13 September 1946 – 3 August 2022
“I think we’re in a minefield.”
“So, what’s my job today,” asked retired Navy Captain Paul X. Rinn at a 2010 seminar at the Naval Postgraduate School on 3 August 2010. “My job is to tell you a story. It’s a story of bravery. It’s the story of the Samuel B. Roberts.”
Captain Rinn passed away on 3 August 2022.
In April 1988, Captain Rinn led a largely inexperienced crew in saving the USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG58) that struck an M-08 contact mine in the Arabian Gulf and should have sunk, were it not for his leadership––still taught throughout the Navy and academic community.
“I had a crew of 220 sailors from different backgrounds and places of origin, with varying levels of education and very minimal experience––67 percent of the crew had never been out to sea and another 20 had only one tour under their belts.”
The explosion broke the ship’s keel and blew a hole in the hull beneath the waterline. Superheated gases tore through the ship’s exhaust vents then a fireball burst from the ship’s stack, lighting fires on four decks. The engine room and one auxiliary machinery space flooded immediately. A third space began to fill and might sink the ship.
Several times during the crisis, Captain Rinn was asked if he wanted to abandon ship, and he refused. Later, when asked why he wouldn’t he said, “Commanding Officers are not given ships in the United States Navy to surrender them or give them up, we’re there to fight for them!”
“The crew fought for their lives,” he recalled. “They were proud of themselves and very self-confidant. They had a sense of who they were, ordinary individuals can accomplish extraordinary feats if they are well trained and led as well as given a sense of focus and purpose. That was the whole premise behind Samuel B. Roberts, that was the whole thing we were trying to do – make your people believe that they can do better than they ever thought they could do and then execute that.”
Captain Rinn was awarded the Legion of Merit with Combat “V” and received United States Congress’s 1989 National Day of Excellence Award, the 1989 Stephen Decatur Award for Operational Excellence, and the 1995 U.S. Navy League John Paul Jones Award for Inspirational Leadership.
He later served in major commands including Commanding Officer, USS Leyte Gulf (CG-55), a Ticonderoga(CG-47)-class guided-missile cruiser named for the 1944 battle in which USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413) was sunk.
Captain Rinn retired from the Navy in 1997.