Monday, March 29, 1999

Special to the Star-Bulletin
The USNS Yano.

New Navy combat
cargo ship named after
isle Korean War hero

The USNS Mendonca
will be launched next month
at New Orleans

By Gregg K. Kakesako


THE second of three Navy combat cargo ships named after Medal of Honor recipients from Hawaii will be launched next month.

The USNS Mendonca (T-AKR 303), one of the Navy's 19 large medium-speed roll-on/roll-off ships, will be launched April 10 by Avondale Industries in New Orleans.

The vessel will be named after Korean War Army Sgt. Leroy Mendonca, a member of the 7th Regiment, 3rd Division, awarded the nation's highest medal for valor posthumously after defending against a night assault near Chich-on in Korea on July 4, 1951.

Mendonca, then 19, is credited with killing 37 North Korean soldiers, fighting the enemy with his rifle butt and bayonet when his ammunition ran out on Hill 586. Mendonca remained behind to cover his platoon's withdrawal.

Later this year the Navy also will launch the USNS Pililaau (T-AKR 304) -- a similar combat cargo vessel, named after another Hawaii Korean War Medal of Honor winner,Private 1st Class Herbert Pililaau.

Pililaau, a member of the 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Division, died while defending a portion of "Heartbreak Ridge" near Pi-ri on Sept. 17, 1951. He also stayed behind after his unit, C Company,was ordered to withdraw after running low on ammunition.

Pililaau, then 23, is credited with killing 40 North Koreans, fighting hand to hand with his trench knife and bare fists after he ran out of ammunition.

The USNS Pililaau will be launched Oct. 16.

Both vessels are part of the Bob Hope class cargo ships being built by the Avondale Industries. Each vessel is 950 feet in length and will be able to carry 62,000 tons.

On Jan. 18, 1998, another cargo vessel -- a rebuilt commercial container ship -- was launched in San Diego and named after Sgt. 1st Class Rodney Yano -- a Vietnam War Medal of Honor recipient.

All three vessels will be crewed by merchant mariners under contract to the Military Sealift Command.

The Yano is part of the military's combat prepositioning force and carries equipment and supplies for a heavy armored Army brigade with 120 tanks and its support elements. The Yano is stationed in the Arabian Gulf.

Ships like the Yano are floating warehouses containing equipment, munitions, and supplies to support up to 6,000 soldiers for 15 days.

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