Paul Rinn is one of the world’s most accomplished Naval Leaders, and today, we remember his legacy that will continue to inspire the future generation in the Navy. 

Capt. Paul X. Rinn was a Vietnam War veteran who served in the Navy for 29 years. He was the very first commanding officer of the USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG-58) and the USS Leyte Gulf (CG-55). He also served in the Iraq War and was awarded multiple recognitions, including “Meritorious Service Media 5,” “Joint Service Commendation Media,” “Navy Commendation Medal,” “Navy Achievement Medal,” “Combat Action Ribbon,” and the “Purple Heart.”

And those were not just some decorative plaques and awards. Capt. Rinn’s outstanding journey to leading the Navy was nothing short of remarkable. He was born in the Bronx, New York, in 1946 to a lawyer father and a grade school teacher mother. They instilled a sense of discipline in him, but it was his older brother Greg (a Navy officer) who really inspired him to pursue the Navy too. 

Capt. Rinn was more than just his physical strength. He also got the brains to match it. After attending Marist College in 1968, he obtained a Master’s degree in Business Administration while studying at the Naval War College. He also had credits from his studies at Harvard University, Standford University, and Salve Regina. 

Capt. Rinn and His Legend

The guided-missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58) arrives at Naval Station Mayport after completing a six-month deployment in the U.S. Africa Command area of responsibility. The crew of Samuel B. Roberts conducted theater security operations and provided deterrence, promoted peace and security, and preserved freedom of the seas. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean P. La Marr/Released)

On April 14th, 1988, Capt. Rinn was leading the crew of the USS Samuel B. Roberts(call the “Sammy B” by her crew) into the war-torn Persian Gulf while they were protecting Kuwaiti tankers during the Iran-Iraq War. While on a convoy protection mission, the ship struck an Iranian contact mine, which exploded and blew a truck-sized hole in the hull.  And this is when things got tricky. 

Dozens of crew members were injured, tons of seawater were flooding the ships, there was a major fire and the warship’s electrical power had been cut. 

A view of damage to the hull of the guided missile frigate USS SAMUEL B. ROBERTS (FFG-58) sustained when the ship struck a mine while on patrol in the Persian Gulf on April 14, 1988. The ship is in dry dock undergoing temporary repairs.

Captain Rinn and his crew sprung into action to save their ship. The crew had been trained extensively in damage control techniques, but what nothing could prepare them for what they were facing here.  The ship was holed at the bottom, her keel, which supported the entire structure of the vessel had snapped.  She was now two halves of one ship held together by her upper structures. Without electrical power, they could not pump out the water or fire the fires and her engines were knocked out.  The crew first worked to get emergency diesel generators working to restore some power to the pumps and hoses and restore lighting to interior spaces that were lit now by battery-operated lanterns. Once electrical power was restored damage control crew went to work patching opened seams with anything they could lay their hands on, including mattresses and pillows wedged into them and braced with beams of wood and metal.

Still, the water kept rising and the ship was settling into the sea.