Tuesday, August 21, 2012

USS Sentry (AM-299)

Figure 1:  USS Sentry (AM-299) shortly after being commissioned on 30 May 1944. Courtesy Vic Barnaby. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 2:  USS Sentry (AM-299), date and place unknown. Courtesy Vic Barnaby. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 3:  USS Sentry (AM-299) after she was transferred to the Republic of Vietnam’s Navy in 1962. The ship was renamed Ky Hoa (HQ-09). Courtesy Robert Hurst. Click on photograph for larger image.    

Figure 4:  USS Sentry (AM-299) after she was transferred to the Republic of Vietnam’s Navy in 1962. The ship was renamed Ky Hoa (HQ-09). Courtesy Robert Hurst. Click on photograph for larger image.

The 945-ton USS Sentry was an Admirable class minesweeper that was built by the Winslow Marine Railway and Shipbuilding Company at Seattle, Washington, and was commissioned on 30 May 1944. The ship was approximately 184 feet long and 33 feet wide, had a top speed of 15 knots, and had a crew of 104 officers and men. Sentry carried one 3-inch gun, two 40-mm guns, six 20-mm guns, one “Hedgehog” depth-charge thrower, four depth-charge projectiles (known as “K-guns”), and two depth-charge tracks, which made her heavily armed for a ship that size.

After completing her shakedown cruise, Sentry left San Francisco, California, on 28 August 1944 and steamed to Manus Island, New Guinea, arriving there on 6 October. She joined the American invasion fleet that was headed for Leyte in the Philippine Islands. Sentry arrived off the coast of Leyte on 17 October and swept for sea mines for the next three days. Sentry continued sweeping during and after the initial landings on Leyte on 20 October and then was ordered to escort transports on 24 October. Although there were few Japanese submarines in the area, the threat from Japanese aircraft, especially the dreaded kamikaze suicide planes, was almost constant. Sentry’s anti-aircraft guns were useful in protecting vulnerable transports from this airborne menace.
Sentry continued steaming off the coast of Leyte for the next six weeks and participated in many of the subsequent amphibious landings in the Philippines. The group she was attached to, Mine Division 34, carried out pre-invasion sweeps at Ormoc Bay on 6 December 1944, Mindoro Island on 14 December, Lingayen Gulf on 6 January 1945, and Zambales and Subic Bay from 29 to 31 January. For every landing except the one made at Ormoc Bay, Sentry remained near the beaches until after the initial troop landings, helping to extend the mine-swept areas and providing antisubmarine and antiaircraft protection for merchant ships and transports. Sentry located few mines, but the kamikaze attacks were intense, so her antiaircraft guns were on constant alert and were often used to protect other ships.
On 13 February 1945, Sentry and the other minesweepers in her division began pre-invasion sweeps in Manila Bay in preparation for the landings at Mariveles and Corregidor. While sweeping for mines off Corregidor on 14 February, Sentry came within 5,000 yards of the island and was repeatedly straddled by Japanese artillery shells before supporting American warships arrived on the scene and silenced the enemy’s guns with their own gunfire. Sentry continued sweeping in Manila Bay until 19 February and Mine Division 34 received the Navy Unit Commendation for their brave conduct during the operations off Corregidor.
For approximately the next ten weeks, Sentry completed various minesweeping operations in support of smaller amphibious assaults in the Philippines, with the most notable one being the pre-assault sweep for the landings at Legaspi, Luzon, on 1 April, and an eight-day sweep in the Sulu Sea off Palawan beginning on 22 April. On 9 May, Sentry arrived at Morotai Island (located in present-day Indonesia) in preparation for amphibious landings in the Netherlands East Indies.
From 7 to 18 June 1945, Sentry participated in the landings at Brunei Bay, Borneo. From 22 June and 15 July, Sentry swept for mines in preparation for the amphibious assault on Balikpapan, Borneo. During both operations, Sentry and her sister ships came under intense fire from shore batteries. One ship, USS Salute (AM-294), was sunk by a mine on 8 June. Sentry’s minesweeping division received a Presidential Unit Citation for its service off Borneo.
After an overhaul at Subic Bay in the Philippines, Sentry left on 8 September and arrived after the end of the war at Sasebo, Japan, on 20 October. Throughout the following weeks, Sentry swept Japanese minefields off the Ryukyus Islands, in the Tsushima Strait, and in the Van Diemen Strait. Sentry left Sasebo on 9 December 1945 and headed back to the United States. She arrived at Orange, Texas, on 2 April 1946 and was decommissioned there on 19 June. The ship was placed in reserve and her classification was changed to fleet minesweeper (steel hull) MSF-299 on 7 February 1955. Sentry was struck from the Navy List on 1 February 1962 and was transferred to the Republic of Vietnam on 31 August of that same year. She was renamed Ky Hoa (HQ-09) and her final fate is unknown. USS Sentry was awarded six battle stars for her service during World War II, an impressive number for such a small ship.  
Minesweeping is incredibly dangerous even under the best of circumstances. But with shore batteries firing at you or with kamikaze aircraft trying to destroy you, the job became that much harder. USS Sentry was a fine example of a ship doing a difficult job under extremely dangerous conditions. No wonder the ship and her crew received so many awards during World War II.