The third U.S. Navy ship named for the river in eastern Virginia. It is longest free-flowing river in the eastern United States, running for approximately 184 miles, from the Blue Ridge Mountains in the west to the Chesapeake by south of the Potomac.
The first Rappahannock (Id. No. 1854) was launched in 1913 as SS Pommern by the Bremer-Vulcan yards, Vegesack, Germany. A North German Lloyd Line ship, Pommern was voluntarily interned in the United States at the outbreak of World War I in Europe and was seized when America entered the war. She was then assigned to the Navy by the U.S. Shipping Board; converted; delivered to the Navy 7 December 1917; renamed Rappahannock; and commissioned 8 December 1917.
Assigned to the Naval Overseas Transportation Service (NOTS) as an animal transport, Rappahannock completed her fourth transatlantic run to France on 16 November 1918, 5 days after the Armistice. Remaining in NOTS until transferred to Train, Atlantic Fleet, on 4 February 1919, she completed one more round-trip from New York to Europe before being assigned temporary reserve status at Portsmouth in the summer of 1919. She was returned to active status in June 1922 with the designation AF-6 and, for the next 2 years, carried cargo for both the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets.
Rappahannock decommissioned 10 December 1924 and remained in reserve at Mare Island until struck from the Navy list 19 July 1933. She was sold to the Luckenbach SS Co., New York City on 5 October 1933; was renamed SS William Luckenbach; and operated under that name through World War II. Sold to an Italian firm in November 1946, she continued her merchant service under the Italian flag through the end of the decade.
The second Rappahannock (AOG-2) was renamed Kern on 18 July 1942.
(T-AO-204: displacement 9,500; length 677'; beam 97'; draft 35'; speed 20 knots; complement 103; armament 1 .50-caliber machine gun, 2 20mm Phalanx CIWS; class Henry J. Kaiser)
The third Rappahannock, the eighteenth and final ship of the Henry J. Kaiser class was laid down at Avondale Shipyard, Inc., at New Orleans, La., on 29 March 1992 and launched on 14 January 1995. Sponsored by Mrs. Vicky Kennedy, wife of Senator Edward Kennedy, she was one of only three of the eighteen Henry J. Kaiser-class ships - the other two being Patuxent and Laramie - to be built with a double bottom in order to meet the requirements of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. Hull separation is 6 feet at the sides and 6 feet 6 inches on the bottom, reducing her liquid cargo capacity by about 21,000 barrels (3,300 m3) from that of the 15 ships of her class without a double bottom.
Rappahannock entered non-commissioned U.S. Navy service under the control of Military Sealift Command with a primarily civilian crew on 7 November 1995 and serves in the United States Pacific Fleet.
During Operation Tomodachi, Rappahannock delivered fuel, stores and humanitarian relief supplies to Blue Ridge for transport to mainland Japan. Rappahannock then loaded diesel and aviation fuel at Sasebo, Japan, on 24 March before sailing for Gwangyang, South Korea, arriving 27 March. There, Rappahannock loaded 289 pallets of bottled water, which the ship delivered to Yokosuka, Japan, 30 March. Less than 24 hours later, the ship was underway again in the direction of Sendai. Rappahannock completed 10 underway replenishment missions delivering more than 2.4 million gallons of fuel.
On 16 July 2012, Rappahannock was involved in an incident in the Persian Gulf off the coast of Dubai with an Indian fishing boat that approached the ship despite several warnings. She followed her force protocol by first attempting to warn away the approaching craft with a series of non-lethal procedures using voice, radio, and lights. After those failed, Rappahannock escalated to lethal force, firing on the approaching vessel with a .50-caliber machine gun, killing an Indian fisherman onboard and wounding three others.
Detailed history under construction.
Paul J. Marcello
5 November 2015