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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060

Widgeon

 

A fresh water duck.

 

I

 

(Minesweeper No. 22: dp. 950; l. 187'10"; b. 35'6"; dr. 9'9½" (mean); s. 14 k.; cpl. 85; a. 2 3"; cl. Lapwing)

 

Widgeon (Minesweeper No. 22) was laid down on 8 October 1917 at Chester, Pa., by the Sun Shipbuilding Co.; launched on 5 May 1918; sponsored by Miss Mildred Moyer; and commissioned on 27 July 1918, Lt. Comdr. John A. Monroe in command.

 

Widgeon served with Minesweeping Group 2 of the Atlantic Fleet during the last months of World War I. After the armistice, she was assigned to the North Sea Minesweeping Detachment and departed Boston, Mass., on 28 June 1919, bound for Scotland. Arriving at Kirk-wall on 10 July, Widgeon operated in the North Sea between Scotland and Norway, sweeping up mines sown by the Allies the year before to deter the German High Seas Fleet. These duties—often difficult and dangerous —kept the minesweeper occupied through the summer of 1919. Following the conclusion of the operation, Widgeon headed home—via Brest, France; Punta Del-gada, Azores; and Hamilton, Bermuda—and arrived at New York on 19 November 1919.

 

Widgeon operated off the east coast through 1921. During this period, she was designated AM-22 on 17 July 1920. Selected for conversion to a salvage vessel for duty on the Pacific coast, the minesweeper was decommissioned at Charleston, S.C., on 15 April 1922. She underwent conversion at the Charleston Navy Yard and was recommissioned there on 5 March 1923.

 

Despite her new equipment, the ship retained her minesweeper designation. In a departmental letter of 21 November 1923, the Navy's Bureau of Construction and Repair specified that Widgeon's equipment be utilized to determine "their exact capabilities in salvage work." Furthermore, "Widgeon should be considered available for salvage or rescue work and the Commander, Submarine Divisions, Pacific, is authorized to send . . . Widgeon to render such service when needed."

 

Operating out of Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, Widgeon served as the primary submarine rescue vessel for the Hawaiian area. During this time, she proved her versatility by recovering practice mines or torpedoes and served as a training ship for fleet divers. In 1926, the ship was extensively altered to increase her capabilities as a submarine rescue vessel. The ship was finally reclassified ASR-1 on 22 January 1936, over a decade after she began operating as such.

 

Widgeon continued her routine operations out of Pearl Harbor into the late 1930's as the world crisis deepened in Europe and the Far East. On 7 December 1941, the submarine rescue vessel lay alongside a berth at the submarine base at Pearl Harbor, when Japanese aircraft swept over the Pacific Fleet's base. When the raid was over later that morning, the Pacific Fleet's battleships ceased to exist as a potential retaliatory force to threaten Japan's massive "southern operation" in the Far East.

 

Despite keeping up a steady defensive fire with rifles and machine guns during the attack, Widgeon's crewmen did not claim to have downed any of the attackers. Then, soon after the enemy planes disappeared, smoke still boiled into the Pacific skies as Widgeon got underway from her berth at the submarine base and set her course for Ford Island to begin salvage operations on the overturned Oklahoma (BB-37). When she reached "Battleship Row," she found that burning oil spewing from the shattered tanks on Arizona (BB-39) was threatening the ships nested immediately ahead, Tennessee (BB-43) and the torpedoed West Virginia (BB-48). Accordingly, under orders from the Commander, Battle Force, Widgeon assisted Tern (AM-31) and YG-17 in fighting the fires.

 

Widgeon subsequently took part in salvaging Nevada (BB-36), California (BB-44), and Oklahoma. Her work on Nevada earned the ship a commendation from Commander, Battle Force, and her divers conducted many a foray into the darkened and treacherous interiors of the sunken battleships. When this work was well in hand and her service in that capacity was no longer required, Widgeon returned to her duties with the submarines of the Pacific Fleet. She towed targets for gunnery exercises and served as a target during torpedo-firing drills. She also recovered practice torpedoes at the conclusion of the day's training activities.

 

Widgeon operated in this capacity from April 1942 to 7 September 1943, when she got underway for the California coast. Arriving at San Diego on 18 September, the warship operated off the west coast as a torpedo recovery and submarine rescue ship into the spring of 1944, when she was relieved by Ortolan (ASR-5). In May, Widgeon returned to Pearl Harbor and resumed her operations as the Hawaiian-based submarine rescue vessel. She continued this duty through the end of the war in the Pacific and into November 1945, after which time she completed another tour at San Diego. In the summer of 1946, Widgeon—as part of Task Unit 1.2.7, the salvage unit of Joint Task Force 1—supported Operation "Crossroads," the atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll.

 

Subsequently returning to the west coast, Widgeon was decommissioned on 5 February 1947 and struck from the Navy list on 23 December 1947. Soon thereafter, she was sold to the Basalt Rock Co., of Napa, Calif., and scrapped.

 

Widgeon received one battle star for her World War II service.