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Wateree

I

(Sidewheel Gunboat: tonnage 974; length 205'0"; beam 35'0"; depth of hold 11'6"; speed 10 knots; armament 2 100-pounders Parrott rifles, 4 9" Dahlgren smoothbores, 4 24-pounder howitzers, 2 13-pounders, 2 12-pounder rifles)

The first Wateree, a sidewheel gunboat, was built at Chester, Pa., by Reany Son & Archbold; launched on 12 August 1863; and commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 20 January 1864, Comdr. F. E. Murray in command.

Assigned to the Pacific Squadron, Wateree departed Philadelphia soon after commissioning. During the next 10 months, she made the arduous voyage around Cape Horn to the Pacific. In addition to struggling against the heavy weather for which the Cape region is noted, the warship experienced difficulty acquiring fuel. That problem necessitated her making numerous stops along the way to acquire wood for her boilers; and, as a result, Wateree did not reach San Francisco, Calif., until mid-November 1864.

Upon her arrival there, the ship entered the Mare Island Navy Yard for repairs to damage she suffered during her arduous voyage and for a hull scraping. She did not leave San Francisco until late February 1865 when she put to sea to patrol the coast of Central America. During 1866, American naval forces in the Pacific were divided into a North Pacific Squadron and a South Pacific Squadron. Wateree was assigned to the latter unit, whose patrol area extended south from Panama to Cape Horn and west to Australia. For the remaining two years of her brief naval career, Wateree patrolled the coasts of Central and South America, protecting American interests in that region.

On 15 August 1868, while she was in port at Arica, Peru, a devastating earthquake struck the city subjecting Wateree and the other ships in the harbor to several massive tidal waves. The last wave broke the side-wheeler gunboat's anchor chains and drove her ashore almost 500 yards inland from the normal high water mark. Too badly damaged for economical repair, the ship was sold to Mr. William Parker on 21 November 1868. Apparently her hulk was converted to living spaces ashore, and the former warship served as an inn for some years thereafter.

II

(Fleet ocean tug ATF-117: displacement 1,589 (during trials); length 205'0"; beam 38'6"; draft 15'4"; speed 16.5 knots (trial speed); complement 85; armament 1 3", 2 40 millimeters; class Abnaki)

The second Wateree (ATF-117) was laid down on 22 September 1943 at Alameda, Calif., by the United Engineering Co. as an ocean tug, AT-117; redesignated a fleet ocean tug, ATF-117, on 15 May 1944; launched on 14 June 1944; sponsored by Mrs. Henry B. Wagner; and commissioned on 17 February 1945 at San Francisco, Calif., Lt. Gilbert E. Perry in command.

After fitting out at San Francisco, Wateree got underway for San Pedro on 4 March. She reported for duty at the Small Craft Training Center on 6 March and, for the next 25 days, trained strenuously. During the first week in April, she conducted more training, this time out of San Diego. From 6 to 13 April, the tug underwent repairs at the San Diego repair base. She arrived back at San Francisco on 15 April and, on the 23d, got underway towing three pontoon barges to the forward areas. The ship arrived in Pearl Harbor on 10 May and conducted voyage repairs. On the 22d, she put to sea to rescue a disabled freighter; found the ship on the 24th; took her in tow; and arrived back in Pearl Harbor on the 26th. On 30 May, she stood out of the port once again towing the three pontoon barges. After a month's voyage, which included a five-day stop at Eniwetok between 18 and 23 June and a brief pause at Guam on the 3oth, Wateree delivered the barges to Okinawa on 12 July. Two days later, she headed back to Eniwetok, where she arrived on 25 July. She remained there until 15 August, first undergoing some repairs and then providing harbor tug services in the anchorage.

The tug's departure coincided with Japan's capitulation ending hostilities in the Pacific. She steamed to Kwajalein where she took ARD-29 in tow, bound via Guam for Okinawa. She and her charge departed Kwajalein on 24 August, stopped at Guam from 2 to 15 September, and arrived at Okinawa on 23 September. Six days later, she assisted several tugs with tows in trouble between the Philippines and Okinawa. On 1 October, she encountered Cinnabar (IX-162) adrift with ATR-29 standing by. Wateree took both ships in tow and arrived back in Buckner Bay on 4 October.

When it was ascertained that a typhoon would soon strike the anchorage at Buckner Bay, the tug received orders on 7 October to stand by to render assistance to any ships which got into trouble during the storm. Wateree herself, however, fell victim to the storm when it hit the anchorage on 9 October. At about 1220, her starboard anchor was carried away by one of the many ships and barges cast about by the storm. In order to ease the strain on her remaining port anchor chain, she started her engines. Soon, however, she had to weigh anchor in an effort to avoid all the vessels adrift in the anchorage. The wind blew her afoul the anchor buoy for APL-28, and she was drawn in toward that ship. She and APL-28 collided, but the damage was repaired quickly, and she untangled herself from the anchor buoy. Between 1515 and 1558, she cleared the APL and attempted to drop her port anchor again. The anchor machinery failed; and, at 1528, the wind blew her onto a reef and battered out her starboard side before she could be brought clear. At about 1555, the order to abandon ship went out; and, by 1610, all crewmen had gone over the side. Soon thereafter, Wateree sank in about 8 fathoms of water. The ship's commanding officer, her executive officer, and six enlisted men were lost. Wateree's name was struck from the Navy list on 1 November 1945.

III

(Auxiliary ocean tug ATA-174: displacement 835 (during trials); length 143'0"; beam 33'10"; draft 13'2" (full load displacement); speed 13 knots (trial speed); complement 45; armament 1 3"; class ATA-121)

The third Wateree (ATA-174) was laid down on 5 October 1943 at Orange, Tex., by the Levingston Shipbuilding Co. as the unnamed rescue tug ATR-101; launched on 18 November 1943; redesignated an auxiliary ocean tug, ATA-174, and commissioned on 20 July 1944, Lt. A. J. Vetro in command.

ATA-174 departed orange on 4 August and arrived in Norfolk on the 11th. Over the next 10 days, she conducted shakedown training in the Chesapeake Bay and then underwent an eight-day, post-shakedown repair period before heading for New York on 2 September. The tug remained at Staten Island for five days and then took departure for the Panama Canal with three open lighters in tow. She made an unscheduled three-day stop in mid-September to evade a hurricane but finally arrived in Cristobal on 26 September. On the 27th, she transited the canal and reported to the Pacific Fleet for duty. The tug departed Balboa on 10 October towing YC-1131 and YC-1137 to San Diego where she arrived on 26 October after a voyage complicated by a steering control failure. Following repairs at San Diego, the ship moved north to San Pedro making the voyage on 10 and 11 November. She remained there until the 19th on which day she took the three open lighters in tow and set a course for Pearl Harbor. ATA-174 arrived in Pearl Harbor on 3 December, remained there for 10 days, and then got underway for the Marshall Islands on the 13th. After a 16-day voyage plagued by mishaps in her main propulsion plant, the tug arrived at Eniwetok Atoll on 29 December. Between 1 and 3 January 1945, she towed YSR-4 from Eniwetok to Kwajalein and, after a six-day stopover continued on to Manus in the Admiralty Islands where she arrived on 18 January.

On the 22d, she stood out to sea from Manus and set a course for Noumea, New Caledonia. En route, however, she received orders diverting her to Guadalcanal. The tug arrived at her new destination on 26 January. She served in the southern Solomons for almost two months. Early in February, she conducted diving operations on the sunken wreck of Serpens (AK-97) during the investigation of her explosion and sinking. In mid-February, she salvaged six bulldozers from 110 feet of water off Lunga Point. Later, she pulled two grounded submarine chasers off reefs in Skylark Channel. She concluded her duty at Guadalcanal on 22 March when she took ARD-18 in tow for Hollandia, New Guinea. She stopped at Hollandia from 30 March to 2 April and then continued her voyage towing ARD-18 to Ulithi where she arrived on 7 April. After an overnight stop, the tug departed Ulithi on the 8th and set a course for Manus. She reached Manus on the 12th but departed again the next day. The ship made Guadalcanal on the 17th and remained two days. From there, she voyaged via Espiritu Santo to Tutuila, Samoa, arriving at the latter island on 27 April.

She made emergency repairs until 1 May on which day she shaped a course for the Russell Island subgroup of the Solomons with AFD-20 in tow. In the Russells, she added a pontoon barge to the tow and continued on to Manus where she arrived on 20 May. On the 24th, ATA-174 resumed her voyage, this time to Leyte in the Philippines where she arrived on 2 June. The tug remained at Leyte for 15 days and then got underway for Guadalcanal on the 17th. She reached her destination on 27 June but departed again the next day towing E. A. Poe (IX-103) via Tulagi to Leyte. After a stop in the Russell Islands and another at Manus, she and her charge arrived in San Pedro Bay on 19 July. On the 23d, ATA-174 left Leyte and set sail for Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides where, after a diversion back to the Russell Islands, she arrived on 10 August. The tug remained at Espiritu Santo until 14 August when she set sail to return to Leyte with YC-812 and YF-466 in tow. She arrived in Leyte on 29 August, delivered her charges, and remained there for a little over a week. On 8 September, the tug headed back to the Solomons by way of Manus. She arrived at Guadalcanal on the 19th and began duty as an air-sea rescue vessel and towing diesel fuel barges between Tulagi and the Russells. That assignment lasted a little more than a month. On 26 October, she took a former LST in tow for Leyte and arrived there on 8 November. She departed Leyte 11 days later and, after stops at Eniwetok and Pearl Harbor, arrived in San Francisco on 1 January 1946.

For the next month, the tug operated along the west coast, visiting San Diego, Astoria, Portland, and Seattle. On 18 February, she reported for duty at the naval station at Astoria, Oreg. After almost 9 months of active service with the Columbia River Group, Pacific Reserve Fleet, she was placed out of commission on 16 January 1947. Berthed with the Columbia River Group, she remained inactive at Astoria until the summer of 1953. During that period, she received the name Wateree on 16 July 1948. On 2 June 1953, she departed Astoria to be transferred to the Commandant, 13th Naval District, who in turn transferred her to the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS) for duty in Alaskan waters. She was placed in service on 13 August 1953 and served with the MSTS in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest until the spring of 1955. On 14 March 1955, Wateree rejoined the Columbia River Group. She remained inactive until November 1961 at which time she was sold to Peru. She served the Peruvian Navy as Uranue (ATA-136) until 1977. Sometime between late 1977 and early 1978, the Peruvians disposed of her.



1 February 2002

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