Where the Heck is Petrof Bay?
For fifty-five years I have wondered--where in the hell did they
get the name "Petrof Bay"? I had never heard the name,
nor had anyone else ever indicated that he had heard the name.
I had searched encyclopedias, libraries, maps and the internet
but never found a clue to where the name originated. That is
until a few months ago when I received a book about the history
of the USS Petrof Bay. The author of the book, "Escort Carriers
in Action" Rick Cline, indicated the name came from a little
bay in Alaska. I still couldn't find the place on the map. Not
only did the USS Petrof Bay have a funny, unfamiliar name for
a carrier, but there was a gross of other CVEs, such as the USS
Steamer Bay, Kalinin Bay, Hoggart Bay, Kadashan Bay, Kitkin Bay
and sixty nine other CVEs- mostly with funny names. As for the
CV's and the CVLs the "big boys" or fast carriers as
they were known- about thirty of them, all had names that were
household words before they became carriers. Somebody really
scraped the bottom of the barrel for the names of the CVEs.
I was made aware of the locations of four of these carriers from
a copy of a map sent to me by Mr. Milton James of the Seattle
Air Museum for which I thank him very much. Because of the quality
of the original map, this map was not too legible, but did contain
of the Petrof Bay and the Steamer Bay as well as the Thetis Bay
and the Shipley Bay.
Several CVEs were named after bays in southern Alaska
To pin down the site it was necessary to scan the whole southern
part of the map of Alaska, trying to match the shorelines and
the inlets. After a determined effort, I finally located the
reference points and was able to positively locate the positions
on the islands west of Wrangell, Alaska. You still won't find
the names in the Rand-McNally road atlas.
Last September this web site was visited by Mr. R. C. Bartholomew,
who presented me with information from the Dictionary of Alaska
Place Names, 1967; "Petrof Bay". The Petrof Bay is
located on the western side of the Kuiu Island near the southern
end of Tebenkof Bay at a latitude of 56 degrees North and 134
degrees, 5 minutes west.
As to the why the Petrof Bay was blessed with this name, Mr.
Bartholomew's comments informed me that Petrof bay was named
in 1928 after an Ivan Petrof who was a special census agent for
Alaska in the 1880's. His fame came from his large contribution
to the written history of Alaska.
So, now I know the whys and the wheres. At least when people
raise their eyebrows at the name of this "great" warship
and wonder if I served in the Russian Navy, I can almost convince
them that this ship and the other funny named ships and their
crews were all Red Blooded Americans who lived and fought on
the edge, where some ships were sunk and many men died for the
United States of America.