Navy Ships Have Sailed Under East Central Indiana (ECI) Names
By Ric Routledge
The Star Press (Muncie, Indiana)
Thursday, December 6, 2001

Submitted by
Frank Handibode
and Jennifer Welker (Jim Thomas' daughter)

HISTORY: The Mississinewa was the only U. S. vessel sunk by a Japanese Kamikaze torpedo.
    PORTLAND - Even though the nearest ocean is more than 500 miles away from East Central Indiana (ECI), many U.S. Navy vessels have been named after local points of
    The Salamonie River meanders barely 50 miles through Jay and Blackford counties. Yet its ocean-going namesake - The USS Salamonie - saw action in the Atlantic and South Pacific during World War II, according to Roy Leverich, Jay County Veterans Ser-
vice Officer.
    Other ships named after ECI points of interest include the Munsee, an ocean-going
tugboat; the Blackford, a barracks ship; the Wabash; and the Mississinewa.
    The Blackford, named for Blackford County, was said to have been the second ship
into Tokyo Bay after World War II to serve as housing for peace negotiators.
    The Mississinewa had the dubious distinction of being the only ship ever sunk by a
Japanese kamikaze torpedo.
    The Munsee came to its rescue and its crew tried to put out the fire.
    John Lichoff, Norwalk, Ohio, served, aboard the Salamonie from 1957 to 1959.
    "We were workhorses, not spit and polish. We were in the 'dungaree' navy," Lichoff said in a telephone interview.
    "Old Sal" was an oiler. It refueled other ships at sea, including submarines and even dirigibles.
    "A dirigible would match our speed, about 18 knots, and drop a fueling line down to us, and we'd pump fuel up to it," Lichoff said.
    The Salamonie had several distinguished captains, including Edward L. Beach, the author of  Run Silent, Run Deep.
    The ship was originally laid down as a commercial tanker for Esso Oil in 1940. Called the Esso Columbia, it was taken over by the Navy during its construction and named the Salamonie. It was commissioned in April 1941.
    After the war, it shuttled oil products from the Persian Gulf to U.S. naval bases in the Far East. Throughout the 1950s and into the '60s, the Salamonie steamed the Atlantic and Caribbean and made deployments to the Mediterranean.
    It was decommissioned December 1968 and sold to a scrap firm in the Netherlands in 1970.
    Leverich said there is - or at least was - a pattern to the way the navy names' its ships. Oilers, such as the Salamonie, were named after rivers with Indian names.
    Tankers, which haul fuel, were named 
after rivers and cities with the same name, such as the Wabash. Battleships were named after states. Light cruisers
were named after small cities, and heavy cruisers were named after large cities. Destroyers were named after people who contributed to the navy and submarines are named after fish.
    "Politics has changed everything," said Leverich, who spent 25 years in the U.S. Navy and 3 years in the Royal Dutch Navy. "Senators, congressmen and even governors want to make sure their districts get attention, so the naming patterns have been changed in recent years," Leverich said.
    All of the ships related to ECI points of interest have been scrapped, except for the Wabash.
    There have been five or six ships called the Wabash. The name is recycled because there is a class of ships that must be named after a city and a river with identical names, and there aren't many city-river names.

Contact Ric Routledge at or 765-213-5829.

Ahoy, shipmates:
    John Lichoff, president of the USS Salamonie Association, is seeking former
shipmates. If you know of someone who served aboard the USS Salamonie, call Lichoff at (419) 668-8666.
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