally assigned to the Pacific Reserve Fleet, Barnes reported to the Commander, Atlantic Fleet, for temporary duty on 2 December 1945. Arriving at Norfolk, Va., soon thereafter, the ship sailed for Cristobal, Canal Zone, on 4 January 1946. Transiting the Panama Canal on 9 January, Barnes sailed for San Diego on the 11th. Arriving at her destination on 18 January, she disembarked passengers at the Navy Pier, and then shifted berths to North Island later the same day. Underway for Hawaii on the 23d, the escort carrier arrived in Pearl Harbor on the 29th but lingered only a short time, sailing for the Philippines on 31 January.
Barnes arrived at Guiuan road stead, off Samar, on the afternoon of 12 February; and, after embarking passengers and loading a variety of aircraft types, she sailed for Guam on the 19th. Reaching Apra Harbor on 23 February, Barnes took on more passengers there and set out for the west coast later the same day. She reached Alameda on 12 March but returned to sea two days later with Hawaii-bound cargo. Arriving in Pearl Harbor on the 20th, she unloaded the cargo brought from Alameda and took on aircraft to be returned to the west coast on the 21st. Barnes sailed for San Diego on the 22d. Reaching her destination on the 28th, the ship disembarked her passengers and then shifted to North Island later the same day.
Underway for the east coast early on 16 April, Barnes arrived at Balboa in the Canal Zone on the 24th, transited the canal on the 27th, and resumed her voyage the next day. The escort carrier laid over in Norfolk for four days before entering Boston on 11 May. There, Barnes was placed out of commission on 29 August 1946. Despite her reclassification as an "escort helicopter aircraft carrier" and her redesignation as CVHE-20 effective 12 June 1955, the carrier never returned to service in that, or any other, role. Her name was struck from the Navy list on 1 March 1959, and she was sold to Union Minerals and Alloys Corp. on 1 October 1959. She was broken up in Japan in 1961.
Barnes (CVE-20) received three battle stars for her World War II service.