USS WRANGELL (AE-12)
Wrangell (AE-12) was laid down under
a Maritime Commission contract (MC hull 1375)
as SS Midnight on February 1944 at Wilmington, N.C., by the North
Carolina Shipbuilding Corp.; launched on 14
April 1944; sponsored by Mrs. G. T.
Cambell; delivered to the Navy,
incomplete, on 28 May 1944; moved to Hampton Roads, Va.; converted to an ammunition ship by the Norfolk Shipbuilding and Drydock Co.; and commissioned on 10 October 1944 at the Norfolk Navy
Yard, Comdr. Haskell C. Todd in
Following shakedown in Hampton Roads, Wrangell
sailed on 13 November for the Naval
Ammunition Depot, Earle, N.J., to load ammunition. Escorted by the destroyer Borie (DD-704), she stood out to
sea on the last day of the month and
headed for the Panama Canal. The
ammunition ship transited the isthmian waterway
on 7 December; and, although initially ordered to proceed directly to
the Marshall Islands, was rerouted to
arrived at Pearl Harbor on 21 December, but got underway again on
Christmas Eve, bound for the Marshalls. Arriving at Eniwetok on the last
day of 1944, the ammunition ship joined a Ulithi-bound convoy (number 31) that day and
pushed on for the Carolines. Wrangell dropped anchor in Ulithi Lagoon on 5 January and reported for duty to Commander, Strvice
Squadron 10. Over the next five months,
Wrangell operated from Ulithi
supporting the Fleet's operations against
Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and the Japanese home islands. In those months, she transferred over, 10,000 tons of all types of ammunition to combatant ships
steaming alongside while underway and
would frequently serve two ships at a
time: heavv ships (battleships,
aircraft carriers, and heavy cruisers) alongside to port and light units (light cruisers and destroyers) alongside to
On her first operation, Wrangell
reached Iwo Jima on 22 February and supplied bombardment forces there with ammunition over the next six days until she
retired from the area on the 28th. The
nature of operations at Iwo, coupled
with the deep waters relatively close
inshore, prevented the ship's anchoring and necessitated conducting cargo operations while either drifting or underway at slow speed.
After retiring from Iwo
Jima on 28 February, Wrangell proceeded to the Marianas and
arrived at Saipan on 3 March. From that island, she proceeded independently to Ulithi
where she anchored three days later. On the
13th, the ammunition ship sortied with Task
Group (TG) 58.8 and supported Task Force (TF) 58 over the ensuing days
as it attacked enemy shore installations and
shipping in preparation for the invasion
of the Ryukyus and hit Okinawa itself when troops finally landed on that island on 1 April.
Between 22 March and 18
April, Wrangell rearmed over 50 combatant ships. On the 19th, in company
with Task Unit (TU) 50.8.6, the ship was detached from TG 50.8
at sea and proceeded south to Ulithi, arriving there on 22 April.
However, with the Okinawa
campaign at its height, her respite from operations proved to be a short one. Admiral Mitscher's task force was daily striking
the Japanese-held islands of the
Nansei Shoto and along the coast of
the Japanese home islands, and required replenishment. Thus, after 10 days of
round-the-clock reloading, Wrangell
departed Ulithi on 2 May and, three
days later, rendezvoused with TG 50.8 southeast of Okinawa. From 6 May to 1 June, Wrangell passed ammunition "to all comers"-rearming as
many as a dozen ships a day-and she
filled the magazines of over 50 in
the three-week period.
She then retired to San
Pedro Bay, Leyte, in the Philippines, for upkeep and repairs. Wrangell subsequently returned to the open
sea on 8 July and rendezvoused with TG 30.8
(the redesignated TG 50.8) on the 17th.
From 20 July to 1 August, she rearmed 35 ships and hit a high point of
transferring 700 tons of ammunition in a single day.
was detached from TG 30.8 on 2 August and headed south for the
Philippines. Arriving at San Pedro Bay on 6 August, the ship immediately commenced
replenishing her stocks of ammunition. Work was interrupted on 10 August,
though, when the fleet received the news that Japan was willing to
surrender. Cargo operations were secured that night, as all hands eagerly
awaited news about Japan's future actions After Japan capitulated, Wrangell paused
briefly in Tokyo Bay to take part in the
initial phase of the occupation of
the erstwhile enemy's home islands, before
she pushed on for the Philippines and, ultimately, home, that autumn.
Departing Philippine waters on 25 October, Wrangell
steamed via Pearl Harbor, reached the
coast of Panama on 21 November, and transited the canal later that day.
She subsequently unloaded ammunition and ordnance supplies at Earle, N.J., and headed for the Gulf of Mexico on 16 January 1946.
She arrived at Orange, Tex., five
days later, and was ultimately
placed in reserve on 17 May. She was decommissioned and laid up at
Orange on 19 November 1946.
The outbreak of war in
Korea in the summer of 1950 prompted the Navy to recall many inactive ships
from the "mothball" fleet. Wrangell was one of them and was recommissioned
on 14 November 1951 at Orange, Capt. Olin P. Thomas in command. The
ammunition ship shifted to New York, her new home port, and arrived there
on 21 December. She soon headed south to Norfolk for an administrative inspection and repairs
alongside a tender.
loaded ammunition at Earle, N.J., between 23 May and 18 June after operating out of
Boston and Newport, R.I., for a time, and in
June, once more conducting underway
training evolutions out of Newport. In
the summer, she participated in exercises at Onslow Beach, N.C., and at Newport before taking part in Operation "Noramex" in the North
Atlantic. These replenishment
exercises conducted off the coast of Labrador
were her first since World War II.
made her first deployment to the Mediterranean between January
and June 1953, touching at ports that ranged from Gibraltar to Bizerte,
Tunisia; Marseille to Golfe Juan, France; from Augusta, Sicily, to Bari,
Italy; and from Oran, French Morocco, to Taranto, Italy, before she
returned to New York on 10 July, via Gibraltar.
After local operations
and repairs, Wrangell sailed for her second Mediterranean
deployment in the autumn. At 1014 on 4 October 1953-while en route
from Reykjavik, Iceland, to Bizerte, Tunisia, in company with
the oiler Aucilla (AO-56)-the ammunition ship sighted
a fishing vessel flying international distress signals. Wrangell maneuvered
near the drifting vessel and lowered a boat with a boarding party, Ens. P. R. Frosell
in charge. Wrangell's men found the fishing boat, Jules Verne (registered
at Douarnenez, France), to have wreckage strewn about topside and two
feet of water in her engine compartment. The investigation also
revealed the only living occupant of the craft to be a dog; the boarding party
also found the corpse of a man estimated to have been dead for five days.
Leaving food and water
for the dog, the boarding party soon returned to the ship, and Wrangell took
Jules Verne under tow. At 1403 the next day, 5 October, Jules Verne began to founder, however,
and sank eight minutes later; the dog,
swimming in the water, was hauled on board Wrangell, whose crew adopted
the animal and made him the ship's
Ultimately arriving at
Bizerte on 9 October, Wrangell operated
with the 6th Fleet only briefly, touching at Cagliari, Sardinia; Taranto,
Italy; Suda Bay, Crete; Phaleron Bay, Greece; and Naples, Italy, before returning
via Gibraltar to New York and the naval ammunition depot at Earle.
conducted three more Mediterranean deployments into the late
1950's, supplying 6th Fleet warships with ammunition. There were notable highlights
during those deployments: in the autumn of 1956, during the Suez crisis, Wrangell
supported the units of the 6th Fleet evacuating American nationals from the troubled area.
In mid-July 1958,
President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered marines to land in Lebanon to protect
and property. During the intervention, Wrangell participated in the 6th Fleet's operations, visiting Beirut four times in August and September, after
which time the ship proceeded to Naples, arriving there on 15 September.
In between Mediterranean
deployments, Wrangell's area of operations ranged from Charleston, S.C.,
to Holy Loch, Scotland; and from the Virginia capes to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. During
her operations, she conducted underway rearming
experiments with a number of ships,
including the then-new aircraft carrier Forrestal (CVA-59) and the
guided missile cruiser Boston (CAG-1).
continued alternating local operations off the eastern seaboard
with Caribbean and Mediterranean deployments into the late 1960's. The ship's first replenishment of a
nuclear-powered warship came on 17 August
1962, when she rearmed the nuclear-powered
aircraft carrier Enterprise (CVAN-65).
In the autumn of 1962,
after the discovery by reconnaissance aircraft of Soviet missiles in Cuba,
President John F. Kennedy instituted a naval blockade of Cuba to
turn back Russian ships that attempted to deliver more missiles and their
support equipment to Cuban ports. During the crisis, Wrangell spent 35
days in the Caribbean, arming and rearming various units of the blockade
force. Ultimately, the Russians removed the missiles from Cuba and
thus eased the tension.
conducted three more Mediterranean deployments in the first
half of the 1960's and, between those deployments, conducted
local operations on the eastern seaboard and into the Caribbean. After successive home-port changes
over the years-from New York to Naples to
Norfolk to Charleston-Wrangell was
preparing for her 10th Mediterranean deployment when orders came directing her to sail for the Far East and
her first service in the Pacific since World War
II. She had been loading ammunition at Earle, N.J., for a week when the message arrived on 28 August rerouting her from the Mediterranean to the Pacific.
The ship departed Charleston on 27
September 1965 in response to the
critical need in the Southeast Asian area for ammunition ships, in
keeping with the escalating nature of the
war in Vietnam.
Transiting the Panama Canal on 2 October, Wrangell
arrived at Pearl Harbor on the 19th,
where she loaded additional ammunition. She soon sailed for Southeast
Asian waters and, operating out of Subic Bay, Philippines, and making seven stints to the "line," provided ammunition for ships operating on both the "Yankee"
and "Dixie" stations into
the spring of 1966. During her five months in WestPac, Wrangell transferred
over 6,800 tons of ammunition in 74 underway
replenishments. In addition, besides
ammunition, the ship delivered fleet
freight, mail, transient personnel, movies, and, on two occasions, fresh water and provisions. Arriving back at Subic Bay after her seventh
mission on the "line," Wrangell
departed Philippine waters on 2
On 21 June, Wrangell arrived
back at Charleston, via Singapore; Bombay, India; the Suez Canal;
Beirut, Lebanon; and Barcelona, Spain; thus completing a circumnavigation
of the globe. Wrangell remained in the vicinity of Charleston for
the remainder of the year, entering the Charleston division of the
Jacksonville Shipyard Co. on 10 October 1966 for a major overhaul.
On 15 May 1967, Wrangell
departed Charleston, bound again for the Mediterranean-arriving to
"in-chop" to the 6th Fleet at about the time of the outbreak
of the Arab-Israeli War of 1967. She supported the 6th Fleet during that
crisis situation and, after the abatement of the conflict, resumed routine
replenishments, alternated with port visits,
"showing the flag" at ports like Corfu, Greece; Suda Bay, Crete; Ismir, Turkey; and Palma, Majorca.
left the Mediterranean on 13 January, departing Rota, Spain, on
that day and sailing for the east coast of the United States. Arriving back at
Charleston 10 days later, the ammunition ship pro- vided
services that spring and exercised in various phases of training or
upkeep. After short periods at the Naval Weapons Stations at Charleston, S.C., and Yorktown, Va.-where ammunition was transferred and the crew was indoctrinated to the special
elements of weapons handling-Wrangell
spent much time in drills and
exercises to implement inport training.
Following upkeep and
repair periods at the Charleston Naval Shipyard during April and May 1967, Wrangell prepared
for her upcoming WestPac deployment. On 4 September 1967, the ammunition
ship got underway; transited the Panama
Canal; spent five days at Pearl
Harbor; and, after evading Typhoon "Paye" off Wake Island, arrived at Subic Bay on 16 October.
3he soon departed Subic Bay for the
coast of North Vietnam and employment
on the "Yankee Station."
finished out the year with three operating-periods
off the coast of Vietnam and in the Tonkin Gulf. The largest underway
replenishments were conducted with such men-of-war as the battleship New
Jersey (BB-62) and the carriers Constellation (CVA-60)
and Ranger (CVA-61). In addition, she armed
many smaller units-destroyers, guided missile destroyers, and Coast Guard cutters. One
of the latter, Winnebago (WHEC-40),
sent her whaleboat across to Wrangell on 21 November while off the Mekong Delta in what Wrangell's command history termed "what may well be history's smallest rearming." Winnebago's request:
five rounds of 5-inch ammunition,
Only two days later, on
23 November, Wrangell and other American and South
Vietnamese naval vessels took part in a search and rescue mission in the
South China Sea. Despite the winds and heavy seas of Typhoon
"Mamie," the ammunition ship located the Indian vessel Laxmi
Jayanti, helpless due to a steering casualty. Ultimately, after making
temporary repairs, the Indian ship resumed her voyage, under escort, to Saigon. Wrangell, her
part in the search completed, headed for Subic Bay.
While en route back from
Subic Bay to "Yankee Station," the ship received the nod for another mercy mission. On 3 December, Wrangell reversed
course on orders from Commander,
Naval Forces, Philippines, and
rendezvoused with the freighter SS American Pilot, sending over a cprpsman in the ship's motor whaleboat to assist a sailor who had suffered an
arm wound that was bleeding profusely. After her corpsman had stanched
the bleeding and given sufficient help to enable
the man to be safely transferred to a shore facility for further treatment, Wrangell continued on for "Yankee Station." She subsequently
spent Christmas in Hong Kong and later
returned to the waters off the coast
of Vietnam. There, she engaged in nearly continuous rearmings of a host
of ships, including the attack carriers, Ranger,
Constellation, and the veteran Hancock
(CV-19), with Task Force 77.
These operations were part of the
ship's regular routine that alternated
load-in operations at Subic Bay with replenishment work during line deployments in the South China Sea and Tonkin Gulf.
The end of January 1970 found the ship
enjoying a temporary pause in her hectic
schedule, undergoing a period of
tender overhaul alongside the repair ship Ajax (AR-15) at Sasebo,
Japan. Returning to Subic Bay soon
thereafter, Wrangell loaded ammunition to return to the "line," in February.
After a series of
routine rearmings near the demilitarized zone (DMZ), rough
weather and high seas frustrated several attempts by the destroyer George
K. MacKenzie (DD-836) to come alongside.
Since the destroyer's magazines were low, the need to replenish her
stocks was urgent; so Wrangell and George K. MacKenzie anchored
inside the sheltered lee of Cam-ranh Bay to effect the
transfer. While nearby patrol craft periodically dropped antiswimmer charges and
kept a lookout for possible Viet Cong interference in the
operation, the job was completed in two hours. As the
ship's history for the year stated: "For Wrangell, the Camranh Bay episode was the closest she had ever brought her thousands of tons of ammunition
to hostile fire. All hands breathed a
sigh of relief when the exciting,
risky rearming of the MacKenzie was over."
Back in Subic Bay on 10
April, Wrangell turned over ammunition ship duties to Mazama (AE-9)
and headed for home two days later. However, before she coud complete the voyage,
North Korean MiG fighters shot down an EC-121
reconnaissance plane over the Sea of
Japan. The resulting crisis saw a show of American naval force in that area-a presence that Wrangell supported.
Wrangell transported ammunition from
Sasebo to Yokosuka to Sasebo again before
heading for Pearl Harbor on 3 May.
During her recently completed deployment,
she had supplied ammunition to ships ranging from the battleship New
Jersey to the Coast Guard cutter Ingham
(WMEC-35), transferring nearly 12,000 tons of that necessary
commodity. Port visits included Subic Bay,
Hong Kong, Singapore, Sasebo, Yokosuka, Pearl Harbor, Acapulco, and the Panama Canal before the ship eventually arrived back at her home port,
Charleston, on 10 June 1969.
After repairs and
underway training evolutions during the summer, Wrangell departed
Charleston on 6 October, standing down the Cooper River, bound for what
proved to be the ship's last Mediterranean deployment. Subsequently
returning to the east coast, the veteran ammunition ship was decommissioned at Norfolk on 21 December 1970. Initially placed in
reserve at Charleston, Wrangell was
transferred to the Inactive Ship
Facility at Norfolk in late February 1971 and was subsequently placed in the National Defense Reserve Fleet, James River berthing area, in the
temporary custody of the Maritime
Administration, on 29 April 1971. Wrangell
was struck from the Navy list on 1 October 1976 and was awaiting final
disposition in June 1979.
earned three battle stars for her World War II service and a
further five for her performance in the Vietnam war.
[Note: The above USS WRANGELL (AE-12) history may, or may not, contain text provided by crew members of the USS WRANGELL (AE-12), or by other non-crew members, and text from the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships]