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Vesuvius

An Italian volcano located on the eastern side of the Bay of Naples. Its most famous eruption, on 24 August 79 A.D., completely destroyed the city of Pompeii and the town of Herculaneum.

I

(Bomb Ketch: tonnage 145; length between perpendiculars 82'5"; beam 25'5"; draft 8'4"; complement 30; armament 1 13" mortar, 8 9-pounders, 2 24-pounders)

The first Vesuvius -- a bomb ketch built by Jacob Coffin at Newburyport, Mass. -- was launched on 31 May 1806; and commissioned in or before September 1806, Lt. James T. Leonard in command.

Vesuvius departed Boston for the Gulf of Mexico but, while en route on 19 October, ran aground in the Gulf of Abaco. The ship lost her rudder and floated free only after her crew had jettisoned all of her guns and their carriages; her shot and shell; and even part of the kentledge. She finally reached New Orleans on 27 November.

Repaired and rearmed with 10 6-pounders, the ship subsequently sailed for Natchez and operated out of that port from February 1807 until returning to New Orleans on 30 May. Vesuvius was then ordered north for further repairs and arrived at New York on 16 August.

The ship apparently remained in the New York area until the spring 1809, when she again sailed for New Orleans. Embarking upon duties to suppress slave traders and pirates operating out of the trackless bayous, Vesuvius cruised off the mouth of the muddy Mississippi and into the Gulf of Mexico, alert for any sign of illegal activity.

The crew's vigilance was rewarded in February 1810 when, under the command of Lt. Benjamin F. Read, Vesuvius gave chase to a pirate vessel off the mouth of the Mississippi and captured Duc de Montebello -- a schooner named by Frenchmen who had been expelled from Cuba by the Spanish government. Dispatched to New Orleans, the buccaneer ship was condemned. In the same month, boats from Vesuvius, under the command of Midshipman F.H. Gregory, captured pirate schooner Diomede and slaver Alexandria -- the latter with a full cargo of slaves on board and flying British colors.

Four months later, Comdr. David Porter, commander of the New Orleans station, embarked in Vesuvius before the bomb ketch departed New Orleans on 10 June 1810, bound via Havana, Cuba, for Washington. Also making the passage were Porter's wife and the Porters' ward, eight-year-old James Glasglow Farragut. The lad -- who would later change his name to David Glasglow Farragut and ultimately become the Navy's first admiral -- was experiencing his first sea voyage.

After repairs at the Washington Navy Yard, the ketch pressed on for New York and arrived on 6 September 1810. Vesuvius was placed in ordinary, and her crew was transferred to Enterprise.

In 1816, Vesuvius served as a receiving ship at New York. A survey conducted in April 1818 revealed that the cost to repair and refit the ship would be, in the survey's words, "exhorbitant." Still carried on the Navy list as a receiving ship through 1821, Vesuvius was broken up in June 1829 after being damaged beyond repair on 4 June when the old steamship Fulton exploded alongside.

II

(Bomb Brig: tonnage 145; length 97'0"; beam 26'0"; depth of hold 10'0"; draft 9'8" (forward), 11'4" (aft); armament 1 10" mortar)

The second Vesuvius -- a coastal cargoman built in 1845 at Williamsburg, N.Y., as Saint Mary -- was acquired by the Navy at New York in 1846 for use with the blockading squadrons in the Gulf of Mexico. Records of the ship's service are sketchy at best, especially for her early service in the Navy. However, reports indicate that she apparently operated as Vesuvius, off Vera Cruz, although one source dates her renaming as occurring on 5 January 1847. In August of 1846, after many members of her crew contracted yellow fever while she was stationed off Vera Cruz, Vesuvius put into Bermuda en route for recuperation.

She was probably refitted at New York, as records indicate that, under the command of Comdr. George A. Magruder, she departed from that port towards the end of the winter of 1846 and 1847, arriving at Laguna del Carmen, Mexico, on 7 March 1847, for blockade duty. Vesuvius was assigned to the port of Laguna. At this juncture, Commodore Matthew Galbraith Perry - commanding the Gulf Squadron - appointed Magruder the military governor of the town, and the commander was of great value to Perry as an administrator. The majority of time spent by Vesuvius on the Gulf station was spent at Laguna, where she logged the shipping movements of vessels both inside and outside of the harbor.

In the spring of 1847, when Commodore Perry launched his expedition against Tuxpan, Vesuvius was withdrawn temporarily from Laguna to support the operation. The Mexicans defending the town with 650 men led by General Cos were ideally situated to command its approaches. The assault on the Mexican defensive works was launched by a 1500-man landing force drawn from the ships' crews. Twenty-five officers and men from Vesuvius, led by Commander Magruder, took part in this action and were present when the stars and stripes were raised over the captured city.

Twelve days later, Perry launched an all-out assault against Tabasco, the last remaining large port commanded by the Mexicans on the Gulf coast. Although captured earlier by American forces, Tabasco had fallen again to Mexican hands. After leaving guardships at Coazacoalcos and Tuxpan, Perry arrived off Frontera on 14 June 1847, at the mouth of the river which led to Tabasco. Shifting his flag again to Scorpion, Perry and his squadron commenced the passage up the tortuous channels. At "Devil's Bend," concealed Mexican sharpshooters opened fire from the dense chaparral along the riverbank. Scorpion, Washington, Vesuvius, and the flat-bottomed "surfboats" returned the fire; Vesuvius' 10-inch mortar shells dispersed the snipers; thus allowing the squadron to continue its way upriver.

At six in the evening, the squadron anchored for the night and arranged barricades about the decks to protect the American sailors against sniper fire. During the night, Mexican forces placed obstructions in the only navigable channel.

Meanwhile, landing parties from Perry's ships stealthily scaled the steep cliffs which rose from the river. They then rushed the works in a sudden assault which surprised the Mexican troops and put them to flight. During the attack, the gunboats forced their way up the river under the command of Lt. David D. Porter, who would later win fame during the Civil War.

Fort Iturbide, mounting six guns, soon fell to a landing force commanded by Lt. Porter, thus clearing the final obstacle from the road to Tabasco. Accordingly, detachments from Scorpion and Spitfire took possession of this objective on the 16th.

Vesuvius remained in the Gulf of Mexico, at Laguna, through the end of the year 1847. Under the command of Lt. S. W. Godon, the brig captured American schooner Wasp on 10 October 1847, which was engaged in illicit trading, and later captured four bungos. Vesuvius moved to Campeache on 8 March 1848 and then back to Laguna late in April. She operated there until sailing north in mid-summer. The brig arrived at Norfolk on 1 August and was sold there the following October.

Tippecanoe -- a Canonicus-class monitor -- was renamed Vesuvius on 15 June 1869 and subsequently renamed Wyandotte (q.v.) on 10 August 1869.

III

(Dynamite Gun Cruiser: displacement 930; length 252'4"; beam 26'5"; draft 9'0"; speed 21 knots; complement 70; armament 3 15", 3 3-pounders)

The third Vesuvius -- a unique vessel in the Navy inventory which marked a departure from more conventional forms of main battery armament -- was laid down in September 1887 at Philadelphia, Pa., by William Cramp and Sons Ships and Engine Building Co. of New York, N.Y.; launched on 28 April 1888; sponsored by Miss Eleanor Breckinridge; and commissioned on 2 June 1890 at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Lt. Seaton Schroeder in command.

Vesuvius carried three 15-inch pneumatic guns, mounted forward side-by-side. In order to train these weapons, the ship had to be aimed, like a gun, at its target. Compressed air projected the shells from the "dynamite guns." The explosive used in the guns themselves was actually a "desensitized blasting gelatin" composed of nitrocellulose and nitroglycerine. It was less sensitive to shock than regular dynamite but still sensitive enough that compressed air, rather than powder, had to be utilized as the propellant. Ten shells per gun were carried on board, and the range of flight -- varying from 200 yards to one and one-half miles -- depended on the amount of air entering the firing chamber.

Vesuvius sailed for New York shortly after commissioning and then joined the Fleet at Gardiner's Bay, N.Y., on 1 October 1890. She operated off the east coast with the North Atlantic Squadron into 1895. Highlights of this tour of duty included numerous port visits and participation in local observances of holidays and festivals, as well as gunnery practice and exercises. Experience showed that the ship's unique main battery had two major drawbacks: first, the range was too short; second, the method of aiming was crude and inaccurate.

Decommissioned on 25 April 1895 for major repairs, Vesuvius re-entered service on 12 January 1897, Lt. Comdr. John E. Pillsbury in command. The ship got underway from Philadelphia Navy Yard, bound for Florida, and operated off the east coast through the spring of the following year, 1898. By this time, American relations with Spain were worsening. The American Fleet gathered in Florida waters, and Vesuvius hurried south from Newport, R.I., and arrived at Key West on 13 May. She remained there until the 28th, when she headed for blockade duty in Cuban coastal waters. Vesuvius performed special duties at the discretion of the Fleet Commander in Chief and served as a dispatch vessel between Cuba and Florida into July of 1898.

On 13 June, Vesuvius conducted the first of eight shore bombardment missions against Santiago, Cuba. The cruiser stealthily closed the shore under cover of darkness, loosed a few rounds of her 15-inch dynamite charges, and then retired to sea. Psychologically, Vesuvius' bombardment caused great anxiety among the Spanish forces ashore, for her devastating shells came in without warning, unaccompanied by the roar of gunfire usually associated with a bombardment. Admiral Sampson wrote accordingly, that Vesuvius' bombardments had "great effect."

After hostilities with Spain ended later that summer, Vesuvius sailed north and called at Charleston, S.C.; New York, and Newport, before reaching Boston. Taken out of active service on 16 September 1898, Vesuvius remained at the Boston Navy Yard until 1904, when she began conversion to a torpedo-testing vessel. Vesuvius lost her unique main battery and acquired four torpedo tubes -- three 18-inch and one 21-inch. Recommissioned on 21 June 1905, Vesuvius soon sailed for the Naval Torpedo Station to begin her new career.

She conducted torpedo experiments at the station for two years until decommissioned on 27 November 1907 for repairs. Recommissioned again on 14 February 1910, Vesuvius remained at Newport for the next 11 years, on occasion serving as station ship, into 1921. Decommissioned and ordered appraised for sale on 21 April 1922 to J. Lipsitz and Co., Chelsea, Mass.

IV

(Ammunition ship AE-15: displacement 5,504; length 459'; beam 63'; draft 29'; speed 16 knots; complement 255; armament 1 5", 4 3", 2 40 millimeters.; class Wrangell)

The fourth Vesuvius (AE-15) was laid down under a Maritime Commission contract (MC hull 1381) by the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company, Wilmington, N.C.; launched on 26 May 1944; acquired by the United States Navy on 4 July 1944; and commissioned on 16 January 1945, Comdr. Flavius J. George in command.

The ship underwent builder's trials out of Brooklyn, N.Y., and then began shakedown out of Hampton Roads, Va., in the Chesapeake Bay. On 17 February, she sailed to Earle, N.J., to onload ammunition. She then headed for the island of Ulithi, via the Panama Canal, on 5 March. She reached her destination on 5 April and promptly unloaded and took on more cargo. Vesuvius departed for Okinawa on 10 April where she became part of Service Squadron 6. In this role, she replenished ammunition to the Fleet in the waters around Okinawa. In July 1945, Vesuvius joined a rearming group off Honshu, Japan, to support raids on Japan by the 3d Fleet. She detached on 2 August and set sail for Leyte Gulf, Philippines. While there, word of the Japanese capitulation was received on 15 August 1945. The ship remained in the Philippines until 28 October, when she left for the United States. After transiting the Panama Canal, Vesuvius joined the Service Force, Atlantic Fleet. The ship arrived at Yorktown, Va., on 14 December 1945.

Vesuvius departed Yorktown on 10 January 1946, bound for Leonardo, N.J., to discharge her cargo and ship's ammunition to the Naval Ammunition Depot. On 7 February, she headed for Orange, Tex., arriving there on 13 February to commence her pre-inactivation overhaul. Vesuvius was placed out of commission, in reserve, at Orange on 20 August 1946.

In response to the needs imposed by the Korean conflict, Vesuvius was recommissioned on 15 November 1951. She remained at Orange and Beaumont, Tex., for outfitting and readying for sea until 7 January 1952, when she departed for San Diego. Having arrived on 14 February, the ship conducted exercises and loaded ammunition at Port Chicago, Calif., before sailing on 22 March for Sasebo, Japan.

She arrived at Sasebo on 3 May 1952 and, after voyage repairs, began supplying ammunition to the ships of Task Force (TF) 77 on patrol off the east coast of Korea. On 1 December, Vesuvius headed for the United States, arriving at San Francisco on 18 December for overhaul.

Over the next decade, Vesuvius was to make 11 more extended deployments to the western Pacific where she serviced units of the 7th Fleet. These operations were interspersed with port visits to Japan, Okinawa, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Hong Kong. Periods on the west coast of the United States were spent in overhaul and in the conduct of underway training.

On 24 June 1963, Vesuvius commenced her 18th post-World War II deployment to the western Pacific, making stops at Pearl Harbor and at Guam for repairs and arriving at Yokosuka on 4 August. She serviced the 7th Fleet throughout August. In October, she visited Sasebo and Kagoshima, Japan; Subic Bay, Philippines; and Buckner Bay, Okinawa. In November, she visited Hong Kong and spent the entire month of December 1963 in and out of Yokosuka, Japan.

Vesuvius began the year 1964 in Yokosuka making final preparations for her homeward passage. On 7 January, she got underway for San Francisco via the great circle route. She arrived on 31 January and spent February and March moored to the pier at Port Chicago. A brief trip to San Diego and participation in an exercise with other units of the 1st Fleet occupied April, and Vesuvius spent May in an upkeep status at Concord. On 6 July, she was underway for coastal operations. August and September saw the ship in and out of port, training and providing services to the Fleet Training Group. In October, she participated in operations with members of the 1st Fleet. On 20 November 1964, Vesuvius returned to Concord for upkeep and a holiday leave period. She got underway on 18 December for the Mare Island Annex, where she spent the holiday season.

The ship made a brief trip to San Diego beginning on 4 January 1965 before returning to Concord on 15 January. She began reloading cargo in preparation for deployment and got underway for the Far East on 1 February. Vesuvius reached Subic Bay, via Pearl Harbor and Guam, on 28 February. She then began operations in the South China Sea interrupted by brief returns for the onload of cargo in Subic Bay. In July 1965, she received a well-earned respite from her duties in Hong Kong. After a week there, she resumed operations. Having made 182 underway replenishments during the deployment, Vesuvius returned to Concord, Calif., on 28 November.

Vesuvius began the year 1966 by steaming on 3 January to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard at Bremerton, Wash., to undergo repairs for six weeks. After leaving Bremerton, the ship headed south to Concord to onload ammunition. On 5 March, she sailed for San Diego for refresher training. Shortly after arrival, a 26-inch crack in one of her hull plates was discovered. She promptly began transferring her load of ammunition to other ships. By 26 March, the ammunition had been successfully offloaded; and, on 28 April 1966, Vesuvius proceeded to the Bethlehem Steel Shipyard in San Francisco. On 14 May, Vesuvius deployed for the western Pacific. From 13 June through 27 November 1966, Vesuvius conducted replenishment operations between the Philippines and the South China Sea. In December, she stopped at Pearl Harbor on her way home, where an unusual cargo was embarked -- $9,700,000 was brought on board for a special currency lift back to the United States. Shortly before Christmas, Vesuvius reached Concord.

The year 1967 found the ship berthed at Mare Island preparing to undergo her first major overhaul since 1962. Following completion of overhaul at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard and underway training, Vesuvius departed for the western Pacific on 15 July 1967, bound for Subic Bay. Except for brief periods in Hong Kong, Vesuvius came off the line in the South China Sea only long enough to fill her hold with more ammunition.

Near the end of January 1968, Vesuvius sailed to Yokosuka on her return trip to the United States, only to be recalled to the seas of Vietnam following the Pueblo incident. Vesuvius finally returned to the San Francisco Bay area on 17 March 1968, offloaded, proceeded to the Naval Shipyard at Mare Island, and on 4 April, entered the Triple A Shipyard in San Francisco for extensive repairs and upkeep. Repairs were completed on 10 May, and the ship began refresher training in June. Following inspections and loadout, Vesuvius deployed again on 31 July 1968. She reached Subic Bay on 20 August for receipt of ammunition, then began operations in the Vietnam area. She remained on line through 3 December, when she left for a period of rest and recreation in Hong Kong. She departed there on 10 December to return to Vietnam.

Vesuvius remained on line through January and February 1969. In late February, she sailed into Bangkok, Thailand. From Bangkok, the ship went to Subic Bay to commence her final loadout before heading home. After a brief stop in Hawaii, Vesuvius arrived in Concord on 1 April 1969. In late April, the ship underwent six weeks of restricted availability at a commercial yard in San Francisco. Late in June, she steamed for San Diego and refresher training and exercises. By 23 July, she had returned to San Francisco and began three weeks of loadout for yet another deployment. Vesuvius departed for the western Pacific on 17 September 1969. After stopovers in Pearl Harbor and Yokosuka, she touched at Subic Bay for a few days before starting her line period off Vietnam.

During this deployment, Vesuvius conducted seven line runs in the South China Sea and the Tonkin Gulf in support of the 7th Fleet operations. On 25 April, she left for home with stops at Kobe, Japan, and Pearl Harbor. She arrived at Concord on 23 May 1970. The ship entered a three-month upkeep in San Francisco from July to October followed by a predeployment inspection. On 9 November, Vesuvius departed the San Francisco area for intensive training in San Diego and, on 6 December, steamed back to Port Chicago for a holiday leave period.

Vesuvius again departed for the western Pacific on 4 January 1971. She arrived at Subic Bay on 25 January, and, one week later, was underway for her first line run of the deployment. On 20 February, she pulled into Singapore and then proceeded shortly thereafter to the Philippines for a 15-day upkeep period. Vesuvius then resumed her assignment of providing ammunition logistics support to the 7th Fleet and Royal Australian Navy units off the coast of Vietnam. On 2 August 1971, Vesuvius left Subic Bay for San Francisco, arriving on 1 September. After offloading ammunition at Concord Naval Weapons Station, the ship moved to the Mare Island Naval Shipyard for a month of standdown. On 4 October, she entered a six-week upkeep. Upon completion, she returned to Concord on 19 November for refresher training off San Diego, returning to Mare Island on 4 December.

Vesuvius got underway on 3 January 1972 and, on 5 January, commenced refresher training in San Diego. She returned to Concord on 29 January. Preparations for deployment began immediately, and the ship left California on 14 February. Upon arrival at Subic Bay, Vesuvius again supported combat operations for the 7th Fleet. On 29 June, she began upkeep and returned to action on 18 July. Her duties were interrupted for short trips to Hong Kong and Bangkok in August and October. In December, she entered drydock at Subic Bay to replace her propeller, but she promptly returned to Vietnam and ended the year in the combat zone.

The ship returned to Concord on 3 March 1973. After offloading ammunition, the ship moved to Mare Island. The ship was scheduled for upkeep from April to July. However, a message was received from the Chief of Naval Operations in July to prepare the ship for decommissioning. On 14 August 1973, Vesuvius was decommissioned and transferred to the Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility at Mare Island for further disposition. She was struck from the Navy list on 14 August 1973.

Vesuvius received two battle stars for World War II, two battle stars for the Korean War, and 10 battle stars for her service in Vietnam.



18 January 2002

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