USS Pinkney (APH-2)

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Career (USA) Union Navy Jack 100x35px
Name: Pinkney
Namesake: Ninian Pinkney, who developed the field of surgery and medicine for the U.S. Navy.
Ordered: As type (C2-S1-A1) hull, MC hull 176
Builder: Moore Dry Dock Co., Oakland, California
Laid down: June 3, 1941, as SS Alcoa Corsair
Launched: December 4, 1941
Sponsored by: Miss Ruth Grove of Berkeley, California
Acquired: By the Navy, November 27, 1942 and on March 1, 1950
Commissioned: November 27, 1942 as USS Pinkney (APH-2)
Decommissioned: September 9, 1946
In service: 1947 as USAT Private Elden H. Johnson
Out of service: 1950
Refit: Converted to a transport at Puget Sound Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company for the U.S. Army
Struck: December 27, 1957
Honors and
Six battle stars during World War II
Fate: Scrapped, September 28, 1970
Notes: Returned to service as USNS Private Elden H Johnson (T-AP-184) on March 1, 1950; removed from service on December 26, 1957.
General characteristics
Class and type: Tryon-class evacuation transport
Displacement: 7,100 tons
Tons burthen: 11,500 tons
Length: 450' 2"
Beam: 62'
Draft: 25' 7"(max)
Propulsion: Steam turbine, single shaft, 8,500hp
Speed: 18 knots
Troops: 1,166
Complement: 460 officers and enlisted
Armament: One single 5"/38 dual purpose gun mount; twelve single 40mm AA gun mounts

USS Pinkney (APH-2) was a Tryon-class evacuation transport that was assigned to the U.S. Navy during World War II. Pinkney served in the Pacific Ocean theatre of operations and returned home safely post-war with six battle stars but missing 18 crew members who were killed in action.

In 1947 she was acquired by the U.S. Army who renamed her USAT Pvt. Elden H. Johnson and retained her in Army service until 1950 when she was returned to the Navy and assigned to the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS) as USNS Pvt. Elden H Johnson (T-AP-184).

Built in Oakland, California

USS Pinkney (APH-2) was laid down as Alcoa Corsair (MC hull 176), June 3, 1941, by the Moore Dry Dock Co., Oakland, California; launched December 4, 1941; sponsored by Miss Ruth Grove; designated for U.S. Navy use and assigned the name Mercy. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, she was renamed Pinkney, August 13, 1942; acquired, by the U.S. Navy, November 27, 1942; and commissioned the same day, Comdr. A. L. Hutson in command.

World War II Pacific Theatre Operations

Following extensive fitting out and shakedown, USS Pinkney, an Evacuation Transport, departed San Diego, California, for Pearl Harbor and the South Pacific Ocean, January 27, 1943. In mid-February, she arrived at Espiritu Santo, whence she sailed to Purvis Bay to deliver reinforcements and replacements to the veteran units of the fight for Tulagi and Gavutu.

Throughout the remaining battles for the Solomon Islands, among them Munda, Vella Lavella, Shortlands, Bougainville, and the numerous engagements in the "Slot", she brought men, food and ammunition forward and evacuated casualties from field hospitals to better facilities on New Caledonia and in New Zealand. She also transported American and New Zealand nurses to and between various southwest Pacific Ocean hospitals.

By August 1944, island hopping had carried the Allies to and past the Marshall Islands and Mariana Islands. On September 8, USS Pinkney departed Guadalcanal for the Palaus, the next group en route to the Philippine Islands. On the 15th, she delivered her passengers, men of the 1st Marine Regiment, to LVTs, which took them on to the beaches at Peleliu. She then took up position 6,000 yards off the assault area to expedite offloading of equipment and embarkation of casualties. On the 20th she sailed for Manus Island, whence she returned to the Palaus, again and again, to evacuate the wounded.

Invasion of the Philippines

In early October, she returned briefly to the Solomon Islands, then sailed for Hollandia, then the Philippines. Into November, she evacuated Leyte casualties to Hollandia, Mantis, and New Caledonia. In December, she prepared for the Luzon invasion. On January 9, 1945, she landed Army troops on the Lingayen beaches, and, once again, assumed responsibilities for the care and evacuation of casualties, this time to Leyte.

In late February, while en route to the Solomons, she was diverted to Guam, thence to Iwo Jima. On the 28th, she returned to Guam, disembarked her patients and began preparations for her last campaign, Okinawa.

Okinawa operations

On April 1–2, USS Pinkney participated in the feints against southern Okinawa, then shifted to the Hagushi assault area where she landed U.S. Marine combatant and hospital units on the 10th. Casualties, from ships and from ashore, were soon filling her hospital wards. Caring for patients and expediting transferral of others to the hospital ship USS Samaritan, she dodged enemy shells and kamikazes until the 28th.

Struck by a kamikaze

On that day, at 1730, a low-flying kamikaze was spotted closing the ship. Seconds later USS Pinkney was rocked by an explosion and the after-end of the superstructure was walled by a sheet of flame. Ammunition began to explode. Water lines, electrical conduits, and steam pipes ruptured. The crew immediately formed rescue and damage control parties. Live ammunition was thrown overboard. All but 16 patients, killed in the initial explosion, were transferred to safety.

File:USS Pinkney 1 May 1945.jpg
Viewing the damage, with electrical cables and hoses from support ships across the hole.

Rescue tugs and landing craft moved in to assist in fire fighting, but the flames continued for another three hours, by which time USS Pinkney had lost 18 of her crew and had taken on a heavy list to port. A jagged hole, 30 feet in diameter, extended from the bridge deck to the bulkhead deck. All wards in the amidships hospital area were burned out.

Return to Stateside for repairs

Temporary repairs took 8 days. On May 9, USS Pinkney got underway for Saipan en route to the United States. She arrived at San Francisco, California, June 8, and underwent repairs.

Post-War operations

On October 21, sailed for the Far East again, this time to carry replacements and occupation troops to Tokyo and Sasebo and return with veterans. By February 1946, she had completed another U.S. West Coast—Far East run. Inactivation followed and on September 9 she was returned to the U.S. Maritime Commission and simultaneously transferred to the Army Transportation Service.

Conversion to U.S. Army use

Converted to an AP by the Puget Sound Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., and renamed USAT Pvt. Elden H. Johnson, October 31, 1947, she remained with the Army Transportation Service (ATS) until returned to the U.S. Maritime Commission, thence to the U.S. Navy, March 1, 1950.

Conversion to MSTS use

Designated AP–184, she joined the newly formed Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS) and was assigned a civil service crew. As an MSTS vessel, she plied the same waters, Atlantic Ocean–Mediterranean–Adriatic Sea, as she had under ATS until mid-1951, when runs to Caribbean ports were added to her schedule.

Final decommissioning

As USNS Pvt. Elden H. Johnson (T-AP-184) she continued to serve the U.S. Navy until 1957. On December 27, she was transferred to the Maritime Administration's National Defense Reserve Fleet and her name was struck from the Navy List. Into 1970, she remained with the NDRF, berthed with the Hudson River group.

Final Disposition: scrapped in 1971

Honors and awards

USS Pinkney (APH–2) earned six battle stars during World War II:

Consolidation of Solomon Islands - Consolidation of southern Solomon Islands, February 8 to June 20, 1943
Western Caroline Islands operation - Capture and occupation of southern Palau Islands, September 15–20, 1944
Leyte operation - Leyte landings, San Pedro Bay, October 30 to November 3, 1944
Luzon operation - Lingayen Gulf landings, January 9 and February 2, 1945
Iwo Jima operation - Assault and occupation of Iwo Jima, February 24–26, 1945
Okinawa Gunto operation - Assault and occupation of Okinawa Gunto, April 1 to May 8, 1945

Qualified on-board personnel were authorized the following:

Combat Action Ribbon (retroactive April 28, 1945 – Okinawa)
American Campaign Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (6)
World War II Victory Medal
Navy Occupation Service Medal (with Asia clasp)
Philippine Liberation Medal

Also awarded:

Purple Heart (18-KIA, April 28, 1945 – Okinawa)