USS Pocono Association
USS Pocono AGC-16/LCC-16/JCC-16
History of the U.S.S. POCONO AGC-16/LCC-16
by Frank Reda president, AGC Flagship Alliance
The U.S.S. POCONO was named after the famous range of mountains in eastern Pennsylvania. The ship's keel was laid down on November 30, 1944 by the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company at Wilmington, NC and was built with a standard maritime class C-2 hull. The ship was sponsored by Miss Mary V. Carmines of Messick, Virginia. On February 15, 1945 she was taken over by the U.S. Navy and towed to the Naval Shipyard in Boston, MA where she was redesignated to serve as an Amphibious Force Command ship. She was commissioned on the 29th of December 1945, at Boston, MA with Captain H.A. Sailor in command. She was 459 feet in length, 63 feet in beam and displaces 13,910 tons under fully loaded conditions. Her draft was 24 feet and she was of the Adirondack class. She was propelled by geared General Electric turbines which develop 6,000 horsepower at full speed and can drive the ship at about 16 knots.
The main deck of the POCONO was used for living quarters for officers, wardroom and sick bay country complete with medical offices. On the decks above the main deck are quarters for the Admiral and his Chief of Staff; living accommodations for other staff officers and office spaces; the Captain's and Executive Officer's cabins; signal and flag bridges with allied tactical and operational offices. Below the main deck are located the ship's office spaces, crew's mess, crew's living spaces and stowage spaces for supplies and spare parts. There are living and berthing facilities provided for a wartime complement of approximately 130 officers and 1200 men. The principal characteristic of the ship is its extensive radio, radar and communications equipment for controlling and commanding an amphibious operation. The main mid-ship antenna and radar tower was made of special aluminum/magnesium alloy structural members to reduce the topside weight and increase ship stability.
The messing facilities consist of a crew's mess, chief petty officer's mess, Captain's mess, Staff and Admiral's mess, each with it's own galley. These messes are supplied from a bake shop and a butcher shop on the second and third decks but each has it's own scullery and refrigeration spaces.
To maintain the health of the crew, a completely equipped sick bay is provided, which includes two (2) wards totaling twenty (20) beds, dispensary, treatment room, pharmacy, operating room, X-ray laboratory, and a complete dental unit.
For the comfort and morale of all hands the following services are provided: Library and crew's recreation room, laundry, post office, tailor shop, cobbler shop, two (2) barber shops, clothing and small stores sales room, a ship's store (tobacco, candy, etc.) and an ice cream dispenser. When operating and weather conditions permit, movies are shown each evening topside, otherwise they are shown below decks.
The facilities for printed and photographic reproduction are ideally suited for the production of Amphibious Sketches and the other graphic material required in a seaborne assault. In addition to a well-equipped photographic laboratory, there is a print shop for reproducing work by the letterpress printing process and a map reproduction unit for printing by the offset lithographic process. The print shop is equipped with two presses, a power paper cutter, stitcher, paper drill and necessary equipment for hand typesetting. The map reproduction unit includes space for map stowage and drafting and can accommodate three draftsmen normally and five in an emergency. The main reproduction unit equipment consists of a darkroom-type camera, lithographic press and all the necessary auxiliary plate-making equipment.
For fire power the ship had a dual purpose anti-aircraft and machine gun battery totaling 20 barrels distributed as follows:
2 - 5"/38 Double Purpose Guns
4 - 40mm Twin Machine Gun Mounts
4 - 20mm Twin Machine Gun Mounts
2 - 3 lb. Saluting Guns
To control the above battery there are two (2) Main Battery Directors and four (4) 40mm Directors.
The engineering plant consists of the engine room and the fireroom combined in one space. The engines consist of one set of General Electric turbines with a double reduction gear, developing a total of 6,000 horsepower at 92 propeller rpm. The boiler power is supplied by two Combustion Engineering Co. boilers with a designed working pressure of 440 psi. Integral superheaters are installed raising steam temperature to 292 degrees F. with a total steam outlet temperature of 750 degrees F. For its electrical power needs, the ship is provided with three 500 kw turbo-generators plus two 100 kw emergency diesel generators. Fresh water is produced by two sets of Grisco-Russell Navy Type low pressure evaporators with a maximum output per set of 20,000 gallons every 24 hours. Refrigeration plant consists of two Freon-12 York compressors with a capacity of 4.2 tons of refrigerant per unit per day and two Navy type ice making tanks with a capacity of 400 pounds per tank per day. Air conditioning units with a total capacity of 11.3 tons of refrigerant cool the following spaces: Radio One; Print Shop; Combat Information Center (CIC); and the Staff Office. The ship has a total of 24 fuel oil storage tanks, carrying 831,249 gallons of fuel oil at 95 percent capacity, giving the ship a cruising radius of 36,800 miles at the economical speed of 11 knots.
The POCONO was later modified to add a helicopter landing pad on her stern deck. To do this the aft 5" gun and all the smaller guns and deck equipment on the stern and aft well deck were removed and an elevated helo pad was built along with a box type hanger for helicopter support. A quad 40mm gun tub was added hanging over the stern.
Soon after commissioning, in December 1945, the POCONO proceeded on a shakedown cruise of four weeks in the Chesapeake Bay area. After this cruise she returned to the Naval Shipyard in Boston for post-shakedown repairs and minor alterations. On March 18, 1946 the POCONO set sail for Key West, Florida, enroute to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for shakedown and some time on maneuvers. The ship then proceeded to Washington, D.C., via Norfolk, VA. and arrived at the nation's capital on May 7th. Later in May of that year, at Miami, FL. she took aboard Admiral Jonas Ingram, U.S.N, Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet, and his Chief of Staff, and all staff personnel. After that time the POCONO served as the flagship of the Atlantic Fleet. During the next few years, she operated off the Atlantic coast from Newfoundland to Trinidad. In the months preceding his death, Admiral Marc Mitscher, U.S.N., who relieved Admiral Ingram, was Commander in Chief of the Atlantic Fleet, with his flag in the POCONO. Early in 1948 she became flagship for Admiral W.H.P. Blandy, Commander Atlantic Fleet. The POCONO's commanding officer at that time was Captain H.M. Briggs and his executive officer was Commander J.N. Ferguson Jr.. The POCONO was decommissioned at Norfolk, VA. on June 19, 1948 and moved to Bayonne, NJ, where she was placed in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet.
The POCONO was recommissioned on August 18, 1951 to serve as the flagship for Commander Amphibious Force, Atlantic Fleet. She operated in this capacity in the Caribbean and off the East Coast of the United States until 1956. On October 31, 1956, during the Suez Canal crisis, the Commander in Chief, Naval Forces, Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean, embarked in POCONO, and remained on board until December 13, 1956.
In September, 1957 the POCONO served as the flagship for a 38 ship amphibious task force in the NATO exercise "Deep- water" off the coast of Turkey. In early 1958 the POCONO served as the flagship for operation "Packard X", an Atlantic Fleet amphibious exercise at Onslow Beach, NC.
On June 12, 1958 the POCONO was honored to be chosen the Flagship of U.S. Admiral Jerauld Wright, Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet, and to head a group of 12 Fleet Force ships for the 100 ship, 18 nation "International Naval Review" on parade (held at Norfolk, VA.) It was one of the greatest sights ever seen and lasted for 10 days. Thousands of people from all over the United States and the world came to see this multitude of ships on parade. There were 33 ships from foreign nations and the rest were U.S. Navy ships; with all the ships being manned by more than 20,000 officers and men. Included in the United States ships along with the POCONO were the carriers SARATOGA and LEYTE; guided missile cruisers CANBERRA, BOSTON and NORTHAMPTON; the frigate NORFOLK; destroyer STRONG; lst's VERNON COUNTY, WASHTENAW COUNTY, WASHOE COUNTY and WESTCHESTER COUNTY; submarines BARBERO and REGULUS and many other ships. Some of the impressive foreign ships were the British carrier HMS ARK ROYAL, French carrier BOIS-BELLEAU, Canadian destroyer- escort ASSINIBOINE, Turkish destroyers GELIBOLU and GIRESUN and the Spanish four masted barkentine training vessel JUAN SEBASTIAN de ELCANO.
The ships arrived in port over a period of several days; and as they arrived they announced their arrival like the Belgian, Danish, British and Netherlands contingencies had with flags and pennants flying and guns blasting salutes and their crews in dress uniform standing at attention lining the ship's rails as they pulled into the channel. The day before the review the ships began moving into their assigned places in the review line. By nightfall all 100 were in place. Later in the evening, all ships in the reviewing line that were equipped with search lights turned them on at a pre- arranged signal in a spectacular searchlight display which could be seen by the thousands of people on the shore. Traffic jams resulted at points all along Hampton Roads as people crowded the beaches to see this once in a lifetime display. The review started in Norfolk with the ships stationed in two lines more than 14 miles long all the way from Old Point Comfort on the west to just beyond Lynnhaven Inlet to the east. Three of the ships were designated to be reviewing ships. They were the CANBERRA which steamed slowly by reviewing them while being followed by the BOSTON and the tactical command ship NORTHAMPTON.
As the reviewing ships passed down the line of assembled warships, naval guns boomed out their salutes to the reviewing dignitaries, and the international salutes were answered by salutes fired from Fort Monroe. The reviewing officer, Secretary of Defense Charles E. Wilson, was embarked in the CANBERRA, while the Secretary of the Navy, Thomas S. Gates was embarked in the BOSTON and Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Arleigh Burke was aboard the NORTHAMPTON. Other dignitaries and the press and guests were embarked on all three ships of the review group. For the rest of that afternoon the review ships steamed past large ships and small ships ranging all the way from the giant U.S. supercarrier SARATOGA to Spain's beautiful 4 masted training vessel. The review was brought to a fitting climax by a mass fly-over by more than 200 Navy and Marine planes and an exhibition of precision flying by the Navy's Blue Angels flying team. This full dress parade of the world's navies was the first one to take place in U.S. waters since 1907 when a review was held commemorating the 300th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown.
The period immediately before and after the review was designated "Fleet Week". During this time sightseers were allowed to visit the POCONO and other U.S. and foreign ships as they were tied up at piers at the Norfolk Naval base and the Submarine-Destroyer piers. In addition, all naval installations in the Norfolk area were open to the visitors who had crowded Norfolk to see the review. With so many foreign sailors in the area speaking a dozen different languages and trying to spend money of 18 different currencies, some "little international incidents" were touched off. The incidents were mostly confined to counter tops where confused clerks tried to figure out how many pesos, piastres, lire, pounds or francs were needed to buy a $3 cowboy hat and equally confused sailors pondered for the native word that would order them a glass of beer. They had spent days sprucing up their ships for public display and now they had swarmed into town for a deserved liberty. Flags lined the streets and flew from every ship. The sailors emptied stamp machines delightedly and bought post cards by the thousands. They consumed banana splits and ice cream sodas and walked gaily down the streets chewing gum. The whole town became upset when a Turkish sailor lost a $50 bill and was unable to pay for his meal at a restaurant or explain through sign language what had happened. After 18 officials of the police department, and shore patrol had gathered to straighten out the affair, the sailor finally explained through interpreters that the bill had disappeared. He was given the meal free and later a Norfolk citizen raised the $50 to reimburse the sailor for his loss.
Cyd Charisse, the then star of MGM's "Silk Stockings" was named "Sweetheart of the Navies" for the naval review week.
On June 23, 1958 the POCONO departed the United States bound for the Mediterranean. She was diverted to Beirut, Lebanon where she controlled the landing that assisted that nation. During her three months stay in Beirut, she performed such functions as air control and command communications. Because of the Beirut Crisis the regular six-month Mediterranean deployment was extended to nine months, with the POCONO returning to Norfolk, VA. on March 20, 1959.
On January 11, 1960 the POCONO again departed from Norfolk for the Mediterranean where she participated in four amphibious landing exercises, including a joint NATO landing at Porto Scudo, Sardinia before she returned to Norfolk on June 14, 1960. She then participated in Caribbean landing exercises in July 1960 and February 1961. On April 1, 1961 she departed again for the Mediterranean, and participated in several amphibious landings, including a joint NATO landing at Saros Gulf, Turkey. She then returned to Norfolk on October 12, 1961.
After an extensive overhaul she departed Norfolk on April 10, 1962 for the Caribbean. On July 23, 1962 she departed there for the Mediterranean. When the Cuban Crisis arose, the POCONO was recalled to the United States. She carried the flag of Commander, Amphibious Forces, Atlantic, and remained in operational readiness in Norfolk. For the rest of 1962 and 1963 and most of 1964 the POCONO remained in the United States. In early 1964 she participated in two landing exercises at Onslow Beach, North Carolina. On October 11, 1964 she was deployed for "Steelpike 1" which included an assault with helicopter landings at Huelva Bay, Spain. She then returned to Norfolk on November 25, 1964.
POCONO departed Norfolk on May 21, 1965 en route to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic to aid in the peace keeping operation there. She provided the platform from which Vice Admiral McCain directed the naval forces support of this operation.
From late 1965 through early 1968 the POCONO participated in further operations in the Caribbean and off the east coast of the United States, returning to Norfolk on February 24, 1968. The POCONO continued to operate out of Norfolk until she was decommissioned in 1971.
The POCONO was struck from the Navy Register in December 1, 1976 and turned over to the Maritime Administration. Sold at Maritime Administration sale for scraping December 9, 1981.
Notes from John Thayers website
In the years 1963-66, LCDR Prell was the executive officer aboard the POCONO. He was a very tough character; so, the deck apes had painted a huge vulture on the sides of the boatswain's lockers above the welldeck. It was about 2 1/2 feet wide with the motto "Keep Smiling". The officers let it stay because they also had a good laugh about it. I was a hashmark leading seaman in the laundry. I basically never left the Bronx, New York before joining the Navy. After cutting the last link on my short-timers chain the day I left the POCONO and said goodbye to my ship and friends, I cried all the way up the dock. I remember seeing the MT. McKINLEY there also. We were at Pier 7 in Norfolk. Our Admiral at that time was John S. McCain. His son was a hero flyer and a P.O.W. Navy pilot. He later became a famous senator from out west. My total active duty time was 4 years and 4 months. I was extended because of Viet Nam. (Joe "Chick" Cicchelli)
End of POCONO HISTORY
(Transcribed by John Thayer, Feb. 24, 1998)
1. The U.S.S. POCONO, AGC-16 was redesignated as LCC-16 in January 1, 1969.
2. "We went to the Mediterranean in 1967 or 1968. We circled around at Athenians Bay when Greece was having political troubles. We were on standby in case we were needed for evacuation of American citizens. During the last 2 weeks I served on it they changed the hull lettering to LCC. That was in September 1968." (Stephen Robinson, 1966 to 1968)
3. In early 1969, the POCONO left Norfolk with a force of ships en route to Viegues Island in the Caribbean for another amphibious assualt exercise. After first stopping in Morehead City, N.C. to embark U.S. Marines from Camp Lejeune, she made another stop in Fl., then proceeded southeast to Vieques Island. After the exercise she made a liberty call at San Juan, Puerto Rico before returning to Norfolk. (John Thayer, 1969)