Naval History and Heritage Command

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Emory S. Land (AS-39)


The first U.S. Navy ship named for Emory Scott Land, a pioneer in American submarine development. Land -- born in Cañon City, Colo., on 8 January 1878 – was a graduate of the University of Wyoming, U.S. Naval Academy, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He became a naval constructor prior to World War I, and served on the staff of Adm. William S. Sims, who commanded all U.S. naval forces operating in European waters during that conflict. His work also proved instrumental in the development of the Navy’s S-class submarines, which were intended to operate with the battle fleet. During Land’s early years he married his wife Elizabeth (9 September 1880–13 March 1956). As Chief of the Bureau of Construction and Repair (a forerunner of the Bureau of Ships and the Naval Sea Systems Command) from 1932 until 1937, Land supervised the design and development of the boats that formed the background of the Navy’s submarine fleet during World War II. Land retired from the Navy with the rank of rear admiral on 1 April 1937.

A little over a fortnight later, on 16 April 1937, Land accepted an appointment by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a member of the United States Maritime Commission, becoming the chairman of that body on 18 February 1938. On 9 February 1942, shortly following the Japanese attacks in the Pacific, he also began administering the War Shipping Administration. Land tirelessly served in that dual capacity throughout the war, and helped oversee the construction of thousands of Liberty and Victory ships. A special act of Congress advanced him to the rank of vice admiral on 1 July 1944.

Emory S. Land (AS-39) 1979-NH 85531
This picture taken late in World War II aptly conveys Vice Adm. Land’s determination and confidence. (U.S. Navy Photograph NH 85531, Photographic Section, Naval History and Heritage Command)

The admiral resigned as chairman of the Maritime Commission on 15 January 1946. He later became the president of the Air Transport Association (1946-1957), and consulted for General Dynamics Corp., until his death on 27 November 1971.

His awards include the: Navy Cross; Distinguished Service Medal Navy; Distinguished Service Medal Army; Spanish Campaign Medal; Victory Medal (World War II) with submarine clasp; Honorary Commander of the Military Order of the British Empire, 1921; Honorary Commander of the Military Order of the British Empire, 1945; and Grand Officer, Second Class, Polonia Restitute, presented by the Polish government in exile. For additional information see Emory Scott Land and Submarine Force Museum.

(AS-39: displacement 22,978; length 644; beam 85'; draft 26'; speed 20 knots; complement 1,346; armament 4 20 millimeter guns and 2 40 millimeter grenade launchers; class Emory S. Land)

Emory S. Land (AS-39) was laid down on 2 March 1976 at Seattle, Wash., by Lockheed Shipbuilding and Construction Co.; launched on 4 May 1977; sponsored by Mrs. Sara H. Long, wife of Adm. Robert L. J. Long, Vice Chief of Naval Operations; and was commissioned on 7 July 1979 at Naval Station (NS) Norfolk, Va., Capt. Dennis Y. Sloan in command.

On 4 August 1979, Commander Submarine Squadron (SubRon) 8 broke his flag in the ship. Emory S. Land meanwhile shifted from the Atlantic Fleet to the Pacific Fleet, and operated from Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Wash. The ship deployed to her first port of call at Oakland, Calif., and continued her voyage to Acapulco, Mexico, then passed through the Panama Canal and returned to Norfolk. Emory S. Land deployed to the Pacific Fleet in September 1980, visiting Palma Majorca and Malaga, Spain, and Haifa, Israel, before reaching Diego Garcia in the British Indian Ocean Territory to service the Indian Ocean Battle Group.

Emory S. Land was forward deployed to Naval Support Activity (NSA) La Maddalena, Sardinia, Italy, providing services to the Atlantic Fleet’s Submarine Group (SubGru) 8, beginning in June 1999. During the afternoon watch on 8 July 2003, a brush fire erupted on the western side of Santo Stefano Island and spread rapidly, threatening Emory S. Land, the port, and the eastern part of the island. Many of her crewmembers had already gone ashore for liberty, but the command duty officer assembled an all-hands work force to battle the fire as it neared buildings filled with hazardous material, fuel, and berthing facilities. The ship’s sailors teamed with others from submarine Providence (SSN-719) and NSA La Maddalena, and prevented the blaze from reaching the ship and her immediate surroundings.

“There was at least a half-mile of territory that we needed to defend from the flames,” Capt. David Volonino, Emory S. Land’s commanding officer, explained. “One of the initial problems was how to get enough sources of water and a sufficient number of hoses out there to stop the rapidly-spreading fire. Our first order was to establish 10 hoses and teams. We eventually had 13 hoses and teams fighting the fire.”

Volonino, along with Cmdr. Jack Gustafson, the ship’s executive officer, coordinated the fire response from the brow of the ship using VHF radios and cellular phones. With an overall view of the blaze, they orchestrated, through direct lines of communication with on-scene leaders, the wetting down of a perimeter about 220 yards from the fire. Then, as the fire drew near, the hose teams attacked the advancing flames directly.

“Many of the fire fighters wanted to charge up the hill…” Gustafson noted. “I had to keep pulling the teams back over the VHF radios. My fear was that…there was a possibility of hose teams getting too far ahead of adjacent teams and getting cut off by pockets of flames behind them. Defending against a half mile long wall of flame took the establishment of a half mile long wall of water.”

Command Master Chief Joel Allison reported that the firefighters used more than 5,000 feet of ship’s hoses to combat the conflagration, including one hose that extended out to 1,300 feet. Even at that distance, the ship’s bank of fire pumps generated pressure that shot water 50 feet from the hose nozzle. Sailors also removed hazardous material from the storage areas near the fence line, and positioned ladders to allow rooftop access for the firefighters. In addition, a medical support team mustered on the pier in front of the recreation center, prepared to treat any potential victims of smoke inhalation or heat stress, and to monitor hydration levels — none of the commands involved reported any casualties. Santo Stefano Island lacked a fire department, but Italian water-carrying helicopters rendered vital assistance. Lt. Cmdr. Timothy Ledbetter, the ship’s chief engineer, later estimated that more than 350 crewmembers battled the blaze, most fighting from start-to-finish with no breaks for more than four hours before the firefighters defeated the fire.

“I do not have the words to describe how proud I am of them,” Volonino said. “Together the crew of Emory S. Land, along with sailors from USS Providence (SSN-719) and from the Naval Support Activity La Maddalena, demonstrated courage, strength, teamwork and the value of proper damage control.”

On 29 November 2005, the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Italian government announced that part of a plan to adjust NATO forces to meet current and future readiness needs in the European theater included an agreement with the Italians to disestablish NSA La Maddalena. The Americans and Italians added that they were in the process of working on a timeline for the withdrawal of the U.S. Navy forces there. American planners determined that the capabilities provided by the installation no longer met “the realities of the new century’s security environment” — the U.S. originally built the facility to help meet the threat posed by the East Bloc during the Cold War.

The move affected approximately 1,800 people employed on the base, including about 1,100 serving on board Emory S. Land and with SubGru 8. An additional 475 servicemembers, 75 Navy civilians, and 150 Italians worked at the Naval Support Activity. Including family members, approximately 2,500 Americans were stationed or lived in the area. The plan did not include a decision on a prospective homeport for Emory S. Land. On 8 September 2006, the DoD announced the final closure of NSA La Maddalena. By that point, the move affected more than 1,300 servicemembers, 88 DoD civilians, 90 contractors, and 178 Italian workers. Emory S. Land sailed from Sardinian waters on 30 September 2007, and completed a conversion to a hybrid Navy/Military Sealift Command (MSC)-manned ship at the shipyard at Bremerton. The Americans, meanwhile, disestablished La Maddalena on 29 February 2008.

On 1 December 2009, Rear Adm. Douglas J. McAneny, Commander Submarine Force Pacific Fleet, announced that Emory S. Land and submarines City of Corpus Christi (SSN-705) and Oklahoma City (SSN-723) were to change homeports during 2010 and 2011. Emory S. Land was to be forward-deployed to Diego Garcia upon completing her maintenance at Puget Sound, in accordance with defense agreements between the U.S. and British governments, providing an expeditionary maintenance capability to attack and guided missile submarines deployed to the Fifth Fleet. “Forward-deploying USS Emory S. Land to Diego Garcia,” McAneny explained, “will dramatically reduce transit time for our submarines operating in [the] 5th Fleet that require intermediate level maintenance, emergent repair, or logistics support.”

Emory S. Land returned to sea on 14 June 2010, visited Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hi., Naval Base Guam, and Singapore, and reached her new homeport of Diego Garcia on 14 August. Oklahoma City forward deployed to Guam, reaching the island on 3 March 2011, where she subsequently relieved City of Corpus Christi — which shifted to Pearl Harbor. Oklahoma City then began operating with SubRon 15.

Emory S. Land (AS-39) 1979-100614-N-8119A-022
Sailors man the rails as Emory S. Land pulls away from the pier at Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton, Wash., bound for Diego Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territory, on 14 June 2010. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Gretchen M. Albrecht, U.S. Navy Photograph 100614-N-8119A-022, Navy NewsStand)
Emory S. Land (AS-39) 1979-100614-N-8119A-014
A crewmember’s family watches as Emory S. Land departs Bremerton on 14 June 2010. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Gretchen M. Albrecht, U.S. Navy Photograph 100614-N-8119A-014, Navy NewsStand)

Emory S. Land, meanwhile, continued to operate in the Indian Ocean littoral, but the ship, Capt. Eric G. Merrill in command, struck a channel buoy as she entered Mina Salman, Bahrain, on 21 June 2011. The collision slightly damaged the submarine tender, which did not report casualties, but Rear Adm. Philip G. Sawyer, Commander Task Force 75/54, subsequently relieved Merrill of his command. Capt. Thomas P. Stanley, who had previously commanded submarine tender Frank Cable (AS-40), assumed temporary command of Emory S. Land.

Emory S. Land (AS-39) 1979-111214-N-QY759-008
Emory S. Land moors (and uses an anchor to help position herself) alongside submarine Houston (SSN-713) and Frank Cable (AS-40) -- both out of the picture -- at Polaris Point, Guam, 14 December 2011, temporarily relieving Frank Cable as the primary maintenance ship for the Seventh Fleet. (Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class David R. Krigbaum, U.S. Navy Photograph 111214-N-QY759-008, Navy NewsStand)

Detailed history under construction.

Mark L. Evans

27 October 2015

Published: Wed Oct 28 07:49:42 EDT 2015