The Yorktown class was the successor of the Ranger, and the
second purpose-build class of US carriers.
These ships were most durable. Each of them suffered damage at a number of
occasions, and although two of the class were sunk, they had had to
The Yorktown hold a special place in Midway folklore. Damaged in the Battle of The Coral Sea, Yorktown was hastily prepared to engage at the Battle of Midway. At Midway, Yorktown took tremendous punishment.
With all this, the Yorktown still did not sink until the next day
A First Lady's Ship
Built by Newport News, laid down 21 May 1934, launched 4 April
1936, commissioned 30 Sept 1937.
|USS ENTERPRISE CV-6|
(CV-6: dp. 19,800; 1. 809'6"; b. 83'1"; cw. 114'; dr. 28',s. 33 k.; cpl. 2919; a. 8 5", 38 cal.; cl. Yorktown)
The seventh Enterprise (CV-6) was launched 3 October 1936 by Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co., Newport News, Va, sponsored by Mrs. Claude A. Swanson, wife of the Secretary of the Navy; and commissioned 12 May 1938, Captain N. H. White in command.
The USS Enterprise was a Yorktown Class Aircraft carrier, She was the sixth carrier built by the US Navy and was commissioned on 5/12/38. She participated in every major battle in the pacific except Coral Sea as she was escorting the Hornet on the Dolittle Raid. The Enterprise many times held the line alone in the pacific. She was the most decorated ship in US History. She Earned 20 Battlestars, Sank 72 ships and destroyed 911 planes. She recieved the Presidential & Navy unit Citations
The carrier entered Pearl Harbor on 26 May and began intensive preparations to meet the expected Japanese thrust at Midway Island. Two days later she sortied as flagship of Rear Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, CTF 16, with orders "to hold Midway and inflict maximum damage on the enemy by strong attrition tactics." With Enterprise in TF 16 were Hornet, 6 cruisers, and 10 destroyers. On 30 May, TF 17, Rear Admiral Frank J. Fletcher in Yorktown (CV-5), with two cruisers, and six destroyers, sailed to support TF 16; as senior officer, Rear Admiral Fletcher became "Officer in Tactical Command."
Battle was joined on the morning of 4 June 1942 when four Japanese carriers, unaware of the presence of U.S. forces, launched attacks on Midway Island. Just 3 hours after the first bomb fell on Midway, planes from Hornet struck the enemy force, and 30 minutes later Enterprise and Yorktown aircraft streaked in to join in smashing the Japanese carriers. Each side hurled attacks at the other during the day in one of history's most decisive battles. Though the forces were in contact to 7 June, by the end of the 4th the outcome had been decided and the tide of the war in the Pacific had been turned in the United States' favor. Yorktown and Hammann (DD412) were the only United States ships sunk, but TFs 16 and 17 lost a total of 113 planes, 61 of them in combat, during the battle. Japanese losses, far more severe, consisted of 4 carriers, 1 cruiser, and 272 carrier aircraft. Enterprise and all other ships of TFs 16 and 17 came through undamaged, returning to Pearl Harbor on 13 June 1942
8 x 127mm L/38 in single, open emplacements
16 x 28mm
16 x 20mm
8 x 127mm L/38
42 x 40mm L/56
32 x 20mm
Standard: 19800 tons
Full: 25500 tons
Length: 246.9 meters
Beam: 33.2 meters
(Hornet, 34.8 meters)
Draught: 6.6 meters
Height (Mast): 43.6 meters
Crew (Officers/Men): 306/2613
Speed: 33 Knots
VF-6: 27 F4F4 Wildcats
VB-6: 19 SDB Dauntlesses
VT-6: 14 TBD Devastators
VS-6: 19 SDB Dauntlesses
VF-20: 36 F6F Hellcats
4 F6F-3N Hellcats
VB-20: 34 SB2C Helldivers
VT-20: 19 TBM Avengers
Sinking of the Yorktown and the Destroyer USS Hammann DD 412
By The Japanese Submarime I.168
I.168 (ex 1.68) in a pre-war photo.
Based upon the information received on June 5 from Chikuma's No.4 scout and planning on making first contact at dawn on June 6, CDR Yahachi Tanabe moved I.168 into position. At 0410, a lookout spotted a "black spot starboard ahead!" Within a few moments Tanabe identified Yorktown 20,000 meters away. Tanabe spotted the first two destroyers at 0600, so he submerged and slowed to three knots. As he closed, he counted a total of seven destroyers circling about 1000 meters away. (Actually, there were only six. The seventh was the minesweeper Vireo, which had taken Yorktown in tow.)
Five minutes after Tanabe's sighting, the salvage party re-boarded Yorktown in the continuing effort to save the ship. Some of the party started their work by extinguishing the last of the fires (in the rag storage compartment) and determine the extent of the damage below the waterline. Others began to get rid of weight on the port side and push those planes that were left on board overboard in an effort to correct her list. CAPT Buckmaster ordered Hammann back along side to provide houses to pump water from the stricken carrier and to provide food and water for the salvage party.
Tanabe's next periscope observation was made at 15,000 meters, prompting him to order his crew to prepare for depth charges. It was also during this and subsequent observations that Tanabe noticed Yorktown was drifting (she was actually being towed), but he couldn't tell at what direction or speed. He did know that the movement of the carrier meant he would have to attack from starboard instead of the port attack he had hope to carry out. So he put the scope down and steered by chart and sound for the next few hours.
At 1237 Tanabe raised the periscope and found he was only 500 meters away from Yorktown, so close that his torpedoes would travel under the target. He also was now well inside the circle of destroyers. So he lowered the periscope, moved away from the carrier, again navigated through the labyrinth of destroyers.
When Tanabe looked again, he was 1500 meters from Yorktown, which was just about the perfect distance. At about 1330, I.168 launched two, two torpedo spreads. Monaghan spotted the torpedoes first, and used the talk between ship (TBS) circuit to warn Yorktown. Next to spot the torpedoes was the helpless Hammann, still moored next to the carrier, less than 1,000 yards off the starboard beam. The alarm was sounded on Yorktown at 1335- machine guns blazing- as the first torpedo struck the Hammann and broke her back. The next two passed under the destroyer and struck Yorktown at "frame 85 on starboard side". The fourth torpedo passed astern of Yorktown.
Until the time of I.168's attack, it looked very much like Yorktown would be saved. The fire in the rag storage compartment had been extinguished. Pumps had transferred water from the third deck on port side to the fourth deck on starboard, effectively counter flooding the carrier in spite of her lack of power. Other pumps in the aft engine room were removing water from that compartment and depositing it overboard. Still more pumps aboard Hammann transferred water from the destroyer into Yorktown's empty starboard fuel tanks. All of this hard work, plus the lessening of topside weight, had reduced Yorktown's list from 26 to 22 degrees.
Hammann sank in three minutes. LCDR Arnold E. True, Hammann's CO, broke a rib and lost his wind. Therefore it was her XO, LT Ralph W. Elden, that ordered all hands to abandon ship. Misery for her crew, and Yorktown, was added when her depth charges went off at three levels. The depth charges and torpedo killed nine officers and seventy-two crewmen, wounded several others and weakened Yorktown's hull further. Most of the work done by the salvage party over the last two days was undone in a few horrible seconds. Water began pouring into the ship through the new holes in the hull. The effect actually lessened the carriers list futher- to about 17 degrees. Fearing Yorktown might sink rapidly, Vireo order the tow line cut and doubled back to begin rescuing the survivors.
Depth charging began about 1335 by Gwin, Monaghan and Hughes, with I.168 heading straight for Yorktown. Balch and Benham commenced rescuing the crew of Hammann and the salvage party. For the first hour or so, the destroyers dashed around like angry bees, with their depth charges continuing to damage Yorktown's tender hull. It was not until about 1445 that they first stung, as two depth charges shook Tanabe and his crew. For the next two hours, I.168 battled American destroyers, decreasing oxygen, decreasing power, and chlorine gas. At 1640, when I.168 began to surface, Tanabe decided to let her. He ordered:"Prepare the guns and machine guns for firing. Surface quickly and open fire."
As his boat came to the surface, Tanabe quickly headed to the bridge, only to find three destroyers circling 10,000 meters away. American records show these ships as Benham, Monaghan and Hughes. Tanabe saw no other ships, and concluded he sank Yorktown. After a few minutes the destroyers spotted the sub and turned towards it. With the batteries exhausted, there was nothing to do but try to run as long as possible. He also wired the Rengo Kantai:"We sank Yorktown"
Tanabe and his crew, however, was in quite a dilemma. The electric motor could not be used and he didn't have enough oxygen to submerge, and lookouts kept reporting the destroyers were closing. Soon shells began to splash in the water around the sub. An inquiry by Tanabe into the amount of air in the tanks brought a response of "eighty kgs". He immediately submerged his boat. More good news soon followed from engineering:"The motor can be used" In addition, the depth charging became more and more distant. At 1850, Tanabe triumphantly surfaced his boat. His crew had not eaten or drank for thirteen hours, except for the traditional victory cup at the sound of the torpedo explosions. He and his crew could now celebrate the sinking of an aircraft carrier.
Contrary to Tanabe's initial report, Yorktown had not yet sunk. In fact, the two torpedoes corrected Yorktown's list from 26 to 17degrees. Buckmaster informed CinCPAC of the submarine attack and optimistically stated "with help we will bring her in..." In addition, he requested air cover. Although his salvage party was removed, Buckmaster hoped to start his work again on the morning of June 7. At 2000, Balch, Benham, Gwin and Vireo began circling Yorktown, to be joined by Monaghan and Hughes after midnight. Workers did not lose hope until nearly dawn, and Yorktown, according to CAPT Buckmaster's report to CinCPAC, "turned over... and sank in about 3000 fathoms of water..." at 0458 on June 7. With the end of Yorktown, her escorts set off for Pearl Harbor, and the most important battle to date had come to an end.
One final problem needed to be overcome before I.168 could get back to Japan. She didn't have enough fuel to get back! The Japanese were so confident of victory that Tanabe was told he could refuel at Midway after the battle. By using only two engines on the trip, I.168 made it back with 800 kgs. of fuel to spare.
I-68, a 1400-ton "6A Type" submarine, was built at Kure, Japan. Completed in June 1934, she was renamed I-168 in May 1942. On 6 June 1942, during the Battle of Midway, this submarine torpedoed the already crippled aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV-5) and the destroyer USS Hammann (DD-412), sinking the latter immediately and the carrier the following morning. I-168 was herself sunk in the South Pacific on or about 27 July 1943, perhaps by USS Scamp (SS-277).
(DD-412; dp. 1120; 1. 348' 4"; b. 36'1"; dr. 11'5"; s. 35k.; cpl. 192; a. 4 5", 8 21" tt.; cl. Sims )
The first Hammann (DD-412) was launched by the Federal Shipbuilding & Drydock Co., Kearny, N.J., 4 February 1939; sponsored by Miss Lillian Hammann; and commissioned 11 August 1939, Comdr. A. E. True in command.
Hammann conducted shakedown off the East Coast and for the next 2 years participated in training and readiness operations off both coasts. At Iceland 7 December 1941 when war began, she quickly returned to Norfolk, Va., for fuel and supplies. and departed 6 January 1942 for the Pacific. She arrived San Francisco 22 January via the Panama Canal and sailed 25 February with Vice Admiral Fletcher's Task Force 17 for action in the South Pacific.
The destroyer took part in training maneuvers in the New Caledonia area during early March, and on the 27th the Task Force departed for the Coral Sea. Hammann acted as screening ship and plane guard for Lexington Returning to Tongatabu 20 April, the Task Force sortied again into the Coral Sea 27 April for a surprise air raid on Japanese invasion forces on Tulagi.
While screening the carriers during the air raids on 4 May, Hammann was directed to rescue two fighter pilots downed on Guadalcanal, some 40 miles to the north. Steaming at full speed, the destroyer arrived at dusk and sighted a marker on the beach, which proved to be a parachute. The motor whaleboat was put over the side but dangerous surf prevented it from landing. Consequently, the pilots were recovered with the use oil lines from the boat. This accomplished, an attempt was made to destroy the wreckage of the aircraft, but the rough water made this impossible; Hammann returned to Lexington screen from this successful operation that night.
Four days later, 8 May, came the main action of the Battle of the Coral Sea, the first naval engagement fought entirely on both sides between aircraft and ships. During the exchange of air attacks, Hammann screened the carriers, firing furiously at Japanese torpedo planes as they attacked. Just as the torpedo planes retired, dive bombers appeared, one exploding a bomb a scant 200 yards off Hammann's starboard bow. Lexington, which had taken two devastating torpedo hits to port, was first thought to be under control, but a large internal explosion shortly before 1300, followed later by others, sealed her fate. As the order was given to abandon ship, Hammann, Morris and Anderson stood by to receive survivors. The destroyer picked up nearly 500 men from the water before the gallant "Lady Lex" went down the night of 8 May, torpedoed by destroyer Phelps.
The Battle of the Coral Sea, that checked the Japanese advance to the southeast was over, but new demands called far to the north. Under urgent orders from Admiral Nimitz to meet a new threat, Hammann steamed with the Task Force at high speed to Pearl Harbor, arriving 27 May. Working feverishly to repair and replenish the force got underway 30 May to take part in one Or the decisive battles of history, Midway. Steaming to meet the overwhelming Japanese fleet, the carriers with their protecting destroyers and cruisers, sped to the northeast Just in time. No better example exists in the war of the flexibility and mobility of naval power and the great results that can follow.
During the great air battle of 4 June, Hammann screened Yorktown, helping to shoot down many of the attacking aircraft. But the carrier took two torpedo hits and, listing heavily, was abandoned that afternoon. Hammann again picked up survivors in the water, including Yorktowns skipper, Captain Buckmaster, and transferred them to the larger ships. Next morning, however, efforts were mounted to save the stricken carrier, a skeleton crew returned on board, and attempts were made to tow her to safety. Hammann came alongside 6 June to transfer a damage control party. The destroyer then lay alongside, providing hose and water for fire fighting, power, and other services while tied up next to Yorktown.
The salvage party was making excellent progress when the protective screen was penetrated by a Japanese submarine after noon on 6 June. Four torpedoes were loosed two missed, one passed under Hammann and hit Yorktown, and the fourth hit the destroyer amidships, breaking her back.
Sailors on Yorktown watch the USS Hammann break in two and sink into the ocean
with many crewmen trapped below.
Stern of USS HAMMANN DD sinking into the Pacific as USS YORKTOWN is rocked by torpetoes fired by the Japanese submarine I-168
As the debris from the explosion rained down and the ships lurched apart, it was apparent that the valiant Hammann was doomed. As she settled with sickening quickness life rafts were lowered and rescue efforts began by ships in company. The ship sank in just 4 minutes and following the sinking a violent underwater explosion caused many deaths in the water, bringing the toll in dead to over 80. Survivors were taken on board Benham and Balch.
Hammann thus was lost after taking a distinguished part in two of the most important Pacific battles, turning points in the war and history. The action at Midway Was a victory of intelligence bravely applied by Admiral Nimitz and his Fleet, the first really smashing defeat inflicted on the Japanese.
Hammann received two battle stars for service in World War II.
USS Vireo AT-144
One Tough Little Tug
A small, insectivorous, migratory bird common to the New World.
(Minesweeper No. 52: dp. 840; l. 187'10"; b. 35'5"; dr. 8'10"; cpl. 186; a. 2 3"; cl. Lapwing)
Vireo (Minesweeper No. 52) was laid down on 20 November 1918 by the Philadelphia Navy Yard; launched on 26 May 1919; sponsored by Mrs. E. S. Robert; and commissioned on 16 October 1919, Lt. Ernest R. Piercey in command Vireo was assigned to the Train, Atlantic Fleet, and operated along the east coast until she departed Norfolk on 8 January 1920 and headed for Cuban waters to join the Fleet for its annual winter maneuvers. Returning north three months later, she arrived back in Norfolk on 28 April. She was reclassified AM-52 on 17 July 1920.
In the following years, while some of her sisterships were decommissioned and laid up in reserve, Vireo continued in active service with the Fleet. From 1920 to 1932, she served off the east coast engaged in towing targets; transporting men, mail, and materiel; repairing buoys and beacons; and operating with the Atlantic and Scouting Fleets.
In July 1921, she towed several former German warships to sea off the Virginia capes, where they were sunk by aircraft in attempts to prove that capital ships were vulnerable to attack from the air. Between December 1930 and March 1931, Vireo served as plane guard for aircraft engaged in supporting the Nicaraguan-Puerto Rican aerial survey.
Late in 1931, Vireo received orders assigning her to the Pacific Fleet and duty with the Train, Base Force. Departing Norfolk on 2 January 1932, Vireo steamed-via Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. and the Panama Canal to the west coast, arriving at San Pedro, Calif., on 6 March. Attached to the Pacific Fleet's Train, the minesweeper continued her Fleet support duties and ranged the Pacific from the California coast to Panama and the Hawaiian Islands.
With the emergence of an intransigent Japan and a tense Far Eastern situation, the focus of American Fleet operations shifted westward to Hawaii; and Vireo departed San Francisco on 10 November 1940, bound for Pearl Harbor. Soon after reaching Hawaiian waters, she commenced operations out of Pearl Harbor, towing target rafts, conducting minesweeping exercises, and performing towing service to some of the outlying islands of the Hawaiian group, including Palmyra and Johnston.
From 5 September to 7 October 1941, Vireo underwent a navy yard overhaul at the Mare Island Navy Yard before heading westward once again. On 7 December 1941, Vireo lay in a nest of her sisterships at the coal docks at Pearl Harbor, which included Rail (AM-26), Bobolink (AM-20), and Turkey (AM-13). Shortly before 0800 that morning, Japanese aircraft roared overhead. The marauders swept over the Fleet's base and devastated not only Peal Harbor, but outlying Army and Navy installations all over the island of Oahu.
In upkeep status, with her engines dismantled, Vireo nevertheless speedily entered the fight. While her gunners topside fought their mounts cooly and efficiently, the "black gang" below decks assembled the ship's engines and fired up the boilers to get underway. Her 3-inch guns expended some 22 rounds, and the men at her number 2 mount rejoiced when one of their shells exploded directly in the path of a Japanese bomber, causing the Nipponese plane to crash in a ball of fire.
When the Japanese attackers departed, they left behind them a swath of death and destruction. Beneath the oily pall of smoke settled the once-proud battleships of the Pacific Fleet, now battered and burnt. Vireo and some of her sister sweepers at Pearl Harbor received orders to assist the stricken Califonia (BB-44), sinking into the oil-stained ooze at berth F-3, off Ford Island.
While engaged in salvage operations alongside California, through January 1942, Vireo also served briefiy as a tender to Enterprise (CV-6). The minesweeper carried ammunition to replenish "the Big E's" depleted stocks and prepare that ship for future forays against the Japanese empire.
After conducting minesweeping operations in the Pearl Harbor channel and other Hawaiian waters, Vireo underwent upkeep at Pearl Harbor between 10 and 13 February 1942. Following local operations near Honolulu and Pearl Harbor, she made brief runs to Johnston Island and the port of Hilo.
In April and May 1942, after another brief stretch around Pearl Harbor, Vireo conducted local patrols out of Hilo, sometimes in company with Crossbill (AMc-9) to conduct magnetic, acoustic, and mechanical minesweeping operations; and to patrol harbors with her echo-ranging and listening gear. From 23 to 24 April, Vireo , in company with Crossbill and Sacramento (PG-19), conducted a search for survivors of a downed Army plane off Pepeekeo Point, near Hilo, and found one body before she abandoned the task.
On 28 May 1942, under secret orders, Vireo and gasoline tanker Kaloli (AOG-13) departed Honolulu and headed for Midway Island. During the voyage, Vireo was reclassified as an ocean-going tug and redesignated AT-144 on 1 June 1942. While Vireo and, her charge crept toward Midway at nine knots, two battle fleets steamed toward each other on a collision course. The American and Japanese Navies were squaring off for the decisive Battle of Midway.
Vireo and Kaloli hove to in Midway harbor on 3 June, amidst preparations there for defense of the island. Soon after the two American ships arrived, they received orders to proceed to a point 30 miles off Pearl and Hermes Reef, where they were to await further orders. Underway by 1910, Vireo and the gasoline tanker soon arrived at their assigned stations and lay to.
Air action the following day, 4 June 1942, was hot and heavy. Japanese carriers Akagi, Kaga, Soryu , and Hiryu were all crippled and sunk by American planes. However, American carrier Yorktown (CV-5) became the unfortunate victim of Japanese dive and torpedo bombers which heavily damaged the carrier, stopping her dead in the water, and forcing a severe list.
Lest the ship capsize before the crew could be removed, Capt. Elliot Buckmaster ordered Yorktown abandoned. When Yorktown stopped settling, Buckmaster concluded that the ship could possibly be saved. Accordingly, Vireo received a summons to take Yorktown in tow. The tug arrived on the scene by 1135 on 5 June and closed and maneuvered to pass Yorktown a towline, accomplishing this by 1308. Vireo and her unwieldy charge then labored painfully ahead, at a speed of under 3 knots, with a protective brood of destroyers standing by.
Vireo , hampered by a small rudder and inadequate engines for such a large tow, found itself confronted with the Herculean task of keeping the big carrier pointed into the wind and on course. The next day, Hammann (DD-412) secured alongside Yorktown to assist the salvage parties on the larger ship working to correct her trim and to repair her battle damage.
Around 1400 on the afternoon of 6 June, Japanese submarine I-168 fired torpedoes at the nearly helpless targets. Hammann, mortally hit, broke in two and sank alongside the towering carrier, which also took two torpedoes. As the destroyer sank, her depth charges all went off at once, causing tremendous shock waves which convulsed swimmers in the water and violently wrenched the old tug. Vireo freed herself from the carrier by cutting the towing cable with an acetylene torch and then doubled back to commence rescue operations.
Up her sides clambered carriermen and destroyermen alike, while she maneuvered near the carrier's canting stern to take on board members of the salvage party who had chosen to abandon the carrier from there. She then proceeded to secure alongside the wounded flattop in the exact spot where Hammann had met her doom. Yorktown rolled heavily, her heavy steel hide pounding the lighter former minecraft's hull with a vengeance as the ships touched time and time again during the rescue operations. This mission completed, battered Vireo stood away from the sinking carrier, which sank shortly after dawn on the 7th.
Vireo 's troubles, however, had only begun. Underwater explosions from Hammann's depth charges had severely jostled the tug's rudder. As a result it jammed as Vireo was entering the shipping channel at Midway harbor on 8 June, and she ran aground on a coral head, carrying away her echo-ranging gear and flooding her sound room. Repeated attempts to free herself only resulted in another grounding, so Vireo lay-to and called for a tow.
After arriving at Midway at the end of a towline from YMT-12 , following another brush with a coral head which irreparably damaged the rudder, Vireo soon got underway for Pearl Harbor, this time behind Seminole (AT-65). Reaching Hawaiian waters on 17 June, she entered the navy yard at Pearl Harbor for emergency repairs which lasted from 18 to 30 June. Following this, she remained at the Pearl Harbor yard or a complete overhaul and drydocking.
Having concluded the refitting by 19 August, Vireo conducted post-repair trials before turning in all her mine gear on 25 August. Two days later, she got underway to escort SS Gulf Queen to the Fiji Islands, towing two barges. Upon her arrival at Suva on 11 September, the tug refueled, provisioned, and carried out minor repairs before heading for New Caledonia on 15 September. After arriving at Noumea five days later, on 20 September 1942, she commenced harbor operations under the control of Commander, Amphibious Forces, South Pacific (ComAmDhibForSoPac). In accordance with verbal orders from ComAmphibForSoPac, Vireo 's crew set about making camouflage nets and painting the ship green in preparation for her next assignment.
Arriving at Espiritu Santo on 8 October, she awaited further orders, spending four days at this port in the New Hebrides before setting out for the Guadalcanal area on 12 October, to take part in resupply operations for the marines at Henderson Field. Since the initial landings on Guadalcanal on 7 August 1942, the campaign had been fought tooth and nail. Fierce land and sea battles had characterized the fighting since the early going. By this juncture, American aviation operations on Henderson Field had been so endangered by shellings, bad weather, and inadequate supplies, that the American situation was extreme.
With American aircraft using up gasoline at an alarming rate, that commodity ranked high on the list of priority supplies. Accordingly, a barge-towing operation was mounted in mid-October to ease the critical fuel situation on Guadalcanal.
The force to carry out this operation comprised Alchiba (AK-23), Bellatrix (AK-20), Jamestown (PG-55), Meredith (DD-434), Nicholas (DD-449), and Vireo , each pulling a barge carrying barrels of gasoline and quarter-ton bombs. Setting out from Espiritu Santo, the highly volatile convoy was spotted by Japanese aircraft on 15 October. All but Vireo and Meredith beat a hasty retreat. Cautiously proceeding, the pair beat off a two-plane Japanese attack before they received word that Japanese surface ships were in the area. Only then did they reverse course. At noon, Meredith ordered old, slow, and vulnerable Vireo abandoned and took off her crew. Meredith then stood off to torpedo the tug at 1215 so that she would not fall into enemy hands intact. Suddenly, a whirlwind of destruction swept down from the sky and descended upon the destroyer. Like hawks, 27 planes from the Japanese carrier Zuikaku pounced on Meredith and deluged her with bombs, torpedoes, and bullets, sinking her in an instant.
Vireo and the two gasoline barges, however, drifted to leeward, untouched. One life raft, crammed with some of Meredith's survivors, succeeded in overhauling the derelict tug and the men gratefully scrambled aboard. The barges and the tug were later found, intact. When a salvage party boarded Vireo on 21 October, the ship was dead in the water with no lights, no steam, and no power. After abortive attempts to light fires under the boilers, using wood, the tug had to be taken under tow by Grayson (DD-435). In company with Grayson and Gwin (DD-433), Vireo arrived safely at Espiritu Santo on 23 October.
With a new crew, the majority of her old complement lost in the ordeal with Meredith -she continued to operate in the Guadalcanal area with Task Force 62. She conducted resupply operations to Guadalcanal, towing barges loaded with precious gasoline and bombs and carrying out local escort for other, larger ships, engaged in the same vital duties.
On 3 December, in company with Hilo (AGP-2) and towing PT-boats, she departed Noumea and proceeded to Australia. Arriving at Cairns on 9 December, she spent the remainder of the year there, enjoying Christmas and New Year's Day in Australian waters before heading back to the combat area, arriving at Espiritu Santo on 9 January.
Operating out of the New Hebrides in early January, she assisted cruisers Pensacola (CA-24) and Minneapolis (CA-36) as they underwent repairs following damage received at Tassafaronga. Towing barges and firing target bursts for destroyers during gunnery practice off Guadalcanal, the tug continued her operations as before, between that island and Espiritu Santo and Noumea. It was dull and monotonous duty but necessary and vital, nonetheless.
In April 1943, as American forces advanced on the "island-hopping," "leapfrogging" campaigns against the Japanese in the South Pacific, Japanese Admiral Yamamoto initiated operation "I." Yamamoto aimed this stroke at Papua, in the hope of compensating for the loss of Guadalcanal, by destroying the American advance base there and thus slowing or stopping the Allied advance. The new Japanese thrust began on 7 April when large formations of Japanese planes swept down from Rabaul to attack American shipping in Lunga Roads between Guadalcanal and Tulagi.
Among these ships, there lay Vireo , engaged in her usual harbor activities. Pathfinder was engaged in taking soundings; also near were Ortolan (ASR-5) and SC-52 1. Shortly before the attack came, Aaron Ward (DD-483) passed by, escorting LST-449 . Three Japanese dive bombers swooped down out of the sun and severely damaged the destroyer with their lethal loads. Ortolan and Vireo took the crippled Aaron Ward under tow, but the destroyer sank three miles short of Tulagi.
As the New Georgia campaign got underway and American forces advanced further up the chain of islands in the southwest Pacific, Vireo continued her operations out of Tulagi, Espiritu Santo, or Noumea. In the pre-dawn darkness of 13 July, the Battle of Kula Gulf was fought between Japanese and American surface forces, the latter augmented by New Zealand cruiser Leander. In the action which followed, Honolulu (CL-48), St. Louis (CL-49), and Leander were damaged. Later that day, Vireo , in company with Rail (AT-139) set out to assist in getting the cripples home and towed Honolulu to haven at government wharf, Tulagi, where temporary repairs to the cruiser's bow were made.
For the remainder of 1943 and on into 1944, Vireo followed the Fleet as it inched closer to Japan. In the rearward island areas, she continued her duties as a harbor tug and local escort vessel. On 15 May 1944. Vireo was reclassified as an ocean-going tug, old, and redesignated ATO-144.
In late July, American forces struck in northwestern New Guinea at Cape Sansapor. Vireo took part in these operations from 30 July to 2 August, engaged in the vital support activities necessary to support the successful landings.
After service in the South Pacific, the old tug moved northward with the invasion armada to liberate the Philippine Islands from the Japanese. On 18 October 1944, American troops stormed ashore on Leyte, keeping General MacArthur's promise to return to Philippine soil. Vireo operated in support of these landings into December. She departed Morotai on the 10th, bound for Biak. From there, she proceeded to Leyte, engaged in towing duties. Next-after touching at Hollandia, Manus, and Biak-she took part in the Okinawa operations in April and May 1945. Returning to Morotai, she engaged in towing operations again, this time to Tacloban on the island of Leyte, departing there on 25 May for Subic Bay. For the remainder of the war, she operated between the Philippine Islands and New Guinea, as American forces continued to sweep northward towards the Japanese home islands.
On 20 December 1945, after immediate postwar towing operations at Manila, Luzon, and Samar, she departed Philippine waters on 20 December 1945, in company with Rail (ATO-139) and Whippoorwill (ATO-169), and headed for the Marshalls. Following a brief stay at Eniwetok, Vireo got underway on 4 January 1946 and proceeded via Pearl Harbor to the west coast. She arrived at San Francisco, Calif., on 5 February and reported to the Commandant, 12th Naval District, for disposition.
As newer and more powerful fleet tugs supplanted the old converted mine sweepers, the need for the old vessels decreased. Thus, on 18 April 1946, Vireo was decommissioned, declared surplus to Navy needs, and made available for disposal. Struck from the Navy list on 8 May 1946, Vireo was transferred from the Maritime Commission for disposal on 4 February 1947; but no records of her subsequent fate have survived.
Vireo received seven battle stars for her World War II service.
Improved Kaidai Type 5, with new double-acting 2-stroke diesels, and a better pressure hull. Hull Nos. I.68 - I.73, survivors later renumbered I.168, I.169, I.171, I.172 on May 20, 1942
|Displacement (Surfaced, Submerged)||1810 tons surfaced, 2602 tons submerged|
|Dimensions (Length, Breadth and Draught)||344ft 6in x 27ft 0 in x 15ft 0in|
|Machinery||2 diesel, 2 electric|
|Maximum Power (Surfaced, Submerged)||9000 hp surfaced, 1800 hp submerged|
|Maximum Speed (Surfaced, Submerged)||23 knots surfaced, 8 knots submerged|
|Range (Surface, Submerged)||14,000 m. @ 10 knts surfaced, 65 m. @ 3 knts submerged|
|Torpedo Tubes||six 21in; 4 forward, 2 aft; 12 torpedoes|
|Guns||one 3.9in 68 cal; one 13.2 mm|
Battle of Midway - Part 1
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