(AE-21: dp. 17,450- (full); l. 512'; b. 72' dr. 29'; s. 19 k.; cpl. 329; a. 4 3"; cl. Suribachi)
An extinct volcano on the southern tip of Iwo Jima in the Bonin-Volcano Islands. The beaches at the foot of the mountain were the sites of the marine assault on 19 February 1945. The crest of Mt. Suribachi was the scene of the 23 February 1945 flag raising immortalized in the picture taken by the Associated Press photographer, Joe Rosenthal.
Suribachi (AE-21) was laid down on 31 January 1955 at Sparrows Point, Md., by Bethlehem Sparrows Point Shipyard, Inc.; launched on 2 November 1955; sponsored by Mrs. Lemuel C. Shepherd; and commissioned on 17 November 1956, Captain Brooks J. Harral in command measuring and correcting the magnetic fields of naval ships.
Between commissioning and August of 1957, Suribachi completed fitting out and conducted shakedown training out of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In September and October, she participated in three NATO exercises "Seaspray," "Strikeback," and "Pipedown" as flagship for the Underway Replenishment Group. During the following year, she continued to operate along the east coast and in the Caribbean Sea, undergoing a yard overhaul and training at Guantanamo Bay. In November 1958, Suribachi sailed on an extended tour of duty with the 6th Fleet. She cruised the Mediterranean until May 1960, taking time in June 1959 to serve as flagship for Service Squadron 2 during Operation Lantflex.
Suribachi deployed to the Mediterranean two more times, from February to August 1961 and from August 1962 until the spring of 1963, before entering the yard of the Maryland Shipbuilding and Drydock Co., at Baltimore, Md., for conversion to a Fast Automatic Shuttle Transfer ammunition ship (AE-FAST). At that time, she was placed in commission, in reserve. In addition to the FAST conversion, Suribachi received a helicopter platform on her fantail enabling her to conduct vertical replenishments for the fleet.
On 15 December 1965, the ammunition ship was placed back in full commission at Norfolk, Va., where she continued fitting out until the beginning of February 1966. She then got underway for five weeks of shakedown training in the Caribbean area out of Guantanamo Bay. From mid-March to mid-April, she and Dewey (DLG-14) conducted the operational evaluation of her newly-installed FAST system, in the vicinity of Mayport, Fla. In June, she returned to her schedule of 6th Fleet deployments and Atlantic coast-Caribbean operations. Between June 1966 and June 1972, she made four more Mediterranean cruises, during which she visited many of the interesting ports along the littoral of the "middle sea." Her mission, as always, was to maintain the logistics support for the fleet at a high level of readiness. When not deployed with the 6th Fleet, she returned to operations along the eastern seaboard and trained in the Caribbean.
On 16 June 1972, Suribachi negotiated the locks of the Panama Canal and joined the Pacific Fleet. Ten days later, she arrived in Pearl Harbor. After an overnight stop, she continued on to the operating area off the coast of South Vietnam. From mid-July 1972 until 8 February 1973, Suribachi rearmed and refueled the combat units of the 7th Fleet. She departed from the combat zone fairly frequently for port period at Subic Bay in the Philippines and for a visit each to Hong Kong and Sattahip, Thailand. Her periods away from the action zone were brief in every instance, three or four days at most.
On 8 February 1973, she entered port at Subic Bay and, on the 16th, sailed for Yokosuka, Japan, en route back to the United States. Following stops there and at Pearl Harbor, Suribachi retransited the Panama Canal in mid-March and rejoined the Atlantic Fleet. Since returning to the east coast, Suribachi has resumed her old schedule of operations in the western Atlantic-Caribbean area alternated with cruises with the 6th Fleet. She has made one Mediterranean deployment, from January to June 1974, and was operating with the 2d Fleet as of March 1975.