The Naval Historical Foundation mourns the loss of Capt. Paul X. Rinn, an individual who embraced history as Surface Warfare Officer, a factor that likely contributed to the survival of his ship – the guided missile frigate Samuel B. Roberts (FFG-58) – when she hit an Iranian-laid mine on April 14, 1988 in the Persian Gulf. Captain Rinn’s embracing the heritage of the previous two ships to carry the Samuel B. Roberts name was eloquently told in Bradley Peniston’s No Higher Honor: Saving the USS Samuel B. Roberts in the Persian Gulf (Naval Institute Press 2006).
Inspired by those Sailors who crewed the destroyer escort Samuel B. Roberts (DE 413) that took on Vice Admiral Kurita’s battleline off Samar in October 1944 during the battle of Leyte Gulf, Captain Rinn’s bluejackets “did not give up the ship” in keeping with the Navy’s finest traditions.
Born in 1946 in the Bronx, Rinn entered the Navy through Officer Candidate School after attaining a degree from Marist College. Following his commissioning in 1968, Rinn served in the destroyer Sarsfield (DD 837) that took a turn on the gun-line off South Vietnam and then served as a military advisor in Southeast Asia, managing a harrowing escape from Cambodia in 1975 as that country fell to the Khmer Rouge.
After serving a tour his department head tour in the frigate Blakely (FF 1072), Rinn spent the last years of the 70s as an exchange officer with the Canadian Navy before he attended the Naval War College and simultaneously attained an MBA from Salve Regina University.
Back to sea in 1981 as the XO of the frigate Bowen (FF 1079), Rinn continued to earn sea pay as the Chief Staff Officer of Destroyer Squadron 36 before receiving ordered to be the pre-commissioning CO of the Samuel B. Roberts. As the commissioning commanding officer, Rinn prepared his crew for assignment to the Persian Gulf where the U.S. Navy escorted American-flagged merchant ships during Operation Ernest Will. Rinn acted aggressively when Iranian forces challenged the shipping lanes. Rinn later came to realize the Iranians exploited that aggressiveness against him and his ship.
In retaliation for the mining of Rinn’s ship, President Reagan approved of Operation Praying Mantis. April 18, 1988 would prove to be a devastating day for the Iranian Navy.
Given his recent real-world experience Rinn led the Navy’s Surface Ship Combat Readiness and Survivability office in the Pentagon. Promoted to captain in 1990, he served as Executive Assistant to the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Surface Warfare. Rinn’s taking command of the guided missile cruiser Leyte Gulf (CG 58) in 1994 fell near the 50 th anniversary of that battle for which the ship was named. Returning to the Persian Gulf in Leyte Gulf, Rinn was the commander of the Iraqi Oil Embargo Task Force in the Red Sea and later Embargo Commander and Strike Commander in the Northern Persian Gulf. Following his tour on Leyte Gulf, Rinn served as a Special Assistant to two successive Chiefs of Naval Operations: Admirals Mike Boorda and Jay Johnson.
Retiring from the United States Navy in 1997. He took an executive vice president position at the international consulting firm Whitney, Bradley and Brown, retiring again in 2012. As an active member of the Surface Navy Association, Rinn chaired that organizations History and Recognition committee and organized the annual History Night during the annual Surface Navy Association annual symposium. Rinn himself was inducted into the Surface Warfare Hall of Fame in 2008.
Additional honors bestowed on Captain Rinn in addition to numerous military awards included receipt of the 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.
Captain Rinn’s funeral service will be at 1100 on Friday, 12 August, at Saint Raymond of Penafort Catholic Church in Springfield, Virginia.