USS Rockport – a Mystery From Bill Hubbard


Bill Hubbard writes-

Did you now that the Town of Rockport had a ship named for it in 1917?  But, her name was changed to USS Nantucket only 115 days later.  She was first the USS Ranger, later USS Rockport then USS Nantucket (PG-23/IX-18), was a gunboat of the United States Navy.
A screw steamer with full-rig auxiliary sail, Ranger was destined for a very long 65-year career, serving first as a U.S. Navy gunboat from 1876 to 1920, and later as a training ship with the Merchant Marine Academy from 1920 to 1940.
After  completion of fitting out, Ranger was assigned to the Atlantic Station,  remaining at the Gosport  (Portsmouth) Navy Yard and Hampton Roads until 8 March 1877, when she was assigned to the Asiatic Fleet. Following a special fitting out for her new duty, Ranger left New York 21 May 1877, arriving Hong Kong 24 August 1877, via Gibraltar, Suez Canal, and Malacca Straits. The ship served on the Asiatic Station until the fall of 1879, protecting American interests and national policy in the Far East.
Later, she was assigned to protect American seal fisheries in the Bering Sea. On 31 January 1894, she relieved Alliance in protecting American interests in Central America, where she remained until placed out of commission 26 November 1895, except for temporary duty in the Bering Sea in May 1894.
Re-commissioned 1 November 1899, she was a survey ship for 2 years off Mexico and Baja California, then operated with USS Wisconsin (BB-9) off Central America, protecting American national interests. She was again decommissioned from 11 June 1903 to 30 March 1905 at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.  She departed Puget Sound 16 April 1905 for the Asiatic Station, arriving Cavite 30 May. Due to recurring maintenance problems, she was decommissioned again at Cavite from 21 June 1905 to 10 August 1908. Departing Cavite 16 August, she arrived Boston 12 December via the Suez Canal, and was decommissioned immediately.
On 26 April 1909, she was loaned to the State of Massachusetts as a school ship to replace Enterprise at the Massachusetts Nautical Training School. Her  name was changed to Rockport 30 October 1917 and then to Nantucket 20 February 1918. As Nantucket, she operated as a gunboat in the First Naval District during World War I, as well as a training ship for Navy midshipmen.  Designated PG-23 in 1920, Nantucket was re-designated IX-18 on 1 July 1921. On 11 November 1940, she was transferred to the Maritime Commission for final disposition, to be used as a school ship for the Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, N.Y. During the winter term of 1928 – 1929 the decision was made to paint the outside hull of the Nantucket black, instead of the usual white as in the past. Her four boilers were also updated.
On 30 November 1940, she was struck from the Navy list and was returned to the state of Massachusetts as a school ship.  Where is she today?  Why was she named Rockport for only 115 days?  I’ve been trying to figure that out for a year now.  Maybe one of your readers knows.
Bill Hubbard

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9 Responses to USS Rockport – a Mystery From Bill Hubbard

  1. Wm. Skipper Publicover says:

    What an interesting history ! Will be Fun to hear the Rest of the story, Bill !

  2. Anonymous says:

    Why was the name changed?

    • Joe T says:

      Not in the Navy, ships are decommissioned then mothballed if needed again before scraping recommissioned and rename. Plus as a class of ship is no longer in use; ship is mothballed,sold or scraped, And SAme name is given to new class of ship. Otherwise Superstition only.

  3. My father, Fred Andrew Barfoed Bodin, may have trained on that ship when he was in the Merchant Marine Academy at King’s Point. He was barely out of high school, and after graduating from King’s Point, he sailed as an engineer on one of the last Liberty Ships to reach Europe in wartime. Lucky him, on arrival, WWII was over. More later.

  4. donnabarner says:

    Perhaps this question can be posed to Big Tom Brancaleone. He’s on facebook under Bigtom Brancaleone. He has a phenomenal picture gallery and knowledge of these old navy ships.

  5. Kris J says:

    Hey Bill,
    Did a quick web check, and the ship was apparently scrapped in 1958. Her engine is on display at the US Maritime Academy at King’s Point.

    No answer as to why the name change from USS Rockport to USS Nantucket though. See the following websites for other pictures and some more detail.


    Kris J

  6. jose smoothtrax says:

    I heard it’s bad luck to change a boat’s name.

  7. Kris J says:

    And here may be the answer to the re-naming mystery.

    On 20 February 1918, USS Ajax was renamed USS Rockport, the same date as the USS Ranger/Rockport to USS Nantucket name change occurred.

    Got to love the Navy! Can make researching a challenge.


    Kris J

  8. Bill Hubbard says:

    Thanks to all of you who posted replies here. I have confirmed that the ship was sold for scrap which is common with navy ships. Guess we will have to spectulate for a while on why Rockport with a ship named in her honor for only 115 days

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