uss auk (am-38)

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USS Auk (AM-38) was an Lapwing-class minesweeper acquired by the U.S. Navy after World War I for the task of removing mines that had been placed during the war.


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2. USS Auk (AM-38) was c. 1935 Aleutian Islands, Alaskaan Lapwing- Career (US)class minesweeper acquired by Ordered:as Minesweeper No. 38the U.S. Navy after World War I forLaid down:20 June 1918the task of removing mines that Launched: 28 September 1918had been placed during the war.The first ship to be named Auk by Commissioned: 31 January 1919the Navy, Minesweeper No. Struck: 28 January 193738 was laid down on 20 June 1918Fate:fate uncertainat New York City by the ToddGeneral characteristicsShipyard Corp.; launched on 28Displacement:950 long tons (970 t)September 1918; sponsored byLength: 187 ft 10 in (57.25 m)Miss Nan McArthur Beattiedaughter of a Todd Shipyard Beam: 35 ft 6 in (10.82 m)foremen, and commissioned atDraught:9 ft 9 in (2.97 m) (mean)the New York Navy Yard on 31January 1919, Lt. Gregory CullenPropulsion: triple expansionin command. reciprocating steam engine,one shaftAuk between World WarI and World War II, was converted Speed:14 knotsinto a survey shipfor the Coast and Complement: 82Geodetic Survey, and wasArmament: two .30-cal. Lewis machinegunsrenamed USS Discoverer (ARS-3) as well 3. World War I-relatedservice Upon completion of her initial fitting out and dock trials, Auk proceeded toTompkinsville, Staten Island, on the afternoon of 24 February. There, hercommandingofficerreported to the Commander, Minesweeping Division, 3d Naval District. On 2 March, Auk sailed for Newport, Rhode Island, in company with USS Curlew (AM- 8) (Minesweeper No. 8) and arrived there the next morning. At that port, Lt. Cullen attended a conferenceonboardtheMine Force flagship, USS Baltimore (C-3), on the 5th. Returning to the Mine Sweeping Base at New York on the morning of the 6th, Auk left New York waters the following afternoon, bound for Boston, Massachusetts. 4. Surviving a savage North Atlanticstorm The minesweeper, rolling and pitching heavily as the winds and seasrose, was proceeding on her coastwise voyage when, in the predawndarkness of the 0000-0400 watch on 8 March, men in the crewscompartment detected water entering their space at an alarming rate.While some of the crew bailed doggedly, others rigged a "handy billy",and, later, a wrecking pump, in an effort to cope with the flooding. Lt.Cullen, seeing that Auk was taking water faster than it was humanlypossible to pump it out or bail it, prudently decided to seek refuge for hisship.Auk accordingly altered course at 0905 and plunged through the roughseas and a veritable curtain of fog, while her foghorn blared its warning.She anchored that afternoon, but waves breaking over the after deckfoiled attempts to rig the heavy-duty wrecking pumps into the after hold(into which the water was coming, through the rudder stock) since it wasimpossible to remove the hatch without allowing more water to get belowin the process. Then just as the fog began to lift to the northward and theship prepared to weigh anchor and get underway, the anchor enginejammed. Quick repairs enabled Auks men to begin the process ofhoisting up the hook, but the slow rate at which it was coming up causedsome second thoughts about the whole business - water was gaining inthe crews quarters. Finally, forced to slip 75 fathoms (137 m) of chain andher starboard anchor, the minesweeper got underway and eventuallyreached a safe haven in the lee of Montauk Point. 5. Trying to find her anchor By the next day, the weather had moderated sufficiently to allow Auks crew to pump out the flooded after compartments. While she was attempting to retrieve her lost anchor, the minesweeper received orders to discontinue the search and to proceed to her original destination. Underway as ordered, she reached the Boston Navy Yard at 1115 on the 11th and moored alongside sister shipUSS Oriole (AM-7) (Minesweeper No. 7). Auk remained there for over a month, undergoing repairs and fitting out for her pending duty sweeping the North Sea Mine Barrage. During this time, paravanes ("Burney Gear") were installed in the ship and she underwent necessary upkeep. She departed the yard late on the afternoon of 14 April, standing out of President Roads to anchor for the night 6. Underway for mine clearance in the NorthSeaOn the morning of 15 April, after calibrating hercompasses Auk got underway for the OrkneyIslands,joining threeofher sisterships:USS Heron (AM-10) (Minesweeper No.10), USS Sanderling (AM-37) (Minesweeper No. 37),and Oriole. During their two-week passage the shipsoccasionally gained an extra knot or two by hoistingtrysails to catch prevailing zephyrs. All went well untiltwo days from their destination, when steering gearcasualties briefly disabled first Heron, and then Auk,each time necessitating Orioles towing them duringtheir respective times of trouble. Ultimately, the fourminesweepers reached Kirkwall, Orkney Islands, on29 April 1919, shortly after the MinesweepingDetachment flagship,thedestroyertender USS Black Hawk (AD-9) (Destroyer TenderNo. 9), arrived to establish the headquarters there 7. Boatswains Mate killed during first day ofmine clearance Among the last of the minesweepers to reach Orkney Islands Auk missed the first, experimental, mine clearance (29 April to 2 May) that proved but a preliminary to the monumental task that lay ahead. However, before she actually started operations in the minefields,Auk suffered the first fatality of the operation when, at 0955 on 3 May, Boatswains Mate 1st Class William McHaskell, while engaged in unreeling sweep wire from the drum of the anchor engine, was caught between the wrist pin bearing of the engine and the sweeping drum itself and sustained crushing pelvic injures. Although taken to Black Hawk within minutes, McHaskell died soon afterwards. That evening, a Naval Board of Inquiry which met to ascertain the particulars of the death of the boatswains mate recommended that safety guards be installed on that equipment in all 8. A difficult task of removing55,000 North Sea mines Over the next five months, Auk and her sister ships - together with a group of 110-foot subchasers ((SCs)) supported by a truly Allied flotilla of British and American logistics and repair ships and loaned British Admiralty naval trawlers - carried out the dangerous task of sweeping some 55,000 mines sown in 1918 between the coasts of Scotland and Norway to bottle up the German U-boats in their North Sea lairs. Auk spent over 95 days on the minefields in the often "dirty" weather associated with the North Sea and, like her sister ships, encountered many frustrations that dogged the sweepers and their supporting craft as they carried out their unprecedented mission of clearing the sea lanes to permit a resumption of civilian commerce in the wake of World War I. 9. Tow wirewrapsaround Auks prop Underway from Kirkwall at 0600 on 10 May, Auk took SC-46 in tow and proceeded to the minefields in company with her division mates, Oriole, Heron, and Sanderling, each in turn towing a chaser. Misfortune, however, seemed determined to stalk Auk. While she was passing sweep wire to Oriole, the line snagged in Auks propeller. Slipping the troublesome wire failed to solve the problem, soOriole took her sister ship in tow, but soon turned over the towing task to USS Robin (AM-3) (Minesweeper No. 3), which took her disabled sister ship to Lerwick, in the Shetland Islands. There, British divers from the tender Edna removed the sweep on 13 May. 10. Continuedminesweepingafter repairs Auk returned to the minefields and teamed with Oriole to conduct a sweep on the afternoon of the 14th. During her first pass she cut loose three mines, one fouling the "kite" astern and the other two fouling the line itself. Over the next few days, Auk carried out the repetitious task of sweeping, again in company with Oriole. A mine exploding nearby Auk on the afternoon of the 15th shook the ship considerably but apparently did no damage. The minesweeper varied her daily routine in the minefields - which lasted into late May by escorting SC-356 to Lerwick and back on 17 and 18 May. During the latter half of the month, Auk teamed with,ondifferent occasions, Oriole, USS Swan (AM-34) (Minesweeper No. 34), or USS Kingfisher (AM-25) (Minesweeper No. 25). Returning to Kirkwall on 29 May, Auk refueled there from the British 11. Damaged in third barrageclearance operation During June, Auk participated in the third clearance operation on the barrage, getting underway from Kirkwall for the minefields on 5 June and returning to port on the 27th. She broke up the routine with brief visits to Kirkwall and Otterswick (9 and 12 June, respectively), but spent most of the month on the barrage. This time around, her sweeping partners included the familiar Oriole, Robin, andUSS Swallow (AM-4) (Minesweeper No. 4). Highlighting this operation was the shaking-up suffered by the ship when a mine exploded on 21 June. At 1827, an explosion 50 yards astern sent out shock waves that tripped the generators (plunging the engine and fire rooms into darkness) and knocked down part of the brick walls in her two boilers. Fortunately, the damage was not serious enough to incapacitate the ship, and she resumed sweeping operations the next day. 12. Auk serves as flagship During the next two minesweeping operations that followed Auk served as the flagship for the detachment commander, Capt. Roscoe C. Bulmer, a highly regarded man, revered by the men he commanded.[citation needed] Capt. Bulmer embarked for the first time at Kirkwall on 7 July 1919 when he broke his broad pennant in Auk shortly before she proceeded to sea. That day, she teamed with her old consortOriole in sweeping a portion of the field that had been laid on 13 October of the previous year and, on the following day, sweptin company with USS Eider (AM-17) (Minesweeper No. 17). 13. Mine damage to several ships A chronicler of the North Sea Mine Barrage clearance wrote about the 9th of July: "...misfortune did not rain; it poured". Mines damagedthree minesweepers, the tug, USS Patuxent (AT-11), and a subchaser. Again sweeping in company with Eider, Auk hit a mine at 0925 that detonated another mine 25 yards (23 m) off her starboard bow in a chain reaction; there was also a third explosion (probably caused by the second) 30 yards astern, carrying away the sweep and resulting in the loss of a "kite" and 70 fathoms (130 m) of wire. 14. Auk tries to rescue Pelican, damaged bymines an upper level mine exploded beneath USS Pelican (AM-27) (MinesweeperAt 1000,No. 27), which in turn triggered five simultaneous countermines around her. The littleship disappeared in a veritable cloud of spray that, when it subsided,revealed Pelican heavily hit, battered, and holed,assuming a list before beginning tosettle. As the apparently sinking minesweeper wallowed in the swells, Auk, with Capt.Bulmer directing the rescue operations, immediately altered course to close with hersister ship.Passing a line at 1008, within 10 minutes of the explosions, she drewalongside Pelican. After one hose line parted, Auk passed another to aid Pelican inpumping out the rapidly rising water below-decks. However, the rough seasrepeatedly slammed the ships together, damaging lines and hoses and forcing theirreplacement. At 1054, USS Teal (AM-23) (Minesweeper No. 23) passed a towlineand began moving ahead with the crippled Pelican, in turn tethered to Auk, astern.Eiderfell inwiththegroup as itlabored ahead,securingto Pelicans starboard side, Eider and Auk acting much in the fashion of waterwings,keeping their sister ship afloat between them. Difficulties soon arose, however, as theships struggled toward the Orkney Islands. A head sea sprang up, tossing theminecraft about and straining moorings and hose lines. Pump lines were carriedaway andPelican began to settle further by the bow. The pressure of the water in theflooded forward compartments in the damaged ship now buckled and distorted theforward fireroom bulkhead, the only barrier that could save Pelican from sinking. 15. The battle to keep Pelican afloat At 2300, Capt. Bulmer ordered most of Pelicans crew transferred to Eider. A dozen volunteers chosen from the crew (all had stepped forward when asked to hazard staying on board) all that was absolutely necessary "to care for the ship" remained on board Pelican. Gradually, however, the pumps of Auk and Eider, working full capacity after the lines had been repaired and again placed inoperation,succeededin lowering Pelicans waterline. The battle to keep Pelican afloat continued on into the night and into the predawn darkness, men standing by with axes to chop through the mooring lines should Pelican give any indication of imminent sinking. Finally, on the morning of 10 July, the valiant little flotilla limped into Tresness Bay where Auks pumps continued to help lower her sister ships waterline even further. Underway to return to Kirkwall at 1726, Auk reached her destination a little over four hours later and Capt. Bulmer (whose seamanship many credited with having saved Pelican) disembarked. The next day Auk took Rear Admiral ElliottStrauss,Commander, MineForce, from Kirkwall to Inverness, Scotland, before she returned to Kirkwall, ready to resume operations 16. Captain Bulmer killed in an autoaccidentShortly after midnight on 22 July, Capt. Bulmertransferred his command pennant from BlackHawk to Auk and wore it in the ship as sheteamed with Oriole during the detachments fifthmine clearance operation. Capt. Bulmerdisembarked for the last time at 0017 on 1August and, tragically, just three days latersuffered severe injuries in an automobileaccident. He died on 5 August, and his loss wasfelt tremendously throughout the detachment,since his intrepid personality had stamped itselfon the force and inspired it during his time incommand. 17. Auk loses another Boatswains Mate tothe seaAuk subsequently took part in two additionalminesweeping operations that lasted through lateSeptember, drawing her participation in this epicventure to a close when she anchored at Kirkwall on26 September 1919. During the first of thesemissions (mid-to-late August), Auk ranged as far asthe coast of Norway, touching at the portsof Stavenger and Hangeand, and Bommel Fjord.During this operation, Auk suffered her secondfatality: at 0715 on 31 August a kite wire, jumping outof a chock, knocked Boatswains Mate 1st Class LeeA. Singleton over the side. Auk immediatelycommenced maneuvering to pick him up, cutting thesweep wire, throwing over a life buoy, and hoistingthe man overboard signal, but a one-hour searchfailed to find the missing man. 18. Repaired at Invergordon from minedamageDrydocked at Invergordon on 2 and 3September to repair damage suffered whenmines exploded close aboard on 30August, Aukperformed local tug and towingduties at Kirkwall in mid-September beforeresuming operations in the minefields laterthat month. 19. European tour after completion ofNorth Sea work After completing her work in the North Sea, Auk, her sister ships, and the support craft that had serviced them headed for home. Underway from Kirkwall on 1 October, Auk reached Plymouth, England, on the 5th, and underwent voyage repairs there until the 16th, when she left the British Isles and headed for the coast of France reaching Brest on the morning of the 17th. After steaming from there to Lisbon, Portugal, for a brief period of upkeep alongside Black Hawk, Auk began her homeward voyage on the afternoon of 24 October. Auk refueling at sea from Black Hawk while approaching Bermuda on 11 November, an event necessitated by the discovery two days before that the after peak tank had leaked salt water, thus contaminating the oil. Reducing speed to conserve fuel, Auk was taken in tow by Swallow later that day, the former hoisting sail to help in keeping on course. On the morning of the 10th, Auk went alongsideBlack Hawk in an attempt at underway replenishment, only to have the fuel hose carry away and foul the minesweepers propeller.Black Hawk then towed Auk throughout the night. In another attempt at refueling between 0925 and 1115 the next morning, Auk took on board 20 tons of oil and reached Grassy Bay, 20. The Secretary of the Navywelcomes minesweeps back tothe StatesTompkinsville, Staten Island, on 19Auk reachedNovember. Anchoring in the North River on 21November, near her old sweepingpartner, Oriole, Auk lay in that waterwaywhen Secretaryof theNavy JosephusDaniels reviewed the assembled mine forcesweepers, chasers, and tenders. On the 24th, fromthe deck of USS Meredith (DD-165) (Destroyer No.165). Daniels reported: "Upon their return to theUnited States they [the ships of the MinesweepingDetachment] were given a welcome as genuine aswhen our dreadnoughtsreturned from serviceabroad" and "voiced the countrys appreciation of themagnificent and successful completion of that mosthazardous and strenuous operation." 21. Between the wars activity andinactivityThe Minesweeping Detachment was demobilized,and itsships scatteredthroughoutthefleet. Auk departed Tompkinsville on the morning of27 November and, with USS Quail (AM-15) (Minesweeper No. 15), proceeded up the easternseaboard, reaching Portsmouth, New Hampshire, onthe afternoon of the 28th. During a year in which sheremained inactive at Portsmouth, Auk was given thealphanumeric hull designation AM 38 on 17 July1920. She was placed "in ordinary," with no crew onboard, on 28 December 1920. Although stillinactive, Auk was assignedto Division1 Minesweeping Squadron, on 8 January 1921. 22. United States Coast andGeodetic Survey career Main article: USC&GS Discoverer (1918) While Auk lay in reserve, the Coast and Geodetic Survey found itself in urgent need of ships to replace those which, for reasons of age or unsuitability for the work to be performed, had been disposed of. Under the terms of the ExecutiveOrderof 12October 1921,AukandUSS Osprey (AM-29) - renamed USC&GS Discoverer and USC&GS Pioneer, respectively - were taken to the Boston Navy Yardand transferred to the Coast and Geodetic Survey on 7 April 1922. Discoverer served in the Coast and Geodetic Survey as a survey ship until the summer of 1941, primarily in the waters of the Territory of Alaska. 23. World War II operations With the expansion of the American Navy during this time between the outbreak of war in Europe and the entry of the United States in the conflict (1939 to 1941), that service cast about for auxiliary vessels to support the growing number of combatant ships.Discoverer converted into a salvageship One of the ships the Navy now sought was USC&GS Discoverer, and the Executive Order of 19 June 1941 authorized the Navy to take her over for service as a salvage ship. The ship concluded her last operations with the Coast and Geodetic Survey in the summer of 1941 having worked out of Dutch Harbor, Cold Bay, Womens Bay, and Kodiak since the previous springand departed Ketchikan on 22 July 1941, bound for Seattle and turnover to the Navy. 24. Pearl Harbor under attack Arriving at Seattle on 25 July, Discoverer -- the retention of her name by the Navy approved on 5 August 1941shifted to pier 41,Seattle, Washington, on the afternoon of 26 August. There, at 1440, Lt. Comdr. E. Froberg accepted custody of the ship. Assigned to the Lake Union plant, at Seattle, in October 1941 for degaussing and conversion, Discovererclassified asARS-underwent ametamorphosis over the next few months, the work was still in progress when the Japanese attacked the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941.Discoverer transferred to civilian crew Delivered to the well-known salvage firm of Merritt, Chapman and Scott, Inc., who were to operate the vessel under a contract let by theBureau of Ships, on 16 February 1942, Discoverer was based in familiar waters throughout hostilitieswith Japan, herportsof call including Kodiak, Dutch Harbor, Cold Bay, Nome, and Womens Bay. 25. Wartime activityHighlighting this duty was the assistance rendered to the U.S. CoastGuard-manned transport USS Arthur Middleton (AP-55) which had runaground while rescuing survivors from the wrecked USS Worden (DD-352) which had previously run aground herself at Amchitka on 12January 1943. Ironically, after bearing an almost charmed life while inthe Coast Survey, operating in the tricky waters ofthe Alaskacoastline, Discoverer sustained serious bottom damagewhen she grounded off the coast of Prince Rupert Island on 20November 1943 and required assistance from the Navytug USS Tatnuck (ATO-27).Post-World War II activityFollowing repairs, Discoverer remained with Merritt, Chapman, andScott into 1946. After it had been recommended on 18 November 1946that the ship be struck from the Navy list and turned over tothe Maritime Commission for "disposal as a usable vessel," indicatingthat to some, the venerable minesweeper/survey ship/salvage vesselstill had some years left - Discoverer was withdrawn from service theday after Christmas of 1946 and her name was struck from the Navylist on 28 January 1947. 26. An uncertain disposition Exactly what happened next is not clear. One source indicates that the ship was accepted by the Maritime Commission at Port Nordland, Washington, and delivered to her purchaser, J. W. Rumsey, on 9 June 1947. Another source, however, gives the 9 June 1947 date, but lists the ship as sold to the government of Venezuela. In any event, Felipe Larrazabal (R-11), ex-Discoverer, ex-Auk, appeared in contemporary naval publications into the 1960s. Eventually decommissioned around 1962, the erstwhile minecraft was reportedly still afloat in a back channel, in a "non-operable condition" as late as 1968. Her ultimate disposition, however, is not known.