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Wompatuck

 

A variant spelling of Wampatuck. See Wampatuck for biography.

 

(Tug: dp. 323; l. 130'; b. 25'6"; dr. 12' (mean); cpl. 28; a. 3 3-pdrs., 2 6-pdrs.)

 

Atlas—an iron-hulled, screw tug completed in 1886 at Wilmington, Del., by Harlan and Hollingsworth—was acquired by the Navy from the Standard Oil Co. on 4 April 1898; simultaneously renamed Wompatuck; outfitted at the New York Navy Yard; and commissioned on 6 April 1898, Lt. Charles W. Jungen in command.

 

Assigned to the North Atlantic Squadron, Wompatuck departed New York on 16 April and proceeded— via Norfolk, Va., Port Royal, S.C., and Key West, Fla. —to the Caribbean. She arrived off Havana, Cuba, on 30 April, bearing dispatches and mail for the ships of the North Atlantic Squadron blockading Cuba.

 

On 12 May, Capt. Charles P. Goodrich, the commanding officer of the auxiliary cruiser St. Louis, embarked in Wompatuck with Lt. A. W. Catlin, USMC, eight marines, and 11 volunteer sailors. The tug then headed for the mouth of the harbor at Santiago, Cuba, to attempt to cut the undersea telegraph cable linking Cuba with Jamaica. Unluckily for the Americans, a Spanish patrol craft sighted them; and Goodrich ordered a hasty retirement, "not knowing what might be the resources of the defense in guns and search lights."

 

At daybreak of 18 May, St. Louis and Wompatuck slowly closed the Santiago harbor entrance in a second attempt to locate and destroy the cable. The cruiser's grapnel soon snagged on the telegraph cable; but, almost simultaneously, the Spanish batteries ashore opened fire on the two American warships. Although neither Wompatuck nor St. Louis was well-suited for a slugging match with coast defense batteries, both stayed on station until communications between Jamaica and Cuba had been broken. In his subsequent action report, Capt. Goodrich lauded Lt. Jungen's "praiseworthy display of coolness and pluck in battle."

 

The next day, St. Louis and Wompatuck endeavored to cut Spanish cable connections at Guantanamo Bay. The tug proceeded into the harbor and dragged her hook along the bottom while the auxiliary cruiser lay-to outside, her main battery at the ready. Spanish shore batteries soon opened fire and eventually drove the American ships out to sea.

 

After a brief period of repairs at Key West, Wompatuck returned to the blockade. She later took part in the landings of Army troops at Daiquiri to relieve pressure on the marines entrenched at Guantanamo.

 

During the Daiquiri operation, Wompatuck screened Army transports on the voyage to the landing zone and later towed 18 launches, whaleboats, and cutters towards the shore to help land the troops from the transports. After she had pointed the first landing parties toward the beaches, she shelled Spanish defense positions to prevent the Spanish defenders from launching a counterattack against the American force ashore.

 

Eight days later, Wompatuck joined the armed steamer Hist and the armed yacht Hornet in reconnoitering the port of Manzanillo, Cuba. Second in column, the tug followed Hist's lead and opened fire on the Spanish ships—one torpedo boat and three "gun vessels" each mounting two guns—as soon as she reached firing range.

 

During the ensuing 55-minute duel—in which the Spanish torpedo boat was sunk—Wompatuck was forced to maneuver out of column formation in order to bring her after battery to bear. Her forward 3-pounder had fired only seven rounds before the stress sheared off rivets at the base of the mount, rendering it useless. Jungen ordered the helm put over to starboard and thus permitted his vessel to maintain a "brisk . . . and well-directed" fire.

 

An enemy shell—part of an intense fusillade—meanwhile struck Hornet and severed a steam line. Escaping steam scalded three men. Wompatuck, seeing Hornet in distress, stopped, backed down, and passed the yacht a tow line which had been laid out with foresight earlier that afternoon as the ship had cleared for action.

 

After her first attempt to pull Hornet out of danger failed, Wompatuck came alongside to make certain that the towing hawser was securely fastened. Meanwhile, the Spanish had noticed that Hornet was disabled. The two-ship "nest" provided too good a target to pass up, and the Spaniards concentrated their gunfire on Wompatuck and Hornet. A "hot and uncomfortable" fire from cannon, mortars, and small arms soon fell around the two American warships. Wompatuck took three minor caliber hits, one of which holed her port whale-boat and passed four feet from Lt. Jungen.

 

As the two American vessels crept out of danger, a sloop full of Spanish soldiers approached them from their disengaged side, hoping that the yanquis were too busy to notice them. However, Hornet's alert gunners were not to be fooled and got off a well-placed 6-pounder shell which sank the sloop—soldiers and all.

 

While Wompatuck licked her wounds, the American fleet routed their Spanish enemies in battle at Santiago on 3 July, ending Spanish hope for a victory. Wompatuck subsequently assisted Hist and Hornet in breaking Spanish cables between Media Luna and Quizaro.

 

One week later, on 18 July, Wompatuck formed part of the American squadron that conducted a bold and devastating three-pronged raid on Manzanillo. The American warships—which also included Wilmington (Gunboat No. 8), Helena (Gunboat No. 9), the tug Osceola, Hist, and Hornet—approached the enemy from three directions through the various shipping channels and destroyed four Spanish gunboats, three transports, and a store ship with a withering fusillade. The Americans, having caught the enemy unawares, succeeded in emerging from the counterbattery fire unscathed.

 

Following the Manzanillo action, Wompatuck underwent repairs at Key West. One of her 3-pounders had been put out of action when the rivets holding the base of its mount to the ship failed under the stress of firing.

 

The conclusion of what Theodore Roosevelt called a "Splendid Little War" that summer meant that the Fleet would soon return to its peacetime pursuits. Wompatuck departed Guantanamo Bay on 14 August, convoying Rodgers (Torpedo Boat No. 4) to Key West before proceeding north with Morris (Torpedo Boat No. 14) in tow and arriving at New York on 26 August. After repairs, the tug proceeded on to Boston, which she visited from 2 to 9 September. After towing the monitor Wyandotte to Philadelphia for decommissioning, Wompatuck returned to New York on 15 September and was decommissioned at the New York Navy Yard on 15 October 1898.

 

Recommissioned at New York on 12 November 1900, Wompatuck departed New York on 10 December and rendezvoused in Hampton Roads with Annapolis (Gunboat No. 10), the yacht Frolic, and the screw tug Pisca-taqua. Underway for the Far East on 30 December, the ships proceeded to the Philippines—via the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, Colombo, and Singapore—arriving at Cavite on 24 April 1901.

 

For the next few years, Wompatuck participated in operations to restore order during the Philippine Insurrection, as the United States sought to establish sovereignty in a part of its newly won empire. Based out of Cavite during this time, the tug performed a wide variety of duties. She cooperated with Army units at Lubang, Tilig, and Luk Bay, Philippines, in the spring of 1901 and subsequently provisioned lighthouses at Kapones Island, Subig, and Olongapo; transported men and mail; and assisted vessels in distress. She carried out regular transportation services between Cavite and Olongapo into the spring of 1903 and later sailed for Chinese waters to take part in the Fleet's summer target practices at Chefoo.

 

Assigned to the naval station at Cavite in 1904, Wompatuck performed yeoman service until decommissioned on 31 July 1931. During her tour at Cavite, she was designated YT-27 on 17 July 1920, when the Navy adopted its modern, alphanumeric system of hull designations.

 

Wompatuck's name was struck from the Navy list on 11 February 1938. She apparently was laid up at Cavite for more than three years, awaiting disposal. However, she was withdrawn from the sale list on 9 July 1941 and converted to a self-propelled, diesel oil barge. The erstwhile tug was redesignated YO-64, on 9 October 1941 and served until the Philippines fell to the Japanese. While no records have been found delineating her fate after Pearl Harbor, it can be assumed that she was either captured by the Japanese when they took Cavite on 2 January 1942 or was scuttled by American or Filipino forces to prevent her capture.

 

YO-64 was struck from the Navy list on 21 April 1944.