The ship displaced 14,000 tons, was 459 feet long and 63 feet in beam (About the size of Noah's Ark). It was powered by
two Nordberg diesel engines. She mounted four 3"/50 guns, two forward and two aft. During World War Two, the ship was equipped with a 5" gun on the fantail, later removed during the Korea and Vietnam eras.
After her commissioning in December, 1941, the ship was manned by a Navy crew under the command of CAPT W.W. Meek. The ship was then sent to the West Coast where she sailed for Pearl Harbor, loaded with ammunition and supplies. After two such trips, the Rainier proceeded to Tongabatu in the Tonga Islands with a load of ammunition. This ammunition delivered upon arrival was used against the Japanese at the Battle of Midway. In July, 1942, Rainier proceeded to Fiji where she replenished the fleet for the Guadalcanal and Tulaga landings, the first aggressive action to regain the Solomons. Rainier then went to Noumea, New Caledonia, arriving in August, 1942, followed by a trip to Auckland, New Zealand and then back to the 'States for a refit period. After two trips to Pearl Harbor in succession, the ship deprted on 27FEB1942 for Espititu Santos in the New Hebrides. CDR R.B. Miller succeeded CAPT Meek as captain on 20 FEB 1943. After issuing all her ammunition in May 1943, the ship returned to San Francisco. In October, 1943, the ship sailed for Havannah Harbor in the New Hebrides, but a diversionary order took her to Funafuti in the Ellice Islands, from which ammunition was issued to Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands and Kwajalein and Majuro in the Marshalls. In January, 1944, the ship departed for Makin Island, but was again diverted to Majuro where she participated as part of the occupation forces. Rainier remained at Majuro until April, 1944 when she departed for San Francisco. There, on 8 May 1944, command was transferred to CDR C.F. Conner.
After reloading, the ship returned to Majuro, where, after rearming the fleet, she returned to Eniwetok. In July, 1944, the ship proceeded to Saipan where she was witness to the battles of Saipan and Tinian. Rainier rearmed the fleet and stood by to see her product expended.
From August to October, 1944, the ship returned to San Francisco for another overhaul period, but soon set out for Ulithi Atoll in the Caroline Islands, where, upon arrival Rainier became headquarters for Commander, Service Squadron TEN, a position she held until after the Japanese surrender. From October, 1944 until May, 1945, the ship continued to arm the fleet and be resupplied by merchant ships.
In May, 1945, Rainier proceeded to Leyte Gulf, Philippine Islands, where she continued to contribute to the war effort by re-supplying fleet units. In September, 1945, the ship was ordered to Okinawa.
It was during this time, that Rainier endured the Okinawa Typhoon at Buckner Bay of October 8,9 and 10, 1945. Rainier rode at anchor through winds of 134 miles per hour. The ship survived the ordeal with little damage and no casualties to personnel. A seaman in a life jacket was rescued after his small craft was smashed to pieces in the typhoon.
From 7OCT1944 until 7SEP1945, Rainier transferred over 35,547 tons of ammunition, and average of 3,231 tons a month.
Rainier was a lucky ship in World War Two. Although Rainier witnessed other ships attacked and sunk by submarines and Kamikazes, she was never subjected to enemy aggression.
On 6DEC1945, Rainier discharged part of her cargo of ammunition at the Okinawa Naval Ammuniton Depot and set off for Seattle after 14 months of overseas duty. In August, 1946 she was placed in reserve as part of the Pacific Reserve Fleet at San Diego.
On May 25, 1951, Rainier was recommissioned, to support American operations in Korea under the command of CAPT D.C. McIver. At the start of the Korean War, supplies, particularly ammunition were in short supply in the Pacific. The USS Mt. Katmai was the only ammunition ship in the Pacific.
When the ship was recommissioned, it remained on the West Coast until November, 1951, when she sailed west to operate out of Sasebo, Japan, carrying her cargo to replenishment areas off the coast of Korea.
Following the Korean War, Rainier's peacetime task, through the 1960's was that of ensuring that the Seventh fleet combatant ships had a ready supply of ammunition to meet any emergency. In the early 60's her operations originated from the Philippines.
USS Rainier was the first ammunition ship on the scene following the Tonkin Gulf Incident in 1964, and she rearmed US forces operating against North Vietnamese bases. Shipmate Ted Williams, who is writing a novel about the era, remembers that period as follows:
"I was a loader on mount 34. Shortly thereafter, I became the gun captain (around June 63 until May 65). I think all should beware that Rainier was the first ammo ship to arrive in 'Nam after the Tonkin Gulf Incident. When we got there on the morning of August 4, 1964, little did we know— when having left Subic in a heated rush on August 3rd, around 5 a.m. —that we were headed to war. It came exactly at 12:50 p.m. while we all were resting in our racks, waiting to go back to work. GQ sounded—and not hearing the words "this is a drill", we were certain the end of the road had come. Being below decks, our imaginations raced with what horror that awaited us. On deck— loaded to the gunwales and no walking room, except over the top—and in all five-cargo holds packed— were bombs and bullets a-many; and one very long missile that took up half the deck aft. There may have been one forward as well. As we raced to our GQ stations—some guys with nothing but skivvies on— many lot without shirts— it was hot out there— we probably all imagined planes bearing down on us, when, in fact, all they had to do was drop a match. The tonnage of ammo on the ship that day was possibly more than that which blew Port Chicago to hell in the 40s. (Port Chicago home of AE’s)."
For three months thereafter, the ship was operating extensively in the area of the Gulf of Tonkin supporting carriers that were conducting air operations against North Vietnam.
During the Vietnam War, the the ship was primarily engaged in supporting, with great distinction, combat vessels on the gunline from the "Yankee Station" in the Tonkin Gulf down to IV Corps in the southern portion of South Vietnam under command of ComSevFlt, ComServPac and ComServron7. Between the late Spring of 1965 and January, 1966, the ship had transferred 12,000 tons of ammunition, 83 tons of freight and 11,500 pounds of mail. In 1966, extensive modifications were conducted upon the ship which significantly expanded it's replenishment capacity and the ship returned to the Pacific.
During the Vietnam Era, the ship was homeported at the
Naval Weapons Station, Concord/Port Chicago, California.
Here's a Souvenir of Port Chi.
Rainier earned the Battle Efficiency
during Pacific Service Force Battle Efficiency competition in 1968, and was named the best ammunition ship in the Pacific Fleet for the period 1 July 1967 to 30 June 1968. In 1969, the ship was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation because she "consistently outperformed
other, newer ammo ships in time on the gunline and tons transferred."
In her last Westpac deployment, from August, 1969 through April, 1970 Rainier transferred over 12,000 short tons of ordnance in support of combat forces.
According to the Rainier "Familygram" of 21 December 1969, Rainier's largest unrep occurred on 5 December 1969, when 953.7 short tons of ordnance were transferred to the USS Camden (AOE-2). The transfer climaxed "three days of breaking out and replenishing ships. It required working for thirty-eight straight hours, breaking for five hours sleep and then working straight through for nineteen more hours until we were finished."
The ship earned four battle stars during her deployment to Korea and eight battle stars during the Vietnam War. In 1970, the ship was scheduled for one more Westpac cruise, but halfway to Hawaii, major engineering casualties caused the cruise to come to an abrupt end, and the ship was towed back to San Francisco. It was decided at that time to "pull the plug" on the itred but hardworking ship and she was allowed to die gracefully following a long and distinguished career. She was decommissioned in August, 1970.
When last seen, Rainier was being cut up for scrap in Oakland. Her fate may have been that of other ships in the Reserve Fleet, which word has it were loaded with surplus ammunition and sunk off California.