(AE-27: dp. 19,937 (f.); l. 564'; b. 81'; dr. 31'; s. 21 k.(tl.); cpl. 402; a. 8 3"; cl. Kilauea)
Counties in California, Idaho, and South Dakota.
A city in southwestern Montana. It is the seat of government for Silver Bow County. Butte (APA-68) was named for the counties in California, Idaho, and South Dakota, while Butte (AE-27) honors the city in Montana.
The second Butte (AE-27) was laid down on 21 July 1966 at Quincy, Mass., by the General Dynamics Corp.; launched on 9 August 1967; sponsored by Mrs. Ellen Hodges Proxmire; and commissioned at the Boston Naval Shipyard on 14 December 1968, Capt. Wallace M. Riggs in command.
Butte completed modifications at the Boston Naval Shipyard during the first 10 months of 1969. At the end of the second week in November, the ammunition ship moved south to her home port at Norfolk, Va. After a little more than two weeks of equipment tests in the Virginia capes operating area, she put to sea on 4 December 1969 bound for operations in the vicinity of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The ship returned to Norfolk on 16 December and began a period of holiday leave and upkeep. Butte opened the operational year 1970 on 2 January when she put to sea for her shakedown voyage to the West Indies. Concluding training assignments around Guantanamo Bay, she headed back to Norfolk at the end of the first week in February. The ship arrived at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard on 12 February and began a two-month post shakedown availability.
The ammunition ship completed the repair period on 16 April and resumed normal operations at Norfolk. On 29 May, she stood out of Chesapeake Bay on her first deployment to the Mediterranean. She arrived in Rota, Spain, on 7 June and relieved Suribachi (AE-21) on the 8th. For the next five months, Butte cruised the length and breadth of the Mediterranean Sea rearming ships of the 6th Fleet as well as carrying mail, passengers, and cargo. She spent the last two months of that tour of duty operating in the eastern portion of the "middle sea" supporting the 6th Fleet's show of force in response to an escalation in the civil strife in Jordan. On 8 November, Nitro (AE-23) relieved her at Rota, and Butte embarked upon the voyage back to the United States.
She arrived in Norfolk on 16 November and remained there for the rest of the year. On 8 January 1971, the ship set sail for the West Indies. For the next month, she rearmed ships of the 2d Fleet operating among those islands and made liberty calls at Puerto Rico, in the Virgin Islands, and at Haiti. On 9 February, Butte headed back to Norfolk, arriving there on the 11th. For the remainder of the year, the ammunition ship alternated operations in the Virginia capes operating area with voyages to West Indian locales, most often to the vicinity of Puerto Rico.
Similar duty carried her through the first six weeks of 1972. On 14 January, however, she embarked upon her second tour of duty with the 6th Fleet. Steaming by way of the West Indies, where she participated in an Atlantic Fleet readiness exercise, Butte reached Rota on 8 March. Two days later, the ship joined the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean. For the next six months, the ammunition ship supported the combat units of the fleet throughout the Mediterranean. During the summer months, her crew was augmented by three separate contingents of midshipmen for their summer training cruise. Following turnover at Rota from 26 to 28 August, Butte headed back to the United States.
The ship reentered Norfolk on 4 September and began the usual post-deployment leave and upkeep period. By 10 October, she was underway again engaged in normal 2d Fleet operations. Early in December, however, Butte began preparations for another overseas assignment. On the 29th, she stood out of Norfolk on her way to the western Pacific. She made her first transit of the Panama Canal on 3 January 1973. Following a liberty call at Pearl Harbor on the 15th and 16th, the ammunition ship continued her voyage west. She arrived at Subic Bay in the Philippines on 31 January 1973.
Butte remained in Subic Bay for a week before embarking upon her first tour of duty on the line off the coast of Vietnam on 6 February. She arrived in the operational zone on the 7th and spent the next eight days rearming the ships of the 7th Fleet. After a four-day return to Subic Bay between 16 and 20 February, Butte resumed her duties off Vietnam on the 21st. The ammunition ship remained on station replenishing the magazines of the combat ships until early in March. She then paid a six-day call to Subic Bay before shaping a course for Hong Kong. Her crew enjoyed liberty at Hong Kong between 13 and 19 March, and the ship headed back to Subic Bay on the 19th.
Following a stay at Subic Bay from 21 to 28 March, she got underway for Vietnamese waters again on the 28th. That voyage, however, was not in support of combat operations. It followed the cease-fire agreement that ended American involvement in the Vietnamese civil war. She entered port at Haiphong, North Vietnam, on 30 March to provide support for American units sweeping mines in the harbor. Departing Haiphong on 3 April, she reached Subic Bay again on the 7th. The ammunition ship, however, returned to sea on the 8th and reentered Haiphong four days later. That same day, she set sail for a liberty call at Singapore. The ship made one more tour on the line off Vietnam before returning to Subic Bay on 28 May. Following an extended upkeep period which included time in drydock, she got underway to return to the United States on 15 June.
Steaming via Seal Beach, Calif., and the Panama Canal, Butte arrived back in Norfolk on 13 July. The ammunition ship completed the usual post-deployment leave and upkeep period on 13 August and resumed normal operations out of her home port. She made one brief voyage to deliver ammunition to the Naval Weapons Station, Earle, N.J., in mid-August then returned to Norfolk for about two months of repairs, upkeep, and inspections. Late in October, the ship conducted replenishment drills with Santa Barbara (AE-28). In mid-November, she made a two-week cruise to the West Indies, returning to Norfolk on 4 December. She ended the year with holiday standdown and preparations for her first regular overhaul.
Those preparations continued during the first six weeks of 1974. Finally, on 11 February 1974, Butte entered the yard at the Metro Machine Corp., Berkeley, Va. The ammunition ship completed her last trials and inspections in September and early October. On 17 October, she stood out of Norfolk on her way to the West Indies and post-overhaul refresher training. She completed her training evolutions during the third week in November and returned to Norfolk on the 23d. Butte remained in the immediate vicinity of Hampton Roads for the remainder of the year.
On 7 January 1975, she put to sea on her way to the Mediterranean Sea. Butte arrived in Rota, Spain, and relieved Mount Baker (AE-34). The following day, she passed through the Strait of Gibraltar and became an active unit of the 6th Fleet. She participated in a number of underway replenishment operations and made port visits throughout the Mediterranean. In fact, goodwill visits to ports along the littoral of the "middle sea" occupied about 60 percent of her time during the deployment. The ship returned to Rota on 20 June and, after turning over her responsibilities to Suribachi (AE-21), departed Rota on 22 June in company with Bowen (DE-1079) and Miller (DE-1091). Butte and her consorts arrived back in Norfolk on 3 July. For the remainder of 1975, she operated along the east coast from her base at Norfolk.
Similar duty occupied the ammunition ship during the first five months of 1976. She spent the month of June in port at Norfolk preparing for another tour of duty with the 6th Fleet. On 7 July, Butte embarked upon the voyage across the Atlantic. She reached Rota on 17 July and entered the Mediterranean on the 19th. Over the next six months, Butte participated in the usual ordnance replenishment operations and conducted goodwill port visits. She was relieved of duty at Rota during the last week in January 1977 and set sail for home on the 27th. The ship arrived back in the United States at Yorktown, Va., on 7 February. She remained at Yorktown for almost three weeks. Then, after a round-trip from Norfolk to Earle, N.J., and back, the ammunition ship began a belated and extended post-deployment standdown and repair period at Norfolk on 8 March.
At the end of the first week in June 1977, Butte resumed operations along the southeastern coast of the United States. At the beginning of September, she prepared for another deployment to the Mediterranean. The ammunition ship passed between the Virginia capes on 27 September 1977 and shaped a course for Rota. She reached her destination on 9 October. On the 12th, she entered the Mediterranean to begin six months of duty rearming the ships of the 6th Fleet and showing the flag in Mediterranean ports. That assignment lasted until the beginning of April 1978. On 15 April, the ammunition ship departed Rota to return to the United States. Butte arrived back in Norfolk on 18 May and commenced a month of post-deployment leave and upkeep. Late in June, she put to sea to provide support for a Polaris missile shoot off Port Canaveral, Fla. The ship paid a brief return visit to Norfolk before entering the yard at Coastal Drydock Co. on 12 July for her second regular overhaul.
The extended repair period occupied her for the remainder of 1978 and almost five months of 1979. Butte resumed normal operations on 21 May 1979. On 30 June, her home port was changed to Earle, N.J. During July and early August, she conducted post-overhaul refresher training in the West Indies. From mid-August to late November, the ship resumed her duties with the 2d Fleet. On 27 November, she departed Earle, N.J., on her way to the Mediterranean. Butte anchored in Rota on 9 December then entered the "middle sea" on the 13th. She spent a little over four months providing ammunition and ordnance replenishment services to the combat units of the 6th Fleet. When not so engaged, she made goodwill and liberty calls at various Mediterranean ports. On 27 April 1980, Butte put to sea from Rota and laid in a course for the United States. She arrived at Earle, N.J., on 5 May.
Following the usual month of leave upkeep, the ammunition ship took up operations in the western Atlantic, from her base at Earle, N.J. That employment lasted until 18 November when she set sail to rejoin the 6th Fleet. She arrived in Malaga, Spain, on the 29th and, for almost three months, carried out a normal schedule of underway replenishments and port visits. On 16 February 1981, however, Butte transited the Suez Canal and entered the Red Sea. From there, she headed on to the Indian Ocean to provide logistics support for an American contingency force operating there in response to continuing unrest in Iran and war between Iran and Iraq. A little more than a month later on 22 March, the ammunition ship retransited the canal and headed for Rota and her relief. Butte set sail from Rota on 30 March and arrived back at Earle on 9 April.
The ship completed seven weeks of leave and upkeep on 28 May when she got underway for Narragansett Bay. There, she joined Piedmont (AD-17) and USNS Northern Light in tests assessing the capability of Military Sealift Command (MSC) ships to rearm combat ships at sea. Tests complete, she returned to Earle on 2 June. For the remainder of the year, Butte conducted normal operations in support of the ships of the 2d Fleet. Her area of operations stretched from Narragansett Bay in the north to the West Indies in the south. On 27 January 1982, the ammunition ship left Earle bound once again for the Mediterranean.
UPDATE for 1982 through 1996 scheduled at a future date.
Butte was decommissioned on 3 June 1996 and struck the Navy list on 24 May 2004. She was retained by Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) as a logistic support asset.
Raymond A. Mann
21 November 2005