(AKA-83: dp. 13,910; 1. 459'2"; b. 63'0"; dr. 28'7"; s. 16.5 k.; cpl. 425; a. 1 5", 8 40mm., 16 20mm.; cl. Tolland; T. C2-S-AJ3)
A county in southern Ohio, named in honor of Congressman Samuel Finlay Vinton. Born on 25 September 1792 in Hadley, Mass., Vinton graduated from Williams College in 1814 and was admitted to the Connecticut bar two years later. He moved to Ohio in 1816 and subsequently became a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Ohio-serving from 1842 to 1851. Besides serving on committees dealing with public lands, roads, and canals, Vinton chaired the Ways and Means Committee during the Mexican War, from 1846 to 1848. President of the Cleveland and Toledo Railroad from 1853 to 1854, Vinton went to Washington, B.C., in 1862 to study the problems of the emancipated slaves who had sought refuge in the nation's capital. He died there on 11 May 1862.
Vinton (AKA-83) was laid down under a Maritime Commission contract (MC hull 1393) on 20 June 1944 at Wilmington, N.C., by the North Carolina Shipbuilding Co.; launched on 25 August 1944; sponsored by Mrs. J. W. Kirkpatrick; acquired by the Navy under a loan-charter basis on 7 September 1944; converted to an attack cargo ship configuration at Baltimore, Md., by the Bethlehem Steel Company's Key Highway plant; and commissioned on 23 February 1945, Comdr. John D. Hoffman, USNR, in command.
Following shakedown training in Chesapeake Bay, Vinton sailed via the Panama Canal zone for the Central Pacific and arrived at Pearl Harbor on 16 April. She conducted training exercises in the Hawaiian operating area for a month and one-half before she weighed anchor on 30 May and got uderway for the Marianas. Two days out, the attack cargo ship was called upon to perform an errand of mercy when an ailing seaman from Silversides (SS-236) was transferred via Gato (SS-212) to Vinton for an emergency appendectomy. By the time the attack cargo ship arrived at Guam on 13 June, the submariner had recovered sufficiently to rejoin his ship.
Vinton remained at Guam until 25 June, when she headed for the Western Carolines. She arrived at Ulithi the next day, pushed on for the Ryukyus on 9 July, dropped anchor off Okinawa on the 13th and began unloading her cargo. Despite frequent kamikaze alerts and a typhoon evasion maneuver, her crew bent to the task of making inroads into the mountains of cargo in her holds. Returning to Ulithi on the 28th, Vinton departed the Western Carolines on the 30th and arrived at Pearl Harbor on 6 August. Slightly over a week later, the war was over. Japan, under the staggering weight of two atomic bombs and American armadas which ranged off her shores virtually unchallenged and unchecked, surrendered unconditionally by the 15th of August.
On 22 September, Vinton commenced her post-war operations supporting the fleet and its bases with cargo lifts to Tinian; Guam; Subic Bay, Philippine Islands; Manus, in the Admiralties; Batavia, Java; and Biak, New Guinea, before she returned to Manus en route home. Departing the Admiralties on 17 January 1946, the attack cargo ship arrived at San Francisco on 5 February.
Departing San Francisco Bay on 24 February, bound for the east coast, Vinton steamed via the Panama Canal and arrived at New York on 15 March. She was decommissioned on 16 March for return to the War Shipping Administration the following day. Struck from the Navy list on 5 June, she soon entered mercantile service as SS Gulf Shipper with the Gulf and South American Steamship Co. On 23 September 1964, the American President Lines, Inc., purchased the erstwhile attack cargo ship and renamed her President Harding. Subsequently, her ownership again changed hands on 29 September 1966, when she was purchased by the Pacific Far East Lines and renamed America Bear. In late 1969, the Columbia Steamship Company purchased the vessel for use in the Pacific freight trade and renamed her Columbia Beaver, in which lively she served until late 1972, and after which time her documentary trail runs cold.