wagons3.jpg The second USS PRAIRIE, a destroyer tender, was laid down 7 December 1938 by New York Shipbuilding Corp., Camden N.J.; launched 9 December 1939; sponsored by Mrs. Samuel M. Robinson; and commissioned 5 August 1940, Capt. J. B. W. Waller in command.

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Here's to you, Mrs. Robinson.  December, 1939

USS Prairie at the Philadelphia Navy Yard,1940

On Saturday , December 9th, 1939, the $11.5 million dollar destroyer tender USS PRAIRIE (AD-15) slid down the ways at the South Camden yards of the New York Shipbuilding Corporation. The wife of Rear Admiral Samuel M. Robinson, coordinator of Naval Shipbuilding and Engineer-in-Chief of the U.S. Navy, christened the ship. The Camden ways were so crowded with naval construction that only an invited group of 500 were admitted to the ceremonies. On neighboring ways were the battleship South Dakota, the repair ship Vulcan and two seaplane tenders, Curtis and Albermarle.

After a fitting-out and completion period that ran to August 5, 1940, the ship was delivered to Pier 5 East, Navy Yard, Philadelphia. At 3:30 p.m. on that date, the USS PRAIRIE was placed into full commission, and Capt. John B. W. Waller was her first commanding officer. At this time, the war in Europe was well underway. Although Germany id not declare war on the United States until December, 1941, the U.S. Navy was increasingly involved in furnishing support to British convoys crossing the Atlantic, and PRAIRIE was part of this effort. At the time of America's entry into the war, PRAIRIE was on station in Argentia, Newfoundland, tending the U.S. fleet, as well as ships from Allied nations.

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1940s PRAIRIE ashtray

"Mail call!"  This cachet depicts the PRAIRIE's arrival in Tokyo Bay, October 7, 1945.

Crewmembers witnessed the sinking of the Fyosyo-Maru while on duty in the Pacific during WWII.

In May, 1942, a serious fire spread from a ship moored astern, causing extensive damage to PRAIRIE and killing two crewmen.  After being repaired at Boston Naval Shipyard, PRAIRIE returned to Argentia in October to resume her tender duties.  In late 1943, PRAIRIE was transferred to Pearl Harbor and eventually moved with advancing forces to Majuro, Eniwetok, Ulithi and finally, Tokyo Bay.

Following the war, PRAIRIE tended ships in San Francisco, San Diego and Hawaii.  In 1947, from her homeport of San Diego, PRAIRIE started her first peacetime Western Pacific deployment, repairing vessels at Tsingtao, China, and making port visits to Shanghai and Yokosuka, Japan.  The following year, the ship earned the first of many Battle Efficiency Awards.  The rotation of 1949 was followed by three Korean War deployments during which PRAIRIE supported Seventh Fleet units at Sasebo, Japan and Yokosuka.

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Oops!  PRAIRIE, after being accidentally rammed by a Japanese Merchant ship in foggy weather, Yokosuka Bay, 1959. 

  Prairie in Pusan, Korea, 1953.

In 1957, the ship completed a world cruise following her eighth WestPac.  In this unique experience for a ship of her class, PRAIRIE made visits at Sasebo, Japan; Hong Kong; Subic Bay, Philippines; Baharain, Persian Gulf; Karachi, Pakistan; Capetown, South Africa; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Rodman Naval Base in the Canal Zone before returning to San Diego.

During the early 1960s, PRAIRIE made two more WestPac deployments and  tended ships in Pearl Harbor for the first time in over 20 years. In 1965 the Prairie was also sent to the Pratas Reef, a coral island in the South China Sea, to assist in salvage operations of the USS Frank Knox (DDR-742) which ran aground on the reef. She was out to sea for 37 days and for the Prairie it was a new record. Pictures from the Silver Anniversary Book (1940-1965) were provided herebelow by Wayne Kosloski.

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During the late 1960s and early 70s, as the tempo of U.S. Navy operations in Vietnam ramped up, requirements for forward repair services also increased and PRAIRIE did two short-turnaround deployments in a period of 18 months.  PRAIRIE completed her 17th WestPac in December of 1971.

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A female member of PRAIRIE'S Weapons Department shoots target practice while out at sea.

USS Prairie underway in the 1970s.

ZIPPO lighters were popular souvenirs from the ship's store.

In mid-1972, the ship's homeport was changed to Long Beach.  Following the next deployment in late 1973, PRAIRIE was again homeported in San Diego.  PRAIRIE remained in port through December 1974, chalking up such accomplishments as tending 400 ships that year and earning her second consecutive Supply "E."  PRAIRIE's Dive Team was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation for its work in the retrieval of a C5A hatch off the coast of South Vietnam.  This was followed by an extensive overhaul period from November 1976 to September 1977.  During this time, PRAIRIE was awarded the Edward F. Ney Award for food service excellence in the large mess afloat category.

Over the next few years,  PRAIRIE's five-inch gun turrets would be removed, but she would continue to provide tender availabilities at home and abroad during regular WestPac deployments.  In 1978, PRAIRIE earned her second Battle "E" by exceeding Navy standards for all shipboard evolutions.

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The striped jack was originally a sign to attack during the Revolutionary War, and the rattlesnake was a beloved emblem of America's early patriots.

In December 1979, the first of PRAIRIE's new complement of female crewmembers arrived--four officers.  Enlisted women began reporting aboard in 1982, and each year, more and more females were permanently assigned to PRAIRIE until they numbered in the hundreds, performing virtually every duty the ship had to offer.

After Prairie's sister ship USS DIXIE (AD 14) was decommissioned in June of 1982, Prairie earned the right to fly the "Don't Tread on Me" Navy jack flag as the oldest ship in continuous active service.  In September of the following year, PRAIRIE again changed homeports to Long Beach and immediately began tending ships at the Naval Station.  

In November 1983, PRAIRIE got underway for her 23rd WestPac and spent 57-days anchored in the North Arabian Sea.  Two years later, she claimed her third Battle "E," and in the summer of 1986, the Engineering Department was awarded the Departmental Red "E" for the sixth consecutive time.  This enabled PRAIRIE to meet the demands of her 25th WestPac later that year.

On March 26th, 1993, USS PRAIRIE was decommissioned in Long Beach, CA.  A short time later, she was towed to Singapore and sold for scrap.

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