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Naval History and Heritage Command

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Viburnum (AN-57)

1944-1946 

A large genus of shrubs or trees related to the honeysuckle family. 

(AN-57: displacement 1,275; length 194'6"; beam 37'0"; draft 13'6"; speed 12.1 knots.; complement 56; armament 1 3-inch, 3 20 millimeter; class Ailanthus)

Viburnum (AN-57), a wooden-hulled net-laying ship, was originally classified as YN-76 when the ship's keel was laid on 9 December 1943 at Stockton, Calif., by the Pollock-Stockton Shipbuilding Co. Reclassified to AN-57 on 1 January 1944, the ship was launched on 26 April 1944; sponsored by Mrs. R. F. Chavin, the wife of Brigadier General R. F. Chavin, USA, the commanding officer of the U.S. Army's Stockton Ordnance Depot. Viburnum was commissioned at the Pollock-Stockton yard on 27 June 1944, Lt. Benjamin A. Smith, USNR, in command.

After shakedown out of the Naval Net Depot, Tiburon Bay, Calif., and post-shakedown repairs and alterations at Long Beach, Viburnum departed Treasure Island, San Francisco, Calif., on 15 August, bound for Pearl Harbor with two high-speed sled targets in tow. The net-layer reached Pearl Harbor on 27 August, delivered her tows, and subsequently pushed on for Majuro, in the Marshall Islands, where she arrived on 15 September. Assigned to Service Squadron 10, Viburnum shifted to Ulithi, in the Carolines, soon thereafter.

On 28 October 1944, Viburnum was tending the net installation at Doa Channel, Ulithi. Late that morning, she picked up a net section from the depot ship Tuscana (AKN-3) and proceeded to stretch a double net section early in the afternoon. At 1457, a sudden, violent explosion blew the port side of the forecastle deck upward, and the ship's commanding officer, Lt. Smith, ordered all hands to stand by to abandon ship. The blast had killed CM1c Warren B. Whitney, O-1, USNR,  and blown others over the side. All but two of the latter were swiftly rescued by a boat from the general-stores-issue ship Volans (AKS-9). Arapahoe (ATF-68) came alongside Viburnum at 1550, joined shortly thereafter by Zuni (ATF-95) ; the latter consequently moored the stricken net-layer alongside the destroyer tender Dixie (AD-14) for a thorough check of the damage. Ultimately, CM1c Robert G. Bell, SV6, USNR, and S1c William W. Reddick, two men listed as missing-in-action, were determined to have been killed.

The ensuing investigation revealed that a Japanese submarine mine had blown a hole in the starboard side of the ship extending 10 frames' length (from frame 10 to frame 20) and to a point within five feet of the main deck. The explosion had broken the keel, and the hole extended about eight feet up from the keel on the port side. In ensuing days, and a work crew from the battle damage repair ship Nestor  (ARB-6) cleared away the wreckage.  From November 1944 to January 1945, Viburnum received repairs from Jason (ARH-1) and Vestal (AR-4) before she was docked in AFDL-32 and repaired enough to resume active operations about 9 February 1945.

Viburnum remained at Ulithi, performing limited harbor work in a protected harbor into the spring of 1945. She sailed for the west coast of the United States on 9 May, stopped briefly at Pearl Harbor en route, and arrived at San Francisco on 5 June. Due to the heavy workload on west coast yards for repairs to damaged combatant vessels, the Navy did not desire full restoration of Viburnum. Accordingly, the net-laying ship was decommissioned and placed in an "in-service" status on 12 July 1945.

Viburnum was placed out of service on 3 January 1946, and her disposal was authorized on 17 January. Her name was stricken from the Navy Register on 21 January, and the former net-layer was transferred to the U.S. Maritime Commission on 12 August 1947. The vessel was simultaneously delivered to Walter K. Wilms and Co., at Suisun Bay, and was probably scrapped soon thereafter.

Published: Sun Aug 13 11:31:32 EDT 2017