LCC 19 Blue Ridge
USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19) was commissioned on November 14, 1970, at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard as the most sophisticated command and control platform in the Navy. With accommodations for more than 200 officers and 1200 enlisted, the ship provides all the services of a small town.
From 1971 until 1979, Blue Ridge operated from San Diego, California, where she deployed to the Western Pacific, earning the Meritorious Unite and Navy Unit Commendations for the evacuation of Saigon, Vietnam in 1975.
Since October 1979, Blue Ridge has been forward deployed from Yokosuka, Japan as the flagship of Commander Seventh Fleet. Well suited to support a fleet commander in peacetime and in war, Blue ridge participates routinely in U.S. and allied training exercise each year with countries throughout the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean. She performed brilliantly during a nine-and-one-half month deployment as flagship for Commander United States Naval Forces Central Command during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm from August 1990 through May 1991, for which the ship earned another Navy Unit Commendation. USS Blue Ridge frequently makes port calls throughout the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean including Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Australia. She made her historic port visit to Shanghai, People Republic of China in May 1989 and Vladivostok, Russia in July 1996. The ship has also been cited for rescues of refugees and merchant vessels.
The U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet command ship, USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), and the embarked Commander, 7th Fleet staff arrived in Hong Kong, Feb. 17, 2003. While in port, the ship's approximately 950 crew and 7th Fleet staff members will have the chance to participate in sightseeing and cultural exchanges and to assist in community service projects. The 7th Fleet area of responsibility for U.S. Navy operations encompasses 52 million square miles of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. On average, there are 50 ships, 200 aircraft and approximately 20,000 Sailors operating in the area. USS Blue Ridge is forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, and is commanded by Capt. Andrew G. Sevald.
USS Blue Ridge continuously upgrades her command and control facilities, her warfighting capabilities and her methods of meeting the high visibility requirements of a fleet flagship.
After completing one of the largest exercises in the Western Pacific area of operations, the crew of the 7th Fleet command and control ship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) returned to Yokosuka May 12, 2003 after nearly two months underway.
The 7th Fleet staff, embarked aboard Blue Ridge, successfully completed Exercise Tandem Thrust 03. Tandem Thrust is a biennial exercise designed to test the 7th Fleet commander's staff's ability to effectively plan and execute crisis contingency response operations as a joint task force commander. Although service members from the United States were the primary participants, forces from Australia and Canada also took part in the nearly three-week exercise, which ran from April 14 - May 5.
Blue Ridge also visited Guam and Saipan, two islands in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, during the deployment. Blue Ridge and 7th Fleet Sailors hosted local civilian and military dignitaries during a reception on board Blue Ridge during one of several visits to Guam. The staff and crew also had the opportunity to enjoy activities such as sightseeing, athletic events and shopping.
On Sept. 27, 2004, the U.S. 7th Fleet staff officially reembarked its flagship, USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), during a brief change-of-flagship ceremony. Since April 1, 2004, until that date, U.S. 7th Fleet staff had been operating from USS Coronado (AGF 11), which had arrived in Yokosuka from Point Loma, Calif., March 24, 2004, to serve as the temporary flagship.
The U.S. 7th Fleet command ship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) got underway Oct. 25, 2004 for a scheduled underway period.
The first USS Blue Ridge (S. P. 2432) was originally constructed as the Great Lakes passenger steamer VIRGINIA built by Globe Iron Works at Cleveland, Ohio. The ship was launched in 1891 and was operated by the Goodrich Transit Company between Chicago, Illinois and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In 1893, during the Chicago World's Fair, the ship and the whaleback steamer CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS competed against each other in races. VIRGINIA was purchased on April 19, 1918 for use as a Navy transport at Manitowoc, Wisconsin once America entered World War I. The ship was renamed BLUE RIDGE (S. P. 2432) and commissioned on October 17, 1918. Lieutenant Commander E. S. Ells, USNR, was the commanding officer. The ship was named for the BLUE RIDGE Mountains of the United States.
Blue Ridge (S. P. 2432) had an overall length of 269 feet, 2 inches; extreme beam of 38 feet, 3 inches; tonnage of 1,606; draft of 12 feet, 8 inches; speed of 16.5 knots; and a crew of 87officers and enlisted. On December 28, 1918, the ship arrived at the Boston Navy Yard from the Great Lakes. While undergoing repairs, the war ended and eliminated the need for further service. While still at the Navy Yard, the ship's name was changed to Avalon on August 18, 1919. The Edward P. Farley Company, from Chicago bought the ship on August 21, 1919.
The Wilmington Transportation Company acquired Avalon. In 1920, the ship entered the company's two-hour daytime run between the Catalina Island Terminal at Wilmington and Los Angeles harbor. During World War II, Avalon served as a transport in the San Francisco Bay area. The ship returned to the Catalina-Los Angeles run in 1946 and remained in this service until laid up at the Catalina Island Terminal February 12, 1951. Avalon caught fire and burned at Long Beach, California on July 18, 1960.
The next Blue Ridge (AGC-2), an amphibious force flagship, was built by the Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, Kearny, New Jersey, under a Maritime Commission contract. The ship was launched on March 7, 1943 under the sponsorship of Mrs. David Arnott. Blue Ridge was transferred to the Navy on March 15, 1943. The Bethlehem Steel Company of Brooklyn, New York, outfitted the ship as an amphibious force flagship and was commissioned on September 27, 1943. Commander Lewis R. McDowell, USN, was the commanding officer. Blue Ridge (AGC-2), had an overall length of 459 feet, 3 inches; extreme beam of 63 feet; trial displacement of 13, 910 tons; limiting draft of 24 feet; trial speed of 16.6 knots; a complement of 36 officers and 442 enlisted; and a flag accommodations for 138 officers and 123 enlisted. The ship was armed with two 5-inch .38 caliber guns and four twin 40-mm anti-aircraft guns.
Following trial runs in Long Island Sound, Blue Ridge departed New York on October 8, 1943, to train in the Chesapeake Bay Area out of Norfolk, Virginia. On November 1, the ship put to sea with two destroyers, bound for the South Pacific. After transit of the Panama Canal, BLUE RIDGE called at the Society, New Caledonia and Fiji Islands, enroute to Brisbane, Australia, arriving on December 16, 1943. She pulled out of Brisbane three days later for Milne Bay, New Guinea where December 24, 1943, she became the flagship of Rear Admiral Daniel E. Barbey, USN, Commander Seventh Amphibious Force. She served as the command ship for amphibious operations westward along the New Guinea Coast until October 13, 1944. On that day, BLUE RIDGE left Hollandia as the flagship of Rear Admiral Barbey's Northern Attack Force bound for the liberation of the Philippine Islands.
The night of October 19-20, 1944 Blue Ridge and her formation stood through the swept part of Surigao strait, between Homonhon and Dinagat Islands and entered San Pedro Bay, Leyte, Philippine Islands. She served as a command ship for troops storming the beaches at Leyte the morning of October 20, and continued in support of the amphibious assault landings for six days. The ship's gunners drove off an enemy reconnaissance plan October 23. The morning of October 25, a torpedo-bomber made a run along her port side, coming in from her port quarter, and was shot down by her forward 40-mm gunners. That afternoon, the ship fired on 11 enemy planes of various types attacking the transport area.
The morning of October 26, 1944, Blue Ridge helped fight off five enemy bombers that attacked her formation. That afternoon she helped drive away three more enemy bombers. Several bombs fell in the vicinity during this action, but only one exploded close enough to shake the command ship. As she kept watch off the Leyte beaches, the three-pronged attack of the Japanese Fleet met disaster in the Battle of Surgiao Strait, the Battle of Samar and the Battle of Cape Engano. She stood out of San Pedro Bay in the night of October 26, 1944 to stage at ports of New Guinea in preparation for the liberation landings to be made at Lingayen. She remained the flagship of Vice Admiral Barbey who was designated commander of the San Fabian Attack Force 78. Besides Admiral Barbey and his staff, she embarked Major General I. P. Swift, commanding the I Army Corps, and Major General L. F. Wing, Commanding the 43rd Infantry Division, together with their personal staffs.
Blue Ridge led the San Fabian Attack Force from Aitape, New Guinea on December 28, 1944. An aerial snooper was driven off by gunfire January 2, 1945 and covering escort carrier aircraft shot down a bomber twenty miles out from her formation the following day. The night of January 4, 1945 the command ship followed a covering group of cruisers and destroyers through Surigao Strait to enter the Mindanao Sea. The afternoon of January 5 an enemy submarine fired on the covering group, ten miles ahead, and was forced to surface and rammed by destroyer Dashiell. Enemy planes attacked the formation January 7; two being shot down by pilots of the Combat Air Patrol, and three fell victims to combined anti-aircraft fire of the formation. That night four destroyers sank a Japanese destroyer eleven miles to the east of Blue Ridge. The command ship helped repel six enemy planes on January 8, 1945 and entered Linguine Gulf before daybreak of January 9. Troops stormed ashore that morning, some two hours after a single-engine enemy aircraft sneaked through cover of night, staffed to a point forward of the bow, barely missed the bridge, then overshot and dropped bombs about 500 yards off her port bow. The ship was not damaged and suffered no casualties. During the initial landings, three air attacks came close enough to be a threat to Blue Ridge, but veered off the in the face of heavy anti-suicide swimmers and small fast suicide boats. To combat this threat, a patrol boat was kept circling Blue Ridge and all shipboard security patrols were strengthened.
On January 13, 1945 Chief Storekeeper H. G. Williamson reported on board Blue Ridge. He was an escaped prisoner of war, having been captured by the Japanese on January 18, 1942, while attached to the Naval Air Station at Cavite. He had escaped on March 15, 1942 and had remained in hiding near San Fabian since then. Williamson was returned to duty at the Naval Base and Blue Ridge departed Lingayen Gulf on January 15, 1945. The ship continued to serve as Vice Admiral Barbey's flagship at San Pedro Bay and Subic Bay until June 8, 1945. Two days later, Blue Ridge was underway for Saipan and then to Pearl Harbor when she became the flagship of Rear Admiral Jerauld Wright, Commander Amphibious Group Five on June 30, 1945. She hauled down his flag on July 20 and entered the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard for alterations and repairs.
USS Blue Ridge departed Pearl Harbor on September 8, 1945 and reached Buckner Bay, Okinawa, on September 22. That afternoon, she hoisted the flag of Rear Admiral Ingolf N. Kiland, Commander Amphibious Group Seven. The ship got underway on October 21 to serve as a command ship at Tsingtao, China, arriving October 24, 1945. Rear Admiral Kiland shifted his flag to WASTACH (AGC-9) on November 6, 1945 and BLUE RIDGE became the flagship of Rear Admiral A. G. Noble, Commander Amphibious Group One.
The ship departed Tsingtao for Jinsen, Korea on December 13, 1945, then returned off Taku Bar before proceeding to Shanghai, China. She arrived in the Wonsung Anchorage of the Uangtze River on December 22, 1945, and served as station command ship for Naval Forces there until February 24, 1946, when the ship departed Shanghai for Hawaii. After a brief stay at Pearl Harbor, she was routed to the western seaboard, arriving at San Pedro, California on March 18, 1946. The ship entered the Naval Shipyard at Terminal Island to prepare for participation in "Operation Crossroads", the atomic bomb tests to be carried out at Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands.
Blue Ridge departed San Francisco on June 12, 1946, touching at Honolulu, Hawaii, enroute to Kwajalein Atool where she arrived June 28, 1946. Here the ship completed embarking general and flag officers of the Army, Navy and Marine Corps along with United Nations officials for transportation to Bikini Atoll to observe Atomic Bomb Tests. She hoisted the flag of Vice Admiral H. W. Hill. The senior officer on board was Vice Admiral E. L. Cochrane, Chief of the Bureau of Ships. Also on board were Vice Admiral G. F. Hussey and Vice Admiral A. E. Montgomery.
The ship arrived at Bikini Atoll on June 29, 1946, serving as one of the command and observation ships off Bikini during the Atomic Bomb Test "Able" on July 1. Thereafter, she called at Ponape and Truk in the Caroline Islands, then proceeded to Kwajalein where, on July 23rd, Blue Ridge became the flagship of Rear Admiral C. C. Glover. The ship again served as observation flagship for the atomic bomb test of July 24, hauled down Rear Admiral Glover's flag on July 27, and sailed for home on July 30. She arrived at San Francisco inactivation overhaul in the Naval Shipyard at Terminal Island; she decommissioned on March 14, 1947. The ship remained in reserve until January 1, 1960, when her name was struck from the Navy list. She was sold for scrapping August 26, 1960 to Zidell Exploration Incorporated, 3121 Southwest Woody Street, Portland, Oregon.
USS Blue Ridge (AGC-2) received two battle stars and other awards.
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