The dedication of the Port of Hood River June 22-24, 1962 was a major event. The Secretary of the Navy, Ken BeLieu, was a former Hood River resident. He arrived on the USS Weiss. He was joined by Senator Wayne Morse to dedicate the new harbor.
The USS Weiss was a high speed naval transport in the Pacific Fleet, commissioned in November 1961 as part of the president's response to the Berlin crisis. Its visit to Hood River followed an appearance at the Seattle World's Fair.
The naval vessel at the dock is the USS Banning, a patrol craft escort vessel. How the Banning wound up in Hood River is a fascinating story. She was born in the Albina Engine and Machine Works in Portland in 1944, and commissioned in 1945. She served in the Philippines protecting ships from submarines and serving as a weather station. In quick succession she was moved to Pearl Harbor, then American Samoa, then Bremerton Washington, only to be decommissioned to Astoria Oregon. With the outbreak of the Korean War the Banning was recommissioned, and served in that area until 1953.
I'll quote directly from the dedication program for the next part of the story:
The PCEC-886 (USS Banning) was destined to wait out her days at the Astoria reserve Fleet. Based on past experience, the closure of the Reserve base in 1961 would have relegated her to the cutting torch; however, fate entered into the picture when March 14, 1961 the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors went before the Port of Hood River Commission expressing great enthusiasm for the tourism potential for the new Port of Hood River Boat basin and expressed the fact that a Warship would be a great attraction for a tourism and community center. The Port Commission adopted a resolution giving their unqualified support for tourism promotion and then instructed the manager to proceed with an investigation of the possibilities of acquiring a ship.
The rest, as they say, is history. But what is it? The USS Banning is no longer here, so what was the story of its tourism mission? I know she was returned to the Navy in 1969, but who can fill in the story of her 7 year stay in Hood River?
Category: [Downtown Hood River]
When we went fishing at the boat docks the Banning was always off limits.
Jeffrey Bryant on 22nd August 2013 @ 7:13am
I don't know any of the history so I look forward to reading what everyone has to offer.
l.e. on 22nd August 2013 @ 7:49am
I left HR before the Banning arrived.....but remember the mass of reserve ships near Astoria. What a sight.
Arlen Sheldrake on 22nd August 2013 @ 8:34am
I seem to remember they had tours for a short while, the entrance on the stern was always fenced off, used to sneak on it and dive into the basin. Too young to know what really went on, but lack of interest and promotion along with liabilities most likely sent it to another location.
Jim Gray on 22nd August 2013 @ 9:09am
I do know that my friend and her family lived on the vessel for some time. Tom & Jeannie Senior and her mother.
Judy on 22nd August 2013 @ 1:54pm
I did indeed live aboard the PCEC 886 with my parents, Ralph and Catherine McDaniel, from the summer of 1963 to mid-1965, when I was a junior and senior at Hood River High school.We lived in the officers' quarters, toward the bow of the ship; my bedroom had been the executive officer's stateroom. My dad was a retired Navy Chief, and he worked for the Port of Hood River as port captain.
Promoters thought the ship would be a great tourist attraction for Hood River, but it wasn't really a huge success, not least because of construction of I-84 during the years we lived aboard. There were stories about the ship, and my family, in both The Oregonian and the Portland Journal, but there were no signs on the highway letting people know that the ship was open for tours--which I led in the summertime, along with a HRHS classmate, Margaret Dentler.
Jeanie Senior on 23rd August 2013 @ 10:01am
The ship came to Hood River fully equipped. That is to say, there was no ammunition on board for the guns, but the galleys were furnished, there were mattresses on the bunks, all the electronic gear was in place, the machine shop was intact, etc. etc. My father, the career Navy man, was horrified to find files marked "Top Secret" in the ship's office; he oversaw their disposition. There also was a considerable amount of diesel in the fuel tanks.
We moved off the ship when my father got another job in Portland, and I headed off to college. As interest in the ship waned, discussions started about its disposition. The Navy came back on the scene at that point and reclaimed the vessel, and hauled it away. I believe the hull became a floating cannery in Alaska.
Jeanie Senior on 23rd August 2013 @ 10:13am
Jeanie, thank you very much for this interesting history!! Your posting helps make this a very informative site.
Arlen Sheldrake on 23rd August 2013 @ 5:51pm
Returned to Navy custody in 1969
Acquired in 1972 by Growler, Inc. of Juneau, AK and renamed Growler
Foundered 1 October 1973 in the Chukchi Sea off Cape Prince of Wales, AK.
Dennis Tomlin on 15th January 2016 @ 10:40am
October 1, 1973 The 160 foot freighter Growler capsized in rough seas during a savage winter storm in the Bering Strait 11 miles north of Wales. The converted Navy patrol vessel and landing craft was hauling construction equipment between Nome, Kotzebue and Bethel. All three crewmembers were lost including captain James Halliger of Seward, engineer Harry Germeau of Port Townsend WA and Ralph Geiger of Sequim WA. An empty life raft washed ashore at Wales.
Dennis Tomlin on 15th January 2016 @ 11:16am
I said I was looking forward to more information.
Didn't know it was going to be sad.
Thanks Dennis for completing the history.
L.E. on 15th January 2016 @ 1:25pm
Around 1962 our family from Stevenson, WA would usually make a weekly shopping trip to Hood River. I pretty sure my Dad drove down to the marina to take a look at the USS Banner and we noticed a sign saying "Tours Available". So the next Saturday my older brother and I bugged our parents and so on the way to go shopping they gave each of us maybe $0.25 for the tour and dropped us off at the ship.
I remember a young man gave us the tour. About all I remember that the stair from the engine room to the main deck was long and steep.
Bill Magruder on 26th April 2017 @ 4:41pm