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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
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Ontario

 

The smallest of the Great Lakes.

 

III

 

(AT–13: dp. 1,120.; l. 185’2”; b. 34’; dr. 20’3”; s. 13.2 k.; cpl. 42; cl. Sonoma)

 

The third Ontario (AT–13), a single screw seagoing tug, was laid down by the New York Shipbuilding Co., Camden, N. J. 23 November 1911; launched 11 April 1912; and commissioned at Philadelphia Navy Yard 4 September 1912, Chief Boatswain S. M. McCarthy in command.

 

The finest development in naval tugboats up to that time, Ontario served as part of the Atlantic Fleet for the first five years following commissioning. The ship operated all along the Atlantic Coast and in the Caribbean in support of Fleet exercises and did auxiliary work in various ports and naval stations. When the United States entered World War I in April 1917, the tugboat steamed along the East Coast laying anti-submarine nets and patrolling against minefields from Portsmouth, Va., to Portsmouth, N. H. and towed barges of essential war supplies to New England ports. From 24 December 1917 to 2 January 1918, Ontario helped rescue grounded freighter Matanzas, an ammunition filled merchantman in danger of breaking up off Halifax, Nova Scotia and then returned to towing and netlaying duties.

 

The tugboat sailed for Queenstown, Ireland in late summer 1918, and joined the Atlantic Fleet Mine Force, patrolling off Daunt Rock Light Vessel, on guard against enemy submarines until after the Armistice. She then engaged in patrol work out of Ireland, England, the Azores, Portugal, and Gibraltar into 1920 as part of Subchaser Detachment 2, U.S. Naval Forces in European Waters, removing remnants of the Great War’s minefields. The ship sailed for Samoa for duty as station ship, rescue vessel, Governor’s yacht, transport, and “flagship” of the “Samoan Navy” in mid-1920.

 

For the next two decades, aside from regular yard periods at Pearl Harbor for repairs, Ontario operated out of the Tutuila Naval Station in her diverse but useful capacity, becoming a legend to Samoa’s young men who were encouraged to join the Navy because of her presence. On 3 January 1941, the venerable tug sailed for Pearl Harbor for a yard period and remained there throughout the rest of the year while she was converted from coal to oil. When the Japanese attacked Pearl, 7 December, the ship went into action with her two machine guns and was credited with downing one enemy plane. She next operated on auxiliary service to the Fleet out of Pearl Harbor into late 1943 and then joined Service Squadron 2 for duty with that force at advanced bases in the invasions of the Ellice, Gilbert, and Marshall Islands. From October 1944 to August 1945, the gallant little ship served as yard tug at Ulithi supplying the amphibious and fast carrier task forces with barge towing and other varied services during the busiest periods of the war, taking time out only to lay anchor buoys for ships along the coast of Peleliu in November–December 1944.

 

Ontario departed Ulithi for Eniwetok at the end of August 1945, sailing thence to Pearl Harbor and finally San Diego with two storm damaged patrol boats in tow. The old tug arrived back in the United States for the first time in 25 years 21 December 1945 and was immediately assigned to duty as yard tug at Long Beach until decommissioned 3 June 1946. She was struck from the Navy Register 19 June and sold to Floyd Harrington, Wilmington, Calif. 4 April 1947.

 

A veteran of two world wars and the long peace between, Ontario received 1 battle star for World War II service.

 

Ontario (Fleet Collier No. 2) was converted into a repair ship and renamed Prometheus (q.v.) 23 December 1914.