Veterans of historic ship U.S.S. Rankin will reunite in Martin County
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    Exclamation Veterans of historic ship U.S.S. Rankin will reunite in Martin County

    Veterans of historic ship U.S.S. Rankin will reunite in Martin County
    |The Attack Cargo Ship was sunk offshore as an artificial reef in 1988 after almost 44 years of service

    By Joe Crankshaw

    Thursday, October 30, 2008

    STUART — About 60 veterans who served aboard the U.S.S. Rankin will be in town this week to get together and pay tribute to the ship at its final resting place.

    The U.S.S. Rankin was sunk as an artificial reef offshore in July 1988, and now 20 years later members of her crew and their family members will have a reunion that will include a trip to the reef site — a popular location for scuba diving that sits in 100 feet of water, about 5 1/2 miles East/Northeast of the St. Lucie Inlet — where a memorial wreath will be set afloat.

    The event is sponsored by the U.S.S. Rankin Association, which is made up of naval personnel who served on the attack cargo vessel. The events begin with a reception Thursday evening at the Ramada Inn and last through Sunday.

    "This is the first time our association has come to Stuart. It seems appropriate that this is the (20th) anniversary of the ship's sinking as a reef," said Skip Sander, the association's president.

    On Saturday, the group will tour of the National Navy SEAL/UDT Museum in Fort Pierce and some of the veterans and family members will paint the Rankin's anchor under the south end of the Roosevelt Bridge. The activities are not open to the public.

    Some of the former crew members live on the Treasure Coast and are looking forward to the festivities.

    "This reunion means a lot to me," said John Haddox, a Palm City resident and the Martin County Veterans Service Officer. "The Rankin was my first ship when I went into the Navy in 1968."

    Haddox said the Rankin was a "happy" ship, meaning sailors liked to serve on her.

    "She was also a hard working ship because she was part of the amphibious fleet, which is part of what I call the 'blue collar' Navy," Haddox said.

    Haddox retired from the Navy and came to Martin County just before the Rankin was sunk as a reef.

    "I saw it on television, and it was an emotional time," Haddox said. "To see a ship you know so well and have such ties to be blown up and sunk gets to you. I think it is a tribute to the old ship that it is still serving us."

    James Hungerford, 84, of Hobe Sound, who served as lieutenant on the Rankin during the Korean War, said he is looking forward to seeing old friends.

    "As you get older, the more endearing it becomes to see old friends," said the retired Navy commander, who is a veteran of World War II and Korea.

    The Rankin, was designed by Charles B. Petzold, a naval architect in New York City, and who retired to Stuart in 1979. He was present when the ship was sunk.


    October 31 1944: Keel laid at the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company, Wilmington, N.C.

    December 22, 1944: Launched

    February 25, 1945: Commissioned as the U.S.S. Rankin at Charleston Navy Yard, Charleston, S.C.

    May 21, 1947: Decommissioned at San Francisco

    March 22, 1952: Recommissioned at Todd Shipyard, Alameda, Calif., for the Korean War

    May 11, 1971: Decommissioned for the second time at Little Creek, Va.

    January 1, 1977: Removed from the Navy records as a functioning ship

    July 24, 1988: Sunk as an artificial reef off Stuart


    The U.S.S Rankin was an Attack Cargo Ship designed to land troops and equipment on enemy shores. She was the 103d of 114 ships of this type built by the U.S. Maritime Commission.

    Length: 459 feet

    Width: 63 feet wide at amidships

    Weight: 11,000 tons when fully loaded

    Draft: 22 feet

    Speed: 16.5 knots

    Range: 17,000 miles

    Crew: 62 officers, 333 men

    Armament: One five-inch gun, four twin 40 millimeter guns and 16 20 millimeter guns


    World War II

    Battle of Okinawa: Survived more than 100 Kamikaze attacks

    Occupation of Japan: Landed troops at Nagoya on the southern end of the Island of Honshu.

    Korean War

    Performed amphibious training on the U.S. east coast

    Cold War

    1958: Landed Marines in Lebanon

    1959: Assigned Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea

    1960: Assigned Amphibious Squadron 10 in the Caribbean Sea


    The Rankin was awarded:

    •Five Gold E Battle Efficiency Awards

    •American Campaign Medal

    •Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one star

    •World War II Victory Medal

    •Navy Occupation Service with Asian clasp

    •National Defense Service Medal

    •China Service Medal

    U.S.S. Rankin Association, Skip Sander, president.


    The Rankin once played another role in Martin County history. In July 1964, the Rankin docked in Port Everglades and unloaded seven tons of maritime historical material for the then fledgling House of Refuge Museum in Stuart. The cargo included aged anchors and propellers, 19th Century Naval History books, navigational instruments and signal flags. The unusual delivery was worked out by William R. Laughon, a retired Navy officer and museum trustee. He inveigled his old boss, Vice Admiral John S. McCain, father of the current presidential candidate, to authorize the shipment.


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