USS ASHTABULA (AO-51)
Astabula (AO-51) was laid down under a Maritime Commission contract (MC hull 717) on 1 October 1942 at Sparrows
Point, Md., by the
Bethlehem Steel Co.; launched on 22 May 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Adolph Augustus Berle, Jr., the wife of
the Assistant Secretary of State; and acquired by the Navy on 7 August 1943; and commissioned the same day,
Comdr. Louis J. Modave in command.
shakedown in the Chesapeake Bay, the oiler sailed for Aruba on 10 September to take on fuel oil and
aviation gasoline and then
continued on, via the Panama Canal, to the South Pacific. After arriving at Tutuila, Samoa, on 22 October, she
operated as a member of
Service Squadron (ServRon) 8 in the South Pacific until 17 November. Ashtabula next sailed for the
United States and entered the
Long Beach Navy Yard on 1 December for an availability period.
The oiler sailed
for Pearl Harbor on New Year's Day, 1944, and remained there until 16 January when she sortied with Task Group (TG) 58.1 for operations supporting the occupation
of the Marshall Islands. Ashtabula
anchored at Majuro lagoon on 4 February and operated from that atoll in support of the fast carrier task forces through mid June. The ship then began
participating in the
effort to take the Marianas. During the Battle of the Philippine Sea and its aftermath, she fueled ships
of Task Force (TF) 58 from 20 through 27 June and then retired, via Eniwetok,
to the California coast for yard work which began upon her arrival at Terminal
Island on 15 July.
The oiler got underway again on 28
August and arrived at Pearl Harbor on 4
September. She continued sailing westward and reached Eniwetok on the 17th. After a two-day respite, the vessel headed for the South Pacific and arrived
at Purvis Bay on the 24th where she
spent the remainder of the month in fueling duties. Ashtabula's next
assignment was to support the first American
forces to fight for the liberation of the Philippines. She sailed, via Humboldt Bay and Kossol Roads, to
Leyte Gulf and began fueling units of
TG 77.2 on 23 October. Late the following afternoon, three Japanese torpedo planes attacked the oiler. One of them dropped a torpedo which hit Ashtabula's
port side. Although the explosion
caused no fires or personnel casualties, Ashtabula soon developed
a 16-degree list to port. Skillful counter-flooding
righted the ship and allowed her to resume operations. On 27 October, the vessel was detached from Task Unit (TU)
77.7.1 and headed for the west coast of the United States. Following stops at Kossol Roads, Humboldt
Bay, and Pearl Harbor, she reached San Pedro, Calif., on 15 December and was drydocked at Terminal Island for repair of
her torpedo damage.
departed the California coast on 28 January 1945, touched at Pearl Harbor on 3 February, and arrived at
Eniwetok on 12 February.
She reported to ServRon 10 for duty and remained there until 5 March, when the ship sailed for Ulithi. On the 10th, Ashtabula was reassigned to ServRon 6;
and, three days later, she
got underway for fueling operations at sea for the warships of the Fast Carrier Task Force, TF 58. On 5
April,Ashtabula's bow struck Thornton (AVD-11) amidships and caused considerable damage to the seaplane tender. Ashtabula returned
to Ulithi on 9 April and underwent
minor repair work from 10 to 17 April.
There, the oiler once again returned to the control of ServRon 10.
For the duration
of the war, Ashtabula operated in the Ulithi area.
In mid-August, Japan capitulated; and, on the last day of the month, the oiler headed for Okinawa, but soon
moved on to Jinsen, Korea, where she
arrived on 11 September. For the next six
months, Ashtabula operated between ports in Korea, Japan, and China while supplying and fueling American
warships. In March 1946, the oiler
made a cruise, via Singapore and Ceylon, to Bahrain. She returned to Japan in
April. In June and July, she again
visited a Mideastern port, Ras Tanura, Saudi Arabia, to replenish her oil bunkers. Ashtabula got underway
for a voyage back to the United States. After pausing briefly at Pearl Harbor, the ship arrived at San Pedro on 18 December.
Ashtabula began 1947 with a cruise to Guam and returned to
California on 27 January. For the next two years, she continued operations between the west coast, Hawaii, and the
Marshall Islands. This
circuit was interrupted by a visit to Ras Tanura and
Bahrain in June 1949. The oiler returned to the Orient in October 1948 and once again operated between the
west coast and Hawaii from July 1949 until June 1950. During this time, she
provided towing services from Pearl Harbor to southern California ports in addition to transporting fuel.
On 28 June 1950, Ashtabula headed north from Long Beach, Calif., bound for Alaska.
Upon arriving at Dutch Harbor, the ship fueled two survey vessels operating in the area. After a brief stop in Point Barrow,
Alaska, she returned to Long Beach on 19 August.
The vessel lay at
anchor there until 27 September, when she sailed for Pearl Harbor with a load of aviation gasoline and fuel oil. Due to the growing conflict in Korea, Ashtabula was
ordered to proceed
immediately to Sasebo, Japan. There, she loaded provisions for American troops stationed in Taiwan, and
then delivered them to Keelung. Beginning in
November, Ashtabula put to sea to supply fuel and provisions to ships of
the 7th Fleet. She continued these activities until
August 1951, when she returned to Long Beach.
The ship got back in action in the Far
East in November, refueling bombardment forces
around the 38th parallel and, later, assisted
in the evacuation of Hungnam, Korea. In March 1952, she sailed to Long Beach for an overhaul, but was
back at Sasebo by early October.
while in Sasebo for an availability, Ashtabula was damaged by twin explosions caused by acetylene
torches which ignited
gasoline fumes. Three sailors were killed, and the forward well deck was
seriously damaged. After three months of work at
Sasebo, the ship sailed to Long Beach for further alterations. In September 1953, she returned to the western Pacific (WestPac) and resumed replenishment
For the next 10
years, the oiler continued alternating deployments to WestPac with periods of upkeep, overhaul, and training at her home port, Long Beach. Ports of call in
WestPac included Subic
Bay and Manila, Philippines; Hong Kong; Sasebo, Kobe, Nagasaki, Yokosuka, and Kagoshima, Japan;
Kaohsiung, Taiwan, and
Buckner Bay, Okinawa.
During the first
half of 1964, Ashtabula continued her peacetime routine. On 2 August, she was in the Gulf of
destroyers Maddox (DD-731) and Turner Joy (DD-951) just a few hours after North Vietnamese torpedo boats
attacked Maddox. She spent most of August fueling ships of the 7th Fleet in the South China Sea. Upon completing her WestPac
cruise, Ashtabula returned to Long Beach.
However, for the
next eight years, the oiler continued to serve in waters surrounding Vietnam during her regular
deployments to the Far East. She provided fuel and
supplies to units of the 7th Fleet, while
operating out of the ports of Subic Bay and Kaohsiung. Between tours in the Orient, she returned to Long Beach for leave and upkeep.
In 1968, Ashtabula
underwent a major reconfiguration. A 400-foot midsection, built entirely new from the keel up, was inserted and welded between her original bow and stern.
This replaced the old 310-foot midsection
and increased the vessel's liquid cargo capacity by over one-third. Her new
configuration closely resembled
that of a more modern type of ship, the replenishment oiler. She continued her Vietnam service through
August 1972, when she
made her last line swing off Vietnam. The ship returned
to Long Beach on 9 December.
availability period at Long Beach and training exercises off the southern California coast, Ashtabula
once again sailed west on 4 October 1973. While at Subic Bay, she received orders
to proceed to the Indian Ocean operating area. In early December, Ashtabula provided services to Hancock (CVA-19) and Oriskany (CVA-34) as well as other
members of their task groups. After
51 continuous days at sea, Ashtabula arrived at Subic Bay on 5 January 1974.
Following a brief
availability there, the oiler got underway to replenish a group of amphibious ships in the Gulf of
Siam. On 7 March, she began
a three-week voyage to her home port. She spent one month in upkeep, then
sailed to her new home port, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and spent the rest of the
year in overhaul and refresher
Ashtabula began another WestPac deployment on 8 February 1975. She took part in Operation "Seafox," a
joint SEATO exercise with six other nations. Her
next assignments were Operations "Eagle
Pull" and "Frequent Wind," held off the coast of Vietnam. On 11 May, she was ordered to Cambodia
to support the rescue of Mayaquez, an American merchant ship that
had been captured by communist forces. In
late July, the oiler returned to her home port, where she spent the next
10 months in upkeep and local operations.
Ashtabula sailed for WestPac on 21 June 1976. Ports visited included Subic Bay; Sasebo and Yokosuka, Japan; Hong
Kong; and Keelung, Taiwan. The cruise was
highlighted by a joint training
exercise with ships of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force. The oiler arrived back m Pearl Harbor on
15 December and spent the first two months of 1977 providing services to ships
in the Pearl Harbor area. In March, she headed west to
rendezvous with and refuel a task group built around Coral Sea (CV-43). On 2
April, the ship returned to Pearl Harbor and commenced an overhaul period which
was completed on 28 February 1978.
Ashtabula sailed to Alameda, Calif., on 10 March to hold a series of qualification trials, returned to Pearl Harbor
on 14 April, and began refresher training. She got underway on 30 June for the Far East and called at Song Kla and Pattaya, Thailand; Subic Bay; Sasebo; and Fremantle, Australia.
While in Australia, Ashtabula
participated in Exercise "Sandgroper," which was held in conjunction with the Australian and
New Zealand navies. The oiler then proceeded
to Singapore and Hong Kong for liberty calls and closed
the year in upkeep at Guam.
Back at Pearl Harbor on 18 January
1979, Ashtabula began eight months of
underway training, local operations, and inspections. At the end of August, she embarked upon a six-week cruise to the west coast to conduct underway
replenishment qualification trials
and then participate in Exercise "Kernel Potlatch II," a joint United States-Canadian operation to test and evaluate plans for the common defense of
North America. At the conclusion of the exercise, the oiler called at
Esquimalt, British Columbia,on 6
October. After a three-day visit, she headed
back to Hawaii on the 9th and arrived in Pearl Harbor on the 16th.
in the Hawaiian Islands occupied Ashtabula's time
for nearly the entire first nine months of 1980. On 28 September, the oiler embarked upon another tour of duty in the western Pacific. Steaming by way of Guam in the
Mariana Islands, she entered Subic
Bay in the Philippines on 15 October. Her deployment was marred at its
outset by engineering casualties that
required a two-month repair period at Subic Bay. On 12 December, she completed repairs and, the following
day, put to sea to begin underway
refueling service to the ships of the 7th Fleet. For the next four months, Ashtabula operated in the South
China Sea, the East China Sea, and the Sea of Japan, refueling American warships assigned to the Far East. The oiler made visits to several Japanese ports-Sasebo,
Yokosuka, and Iwakuni-as well as to Okinawa in the Ryukyu Islands and Chinhae in Korea. She also returned periodically
to the base at Subic Bay. On 15 April
1981, Ashtabula departed the Philippines
to return to Hawaii. She arrived in Pearl Harbor on the 30th.
two-month, post-deployment standdown, the ship resumed local operations in the Hawaiian Islands at the
end of June. She remained
so employed until the end of October when she stood into Pearl Harbor to conclude her last underway period for 1981. The oiler spent the first four months of
1982 carrying out missions in the Hawaiian
operating area. On 30 April 1982,
she embarked upon her final deployment to the Far East. That tour of duty lasted a little more than three
returned to Pearl Harbor on 5 August. Soon thereafter, Ashtabula began preparations for inactivation. Decommissioned at Pearl Harbor on 30 September 1982, she was
subsequently towed to Suisun Bay,
Calif., where she joined the Maritime Administration's
National Defense Reserve Fleet. As of the beginning of 1987, Ashtabula-still property of the Navy and carried on the Navy list-remained berthed at
awarded eight battle stars for World War II service,
four battle stars for Korean action, and eight battle stars for duty in the Vietnam conflict.
[Note: The above USS ASHTABULA (AO-51) history may, or may not, contain text provided by crew members of the USS ASHTABULA (AO-51), or by other non-crew members, and text from the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships]