USS Rankin (AKA-103)
|Namesake:||Rankin County, Mississippi|
|Builder:||North Carolina Shipbuilding Company, Wilmington, North Carolina|
|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|
|1 battle star (World War II)|
|Fate:||Sunk as a fishing & diving reef off Stuart, Florida, 24 July 1988|
|Class and type:||Tolland-class attack cargo ship|
|Length:||459 ft 2 in (139.95 m)|
|Beam:||63 ft (19 m)|
|Draft:||26 ft 4 in (8.03 m)|
|Propulsion:||GE geared turbine drive, single propeller, 6,000 shp (4.5 MW)|
|Speed:||16.5 knots (30.6 km/h; 19.0 mph)|
|Boats & landing
|Capacity:||380,000 ft3 (11.000 m³), 5,275 tons|
|Complement:||62 officers, 333 men|
USS Rankin (AKA-103/LKA-103) was a Tolland-class attack cargo ship (later Rankin class 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.
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.
Rankin's keel was laid down on 31 October 1944 at North Carolina Shipbuilding Co. in Wilmington, North Carolina. She was launched 52 days later on 22 December, and commissioned in Charleston, South Carolina on 25 February 1945. She served as a commissioned warship for a total of 21 years and five months.
Commissioned during the final year of World War II, Rankin served briefly during that conflict, and for about two years during the postwar transition to peacetime. She was put in mothballs in 1947, then recommissioned during the Korean War in 1952. Based in Norfolk from her recommissioning until the end of her service life, she participated in many cold war naval activities. In 1969, the Navy changed her hull classification symbol to LKA-103, 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".) 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
Rankin was laid down on 31 October 1944 as Maritime Commission hull 1702 by North Carolina Shipbuilding Company, Wilmington, North Carolina. Rankin was launched on 22 December 1944, sponsored by Mrs. L. C. Freeman. The ship was acquired by the Navy on 25 January 1945, and ferried to the Charleston Navy Yard for conversion to an AKA. She was commissioned on 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 on 26 March 1945 in company with Tollberg (APD-103) for the Panama Canal Zone. Joining the Pacific Fleet on 1 April, she loaded Marine Corps replacement equipment at San Francisco and steamed independently for Hawaii on 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 Enright (DE-216), 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 on 28 June 1945 in convoy for Saipan. There she offloaded her boat group and then steamed independently for San Francisco, arriving on 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 on 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 on 27 October. Rankin embarked Navy personnel there, took on inoperable landing craft at Samar in the Philippines, and sailed for home, arriving San Francisco on 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.
Rankin was recommissioned on 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 V.Adm.) 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 R.Adm.) 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.
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. 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 Boxer (LPH-4) for the inauguration of president Juan Bosch. For this service, 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 V.Adm.) 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 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 from 1 January 1969, Rankin was redesignated LKA-103 and reclassified 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.
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.
Lt.Cdr. 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.
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 at Coordinates: . The site remains popular among fisherman and advanced SCUBA divers.
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.
- Allen, Tony (1 February 2015). "Shipwrecks of Florida". Electric Blue Fishing. Retrieved 4 August 2016.
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