USS Greenwich Bay (AVP-41)

USS Greenwich Bay (AVP-41), a Barnegat-class small seaplane tender, was named for a bay on the Connecticut coast. She was launched 17 March 1945 by the Lake Washington Shipyard, Haughton, Washington; sponsored by Mrs. Francis B. Johnson, wife of the Commander of Fleet Air Wing 6; and commissioned 20 May 1945, Comdr. Peter F. Boyle in command.

Departing San Diego 26 August 1945, the ship sailed for Taku, China, 5 October via Pearl Harbor, Midway Island, and Okinawa. Greenwich Bay spent the rest of 1945 along the China coast, touching at Tsingtao and Shanghai as well as Taku, tending seaplanes of the Seventh Fleet. She operated in Japanese waters during January 1946, and after a short stint in the Philippines, sailed for the States 1 May. Reaching Norfolk, Virginia 1 July 1946 via Hong Kong, Singapore, Naples, Casablanca, and Gibraltar, Greenwich Bay continued on to New York City for overhaul.

Greenwich Bay reported to the Potomac River Naval Command 19 February 1947 to serve as escort to Williamsburg (AGC-369, ex PG-56), the Presidential Yacht. This assignment ended 21 June 1948 as she departed Norfolk for an around-the-world cruise. During her 4 month sailing, Greenwich Bay made good-will visits to Gibraltar, Port Said, Muscat, Bahrein, Kuwait, Trincomalee (Sri Lanka), Fremantle, Pago Pago, Papeete (Tahiti), and Coco Solo before returning to Norfolk 14 October.

Greenwich Bay sailed 30 April 1949 to assume duties as flagship for the Commander of the U.S. Navy Middle East Force. Every year thereafter she repeated this duty, sailing through the Mediterranean to operate as flagship in the Red Sea, Persian Gulf, and Indian Ocean for 4 to 6 months. In addition to operating with Allied naval units in these areas, Greenwich Bay performed extensive work in the People-to-People program, particularly in carrying drugs and other medical supplies to Arab and African nations, and operated as an important tool of diplomacy in the region. During most of this period, she performed these duties in rotation with two sisters, and . These three ships were dubbed the "little white fleet", in reference to the white paint jobs they shared to counter the region's extreme heat.

In 1950 the tender's crew distinguished itself in Bahrein, as Air France planes crashed there on 13 June and 15 June while attempting to make early-morning landings on a fog-shrouded field. Greenwich Bay sent out a total of six search-and-rescue missions on these 2 days. On 15 June one of her launches, containing both her captain and medical officer, succeeded in rescuing nine survivors of the crash. For her heroic action Greenwich Bay received the special commendation and thanks of both the Arabian and French governments.

When the Suez Crisis flared up in 1956, Greenwich Bay extended her normal cruise in the Persian Gulf to be able to evacuate American dependents and civilians if necessary. As a result of the blocking of the canal, she had to return to the States around the Cape of Good Hope. In her Middle East duties, which were punctuated by local operations and exercises out of Norfolk, Greenwich Bay was visited by many dignitaries, including King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia, the Shah of Iran, His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, and the Shaikh of Kuwait.

Ports which she visited as part of her official duties as flagship include virtually every major Mediterranean, Persian Gulf, Indian Ocean and Red Sea city as well as several African ones. Among them were Recife, Lisbon, Malta, Bombay, Istanbul, Athens, Beirut, Mombassa (Kenya), Cannes, Karachi, and Madras. In total Greenwich Bay made 15 Mediterranean deployments protecting American interests and helping to maintain peace in the Middle East.


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