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Rathburne I (Destroyer No. 113)

(Destroyer No. 113: displacement 1,060; length 314-5-; beam 31-; draft 12-; speed 35 knots; complement 133; armament 4 4-, 2 3-, 12 21- torpedo tubes; class Wickes)

An incorrect spelling of the name Rathbun, also spelled Rathbourne, Rathburn, or Rathbon.

John Peck Rathbun served in the Continental Navy from its beginning. As a lieutenant in Providence, he participated in an attack on New Providence in 1776. When John Paul Jones took command, he remained in Providence, then went with Jones to Alfred. Promoted to captain of the sloop Providence in April 1777, he took his ship back to the Bahamas, and on the night of 27 January 1778, sent a small landing party of Marines ashore at New Providence. They captured Forts Nassau and Montague without bloodshed. On the 28th, Rathbun brought Providence into Nassau harbor. Before departing on the morning of the 30th, he and his crew had taken two sloops and a brig, Mary; released American prisoners; dismantled the fortifications; and acquired badly needed small arms, ammunition, and powder.

In 1779 he assumed command of the frigate Queen of France and in July cruised off Newfoundland with Providence and Ranger. On the 16th the ships sighted a convoy bound for Britain. Fog closed in, but when it lifted, Queen of France was next to a merchantman whose crew mistook the American for a British escort vessel. Rathbun took advantage of the situation, exploited the mistake in identity, and captured the ship. Ranger and Providence followed suit. Ten more ships were cut out of the convoy, their total value approaching $1 million.

In 1780 Rathbun took Queen of France south in Commodore Whipple's force to bolster the defenses of Charleston, S.C. There, with smaller ships, she was stationed in the Ashley River to prevent British forces under Cornwallis from crossing and attacking the city. As the American position weakened, Queen of France's guns were removed and she was sunk as a block ship. Her crew then went ashore and Rathbun served as an artilleryman until the city fell in May 1781.

Taken prisoner at the fall of Charleston, Rathbun and the other American captains were paroled and allowed to return to New England. There he found that the Continental Navy had dwindled and no commands were available. Thereupon, Rathbun, a true patriot, secured a commission from Congress on 4 August to command the Massachusetts privateer brig Wexford. About two weeks later, he set sail from Boston bound for St. Georges Channel and, within another six weeks reached the coast of Ireland. There, less than 100 miles from Cape Clear, he ran afoul of the 32-gun frigate HMS Recovery. Following a 24-hour chase during which HMS Recovery fired at least one broadside, Rathbun and his ship were captured by the British warship. Incarcerated first at Kinsale Prison near Cork, Ireland, Rathbun was later transferred to Mills Prison in Plymouth, England, where he died on 20 June 1782.


The first Rathburne was laid down 12 July 1917 by William Cramp & Sons Co., Philadelphia, Pa.; launched 27 December 1917; sponsored by Miss Malinda B. Mull; and commissioned 24 June 1918, Comdr. Ward R. Wortman in command.

During the final months of World War I, July to November 1918, Rathburne escorted coastal convoys from the mid-Atlantic seaboard as far north as Halifax and oceanic convoys to the Azores. Completing her last convoy at New York 27 November, she remained there until the new year, 1919, then sailed south to Cuba for winter maneuvers. With the spring, she again crossed the Atlantic, operated from Brest during May and June, and returned to New York in July. In August she was transferred to the Pacific Fleet. West coast operations occupied the remainder of the year, while the first half of 1920 was spent in overhaul at Puget Sound. Designated DD-113 in July, she cruised the waters off Washington and in the Gull of Alaska from August 1920 until January 1921, then shifted south for operations off California.

In July she headed west and in late August arrived at Cavite to join the Asiatic Fleet. Based there for almost a year, she departed the Philippines on 16 July 1922, cruised off the China coast into August and on the 30th of that month sailed from Nagasaki en route to Midway, Pear Harbor, and San Francisco. Arriving at the latter 2 October, she soon shifted to San Diego, where she decommissioned 12 February 1923 and was berthed with the reserve fleet until 1930.

Recommissioned 8 February 1930, Rathburne remained in the eastern Pacific, engaged in exercises including fleet problems involved with strategic scouting, tracking, attacking, and defense of convoys and the defense of the west coast, through 1933. In the spring of 1934 she departed San Diego for the Panama Canal and the Caribbean for Fleet Problem XV, a three-phased problem involving the attack and defense of the Canal; the capture of advanced bases; and fleet action. A cruise along the east coast followed and in the fall she returned to San Diego.

Two years later she was transferred to the West Coast Sound Training Squadron, and, until the spring of 1944, she was used primarily as a schoolship.

On 25 April 1944 she departed San Diego for Puget Sound and conversion to a high-speed transport. Reclassified APD-25 on 20 May, she returned to San Diego in June; underwent amphibious training, and in July steamed for Hawaii. During late July and early August she trained with underwater demolition teams (UDT). On 10 August UDT 10 reported aboard, and on the 12th Rathburne continued west.

After rehearsals in the Solomons, Rathburne sortied from Purvis Bay with TG 32.5 on 6 September. Six days later she arrived off the Palaus to begin her first combat operations, the Peleliu and Angaur preinvasion bombardment and minesweeping operations. On the 14th she debarked UDT 10, supported them with gunfire as they cleared the approaches to the Angaur beaches, and reembarked them on the 15th. Rathburne resumed covering fire for UDT 8, after reembarking UDT 10, then on the 16th took up screening duties. On the 19th she departed Angaur and headed for Ulithi, where UDT 10 reconnoitered the Falalop and Asor beaches, beginning on the 21st. By the 23d the atoll had been occupied and Rathburne moved south, to New Guinea and the Admiralties, to prepare for the invasion of Leyte.

On 18 October the APD entered Leyte Gulf. On the 19th, UDT 10 went ashore on Red Beach in the northern assault area between Palo and San Ricardo. Through the morning Rathburne provided covering fire and shortly after noon pulled the team off the beach. On the 20th, she covered the landings, then shifted to fire support off the Dulag beaches. Detached, soon after her arrival, she began messenger and passenger runs between the northern and southern transport areas.

The next day she transited Surigao Strait en route to Kossol Roads, the Admiralties, the Solomons, and New Caledonia. At the end of November she steamed west, for New Guinea. During December she prepared for the Luzon offensive. On the 27th she sailed for Lingayen Gulf.

Assigned to TU 77.2.1, the San Fabian fire support group, she acted as part of the antiaircraft screen en route and splashed two enemy planes on 5 January 1945. On the 6th she was in Lingayen Gulf, screening larger ships bombarding the assault area. On the 7th, she landed UDT 10 on Blue Beach and covered them as they reconnoitered the area to destroy natural and manmade obstacles. On the 8th she resumed bombardment activities.

On the 9th, troops went ashore, and from then until the 11th, Rathburne alternated fire support duty with patrols in the transport area. On the 11th, she got underway for Leyte, but 14 days later headed back to Luzon to provide support during the push against Manila. UDT 10, disembarked on the 29th, reported no opposition at San Narciso, but Rathburne remained in the area until after the landings.

By 3 February Rathburne was back in San Pedro Bay, whence, on the 4th, she sailed for Saipan. From Saipan, she carried mail to Iwo Jima in early March, then at midmonth she returned to the Bonin-Volcano area for antisubmarine patrol duty. On the 22d, she departed the area; transported POW's to Guam; and prepared for duty off Okinawa.

Escorting LST Group 91 en route, Rathburne arrived at Kerama Retto on 18 April. On the 19th, she shifted to the Hagushi anchorage and took up screening and escort duty.

On the evening of the 27th she was on patrol off Hagushi. Air alerts had been called throughout the day. At about 2200 her radar picked up an enemy plane on the port quarter, 3700 yards out but closing fast.

Increasing speed, changing course, and antiaircraft fire did not deter the kamikaze. He crashed the port bow on the waterline. Three compartments were flooded. Sound gear was put out of commission. Fires broke out on the forecastle. But there were no casualties. Damage control parties soon extinguished the fires and contained the flooding. Rathburne, slowed to 5 knots, made for Kerama Retto.

By mid-May temporary repairs had been completed and she was underway for San Diego. Arriving on 18 June, she was reconverted to a destroyer and reclassified DD-113 on 20 July.

Still on the west coast when hostilities ceased in mid-August, Rathburne was ordered to the east coast for inactivation. Sailing on 29 September, she arrived at Philadelphia on 16 October and was decommissioned on 2 November 1945. Struck from the Navy list on the 28th, she was sold for scrapping to the Northern Metals Co., Philadelphia, in November 1946.

Rathburne earned six battle stars during World War II.

23 September 2005

Published: Mon Jul 31 14:55:24 EDT 2023