Tuesday, August 12, 2008
USS Seminole (AT-65)
Figure 1: USS Seminole (AT-65), photograph taken by her builder, the Bethlehem Steel Company shipyard, Staten Island, New York, at the time of her completion, circa early 1940. This photograph has been heavily retouched from the mainmast area to the stern. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: USS Seminole (AT-65), photograph taken in 1940, probably early in the year at the time of her completion. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: USS Seminole (AT-65), photograph taken in 1940, probably early in the year at the time of her completion. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Named after an American Indian tribe from Florida, the USS Seminole (AT-65) was a 1,500-ton Navajo class ocean-going tug that was built by the Bethlehem Steel Company at Staten Island, New York. Commissioned on 8 March 1940, Seminole was approximately 205 feet long and 38 feet wide, with a top speed of 16 knots and a crew of 80 officers and men. Seminole was armed with one 3-inch gun, two twin 40-mm gun mounts and two single 20-mm guns.
Following her shakedown cruise along America’s East Coast, Seminole was transferred to the Pacific fleet. For more than a year, this tug performed towing and salvage operations along America’s West Coast, around Hawaii, and off the coasts of Wake Island and Panama. Seminole was sailing to San Diego when Pearl Harbor was attacked on 7 December 1941. Upon hearing the news of the Japanese attack, Seminole immediately reversed course and returned to Pearl Harbor, arriving there on 12 December. During the busy days that followed, when tugs of all sizes were desperately needed for salvage and towing operations, Seminole assisted many ships, including the Army Transport President Taylor, US Navy patrol craft YP-108 and USS Vireo (AT-144).
In October 1942, Seminole was assigned to the south Pacific and sent to Guadalcanal to assist in escort, salvage, and towing operations there. Seminole arrived off Tulagi on 18 October and began ferrying ammunition, gasoline, and troops to shore from larger merchant ships. On the morning of 25 October 1942, while unloading some Marines, aviation gasoline, and howitzers approximately three and one-half miles east of Lunga Point, three Japanese destroyers spotted Seminole and the ship next to it, the small American patrol craft YP-284. The Japanese destroyers immediately opened fire on the two small American warships, hitting them repeatedly. Approximately three salvos hit the Seminole and the tug burst into flames. The order to “Abandon Ship” was given and soon both Seminole and YP-284 sank beneath the waves. Ironically, since the tug possessed no armor protection and was extremely thin-skinned, the majority of the shells fired from the Japanese destroyers went right through Seminole without exploding. As a result of this, only one man was killed on board the tug and the rest of the crew was rescued after the ship went down.
Seminole was an ordinary tug doing routine work in a very dangerous part of the Pacific during World War II. Her fate showed that ships can be sunk and people can get killed while doing such ordinary work and that any ship, regardless of its size, is fair game in wartime. Seminole received one battle star for its service in World War II.
Posted by Remo at 9:43 AM