Tuesday, December 18, 2007

USS Vixen (PG-53)

Figure 1: USS Vixen (PG-53) at Portland, Maine, in 1945. Photograph by YN3 Mell Nelson, who served on CINCLANTFLT staff under ADM Jonas H. Ingram during World War II. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 2: The Vixen at Philadelphia, 11 April 1944. US Navy Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 3: The Vixen in 1943. US Navy Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 4: The M/V Regina Maris (formerly USS Vixen) at Pireus, Greece, in 2001. Photograph by Alekis Lindström via Michael Vincent. Click on photograph for larger image.

Originally known as the Orion, this 3,097-ton steel hulled yacht was built in 1929 by Krupp Germania Werft at Kiel, Germany. An American wool manufacturer named Julius Forstmann purchased the ship and the US Navy then purchased it from him on 13 November 1940. The ship was renamed the USS Vixen (PG-53) and was converted into a gunboat by the Sullivan Drydock and Repair Company at Brooklyn, New York. The Vixen was slightly over 333 feet long, had a beam of approximately 46 feet and had a top speed of 15 knots. She was armed with four 3-inch guns, seven .50-caliber and 2 .30-caliber machine guns, and carried a crew of 279 officers and men. The Vixen was commissioned on 25 February 1941 and headed for her shakedown cruise in the Caribbean on 5 March.

After her shakedown cruise, the Vixen went to New London, Connecticut, where she became the flagship of Rear Admiral Richard S. Edwards, who was the Commander of Submarines for the Atlantic Fleet. While acting in the role of flagship, the Vixen traveled all over the eastern seaboard of the United States throughout 1941, returning to New London on, ironically, 6 December 1941, the day before the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Vixen stayed in New London until 20 December and was then ordered to go to the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, DC, where she became the flagship for Admiral Ernest J. King, the Commander-in-Chief of the United States Fleet. She officially assumed this role on 30 December 1941 and would continue functioning as Admiral King’s flagship until 17 June 1942.

After a brief overhaul, the Vixen became the flagship for the Commander-in-Chief of the Atlantic Fleet, Admiral Royal E. Ingersoll. Admiral Ingersoll boarded his new flagship on 21 July 1942 and immediately began visiting all of the naval bases under his command. The Vixen steamed from Maine to the Caribbean while Ingersoll directed operations against German U-boats that were decimating Allied shipping off America’s east coast. By maintaining close contact with all of his area commanders, Ingersoll was able to determine how and where to deploy his forces to combat the U-boat menace. Gradually, he was able to turn the tide against the U-boats, but only after terrible losses were sustained by the Allied merchant fleets.

Ingersoll was relieved as Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet, on 15 November 1944 by Admiral Jonas H. Ingram. Admiral Ingram also made Vixen his flagship, using this tough gunboat as his base of operations against the German U-boats for the rest of the war. After the war ended in 1945, the Vixen remained in the Navy but was decommissioned on 24 May 1946. She was transferred to the War Shipping Administration and was sold on 21 January 1947. The Vixen was converted into the cruise ship Orion (her original name) in 1950. In 1964, the Orion was purchased by the Epirotiki Lines and was completely rebuilt and renamed Argonaut. She enjoyed much success as a cruise ship and in 1996 was sold to a company in Egypt. Renamed the MV Regina Maris, the old gunboat was used for cruises in the Red Sea. As of June 2002, she was laid up at Alexandria, Egypt, and was on the market for sale. Whether serving as a flagship (for four American admirals) or as a cruise ship (transporting people for over 50 years), the Vixen certainly had a rich and extremely long career.