USS VEGA (AF-59)
The third Vega (AF-59)
was laid down on 7 June 1954 at
Pascagoula, Miss., by the.Ingalls Shipbuilding Corp.; launched on 28 April 1955; sponsored by Mrs. Theodore C.
Lonnquest; and commissioned on 10 November
1955, 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 1965, 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 red-filtered
flashlights, with the ship darkened during an underway
replenishment of Constellation (CVA-62). The storeship returned
to the United States in October 1965.
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, Bain-bridge
(DLGN-25) and Enterprise (CVAN-65).
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 reflected this increase in operations. While deployed in the summer of 1966, Vega steamed
in company with Hector (AR-7), Ash-tabula (AO-51), Parricutin (AE-18), and Currituck (AV-7). From 22 August to 21 November, she supported "Yankee-Station" and
She remained thus
employed, with regular deployments
to WestPac through 1969. In between her deployments to the "Yankee-Station" or to "Market-Time" zones, Vega maintained a regular
schedule of local operations,
overhauls, and refresher training upon
return to the west coast. Homeported at San Francisco, Calif., Vega continued her unglamorous but vital duty of providing the necessary supplies to
keep the Fleet and its men in top
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 Oriskany (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 Rowan (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 Francisco, Calif., on 5 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
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 grey
overcast 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
Making port at the Naval
Air Station, Alameda, on 6 April, Vega
later served from 13 to 17 May as host ship at San Francisco for HMCS Terra Nova. Vega then entered
Triple "A" Shipyard, San Francisco, 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 fulfilling 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
Quoc Island to provide supply support
for Cambodian refugees, and transferred some 12.4 tons of refugee subsistence items to Dubuque (LPD-8) and Peoria
(LST-1183). Rendezvousing with TG
76.4 on the 9th, the busy supply
vessel again returned to Phu Quoc 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-3, 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 Ashtabula (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 Mayaguez, off
Koh Tang Island, Cambodia. Both Vega
and Harold E. 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
On 21 January 1977, Vega
shifted to berth 23 south, Mare Island Naval Shipyard, to commence
standdown 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.
[Note: The above USS VEGA (AF-59) history may, or may not, contain text provided by crew members of the USS VEGA (AF-59), or by other non-crew members, and text from the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships]