Albermale AV-5

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This Month in Naval History
Albermale AV-5

Albermarle

III

(AV-5: dp. 8,761; 1. 527'4"; b. 69'3"; dr. 21'11"; s. 19.7 k.; cpl. 1,195; a. 4 5", 8 .50-car. mg.; cl. Curtiss)

The third Albemarle (AV-5) was laid down on 12 June 1939 at Camden, N.J., by the New York Shipbuilding Corp., launched on 13 July 1940; sponsored by Mrs. Beatrice C. Compton, the wife of the Honorable Lewis Compton, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 20 December 1940, Comdr. Henry M. Mullinnix in command.

Albemarle remained at Philadelphia, fitting out, through midJanuary, 1941. Underway for Newport, R.I., on the morning of 28 January, the seaplane tender arrived at her destination on the 30th, and loaded torpedoes. She sailed the following day for Norfolk arriving on 1 February, and over the ensuing days remained in that area, loading bombs and pyrotechnics and calibrating her degaussing gear, before she sailed on her shakedown cruise on the afternoon of 6 February, setting course for Guantanamo Bay.

The seaplane tender shifted thence to Havana on the morning of 18 February, and over the days which followed her captain made the usual formal calls dictated by diplomatic protocol. In Havana harbor Albemarle dressed ship for Washington's Birthday, her 21-gun salute to the American national holiday returned gun-for-gun by the Cuban gunboat Yara. On the morning of 24 F ebruary, the ship got underway for the Canal Zone.

Diverted while en route, Albemarle anchored in the harbor at San Juan, Puerto Rico, on the morning of 28 February, and that afternoon received the official call of Rear Admiral Raymond A. Spruance Commandant of the 10th Naval District. That same day, she embarked 91 men from Patrol Squadron (VP) 51 and 61 from VP-52 for temporary duty and transportation, and sailed for Norfolk on the morning of 2 March. While en route, Comdr. Mullinnix was relieved as commanding officer by Comdr. H. B. Sallada.

Albemarle moored at Pier 7, Naval Operating Base (NOB)

Norfolk, on the afternoon of 5 March but lingered there for less than a day, getting underway the following afternoon for Philadelphia. She returned to the Philadelphia Navy Yard and spent the rest of March there, undergoing post-shakedown repairs.

The seaplane tender departed Philadelphia on 6 April, and arrived back at Norfolk the following afternoon, there she took on board depth charges and depth bombs. She sailed for Newport on the morning of 10 April, and soon after standing out into international waters past the Virginia capes, met her escort for the trip—six "flush-deck" destroyers, one of which was the illfated Reuben James (DD-245). That afternoon she fueled two of her escorts, Sturtevant (DD-240) and MacLeish (DD-220) at the same time, the former to starboard, the latter to port.

Albemarle then anchored in the harbor of refuge, off Block Island, late on the afternoon of 11 April and, accompanied by the destroyer Truxtun (DD-229), calibrated her radio direction finders. She then set out to finish her voyage up the eastern seaboard to Newport arriving at her destination late on the afternoon of 13 April. She there joined a host of warships ranging from the battleship Texas (BB-35) and the heavy cruisers Tuscaloosa (CA-37) and Wichita (CA - 5) to old and new-type destroyers and the destroyer tender Prairie (AI) 15).

While Albemarle had been on her shakedown, the United States determination to aid the British in the Battle of the Atlantic had resulted in the establishment, on 1 March, of the Support Force, commanded by Rear Admiral Arthur LeRoy Bristol, to protect the vital lifeline between the United States and Great Britain in the North Atlantic. It was formed around destroyers and patrol plane squadrons; the latter would be tended by small seaplane tenders (ax-destroyers and ax-minesweepers) and Albemarle.

Over the next few days, the seaplane tender operated in local waters, at Narragansett Bay, off Martha's Vineyard and Quonset Pomt, running drills of various kinds and conducting target practices. Rear Admiral Bristol came on board briefly on 28 April and wore his flag in Albemarle; that same day she embarked her former commanding officer, now Capt. Muliinnix, who was now Commander, Patrol Wing, Support Force; men of VP-56 reported on board in connection with advanced base operations as did men from VP-55. The following day, the planes from those two squadrons commenced night-flymg operations.

Albemarle, after again wearing Rear Admiral Bristol's flag on 2 May, departed Newport for Norfolk on 4 May, arriving the following day. The seaplane tender then cleared the Virginia capes on the morning of 9 May for Newport, and arrived there the following morning. She embarked officers and men of VP-52 on 12 May and then sailed the following morning (13 May) for Argentia, Newfoundland. Ultimately anchoring in Little Placentia Bay, Argentia, on the morning of 18 May, Albemarle was soon laying 13 seaplane moorings and gathering data on the weather of the region, establishing the advanced base for VP-52's operations from Argentia.

Over the days that followed in addition to tending the planes assigned to her, she also fueled a succession of destroyers. On 20 May, she received a visit from not only Rear Admiral Bristol— his first visit to Argentia, which he later made his headquarters— but Rear Admiral John H. Towers, the Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics, who both arrived separately in planes from VP-56. Both flag officers departed the following morning.

Twelve PBYs of VP-52 arrived at Argentia from Quonset Point on 18 May, and immediately commenced familiarization flights in the region—activities which were suddenly cancelled on 24 May. On that day, the German battleship Bismarck, which had left Norwegian waters shortly before in company with the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen on what was to be a raidmg cruise into the Atlantic, encountered and destroyed the Britis-h battle cruiser HMS Hood. An anxious Prime Minister Winston Churchill concerned over the convoy routes that lay open to the powerfu; German battleship, immediately cabled President Roosevelt and requested American help.

Albemarle quickly refueled the aircraft that had been flying training missions that morning and readied others for the urgent mission. At 1440 the first group of four PBYs lifted off, followed a little less than three hours later, at 1720, by a second flight of seven. The pilots of the "Catalinas" were briefed for a long reconnaissance mission that would take them some 500 miles southeast of Cape Farewell, Greenland. They encountered foul weather and very dangerous flying conditions in the course of their extensive searches, did not find their quarry in the murk and were compelled by the fog and darkness to seek haven at various bays in Newfoundland, Labrador, Quebec, and adjoining islands.

Albemarle remained at Argentia until 12 June when she sailed for Norfolk, arriving on the 15th. There she loaded supplies stores, ammunition and gasoline, before getting underway to return to Newfoundland on 20 June. Escorted there by the destroyer MacLeish, Albem~arle touched at Halifax en route (22 June), and then proceeded on to Argentia, screened by MacLeish and Cole (DD-155), arriving on 24 June. The seaplane tender supported the operations of VP-71 VP-72 and VP-73 until she sailed again for Norfolk on 19 Juiv, in company with Dallas (DD-l99). Mooring at Pier 7, NOB Norfolk on the morning of the 25th, she shifted to the Norfolk Navy Yard later that same day and remained there, undergoing an availability, until 12 August.

Underway on that day, Albemarle, screened by the destroyer Broome (DD-210), sailed for Argentia once more, and reached her destination on the 16th, resuming her support of VP-73. She provided support for seaplane and frying boat operations out of Argentia through October, 1941. Clearing Little Placentia Harbor on 1 November, Albemarle sailed for Casco Bay, Maine, arriving there on the 3d; she then pushed on for Norfolk, arriving there on the 7th.

On the day that Japanese planes attacked the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941, Albemarle lay at NOB Norfolk embarking passengers before she was scheduled to get underway for anchorage at Lynnhaven Roads. On Christmas Day, 1941 the seaplane tender got underway for Newport and Argentia.

Ultimately, the ship proceeded to Reykjavik, Iceland, where

she would encounter the most severe weather she would see in her career. One particular day, 15 January 1942, was memorable. She set her special sea, anchor and steaming watches and put out both anchors with 120 fathoms of chain on the starboard and 60 to port, with her main engines turning over and steam up on all boilers. The winds were clocked at 71 knots, with occasional gusts of 95, forcing the tender to drag anchor.

The gale lasted until 19 January, and caused heavy damage among the ship's patrol planes. The ship nearly collided with Wichita on one occasion, and was in danger of fouling several other ships during that time. Her starboard anchor was fouled once, and she lost the port anchor. She ultimately left Reykjavik on 19 January, steaming initially at greatly reduced speed because of the tempest, snaping course for Argentia, where she would embark passengers for transportation to Norfolk.

Reaching Norfolk on 29January, Albemarle then proceeded to Narraganasett Bay, and there provided tender services to VP-73 as that squadron worked with torpedoes there. On 5 March Admiral Royal E. Ingersoll, Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet, made an unofficial call and inspected the ship informally. Albemarle completed her work with VP-73 and remained at anchor in Narragansett Bay until 3 April, when she proceeded to the Boston Navy Yard South Annex for an availability. Her overhaul lasted until 1 May 1942.

Upon completion of her refit Albemarle got underway for Newport, on 5 May, and there, over the next few days degaussed calibrated her direction finders, and loaded aircraft for transportation to Bermuda. Underway on 15 May with Mayo (DW-422) and Benson (DW-421) as escorts, the seaplane tender reached her destination on the 17th, unloaded the planes she had brought and immediately set sail for Narragansett Bay.

Relieving Pocomoke (AV-9) in connection with aircraft torpedo and submarine familiarization training, on the 19th, Albemarle remained anchored in Narragansett Bay until 12 August, providing torpedo services for a succession of squadrons: VP-94, VP-34 VP-33 and Torpedo Squadron 4. Underway on 12 August and escorted by the destroyers Livermore (DD-430), Kearny (DD- 432) and Rowan (DD-405), the submarine tender sailed for Norfolk. After her arrival there, Albemarle conducted gunnery exercises in the Chesapeake Bay operating area.

Shortly thereafter, escorted by Fletcher(DD) 445) and O'Bannon (DD-450), Albemarle sailed for the Canal Zone on 5 September 1942. Damaging her starboard screw at Coco Solo, the seaplane tender was ordered drydocked for repairs, after transiting the Panama Canal for the first time on 15 September, she entered dry dock at Balboa on the following day. Upon completion of repairs, she transported Army troops and marines to Rio Hato Panama, for two days of joint Army-Navy maneuvers.

Over the next several months, Albemarle acted as fast transport of aeronautical material and men to naval air bases in the Caribbean and the Pacific coast of South America as well as in the northern South Atlantic. During this time (September-November 1942), she visited Salinas, Ecuador; the air base at Seymour Island, in the Galapagos Islands San Juan and Bermuda primarily operating out of Colon and Baiboa and escorted by the seaplane tender Goldsborough (AVD-5).

Relieved on station by the seaplane tender Pocomoke (AV-9) Albemarle sailed from the Canal Zone on 13 November 1942 escorted by Goldsborough and the small seaplane tender Matagorda (AVP-22). Proceeding via San Juan, Trinidad and Bermuda, the seaplane tender reached Hampton Roads on 30 November having completed her longest sustained tour of duty outside the continental limits of the United States.

Over the next seven months, Albemarle shuttled between Norfolk and Guantanamo Bay, Trinidad, San Juan, and Bermuda on eight round-trip voyages. She varied this routine only slightly on the sixth and eighth of these, visiting Recife, Brazil for the first time (17 to 21 April 1943) on the sixth cruise and putting into the Canal Zone on the eighth. Her cargo included aviation gasoline and ammunition. Upon completion of that cycle of operations, she underwent repairs and alterations at the Boston Navy Yard between 15 June and 23 July 1943, departing on the latter date for Norfolk, whence she resumed her cargo-carrying and transport run to Trinidad, Recife, San Juan and Guantanamo Bay. On this voyage, her last on this run, she brought back 27 German prisoners of war, survivors of a sunken U-boat.

Underway from Norfolk on 16 September 1943, Albemarle sailed for the British Isles, escorted by the destroyers Bulmer (DD-222) and Barker (DD-213). Proceeding via Argentia, the sailed for Boston, arriving at the naval shipyard there on the 11th. She remained there until the 21 April, at which time she sailed for Newport, making arrival the same day. Departing Newport on the 23d with ComTraComdLant embarked, Albemarle returned to Norfolk on the 24th, remaining in that vicinity, conducting refresher training and routine upkeep, until 30 June, when she sailed for Boston.

Spending the 4th of July at Boston, Albemarle remained at that port for over a month, shifting to Newport on 5 August and then back to Boston on the 14th, remaining until 2 September, when she sailed for Norfolk. She then eondueted one more trip to Newport (22 to 31 October 1947) before coming back to Norfolk on 1 November. She then underwent a restrieced availability at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard from 1 December 1947 to 15 January 1948, for "special temporary alterations" in eonneetion with her next operation.

Albemarle sailed from Norfolk on 16 January 1948 for the Canal Zone, and upon completing the transit of the isthmian waterway reported for duty with Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, for temporary duty with Joint Task force "Switchman." Steaming thence to Terminal Island for final fitting out for her next task at hand, and arriving there on 4 February 1948, Albemarle sailed for Pearl Harbor on 1 March, in company with the radar picket destroyer Rogers (DDR - 76), proceeding thence to the Marshall Islands, arriving at Eniwetok on 16 March, to take part in Operation "Sandstone." Speeially altered for the task, Albemarle served as the laboratory ship during "Sandstone"—a three-detonation nuclear atmospherie cest series— shots "X-Ray" (15 April 1948), "Yoke" (1 May 1948) and "Zebra" (15 May 1948). Departing Eniwetok on 21 May 1948 Albemarle arrived at Pearl Harbor on the 27th, en route to Oakiand, Calif., which she reached on 4 June. Sailing for Norfolk on 11 June, she transited the Panama Canal on 20-21 June, and reached her ultimate destination on the 26th. She remained there undergoing overhaul at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard until 23 August, when she sailed for Guantanamo Bay, reaching "Gitmo" on the 27th for a three-day stay. Over the two weeks following her departure from Cuban waters, Albemarle visited Key West, Boston, and Newport before returning to Norfolk on 14 September.

Following an overhaul at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Albemarle stood out of Hampton Roads on 8 February, and over the ensuing weeks visited a succession of ports and operating areas: Key West; Port-au-Prinee, Haiti, Kingston Jamaiea, and Bermuda interspersing these port visits with training out of Guantanamo Bay.

Returning to the Norfolk Naval Base on 19 March she remained there into the summer, ultimately sailing for Boston on 13 July for a port visit. Subsequently visiting Newport and New York, Albemarle returned to Norfolk on 27 July, and worked in the local operating areas into September. Further operations late in the summer and earlv yall of 1949 took the ship to Newport, New York, and the Norfolk local operating areas.

Standing out of Lynnhaven Roads on 2 March 1950, Albemarle subsequently worked out of Vieques, Puerto Rico, and Roosevelt Roads before she visited Martinique (15-17 March 1950), Grenada (17-19 March), Willemstad, Curacao (20-22 March) and Ciudad Trujillo, Dominican Republie (23-25 March). stopping briefly at Guantanamo Bay, the ship returned to Norfolk on 31 March and remained there until 11 may, when she got underway for the New York Naval Shipyard, arriving there the following day. Attached to the New York Group, Atlantic Reserve Fleet, the ship was decommissioned on 14 August 1950 and berthed at Brooklyn.

Shifted to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in February 1956, Albemarle was earmarked for conversion to tend Martin P6M "Seamaster" jet flying boats. She was reassigned from the Atlantic Reserve Fleet to the Commandant, 4th Naval District for conversion, effective 6 February 1956. Equipped with stern ramps and servicing booms to handle the "Seamaster," as well as a semi-sheltered area and a service drydock, the ship emerged from the conversion possessing the capability to serve as a highly mobile seadrome capable of supporting jet seaplanes anywhere.

Albemarle was recommissioned at Philadelphia on 21 October

1957, Capt. William A. Dean in command. After fitting out, she sailed for Norfolk on 7 December, and arrived there on the 10th. The ship then sailed for Guantanamo Bay on 3 January 1958, made port there on the 7th, remaining there for ten days and carrying out shakedown training before dropping down to Montego Bay, Jamaica. Proceedingthence back to Guantanamo
concluding her shakedown on 21 January, Albemarle steamed thence to San Juan and Trinidad, carrying out tending opera- with four squadrons of Martin P5M "Marlin" flying boats and participating in "Springboard" exercises. Albemarle arrived back at Norfolk on 9 April, remaining there only five days before proceeding back to Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, where she remained under overhaul through mid-July. Returning to Norfolk on 20 July, the ship got underway for operations in the North Atlantie on 14 August, and ranged as far as the Azores before returning to Norfolk on 16 September. Over the next two months Albemarle operated between Norfolk and Bermuda she rounded out the year at Norfolk, arriving there on 19 November and remaining until 2 March 1959.

Albemarle continued to operate out of Norfolk through 1959 and into 1960, although the eaneellation of the "Seamaster" program meant that the ship would never service the aircraft for which she had been reconfigured. Her ports and places visited in 1959 encompassed the naval air facility at Patuxent River, Md.; Pillsbury Sound, in the Virgin Islands; San Juan, and Savannah, Gal; Haiifax and Nova Scotia, Canada; New York City, Yorktown, Va., Port-au-Prinee; Guantanamo Bay and Bermuda. The ship eommeneed the year, 1960, operating out of San Juan, then moved in suecession to Bermuda, back to San Juan thence to Pillsbury Sound and Grand Turk Island, in the West Indies thence to Guantanamo Bay and Pillsbury Sound again, thence to San Juan and Guantanamo, into March.

Unloading ammunition at the Naval Weapons Station at Yorktown, between 12 and 15 July Albermrle moored at Norfolk eommeneing preparations for inactivation from 15 to 18 July before she proceeded to Philadelphia to unload material. Returnmg thence to Norfolk on 30 July, she continued inactivation preparations through the summer.

placed out of commission in reserve, on 21 October 1960 Albemarle was initially berthed with the Norfolk groud of the Atlantie Reserve Fleet pending her transfer to the Maritime Administration (MarAd) James River Fleet. Plaeed in the eustodial eare of MarAd, Albemarle was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 September 1962.

On 7 August 1964, however, MarAd transferred the shipearmarked for conversion to a floating aeronautical maintenanec facility for helicopters—baek to the Navy. On 27 March 1965, the ship received the new name and elassifieation Corpus Christi Bay (T-ARVH-1), and was transferred to the Military Sealift Command (MSC) on 11 January 1966.

Converted at the Charleston (S.C.) Naval Shipyard, the ship emerged from the yard only faintly resembling her former self. Gone was the prominent seaplane ramp aft, replaced by a built-up superstructure topped by a helicopter landing pad measuring 50 by 150 feet. Previously, damaged helicopters had had to be transported back to the United States for refit, with the advent of this "new" ship type, repairs could be accomplished near the forward areas, damaged helos barged out to the ship and lifted on board by two 20-ton capacity cranes.

Accepted by MSC in January 1966, Corpus Christi Bay's first commander was Capt. Harry Anderson, who had a crew of 129 men, a fraction of the ship's original complement, under him. Accompanying the ship on her first deployment in support of forces m Vietnam was the Army's 1st Transportation Corps Battalion (Seaborne), 308 aircraft technicians and specialists under the command of Lt. Col. Harry O. Davis, USA. The ship operated out of Cam Ranh Bay, South Vietnam, during 1966.

Ultimately determined by MSC to be "in excess of current and future requirements," Corpus Christi Bay was taken out of service and berthed in ready reserve status at Corpus Christi Texas. Corpus Christi Bay (T-ARVH-1) was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 31 December 1974. On 17 July 1975 the ship was sold to Brownsville (Texas) Steel and Salvage, Ine., and was scrapped subsequently.

 

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