USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19)

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USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19)
USS Blue Ridge
Career (US)
Name: USS Blue Ridge
Namesake: Blue Ridge Mountains
Operator:  United States Navy
Ordered: 31 December 1964
Builder: Philadelphia Naval Shipyard
Laid down: 27 February 1967
Launched: 4 January 1969
Commissioned: 14 November 1970
Homeport: Yokosuka, Japan
Motto: Finest in the Fleet
Nickname: "Building 19"
"Blue Fridge"
"The Blue Cruiser"
"Large Cabin Cruiser"
Status: In active service, as of 2014
Badge: USS Blue Ridge LCC-19 Crest.png
General characteristics
Class & type: Blue Ridge class command ship
Displacement: 19,609 tons
Length: 194 m (636.5 ft)
Beam: 32.9 m (108 ft)
Draft: 8.8 m (26.9 ft)
Propulsion: Two boilers, one geared turbine
Speed: 23 kn (43 km/h)
Range: 10,000 nmi (19,000 km)
Complement: Crew: 52 Officer, 790 Enlisted
With Command Staff: 268 Officers, 1173 Enlisted
Armament: Phalanx CIWS guns
4× 25 mm Bushmaster cannons
8× .50 cal. Machine guns
Mark 36 SRBOC chaff rockets
Aircraft carried: Two helicopters, currently the Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk

USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19) is the lead ship of the two Blue Ridge–class command ships of the U.S. Navy, and is the command ship of the United States Seventh Fleet. Her primary role is to provide command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (C4I) support to the commander and staff of the United States Seventh Fleet. She is currently forward-deployed to US Navy Fleet Activities, Yokosuka, Japan, and is the third Navy ship named after the Blue Ridge Mountains, a range of mountains in the Appalachian Mountains of the eastern United States. Blue Ridge is currently the second oldest active ship in U.S. service after Denver.

History[edit]

USS Blue Ridge steams within sight of Japan’s Mount Fuji as she heads for port at the end of a six-week Spring Swing tour, Shimizu, Japan (May 2008).

USS Blue Ridge was commissioned on 14 November 1970, at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard as a command and control ship for the Navy. On 11 February 1971, with Captain Carroll (Vice Admiral Kent J. Carroll, Ret.) in command, Blue Ridge steamed on her maiden voyage from the shipyard to her first homeport, San Diego, California, via the Strait of Magellan, making liberty calls at Norfolk, Rio de Janeiro, Lima, Rodman, and Acapulco. [1]

From 1972 until 1979, Blue Ridge deployed to the Western Pacific on 6 WestPacs, as the Flagship, Commander Amphibious Force, Seventh Fleet. [2]

On 7 January 1972, BR deployed on her first WestPac. Blue Ridge was the command ship during April through July for the last major combat amphibious engagement of the Vietnam War (Easter Counter-Offensive) as “the largest concentration of wartime amphibious force since the Inchon and Wonsan landings of the Korean War.” [3] and its longest time at sea from 5 April to 7 June for 64 days. After 7 days in Subic, BR returned to the Gulf of Tonkin.

With Blue Ridge at one of its many operational 0330 GQs, Operation Song Thanh 8-72 as a feint attack, began off the coast of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that lay between South and North Vietnam. NVN forces had violated the DMZ in its Easter Offensive 1972, as they invaded South Vietnam down Highway 1. [4] “On 27 June, Task Force 76 assembled off the coast parallel to the Cua Viet River. Vietnamese Marines, having been embarked from Tan My Naval Station, were already aboard amphibious assault ships, giving every indication of an impending seaborne operation. In a strategy to fix and hold in place any forces north of the Cua Viet ...Just prior to dawn, gunfire ships commenced a vigorous barrage of preparatory fires on beaches just north of the river. Assault craft were already on course, heading for the beach, at 0800...when both airborne and surface formations suddenly turned away, ...As was witnessed during a prior landing conducted for Song Than 6-72, NVA shore batteries attempted to thwart the invasion, unleashing salvos of 130mm rounds at the surface ships and actually bracketing several, including the USS Blue Ridge.” [5] USS Blue Ridge responded as “shore batteries on Tiger Island off the Demilitarized Zone opened fire on BLUE RIDGE. She returned 77 rounds from a range of 13,000 yards.” and removed herself from the threat. [6] As “counter battery fires from gunship escorts soon had active coastal artillery sites under fire before adjustments could be made and kept the surface ships from being hit. USS Newport News, boasting the most firepower in the fleet, came about, charging straight at Hon Co (Tiger) Island, bringing main and secondary batteries to bear with devastating accuracy. Nothing more was heard from Tiger Island.” [7]

Nguyen Van Thieu, president of the Republic of Vietnam, came aboard Blue Ridge on 28 June 1972 to confer with Vice Admiral Holloway, Admiral Gaddis, General Miller and “to convey his personal thanks to the sailors and Marines of the amphibious forces for ‘the preservation of Peace and Freedom’ in South Vietnam.” [8] On 18 July, BR was ordered from the Gulf of Tonkin to the Republic of the Philippines, to aid in the recovery from a recent typhoon. [9] Blue Ridge returned to her home port of San Diego on 18 August. [10]

Late in Blue Ridge’s second WestPac, BR was conducting a joint exercise with the Philippine Navy in the South China Sea called PAGASA II, as the command ship. One of BR’s ensigns went over the ship’s side unnoticed and when found absent for a watch muster, a compartment search was conducted aboard the ship for the missing officer. With failure to find him that Friday morning, 28 September 1973, a SAR (sea and air rescue) was begun for all exercise ships and planes. After several days, on Sunday, the ensign was declared missing at sea and Exercise PAGASA II resumed. On Monday, 1 October, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow was notified that the Soviet trawler AGI Kursograph found an American sailor in our operation area. [11] “Ensign Michael R. Long of San Diego was rescued by a Russian trawler after he fell overboard during a naval exercise in the South China Sea last Friday....Long was standing watch aboard ... Friday morning when he fell overboard about 150 during the exercise ... 18 U.S. Navy ships and several aircraft but no trace of him was found... plucked Long out of sea about eight hours after he fell overboard. Officials said Long managed to survive the eight hours in the sea without a life jacket” [12]

AGI Kursograph was a Soviet intelligence ship shadowing PAGASA II and had to be well aware of the SAR operation in that area and time period, but because of its intelligence purpose (Soviets called them fishing research vessels, with more antennas then nets) they always kept any possible communication with non-Soviet vessels to a minimum. There was vigorous communications between our embassies, Washington, Blue Ridge, Kursograph, and BR’s intelligence department on 1 and 2 October. Arrangements were made to transfer the ensign from the Kursograph to Blue Ridge that Tuesday, 2 October, in the early afternoon via lifeboats. As Tuesday progressed, the hour and respective locations of the ships changed so frequently it began to represent a “Hollywood movie” version of reality as it finally turned into a nighttime and a mile of separation for the officer's retrieval on the South China Sea. As our lifeboat came alongside of the AGI, searchlights were fixed on our personnel to blind their night vision for any possible recon of that AGI’s features. BR’s ensign was brought from the other side of the Kursograph to a position between Blue Ridge and BR’s lifeboat, forcing one’s “proper” line of sight to look away from the AGI during the transfer. Blue Ridge’s ensign became the first known non-Soviet to be aboard a Soviet AGI, and on his return to BR, he was examined by the medical department and given a short but intense interrogation by the intelligence department before being choppered off for further stateside interrogation about how he landed in the water and what did he see aboard the AGI Kursograph. [13] [14] [15]

Since October 1979, Blue Ridge has been forward deployed at the Yokosuka Naval Base in Yokosuka, Japan, as the flagship of the U.S. Seventh Fleet.

Blue Ridge performed a nine-and-a-half–month deployment as flagship for commander, United States Naval Forces Central Command (ComUSNavCent), during Operations Desert Shield, and Desert Storm from August 1990 through 24 April 1991.[citation needed]

Blue Ridge participates routinely in U.S. and allied training exercises each year with countries throughout the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean.[citation needed]

This ship was one of several participating in disaster relief after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami/Operation TOMODACHI.[16] Blue Ridge brought relief supplies from Singapore to Japan and remained underway in the vicinity of Honshu providing C4I support to Commander, U.S. Seventh Fleet for the duration of Operation TOMODACHI.

Blue Ridge is expected to remain in service until 2039.[17][18]

Awards[edit]

On 18 July, USS Blue Ridge was awarded the Combat Action Ribbon for her action at Tiger Island, and on 9 August, the ship was awarded the Battle “E” by the commander Amphibious Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet. [19]

Awarded the Vietnam Service Medal, Blue Ridge has two campaign stars for Consolidation II '72 Campaign and Vietnam Ceasefire '72 Campaign (Easter Counter-Offensive) with a total of 99 days in the combat zone [20] [21] and earned the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal after 6 calendar months of service on the Gulf of Tonkin. [22] [23] [24]

Operation Eagle Pull (11–13 April '75), the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Cambodia, Blue Ridge was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and the Humanitarian Service Medal. [25]

Operation Frequent Wind (29–30 April '75), the evacuation of Saigon, South Vietnam, Blue Ridge was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and the Humanitarian Service Medal. [26]

The ship was also awarded the Joint Meritorious Unit Award and the Humanitarian Service Medal during Operation TOMODACHI.[27]

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

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