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The History of The USS Vega III - History

The History of The USS Vega III - History

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Vega III

(AF-69: dp. 15,160 (f.); 1. 602'0"; b. 72'0"; dr. 29'0";
B. 21 k.; cpl. 360; a. 8 3"; cl. Rigel; T. R3-S-4A)

The third Vega (AF-69) was laid down on 7 June
1964 at Pascagoula, Miss., by the Ingalls Shipbuilding
Corp.; launched on 28 April 1966; sponsored by Mrs. Theodore C. Longquest; and commissioned on 10 November 1956, Capt. Floyd T. Thompson in command.

Following shakedown, Vega sailed for the west coast and duty with the Pacific Fleet. Between January 1956 and mid-1964, Vega made 13 deployments to the Far East, usually about four months in length. During this time, the versatile storeship sailed an average of over 30,000 miles per year and routinely visited Yokosuka and Sasebo, Japan; Hong Kong; Subic Bay, Philippines; and Kaohsiung, Formosa, with an occasional run to Kobe and Iwakuni, Japan. In 1956, Vega set a record for ships of her type when she provisioned Shangri-La (CVA-38) at a rate of 218 tons per hour. In 1963, the Vega again proved herself to be the Navy's fastest working storeship as she delivered 117 tons of provisions to Ranger ( CVA-61) in just 27 minutes, giving her a transfer rate of 245 tons per hour.

From October 1964 to January 1966, Vega participated in Fleet operations off the coast of Vietnam before she returned to the United States in February 1965. Returning to Vietnamese waters in the late spring, she once more supported 7th Fleet units. While underway in the South China Sea on 8 September 1965, Vega was the scene of an unusual change of command, when Capt. T. A. Melusky relieved Capt. R. E. Hill as commanding officer. The ceremony took place at 0128, on the port wing of the bridge, by the light of redfiltered flashlights, with the ship darkened during an underway replenishment of Constellation (CVA-62). The storeship returned to the United States in October 1966.

Vega was again deployed to the 7th Fleet from February to May of 1966. During this time, the ship replenished her first two nuclear-powered ships, Bainbridge (DLGN-26) and Enterprise (CYAN-66).

Later, during her next WestPac tour, Vega conducted 125 underway and 26 in port replenishments— more than during any other deployment. Besides her normal Japanese ports of call, she also visited Danang and An Thoi, Vietnam, while calling for the first time at Singapore.

As American involvement in Vietnam deepened, Vega's deployment schedule refleeted this increase in operations. While deployed in the summer of 1966, Vega steamed in company with Hector (AR-7), Ashtabula (AO-61), Parricutin (AE-18), and Currituck (AV-7). From 22 August to 21 November, she supported "Yankee-Station" and "Market-Time" operations.

She remained thus employed, with regular deployments to WestPac through 1969. In between her deployments to the "Yankee-Station" or to "MarketTime" zones, Vega maintained a regular schedule of local operations, overhauls, and refresher training upon return to the west coast. Homeported at San Franisco, Calif., Vega continued her unglamorous but vital duty of providing the necessary supplies to keep the Fleet and its men in top operating condition.

After loading at Oakland, Calif., from 24 March to 4 April 1969, Vega sailed on 5 April for Yokosuka, Japan.

Her normal routine of operations was interrupted later that month, when North Korean MiG fighters shot down an American EC-121 surveillance aircraft over the Sea of Japan. As tensions rose between Pyongyang and Washington, the 7th Fleet responded to the crisis by dispatching a task force which included the nuclear attack carrier Enterprise to the vicinity. Vega joined Task Group (TG) 73.7 on 24 April in support of Task Force (TF) 71 in the Sea of Japan and performed 17 underway replenishments between the 24th and the 29th.

With the relaxation of tensions, Vega was detached on the latter date and resumed her regular WestPac replenishment operations to the 7th Fleet. Vega began her first line period for 1969 on 9 May and replenished 22 ships before returning to Subic Bay on the 16th. On 31 May, the refrigerator ship commenced a 37-hour replenishment operation with Niagara Falls (AFS-3) in Subic Bay, delivering some 1,057.5 tons of provisions.

On 9 June, Vega got underway to support "Market Time" operations. She replenished in port at An Thoi on 13 June, at Vung Tau on the 15th, Camranh Bay on the 16th, and at Danang on the 17th, before carrying out nine underway replenishments on "Yankee Station," over the next six days.

Returning to Subic Bay on 27 June, the ship remained there until 6 July, when she sailed for Yankee Station-as bad weather had grounded all COD (carrier onboard delivery) aircraft, and supplies needed to be delivered to the Fleet. She arrived on station on 8 July and, alongside Oriskang ( CVA-34) four days later conducted her longest underway replenishment, from 1737 on 12 July to 0105 on the 13th-a period of seven hours and 28 minutes.

Soon thereafter, Vega shifted to Hong Kong, where her commanding officer became the administrative Senior Officer Present Afloat (SOPA) on 23 July. She and llowa'~ (DD-702) got underway on the 27th to avoid typhoon "Viola" which was then swirling its way up the China coast. Returning two days later, Vega resumed her SOPA duties and continued to carry them out until she departed that port on 8 August bound for Sasebo. There, the supply ship loaded Fleet freight and soon sailed for the west coast of the United States, arriving at San Franisco, Calif., on 6 September, where she remained for the rest of 1969.

After entering the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard on 2 January 1970 for her regular overhaul, Vega spent three months in dockyard hands before she emerged on 2 April to commence refresher training out of San Diego. She trained in the southern California operating area into the summer, before shifting on 21 August to the Army Refrigerator (Reefer) Piers at

Oakland, Calif. There, she conducted a predeployment loadout of goods for shipment to the western Pacific.

Vega again got underway on 11 September, bound for Subic Bay, and crossed the 160th meridian on 26 September to commence officially her WestPac tour. After evading typhoon "Hope" en route, Vega stopped briefly at Subic Bay before she pressed on on 8 October for her first line tour of the deployment on Yankee Station off the coast of Vietnam. She returned to Subic on 22 October. During this tour, she transferred over 226 tons of foodstuffs during underway replenishments.

Her second line period saw the ship transfer 290 tons of provisions to ships with TF 77 on Yankee Station. Bangkok, Thailand, provided welcome relief for liberty parties before the ship returned to the line a third time on 29 November. Operating in support of "Market Time," Vega transferred some 392 tons of food-Christmas supplies-to ships engaged in the daily interdiction patrols of the sea lanes. Further, the ship delivered some 67 tons of supplies to Danang, Camranh Bay Con Son, An Thoi, and Hon Choi-all in South Vietnam.

After visiting Hong Kong from 13 to 21 December, Vega spent Christmas at Kaohsiung, Taiwan, and then returned to Subic Bay to load supplies. Before the year was out, the supply ship was underway again-for her fourth line period off Vietnam. During this swing, the ship transferred 300 tons of food to ships on "Yankee Station" and "Market Time" patrols. Many sailors on the ships she supplied probably enjoyed the fresh fruit acquired on Taiwan during the ship's visit there prior to deploying off the Vietnam coastline.

The supply vessel conducted two more swings on the patrol line in the sea lanes off Vietnam into early 1971. Extremely difficult weather conditions hampered such operations on 29 and 30 January 1971, but the men on the ships involved rose to the occasion and accomplished the successful transfer of 100 tons of food without incident. Offloading 342 tons of supplies at the Naval Supply Depot, Subic Bay, from 8 to 10 March, the ship departed the Philippines to visit Japan. While en route however, Vega was dispatched to search for a Japanese fishing vessel in distress off Yonakuni Jima. Conducting the search in heavy seas and beneath leaden gray overeast skies, Vega's efforts were uncrowned with success as she found no trace of the distressed ship.

Vega eventually visited Sasebo, from 17 to 20 March, before she got underway for Pearl Harbor, en route to her ultimate destination of Alameda, Calif.

Making port at the Naval Air Station, Alameda, on 6 April, Vega later served from 13 to 17 May as host ship at San Franisco for HMCS Terra Nova. Vega then entered Triple "A" ShipYard, San Franisco, on 27 May for a restricted availability which increased the ship's transfer capabilities. Completing these modifications on 23 July, the ship conducted a program of type training off the California coast from the 26th through the 30th, before she sailed north to call at the annual Sea Fair at Seattle, Wash.

During a subsequent refit, again carried out at San Francisco's Triple "A" Shipyard in the summer and again in the fall of 1971, Vega received modifications that further improved her cargo-handling capacities. Specifically, number 3 hold was modified to handle pre-palletized cargo; and existing helicopter facilities were upgraded. In addition, a 4,000-pound pallet conveyor belt was added, as well as battery-charging facilities and a new forklift garage. In between yard periods, the cargo vessel participated in local operations and type training exercises.

From 1972 through 1974, Vega continued furfilling her primary mission of supplying units afloat and ashore with necessary food and cargo. She regularly deployed to the far reaches of the western Pacific operating area and conducted replenishments to ships at sea on "Yankee Station" and "Market Time" patrols and carried out support operations with the Mobile Logistics Support Force. The tempo of the Vietnam war, however, began to change. By the spring of 1973,American involvement on the southeast Asian mainland was drawing to a close.

After deploying to the line three times in early 1975, Vega sailed from Subic Bay on 22 March 1975, to provide logistics services for TG 76.4, standing by in the Gulf of Thailand to execute Operation "Eagle Pull," the evacuation of Cambodian refugees fleeing the communist takeover of that country. She conducted replenishment operations with a wide variety of ships. Returning to Subic Bay to reload on 31 March, she set sail for the second increment of "Eagle Pull," rejoining the forces in the Gulf of Thailand on 5 April. After conducting replenishments with Frederick (LST-1184), Durham (LKA-114), Long Beach (CLGN-9), Reasoner (DE-1063), Blue Ridge (LCC-19), Okinawa (LPH-3), and Thomaston (LSD-28), she arrived at Phu Quce Island to provide supply support for Cambodian refugees, and transferred some 12.4 tons of refugee subsistence items to Dubuque (LPD-8) and Peoria (LST1183). Rendezvousing with TG 76.4 on the 9th, the busy supply vessel again returned to Phu Quoe on the 10th and to Subic Bay on the 13th.

Underway from Subic Bay on 23 April, Vega sailed for the coast of South Vietnam. By this juncture, the government of South Vietnam was collapsing, leaving tons of American-supplied equipment intact for the communist forces. Operation "Frequent Wind" was launched to evacuate Vietnamese fleeing the onslaught, lest they be left behind and fall into communist hands. For the next few days, Vega replenished United States and South Vietnamese Navy ships, delivered passengers and mail, and transferred refugee supplies to vessels loaded with fleeing South Vietnamese. Underway at sea from 25 to 30 April, the supply ship arrived off Vung Tau on 1 May and replenished South Vietnamese naval units YFU-69, HQ~, HQ-800, and HQ-801 as well as conducted a vertical fleet supply replenishment with Mars (AFS-1) and fleet supplies and mail for five other Navy ships.

Heading for Subic Bay, Vega served as escort for the "New Life" flotilla, heavily laden with Vietnamese refugees and their belongings. Arriving at Subic Bay on the 6th, she stood in with the first contingent of refugee vessels-some 70 craft in all, of all shapes and sizes. Underway for a resumption of escort duties later that day, Vega stood out to sea; she subsequently refueled from Taluga (T AO-62) on the 7th before conducting underway replenishments over the next two days with Midway (CVA-41), Badger (DE-1071), and Ashtaoula (AO-51). Arriving at Subic Bay on 10 May to load supplies, she got underway soon thereafter, in company with Harold E. Holt (DE-1074), for refugee vessel escort duties.

On 13 May, communist Cambodian forces seized the American-owned containership, SS Magaguez, off Koh Tang Island, Cambodib. Both Vega and Harold El. Holt made full speed ahead for the area, while American forces soon mobilized for quick and decisive strikes to gain the release of the ship and its crew from the hands of the Cambodians. Arriving on the 15th, Vega stood by to provide services while Harold E. Holt moved in and delivered a detachment of marines, who boarded the containership. While the incident was brought to a conclusion by the swift recapture of the ship and her crew, the routine task of conducting underway replenishments to ships of the 7th Fleet in southeast Asian waters continued unabated in the wake of the fall of Vietnam and Cambodia.

Vega returned to San Francisco, Calif., on 4 August, following a circuitous route via Cebu and Subic Bay, Philippines; Hong Kong, British Crown Colony; Buckner Bay, Okinawa, and Pearl Harbor. A tally of the ships' activities on her most eventful WestPac cruise showed the ship to have completed some 105 underway, 15 boat, and 38 vertical replenishments— the last utilizing the capabilities of helicopters for rapid and increased transport of supplies from ship to ship. A total of some 2,848.9 tons of provisions, including 136.8 tons of refugee supplies, were transferred. The ship then underwent restricted availability from 18 to 19 August.

For the remainder of the ship's active service career with the United States Navy, Vega operated off the west coast, conducting local operations, and later deployed to the Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and Okinawa for her final WestPac deployment. She arrived at San Francisco on 21 December 1976 and immediately commenced leave and upkeep.

On 21 January 1977, Vega shifted to berth 23 south Mare Island Naval Shipyard, to commence stand down prior to inactivation. She was decommissioned on 29 April 1977 and struck from the Navy list the same day.

Vega earned 10 battle stars for her service to units of the 7th Fleet during the Vietnam war.

The Saga of USS Kidd: A Look Back at the Historic Deployment of Jacksonville’s Rapid Response Team

Photo By Petty Officer 2nd Class Alexander M Corona | SAN DIEGO (April 28, 2020) – A Sailor salutes the national ensign as they disembark the guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd (DDG 100) currently moored in San Diego April 28 as part of the Navy’s aggressive response to the COVID-19 outbreak on board the ship. While in San Diego, the Navy will provide medical care for the crew and clean and disinfect the ship. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alex Corona/ Released) see less | View Image Page



Story by André Sobocinski

U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery

In April 2020, the Naval Hospital Jacksonville deployed a special diagnostic unit to the guided missile destroyer USS Kidd (DDG-100), then in the throes of a shipboard outbreak. The team—comprised of two medical officers and five corpsmen—was referred to as the “Rapid Response Team,” and for good reason. Within a mere three hours this team was both conceived, assembled and deployed on a mission to conduct COVID-19 diagnostic testing at sea. To date it is the only deployment of this type of platform in the history of the Navy.

On the morning of April 23, 2020, Comdr. Michael Kaplan was starting his day as the Director of Medical Services at Naval Hospital Jacksonville when his commanding officer, Capt. Matthew Case, alerted him of an outbreak aboard USS Kidd, then conducting counter-narcotic operations with the 4th Fleet.

“He came into my office and said ‘I need you to assemble a team to go to the ship. We’ll need an internist, a prevmed doctor, and we’ll need some corpsmen,’” Kaplan related.

At this point the hospital had already been tagged for activating its Expeditionary Medical Facility (EMF)-Mike and deploying personnel to hard hit communities in Baton Rouge, Dallas, New Orleans, New York, and Stamford. And there was still great uncertainty on the immediate impact of COVID-19 on Naval Hospital Jacksonville and its community.

An allergist by trade, Kaplan volunteered to go knowing that if COVID-19 became an issue in Jacksonville in the ensuing days the other internist—who was also a critical care physician—should remain at the hospital.

The next member of team was the Public Health Emergency Officer (PHEO), Lieutenant Commander Clifton Wilcox. It could be argued that although an unchartered mission, in many respects it was par for the course for an already eclectic career. Prior to entering Navy Medicine, Wilcox had been a Navy intelligence officer and aviator, and even worked as a commercial airline pilot before going to medical school. Since 2018, he was serving as Jacksonville’s occupational department head and PHEO for Navy Region Southeast. And since a preventive medicine officer was not available, his experiences as a PHEO proved applicable and needed for the mission.

Next came the hospital corpsmen. Preventive medicine technicians HM3 Brian Krawsczyn, HM2 Derrick Hudson, HM1 Jason Turgeon, laboratory technician Joseph Kim and general duty Corpsman HN Louis Moyer each volunteered to support a mission where the questions outweighed the answers and the severity of the outbreak was still to be determined.

By 1230—after readying their belongings, securing PPE, collecting guidance on shipboard outbreaks and just hours after being alerted about the mission—the team was ready to go. The CO and the XO drove them and their equipment—including an Abbott ID NOW diagnostic machine—to the airfield where a P-8 Poseidon was waiting them.

HMC Clint Barton had been a veteran of the U.S. Navy since June 2001. As a native of the landlocked town of Edgewood, Texas, the Navy was not necessarily a destination point for him growing up. But like many sailors it was a chance encounter with a Navy recruiter and a yearning to “see the world” that brought him into the sea service.

After boot camp, Hospital Corps “A” School, and working Full Time Support (FTS) in the Navy Reserves, Barton made the decision to become an Independent Duty Corpsman (IDC). Called the “pinnacle of the Navy Hospital Corps,” IDCs have played vital roles in the operational Navy since 1909, when first advanced corpsmen were employed aboard torpedo destroyers.

As Kidd’s IDC, Barton was the point person for all medical issues aboard the ship. His medical complement included two junior corpsmen (aka, “baby docs”) who he described as “stellar” and “hardworking.” A typical day for an Chief Barton prior to COVID-19 included morning sick call, supervising air, water, food and habitability standards, supervising the baby docs, answering technical questions and, of course, a lot of administrative work.

Prior to April 2020, things for Barton and his junior corpsmen were, as he put it, “smooth sailing.” The biggest medical issues were cases of a lingering cellulitis and a peritonsillar abscess. But life aboard Kidd—and across the world—began to change in 2020.

In January, Kidd left its home base of Everett, Washington, just as the first COVID-19 cases began appearing in the state. At sea, Barton kept apprised of the situation through his Force Surgeons and knew that the ship needed to stay on top of the public health issue.

The ship stopped in Hawaii for some quick repairs, to refuel, and get food stores before taking off south. While there Barton heard about that Hawaii’s first cases of COVID. The ship restricted liberty to the base and the crew also began putting in extra cleaning time to sanitize the ship. Before leaving Hawaii Barton secured several gallons of high-strength bleach. “I would dilute and pass out to the crew so they could sanitize their spaces,” said Barton. “And the last half of that clampdown was simply for bleaching everything—all the door knobs, all of the keyboards, the walls and places people touch when they’re moving through passageways.”

On April 13th, a couple sailors came into the sickbay complaining of nausea, mild fever, but nothing too specific. “The guidance at the time told me that they needed to have fever and a number of these respiratory symptoms for me to suspect that it’s COVID, but they didn’t have that,” said Barton.

A week later Barton received new guidance from the 4th Fleet Surgeon that changed the outlook for these cases.

“I immediately went to the XO and said, ‘Sir, you got to read the new guidance. We’re going to have to report suspected cases’—of what they were calling, ‘ILIs’—influenza-like-illness patients,” Barton recalled. “At the time there was no test for it. Now any case of the sniffles, any case of a headache, or nausea—all of which is quite normal at sea was getting reported up the chain.

“I was just hoping we would remain under the radar and that this wasn’t going to get us, but obviously I was horribly wrong,” said Barton. “I knew when that guidance came out on the 20th that my luck had run out, more or less.”

One of the sailors who had come to the sickbay on April 13th had not improved and Barton decided that he needed to be MEDEVAC’d off. The Kidd steamed north 500 miles from where they were operating to get within range to fly him off and ultimately send him to San Antonio. Word soonafter reached the ship that the sailor tested positive for COVID-19.

For Barton, this moment was both a blessing and a curse. On one hand he now knew his adversary.

“Now I’ve got several people on my radar now that I’ve got to worry about,” said Barton. “He’s been sick for about a week and we weren’t isolated because that was what the guidance was saying at the time. But now I now have 80 people in that berthing room that have been exposed to it.”

Anyone who has served aboard a destroyer like Kidd can tell you that is not an environment made for isolation. And keeping “six feet” away from other sailors down narrow passageways and compartments is an impossibility. But that was what Barton now faced.

He credits having conducted an isolation drill months earlier as proving beneficial for putting practice into play. They began isolating suspected cases into a berthing area that could accommodate up to 88 individuals.

“We had to figure out who was sick from Berthing One, designate one side to be the quarantine side and the other side to be the clean side,” related Barton. “We had to partition off the berthing so that people could live there and not get each other sick. The chief problem with this was the ship’s Autonomous Collective Protection System (ACPS) which keeps the environment positively pressured and prevents any external airborne contaminant from infecting the crew. Unfortunately, what contaminant is inside stays inside.”

Barton had to continue keeping watch, control the infection, place suspected cases in quarantine, monitor those in quarantine and somehow ensure that the ship would not be taken out of the fight.

The Abbott, the Rapid Response Team and Makin Island:

After a 3-hour flight to an airfield El Salvador, Kaplan and his team embarked on a SH-60 Sea Hawk helicopter that took them to the Kidd.

Aboard the ship they were greeted by Chief Barton who gave them a run-down, a quick tour and introduced them to the ship’s CO, XO and CMC. They learned that 30 to 40 sailors had been placed in quarantine over the previous days with an assortment of gastrointestinal and pulmonary symptoms.

“It was very surreal,” Wilcox recalled. “We arrived aboard the Kidd. Everywhere you look people had masks on. My first impression was people were on edge.”

The Rapid Response Team (RRT) set up the Abbott diagnostic machine in a forward battle station measuring 12 x 12 feet. That evening they began testing the sailors in quarantine before testing all other crewmembers. Within their first 24-hours aboard the RRT tested 25 percent of the ship.

Ultimately, about a third of the crew (close to 100) tested positive. About 50 percent were asymptomatic.

When the RRT was not testing the crew they worked with Chief Barton to help mitigate the spread of infection and implemented several sanitary practices such increasing the frequency of cleaning common areas and mandating the use of hand washing or sanitizer prior to entering those areas.

Two days into their mission the Kidd rendezvoused with USS Makin Island (LHD-8) to MEDVAC the most acute cases on board.

“I think we had realized that we were going to rendezvous with the Makin Island on the night of the 25th which was technically early Sunday the 26th, and that was about the soonest we were going to start to see people really become acute,” said Kaplan. “When the Makin Island came within helicopter range, we started flying the individuals off ship, and I think ultimately about 15 individuals went over, and then their IDC came over and was basically told that he was going to ride [the] ship with us all the way back into San Diego.”

Before Kidd rendezvoused with the Makin Island, Wilcox went to check on the more severe cases.

“For the first time in a long time I was completely gowned up, went down and borrowed one of their stethoscopes,” said Wilcox. “I looked at about a half a dozen individuals that the IDC had said were the most acute. I listened to their lungs, I did my own pulse ox, and some of them definitely had a crackle sound in their lungs which is very unusual to see that in young, healthy men and women. But none of them had pulse ox below 98, and it’s really the pulse ox that you follow because there’s something called ‘silent hypoxia’ and it’s pretty common with coronavirus.”

Wilcox let them know that the big Navy was flying people out to make sure everything’s okay and that they weren’t being forgotten. With heavy plastic sheeting in multiple areas, the Tyvek suits and the fact it was dark aboard the ship except for red lights Wilcox later commented that it looked like a scene out of the film Alien.

Senior Chief Todd Burkholder, Makin Island’s IDC, reported aboard Kidd on the morning of the 26th. As he later related, “They had already had one of their corpsman go down positive and the IDC was overwhelmed and they needed help.” Owing to his experiences aboard a destroyer and having knowledge of the layout, Makin Island’s CO tasked Burkholder to help Barton and also decide who needed to be MEDEVAC’d off.

Burkholder met with the beleaguered Barton who introduced him to the ship’s CO and then took him to medical. “He was so tired, I could tell that he hadn’t slept in at least a day or two,” recalled Burkholder. “He said, ‘I’m at 26 positives now and more coming and I’ve got 44 sick.’ So they were still testing, but that’s how fast it was happening.”

Burkholder identified 15 in quarantine that needed to get MEDEVAC’d. “They had co-morbidities in almost every case that just didn’t jive well for keeping them on the destroyer, especially with the limited medical capability you have,” said Burkholder. “They were also approaching day five to eight, which is the most dangerous period, and that’s when you don’t want them to crash, especially where you don’t have the gear that the Makin Island has. They have the ability to put them on ventilators, and they had the ability to intubate them and keep them under, and we don’t have that ability at all on the LHD.”

Over the next four hours Kidd transported cases to the Makin Island two by two. Burkholder remained aboard the ship helping Barton and the RRT in caring for the remaining cases until arriving in San Diego.

“It was a hellacious three or four day period where neither one of us slept at all,” recalled Burkholder. “It was one big blur of energy drinks, no sleep, and emails.”

Before reaching San Diego on April 28th, the RRT re-tested 100 percent of the crew with the Abbott machine.

On shore, they were met Medical Readiness Division for Commander, Naval Surface Forces Pacific and the Naval Environmental Preventive Medicine Unit No. 5 (NEPMU-5). “We were then put through the quarantine process along with the entire ship when we arrived,” remembered Wilcox. “We went through tents and they swabbed us and we also all had our blood drawn for antibodies before being placed in quarantine for two weeks.”

In looking back at their experiences, Kaplan, Wilcox and Burkholder all commend the quick thinking of Chief Barton in isolating suspected cases of COVID-19 and preventing what could have been a more devastating outbreak.

Barton downplays his role and lauds the work of the entire crew, all of whom were eager to do their part to help out their shipmates and fill in where needed. He also received direct support from two sonar technicians, a personnel specialist, an electronics technician and a gunner’s mate seaman who did everything from check on patients to helping to transcribe medical care forms into spreadsheets used for reporting.

One year later, the story of the USS Kidd outbreak remains one of resilience and defying the odds. Despite ever-evolving guidance and the (then) many unknowns about transmission, Navy personnel hunkered down and applied their training, quick thinking and utilized the best tools available to limit the spread, conduct advanced testing in a less-than ideal environment, all while ensuring those requiring additional care received it as quickly as possible.

Remarkably, just over a month after coming into port, USS Kidd was back at sea.


Naval Transportation Service, 1921� [ edit | edit source ]

Assigned to the Naval Transportation Service, Vega served the Navy from Atlantic to Pacific on cargo runs which included calls at both east- and west-coast ports, as well as visits to the Far East and the Caribbean. During the first three years of her naval service, Vega completed six round-trip voyages from San Francisco to Asiatic waters before returning home in October 1924.

1925� [ edit | edit source ]

In successive summers from 1925 to 1928, the cargo vessel operated between Seattle, Washington, and Alaskan ports, carrying supplies and stores to naval radio stations at St. Paul and Dutch Harbor. In addition, Vega and sister ship Sirius (AK-15) carried general freight, heavy guns, and ordnance parts in support of Marine peacekeeping activities in Nicaragua. Among Vega's cruises were voyages in 1928 carrying supplies for the Bureau of Fisheries, Commerce Department, to seal rookeries on Pribilof and other Alaskan islands. She returned with seal skins garnered during supervised killings.

Vega operated in unglamorous, but vital logistical duties into the 1930s as the tide of war crept closer toward the United States.

Attack on Pearl Harbor, 1941 [ edit | edit source ]

On 6 December 1941, Vega arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii — her holds laden with ammunition for the Naval Ammunition Depot, Pearl Harbor, and an Army derrick barge in tow — moored to Pier 31 and commenced unloading her cargo at 0100 on 7 December. When Japanese aircraft swept over Oahu, Vega went to general quarters, opening fire with her anti-aircraft guns, as civilian stevedores continued the arduous job of unloading her dangerous cargo. Since the Japanese were after bigger game, the "Hog Islander" and her vital cargo emerged from the attack unscathed.

Hawaii, 1942 [ edit | edit source ]

Vega remained in the Hawaiian Islands until 3 January 1942, when she got underway with a cargo of civilian automobiles and pineapples. She arrived at San Francisco 10 days later and soon entered Mare Island Navy Yard for refit. She returned to Hawaiian waters on 10 March. After detaching her tow, Progress (AMc-98), and unloading construction gear, the cargo vessel loaded another cargo of pineapples and civilian dependents' gear and got underway for the west coast on 20 March.

Aleutian Islands, 1942� [ edit | edit source ]

Transferred to the operational control of Commandant, 13th Naval District, Vega departed San Francisco for Tacoma, Washington, on 9 April. From then until 9 January 1944, the cargo vessel operated out of Tacoma and Seattle, carrying vital construction materials and supporting American operations against the Japanese invaders in the Aleutian Islands. On one run, Vega delivered a cargo of naval stores and ammunition, as well as some 20 mm anti-aircraft guns for the garrison at Dutch Harbor — only a few days before the devastating bombardment of that base by a Japanese light carrier strike force in early June 1942.

Supporting Pacific operations, 1944� [ edit | edit source ]

The ship returned to San Francisco early in 1944 and was soon assigned to Service Squadron (ServRon) 8. During the next year, the cargo vessel supported three major amphibious operations — in the Marianas, the Western Carolines, and at Okinawa — carrying supplies and construction materials to assist the "Seabees" in establishing the advance bases necessary to the smooth operation of the Fleet. She picked up her first load of pontoon barges at Pearl Harbor and got underway for the Gilbert Islands on 31 January. However, her orders were changed en route, sending her to the Marshalls. She arrived at Kwajalein Atoll on 6 March, unloaded the barges, and returned to San Francisco for another load. Departing San Francisco on 18 May, she unloaded at Guam before steaming back to the Russells to pick up another load at Banika Island.

On 23 October 1944, Vega commenced loading empty brass powder cans at Ulithi in the Carolines, while her embarked "Seabee" battalion — the 1044th — assembled self-propelled barges brought out in SS Claremont. Subsequently, the cargo vessel sailed for Eniwetok where she took on board another load of brass casings, heading for Pearl Harbor on 30 December, en route to the west coast. She made port at San Francisco, a familiar terminus for the ship, on 18 January 1945. Vega departed the west coast with another load of barges on 9 March bound, via Eniwetok and Ulithi, for the Ryukyus. Dropping anchor off Okinawa on 13 June, Vega began assembling pontoon barges and, three days later, during a Japanese air raid on her anchorage, the cargo vessel shot down a twin-engined bomber before its pilot could drop his bombs.

Departing Okinawa on 6 July, the cargo vessel sailed, via Pearl Harbor, for the west coast and arrived at San Pedro soon thereafter. Offloading empty brass picked up at Pearl Harbor, Vega transported a cargo of dry stores to San Francisco.

Decommissioning and sale [ edit | edit source ]

Proceeding on to Oakland, California, she was decommissioned on 15 January 1946. Struck from the Navy List on 12 March, she was turned over to the Maritime Commission on 1 July. The veteran cargo vessel was sold on 6 August to the National Metal and Steel Corp. for scrapping.


USS Coral Sea was commissioned in 1947. This Midway class large aircraft carrier was built at Newport News, Virginia. After initial operations, she made her first cruise in mid 1948 with midshipmen in training. In spring 1949, the Coral Sea began its first deployment with the Sixth Fleet. With the Cold War getting hotter, she went on several more deployments throughout the fifties.

Becoming an Attack Carrier
In October 1952, Coral Sea was reclassified to be an attack aircraft carrier, which changed her hull number to CVA-43. In early 1957, she was sent to the west coast to be modernized. In January 1960, the new and improved ship was returned to active service.

With a largely expanded flight deck and other upgrades, Coral Sea crossed the Pacific to join the Seventh Fleet. She participated in the Southeast Asian conflict from the early 1960’s into the early 1970’s. In spring 1975, the Coral Sea was reclassified CV-43 to reflect the expansion of her air group. During the late 70’s into the 1980’s, the ship began deploying further west to the Persian Gulf. In March 1983, she began a long voyage from the Mediterranean down to South and Central America. She returned to the Mediterranean a couple of years later.

After later voyages with the Sixth Fleet, she was decommissioned in April 1990.

The Battle of Hampton Roads

Engagement between the "Monitor" and the "Merrimac" by J.G. Tanner

On March 8, 1862, the newly christened CSS Virginia attacked the Union blockading squadron in Hampton Roads, Virginia. Before withdrawing in under four hours, the Confederate ironclad had forced the steam frigate Minnesota aground, rammed and sank the sailing sloop USS Cumberland, and fired a battery of red-hot cannonballs onto the sailing frigate USS Congress, which was consumed by flames.

At 9 pm the Monitor arrived from New York, entering the Roads under a night sky illuminated by fire. Hardly more than half the size of the Virginia (which nearly everyone still called the Merrimac), the Monitor sidled close to the helpless Minnesota and waited for dawn.

At half-past 7 am, the Virginia returned with four other Confederate vessels, intending to take down the Minnesota and the rest of the nearby Union squadron. The Monitor, hunched low in the water and half-hidden by the Minnesota, emerged from the shadows. An officer on one of the Confederate boats described the odd-looking craft as "an immense shingle floating in the water, with a gigantic cheese box rising from its center." Ignoring the strange vessel for the moment, the Virginia fired upon the Minnesota, and the drama began, as illustrated in the adjacent J. G. Tanner painting, Engagement Between The Monitor and Merrimac, Hampton Roads, which is owned by the National Gallery of Art.

Chromolithograph of the Battle of Hampton Roads, Louis Prang & Co. signed "Jo Davidson" Boston, 1886

Captain Worden deliberately placed his vessel between the Minnesota and the Virginia and braced for battle. He steamed toward the Confederate vessels and commenced firing. For another four hours or so, the ships circled, firing continuously and often passing within yards of each other. The excitement inside the Monitor was intense. The men discovered that their ship seemed indeed impenetrable, but they struggled with the drawbacks of their rotating turret and a breakdown in Ericsson's communication system between the turret and the pilothouse.

Just past 10 am, the Virginia ran aground, and the Monitor closed in. But the Virginia managed to break free of the shallows, and the bombardment recommenced for another few hours. At one point, the Monitor headed for shallow waters to restock its supply of cannonballs, and the Virginia set off to batter the Minnesota once more. At another point, the Monitor, having sustained a blow that blinded Captain Worden, retreated again to shallow water. The Virginia, interpreting that as a withdrawal, moved off, which the men aboard the Monitor interpreted as retreat. Each ship dealt blows to the other, but in the end, neither vessel had sustained serious damage and neither boat sank.

Neither crew suffered any fatalities, and both crews celebrated their triumph. Some say the battle was a strategic victory for the Monitor since it protected both the Union blockade and the U.S. fleet. Some argue that the Virginia was victorious, holding the Roads until the perceived withdrawal of the mighty little "cheesebox."

Between March 9 and May 8, the Virginia returned to challenge the Monitor three more times, but no encounters came of that bravado. The Monitor was under orders not to respond to this blustering unless the Virginia sailed out of Hampton Roads, and the Virginia seemed content, for the most part, to rest upon its perceived laurels.

What does seem inarguable is that whichever vessel won the battle strategically or tactically, the Confederacy lost its bid for European support that day, and, in doing so, lost its chance to win the war.

Forming the Pacific Fleet

Admiral James O. Richardson

The creation of the US Pacific Fleet came from an order to combine the Asiatic Squadron and the Pacific Squadron. In 1907, the two were merged to create the fleet, but within three years, the First Squadron of the Pacific Fleet separated to reconstitute the Asiatic Fleet.

From the time of its inception until May of 1940, the fleet was stationed primarily at San Diego, but that changed when the Empire of Japan became very aggressive in its expansionism. San Diego was deemed too far from Japan should open hostilities break out.

During the summer of 1940, the Battle Fleet was transferred to Pearl Harbor on Oahu, a part of the American Territory of Hawaii. The fleet’s commander at the time, Admiral James O. Richardson, opposed the long-term use of Pearl Harbor as its base. When he personally protested the idea, he was replaced by Admiral Husband E. Kimmel.

Though the Pacific Fleet had technically been disbanded and named the Battle Fleet with the creation of the Asiatic Fleet, on February 1st, 1941, it was reformed yet again, this time accompanied by the creation of the Atlantic and Asiatic Fleets.

To the Pacific

Transiting the Panama Canal, Massachusetts arrived at Nouméa, New Caledonia on March 4, 1943. Operating in the Solomon Islands through the summer, the battleship supported Allied operations ashore and protected convoy lanes from Japanese forces. In November, Massachusetts screened American carriers as they mounted raids in the Gilbert Islands in support of the landings on Tarawa and Makin. After attacking Nauru on December 8, it aided in the assault on Kwajalein the following month. After supporting the landings on February 1, Massachusetts joined what would become Rear Admiral Marc A. Mitscher's Fast Carrier Task Force for raids against the Japanese base at Truk. On February 21-22, the battleship helped defend the carriers from Japanese aircraft as the carriers attacked targets in the Marianas.

Shifting south in April, Massachusetts covered the Allied landings at Hollandia, New Guinea before screening another strike against Truk. After shelling Ponape on May 1, the battleship departed the South Pacific for an overhaul at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. This work was completed later that summer and Massachusetts rejoined the fleet in August. Departing the Marshall Islands in early October, it screened American carriers during raids against Okinawa and Formosa before moving to cover General Douglas MacArthur's landings on Leyte in the Philippines. Continuing to protect Mitscher's carriers during the resulting Battle of Leyte Gulf, Massachusetts also served in Task Force 34 which was detached at one point to aid American forces off Samar.

The History of The USS Vega III - History

The following History is Mirrored from the Navy History Website and was gleaned from the Dictionary of American Fighting Ships and from United States Naval Aviation, 1910-1995, Vol. III, 1968 at

WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060

The Hancock sliding into the Bay at Quincy, MA - 15 April 1944

The fourth Hancock (CV-19) was laid down as Ticonderoga 26 January 1943 by the Bethlehem Steel Co., Quincy, Mass. renamed Hancock 1 May 1943, launched 24 January 1944 sponsored by Mrs. DeWitt C. Ramsey, wife of Rear Adm. Ramsey, Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics and commissioned 15 April 1944, Captain Fred C. Dickey in command.

After fitting out in the Boston Navy Yard and shake-down training off Trinidad and Venezuela, Hancock returned to Boston for alterations 9 July. She departed Boston 31 July 1944 en route to Pearl Harbor via the Panama Canal and San Diego, and from there sailed 24 September to join Adm. W. F. Halsey's Third Fleet at Ulithi 5 October. She was assigned to Rear Adm. Bogan's Carrier Task Group 38.2.

After receiving her first Air Group and making ready to get underway, Hancock got underway the following afternoon for a rendezvous point 375 miles west of the Marianas where units of Vice Adm. Mitscher's Fast Carrier Task Force 38 were assembling in preparation for the daring cruise to raid Japanese air and sea bases in the Ryukyus, Formosa, and the Philippines. Thus enemy air power was paralyzed during General MacArthur's invasion of Leyte. When the armada arrived off the Ryukyu Islands 10 October 1944, Hancock's planes rose off her deck to wreak destruction upon Okinawan airfields and shipping. Her planes destroyed seven enemy aircraft on the ground and assisted in the destruction of a submarine tender, 12 torpedo boats, two midget submarines, four cargo ships, and a number of sampans. Next on the agenda were Formosan air bases where 12 October Hancock's pilots downed six enemy planes and destroyed nine more on the ground. She also reported one cargo ship definitely sunk, three probably destroyed, and several others damaged.

As they repelled an enemy air raid that evening, Hancock's gunners accounted for a Japanese plane and drove countless others off during seven hours of uninterrupted general quarters. The following morning her planes resumed their assault, knocking out ammunition dumps, hangars, barracks, and industrial plants ashore and damaging an enemy transport. As Japanese planes again attacked the Americans during their second night off Formosa, Hancock's antiaircraft fire brought down another raider which splashed about 500 yards off her flight deck. On the morning of the third day of operations against this enemy stronghold, Hancock lashed out again at airfields and shipping before retiring to the southeast with her task force. As the American ships withdrew, a heavy force of Japanese aircraft roared in for a parting crack. One dropped a bomb off Hancock's port bow a few seconds before the carrier's guns splashed the attacker into the sea. Another bomb penetrated a gun platform but exploded harmlessly in the water. The surviving attackers then turned tail, and the task force was thereafter unmolested as they sailed toward the Philippines to support the landings at Leyte.

On 18 October 1944, she launched planes against airfields and shipping at Laoag, Aparri, and Camiguin Island in Northern Luzon. Her planes struck the islands of Cebu, Panay, Negros, and Masbate, pounding enemy airfields and shipping. The next day she retired toward Ulithi with Vice Admiral John S. McCain's Carrier Task Group 38.1.

She received orders 23 October to turn back to the area off Samar to assist in the search for units of the Japanese fleet reportedly closing Leyte to challenge the American fleet and to destroy amphibious forces which were struggling to take the island from Japan. Hancock did not reach Samar in time to assist the heroic escort carriers and destroyers of "Taffy 3" during the main action of the Battle off Samar but her planes did manage to lash the fleeing Japanese Center Force as it passed through the San Bernardino Straits. Hancock then rejoined Rear Adm. Bogan's Task Group with which she struck airfields and shipping in the vicinity of Manila 29 October 1944. During operations through 19 November, her planes gave direct support to advancing Army troops and attacked Japanese shipping over a 350-mile area. She became flagship of Fast Carrier Task Force 38, 17 November 1944 when Vice Adm. McCain came on board.

Unfavorable weather prevented operations until 25 November when an enemy aircraft roared toward Hancock in a suicide dive out of the sun. Antiaircraft fire exploded the plane some 300 feet above the ship but a section of its fuselage landed amid ships and a part of the wing hit the flight deck and burst into flames. Prompt and skillful teamwork quickly extinguished the blaze and prevented serious damage.

Hancock returned to Ulithi 27 November 1944 and departed from that island with her task group to maintain air patrol over enemy airfields on Luzon to prevent enemy suicide attacks on amphibious vessels of the landing force in Mindoro. The first strikes were launched 14 December against Clark and Angeles Airfields as well as enemy ground targets on Salvador Island. The next day her planes struck installations at Masinloc, San Fernando, and Cabatuan, while fighter patrols kept the Japanese airmen down. Her planes also attacked shipping in Manila Bay.

Hancock encountered a severe typhoon 17 December and rode out the storm in waves which broke over her flight deck, some 55 feet above her waterline. She put into Ulithi 24 December and got underway six days later to attack airfields and shipping around the South China Sea. Her planes struck hard blows at Luzon airfields 7 and 8 January 1945 and turned their attention back to Formosa 9 January hitting fiercely at airfields and the Tokyo Seaplane Station. An enemy convoy north of Camranh Bay, Indochina, was the next victim with two ships sunk and 11 damaged. That afternoon Hancock launched strikes against airfields at Saigon and shipping on the northeastern bulge of French Indochina. Strikes by the fast and mobile carrier force continued through 16 January, hitting Hainan Island in the Gulf of Tonkin, the Pescadores Islands, and shipping in the harbor of Hong Kong. Raids against Formosa were resumed 20 January 1945. The next afternoon one of her planes returning from a sortie made a normal landing, taxied to a point abreast of the island, and disintegrated in a blinding explosion which killed 50 men and injured 75 others. Again outstanding work quickly brought the fires under control in time to land other planes which were still aloft. She returned to formation and launched strikes against Okinawa the next morning.

Special delivery

The Tomahawk was first used in combat in 1991 during the opening of the Gulf War against targets in Iraq (a total of 288 were launched by US Navy and British Royal Navy ships and submarines). But the Clinton administration was the first to use the Tomahawk as the weapon of retribution of first resort—and Clinton's successors have largely followed suit.

The Tomahawk cruise missile is, in some respects, the perfect weapon for express delivery of a military response. With a range of over 1,000 miles, the Tomahawk takes the potential loss of US airmen's lives out of the equation, and it can be launched with just a modicum of mission planning.

The Tomahawk was originally deployed by the US Navy in 1983 as both a conventional and nuclear weapon—most famously, in armored "shoebox" launchers aboard the recommissioned Iowa-class battleships, where I had my first exposure to the missile. Today's guided missile destroyers can carry three times or more the number of Tomahawks the battleships were loaded with, and they can do a lot more with them. The latest generation of TLAMs can even be redirected in flight through satellite communications and can loiter around a target until the timing is right. This allows a flight of multiple missiles to have the same "time on top" and strike for maximum impact, for example.

But the Tomahawk is not without drawbacks. These expensive (about $1.59 million per shot), low-flying robotic turbojets are not the most effective weapon against moving targets—though the Navy has been working on a version with "synthetic navigation" that can be steered onto a moving target with data from a surveillance aircraft. They also don't deliver the same sort of precision punch that weapons released and guided by an aircraft can, and they are not effective against some types of targets (though that is also changing).

But most of all, Tomahawks are only as accurate as the intelligence that is used to target them. And because of the speed with which a TLAM can be launched as part of a response to a crisis, the targeting intelligence has not always been of the highest quality.

The History of The USS Vega III - History


History of U.S. Navy Submarines

The term "submarine," as an adjective, simply means under the sea. But as a noun, a submarine invokes the mental image of a boat that can wreck havoc during wartime through its stealth and power. Although they are large craft that are crewed by over 150 submariners, a submarine is always referred to as a "boat." That's because during their development the name of the craft was shortened from the adjective "submarine boat" to create the noun "submarine." There are 75 boats either commissioned, in reserve, or under construction, making the submarine the most prolific war fighting craft in the United States Navy.

The idea of a craft that could sneak up on enemy ships from under the water has been around since the time of Alexander the Great (332 B.C.). Leonardo da Vinci had his submarine concept as well (late 1400s). The first submersible vessel that apparently worked, and there are drawings of, was constructed in 1620 by Dutchman Cornelius Drebbel in the employ of King James I of England. However, the first military submarine built in the United States was during the American Revolution. The first American submarine was appropriately named the Turtle, designed by Yale University student David Bushnell in 1775.

The Turtle was an acorn-shaped submersible propelled by means of a hand-cranked screw. The idea was that the craft would maneuver and attach itself to the underside of a war ship, where then the operator could drill a hole in the bottom of the target and attach a bomb. The bomb was on a clock fuse that would give the submersible time to get away. Sergeant Ezra Lee of the Continental Army climbed into the Turtle on the night of September 6, 1776, intent on attacking His Majesty's Ship Eagle then anchored off Boston. Unfortunately, Lee couldn't get the bomb attached to the Eagle, eventually giving up and moving off, pursued by a rowboat full of British sailors. Lee was able to set off his bomb to dissuade his pursuers. There were no casualties on either side and there were no more attempts on record of submarine warfare during the Revolution.

In 1800, American inventor Robert Fulton designed, built, and tested his submarine the Nautilus. Fulton's boat would maneuver under its victim towing a floating mine which would explode by means of a contact fuse when the mine hit its target. Fulton tested Nautilus in France (the U.S. Navy was in its infancy and not in the market for any new technology) and the preliminary testing proved successful. Unfortunately, neither the French nor the British (at war with each other at the time) were impressed enough to buy Fulton's idea and incorporate submarines into their navies. Fulton returned to the United States in 1804 to work on his steamboat for which he is best remembered.

Although the technology was worked on in other countries, nothing much was done with submarines in the United States until the Civil War. Evidence leads us to believe that up to twenty working submarines were built by both sides during the war. Most were not documented, or were lost before making it to combat. The most noteworthy from the period are the Union's USS Alligator and the Confederacy's CSS Hunley. The Alligator was designed by French engineer Brutus de Villeroi and was first launched on May 1, 1862. The Alligator was the first working submarine in the United States Navy and the largest built during the Civil War at 47 feet. It included innovations like compressed and filtered air for its crew of twelve. The boat was propelled by a hand-cranked propeller. The Alligator's weapon system was two limpet mines that could be attached magnetically to the hull of the target ship. Unfortunately, Alligator was lost in a storm off Cape Hatteras on April 1, 1863 while being towed to Charleston for its first combat deployment.

The Confederate submersible H. L. Hunley was named for the boat's designer and financier. The Hunley was 39.5 feet long and carried a crew of eight. The confederate submarine also propelled itself with a hand-cranked propeller, but the weapon system was a spar torpedo. The spar torpedo was basically a spear with bomb attached. The idea was that the Hunley would ram its victim, attaching the mine to the hull of the ship. The Hunley would then disconnect the spar and withdraw, detonating the mine once it was clear. The sub had sunk in testing twice before, so one might imagine that on the night of February 17, 1864 when Hunley launched into Charleston Harbor intent on attacking the Union steam corvette USS Housatonic, observers didn't have their hopes up. However, the Hunley was successful in sinking its intended victim and signaled back to shore a successful mission. Unfortunately, on the way back to base the submarine sank, cause unknown, drowning all eight of her crew.

The Hunley's sinking of the Housatonic marks the first successful attack by a submarine on a surface warship. The location of the innovative submarine remained unknown until 1990. The ship was raised in 2000. Remains of the crew were recovered and laid to rest on April 17, 2004 at Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, South Carolina. Over ten thousand people attended the ceremony, where the sailors were buried with full military honors.

After the American Civil War, inventors in other countries made great strides in submarine technologies. Some benchmarks included developing new hull designs, creating air pressure systems, powering with steam engines, and the invention of the torpedo tube. However, in the United States the next major advancement in the development of submarines did not come until 1881. In that year Irish-American inventor John Philip Holland launched a submarine in New York that he designed and named the Fenian Ram. It was named such for his financial backers, the Fenian Brotherhood, an organization bent on Irish independence from Great Britain, who hoped to use Holland's submarine to sink British warships. The Fenian Ram's cutting edge technology for the first time used horizontal planes and forward motion to "fly" the submarine to its submerged depth. Due to disputes over payments made to Holland, the frustrated Irish group stole the Fenian Ram and another submarine prototype, the Holland III, in 1883 and took the boats to New Haven, Connecticut. Unfortunately for the Fenian Brotherhood, none of their loyal members knew hope to operate the boats and John Holland wasn't helping. The boats gathered rust for thirty years and eventually the submarines became museum pieces.

That would be the end of John Holland as well, except that his work came to the attention of the United States Navy who tasked Holland for a new boat. The Holland VI was launched on May 17, 1897 at Crescent Shipyard in Elizabeth, New Jersey. On April 11, 1900 the Navy bought the Holland VI and renamed it the USS Holland, SS-1, making it the United States Navy's first commissioned submarine. The Holland used an internal combustion engine (later changed from gasoline to diesel) for surface operations and an electric motor for running submerged. The Holland also boasted a new hull shape for easier movement through the water and self-propelled torpedoes fired from tubes that were reloadable from inside the boat.

The USS Holland was so well received that John Holland was able to sell seven of his boat designs to the U.S. Navy and, ironically, a few to the British navy as well. John Holland's company, the Holland Torpedo Boat Company, would later be renamed the Electric Boat Company. Electric Boat was acquired by General Dynamics in 1952 and is still a principle builder of American submarines today.

The First World War brought rapid advancements to submarine technology, particularly the universal adaption of the diesel engine and radio communications that allowed the boats to be directed from shore. The German's Unterseeboot, or U-boat, dominated during World War I. Within a month of the beginning of WWI in 1914, U-boats were sinking British warships in the North Atlantic. The German's adoption of unrestricted submarine warfare against all types of shipping is generally cited as the main reason for the United States' entry into WWI. The threat posed by the U-boat during the war gave birth to anti-submarine warfare (ASW). This included development of technologies such as sonar and the depth charge. As a late comer to the fight, American submarines did not have a high level of participation. In a navy dominated by a battleship mentality, submarines were used mainly in a defensive role for convoys. However, forward thinking officers in the United States Navy took note of German accomplishments with undersea warfare.

Between wars submarine technology continued to progress. The Germans were not allowed to have submarines under the Treaty of Versailles. When Adolf Hitler rose to power he made up for lost time and started to bring back the U-boat fleet in direct violation of the treaty. By the time World War II started in 1939 Germany had incorporated many advanced technologies like sonar, radar, and magnetic fuses on their torpedoes. The United States entered the Second World War with the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941. The analysis of the Pearl Harbor attack and the appointment of progressive thinking Chester Nimitz as CINCPAC signaled a new era in naval technology the focused on the aircraft carrier and the submarine. In 1909 Nimitz had commanded the United States' second commissioned submarine, the USS Plunger (SS-2). Admiral Nimitz chose to send a message to the battleship elements of the navy by taking command of the Pacific Fleet on the deck of the submarine USS Grayling (SS-209).

The American submarine fleet at the beginning of the war consisted of 111 boats. During the course of the war of a total of 314 boats would see service, 260 of these in the Pacific. These submarines commissioned during the war were from the Gato, Balao, and Tench classes. The "silent service" was slow to get started, having at first to deal with the Mark 14 torpedo's faulty depth gauge and unreliable fuse which took eighteen months to correct. However, by the end of WWII, American submarines had sunk 1,560 enemy ships for a total of 5.3 million tons. That represents fifty-five percent of the total tonnage sunk during the war. Warships that fell to American submarines included 8 aircraft carriers, a battleship, three heavy cruisers, and over 200 other types. United States submariners denied Japan the raw materials it needed to conduct the war by sinking over half of all enemy merchant shipping. Additionally, U.S. submarines participated in duty that became known as the "lifeboat league," which was picking up downed allied pilots. By war's end over 500 aircrew men would owe their lives to the actions of submarines, including future President George H.W. Bush. The cost of this success was high. The United States lost 52 submarines and 3,505 submariners during World War II, the highest percentage of killed in action (KIA) of any branch of service in the American military.

The close of WWII brought about an almost immediate entry into the Cold War between the western powers, led by the United States, and Russia leading the satellite nations of the Soviet Union (and to some extent Communist China). For the next forty-five years the Super Powers engaged in an arms race, part of which was played out with a cat and mouse game at sea. Submarine and ASW technologies made great strides during the Cold War.

Thanks to the efforts of Captain Hyman G. Rickover, newly appointed as head of the office of Director, Naval Reactors, submarines were the first U.S. vessels to be equipped with nuclear propulsion. The first nuclear powered submarine was the USS Nautilus (SSN-571), launched on January 17, 1955. Prior to nuclear power, submarines were limited on their submerged time due to the need for fresh air to run their diesel engines. Now the nuclear sub could stay submerged practically indefinitely. Also, deployments were no longer limited by the need to refuel. The only resupply needed was food. The nuclear submarine could (and would) stay submerged at sea for months at a time. To prove it, in 1957 Nautilus became the first submarine to transit from the Pacific to the Atlantic under the arctic ice cap.

The first launch of a guided missile from a submarine occurred in July 1953 from the USS Tunny (SSG-282). The Tunney had seen long service in WWII and was modified to fire the Regulus missile. She served in this capacity for another 12 years. The first nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, or "boomer," designed for the specific mission of nuclear deterrence came into service with the USS George Washington (SSBN-598) in 1959. The five boats in the George Washington-class served the country well into the 1980s.

The 1960s saw rapid advances in boomers and the missiles they fired. The George Washington, Ethan Allen, Lafayette, James Madison, and Benjamin Franklin classes of Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM) submarines comprised the "41 for Freedom." This term refers to the 41 boats in these five classes that the United States Navy was limited to (along with 656 submarine-launched ballistic missiles) by the 1972 Strategic Arms Limitations Talks (SALT I) Treaty. The missiles also evolved through the Polaris, Poseidon, and finally Trident missile classes. The some of the "41 for Freedom" boats served into the new century, until replaced by the Ohio-class of boomers, able to fire the Tomahawk cruise missile along with the Trident.

The Ohio class of nuclear-powered fleet ballistic missile submarines began with the launch of the USS Ohio (SSGN-726) launched on April 7, 1979. Originally designated SSBN-726, the Ohio is one of four boats in the class that were converted to a guided missile submarine and given the SSGN designation. These boats are capable of carrying 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles with either conventional or nuclear warheads, plus Harpoon missiles that are fired through their torpedo tubes. The other 14 boats in the class are FBMs, which are each armed with up to 24 Trident II submarine launched ballistic missiles. These boats, part of the United States nuclear deterrence arsenal, are also known as "Trident" submarines. Those 14 boats carry approximately half of the country's active strategic nuclear warhead capability.

With the advent of ballistic missile boats, submarines evolved into two types, the boomers and the attack submarines. Today's attack boat mission is essentially the same as that of their WWII predecessors: to hunt and destroy enemy ships and submarines. An additional task, added during the Cold War, was to keep up with and provide a radar/sonar screen around an aircraft carrier task force. In the latter half of the 1960s, plans were made for a nuclear powered boat that was both fast and quiet. The new design became the Los Angeles-class attack submarine. The class started with the launch of the USS Los Angeles (SSN-688) on April 6, 1974. Since then, there have been 62 Los Angeles class fast attack submarines commissioned (19 have already been retired), making the Los Angeles class the most numerous nuclear powered submarine in the world. Today, all Los Angeles class submarines are capable of firing the Tomahawk cruise missile along with their compliment of approximately 25 torpedo tube launched weapons.

The intended successor to the Los Angeles-class was the Seawolf-class of nuclear-powered fast attack submarines, ordered near the end of the Cold War in 1989. The Seawolf class boats are larger, faster, and quieter than the Los Angeles class boats, but expensive. The projected cost of the first 12 boats in the class was $33.6 billion. With the budget constraints brought on by the end of the Cold War, the originally planned class of 29 boats was reduced to only 3 in service. They are the USS Seawolf (SSN-21) launch on June 24, 1995, the USS Connecticut (SSN-22) launched on September 1, 1997, and the USS Jimmy Carter (SSN-23) launched May 13, 2004. All three call Naval Base Kitsap, Washington their home port.

The Virginia-class of attack submarines was intended to be a smaller, cheaper version of the Seawolf-class ($1.8 billion per boat versus $2.8 billion). The class began with the launch of the USS Virginia (SSN-774) launched on August 16, 2004. Cost saving is accomplished through "off the shelf" electronics packages and new techniques in construction. There are eight boats commissioned and in service out of the proposed 30-boat class.

The mission of United States Navy submarines are peacetime engagement, surveillance and intelligence, special operations, precision strikes, battlegroup operations, and control of the seas. The American navy currently has 71 submarines in service, 18 of these are boomers and 53 are attack boats of different classes. See the table below for the names and homeports of these submarines.

Ohio -class Ballistic Missile Submarines:

USS Ohio SSGN-726

Naval Base Kitsap, Washington (Bangor)

USS Michigan SSGN-727

Naval Base Kitsap, Washington (Bangor)

USS Florida SSGN-728

Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia

USS Georgia SSGN-729

Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia

USS Henry M. Jackson SSBN-730
(formerly the USS Rhode Island )

Naval Base Kitsap, Washington (Bangor)

USS Alabama SSBN-731

Naval Base Kitsap, Washington (Bangor)

USS Alaska SSBN-732

Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia

USS Nevada SSBN-733

Naval Base Kitsap, Washington (Bangor)

USS Tennessee SSBN-734

Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia

USS Pennsylvania SSBN-735

Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia

USS West Virginia SSBN-736

Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia

USS Kentucky SSBN-737

Naval Base Kitsap, Washington (Bangor)

USS Maryland SSBN-738

Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia

USS Nebraska SSBN-739

Naval Base Kitsap, Washington (Bangor)

USS Rhode Island SSBN-740

Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia

USS Maine SSBN-741

Naval Base Kitsap, Washington (Bangor)

USS Wyoming SSBN-742

Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia

USS Louisiana SSBN-743

Naval Base Kitsap, Washington (Bangor)

Los Angeles -class Fast Attack Submarines

USS Dallas SSN-700

Naval Submarine Base, Groton, Connecticut

USS Providence SSN-719

Naval Submarine Base, Groton, Connecticut

USS Pittsburgh SSN-720

Naval Submarine Base, Groton, Connecticut

USS San Juan SSN-751

Naval Submarine Base, Groton, Connecticut

USS Miami SSN-755

Naval Submarine Base, Groton, Connecticut

USS Alexandria SSN-757

Naval Submarine Base, Groton, Connecticut

USS Annapolis SSN-760

Naval Submarine Base, Groton, Connecticut

USS Springfield SSN-761

Naval Submarine Base, Groton, Connecticut

USS Hartford SSN-768

Naval Submarine Base, Groton, Connecticut

USS Toledo SSN-769

Naval Submarine Base, Groton, Connecticut

USS Norfolk SSN-714

Naval Submarine Base, Norfolk, Virginia

USS Newport News SSN-750

Naval Submarine Base, Norfolk, Virginia

USS Albany SSN-753

Naval Submarine Base, Norfolk, Virginia

USS Scranton SSN-756

Naval Submarine Base, Norfolk, Virginia

USS Boise SSN-764

Naval Submarine Base, Norfolk, Virginia

USS Montpelier SSN-765

Naval Submarine Base, Norfolk, Virginia

USS Helena SSN-725

Naval Submarine Base, Norfolk, Virginia

USS Bremerton SSN-698

Naval Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

USS Jacksonville SSN-699

Naval Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

USS La Jolla SSN-701

Naval Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

USS Olympia SSN-717

Naval Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

USS Chicago SSN-721

Naval Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

USS Key West SSN-722

Naval Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

USS Louisville SSN-724

Naval Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

USS Pasadena SSN-752

Naval Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

USS Columbus SSN-762

Naval Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

USS Santa Fe SSN-763

Naval Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

USS Charlotte SSN-766

Naval Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

USS Tucson SSN-770

Naval Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

USS Columbia SSN-771

Naval Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

USS Greeneville SSN-772

Naval Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

USS Cheyenne SSN-773

Naval Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

USS Albuquerque SSN-706

Naval Submarine Base, San Diego, California

USS Topeka SSN-754

Naval Submarine Base, San Diego, California

USS Asheville SSN-758

Naval Submarine Base, San Diego, California

USS Jefferson City SSN-759

Naval Submarine Base, San Diego, California

USS Hampton SSN-767

Naval Submarine Base, San Diego, California

USS San Francisco SSN-711

Naval Submarine Base, San Diego, California

USS Houston SSN-713

Naval Forces Marianas, Apra Harbor, Guam

USS Buffalo SSN-715

Naval Forces Marianas, Apra Harbor, Guam

USS Oklahoma City SSN-723

Naval Forces Marianas, Apra Harbor, Guam

Seawolf -class Fast Attack Submarines:

USS Seawolf SSN-21

Naval Base Kitsap, Washington (Bangor)

USS Connecticut SSN-22

Naval Base Kitsap, Washington (Bangor)

USS Jimmy Carter SSN-23

Naval Base Kitsap, Washington (Bangor)

Virginia -class Fast Attack Submarines:

USS Virginia SSN-774

Naval Submarine Base, Groton, Connecticut

USS Texas SSN-775

Naval Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

USS Hawaii SSN-776

Naval Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

USS North Carolina SSN-777

Naval Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

USS New Hampshire SSN-778

Naval Submarine Base, Groton, Connecticut

USS New Mexico SSN-779

Naval Submarine Base, Groton, Connecticut

USS Missouri SSN-780

Naval Submarine Base, Groton, Connecticut

USS California SSN-781

Naval Submarine Base, New London, Connecticut

USS Mississippi SSN-782 (delivery due April 2012)


For further reading

Clancy, Tom, Submarine: A Guided Tour Inside A Nuclear Warship, with John Gresham (New York: Berkley, 1993)

Polomar, Norman and K.J. Moore, Cold War Submarines: The Design and Construction of U.S. and Soviet Submarines, 1945-2001 (Washington D.C.: Potomac Books Inc., 2005)

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