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NavSource Online: Service Ship Photo Archive

Contributed by Mike Smolinski

Contributed by Al Grazevich

USS Tappahannock (AO-43)

International Radio Call Sign:
November - India - Xray - Juliet
Awards, Citations and Campaign Ribbons

Precedence of awards is from top to bottom, left to right
Top Row - Combat Action Ribbon (retroactive, 7 April 1943)
Second Row - China Service Medal (extended) - American Campaign Medal - Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (9)
Third Row - World War II Victory Medal - Navy Occupation Service Medal (with Asia or Europe clasp) - National Defense Service Medal (2)
Fourth Row - Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (1-Korea, Oct.66) - Vietnam Service Medal (7) - Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal

Mattaponi Class Fleet Oiler:
  • Laid down, 24 December 1941, for Keystone Tankship Corp. as SS Jorkay, a Maritime Commission type (T2-A) tanker hull, under Maritime Commission contract, (MC hull 157) at Sun Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., Chester, PA.
  • Launched, 18 April 1942
  • Delivered to Maritime Commission, 29 May 1942
  • Commissioned USS Tappahannock (AO-43), 22 June1942, at Norfolk, VA., CDR.. Alf O. R. Bergensen in command
  • During World War II USS Tappahannock was assigned to the Asiatic-Pacific Theater and participated in the following campaigns:

    Asiatic-Pacific Campaign
    Campaign and Dates Campaign and Dates
    Consolidation of Solomon Islands
    Consolidation of southern Solomon Islands, 7 April 1943
    Western Caroline Islands operation
    Raids on Volcano-Bonin Islands and Yap Island, 31 August to 8 September 1944
    Occupation and capture of southern Palau Islands, 6 September to 14 October 1944
    Assaults on the Philippine Islands, 9 to 24 September 1944
    Gilbert Islands operation, 24 November to 1 December 1943 Leyte operation
    Northern Luzon and Formosa attacks, 11 to 14 October 1944
    Luzon attacks, 15 October and 18 to 19 October 1944
    Marshall Islands operation
    Occupation of Kwajalein and Majuro Atolls, 29 January to 8 February 1944
    Okinawa Gunto operation
    5th and 3rd Fleet raids in support of Okinawa Gunto operation, 23 March to 11 June 1945
    Assault and occupation of Okinawa Gunto, 12 to 25 June 1945
    Marianas operation
    Neutralization of Japanese Bases in the Bonins, Marianas and Western Pacific, 19 to 20 June 1944
    Capture and occupation of Guam, 12 July to 15 August 1944
    3d Fleet operations against Japan, 17 July to 14 August 1945
    Tinian capture and occupation, 20 July to 10 August 1944  

  • Following World War II USS Tappahannock was assigned to Occupation and China service in the Far East for the following periods:

    Navy Occupation Service Medal

    China Service Medal (extended)
    2 September to 12 December 194518 December 1945 to 26 April 1946
    17 to 19 September 19467 June to 3 August 1946
    2 to 15 October 194622 to 28 September 1946
    9 to 17 May 194718 May to 13 July 1947
    3 to 10 September 19473 to 5 March 1949
    11 to 14 September 1949 
    2 to 26 March 1951 

  • USS Tappahannock was assigned to the Naval Transportation Service (NTS), 1 July 1947
  • USS Tappahannock was next assigned to Occupation Service in Europe from 2 to 25 May 1949
  • Assigned to the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS) October 1949
  • Decommissioned, 3 February 1950 at San Diego, CA. and laid up in the Reserve Fleet
  • Recommissioned, in December 1950 at San Francisco, CA. and assigned to MSTS
  • Decommissioned, January 1953, at San Diego, CA.
  • Recommissioned, 12 December 1956, Todd Shipbuilding. San Pedro, CA.
  • Decommissioned, 18 November 1957, at Orange, TX.
  • Laid up in the National Defense Reserve Fleet, Beaumont, TX., 3 December 1957
  • Withdrawn from the National Defense Reserve Fleet, 20 August 1965, towed to Naval Support Activity Algiers, LA, arriving 23 August 1965
  • Recommissioned, 31 May 1966, at Naval Support Activity, Algiers, LA., CAPT. Erman O. Proctor USN, in command
  • During the Vietnam War USS Tappahannock (AO-43) participated in the following campaigns:

    Vietnam War Campaigns
    Campaign and Dates Campaign and Dates
    Vietnamese Counteroffensive - Phase II
    25 December 1966 to 31 May 1967
    Vietnamese Counteroffensive - Phase V
    5 to 13 July 1968
    17 to 24 July 1968
    29 July to 6 August 1968
    23 August to 2 September 1968
    Vietnamese Counteroffensive - Phase III
    1 to 17 June 1967
    Tet/69 Counteroffensive
    20 to 31 May 1969
    5 to 8 June 1969
    Tet Counteroffensive
    24 March to 1 April 1968
    Vietnam Summer-FAll 1969
    9 to 14 June 1969 and 18 to 24 June 1969
    6 to 15 July 1969
    27 July to 3 August 1969
    Vietnamese Counteroffensive - Phase IV
    2 to 5 April and 11 to 23 April 1968
    29 April to 9 May 1968
    22 to 30 June 1968

  • Decommissioned, 6 March 1970, at San Diego, CA.
  • Struck from the Naval Register, 15 July 1976
  • USS Tappahannock earned nine battle stars for World War II service and seven campaign stars for Vietnam War service
  • Transferred to the Maritime Administration (MARAD), 16 October 1970, for lay up in the National Defense Reserve Fleet, Suisun Bay, Benecia, CA.
  • Final Disposition, sold for scrapping, 16 September 1987
    Displacement 7,004 t.(lt) 22,325 t.(fl)
    Length 520'
    Beam 68'
    Draft 30' 6"
    Speed 18 kts. (trial)
    Officers 18
    Enlisted 214
    Largest Boom Capacity 10 t.
    one single 5"/38 cal dual purpose gun mount
    four single 3"/50 cal dual purpose gun mounts
    four twin 40mm AA gun mounts
    four twin 20mm AA gun mounts
    Cargo Capacity15,300 DWT
    Oil 117,400 Bbls
    Gasoline 595,000 Gals
    Fuel Capacity NSFO 9,800 Bbls
    one Westinghouse geared turbine, turbo-electric drive
    two Babcock and Wilcox header-type boilers, 450psi 742°
    double Westinghouse Main Reduction Gears
    Ship's Service Generators
    two turbo-drive 400Kw 230V A.C.
    one turbo-drive 50Kw 230V A.C.
    single propeller, 12,800shp

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    Size Image Description Source
    Tappahannock - The only U.S. Navy ship named with the cognate name for the Rappahannock River in eastern Virginia. The river is approximately 195 miles in length. It traverses the entire northern part of the state, from the Blue Ridge Mountains in the west where it rises, across the Piedmont to the Fall Line, and onward through the coastal plain to flow into the Chesapeake Bay, south of the Potomac River.
    Photo - The Rappahannock River in Virginia
    Map - Rappahannock River drainage basin©Kmusser
    Tommy Trampp
    239k USS Tappahannock (AO-43) alongside Pier Two, Philadelphia Navy Yard, Philadelphia. PA., 15 July 1942. At the near side of the pier is the parts hulk x-destroyer Taylor (DD-94).
    US National Archives photo # 80-G-11032.
    John Chiquoine
    CVE-78 Savo Island
    352k USS Tappahannock (AO-43) refueling USS Savo Island (CVE-78) operating in TG50.8 off Okinawa, 15 April 1945. David Buell and
    John Chiquoine
    Tappahannock 87k USS Tappahannock (AO-43) refueling USS Bonhomme Richard (CVA-31) and USS Missouri (BB-63), July 1945
    US Navy photo
    293k The shadow of the Golden Gates the Marin Country coast with USS Tappahannock (AO-43) heading out to sea on trails after reactivation, circa January 1951. Note that her launches are still in protective boxes as well as her after gun mount.
    U.S. Navy photo from the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum
    Darryl Baker
    Tappahannock 141k USS Tappahannock (AO-43) under way during sea trials on the Mississippi River out of Avondale Ship yards circa May 1966.
    US Navy photo from All Hands magazine, November 1966.
    Joe Radigan MACM USN Ret.
    Tappahannock 47k USS Tappahannock (AO-43) under way off Vietnam in 1967. Richard Miller BMCS USNR Ret.
    180k USS Tappahannock (AO-43) conducting an underway replenishment (UNREP) of USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) in the South China Sea, 12 January 1967. Coral Sea, with assigned Attack Carrier Air Wing 2 (CVW-2), was deployed to the Western Pacific and Vietnam from 29 July 1966 to 23 February 1967.
    U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command. Photo # L45-274.01.01.
    Robert Hurst
    107k The Guided Missile Destroyer HMAS Hobart (D39) in an underway replenishment with USS Tappahannock (AO-43) during Operation Sea Dragon (Task Unit 77.1.1) in the Tonkin Gulf, 19 May 1967. An ammunition party is returning empty brass shells by highline transfer. At the same time, the tanker is pumping fuel to HMAS Hobart. The Frank Knox class destroyer USS Fechteler (DD-870) is astern on rescue stations in case of a mishap.
    Photo courtesy of Bevin Royce Stringer This file is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication
    Robert Hurst
    Tappahannock 66k USS Tappahannock (AO-43) refueling anti-submarine warfare aircraft carrier USS Bennington (CVS-20) and the destroyer USS McKean (DD-784) in 1968, location unknown.
    US Navy photo.
    Robert Hurst
    Tappahannock 117k USS Tappahannock (AO-43) in the South China Sea, 1 August 1969. She is preparing to refuel the aircraft carrier USS Kearsarge (CVS-33).
    US Naval History and Heritage Command, photo # USN 1141717, courtesy
    Mike Green
    Tappahannock 25k USS Tappahannock (AO-43) drydocked at Subic Bay Ship Repair Facility in Artisan (AFDB-1) in 1969. Richard Miller BMCS USNR Ret.
    CVA-34 Oriskany 133k

    Seventh Fleet ships replenishing in the South China Sea, May 1969. Ships present are (from front to back): USS Wiltsie (DD-716), USS Tappahannock (AO-43), USS Oriskany (CVA-34), USS Mars (AFS-1), and USS Perkins (DD-877).
    US National Archives photo # USN 1139357, by PH1 Long USN. a US Navy photo now in the collections of the US National Archives

    US Naval History and Heritage Command

    USS Tappahannock (AO-43)
    Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships (DANFS)
    Commanding Officers
    01CDR. Bergensen, Alf Ole Ruh, USN (USNA 1919)22 June 1942 - 23 September 1943
    02CDR. Swafford, Charles Arthur, USN (USNA 1919)23 September 1943 - 3 January 1945
    03CDR. Corman, Harry USN Ret. (USNA 1919)3 January 1945 - ?
    04CDR. McKnight Jr., John Rowland, USN (USNA 1930) :RADM1948
     Decommissioned3 February 1950 - December 1950
    05CDR/CAPT. McGoldrick, Joseph Aloysius, USN (USNA 1932) :RADMDecember 1950 - September 1951
    06CAPT. Hasse, Lawrence John, USNRSeptember 1951 - August 1952
    07CDR. Dusinberre, Henry Warren, USNAugust 1952 - January 1953
     DecommissionedJanuary 1953 - 12 December 1956
    08CDR. Liebschner, Orville Owen (Ollie), USN (USNA 1939)12 December 1956 - 18 November 1957
     Decommissioned18 November 1957 - 31 May 1966
    09CAPT. Proctor, Erman Oran, USN31 May 1966 - 26 August 1967
    10CAPT. Christiansen, John Saabye (Jack), USNR :RADM26 August 1967 - 2 October 1968
    11CAPT. Dickey Jr., George Leon, USN (USNA 1946)2 October 1968 - January 1970
    12LCDR. Lockeman Jr., George Franklin, USNRJanuary 1970 - 6 March 1970
    Courtesy Wolfgang Hechler and Ron Reeves

    Crew Contact And Reunion Information
    Fleet Tankers Association
    U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation - Navy Log

    Additional Resources and Web Sites of Interest
    MARAD Vessel History Database
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    Last Updated 5 April 2024