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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
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Wabash

A river that rises in Drake County, Ohio, near Fort Recovery and meanders westward across Indiana until it reaches Illinois at a point just southwest of Terre Haute. South of that point, it outlines the border between the two states until emptying into the Ohio a few miles west of Uniontown, Ky. Wabash is an abbreviation of the Miami Indian name for the stream, Wabashiki, which means "bright white" or "gleaming white." It refers to the limestone bed of the stream along its upper course.

I

(Screw frigate: displacement 4,808; length 301'6"; beam 51'4"; draft 23'; speed 9 knots; armament 2 10" Dahlgren smoothbore, 24 9" Dahlgren smoothbore; class Colorado)

The first Wabash was laid down on 16 May 1854 by the Philadelphia Navy Yard; launched on 24 October 1855; sponsored by Miss Pennsylvania Grice; and commissioned there on 18 August 1856, Capt. Frederick K. Engle in command.

Wabash departed Philadelphia on 7 September 1856, stopping at Portsmouth, N.H., to embark President Franklin Pierce for passage to Annapolis, Md. She arrived at New York on 23 October 1856, sailing on 28 November 1856 to become flagship of Commodore Hiram Paulding's Home Squadron. The squadron was instrumental in foiling the expedition against Nicaragua underway by American filibuster, William Walker, who had dreamed of uniting the nations of Central America into a vast military empire led by himself. Through insurrection, he became president of Nicaragua in 1855 only to have Cornelius Vanderbilt -- who controlled the country's shipping lifelines -- shut off supplies and aid. A revolt toppled Walker from power, and he was trying for a military comeback before he was captured in 1857 by the Home Squadron. Stateside controversy over the questionable legality of seizing American nationals in foreign, neutral lands prompted President James Buchanan to relieve Commodore Paulding of his command. Wabash was decommissioned on 1 march 1858 at the New York Navy Yard.

Wabash was recommissioned on 25 May 1858, Capt. Samuel Barron in command, and became the flagship of Commodore E.A.F. La Vallette's Mediterranean Squadron. The future naval hero of the Spanish-American War, George Dewey -- then a midshipman -- served in Wabash when she touched at her first port of call, Gibraltar, on 17 August 1858. Wabash returned to the New York Navy Yard on 16 December 1859 and decommissioned there on 20 December 1859.

With the outbreak of the Civil War, Wabash was recommissioned on 16 May 1861, Capt. Samuel Mercer in command, and departed New York on 30 May 1861 as flagship of the Atlantic Blockading Squadron under Rear Admiral Silas H. Stringham.

Wabash captured the brigantine Sarah Starr off Charleston, S.C., on 3 August 1861, and recaptured the American schooner Mary Alice, taken earlier by the CSS Dixie. By this date, she had also captured the brigantines Hannah, Balch, and Solferino, along with 22 Confederate prisoners from the four vessels.

On 26 August 1861, Wabash departed Hampton Roads, bound for Hatteras Inlet, N.C., to take part in the first combined amphibious assault of the war. Wabash accompanied Monticello, Pawnee, revenue cutter Harriet Lane, the tug Fanny, and two transports, carrying over 900 troops under Major General Butler. Union forces secured Hatteras Inlet with the capture of Forts Hatteras and Clark on 29 August 1861. The attack force suffered no casualties and took over 700 prisoners. Among these was Capt. Samuel Barron, CSN, the former commander in the United States Navy of Wabash when she served under Rear Admiral La Vallette. Wabash was later designated the flagship of Flag Officer Samuel F. Du Pont, the new commander of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, and was sent to the New York Navy Yard for repairs on 21 September 1861.

After refit, Wabash departed Fort Monroe on 29 October 1861 to spearhead the Federal assault on Port Royal, S.C. The assembled invasion fleet was the largest yet organized by the Navy, containing 77 vessels and 16,000 Army troops under Brigadier General Thomas W. Sherman. The combined force secured Port Royal Sound on 7 November 1861 after a furious four-hour battle. Wabash led the battle line in this major strategic Union victory.

Wabash now took up permanent station on the Charleston blockade, operating out of Port Royal. On 11 March 1862, a landing party led by ship's commanding officer, Comdr. C. R. P. Rodgers, occupied St. Augustine, Fla. A detachment of seamen and officers from Wabash landed and manned a battery which bombarded Fort Pulaski, Ga., on 10 an 11 April 1862 and was instrumental in forcing the Southern fort to surrender. A naval battery of three 12-pounder boat howitzers from Wabash supported Union troops at the Battle of Pocotaligo, S.C., on 22 October 1862.

Confederate vessels twice harassed Wabash while on duty in Port Royal Sound. On 5 August 1863, CSS Juno, a small steamer on picket duty below Fort Sumter, fired upon and ran down a launch from Wabash, capturing 10 sailors and drowning two. A "David" submarine torpedo boat also attacked Wabash on 18 April 1864, Ensign Charles H. Craven, officer of the deck, spotted the cigar-shaped vessel in time for Wabash to get underway. The "David" disengaged from the attack in the face of musket fire and round shot discharged from Wabash.

Wabash departed her station on 1 October, bound for the Norfolk Navy Yard and an overhaul. En route, she grounded briefly on Frying Pan Shoals, suffering minor damage to her rudder. Repairs and overhaul were completed by 16 December, in time for Wabash to join the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron and to participate in the first attack on Fort Fisher, N.C., on 24 and 25 December 1864. The failure of this initial attempt to take the fort necessitated a second, successful combined operation between 13 and 15 January 1865.

Wabash returned to Hampton Roads on 17 January 1865, receiving orders on 25 January 1865 to proceed to the Boston Navy Yard. Wabash was decommissioned at Boston on 14 February 1865. She was placed in ordinary from 1866 to 1869; overhauled during 1870 to 1871; and recommissioned on 24 October 1871, Capt. Robert W. Shufeldt commanding. Wabash departed the Boston Navy Yard on 17 November 1871 and served as the flagship of Rear Admiral James Alden, commanding the Mediterranean Squadron. She arrived at Cadiz, Spain, on 14 December 1871 and cruised throughout the Mediterranean until 30 November 1873 when she departed Gibraltar, bound for Key West, Fla. Wabash arrived in Key West on 3 January 1874. She was decommissioned on 25 April 1874 at the Boston Navy Yard. In 1875, she was placed in ordinary and served as a housed-over receiving ship from 1876 to 1912. Wabash was struck from the Navy list on 15 November 1912 and sold that same day to the Boston Iron and Metal Co., Boston, Mass.

II

(Freighter: displacement 10,475; length 393'0"; beam 49'11"; draft 26'0" (mean); speed 11.4 knots; complement 93; armament 1 5", 1 3")

Wartburg - a single-screw, steel-hulled freighter completed in 1900 at Newcastle-on-Tyne, England, by Wigham Richardson and Co., Ltd., for service with the Deutsche Dampferhahrts Gesellschaft - was renamed Tubingen between 1906 and 1907 and owned by the Norddeutscher Lloyd line. She was interned by the United States Government at the onset of World War I. In April 1917, when the United States entered the conflict, the steamer was taken over by the United States Shipping Board (USSB). She was acquired by the Navy on 9 February 1918, at Hoboken, N.J., for use with the Naval Overseas Transportation Service. The cargo ship was renamed Wabash; designated Id. No. 1824; and commissioned on the same day, Lt. Comdr. Frank C. Seeley, USNRF, in command.

Loaded with construction iron and ammunition, Wabash departed New York City on 28 February, bound for France. After delivering her cargo at Paulliac, she returned to the United States on 22 April. She made four more voyages to St. Nazaire, France, and returned to New York from her last run on 6 April 1919. Decommissioned on 21 April, the freighter was returned to the USSB.

The ship subsequently home-ported at New York and operated under the flag of the North Atlantic and Western Steamship Co., until sometime in 1924 or 1925. She was then transferred to Italian registry.

III

(Gasoline tanker, AOG-4: displacement 4,335; length 310'9"; beam 48'6"; draft 15'8"; speed 14 knots; complement 140; armament 4 3"; class Patapsco)

Wabash (AOG-4) was laid down on 30 June 1942 at Seattle, Wash., by the Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Co.; launched on 28 October 1942; sponsored by Mrs. Louis A. Puckett; and was commissioned at the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Wash., on 10 May 1943, Lt. James F. Ardagh, USNR, in command.

Wabash departed Seattle on 26 May for Alaskan waters. After delivering a cargo of gasoline to Annette Bay and Yakutat, the gasoline tanker returned to Seattle on 5 June. She made four more voyages carrying fuel to Alaskan ports before 15 September, when she headed south for the last time to San Francisco, Calif.

Proceeding to Hawaii soon thereafter, Wabash was assigned to Service Squadron (ServRon) 8 upon her arrival at Pearl Harbor on 19 October. From then through the first half of 1944, she made runs in the Central Pacific carrying high-test aviation gasoline and lubricants to Palmyra Island, Canton, and Midway. Departing Pearl Harbor on 9 July, Wabash steamed in convoy for the Marshall Islands. Transferred to ServRon 10 upon her arrival at Eniwetok on 18 July, Wabash pumped gasoline and lubricants to station tanker YOG-185; tended small craft; and carried Marine Corps equipment to Roi Island before moving on to the Marianas.

Arriving at Saipan on 20 August 1944, she operated in the Marianas until sailing for the Volcano Islands on 5 March 1945 to support the American conquest of Iwo Jima. There, Wabash furnished fuel and lubricants to amphibious ships of Task Force 53, including minecraft and tank landing ships. On 14 March, she returned via Saipan to the Western Carolines and arrived at Ulithi on the 27th.

Wabash soon got underway again to support her second major Pacific operation, the battle for Okinawa. Soon after her arrival off Hagushi beach on 9 April, she began tending miscellaneous small craft at Okinawa through the cessation of hostilities and the first months following Japan's surrender.

On 28 November, she sailed for Hong Kong. From December 1945 to the summer of 1946, Wabash operated in the Far East supporting the Fleet in its occupation duties. She served as tender and fuel ship at Hong Kong; Hainan Island, French Indochina; Subic Bay, Philippines; and at Shanghai and Tsingtao, China. Decommissioned at Tsingtao on 29 July 1946, Wabash was transferred to the Army Transportation Corps on that day and was struck from the Navy list on 23 April 1947.

Manned and officered by Japanese, the tanker operated for the Army out of Yokosuka, Japan, into 1950. With the inset of the Korean War, Wabash was reinstated on the Navy list on 1 June 1950; enrolled in the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS); and designated T-AOG-4.

During the Korean conflict, the ship supported United Nations air operations with vital cargoes of jet fuel and gasoline through the year 1952. Manned by a mixed crew of Americans and Japanese, Wabash served MSTS through the Panmunjom armistice in the summer of 1953 and subsequently carried oil between Iwo Jima and South Korean and Japanese ports through the mid-1950's. Inactivated on 10 September 1957, Wabash was struck from the Navy list for the second time on 8 May 1958, placed in permanent custody of the Maritime Administration, and assigned to the National Defense Reserve Fleet at Suisun Bay, Calif. She remained there into the 1970's.

Wabash received two battle stars for her World War II service and two for service during the Korean conflict.

IV

(Replenishment oiler AOR-5: displacement 37,360 (full load); length 659'; beam 96'; draft 36'; speed 2o knots; complement 390; armament 4 3"; class Wichita)

Wabash (AOR-5) was laid down on 21 January 1970 Quincy, Mass., by the General Dynamics Corp.; launched on 6 February 1971; sponsored by Mrs. William G. Bray; and commissioned on 20 November 1971 at the Boston Naval Shipyard, Capt. Robert P. Chrisler in command.

Wabash sailed for the west coast on 5 January 1972, called at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; transited the bleak Strait of Magellan; and visited Valparaiso, Chile; Callao, Peru; and Acapulco, Mexico, before arriving at her home port, Long Beach, Calif., on 3 March. She underwent shakedown from 22 May to 16 June and operated off the coast of southern California into the autumn.

The replenishment oiler commenced her first western Pacific (WestPac) deployment when she departed Long Beach on 9 November. After proceeding via Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, she arrived at Subic Bay, Philippine Islands, on 1 December and, assigned to Service Squadron 9, assumed duties as flagship for Commander, Task Group (TG) 73.5.

That group sortied for Tonkin Gulf on 7 December. Wabash conducted 46 underway replenishments during her first tour on the "line" off the coast of Vietnam and celebrated Christmas at sea while returning to the Philippines. Arriving in Subic Bay on 28 December, Wabash soon headed back toward the line on 2 January 1973. She conducted two or three replenishments a day during the final phase of American combat operations in Vietnam.

In February, United States forces were withdrawn from combat. However, she made two more line deployments during her WestPac deployment, for - while combat operations had ceased - the vital job of supplying ships of the Fleet still remained. On 21 May, Wabash departed Yokosuka, Japan, bound, via Pearl Harbor, for Long Beach.

The ship engaged in training exercises and underwent inspections into the summer. On 6 September 1973, her home port was changed to Alameda through the end of the year and departed the west coast on 2 March 1974 for her second WestPac deployment. This lasted through the summer, with operations in Philippine and Japanese waters, before the ship departed Subic Bay on 25 September to return to the United States.

During this period of Alameda-based fleet support operations, Wabash participated in the multinational maneuvers "FleetEx 1-76." This operation, conducted off the southern California coast, lasted from 1 to 13 March 1976, and included units of the United States, British, Canadian, and New Zealand navies.

On 5 June 1976, Wabash again set sail for WestPac. En route, she collided with Flint (AE-32) during a towing exercise, but neither ship suffered damage curtailing her primary mission capabilities. No one was injured. After damage and voyage repairs at Subic Bay, Wabash commenced routine local operations in Philippine waters. On 9 July, however, she returned hurriedly to Subic Bay to load stores and cargo and departed the following day to conduct a "Stern chase" of TG 77.7. This group was then headed for the Indian Ocean and a 30-day "show the flag" cruise. En route, Wabash rendezvoused with Mars (AFS-1) to load further supplies and stores, transited the Strait of Malacca, and entered the Indian Ocean on 17 July.

Wabash conducted underway replenishments with Ranger (CVA-61), Preble (DDG-46), Goldsborough (DDG-20), and Ouellet (FF-1077), as TF-77 "showed the flag" in the Indian Ocean as part of the American effort to balance a growing Soviet presence in that area of the globe. Her duties thus completed, Wabash returned to Subic Bay on 7 august and got underway nine days later to rejoin the Ranger task group to replenish them as they returned to the United States.

Completing her duties with the Ranger group soon thereafter, Wabash put into Guam, Mariana Islands, and prepared to provision the incoming Enterprise (CVN-65) task group. The replenishment ship subsequently conducted local operations in the Philippines in September and in Japanese waters in October - operating out of Sasebo - before visiting Pusan, Korea. Returning to Sasebo on 25 October, the ship headed for Yokosuka soon thereafter for repairs and upkeep prior to concluding her WestPac deployment. During this, her third WestPac tour, Wabash had steamed over 35,000 miles, conducted 100 underway replenishments, and had been at sea nearly 65 percent of the time. Departing Japanese waters on 10 November, Wabash arrived at her home port one day before Thanksgiving.

Completing the year 1976 in port at Alameda, Wabash spent the latter half of January 1977 undergoing a restricted availability at Alameda. During the period 17 February to 1 March, the ship engaged in Exercise "RIMPAC '77," a major fleet exercise involving ships from the United States, Australian, New Zealand, and Canadian navies. Wabash conducted 28 underway replenishments during this time. Refresher training continued throughout the spring until the replenishment ship entered Todd Shipyard, Alameda, on 15 June for the commencement of a regular overhaul.

With the overhaul completed on 9 June 1978, Wabash devoted the remainder of the year in shakedown and refresher training. January 1979 found Wabash in her home port of Alameda preparing to meet scheduled commitments for that year.


30 July 2001