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Chehalis I (AOG-48)

1944-1949

The first Chehalis (AOG-48) was named for the river in the state of Washington, the second (PG-94) was named for the city in the same state.

I

(AOG-48: displacement 1,850; length 310'9"; beam 48'6"; draft 15'8"; speed 14 knots; complement 131; armament 4 3", 12 20 millimeter; class Patapsco)

The first Chehalis (AOG-48) was laid down on 6 November 1943 at Savage, Minn., by Cargill, Inc.; launched on 15 April 1944; sponsored by Mrs. John H. MacMillan, Sr.; and commissioned on 5 December 1944, Lt. Edward G. Rifenburgh, D-M, USNR, in command.

Following her shakedown, Chehalis cleared Galveston, Texas, on 5 January 1945 to call at San Diego en route to Pearl Harbor, which she reached on 6 February. Until 14 April, she carried out fueling operations in the Hawaiian Islands and at Canton in the Phoenix group, aiding the many ships conducting their training in these areas. Sailing west, she put in to Kossol Roads, Palaus, before arriving in San Pedro Bay, P.I., on 5 May with a cargo of aviation gasoline and lubricants for forces in the Philippines. For the next three months, she fueled motor torpedo boats and Army crash boats operating along the Leyte coast, and from 6 August to 23 November provided similar service to motor torpedo boats at Okinawa, her crew developing "a fine sense of familiarity with their battle stations" despite never being a direct target of Japanese aircraft during the course of hostilities. Thrice during Chehalis's time at Okinawa, twice in September and once in October, typhoons forced a suspension of normal operations and compelled the ship to get underway to ride out the storms. Having finished her task in the western Pacific, the ship departed Buckner Bay on 26 November for Olympia, Washington, reaching her destination on 19 December to receive the "warm welcome of the people of the city of Chehalis...who had paid for the ship with their war bonds [and who] expressed their thanks to the Navy in the hospitality shown her crew."

After overhaul at Puget Sound, Chehalis returned to the Hawaiian Islands on 23 March 1946, and for the next three and a half years carried aviation gasoline, airplane lubricating oil, and diesel oil among the Hawaiian group and to the Pacific islands to the westward, calling at Johnston, Palmyra, Samoa, Canton, Kwajalein, Midway, Saipan, Truk, Manus, Iwo Jima, and Eniwetok.

At 0123 (Samoan time) on 7 October 1949, as Chehalis lay alongside the navy dock at Tutuila, American Samoa, one of her gasoline tanks exploded, killing six of her 75-man crew. The ship burst into flames, capsized, and sank in 45 feet of water. She later slid off the ledge, atop of which she had originally sunk, into 150 feet of water. She was stricken from the Naval Register on 27 October 1949. Her salvaged hulk was later sold to the government of American Samoa in a contract entered into on 21 October 1955.

Robert J. Cressman

10 March 2016

Published: Tue Jul 12 13:31:26 EDT 2016