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Laning (DE-159)

(DE-159: dp. 1,400; l. 306'; b. 36'10"; dr. 9-5"; s. 24 k. cpl. 186; a. 3 3", 4 1.1", 8 20mm., 3 21" tt., 2 dct., 8 dcp.: 1 dcp. (h.h.) ; cl. Buckley)

Harris Laning, born 18 October 1873 in Petersburg, Ill., graduated from the Naval Academy 7 June 1895. He served in the Philippines during the Philippine insurrection, and along with increasingly important sea duty, served as captain of the U.S. rifle team which won the Gold Medal in Stockholm, Sweden, at the 1912 Olympic Games. His first command was Cassin (DD-43), which operated off Vera Cruz during the 1914 Mexican Campaign. As Chief of Staff to Commander Destroyer Force, Atlantic Fleet in 1919 he skillfully supported the first successful transatlantic flight, made by Navy seaplane NC-4 in May.

As a rear admiral, he commanded a battleship division, and was president of the Naval War College early in the 1930's; as vice admiral, he commanded Cruisers, Scouting Force. As admiral, he commanded Battle Force, U.S. Fleet, from 1 April 1935 to 20 April 1936. Commandant, New York Navy Yard, and 3d Naval District 20 April 1936 to 1 October 1937, Laning retired 1 November 1937, then served as Governor of the Naval Home, Philadelphia, until his death 2 February 1941.

Laning (DE-159) was laid down 23 April 1943 by Norfolk Navy Yard, Norfolk, Va.; launched 4 July 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Mabel C. Laning, widow of Rear Admiral Laning; and commissioned 1 August 1943 at Norfolk, Comdr. E. C. Woodward in command.

After shakedown off Bermuda, Laning trained destroyer escort crews out of Norfolk before joining CortDiv 21 at New York 9 November for convoy escort duty. She steamed to Aruba, Netherland West Indies 12 to 17 November and departed for North Africa 20 November escorting high-speed tankers. During the next 3 months she made two escort runs between Aruba and Bizerte, Tunisia, and Algiers, Algeria.

Following training off the New England coast, Laning arrived Norfolk 1 April 1944 to resume escort duty for transport and supply convoys. From 3 April to 8 October she made three Atlantic-Mediterranean cruises between Norfolk and Bizerte and back to New York. While steaming from Algiers to Bizerte 20 April, she fought off five enemy Ju-88 medium bombers in a night attack, during which an aerial torpedo passed close aboard her starboard side.

Departing Tunisia 1 May, Laning joined the westbound convoy GUS-38. Two days later she assumed a forward screening station after Menges (DE-320) was damaged by an acoustic torpedo, fired by U-371. She maintained station while Allied ships hunted for and sank the U-boat 4 May in the Gulf of Bougie. During midwatch 5 May her radar detected a surface contact and tracked from a range of 13 to 3 miles. As she closed the contact and prepared to challenge the target, U-967, the submarine submerged at a range of 6,000 yards and headed for the convoy. Assisted by three other escorts, Laning sought to intercept and destroy the U-boat before she could fire on the convoy. Violent underwater explosions at 0310 and 0345 jarred the searching escorts; and, shortly after the latter explosion, Fechteler (DE-157) was torpedoed in the engine room.

While an unsuccessful search for U-967 (scuttled 19 August at Toulon, France) continued, Laning closed the stricken escort at 0410 and began to rescue survivors, Fechteler broke apart and, during another violent explosion at 0530, sank. Laning completed rescue operations at 0621 and transported 125 survivors to Gibraltar before rejoining the convoy that day.

After arriving New York 8 October, Laning served as a practice torpedo target ship out of New London from 15 October until 22 November when she steamed to Philadelphia. Redesignated APD-55 on 24 November, she completed conversion 14 February 1945 and steamed to Norfolk 21 February to train high-speed transport crews. Departing Norfolk 26 May, she sailed via San Diego to Pearl Harbor, where she arrived 18 June. After training with Underwater Demolition Teams, she returned to San Francisco 14 July for alteration to UDT flagship.

Laning proceeded to San Pedro 11 to 12 August, embarked UDT 9 and ComUDTRon 2, and departed Oceanside 16 August for the Far East. She reached Okinawa 4 September, joined 7th Fleet occupation forces, and sailed the 5th for Korea. From 8 September until 17 October she supported UDT reconnaissance operations in the harbors of Jinsen, Korea, and Taku Bar and Tsingtao, China, before returning to Okinawa 20 October. Departing the 24th, she sailed via Guam, Eniwetok, and Pearl Harbor to San Pedro where she arrived 15 November. Sailing for the east coast 31 January 1946, Laning reached Boston 16 February and steamed to Green Cove Springs, Fla., 18 to 22 March. She decommissioned 28 June and entered the Atlantic Fleet Reserve.

After Communist aggression in Korea necessitated a buildup of American naval strength, Laning recommissioned 6 April 1951 at Green Cove Springs, Comdr. John D. Patterson in command. She steamed to Norfolk 11 to 14 May, and for more than 3 years she operated along the Atlantic coast from Labrador to the Caribbean. Departing Little Creek, Va., 5 January 1955, she served at San Diego from 23 January to 11 April and returned to the east coast, arriving New York 29 April.

Assigned to the 3d Naval District, Laning served as a Naval Reserve training ship. During the next 2 years she made periodic training cruises that carried her out of New York north to Quebec and the Maritime Provinces and south to the West Indies and the gulf coast. Returning to New York from New England waters 17 May 1957, she completed training cruise duty and transferred to Bayonne, N.J., 2 August. Laning decommissioned 13 September and entered the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. At present she is berthed at Norfolk. She was reclassified LPR-55 on 1 January 1969.

Laning received one battle star for World War II service.

Published: Wed Apr 06 14:00:21 EDT 2016