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Miantonomah

 

A variant spelling of Miantonomoh (q.v.).

 

I

 

(CMc‑5: dp. 2,870; l. 292'; b. 48'7"; dr. 16'6"; s. 14 k.; cpl. 202; a. 2 4", 4 mg., 1 dct.)

 

Miantonomah (CMc‑5)was built as SS Quaker byPusey & Jones Corp., Wilmington, Del., in 1938 and during the next 3 years operated along the eastern seaboard as a fast inland water passenger and freight carrier. She was acquired by the Navy from her owner, Philadelphia & Norfolk Steamship Co., at Boston 5 May 1941; renamed Miantonomah 14 May 1941; converted for Navy use as a coastal minelayer by Bethlehem Shipbuilding Co., East Boston, Mass.; and commissioned at Boston 13 November 1941, Lt. Comdr. Raymond D. Edwards in command.

 

After completing conversion and following shakedown, Miantonomah steamed to the Virginia Capes where on 11 January 1942 she began laying her first minefield with Monadnock (CMc‑4). Operating out of Yorktown, Va., she joined in the effort to reduce the German submarine menace along the east coast, and during the next several months sowed mines off Cape Hatteras and Key West. In addition, defensive mining operations sent her to the southern reaches of the Caribbean off Trinidad. Reclassified CM‑10 on 15 May 1942, she continued duty with Mine Division 50 and in October completed preparations for oversea combat duty.

 

Loaded with a full cargo of mines, Miantonomah departed Yorktown 23 October and the next day joined the Center Attack Group (TG 34.9) of the Western Naval Task Force. Heavy seas forced the minelayer out of the convoy south of the Azores 4 November; escorted by Raven (AM‑55), she rejoined the task force 7 November as ships approached to launch a tbree‑pronged invasion of French Morocco.

 

Miantonomah arrived off Fedala late on the 7th and, because of her cargo, remained clear of the transport area. Following the predawn amphibious landings, and the subsequent neutralization of shore batteries by intense accurate naval gunfire, she laid down a defensive minefield north and east of the transport area about noon 8 November, thence anchored in Fedala Harbor. She remained at Fedala during the next few days and escaped damage from two German submarine attacks on 11 and 12 November, although three torpedoes on the 11th passed within 25 to 75 yards of her. These attacks by U‑173 and U‑130 sank four U.S. ships and damaged two others.

 

Between 12 and 15 November she steamed in convoy to Casablanca. After loading mines from Terror (CM‑5), she joined Monoadnock and Terror and on the 16th extended the Fedala minefield along the Moroccan coast to Casablanca. The next morning she departed Casablanca and sailed with other ships of TG 34.9 for the United States. Heavy seas pounded her badly but she arrived Yorktown 30 November.

 

Miantonomah underwent repairs at Norfolk between 8 December and 19 January 1943, then resumed duty out of Yorktown in Chesapeake Bay and along the Virginia coast. She operated out of Boston between 9 April and 25 May and returned to Yorktown 29 May to prepare for minelaying operations in the Caribbean. She departed 14 June, reached Trinidad the 20th, and later in the month sowed mines to protect the approaches to that important American base. She returned to the Chesapeake 28 July and operated out of Yorktown during the next 9 months. On 29 April she sailed to Bayonne, N.J.; thence, as a unit of TG 27.1, she departed Gravesend Bay, N.J., 5 May to support the Allied invasion of Europe.

 

Miantonomah arrived Bristol, England, 16 May and began duty with the 12th Fleet. She operated out of Bristol until D‑Day, 6 June, when she steamed via Cardiff to Plymouth. She continued dispatch and escort duties in British waters until arriving off Grandcamp, France, 25 June. There she embarked Rear Adm. John Wilkes and became flagship for CTF 125. She steamed to Cherbourg 9 July and on the 18th Admiral Wilkes hauled down his flag prior to Miantonomah's departure to England.

 

Arriving Plymouth later that day, Miantonomah returned to Cherbourg the 20th carrying supplies for port clearance operations. For more than 2 months she made runs between English and liberated French ports and provided valuable support for salvage and clearing operations. On 21 September she carried port clearance supplies from Cherbourg to Le Havre, which was liberated by sea and land less than 2 weeks before.

 

Miantonomah sailed early in the afternoon of the 25th. Because of the danger of enemy mines, her skipper, Comdr. Austin E. Rowe, ordered “the highest state of watertight integrity to be set and all personnel not actually on watch below to be on topside and wear lifejackets”—measures which undoubtedly saved many lives. With a French harbor pilot at the conn, she skillfully navigated the inner and outer harbors and cleared the block ships, thence made course for the entrance to the marked channel. As she steamed about 2,000 yards out from the block ships, she was rocked at 1415 by a tremendous underwater explosion under the engineroom. This blast, possibly followed by a second one, dazed or injured practically the entire crew. Immediately, the stricken ship began to sink rapidly by the stern and to starboard.

 

Damage control efforts proved useless, and as Coast Guard vessels, British motor launches, and a French fishing craft stood by to rescue survivors, her injured skipper ordered Miantonomah to be abandoned. She sank about 20 minutes after the explosion with a loss of some 58 officers and men.

 

Miantonomah received two battle stars for World War II service.