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Vandalia III (IX-191)

(IX-191: dp. 22,491; 1. 516'6"; b. 68'1"; dr. 28'8"; s. 10k.; cpl. 105; a. 1 4", 1 3")

A city in Illinois on the Kaskaskia River. Vandalia was the state capital from 1820 to 1839 and today is the seat of Fayette County. The origin of the name is uncertain, but the name probably is derived from the Germanic Vandal tribe. Other explanations of the name hold that it is a latinization of a Dutch family name or that it refers to a small Indian tribe of the early 19th century.


Walter Jennings, a twin-screw, steel-hulled tanker completed in 1921 by the Federal Shipbuilding Co. of Newark, N.J., for the Standard Oil (New Jersey) Co., served under the aegis of Standard Oil through the 1920's and 1930's. Allocated to the Navy by the Maritime Commission's War Shipping Administration in late 1944, the ship was renamed Vandalia on 18 October 1944, being designated as an "unspecified auxiliary" (IX), and given the classification IX-191. She was accordingly taken over from the War Shipping Administration on 23 December 1944 and was commissioned on the same day, Lt. R. P. Morrison, USNR, in command, at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

She departed Pearl Harbor on 27 February 1945 for Eniwetok in the Marshalls and made port on 11 March. Routed to Saipan with a Marianas-bound convoy, Vandalia developed an engine casualty and was forced to reverse course and turn back to Eniwetok for repairs. The vessel got underway on 18 March but was rerouted on the 23d to Ulithi in the Carolinas. Entering the harbor at her destination two days later, she proceeded to her assigned berth, remaining there into the summer as station tanker at Ulithi.

She subsequently shifted to Buckner Bay, Okinawa, to serve as storage tanker there in September. On 9 October, a particularly heavy and violent typhoon swept over Okinawa. Vandalia ran aground at 1518, coming to rest about 200 yards from Miyegusuku Lighthouse on Naha Island and sinking rapidly. The 140-knot winds lashed the ship, and heavy seas pounded the old tanker unmercifully. One engine failed, and the ship went out of control, carried along with the fury of the typhoon, as the ship's force determinedly tried to pump out the engine room, fire room, and after compartments. She came to rest listing to starboard, and the danger immediately confronting the commanding officer, Lt. John F. Auge, USNR, was that of the ship capsizing. Accordingly, Auge gave the order to abandon ship, which was done by 0740 on the 10th. There were no casualties.

Auge observed that the ship appeared to be damaged beyond economical repair but nonetheless stationed a guard on board to prevent pilferage. A guard was retained on board until 20 November when, after stripping her of whatever remained of value, Vandalia was decommissioned and abandoned.

Struck from the Navy list on 5 December 1945, the tanker was eventually purchased by the China Merchants and Engineers, Inc., for scrap, on 31 December 1948.

Published: Wed Oct 21 08:26:57 EDT 2015