Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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Lawrence H. Gianella (T-AOT-1125)


The first U.S. Navy ship named for Lawrence Henry Gianella, born on 15 February 1921 in California. On 19 December 1941, Gianella served as the radio operator on board unarmed U.S. freighter Prusa when Japanese submarine I 172 torpedoed and sank the ship in the mid-Pacific, about 150 miles south of Hawaii, near 16°45'N, 156°00'W. The explosion blew through Prusa’s after decks, wrecking the engines and dynamos, and it became immediately apparent that the ship would remain afloat for only a few minutes. Her master ordered the crew to prepare to abandon ship, and an officer directed Gianella to send an S.O.S., but found the radio operator already engaged in rigging an emergency set. The crewmen meanwhile lowered lifeboats, and the master then sent orders to Gianella to join them. He had not been able to get his message through, however, and realizing that upon him rested all hope for the rescue of his shipmates, Gianella refused to leave his post and chose to face certain death in his stark devotion to duty. Coast Guard cutter Tiger (WSC-152) rescued 14 of the ship’s survivors on 27 December. A second group of 11 survivors reached safety after a 2,700-mile voyage, rescued by a Fijian government vessel and taken to Boruin in the Gilbert Islands (Kiribati). Gianella received the Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal posthumously in 1943 for his “self-sacrificing courage and fidelity to trust…in keeping with the finest traditions of the United States Merchant Marine.”

(T-AOT-1125: displacement 41,484; length 615'; beam 90'; draft 36'; speed 16 knots; complement 24; armament none; class Lawrence H. Gianella (T5)

Lawrence H. Gianella (T-AOT-1125) was laid down at Tampa, Fla., by American Ship Building Co.; launched in 1985; and was placed in service with the Military Sealift Command (MSC) on 22 April 1986.

Lawrence H. Gianella (T-AOT-1125) 1986-MSC, 1
Lawrence H. Gianella plows through Antarctic ice. (Unattributed or dated U.S. Navy photograph, Lawrence H. Gianella, Ship Inventory, MSC)
Lawrence H. Gianella (T-AOT-1125) 1986-MSC, 2
A starboard broadside view of the ship silhouetted against the stark Antarctic landscape. (Unattributed or dated U.S. Navy photograph, Lawrence H. Gianella, Ship Inventory, MSC)

The MSC initially chartered the ship with Ocean Product Tankers of Houston, Texas. Among Lawrence H. Gianella’s multiple tasks, her reinforced steel bow enabled her to battle through pack ice in southern seas and deliver fuel to McMurdo Station, Antarctica. On 1 July 2009, she shifted from the MSC’s Sealift Program and began serving the Command’s Prepositioning Program. The ships assigned to the program preposition U.S. Marine Corps vehicles, equipment, and ammunition throughout the world. Lawrence H. Gianella serves the program by delivering petroleum products to Department of Defense storage and distribution facilities worldwide.

Detailed history pending.

Mark L. Evans

20 January 2016

Published: Thu Jan 21 13:20:04 EST 2016