Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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Brontes (AGP-17)

1945–1946

A figure from Greek mythology, a one-eyed giant whose employment was forging thunderbolts for Zeus.

(AGP-17: displacement 3,960 (trial); length 328'0"; beam 50'0"; draft 11'2" (limiting); speed 11.6 knots (trial); complement 290; armament 8 40-millimeter, 8 20-millimeter; class Portunus)

Brontes (AGP-17) (so-named on 11 September 1944 but originally projected as LST-1125) was laid down on 15 November 1944 at Seneca, Ill., by the Chicago Bridge & Iron Co.; launched on 6 February 1945; sponsored by Mrs. June Elizabeth Reimer; placed in reduced commission on 17 February 1945 for the voyage to Baltimore, Md.; where she was decommissioned on 10 March 1945 and converted to a motor torpedo boat tender by the Maryland Drydock Co.; and placed in full commission on 14 August 1945, Lt. William B. Rearden, Jr., D, USNR, in command.

Four hours and thirty minutes after Brontes was commissioned, as Mardocks [the shipyard’s weekly news magazine] later exulted, an “epic announcement” reached the builders “that the war with Japan had ended in a great victory for our armed forces.” The ship continued fitting out, and loaded supplies, alongside Eastern Railway Pier 7, Port Covington, Baltimore (1522 August 1945), after which she proceeded to the Naval Operating Base (NOB), Norfolk, Va. (2223 August) in accordance with Chief of Naval Operations confidential letter 0350023 of 9 August, Assistant Industrial Manager Baltimore confidential letter 01123 of 14 August, and Commander [Fleet] Operational Training Command, Atlantic (COTCLant) confidential operations order CTF (Commander Task Force) No. 391-45 of 3 August.

Brontes conducted her shakedown cruise under the supervision of, and according to the plans of, the Auxiliary Vessels Shakedown Group, NOB Norfolk, operating in the waters of Hampton Roads and Chesapeake Bay (24 August5 September 1945). Following a post-shakedown availability at the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Va., with the yard force making repairs and authorized alterations and installing equipment (512 September), she moored alongside Pier 22, Convoy Escort Piers, NOB Norfolk, loading ammunition and awaiting orders (1217 September).

During that latter period, however, a severe tropical storm had been observed in the Lesser Antilles (12 September 1945) and became a major hurricane the next day [13 September]. It touched land at Key Largo two days later [15 September], then swirled out into the Atlantic near St. Augustine on the 16th. Given the looming proximity of that tempest and to enable vessels to have maneuvering room, Commander, Service Force, Atlantic Fleet, on 17 September ordered Brontes to get underway and proceed out into the central waters of Chesapeake Bay (1718 September).

With the storm, which came to be known as the Homestead Hurricane, having moved on its way, but not before sowing destruction, Brontes anchored in Berth “H,” NOB Norfolk (1822 September 1945), where she awaited orders. Shifting to a berth at the operating base, the vessel loaded ammunition and supplies and continued to await orders (2226 September). At the end of the latter period (26 September), Brontes stood out and set course for New Orleans, La., to participate in Navy Day observances, operating as part of Task Group (TG) 22.5, as Task Unit 22.5.2, in accordance with CTF (Commander Task Force) Operation Order No.1-45 dated 26 September and COTCLant dispatch 241935 of September 1945.

Brontes stood in to the Quarantine Anchorage, New Orleans, on 3 October 1945 upon the conclusion of her passage from Norfolk, and anchored, her officers and men “preparing [the] ship for display and participation in Navy Day Celebration” (35 October). She then shifted to the Naval Supply Depot, New Orleans, where she took on fresh water and provisions (56 October), after which she returned to the Quarantine Anchorage to continue preparations for Navy Day (617 October).

Mooring astern of the battleship Mississippi (BB-41), which had arrived late in the first dog watch on 16 October 1945, Capt. John F. Crowe, Jr., her commanding officer, becoming Senior Officer Present Afloat (SOPA), Brontes tied up at the Toulouse Street Dock on the 24th. She hoisted out motor torpedo boat PT-793—a 78-foot Higgins boat built locallyon her port A-frame “as part of public demonstration of tender repair facilities” on 26 October, at one point during her being open for “public inspection.” She welcomed 6,505 people for conducted tours of the ship (2528 October). On 29 October, she lowered PT-793 into the water alongside and the PT’s crew went on board and got her underway. That same day, Brontes received COTC dispatch 292106 to CTG 23.3.2 directing her to remain in New Orleans to service the vessels of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron (MTBRon) 41 as they returned from their Navy Day ports.   

Brontes thus returned to the Naval Supply Depot on 30 October 1945, to take on supplies and tender repair materials. She rigged-ship to service the boats from MTBRon 41 on 3 November, and carried out that work into the last week of November. COTCLant dispatch 231818 of November 1945 directed the ship, once she had completed servicing MTBRon 41’s boats at New Orleans to proceed to Miami, Florida, where she was to load the squadron’s spare parts, then proceed to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, reporting to CTG 23.31 to service MTBRon 41.

After taking on GSK [general storekeeper] stores and rigging ship for sea (2830 November 1945), Bronte completed servicing MTBRon 41’s boats after they had returned from their Navy Day ports (12 December), then sailed on 2 December, proceeding independently to Miami, reaching her destination on the 5th. She moored to the north side of Pier 3, Miami (58 December) after which time, pursuant to COTCLant Dispatch 041826 of December 1945, she sailed for Washington, D.C., in company with her newer sister ship Chiron (AGP-18), Lt. Cmdr. Paul L. Mangold, D, USNR, in command, with Mangold serving as SOPA. Detaching from Chiron off Cape Hatteras, N.C., on the morning of 11 December, Brontes proceeded independently to the Nation’s Capital.

Mooring alongside the Coast Guard Pier, Washington Channel, Washington, on 12 December 1945, Brontes remained at the Capital for over a week. During that period, in company with the boats of MTBRon 41 that lay nested alongside, the ship took part in the “Parade of PT’s,” as well as “public demonstrations, and radio broadcasts sponsored by the Treasury Department in connection with the sale of Victory Bonds.” Those events also celebrated the world premiere of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer motion picture “They Were Expendable,” based on the exploits of Lt. John D. Bulkeley and MTBRon 3 in the Philippines during the first months of World War II. The ship’s war diarist noted that “[a]pproximately $800,000.00 in bonds were sold.”

Departing Washington, D.C., five days before Christmas, Brontes sailed for New York City, mooring on 21 December 1945 alongside Pier 80, North River, for the holidays. “Port and starboard Christmas leave commenced for all hands” after which the ship shifted to the Naval Ammunition Depot, Earle, N.J. (2728 December) to unload all ammunition. She then returned to Pier 80, mooring to the north side, remaining there through the end of the first week of January 1946.

Verbal orders from the Berthing Officer, Operations Office, New York Naval Shipyard, Brooklyn, N.Y. directed Brontes to shift to the 33rd Street Pier, Brooklyn, where upon arrival on 8 January 1946 she began unloading tender spares and stores and preparing the ship for decommissioning which occurred at New York on 14 March 1946.

Stricken from the List of Naval Vessels on 17 April 1946, the former motor torpedo boat tender was sold on 28 March 1947 to Cushing & Co., and, after being known originally as simply GP-17, was later that same year renamed Barbara. The Mineral Transport Corp., a Liberian concern, acquired the vessel the following year [1948], and renamed her Diane. She operated under Liberian colors until sold in 1956 to a Mexican firm, Transportes Marimes, which renamed her Xalapa. Ultimately a hurricane drove Xalapa aground at Manzanilla, Mexico, on 27 October 1959, and she was considered a “constructive total loss.”

Commanding Officer                                                Date Assumed Command

Lt. William B. Rearden, Jr., D, USNR                           14 August 1945

Robert J. Cressman

23 November 2021

 

Published: Mon Nov 29 11:35:23 EST 2021