Sunday, May 1, 2011

The USS Vestal (AR-4) in 1941

While the USS Vestal was being overhauled in the shipyard at Vallejo, CA, my dad, Frank L. Dolan, was in service school from May through August 1941. Dad will be assigned to Vestal at San Pedro on September 10, 1941.

Launching of Vestal in Brooklyn in 1908
Source: Wikipedia
The USS Vestal, was the first of a class of two 12,585-ton colliers. It was placed in service with a civilian crew in October 1909, and she spent the next 3 years in the Atlantic providing coal to the ships of the fleet, including one voyage to Europe for that purpose. Taken out of service in October 1912, Vestal was converted into a repair ship (receiving the hull designation AR-4 in 1920) and placed in commission in that role in September 1913. Into 1917, she served mainly in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. Shortly after the United States entered the First World War, Vestal's area of operation was moved to Queenstown, Ireland, where she maintained U.S. ships engaged in anti-submarine escort and other wartime duties. Returning to the U.S. at the end of WWI, the Vestal continued her repair mission over the next two decades. She was modernized in 1925. Vestal supported the salvage of the sunken submarine Squalus in 1925-26, then shifted her base from the Atlantic to the Pacific in 1927. Refitted again in 1941, she was on her way to join the coming war in the Pacific.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Vestal, on which my dad Frank Dolan was stationed, was moored outboard of the battleship Arizona, awaiting repairs scheduled for the next day.

USS Vestal in 1939, prior to refitting
Source: Naval Historical Center

The USS Vestal served the Pacific faithfully throughout WWII, all the way to performing vital service functions supporting the occupation of China and Japan. She received 2 battle stars for her war service. Vestal was ultimately decommissioned in 1946. She was stripped in 1949, and like most of the ships that helped to win the war, her hulk was sold for scrap in 1950.

Sources: Frank L. Dolan's personal account;  Naval Warfare; Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships