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USS Rankin (AKA-103)

USS Rankin (AKA-103 / LKA-103)
Career
Ordered: July 1944
Laid down: 31 October 1944
Launched: 22 December 1944
Commissioned: 25 February 1945
Decommissioned: 21 May 1947
Recommissioned: 22 March 1952
Decommissioned: 11 May 1971
Struck: 1 January 1977
Fate: Sunk as a fishing & diving reef off Stuart, Florida 24 July 1988
Motto: "Ready Now"
General characteristics
Hull Type: C2-S-AJ3
Displacement: 8,635 tons light,
13,910 tons full
Length: 459 ft 2 in (140 m)
Beam: 63 ft (19.2 m)
Draft: 26 ft 4 in (8.0 m)
Propulsion: GE geared turbine drive,
single propeller,
6,000 shp (4.5 MW)
Speed: 16.5 knots (31 km/h)
Boats: 14 LCVP,
8 LCM
Cargo Capacity: 380,000 ft3 (11.000 m³), 5,275 tons
Range: 17,000 miles
Complement: 62 officers, 333 men
Armament: 1 × 5 in (127 mm)/38 cal dual purpose gun mount,
4 × twin 40 mm gun mounts,
16 × 20 mm gun mounts
Ship's patch:
USS Rankin (AKA-103/LKA-103) was a Tolland class (later Rankin class) attack cargo ship (later amphibious cargo ship) named after Rankin County, Mississippi. Like all AKAs, Rankin was designed to transport military cargo and landing craft, and use the latter to land weapons, supplies, soldiers and Marines on enemy shores during amphibious operations.

She was the 103rd of 114 ships eventually constructed for this purpose, and served as a commissioned warship for a total of 21 years and five months. Her construction was part of the country's emergency program for replacing the hundreds of cargo ships lost to enemy attacks during World War II. The Maritime Commission administered the program and dozens of the ships it produced were acquired by the United States Navy and converted into warships. Many of these ships would be used for amphibious warfare.

History

Built by the North Carolina Shipbuilding Co. and commissioned during the final year of World War II, Rankin was put in mothballs after the war, then recommissioned during the Korean War in 1952. In 1969, the Navy changed the AKA designation to LKA, and renamed Attack Cargo Ships as Amphibious Cargo Ships. (Other amphibious ships were also redesignated at that time, so that all amphibious designators began with the letter "L".) The USS Rankin was decommissioned in 1971, and was sunk in 1988 as a fishing and diving reef off the coast of Stuart, Florida.

She was a very special ship during her time in commission, always characterized by high morale and outstanding performance. At one time, she held every award available to a ship of her type. She became the first Atlantic Fleet ship to wear the Gold E, signifying five straight victories in the annual battle efficiency competition. Her captains included a Medal of Honor recipient, a winner of the Navy Cross, and a member of the Navy's Blue Angels flight team. Many of her officers later earned flag rank as Navy Rear, Vice, and full Admirals.

World War II era

Rankin (AKA-103) was laid down on 31 October 1944 as Maritime Commission hull 1702 by North Carolina Shipbuilding Company, Wilmington, North Carolina. Rankin was launched 22 December 1944, sponsored by Mrs. L. C. Freeman. The ship was acquired by the Navy 25 January 1945, and ferried to the Charleston Navy Yard for conversion to an AKA. She was commissioned 25 February 1945, less than four months after her keel was laid. Lieutenant Commander Thomas D. Price was her first commanding officer.

Following an Atlantic shakedown, Rankin steamed 26 March 1945 in company with Tollberg (APD-103) for the Panama Canal Zone. Joining the Pacific Fleet 1 April, she loaded Marine Corps replacement equipment at San Francisco and steamed independently for Hawaii 17 April. Intensive training in shipboard procedures and amphibious techniques followed. She then took on 5,000 tons of Army ammunition at Honolulu and, in company with Tolovana (AO-64), steamed on 25 May for Ulithi. Escorted by , the two ships immediately went on to deliver their vital cargoes at Okinawa. During her 17 days at the Battle of Okinawa, the ship faced more than 100 air raids by kamikaze. All ammunition was offloaded between air raids.

Rankin departed Okinawa 28 June 1945 in convoy for Saipan. There she offloaded her boat group and then steamed independently for San Francisco, arriving 20 July. After taking on her allowance of landing craft, she put in at Seattle for repairs. Hostilities ended during loading operations, her ammunition was offloaded, and the ship sailed for the Philippines, arriving Manila on 9 September.

Assigned to TransRon 20, Rankin steamed for Lingayen Gulf. En route, she touched at Subic Bay, contributed landing craft to the boat pool there, and then commenced taking on equipment of the 25th Army Division from the San Fabian beaches.

The squadron got underway for Japan 1 October. After riding at anchor for nearly three weeks while the approaches to Nagoya, southern Honshū, were cleared of mines, the squadron entered that port 27 October. Rankin embarked Navy personnel there, took on inoperable landing craft at Samar in the Philippines, and sailed for home, arriving San Francisco 25 November. That same day, CAPT William L. McDonald assumed command of the ship.

On 20 May 1946, CAPT Griswold T. Atkins took command. The ship visited China and Japan during 1946 and early 1947.

The ship returned home, and on 10 March 1947, CDR George D. Arntz took command. Rankin was decommissioned on 21 May at San Francisco and entered the Maritime Commission's National Defense Reserve Fleet at Suisun Bay, California.

1950s

USS Rankin was recommissioned 22 March 1952 at the Todd Shipyard, Alameda, California, with CAPT Bernard H. Meyer in command. Following shakedown, the ship transited the Panama Canal to join the Amphibious Force, Atlantic Fleet. Operating out of Norfolk, she commenced a lengthy second career of support for amphibious training operations along the East Coast as well as in the Caribbean and Mediterranean.

Medal of Honor recipient CAPT (later VADM) Lawson P. Ramage took command of the ship on 11 April 1953, serving until relieved by CAPT Malcolm T. Munger on 19 July 1954. CAPT James D. Ferguson took command on 20 July 1955. On 4 October 1956, CAPT (later ADM) W.F.A. Wendt took command.

On 11 September 1957, CAPT (later RADM) John Harllee relieved CAPT Wendt. On 18 July 1958, Rankin was among the amphibious forces which landed 5,000 U.S. Marines in Lebanon, in response to a request from the Lebanese Government for assistance in averting civil war.

CAPT John S. C. Gabbert took command on 19 February 1959, and two weeks later Rankin departed Norfolk for a six month cruise to the Mediterranean as part of the United States SIXTH Fleet. A cruise book was published to commemorate this trip.

1960s

From 1959-1968, Rankin deployed periodically to the Caribbean with Amphibious Squadron 10, a fast amphibious squadron with Vertical Envelopment capabilities. Operating regularly in the Caribbean, she repeatedly called at Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Haiti, Jamaica, and Cuba.

CAPT Leonard E. Harmon assumed command on 10 February 1960, serving until relieved by CAPT Thomas F. Howe on 10 March 1961.

CAPT John S. Leidel took command on 29 May 1962. During the Cuban Missile Crisis of October and November 1962, occasioned by the discovery of Russian intermediate-range ballistic missiles in Cuba, Rankin operated in the force which was marshaled in Cuban waters, prepared for any eventuality. In January 1963, Rankin departed Norfolk with PHIBRON 10 and various components of the 2nd Marine Battalion. In late February, she visited Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, in company with for the inauguration of President Juan Bosch. For this service, the Rankin received commendations from Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson. She returned to Norfolk on 7 March. In April, as a result of the unstable political situation in Haiti, the ship proceeded directly to a position off that country and patrolled in the Gulf of Gonave for thirty-one days until tensions eased.

Navy Cross winner George C. Cook took command of Rankin on 16 July 1963. She subsequently had a yard period at Norfolk Naval Shipyard. Refresher training at Guantanamo Bay followed early in January 1964.

CAPT (later VADM) William T. Rapp took command on 22 August 1964. Rankin participated in exercise "Steel Pike I" off the Spanish coast 28 September through 3 December. Upon returning to Norfolk, she underwent a tender availability with Amphion (AR-13), after which she resumed coastal training and readiness operations, and deployments with the Caribbean Amphibious Ready Squadron.

During squadron exercises in April, 1965, Rankin participated in the Dominican Republic Intervention. Arriving off the coast of Santo Domingo, Rankin and other ships of PhibRon 10 commenced the mass embarkation and evacuation of over 1,000 refugees and U.S. civilian nationals. As a result of this operation, the Rankin and all her personnel were awarded the Navy Unit Commendation by the Secretary of the Navy.

CAPT Lester B. Lampman assumed command on 8 August 1966. In October, Rankin was called on to render relief to the disaster area of Cayes-Jacmel, Haiti, after Hurricane Inez caused massive damage to the island. The men of the Rankin unloaded tons of food, medical supplies, and building supplies to help the stricken people. After her regular overhaul period in 1967, Rankin returned to operations in the Atlantic and Caribbean with Amphibious Squadron Ten.

CAPT John D. Exum took command on 26 September 1967. Deployed to the Caribbean from March to July 1968, Rankin visited San Juan, Guantanamo Bay, Panama, St. Thomas, St. Croix, Aruba and Jamaica. In August 1968, Rankin participated in exercise "Riverine 68", which was designed to demonstrate to Marine and Naval Forces the latest methods of combating jungle warfare. In November 1968, Rankin was reassigned to Amphibious Squadron Four. In December, she participated in the Apollo 8 Moon Orbital Flight as a secondary recovery ship in the U.S. Navy Recovery Force south of Bermuda.

Effective 1 January 1969, Rankin was reclassified LKA-103 and redesignated Amphibious Cargo Ship. On 14 April, Former Blue Angels pilot CAPT C. Nello Pierozzi assumed command. In late July, she took on Marines and equipment and deployed to the Mediterranean, returning to Norfolk on 13 December. Another cruise book was produced to commemorate this trip.

1970s

The new year, 1970, brought with it a period of operations off the eastern seaboard, and another July-to-December Mediterranean deployment, also memorialized in a cruise book, with the Sixth Fleet. CAPT Jerry T. Becker assumed command on 9 August. Rankin returned to Little Creek on 14 December 1970.

LCDR Philip R. Given assumed command on 2 February 1971, and, Rankin was decommissioned for the second and final time on 11 May at Little Creek.

Final disposition

On 24 July 1988, the ship was sunk as an artificial fishing and diving reef, six miles off the coast of Stuart, Florida. She rests on her starboard side at a depth of 130 feet. The site remains popular among fisherman and advanced SCUBA divers.

Ship reunions

In February, 2003, The USS Rankin Association, a reunion and reconnection organization for all people ever associated with the ship, was established. The group has located over 1,500 former Rankin shipmates, including every one of the 437 officers who served aboard the ship.

Honors and Awards

As a result of her service during World War II, Rankin was entitled to wear the ribbons associated with the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one star, the World War II Victory Medal, the Navy Occupation Service Medal with an Asian Clasp, the National Defense Service Medal, and the China Service Medal.

During the eight years after her 1952 recommissioning, Rankin won the Battle Efficiency Award six times, including an unprecedented five straight from 1956-1960. By special order of Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet, Rankin sailors were authorized to wear a Gold E on their arms, and the ship wore a Gold E on her stack.

In 1958, Rankin simultaneously held every award available to a ship of her class: the Battle Efficiency Award (the White E), the Engineering Red E, the communications Green E, gunnery awards for both her 40 mm batteries and her 5 inch mount, the Assault Boat Coxswain Award, and the Marjorie Sterrett Battleship Fund Award.

She was awarded the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for her service in the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

References

External links

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