William Harkness, born 17 December 1837 in Ecclefechan, Scotland, served as a volunteer surgeon in the Union Navy during the first year of the Civil War. However, during most of his naval career, he served as an astronomer to be eventually recognized as an expert in that profession. He was associated with the U.S. Naval Observatory from 1862 to 1899, the last 5 years of which as director. Then in 1897 he was appointed director of the American Sphemeris and Nautical Almanac. Retired 17 December 1899, Rear Admiral Harkness died in Jersey City, N. J., 28 February 1903.
(YMS-242 : dp. 245; l. 186'; b. 23'4" ; dr. 8'7" ; s. 14 k.; cpl. 34; a. 1 3", 2 20mm., 2 dcp., 2 dct.; cl. YMS-v)
Harkness (YMS-242) was laid down as YMS-242 by Tacoma Boat Building Co., Tacoma, Wash., 1 June 1042; launched 10 October 1942; commissioned 27 March 1943, Lt. (j.g.) H. S. Meredith in command.
After shakedown along the California coast, YMS-242 departed San Diego 20 August 1943 for duty in the Western Pacific . Steaming via Pearl Harbor, she conducted mine sweeping patrols in the Marshall and Solomon islands throughout the next year. As American amphibious forces swept over the Mariannas, she swept for mines and made reconnaissance patrols during the summer and fall of 1944. Following the conquest of the Mariannas, she returned to Pearl Harbor 25 December before sailing to the West Coast for conversion to a surveying ship.
After conversion by South Coast Shipbuilding Co., Newport Beach, Calif., she was named Harkness and reclassi-fled AGS-12 on 24 March 1945. The following month she returned to the Western Pacific where she conducted survey operations in the Marshalls and at Okinawa. Following the Allied victory of World War II, she sailed to Japanese waters for a month of survey work. She returned to Guam from Nagoya, Japan, 4 January 1946; then sailed 10 January for the United States via the Marshalls and Pearl Harbor, reaching San Diego 26 February. She sailed 29 March for the East Coast; touched at Aca-pulco, Guantanamo Bay, and Norfolk; and arrived New York 8 May.
Following overhaul, Harkness departed 25 July for Miami, Fla., and arrived 29 July to reclassify as AGSC-12. For more than 3 years she operated out of Miami, participating in extensive ocean surveys from the Gulf of Mexico to the North Atlantic. During much of 1947 she patrolled the Mexican coast off Vera Curz. Harkness surveyed coastal waters off Labrador and Newfoundland from July to October 1948 and 1949; and survey work continued for the first 5 months of 1950 in the Caribbean between Trinidad and Venezuela. She returned to New York later in the year and decommissioned 22 September 1950.
Harkness was converted to a ininehunter by Brooklyn Navy Yard; reclassified AMCU-12 on 18 August 1951; and recommissioned 5 September 1951, Lt. John M. Bo-hanon in command. Assigned to the Atlantic Fleet Mine Force, she departed New York 2 July 1952 and arrived Norfolk the next day. The next year she steamed to Charleston, S.C., and Key West and Panama City, Fla., while involved with training exercises and other operations. Assigned along the Atlantic Coast to the 5th Naval District in October 1953, Harkness again participated in training operations, primarily in the Virginia Capes Operation Area, finally steaming to Newport during June 1954 for channel clearance operations. Reclassified MCH-12 on 1 February 1955, she continued her part in numerous mine clearing exercises, in July 1957 even operating in Cuban waters out of Guantanamo Bay and Havana.
Harkness departed Little Creek 30 January 1958 and arrived Green Cove Springs, Fla., via Jacksonville 3 February. She decommissioned 2 April 1958 and entered the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. Her name was struck from the Naval Register 1 November 1959.
Harkness received one battle star for World War II service.