|(CVL-48: dp. 14,500; 1. 684'; b. 76'9", e.w. 115'; dr. 28'i s. 33k.; cpl. 1,721; a. 40 40mm., act 50+; cl. Saipan)
The first Saipan(CVL-48) was laid down on 10 July 1944 by the New YorkShipbuilding Corp., Camden, N.J.; launched on 8 July 1945, sponsored byMrs. John W. McCormack; and commissioned on 14 July 1946, Capt. John G.Crommelin in command.
Commissioned eleven months after the close of World War II, Saipan trainedstudent pilots out of Pensacola from September 1946 to April 1947 when,reassigned to Norfolk as homeport, she departed the Gulf of Mexico, participatedin exercises in the Caribbean then proceeded to Philadelphia for overhaul.In November, she returned to Pensacola; but, in late December, after training midshipmen, steamed back to the east coast to serve with the OperationalDevelopment Force.
In February 1948, however, her work in jet operational techniques, carriersupport treaties, and electronic instrument evaluation was interrupted briefly.
From the 7th to the 24th, she was engaged in transporting the UnitedStates delegation to the Venezuelan Presidential inauguration and back.On her return, she conducted local operations off the Virginia Capes, andin April, after a visit to Portsmouth, N.H., she resumed work for the OperationalDevelopment Force On the 18th, she also relieved Mindoro (CVE-120) as flagshipof Carrier Division 17 (CarDiv 17).
On 19 April, she departed Norfolk for Quonset Point, R.I., where, on3 May, she embarked Fighter Squadron 17A. Three days later, all squadronpilots had qualified in FH-1 Phantom jets. The squadron had become the firstcarrier-based jet squadron.
Back at Norfolk by the end of the month, Saipan was relieved of flagshipduties. In June, she returned to New England waters; and, in July, she commencedoverhaul at Norfolk. In December, she resumed local operations. On the 24th,she was ordered to embark two of the Navy's latest type helicopter, theXHJS-1, and three Marine Corps HRP-1 helicopters and proceeded north toGreenland to assist in the rescue of eleven airmen downed on the icecap.Departing Norfolk on Christmas day, the CVL arrived off Cape Farewell onthe 28th and prepared to launch the helicopters as soon as weather allowed.On the 29th, however a C-47, equipped with jet assist takeoff and skis,landed on the ice; took on the marooned airmen; and made it out again.
Saipan then returned to Norfolk, arrived on the 31st, and sailed againon 28 January 1949. Steaming south, she conducted exercises out of GuantanamoBay into March and returned to Hampton Roads on the 10th. From the 11thto the 19th, she conducted operations for the development force; then madea reserve training cruise to Canada. At the end of May, she again commencedwork for the Operational Development Force. Three months later, she conductedher second reservist cruise of the year, then qualified Royal Canadian Navypilots in carrier landings.
From November 1949 to March 1951, Saipan remained on the east coast,operating from the Virginia Capes south. On 6 March 1951, she got underwayas flagship, CarDiv 14, and sailed for duty with the 6th Fleet. Deployedfor three months, she plied the waters of the western Mediterranean untilthe end of May then headed for home. On 8 June, she was back at Norfolk,whence she resumed operations in the western Atlantic from Greenland to the Caribbean.
For over two years, Saipan continued 2d Fleet operations, interruptingthem for midshipman cruises during the summers of 1952 and 1953 and foran overhaul. In October 1953, she departed the east coast and steamed forthe Panama Canal and the Pacific. On 30 October, she arrived at San Diego,whence she continued on to Pearl Harbor, Yokosuka, and duty off the coastof Korea in support of the uneasy truce agreement.
Assigned to TF 95, she was primarily engaged in surveillance and reconnaissancemissions along the coast and in inspection patrols of the islands just southof the 38th Parallel. In January 1954, she interrupted her patrols to provideair support for Japanese manned LSTs ferrying former Chinese POWs from Inchonto new homes on Formosa. In early February she participated in amphibiousexercises in the Ryukyus, then returned to Inchon to stand by in the eventshe was needed for an evacuation of Indian troops from Panmunjom. In March,amphibious exercises took her to the Bonins. She then returned to Japan,but instead of resuming truce patrols, she took on 25 AUtype aircraft andfive H19A helicopters at Yokosuka and steamed south. On 18 April, VMA-324pilots flew the AU's off her flight deck and landed them at Tourane (nowDanang) Air Base, French Indo-China. There the aircraft were turned overto French forces. Later in the day, Saipan entered the harbor, offloadedspare parts and maintenance personnel, and departed for Manila.
On the 20th, she delivered the helicopters to Air Force personnel inthe Philippines; and, at the end of the month, she resumed operations offthe coast of Korea. On 8 May, she put into Sasebo, and, through the 24th,remained in Japanese waters. On the 25th, she got underway to return toNorfolk via the Suez Canal. On 20 July, she completed her round the worldcruise.
In October, Saipan again sailed south to the Caribbean. Arriving as hurricane"Hazel" hit the Greater Antilles, razing areas of Hispaniola,the carrier was immediately assigned to relief work. From the 13th to the20th, she delivered food and medical supplies and personnel to isolatedareas of Haiti; then, after being honored by the Haitian government, shereturned to Norfolk. On 1 November, she entered the shipyard there for overhaul,and, in April, resumed operations with a cruise to the Caribbean. In June,she was again attached to the aviation training center at Pensacola and,through the summer, conducted qualification exercises. At the end of September,she was ordered to Mexico to again assist in hurricane relief work. From1 to 9 October, her helicopters evacuated survivors flew in rescue personnel,and distributed food, water and medical supplies, primarily in the floodedTampico area. On 12 October, she returned to Pensacola, where she remaineduntil April 1957. On the first of that month, she sailed for Bayonne, N.J.,where she began inactivation and was decommissioned on 3 October 1957.
Reclassified AVT-6 on 15 May 1959, Saipan remained in the Atlantic ReserveFleet until March 1963. She then entered the Alabama Dry Dock and ShipbuildingCo. yard at Mobile to begin conversion to a command ship. Briefly designatedCC-3, she was reclassified a Communications Major Relay ship (AGMR-2) on1 September 1964 while still undergoing conversion. On 8 April 1965, shewas renamed Arlington, in honor of Arlington County, Va., the site of oneof the Navy's first wireless test stations; and, on 12 August 1966, shecompleted her conversion. As Arlington (AGMR-2) she sailed for Norfolk whereshe was recommissioned on 27 August 1966.
Fitting out occupied the remainder of the year. In January 1967, sheconducted shakedown exercises in the Caribbean, and, in February, she sailedfor the Bay of Biscay and exercises off northern Europe. At the end of March,she returned to Norfolk, whence in April, she again steamed to the Caribbean.On her return to the Hampton Roads area, she prepared for deployment tothe western Pacific.
Departing Norfolk on 7 July, the communications ship transited the PanamaCanal and proceeded on to Pearl Harbor, Yokosuka, and Subic Bay, whence,with Annapolis, she rotated on station off Vietnam. During her first patrolin Tonkin Gulf from 21 August to 18 September, she provided reliable messagehandling facilities for ships of the 7th Fleet in support of combat operations;and, in addition, assisted ships in repairing and better utilizing theirelectronic equipment. On returning to the Philippines after her first patrol,Arlington received a new satellite communications terminal; and, on 2 October,she departed Subie for Taiwan.
There for only three days, she continued on to Tonkin Gulf, where sheresumed her communications relay duties. At the end of the month, she shiftedsouth to provide communications support to ships in the "Market Time"area off South Vietnam. After 34 days on station, she spent five days inHong Kong, then returned to Subie Bay, whence she steamed to Tonkin Gulfin early December for her third "Yankee Station" communicationspatrol. On 27 December, she departed the area and headed north. On 4 January1968, she arrived at Yokosuka, and, on the 19th, she got underway to returnto Vietnam.
Arriving back on "Yankee Station" on the 24th, she departedagain on the 26th, participated in exercises in the Sea of Japan; then returnedto "Yankee Station."
On station from 13 February to 10 March, she returned to Yokosuka on14 March, remained until 3 April, and resumed operations in Tonkin Gulfon 10 April. A visit to Sydney followed completion of her April patrol;but, by mid-June, she was back on station. From 20 to 22 July, she againvisited Hong Kong, then sailed for Yokosuka.
Between the end of August and mid-November, she completed two more tourson "Yankee Station", and in early December, she got underway forPearl Harbor. There. at mid-month, she conducted communications tests; and,on the 18th, she departed Hawaii in TF 130, the Manned Spacecraft RecoveryForce, Pacific. Acting as primary landing area communications relay ship,she participated in the recovery of Apollo 8 and returned to Pearl Harboron the 29th. Two days later, she sailed for the Philippines, and, on 17January 1969 she resumed direct communications support for naval units inTonkin Gulf. On 6 February, she departed "Yankee Station ;" and,after upkeep at Yokosuka, conducted operations off southern Japan and inthe Ryukyus. Toward the end of March, she sailed for Hong Kong, whence shereturned to Vietnam.
Remaining on station from 6 to 14 April, she tested her Apollo communicationsequipment, and, on the 15th, headed back to Pearl Harbor. On 2 May, shearrived in Hawaii and once again joined TF 130. Again assigned as primarylanding area communications relay ship, she departed Pearl Harbor on 11May and steamed for the Apollo 10 recovery area, some 2,400 miles southof Hawaii. On the 26th, the capsule was recovered and the assigned shipsreturned to Hawaii. From there, Arlington proceeded to Midway where sheprovided communications support for the Nixon-Thieu conference on 8 June;and, on the 9th, she sailed west.
On 27 June, the communications ship returned to the Vietnamese coast.On 7 July, however, she was ordered east for her third Apollo recovery mission.Arriving in the recovery area on the 21st, she tested her equipment; and,on the 22d, moved to Johnston Island. On the 23d, she embarked PresidentNixon for an overnight visit; and, on the 24th, supported the recovery ofApollo 11. Crew and capsule successfully recovered Arlington headed forHawaii, whence she steamed to the west coast. On 21 August, she arrived,for the first time, at her homeport, Long Beach, and four days later shiftedto San Diego to begin inactivation. She was decommissioned on 14 January1970 and berthed with the Inactive Fleet at San Diego, where she remains into 1974.
Arlington (AGMR-2) earned 7 campaign stars for service off Vietnam.