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USS Rainbow at New York in 1901
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Class: RAINBOW (AS-7)
Design Cargo, 1890
Displacement (tons): 4,360 norm, 5,660 full
Dimensions (feet): 351.8' oa, 326.0' pp x 41.0' wl x 21.25' full, 17.2' mn
Original Armament: 6-6pdr 6-1pdr (1901)
Later armaments: 4-5"/40 (1918);
Complement 350 (1924)
Speed (kts.): 12
Propulsion (HP): 1,800
Machinery: Vert. 3-exp., 1 screw
||29 Jun 98
||7 Jan 90
||18 Jul 98
||11 Jul 25
||26 Jun 28
||13 Sep 28
In 1890 the British shipping firm William Ross & Co. added two "fine boats" to its line, the NORSE KING and the slightly larger STORM KING. These did not carry passengers but were "admirably" fitted for the cattle trade. The ships ran between London and Canada, a service that Ross largely controlled, sometimes filling up with outbound cargo at Antwerp. NORSE KING was delayed on a voyage in 1891 because of suspicion of infection in Canadian cattle. Mr. Ross died in around 1895 and the company was wound up. In 1896 the Puritan Line, also English, operated NORSE KING, STORM KING, and two other ships on a first-class freight service that ran between Antwerp and Baltimore, once a month from each port.
NORSE KING was purchased by the Navy on 29 Jun 98 from Thomas Ronaldson as part of an emergency effort to acquire auxiliary vessels for the Spanish-American War. She was placed in reduced commission on 18 Jul 98 and was taken to the New York Navy Yard to be fitted out for use as a distilling and station ship in the Philippines. RAINBOW commissioned in full on 1 Dec 01 and sailed for Manila Bay, arriving in April 1902. She cruised extensively throughout the Far East during the next decade, usually as a flagship, and was also used as a transport and station ship. In 1909 she was described as fitted primarily for duty as a transport of the expeditionary force although from time to time she acted as parent ship for the destroyers. She departed Manila Bay in July 1914, arrived at the Mare Island Navy Yard in November, and decommissioned there on 24 Dec 14.
The Secretary of the Navy informed the Bureaus on 8 Sep 15 that the excessive cost of placing RAINBOW in any condition for service did not warrant any further expenditure on the vessel and that a Board of Appraisal had been ordered to recommend the final disposition of the ship. This decision was based on estimates that it would cost $65,388 for repairs to fit her for receiving ship at the Training Station, San Francisco, $75,678 for repairs to fit her for station ship at Pearl Harbor or for cruising, and $147,875 for repairs to convert her into a submarine tender. She was then rated as "unserviceable for war purposes" and was moored as a receiving ship at the Naval Training Station, Yerba Buena Island, San Francisco Bay. The ship was stricken by General Order No. 291 of 3 May 17 and the President authorized her transfer to the Shipping Board. However the U.S. entry into World War I caused this transfer to be cancelled and the ship was returned to the Navy.
Selected for conversion to a submarine tender, she was moved to the Mare Island Navy Yard in December 1917 and was recommissioned on 9 Mar 18. After transiting to the East Coast with several "L"-class submarines she was overhauled at the Philadelphia Navy Yard between June and October 1918, possibly for additional conversion. She then tended "O"-class submarines until being put in reduced commission in reserve at Charleston, S.C. in late 1919. Submarine Division 12, consisting of the tender and some new "S"-class submarines was formed on 1 Jul 20 and RAINBOW was placed in full commission on 30 Jul 20 after an overhaul at the Boston Navy Yard that had begun in February. She was designated AS-7 when the Navy's standard hull classification scheme was implemented on 17 Jul 20. The tender returned to Manila with her "S"-boats in December 1921 and supported the submarines in the Philippines and along the China coast until September 1924.
On 12 Jan 24 CNO informed the Bureaus that he was planning to replace RAINBOW (AS-7) by an efficient tender, and on 4 Feb 24 he notified the Bureaus that the Department planned to proceed with the conversion of the transport ARGONNE (AP-4) for this purpose. ARGONNE would be available for conversion in August and equipment then on RAINBOW and FULTON (AS-1) would then be made available for use on ARGONNE. Material to be transferred from RAINBOW included ordnance and Bureau of Engineering air compressors, turbo generating equipment for battery charging, torpedo workshop equipment, shop equipment, and furniture for officers' quarters. ARGONNE arrived at the Mare Island Navy Yard on 2 Sep 24 but did not begin conversion until 1 Jul 25 because of funding shortfalls. RAINBOW arrived at Mare Island on 31 Dec 24 and presumably offloaded the desired equipment. In late January 1925 she sailed for the East Coast where she decommissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 11 Jul 25. She was disposed of three years later.
Asked in August 1920 to estimate her capacity, the ship reported that under normal conditions she had messing for 3 S-class submarine crews, berthing for 2, and facilities for minor repairs to 7 submarines. In an emergency messing could be increased to 6 subs by relays and the ship's repair facilities could support 10 subs. "S"-class submarine crews would have to live largely on the subs, which were fairly habitable compared to the smaller earlier classes. In good weather the ship could moor up to four submarines on each side (although having submarines on both sides seriously handicapped boating), but submarines could not lie alongside in moderate to bad weather because the ship's anchor could not take the load.
||Ex merc. NORSE KING (completed Apr 90). Sold to Boston Iron & Metal Co., Baltimore, scrapped 1928.
Compiled: 21 Jun 2012
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2012