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USS Rankin (AKA-103)

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USSRankin(AKA-103).jpg USS Rankin (AKA-103 / LKA-103)
History
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 loaded
Length: 459 ft 2 in (140 m)
Beam: 63 ft (19.2 m)
Draft: 26 ft 4 in (8.0 m)
Propulsion: GE geared steam turbine drive, single propeller,
6,000 shp (4.5 MW)
Speed: 16.5 knots (30.6 km/h)
Complement: 395 (62 officers, 333 men), plus embarked troops
Armament: 1 × 5"/38 caliber DP gun,
4 × twin 40 mm AA guns,
16 × 20 mm AA guns
Boats: 14 LCVP,
8 LCM
Ship's patch:
USSRankinPatch.png
NOTES: Some sources report different displacements for ships of this type. Speed and complement may have changed as the ship or her mission were modified. Often one or two LCVPs were replaced by LCPLs. The 20mm AA guns were removed in 1952.

USS Rankin (AKA-103/LKA-103) was a Tolland class attack 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 built for this purpose. Her construction was part of an emergency program for replacing the hundreds of U.S. cargo ships lost to enemy attacks during World War II. The Maritime Commission administered the program, which existed primarily to build merchant ships. Dozens of the ships produced by the program were acquired by the Navy and converted into warships, mainly for use in amphibious warfare.

History

Built by the North Carolina Shipbuilding Co. in the last year of World War II, Rankin was a commissioned ship for 21 years and five months. Immediately after commissioning in 1945, she sailed to the West Coast for wartime service in the Pacific. Decommissioned after the war, she was put in mothballs on the West Coast, then recommissioned during the Korean War in 1952. This time she sailed immediately to the East Coast, where she was homeported in Norfolk until her final decommissioning. During her East Coast years, she made many trips to the Mediterranean and the Caribbean.

In 1969, the Navy changed the AKA designation to LKA, and renamed the Rankin and all other 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 Rankin was decommissioned in 1971, and was sunk in 1988 as a fishing and diving reef off the coast of Stuart, Florida.

The Rankin was characterized by high morale and outstanding performance, and 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 winner, 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, and 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 to be converted to an AKA. She was commissioned on 25 February 1945, less than four months after her keel was laid, with Lieutenant Commander Thomas D. Price as her first commanding officer.

After 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 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, with Tolovana (AO-64), steamed on 25 May for Ulithi. Escorted by Enright (APD-66), the two ships immediately went on to deliver their 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 left 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 in 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 began 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 in San Francisco on 25 November. That same day, Captain William L. McDonald assumed command of the ship.

On 20 May 1946, Captain 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 on 22 March 1952 at the Todd Shipyard, Alameda, California, with Captain Bernard H. Meyer in command. After shakedown, the ship transited the Panama Canal to join the Amphibious Force, Atlantic Fleet. Operating from Norfolk, she began a long second career of support for amphibious training operations along the East Coast as well as in the Caribbean and Mediterranean.

Medal of Honor winner Captain (later VADM) Lawson P. Ramage took command on 11 April 1953, serving until relieved by Captain Malcolm T. Munger on 19 July 1954. He was succeeded by Captain James D. Ferguson on 20 July 1955, by Captain (later ADM) W.F.A. Wendton 4 October 1956, and by Captain (later RADM) John Harllee on 11 September 1957. 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.

Captain 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 U.S. 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.

Captain Leonard E. Harmon assumed command on 10 February 1960, succeeded by by Captain Thomas F. Howe on 10 March 1961 and by Captain John S. Leidel on 29 May 1962.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis of October and November 1962, caused by the discovery of Russian intermediate-range ballistic missiles in Cuba, Rankin operated in the force which was marshaled in Cuban waters. In January 1963, Rankin left Norfolk with PHIBRON 10 and components of the 2nd Marine Battalion. In late February, she visited Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, in company with USS Boxer (LPH-4) 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, and in April, as a result of the unstable political situation in Haiti, proceeded to the Gulf of Gonave, which she patrolled 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.

Captain (later VADM) William T. Rapp took command on 22 August 1964. Rankin participated in exercise "Steel Pike I" off the Spanish coast from 28 September to 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 began the mass evacuation of over 1,000 refugees and U.S. civilian nationals. As a result of this operation, the Rankin and her personnel were awarded the Navy Unit Commendation by the Secretary of the Navy.

Captain Lester B. Lampman assumed command on 8 August 1966. In October, Rankin was called on to provide relief to the disaster area of Cayes-Jacmel, Haiti, after Hurricane Inez caused massive damage. The men of the Rankin unloaded tons of food, medical supplies, and building supplies to help the stricken people.

After her regular overhaul in 1967, Rankin returned to operations in the Atlantic and Caribbean with Amphibious Squadron Ten. Captain 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 took part 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, and in December, took part in the Apollo 8 Moon Orbital Flight as a secondary recovery ship in the U.S. Navy Recovery Force south of Bermuda.

From 1 January 1969, Rankin was reclassified LKA-103 and redesignated Amphibious Cargo Ship. On 14 April, Former Blue Angels pilot Captain 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

1970, brought 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. Captain 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 on 11 May, Rankin was decommissioned for the second and final time 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 at 27° 11.333' N by 80° 01.431' W. She rests on her starboard side at a depth of 130 feet. The site is 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. Since then, it has become one of the largest such groups for a ship of the Rankin's size. The group has located over 1,500 former Rankin shipmates, including every one of the 437 officers who served on the ship, and over 300 deceased former shipmates. The Association has held reunions every year since 2004.

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.

USSRankinRibbons.png

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