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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORY AND HERITAGE COMMAND
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Grebe

 

A swimming bird closely related to the loon but with lobate rather than webbed toes.

 

(AM-43: dp. 950; l. 187'10"; b. 35'6"; dr. 9'9"; s. 14 k.; cpl. 59; a. 23")

 

Grebe, built by the Staten Island Steam Boat Co., launched 17 December 1918; was sponsored by Miss Emma Youmans and commissioned at the Brooklyn Navy Yard 1 May 1919, Lt. Niels Dustrup in command.

 

From 9 July 1919 until 1 October, Grebe, based at Kirkwall, Orkneys, was part of a minesweeper flotilla clearing the North Sea of mines laid by the Allies during World War I. She returned to Portsmouth, N.H., 28 November 1919 via Davenport, Brest, Lisbon, the Azores, Bermuda, and New York. After extensive repairs, Grebe moved to the Boston Navy Yard 4 November 1920; from there she sailed the coast from Maine to New Jersey calibrating radio compass stations and doing miscellaneous towing and rescue work. On 29 April 1921 she rescued 139 passengers from the Portuguese steamer Mormugao, which had run aground off the Massachusetts coast.

 

Grebe's next duty took her to Newport, R.I., on 2 June; she escorted submarine Gó1 in diving trials until 23 June when G-l sank in 16 fathoms. After participating in salvation operations, Grebe returned to Boston on 22 July to resume radio compass station calibration and other duties. From there she made a round trip to Norfolk, Guantanamo, and the Canal Zone which occupied her from 1 December 1921 until 18 March 1922, when she returned to Portsmouth. There she decommissioned 12 May 1922.

 

Grebe recommissioned 15 November 1922, Chief Boatswain Albert C. Fraenzel commanding. On 16 December she sailed for St. Thomas, capital of the Virgin Islands, where she served as station ship until 1931. Grebe made an average of a trip a week between St. Thomas, St. Croix, and San Juan carrying stores and passengers, both military and civilian; she also towed coal barges and dredges to San Juan, Fort de France, Martinique, and other Caribbean ports. While at St. Thomas, Grebe was invaluable in assisting disabled ships, mainly those grounded on coral reefs, and in searches for missing ships. This work was interrupted by a yearly 5-week repair period at Charleston, S.C.

 

Grebe's finest moment came in 1930. A hurricane laid waste large parts of the Domincan Republic and killed thousands in September. Carrying trained medical men and emergency supplies Grebe was the first ship to reach devastated Santo Domingo. She remained there 2 weeks, helping unload other ships and clear debris.

 

17 March 1931 Grebe brought Dr. Paul M. Pearson, Governor-appointee, and his staff from San Juan to St. Thomas; nucleus of the Virgin Island's first civilian government.

 

Grebe then returned to Boston. There on 12 July 1931 she took in tow historic Constitution. A. long campaign had resulted in restoration of 'the famed ship to its original condition, and Grebe was to spend the next 3 years as her tender and towing ship as they visited every major American port, East and West Coast. Millions of Americans thrilled to their heritage touring "Old Ironsides" in New York, Norfolk, Key West, Galveston, Guantanamo, Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland, and the Canal Zone.

 

12 May 1934 Grebe relinquished her duties with Constitution, entering the Philadelphia Navy Yard for overhaul. After a brief tour of duty at Norfolk, 21 August to 14 September, she sailed for Guantanamo towed for fleet gunnery practice until 12 October, then sailed to San Pedro, arriving 19 November. Operating there until mid-1940; she performed a variety of tasks, including towing for target practice, participating in fleet problems, mine-sweeping exercises, training squadron details, and harbor service. Her tour there was interrupted by two voyages, the first to Pearl Harbor 6-31 May 1935 for fleet problems and the second to Guantanamo and Norfolk 26 December to 7 May 1939 for gunnery exercises.

 

Sailing from San Pedro 3 June 1940, Grebe arrived Pearl Harbor 17 June to tow for gunnery and bombing practice, and participate in minesweeping training. Two trips back to the mainland, 1 August to 9 September and 27 September to 13 October 1941, in company with Bobolink on passenger and stores runs interrupted her Hawaiian duty.

 

Grebe was in yard availability at Pearl Harbor 7 December 1941. Her 3" guns had been dismantled for the overhaul so she could fight only with rifles and pistols. She was credited with shooting down one of three unidentified planes flying low over the Navy Yard. On 24 January Grebe departed for Palmyra Island with YO-43 in tow where she arrived 5 days later. She returned to Honolulu 5 February and continued from there until autumn. Her classification was changed to AT-134 on 1 June 1941.

 

On 30 September Grebe joined a convoy for Johnston Island and returned 9 October. On 9 November 1942 Grebe was underway again with YC-737 and YB-9 in tow and accompanying YO-44, for Canton Island. Calling there 25 November she proceeded to Pago Pago, Samoa arriving 28 November.

 

On 6 December 1942 Grebe grounded while attempting to float SS Thomas A. Edison at Vuata Vatoa, Fiji Islands. Salvage operations were broken up by a hurricane that destroyed both ships 1-2 January 1943.† Her name was struck from the Navy List 28 July 1943.

 

Grebe earned one battle star for World War II service.