Presley M. Rixey, born 14 July 1852 in Culpepper Co., Va., was appointed assistant surgeon on 28 January 1874, passed assistant surgeon in April 1877, and promoted to the rank of surgeon in November 1888. Appointed medical inspector in August 1900, he became Surgeon General of the Navy on 15 February 1902 and served as Chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, with the rank of rear admiral, until his retirement 4 February 1910. From 16 January 1913 to 16 April 1917, he served as a member of the Naval Examining Board, presiding over it during the last 4 months of that period. He died at his home in Rosslyn, Va., on 17 June 1928.
Rixey (APH-3) was laid down on 6 August 1941 by the Moore Dry Dock Co., Oakland, Calif., as Alcoa Cruiser (MC hull 177). Originally intended as a bauxite and passenger carrier for the Alcoa Steamship company's. United States-South American schedule, she was designated for Navy use and assigned the name Rixey after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Rixey was launched 30 December 1941; sponsored by Miss Betty Hammond; converted to a "transport fitted out for the evacuation of wounded" by her builder; and delivered and commissioned 30 December 1942, Capt. Allen Hobbs in command.
After further conversion work by the Matson Steamship Co., Rixey shifted to San Diego in February 1943 and on the 19th got underway for the South Pacific. Assigned to Service Squadron 8, under the operational control of Commander, Service Squadron, South Pacific Force, the APH arrived at Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, in early March. Through the remaining battles for the Solomons, including the New Georgia campaign in July and August 1943, she evacuated casualties from field hospitals to mobile and base hospitals at Noumea, New Caledonia, and Auckland and Wellington, New Zealand. On returning to the forward areas, she carried service units and replacement troops.
By the end of 1943, Rixey's medical department of 71 officers and men had cared for over 10,000 patients and lost only three. Into the spring of 1944, they continued their work as their transport-hospital plied between the Solomons, New Hebrides, New Caledonia, and New Zealand. In May they gained a brief respite as Rixey joined the 5th Amphibious Force and, with units of the 3d Marine Division embarked, prepared for the Marianas' campaign.
In mid-June, Rixey stood by as a floating reserve unit for the assault on Saipan, then, on the 21st, she put into Eniwetok. On 17 July, she departed the Marshalls to return to the Marianas for the invasion of Guam.
Early on the morning of 21 July, Rixey arrived in the transport area off Asan Point. At 1050, a little over 2 hours after the initial waves went ashore, she began disembarking her Marines. By the afternoon of the 23d she had completed offloading. Embarkation of casualties, begun on the first day, continued until the 29th, when she sailed for Eniwetok and Pearl Harbor.
Arriving at Pearl Harbor in early August, she disembarked her patients; embarked Army troops; trained with them in Hawaiian waters; then sailed for the Admiralties to stage for the assault on Leyte.
On 14 October she headed northwest. Six days later, she arrived off the Dulag assault area. At 1000 the first waves went in, and before noon Rixey was taking on casualties. On the 22d she got underway for the Admiralties and New Guinea; and, through November, carried casualties from Leyte to Manus and Humboldt Bay, whence she brought fresh troops and cargo forward. In early December she moved patients further to the rear from New Guinea to Noumea, then at the end of the month departed Sansapor, New Guinea, for Luzon.
On 9 January 1945, she anchored in Lingayen Gulf. Over the next 6 days, her medical department cared for over 300 casualties, including victims of Japanese suicide boats and planes.
Into February she moved casualties to, and reinforcements forward from, Leyte. At midmonth, she transferred the wounded to New Guinea. In early March she embarked troops; prepared for Operation "Iceberg," the invasion of the Ryukyus; and on the 26th anchored off Kerama Retto. Kamikazes arrived within the hour and scored on Kimberly (DD-521). Rixey's work of treating and transferring casualties, this time to the hospital ship Solace (AH-5), had begun.
On 1 April landings were made on the Hagushi beaches of Okinawa. On the 14th, Rixey moved into that anchorage only to push on early on the 16th, to Ie Shima where her troops went ashore during the morning.
Rixey remained in the area until the 22d. She then headed east with over 500 casualties. At Saipan she disembarked some of her patients and continued to Pearl Harbor and San Francisco, arriving on 15 May.
After availability in June, Rixey completed a passenger run to Pearl Harbor and back in July and early August, then sailed west with over a thousand passengers. En route when the war ended, she arrived at Manila on 3 September and continued on to Leyte and Okinawa. On the 14th, at Okinawa, she disembarked naval personnel, then embarked veterans for the return voyage to the United States. On the 16th a typhoon struck. Unable to clear Buckner Bay, she rode it out in the anchorage. On the 23d, she headed east, arriving at San Francisco on 11 October.
At midmonth she departed California to repeat her previous run, carrying replacement personnel west and veterans east. Then, on her return, she prepared for inactivation. Decommissioned 27 March 1946, she was returned to the Maritime Commission on 9 September.
Subsequently transferred to the War Department and renamed Private William H. Thomas, she was operated by the Army Transportation Service in the Atlantic and Mediterranean until the establishment of the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS) in late 1949. Then designated for transfer to that organization, she was returned to the Maritime Commission and turned over to the Navy on 1 March 1950.
Retaining her Army name, she was designated T-AP-185 and, manned by a civilian crew, continued her United States-Southern Europe operations. Initially assigned to Mediterranean and Adriatic runs, she added Caribbean ports to her schedule in 1951, and until July 1957 alternated runs to those areas.
On 27 December 1957, Private William N. Thomas was struck from the Navy list and simultaneously transferred to the Maritime Administration's National Defense Reserve Fleet. She was berthed in the Hudson River until sold, on 28 August 1970, to Tung Ho Enterprise Corp., of Taiwan.
Rixey (APH-3) earned four battle stars during World War II.
14 October 2005