USS CALOOSAHATCHEE (AO-98)

Caloosahatchee silhouette

"SERVICE TO THE FLEET WITH PRIDE"

OCTOBER 10, 1945 - FEBRUARY 28, 1990
45 YEARS OF PATRIOTISM

     The ship was originally built by Bethlehem Steel Corporation's Sparrows Point Shipyard, Baltimore, Maryland for the U.S. Maritime Commission, but before completion was converted into a U.S. Navy Fleer Oiler, AO-22 Class. The keel was laid in November 1944 and the ship was launched on 2 June 1945. The ship was named after the Caloosahatchee River, which runs from Lake Okeechobee to the Gulf of Mexico in the vicinity of Fort Meyers, Florida. Caloosahatchee was christened by Mrs. C. L. ANDREWS, wife of Captain C. L. ANDREWS, MC, USN. The ship was placed in commission in the Navy on 10 October, Commander H. R. Livingston, USNR, in command; and reported to Commander, Service Force, Atlantic Fleet.
     Caloosahatchee cruised off the east coast, transporting oil and fueling ships at sea, and made a voyage to Iceland from Norfolk during her first two years of operations. On 14 August 1947, she sailed for her first tour of duty with the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean, a deployment that marked almost every year of her operations from that time into 1960. In this era when the U.S. Navy had perfected at-sea replenishment to greatly increase mobility, flexibility and efficiency, Caloosahatchee played a key role in increasing the enormous power for peace represented by the mighty 6th Fleet. Among other widespread operations, Caloosahatchee participated in NATO Operation "Mariner" off Greenock, Scotland, from 16 September to 20 October 1953, and provided summer training for future naval officers in midshipman cruises to Le Havre, France, in 1954, and to Copenhagen Denmark, in 1956. In fall 1957 and again in summer 1958, the oiler sailed with forces calling at ports in England, Scotland, France, and Portugal.
     Caloosahatchee's constant readiness for emergency deployments or other challenges to her operational capability was developed and maintained through training operations along: the east coast, and participation in such large-scale Atlantic Fleet exercises as Operation "Springboard" held in the Caribbean, which operations continued through 1960.
     During the "Cuban Missile Crises", October 1962 the Caloosahatchee performed the duties of refueling the blockade fleet off the cost of Cuba.

     On 8 May 1968 Caloosahatchee returned to Bethleham Steel Corporation at the Key Highway Shipyard, Baltimore, Maryland where she was delivered to the custody of the Commandant FIFTH Naval District and the Supervisor of Ship-Building for conversion and modernization. Caloosahatchee was re-comissioned as mini-multi-commodity replenishment ship on 27 September 1969 and assigned to Service Squadron TWO, then homeported in Newport, Rhode Island.
     Since rejoining the Atlantic Fleer following conversion, Caloosahatchee has established an enviable record of operational performance and material reliability. In December 1969 she was awarded the highest operational readiness inspection grade assigned by the Commander Training Command, U.S. Atlantic Fleet during the calendar year 1969. During September, 1970 the Caloosahatchee while in the eastern Mediterranean Sea participated in the naval blockade off the coast of Lebanon & Jordan during 'The Jordanian Crises" when members of the PLO seized control of three jetliners which were later blown up on the ground in Jordan after the passengers (including some Americans) and crew were evacuated and held as hostages. The Caloosahatchee supported units of the SIXTHFLEET from September 1969 to February 1971 and was awarded the Battle Efficiency "E", and the Engineering Excellence "E" in 1973. In February 1975 Caloosahatchee was reassigned to her present homeport, Norfolk, Virginia, coincidently transferring allegiance to Service Squadron FOUR. She departed for the Mediterranean via the North Atlantic, North Sea, and Baltic Sea Areas.
     Complimented for her overall material condition and cleanliness for a vessel her age by the INSURV Board in March 1977, Caloosahatchee then commenced a major RAV, which she completed two weeks early, a first in the Surface Force community over a considerable span of time. Following a brief period of refresher training and WESTLANT support operations, Caloosahatchee again departed for the Mediterranean to spend the winter of 77-78 operating with units of the SIXTH FLEET.

     This deployment was highlighted by two very fruitful industrial availabilities in Marseille, France and Palermo, Sicily opening commercial shipyard facilities to the SIXTH FLEET in the Mediterranean basin. Caloosahatchee was recognized for her effective performance while ashore and afloat by the Commander, SIXTH FLEET and the Commander, Service Force SIXTH FLEET. While serving the fleet with pride, Caloosahatchee was runner-up to COMNAVSURFLANT's 1977 Golden Anchor Award for retention. In the winter and spring of 1978 Caloosahatchee endured a bitter winter and an eight-month major extended regular overhaul in Brooklyn, New York during which she received five competitive awards:
Combat Information Center Green "E", Communications Green "C", Gunnery Systems "E", Damage Control "DC", and the Deck Seamanship Award.
Following overhaul and after refresher training in August 1979, Caloosahatchee in September departed with Commander SECOND FLEET for Northern Europe and NATO Exercises to be conducted in the North Atlantic, North Sea, and Baltic Sea areas. Caloosahatchee sustained her enviable record of operational performance and material reliability by replenishing 116 ships and meeting all commitments.
     During 1980 the Caloosahatchee participated in various readiness exercises, which involved two deployments to Cuba and a five-month cruise to the Mediterranean. Over 170 safe replenishments were completed in 1980, which set a new record for the CALOOS and established a precedent difficult to follow. 1981 brought the CALOOS another fast paced Caribbean deployment and a six-month cruise to the Mediterranean. The Caloosahatchee's reputation continued to shine as she serviced the fleet with pride and professionalism.
     During 1988 Caloosahatchee made her last, and very successful, Med deployment. On the trip home completing the 191st unrep of the year.
     During 1989 she participtated in Unitas XXX and crossed the equator.
     The Caloosahatchee was decommissioned on February 28, 1990 at Norfolk, VA after 45 years of "SERVICE TO THE FLEET WITH PRIDE". She was towed to the Mothball fleet on the James River where she sat until 2003 when she was sold for scrap to a salvage company in England. On October 6th the Caloosahatchee was taken under tow by an Ocean-going tug along with her sister ship Canisteo (ex AO-99) for a 4,500 mile / 21 day trip across the Atlantic to the Able UK's Graythorp yard, near Hartlepool, England. When the ships arrived there was protesting against the scraping of the ships in England due to the oil, asbestos, and PCB contamination aboard both ships. As of spring of 2005 the Caloosahatchee and the Canisteo are moored next to each other until the legality of the scraping can be resolved. Even long after the Caloosahatchee has stopped serving the U. S. Fleet she is still making history.

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