Warship Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018: The surprisingly long-lasting ghosts of the fleet
Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger
Warship Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018: The surprisingly long-lasting ghosts of the fleet
With it being Halloween today, I couldn’t resist taking a stab at a spooktastic WW. While the tale of the USS Water Witch is a long and interesting one, I think I’ve done a lot of Civil War stuff lately and I have a big post (spoiler) coming up on the USS Cairo, so I skipped ahead to the 20th Century. Although the U.S. Navy has, by and large, stuck to names associated with naval heroes, states, cities, battles, and lawmakers, Interestingly enough, a pair of WWII minesweepers made it into service with the names USS Phantom and USS Specter, and both have interesting backstories.
So how could I resist?
In early 1941, the Navy set its sights on a hybrid class of new steel-hulled oceangoing sweepers built with lessons learned from their previous designs, that of a 180-foot, 750-ton vessel that could both clear mines and, by nature of their forward and aft 3″/50 guns, provide a modicum of escort support. Since they could float in 9’9″ of water, they were deemed coastal minesweepers at first.
First of the class of what would eventually turn into orders for 147 ships (of which 123 were completed) was USS Admirable laid down as AMc-113, 8 April 1942 in Tampa, Florida.
The twin subjects of our tale today: Phantom (AM-273) was laid down by the Gulf Shipbuilding Co., Chickasaw, Ala., and commissioned 17 May 1944; while Specter (AM-306)–which was ironically supposed to be named “Spector”– was laid down by Associated Shipbuilders, Seattle, Wash. and commissioned on 30 August 1944. Phantom spent the rest of 1944 doing coastal patrol off the East Coast while Specter soon set off for the Pacific as the war.
By 1945, both were active in the West Pac, with Phantom picking up three battle stars while Specter won four, seeing service off Okinawa, Iwo Jima, Saipan, and the Japanese Home Islands.
Both were busy clearing minefields, patrolling, and performing escort duty, looking for submarines, suicide boats and Japanese kamikaze (Specter shot down one off le Shima on 25 May). Specter notably swept mines post-war at Nagasaki, Sasebo, Bungo Suido, and Tsushima while Phantom did the same off Okinawa and the China coast, remaining hard at work into the next year.
The mines thinning, Phantom was decommissioned 10 October 1946 at Subic Bay while Specter was sent stateside, joining the mothball fleet at Orange, Texas after decommissioning 26 February 1947.
In the interest of propping up Chiang Kai-shek and his flagging KMT– as well as drawing down surplus– Phantom was stricken and transferred to the Nationalist Chinese Navy 15 June 1948. There, she served briefly as ROCS Yung Ming until scrapped in 1951.
As for Specter, she remained at Orange where she was duly redesignated from AM-306 to Fleet Minesweeper (Steel Hull). MSF-306, on 7 February 1955 while in reserve.
On 1 July 1972, after 26 years gathering red rust in Texas, she was struck and transferred the next year to the Armada de México to join a gaggle of other sisters used as patrol boats in an effort to keep out the “red menace” from Cuba. She became first ARM DM-04 and was later renamed ARM General Manuel E. Rincón (C-52).
For reference, the first of a score of Admirables to go south of the border was ex-USS Jubilant (AM/MSF-255)
The 20 Mexican Admirables, if you are curious:
ARM DM-01 (ex USS Jubilant MSF 255) (renamed General Vicente Riva Palacio C -50)
ARM DM-02 (ex USS Hilarity MSF 241)
ARM DM-03 (ex USS Execute MSF-232) (renamed ARM General Juan N. Méndez C-51).
ARM DM-04 (ex USS Facility MSF 233).
ARM DM-04 (ex USS Specter MSF 306) (renamed ARM General Manuel E. Rincón C-52), transferred in 1973 and also first registered as ARM DM-04.
ARM DM-05 (ex USS Scuffle MSF 298) (renamed ARM General Felipe Xicotencatl C-53).
ARM DM-06 (ex USS Eager MSF 224).
ARM DM-07 (ex USS Recruit MSF 285).
ARM DM-08 (ex USS Success MSF 310).
ARM DM-09 (ex USS Scout MSF-296).
ARM DM-10 (ex USS Instill MSF 252).
ARM DM-11 (ex USS Device MSF 220) (renamed E-1) (renamed at the end ARM Cadet Agustín Melgar C-54).
ARM DM-12 (ex USS Ransom MSF 283) (renamed ARM Lieutenant Juan de la Barrera C-55).
ARM DM-13 (ex USS Knave MSF 256) (renamed ARM Cadet Juan Escutia C-56).
ARM DM-14 (ex USS Rebel MSF 284) (renamed ARM Cadet Fernando Montes de Oca (C-57)
ARM DM-15 (ex USS Crag MSF 214)
ARM DM-16 (ex USS Dour MSF 223) ) (apparently re-registered E-6)
ARM DM-17 (ex USS Diploma MSF 221) (renamed ARM Cadet Francisco Márquez (C-59)
ARM DM-18 (ex USS Invade MSF 254) (renamed ARM General Ignacio Zaragoza C-60)
ARM DM-19 (ex USS Intrigue MSF 253) (renamed ARM Vicente Suárez C-61)
ARM DM-20 (ex USS Harlequin MSF 365) (converted to ARM Oceanographic, research H-02, later renamed ARM General Pedro María Anaya A-08 and finally ARM Aldebaran BE-02)
Most of the class would be stricken in Mexican service by the mid-1980s, with the exception of the 11 above that were redesignated corvettes (hence the C-designation) and continued to serve as offshore patrol craft for another decade or more. Specter/DM-04/Rincón survived until 2001.
The last Admirable in Mexican service, ex-USS Harlequin (AM 365)/Oceanográfico/Anaya/Aldebaran was still operational until 2007 when she was sunk as a reef.
The 11 old C-designated Admirables would be replaced in their patrol role by Auk-class minesweepers converted in the 1990s to install a helicopter pad for a German-made MBB BO 105CB helicopter. They looked wacky. Almost like a minesweeper dressed up as a frigate for Halloween.
These, in turn, were all replaced in by the 2000s by the domestically-built Holzinger-, Durango-, and Oaxaca-class offshore patrol vessels, 1,500-ton ships of a much more modern design.
the Admirable-class sweepers have been a very popular model over the years:
As for Phantom/Specter’s Admirable-class sisters, 24 were given to the Soviets in 1945 and never returned, others remained in use by the Navy through the Korean War era, and some, along with their PCE-gunboat sisters, were later passed on to the South Korea, the Republic of Vietnam, and the Dominican, Myanmar, and Philippine navies. The latter still uses a few, now with 80 years on their hulls.
Since 1993, the only Admirable-class vessel left above water in the U.S. is USS Hazard (AM-240).
Now a National Historic Landmark, she was retired in 1971 and, put up for sale on the cheap:
Hazard was installed on dry land at Freedom Park on the Missouri River waterfront in East Omaha where she is open to the public.
Please visit her, see if she has any treats.
According to the NPS:
The ship was transferred to Omaha with all of her spare parts and equipment intact. The only equipment missing from USS Hazard is the minesweeping cable. All equipment (radio, engines, ovens, electrical systems, plumbing) is fully operational. USS Hazard still retains its original dishes, kitchen utensils, and stationery. USS Hazard is one of the best preserved and intact warships remaining from World War II. USS Hazard is a virtual time capsule dating from 1945.
Displacement: 945 t (fl)
Length: 184 ft. 6 in (56.24 m)
Beam: 33 ft. (10 m)
Draft: 9 ft. 9 in (2.97 m)
2 × Cooper Bessemer GSB-8 diesel engines
National Supply Co. single reduction gear
Speed: 14.8 knots
1 × 3″/50 caliber gun
1 × twin Bofors 40 mm guns
6 × Oerlikon 20 mm cannons
1 × Hedgehog anti-submarine mortar
4 × Depth charge projectors (K-guns)
2 × Depth charge tracks
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