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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
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Sarsi

 

A small Canadian plains tribe of the Athapascan family which hunted on the upper Saskatchewan. In the 1790's, they constituted one of the leading tribes trading with the Hudson's Bay Company; but, by the end of the 19th century, they had become engaged in farming and stock raising near Calgary, Alberta.

 

(ATF-111: dp. 1,330; l. 205'; b. 38'6"; dr. 16'8"; s. 16 k.; cpl. 88; a. 1 3", 2 40mm., 2 20mm., 2 dct; cl. Abnaki)

 

Sarsi (AT-111) was laid down on 25 January 1943 by the United Engineering and Dry Dock Co., Alameda, Calif.; launched on 12 June 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Robert E. Christy; redesignated ATF-111 on 15 May 1944; and commissioned on 24 June 1944, Lt. H. J. Perry, Jr., USNR, in command.

 

Following shakedown training off southern California, Sarsi headed north to assume fleet tug duties in the 17th Naval District. She arrived in the Aleutians on 19 August and, by the end of World War II, had completed 45 jobs in the Aleutians and, on four occasions, had supported units of the North Pacific Task Forces engaged in raids against the Kuriles and enemy shipping north of Hokkaido. During the latter, no casualties were inflicted on the ships of the attack forces.

 

In carrying out her varied missions-salvage, towing, personnel and cargo lifts-in the Aleutian chain, the tug operated from Unalaska, Kodiak, Umnak, Seguam, Adak, Tanaga, Amatignak, Amchitka, Shemya, and Attu. After the war, she remained on active duty and continued to provide tug and transportation services to ships and bases in the Aleutians. In the spring of 1947, she returned to southern California and commenced operations out of San Diego which took her south along the west coast to Panama; west to the Hawaiian, Marshall, and Mariana Islands; and, five years later, north, back to the Aleutians. By that time, however, war had returned to the Pacific; and the United States was involved in the United Nations effort in Korea.

 

On 24 March 1952, Sarsi, commanded by Lt. W. M. Howard, departed San Diego and sailed west. On 18 April, she arrived at Sasebo, Japan. On the 20th, she took on ammunition; and, a week later, she continued on toward the embattled Korean peninsula. At the end of the month, she moored on the east side of Yodp, in the approaches to Wonsan harbor; and, as a unit of Task Group 92.2, the east coast Blockade and Escort Force, she performed towing, salvage, patrol, escort, buoy tender, and transportation duties. On 19 May, she returned to Sasebo, whence she completed one rescue mission and several towing assignments to southeastern Korean and Japanese ports. In late June, she operated off the west coast of Korea. In July, she again operated between southeastern Korea and Kyushu; and, on 19 August, she returned to the Wonsan area and resumed her varied duties there.

 

On the 20th, typhoon “Karen” hit the coast. For the next week, Sarsi towed various vessels; carried light cargo and personnel; relocated buoys and conducted nighttime, close-inshore anti-mining and anti-junk patrols. On the afternoon of the 27th, she refueled from Cimarron (AO-22); and, at 1847, moved north to patrol along the edge of the mineswept waters between Wonsan and Hungnam. At 2200, all unnecessary lights were extinguished. She reached Hungnam without incident; but, as she turned to return to Wonsan, a drifting mine, probably cut loose by the typhoon, exploded against her hull. Damage control efforts proved futile, and Sarsi sank in twenty minutes.

 

Four men were killed. The remainder, including four wounded, spent the night in, or clinging to, life rafts, life preservers, and the ship's whale boat. The whale boat, kept pointed out to sea with lines to the rafts, prevented drifting onto the enemy held shore. Rescue ships—destroyer, Boyd, and minesweepers, Zeal and Competent—arrived in the morning; and carried the survivors to friendly territory for medical treatment and reassignment.

 

Sarsi earned two campaign stars for her service during the Korean Conflict.