The USS Tappahannock was a fleet oiler. One of the hundreds of service vessels which kept the fleet replenished and repaired. Unheralded and often times obscured by history, the service vessels were vital to the very existence and capability of aircraft carriers, battleships, destroyers, and other better-known combatants. Without service ships, the Navy’s combatants could not perform their missions.
USS Tappahannock was not only unheralded, it was almost forgotten until John Lewis and I.C. Smith helped restore its memory. It caught John Lewis’ eye when he saw its picture on a wall at Norfolk Naval Base. Lewis went online and found the photo and forwarded it to Nate Parker who posted it on the June Parker Marina Facebook page October 2017. Early December, I.C. Smith, who is member of the Destroyer Escort Sailors Association, came across a brief reference to a Navy destroyer being refueled by the USS Tappahannock which prompted him to do further research about the vessel.
Although the existence of the USS Tappahannock was known to June Parker and the Essex History Museum for many years, and its picture has been in Lowery’s Restaurant, it existence has not been publicly well known. To restore its place in local history, I.C. Smith, Essex History Museum, Woman’s Club of Essex County, and The Town of Tappahannock are working together to keep its memory prominently displayed for the public. The Museum is funding the creation of a monument which the Town will place in a suitable location in its Historic District. The Museum is also creating a USS Tappahannock exhibit and featuring USS Tappahannock memorabilia in its Rappahannock River Gift Shop. The Woman’s Club and the Museum will also conduct fundraising to cover the costs of the monument.
The permanent memorial monument in the Historic District will be a 5’ x 4’ slab of granite, placed on an angled pedestal. The inscription will include a silhouette of the ship and information regarding the ship, including how it got its name. A public dedication of the monument will take place later this spring.
To aid fundraising for the monument project, I.C. Smith has designed and produced special USS Tappahannock commemorative coins which will be given to those who donate to the project. Any person donating of $10 or more to the Essex History Museum or the Woman’s Club will receive a coin.
Donations of $10 or more may be mailed to Essex History Museum, PO Box 404, Tappahannock, VA 22560-0404, or paid at the Woman’s Club or the Museum during its hours of operation daily 10 am to 3 pm except Sundays, Wednesdays, and national holidays, or ordered at the Museum’s online store, http://essexmuseum.org/ecm-shop.htm