Captain Cassin Young - USS Vestal (AR-4)

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Commissioning: 3 Sept-1913

Decommissioned: 14 Aug-1946

Displacement: 12,585 Tons

Length: 465’-9” (141.96m)

Beam: 60’ (18.3m)

Draft: 26’-0” (7.92m)

Speed: 16 knots





Vestal in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941

On 6 December 1941, she was moored alongside USS Arizona, at berth F 7, off Ford Island, to provide services to the battleship during her scheduled period of tender upkeep between 6 and 12 December. Unfortunately, one day later, she would go into service yet again.


The next day the ordered routine of a peacetime Sunday in port was shattered shortly before 0800 as Japanese carrier-based aircraft swept down upon Pearl Harbor. At 0755, Vestal went to general quarters, manning every gun from the 5-inch (130 mm) broadside battery to the .30-caliber Lewis machine guns on the bridge wings. At about 0805, her 3-inch (76 mm) gun commenced firing.


At about the same time, two bombs — intended for the more valuable battleship inboard on Battleship Row — hit the repair ship. One struck the port side, penetrated three decks, passed through a crew's space, and exploded in a stores hold, starting fires that necessitated flooding the forward magazines. The second hit the starboard side, passed through the carpenter shop and the shipfitter shop, and left an irregular hole about five feet in diameter in the bottom of the ship.


Maintaining anti-aircraft fire became secondary to the ship's fight for survival. The 3-inch (76 mm) gun jammed after three rounds, and the crew was working to clear the jam when an explosion blew Vestal's gunners overboard.


At about 0810, a bomb penetrated Arizona's deck near the starboard side of number 2 turret and exploded in the black powder magazine below. The resultant explosion touched off adjacent main battery magazines. Almost as if in a volcanic eruption, the forward part of the battleship exploded, and the concussion from the explosion literally cleared Vestal's deck.


Among the men blown off Vestal was her commanding officer, Commander Cassin Young. The captain swam back to the ship, however, and countermanded an abandon ship order that someone had given, coolly saying, "Lads, we're getting this ship underway." Fortunately, the engineer officer had anticipated just such an order and already had the "black gang" hard at work getting up steam.


The explosion touched off oil from the ruptured tanks of the Arizona which in turn caused fires on board Vestal, aft and amidships. At 0845 men forward cut Vestal's mooring lines with axes, freeing her from the Arizona, and she got underway, steering by engines alone. A tug, the captain of which had served aboard the Vestal just a few months before the attack, pulled Vestal's bow away from the inferno engulfing Arizona and the repair ship, and the latter began to creep out of danger, although she was slowly assuming a list to starboard and settling by the stern. At 0910, Vestal anchored in 35 feet (11 m) of water off McGrew's Point.


With the draft aft increasing to 27 feet (8 m) and the list to six and one-half degrees, Commander Young decided upon another course of action. "Because of the unstable condition of the ship", Young explained in his after-action report, "(the) ship being on fire in several places and the possibility of further attacks, it was decided to ground the ship." Underway at 0950, less than an hour after the Japanese attack ended, Vestal grounded on ‘Aiea Bay soon thereafter.


Commander Young was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions that day.

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