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    Description

    Pearl Harbor Survivor USS Vestal (AR-4).
    USS Vestal (AR-4) was a repair ship that started her career as Fleet Collier No. 1 and, from 1909 to 1913, she was manned by a civilian crew and served the Navy along the Atlantic Seaboard. Converted and commissioned as a repair ship in 1913, the Vestal was named for the priestesses of Vesta, the Roman goddess of the hearth, home, and family. Rarely depicted in human form, she was most often represented by a fire. Entry to her temple was forbidden to all except her "Vestals" who tended her eternal flame. Vestal was the victim of unfortunate circumstances. She was the ship located outboard to the USS Arizona on December 7th, 1941.

    The ensign of the Vestal is a 96" x 120" Annin Sterling Brand, double warp wool, 48-star, double appliqué, sewn stripe flag, finished with heading and grommets. There is a maker's mark on the upper obverse hoist which is marked "USS Vestal".

    The Vestal's crew was expecting a routine, peacetime Sunday in port on the morning of 7 December 1941. Nothing could have been farther from the truth. When the attack began at 07:55, the Vestal went to General Quarters and commenced a vigorous anti-aircraft defense and prepared to get underway. At about 08:00 two bombs - intended for the more valuable battleships inboard on Battleship Row - hit the repair ship starting fires and flooding. Maintaining anti-aircraft fire became secondary to the ship's fight for survival. Near 08:10, a bomb penetrated the Arizona's deck near the starboard side of number 2 turret and exploded in the 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 decks. Over 100 sailors were blown overboard, including the Vestal's skipper, Commander Cassin Young. After swimming back to his stricken ship, Commander Young countermanded an "Abandon Ship" order and announced "Lads, we're getting this ship underway." Amid the confusion, acrid smoke and the din of battle, Vestal got up steam, cut her mooring lines and tried to creep out of danger. However, her flooding and list made Vestal unstable and Commander Young elected to ground her to prevent sinking. Although damaged herself, Vestal sent repair parties to other damaged ships and because, after the attack, repair facilities were at a premium, Vestal repaired herself. For his distinguished conduct in action, outstanding heroism and utter disregard of his own safety, above and beyond the call of duty, the Vestal's skipper was awarded the Medal of Honor. After Pearl Harbor, the Vestal was ordered to Tonga because of its strategic location. This was fortunate, for during her two months in Tonga, Vestal repaired some 58 ships, including the USS South Dakota, USS North Carolina and the USS Saratoga. Next, Vestal was ordered to New Caledonia, which was again fortunate, as she was again strategically placed to repair some 21 vessels, including the USS Enterprise and again, the South Dakota. The Vestal was then moved to New Hebrides, where she would remain for a year where she did some 5,603 jobs on 279 ships and 24 shore facilities. Some of the ships repaired were the USS San Francisco, the USS New Orleans and the USS Pensacola, her most challenging repair. The Ellice Islands came next followed by the Marshall Islands and then Mare Island, California for the Vestal was in need of repairs herself. She rejoined the fleet at Ulithi in October of 1944 where she would do 2,195 repair jobs for 149 ships, including 14 battleships, nine carriers, five cruisers, five destroyers, thirty-five tankers and other miscellaneous naval and merchant ships. She spent the rest of the war repairing ships off of Okinawa. This flag is associated with one of the most sortied and remarkable ships of WWII, and would be a welcome addition to almost any WWII naval collection.

    Over the course of her career, the USS Vestal was awarded: Combat Action Ribbon; Mexican Service Medal; China Service Medal (extended); World War I Victory Medal; American Defense Service Medal with FLEET clasp; American Campaign Medal; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with two campaign stars; World War II Victory Medal and the Navy Occupation Service Medal with ASIA clasp. Additionally, the individual awards for the Vestal at Pearl Harbor were a Medal of Honor, Purple Hearts and the US Navy Unit Commendation.

    The ensign of the Vestal is Good to Fair condition - used, worn, soiled and repaired. The lower fly corner is frayed, the two bottom stripes are starting to split and there are small holes throughout.

    This flag was formerly in the collection of Dr. Clarence Rungee, and is accompanied by his original museum inventory sheet with identifying information.

    For those who did not receive a hard copy of the auction catalog, we present here the introductory comments and history of Dr. Rungee and his remarkable collection. If you scroll further, you will also find various contemporary newspaper articles, as well as a selection of the many letters of donation and transmittal which accompanied the collection and a categorization of the collection.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    December, 2019
    14th Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 4
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 561

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