USS Rapidan (AO-18)
|Builder:||Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co.|
|Laid down:||2 February 1919|
|Launched:||25 October 1919|
|Acquired:||29 October 1921|
|Struck:||29 October 1946|
|Class and type:||Patoka Replenishment oiler|
|Displacement:||16,800 tons (full load)|
|Length:||477 ft (145 m)|
|Beam:||60 ft (18 m)|
USS Rapidan (AO-18), built under U.S. Shipping Board contract, was laid down 2 February 1919 by the Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co., Newport News, Virginia; launched 25 October 1919; authorized for transfer to the Navy 29 October 1921; and commissioned 1 January 1922, Comdr. M. P. Nash, USNRF, in command.
Assigned to the Naval Transport Service, Rapidan remained in commission for only 6 months, most of which was spent at Norfolk. Ordered inactivated in March, Rapidan decommissioned 22 June 1922 and was berthed with the James River Group, Atlantic Reserve Fleet, until recommissioned 22 January 1940, Lt. Comdr. J. B. Mallard in command.
For the 18 months following her second commissioning, Rapidan carried fuel from the Texas oil ports to ships and stations in the Caribbean and along the U.S. Atlantic coast. Between September 1941 and November 1942, she supplied petroleum products to Atlantic Fleet units at Halifax, NS Argentia, Reykjavík, Hvalfjörður, and various ports in Greenland. Then, after overhaul, she served as escort oiler on a convoy to Casablanca. On her return to New York, in early February 1943, Rapidan resumed operations off the northeast coast, steaming between New York, Boston, Portland, Maine, and Argentia until April when she got underway for her first Mediterranean convoy. Fueling units en route, she arrived at Gibraltar 24 May, continued on to Oran, discharged her cargo, then returned to the United States and coastal operations. In July while at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, the Rapidan had installed new secret Mark 29 "anti torpedo" gear. In September she resumed Caribbean operations and on the 11th was damaged by an underwater explosion some 100 yards off the starboard quarter from a torpedo. The explosion of the torpedo was caused by the anti torpedo gear and it resulted in damage to the hull plates. Repairs were completed at Charleston; and, on the 25th, she resumed her oil runs, operating as far south as the Netherlands West Indies, and as far north as Argentia.
In March 1944 Rapidan was ordered to the Pacific. Transiting the Panama Canal 19 March, she steamed up the west coast to Seattle, whence she carried her liquid cargo to Kodiak, Cold Bay, Dutch Harbor, and other Aleutian ports. Including periodic assignments as station tanker at Attu and Adak, the oiler continued on the Alaskan shuttle until 28 June 1946. Then, ordered back to the east coast, she transited the Panama Canal 2 August and on the 11th reported to the 5th Naval District for inactivation.
Decommissioned 17 September 1946 at Portsmouth, Virginia, Rapidan was transferred to the Maritime Commission 18 September 1946 and her name was struck from the Navy List 29 October 1946. On 10 September 1947 she was sold to the Northern Metals Co. for scrap.
The wartime skipper of the USS Rapidan, Captain Thomas Harris Moriarty, died in southern Alabama on 9 October 2009 at the age of 91, two weeks after attending a reunion of the ship's crew.
- List of ship launches in 1919
- List of ship commissionings in 1922
- List of ship decommissionings in 1946
- Wildenberg, Thomas (1996). Gray Steel and Black Oil: Fast Tankers and Replenishment at Sea in the U.S. Navy, 1912–1995. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. Retrieved 2009-04-28.
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