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Broadbill

Any of several ducks with broad, flat bills. The first Broadbill retained the name she bore when acquired by the Navy; the second bore the name of the waterfowl.

II

(AM-58: displacement 890; length 221'2"; beam 32'2"; draft 10'9"; speed 18.1 knots; complement 105; armament 2 3", 4 20 millimeter, 2 depth charge tracks, 2 depth charge projectors; class Auk)

The second Broadbill (AM-58) was laid down on 23 July 1941 at Bay City, Mich., by the Defoe Boat and Marine Works; launched on 21 May 1942; sponsored by Mrs. A. Loring Swasey; and commissioned on 13 October 1942, Lt. Comdr. John B. Cleland, Jr., in command.


The new minesweeper left Bay City shortly after commissioning and steamed through the Great Lakes to the Boston Navy Yard, where she completed outfitting. Early in January 1943, Broadbill put to sea as an escort for convoys travelling between east coast ports, Cuba, and Aruba. On 11 April 1944, she got underway for England, stopping first at Bermuda to join a convoy of 14 ships including six other minesweepers. The passage from Bermuda to Milford Haven, England, took 24 days and passed rather uneventfully. After reaching Britain, Broadbill and four other minesweepers took leave of the convoy and continued on to Torquay, England.


Late in May 1944 and early in June, the minesweeper made numerous sweeps in the convoy lanes off England's southern coast as practice for the invasion of Normandy. Before dawn on 4 June, Broadbill stood out into the English Channel with Mine Squadron (MineRon) 7 to begin the monumental job of clearing the way for Operation Overlord, scheduled for the next day. Bad weather pushed the invasion back 24 hours, and the minecraft came about. Early on 5 June, the minesweeping groups returned to sea, and Broadbill joined ten other sweepers in clearing Fire Support Channel I leading to Normandy. The sweep progressed without incident until 1757 when Osprey (AM-56), eighth ship in the formation, struck a floating mine and sank.


With the approach channel cleared, the minecraft began sweeping the actual support area late in the mid watch on 6 June 1944, at 0322 on D-Day. Despite German shore batteries and concentrated minefields, Broadbill and her sisters cleared the key waterways in time for the bombardment groups to contribute their invaluable support for the assault. During the following days, Broadbill and MineRon 7 swept additional support areas, anchoring to seaward of the other ships at night to provide them antisubmarine protection. During these operations, the minecraft drew considerable fire but suffered no casualties. On 25 June, MineRon 7 and the British 9th Minesweeping Flotilla swept a lane for the bombardment group to use during the assault on Cherbourg. Broadbill and the other minesweepers then led the battleships and their escorts into the area about five miles from shore to commence the bombardment of enemy shore batteries and installations. The minesweepers retired seaward amid answering salvos from shore and proceeded to Portland Harbor, England.


From 26 to 29 June 1944, the squadron remained in port, then again sailed for France, where Broadbill and her sisters swept the shipping channels in the Seine Bay area to open new supply ports for the armies ashore. After 12 days, MineRon 7 returned to Plymouth, England, for a rest. On 15 July, Broadbill again assisted in port clearance activity in Seine Bay before returning to England to prepare for her next assignment.


Broadbill left England on 1 August 1944 with five other minesweepers and several destroyers, bound for Oran, Algeria, where she arrived on 6 August. She joined a convoy there and immediately sailed for Naples, Italy, where she was based during sweeping operations in the Ligurian Sea, Strait of Bonifacio, and the waters between Sardinia and Corsica. They encountered many different types of mines--delayed-action, magnetic, sonic, contact, moored, and floating mines--which forced the minecraft to use all the skills they possessed for effective, reliable sweeping. Broadbill swept 26 mines in Italian waters before sailing to southern France to help clear the harbors of Toulon and Marseilles.


On 23 August 1944, MineRon 7 arrived at Cavalaire Bay to begin clearing mines from French harbors and their approaches. Broadbill also carried out patrols, sank floating mines, escorted convoys, and aided ships in distress. On 28 May 1945, after completing all her assigned duties, the minesweeper sailed for Norfolk, Va., with Mine Division (MinDiv) 21.


From 15 June to 30 August 1945, Broadbill underwent repairs, alterations, and modifications, including additions to her armament to increase her antiaircraft defenses. Following shakedown in the Chesapeake Bay from 1 to 17 September, Broadbill got underway and proceeded, via the Panama Canal, to San Pedro, Calif. Upon arrival there, she was ordered to Newport Beach, Calif., on 10 October. While making voyage repairs, she received orders to proceed to Astoria, Oreg., for inactivation. Broadbill departed San Pedro on 4 December and arrived at Astoria on 7 December. Following preinactivation overhaul, she was decommissioned on 3 June 1946.

Broadbill, drydocked in the small auxiliary floating dry dock AFDL-6, was recommissioned on 19 March 1952, Lt. Comdr. John L. Brown in command, at the U.S. Naval Station, San Diego, Calif. She then trained along the California coast until 27 June. She then steamed via the Panama Canal to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where she conducted refresher training. On 15 July 1952, the minesweeper arrived at Charleston, S.C., her new home port. In the course of her training schedule in Atlantic waters, Broadbill made one cruise to the West Indies and another to the Mediterranean Sea before August 1953, when she began her second inactivation overhaul.


Broadbill was decommissioned on 25 June 1954, and berthed in the Reserve Fleet at Orange, Tex., soon thereafter, she was redesignated MSF-58 on 7 February 1955. Ultimately, Broadbill was declared excess to the needs of the Navy, and her name was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 July 1972. She was later sold to International Bulk carriers of Miami, Fla.


Broadbill earned two battle stars for her World War II service.


Mary P. Walker, 1 December 2005.