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Panamint (AGC-13)


A range of mountains in California.

(AGC-13: displacement 7,510; length 459'; beam 63'; draft 24'; speed 16 knots; complement 633; armament 2 5-inch, 4 40 millimeter, 7 20 millimeter; class Mount McKinley; type C2-S-AJ1)

Northern Light  was laid down on 1 September 1943 under a U.S. Maritime Commission contrract (MC Hull No. 1354) at Wilmington, N.C., by the North Carolina Shipbuilding Co.; launched on 9 November 1943; acquired by the Navy on 29 February 1944; renamed Panamint and converted to an amphibious force flagship (AGC-13) at the Todd-Hoboken Yard, Hoboken, N.J.; and commissioned on 14 October 1944, Capt. E. E. Woods in command.

Following shakedown, Panamint got underway 22 November 1944 for Guadalcanal via Panama, Mare Island, and Pearl Harbor. On 1 March Panamint sailed for Cape Esperance, Guadalcanal in company with Transport Group ABLE to stage for the forthcoming Okinawa invasion. The group proceeded to Ulithi on the 15th, and on the 27th sailed for Okinawa.

Panamint, part of the Northern Attack Force, served as flagship of Rear Admiral L. F. Reifsnider, Commander Amphibious Group 4. Going in under plane attacks, on 1 April the transports took station in approach formation. At 0800 the first assault wave passed the line of departure and landed forty minutes later. By 0930 all the assault battalions were ashore. Only sporadic opposition was encountered, and progress was so rapid that by 22 April all organized resistance in the northern two thirds of the island had ceased.

On 10 April Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner designated Commander Amphibious Group 4, on board Panamint, as commander Task Force 51, le Shima Attack Group. Their mission was to capture and defend Ie Shima and to establish air base facilities on the island.

Six days later assault landings began on three designated beaches of this small island northwest of Okinawa. Troops of the 77th Infantry Division reached the northwest edge of the island's airfield within three hours after the first waves had landed.

By nightfall two-thirds of the island was secured, but enemy resistance was mounting. On the morning of 21 April, Rear Admiral Reifsnider sent the following message to Admiral Turner, "The American Flag Is Now Atop The Pinnacle of Ie Shima."

During the capture of le Shima and until mid-June 1945 Amphibious Group 4 retained responsibility for naval support of troop operations in northern Okinawa. For Panamint this was a two-and-a-half month period of nightly aerial attacks.

Kamikaze planes were in evidence from before D-Day, but the first mass enemy air attack occurred on 6 April. No ships of the Northern Attack Force were hit. Other large scale attacks came on the 12th, 16th, 22nd, and 28th. On the 30th a plane crashed into liberty ship S. Hall Young, 800 yards from Panamint, and carrying ammunition. A bomb from the plane pierced the shell plating on both sides of the ship in the vicinity of the No. 5 hold. The plane itself struck the after boom and fell into the hold, starting a fire. Panamint's fire and rescue party boarded the S. Hall Young and extinguished the fire.

On 6 May when a plane approached Panamint from the starboard beam, Panamint, her sister ships, and shore batteries on le Shima commenced firing. The plane circled to port for a suicide dive, but the anti-aircraft fire proved effective. He overshot Panamint, splashing 1500 yards off her port bow.

On the 11th two enemy planes were sighted low over the water approaching the Ie Shima transport area on the star-board beam. The planes were following an evasive course to get through the screening vessels which had commenced firing.

Panamint opened fire on one of the planes, which dropped a torpedo. Panamint put her rudder hard right at full speed and swung on the anchor to a position paralleling the course of the approaching plane and torpedo. The plane erupted into flames, passed 150 yards astern of Panamint, glanced off the cargo boom of Dutch ship Tjisadane, and splashed into thesea. The torpedo passed the stern of the ship. The second plane closed on the starboard bow, dropped a torpedo which passed to starboard and cleared Panamint's stern by 30 feet.

In the first 45 days, the ships of Amphibious Group 4 were exposed to many "Red Alerts." Only nine days were free of enemy air raids. Throughout this ordeal Panamint directed the Combat Air Patrol attacks in repelling the enemy. On 15 June Panamint steamed to Saipan and then on to Pearl Harbor, arriving 8 July.

On 12 August 1945 the ship sailed for Adak, Aleutian Islands, where she reported for duty to Commander North Pacific Force and Area. On 29 August Vice Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher, Commander North Pacific Force and Area, hoisted his flag on Panamint. Two days later she left Adak with the 9th Fleet and headed west for the occupation of northern Japan.

On 7 September the flagship pulled away from the anchored task force and proceeded to a rendezvous point to await the Japanese surrender ship from nearby Ominato Naval Base. On schedule a Japanese destroyer escort boredown the Tsugaru Strait carrying emissaries to hand over northern Japan, and pilots to guide the American ships through Japanese waters. The commissioners were quickly transferred to Panamint. Commodore R. E. Robinson, Jr., represented Vice Admiral Fletcher, and Rear Admiral Densuke Kanome was the head of the Japanese delegation.

On the morning of the 8th the massive naval force got underway led by a Japanese frigate through the mineswept channel and Tsugaru Straits leading to Ominato Anchorage. Panamint moored off the shattered naval base that afternoon, and the following morning the formal occupation ceremony was held on her decks. Surrender had come so quickly that two weeks passed before American troops arrived to occupy the countryside. On 20 September Panamint returned to Adak, and proceeded to Kodiak 2 October.

Panamint's next served as flagship for Rear Admiral A. D. Struble, Commander Minecraft Pacific Fleet. Upon leaving this command she departed from Sasebo, Japan, arriving San Francisco 28 March 1946.

On 1 July 1946 she covered Joint Army-Navy Task Force I's operation "Crossroads," the atomic bomb test at Bikini, where she served as floating headquarters for congressional, scientific, and U.N. observers.

By directive dated January 1947 Panamint was placed out of commission in reserve, U.S. Pacific Reserve Fleet, and berthed at San Diego, Calif. Panamint was stricken from the Navy List 1 July 1960 and approved for disposal 4 November 1960.

Sold on 17 February 1961 to the Bolston Metals

Panamint received one battle star for World War II service.

Published: Tue Feb 09 12:38:34 EST 2016