(ATA-204: dp. 860; l. 143'; b. 33'; dr. 14'; s. cpl. 46; a. 1 3"; cl. ATA-121)
The second Wandank (ATA-204)—originally projected as ATR—131, a steel-hulled rescue tug—was laid down as ATA-204 on 25 September 1944 at Port Arthur, Tex., by the Gulfport Boiler and Welding Works; launched on 9 November 1944; and commissioned on 18 January 1945, Lt. (jg.) Vernon L. Ryan, USNR, in command.
Following her shakedown in the Caribbean, ATA-204 got underway on 23 February for the Panama Canal, en route to the Pacific. The auxiliary ocean tug operated with the Pacific Fleet through the end of hostilities, performing services at locales ranging from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to the Marshall Islands. After hostilities ended, she returned to San Francisco, Calif., late in August 1945 and soon shifted to the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Wash. She operated in the 13th Naval District until she was decommissioned on 26 November 1947 and placed in reserve.
The onset of the Korean War gave the vessel a new lease on life, however, triggering the expansion of the United States Navy to maintain a posture of global readiness. ATA-204 was reactivated on 17 April 1952 at Astoria, Oreg., for assignment to the 14th Naval District. Recommissioned at Pearl Harbor on 3 May 1952, Lt. William A. Walden in command, the auxiliary ocean tug received the name Wandank and retained her ATA-204 designation.
For the next three years, Wandank operated out of Pearl Harbor, providing tug and tow services for the Pacific Fleet, and occasionally deployed to Samoa and other Pacific isles with tows. On 9 September 1955, the tug was transferred to the Marianas. There, she towed barges of supplies, stood ready to assist in search and rescue (SAR) operations, provided target services for gunnery and torpedo exercises, and conducted local surveillance missions out of Guam into the 1960's.
During this deployment, the ocean tug supported scientific operations in addition to her more routine duties. In January 1960, for example, Wandank served as communication relay and support ship for the bathyscaphe Trieste in Project "Nekton." She towed the underwater craft some 260 miles from Guam to the vicinity of the Challenger Deep, where, on 23 January, Trieste descended to 37,000 feet. Four years later, in November 1964, Wandank conducted a survey of the Solomon Islands in a joint project sponsored by the University of Hawaii's Institute of Geophysics and the Office of Naval Research. During the course of this operation, she measured the earth's gravity in the area.
On occasion, Wandank's operations nonetheless assumed a dangerous character during tropical tempests. During one of these storms, which occurred late in 1963, Wandank was trapped between two typhoons while en route to her annual buoy maintenance duty at Chichi Jima in the Bonins. In the heavy seas, her tow line parted, leaving YCV-18 adrift. During the ensuing recovery operations, the tug's first lieutenant, J. B. Clark, was knocked overboard by a heavy wave and swept from sight.
In July 1966, Wandank rendezvoused with Japanese merchantman Yeiji Maru, which had been experiencing engine trouble, and escorted the distressed ship to Guam. Later that year, she towed SS Old Westbury to a safe haven, relieving Sunnadin (ATA-197) which had run low on fuel on 11 November.
The year 1967 passed with much the same routine; and, in 1968, the ship participated in her first operations in connection with the Vietnam War. She towed a gasoline barge, YOG-131, from Guam to Danang, South Vietnam, from 3 to 15 January. After returning from Vietnamese waters, she performed island survey duties in the Western Carolinas and subsequently helped to search for floating drydpck AFDM-6 which had broken loose from her civilian tow vessel. Wandank next participated in special operations into the summer before making a second voyage to Vietnamese waters, towing APL-30 to Vung Tau, Vietnam, from 16 August to 1 September.
Wandank commenced the year 1969 with more island surveillance missions in the central Carolines, sending a landing party ashore from her crew to ascertain the needs of the islanders who lived under the care and protection of the Trust Territories. She conducted a training mission to Yokosuka, Japan, in February and March before returning to a schedule of surveillance operations in the northern Marianas. She trained for possible participation in Project "Apollo" in April before she towed three barges from Sattahip, Thailand, to Vung Tau, from 13 April to 8 May.
Upon returning to the vicinity of the Marianas and Carolines soon thereafter, she conducted local operations through the end of the year. Wandank interrupted this duty only long enough to tow LCU-1483 to Ponape Island and LCU-H97 to Majuro, from 25 November to 4 December. During her final full year of naval service, 1970, the ship conducted local operations out of her home port of Apra Harbor, Guam.
She got underway from Guam on 20 January 1971 for Hong Kong and then escorted three Asheville-cl&ss patrol gunboats to Subic Bay and Camranh Bay, serving as a communication back-up vessel. She later escorted two gunboats from Camranh Bay to Hong Kong before returning to island surveillance duties.
Decommissioned at Guam on 1 July 1971, Wandank was simultaneously turned over to the Department of the Interior for service in the Trust Territories, her old habitat. Returned to the Navy on 22 May 1973, Wandank was adjudged unfit for further service and accordingly struck from the Navy list on 1 August 1973. Subsequently returned to the Interior Department, she serves in the Trust Territories on island surveillance and local towing duties.
Wandank was awarded three battle stars for her Vietnam War service.
USS Wandank (ATA-204) in 1966-67