Tuesday, June 26, 2012

USS Current

Figure 1:  USS Current (ARS-22) underway, date and location unknown. US Navy photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 2:  USS Current (ARS-22) underway, date and location unknown. US Navy photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 3:  USS Current (ARS-22) underway, date and location unknown. US Navy photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 4:  USS Current (ARS-22) underway, date and location unknown. US Navy photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 5:  USS Current (ARS-22) during salvage operations of a Japanese World War II era midget submarine at Keehi Lagoon just outside Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, 6 July 1960. This submarine has been designated by the Navy as "Midget D." It was launched from its mother submarine I-18 at 0215 on the morning of 7 December 1941.  Photograph courtesy of Joe Radigan MACM USN Ret. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 6:  Aft view of USS Current (ARS-22) at the Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, California, 28 March 1946. Current was being overhauled at Mare Island from 1 to 31 March 1946. Forward of her from left to right are: USS Lipan (ATF-85), USS Deliver (ARS-23), and USS Preserver (ARS-8). Mare Island Navy Yard photograph No. 1241-46. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 7:   Amidships view of USS Current (ARS-22) at the Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, California, 28 March 1946. The sterns of USS Deliver (ARS-23) and USS Preserver (ARS-8) are seen forward of Current. Mare Island Navy Yard photograph No. 1242-46. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 8:  USS Current (ARS-22) and USS Abnaki (ATF-96) underway off the Hawaiian Islands, 22 November 1953. US Navy photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

The 1,530-ton USS Current (ARS-22) was a Diver class rescue and salvage ship that was built by the Basalt Rock Company at Napa, California, and was commissioned on 14 June 1944. The ship was approximately 213 feet long and 39 feet wide, had a top speed of 15 knots, and had a crew of 120 officers and men. Current was armed with one 3-inch gun, two twin 40-mm guns, and four .50-caliber machine guns.

After being commissioned, Current left San Francisco, California, on 6 August 1944 and, after making a stop a Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, eventually made her way to Ulithi Atoll in the Caroline Islands, arriving there on 14 October 1944. Ulithi was an enormous American naval base which acted as a forward supply depot, repair facility, and staging area for the Navy’s western Pacific operations. Approximately 700 ships could fit in its gigantic lagoon, which served as an anchorage for every type of ship imaginable. Many severely damaged ships were also sent to Ulithi for temporary repairs before making the long journey back to the United States. Here Current set up shop and assisted a number of damaged warships that were returning from major battles throughout the area. Current performed some of her most important salvage work on USS Houston (CL-81) and USS Canberra (CA-70), keeping both ships afloat after they sustained severe damage from Japanese aircraft off the coast of Formosa (now Taiwan). The repairs on both ships lasted from 19 October to 14 December 1944. On 11 March 1945, Current also provided major assistance to the aircraft carrier USS Randolph (CV-15), which was hit by a Japanese suicide plane (or kamikaze) while at anchor at Ulithi. Attacks like the one on Randolph showed just how dangerous being anchored in a forward naval base could be.
Current eventually left Ulithi and, after making a brief stop at Leyte in the Philippines, steamed on to provide assistance to the warships involved with the amphibious invasion of Okinawa. Current arrived off Okinawa on 2 June 1945 and began salvage operations on many of the ships that were damaged by Japanese air attacks. Current remained at Okinawa even after the war ended and stayed there until 5 January 1946, when she was ordered to return to the United States. After stopping at Sasebo, Japan, for fuel and provisions, Current started her long journey back to the United States, arriving at San Francisco on 27 February.

From 15 April 1946 to 22 July 1947, Current was assigned to JTF-1 as part of Operation “Crossroads,” the atomic weapons tests in the Marshall Islands. The ship returned to San Diego, California, on 23 August 1947 and was decommissioned and placed in reserve on 9 February 1948. Current was re-commissioned on 10 October 1951 and on 7 December left Long Beach, California, and arrived at Pearl Harbor a week later. Current spent all of 1952 in the Far East, assisting a wide variety of vessels during the Korean War. On her way back to the United States after this deployment, Current carried out an extensive and successful salvage operation on the merchant ship SS Quartette off Midway Island from 23 December 1952 to 6 March 1953. Later that year, Current returned to Korea and in a daring operation refloated the stranded LST-578 at Cheju. She also completed a lengthy and difficult operation to salvage SS Cornhusker Mariner, which had gone aground off Pusan.
During her next Far Eastern deployment in 1954 and 1955, Current was attached to the Taiwan Patrol, which included visits to Japanese ports. Current also participated in the “Passage to Freedom” evacuation of refugees from North Vietnam. Operation Passage to Freedom was the term used by the United States Navy to describe its transportation from 1954 to 1955 of 310,000 Vietnamese civilians, soldiers, and non-Vietnamese members of the French Army from communist North Vietnam to South Vietnam. The French military transported an additional 500,000 people.

Current was then sent back to the United States for an overhaul and to be converted for operations in the Arctic. Current arrived at Seattle, Washington, on 25 June 1955. After her overhaul and conversion was completed, Current carried construction equipment and materials into poorly charted waters along the northern coast of Canada and Alaska from 15 July to 30 September. After that, she steamed to Pearl Harbor for repairs. Current eventually left Pearl Harbor and steamed to Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands to inspect the work on mooring buoys from 16 January to 22 February 1956. She returned to Seattle on 29 June to join a convoy carrying supplies to stations of the Distant Early Warning Line from 15 July to 10 September.  The Distant Early Warning Line, also known as the DEW Line or Early Warning Line, was a system of radar stations in the far northern Arctic region of Canada, with additional stations along the north coast and Aleutian Islands of Alaska, in addition to the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Iceland. It was set up to detect incoming Soviet bombers during the Cold War and provide early warning of a land-based invasion. After completing this mission, Current returned to Pearl Harbor.
In 1957, Current was sent to the western Pacific and participated in a mine-recovery training exercise around the Marianas Islands. She also surveyed and blasted a channel in Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea and salvaged aircraft and ships off the coast of Japan. After returning to Pearl Harbor and working there for a few months, Current was sent back to the Far East to patrol with destroyers off Japan and to conduct operations with the Seventh Fleet in the Taiwan Straits from October 1957 to February 1958.

From July to December 1958, Current participated in diving training missions at Pusan, Korea, and salvaged several ships and aircraft in Japanese waters. In March and April 1959, Current carried passengers to Samoa where her divers worked on a sunken hulk. In November she went back to the Far East for duty until March 1960, when she returned to Pearl Harbor and remained based there for several years. Current went on to serve six tours of duty in Vietnam between 1965 and 1971, assisting countless numbers of ships.
Current was decommissioned for the last time on 28 April 1972 and was struck from the Naval Register of Ships on 1 June 1973. She was sold for scrapping on 27 June 1975. USS Current received two battle stars for her service in World War II, three battle stars for her service during the Korean War, and six campaign stars for her service during the Vietnam War. Few know of the existence of salvage ships, let alone the important jobs they do. That is, of course, unless you are on a ship in desperate need of assistance. Salvage ships also remove sunken or partially sunken ships from coastlines, harbors, and channels, preventing them from becoming hazards to navigation. No major fleet can operate efficiently without them.