(AM-131: dp. 890; l. 221'2"; b. 32'0"; dr. 10'9" (mean); s. 18.1 k. (tl.) ; cpl. 105; a. 1 3", 2 40mm.; cl. Auk)
Zeal (AM-131) was laid down on 12 January 1942 at Chickasaw, Ala., by the Gulf Shipbuilding Co.; launched on 15 September 1942; sponsored by Mrs. John M. Hughes; and commissioned on 9 July 1943, Lt. Comdr. H. M. Jones, USNR, in command.
After a visit to New Orleans for deperming, Zeal got underway late in July for shakedown training en route to Norfolk, Va. During that cruise, she conducted type training out of Key West, Fla. Between 9 and 30 August, post-shakedown availability at the Norfolk Navy Yard occupied her time. On 3 September, she received orders to proceed via Guantanamo Bay to the Panama Canal. She arrived in Guantanamo Bay on 8 September and, after loading supplies, got underway the following day for the Canal Zone. She reached Coco Solo on 12 September and operated from there for the next month. On 12 October, she departed the Pacific terminus of the canal, bound for the southwestern Pacific. En route, the minesweeper made stops at the Galapagos Islands, Bora Bora, and Tutuila. At Suva in the Fiji Islands, she received orders detaching her from her unit to serve as escort for the tanker SS Pacific Sun on a voyage from Suva to the New Hebrides Islands. She arrived at Espiritu Santo on 2 November and, three days later, departed on another convoy escort mission.
That mission set the pattern for her first 11 months in the western Pacific. She escorted convoys between the islands of the southwestern Pacific which by that time were becoming increasingly more of a rear area. She also conducted antisubmarine patrols. For the most part, the Solomon Islands, the New Hebrides Islands, Fiji Islands, and the Marshall Islands constituted her zone of operations.
In August 1944, however, she began training for her first amphibious operation. Operating from Tulagi and Florida Island, she practiced minesweeping maneuvers, drilled at gunnery, and participated in rehearsal landings. On 8 September, she got underway with the other units of Mine Division (MinDiv) 14 for the Palau Islands. She arirved off Angaur in the Palaus on the morning of 15 September and spent the next two days sweeping the approaches to the invasion beaches. The sweeps of Angaur, however, netted her no mines. On the 17th, she moved north to Kossol Roads and began screening the fleet anchorage located there against submarine attack.
Soon thereafter, she received orders to proceed to Ulithi Atoll. She arrived there on 21 September and began running sweeps of the lagoon. Here, Zeal finally succeeded in fulfilling the mission for which she had originally been built, sweeping eight mines during the anchorage clearing operation. She remained at Ulithi until 25 September at which time she departed the atoll in company with a convoy of LST's bound for Hol-landia, New Guinea, where she made a brief stop on the 29th. From there, the ship continued on to Finschhafen and thence to Seeadler Harbor on Manus Island, where she arrived on 2 October.
Zeal remained at Manus for eight days. On 10 October, she got underway with a convoy of minecraft, bound for Leyte Gulf. During the first few days of the transit, weather caused no problems; but, during the latter part, it steadily worsened. By the time Zeal arrived in Leyte Gulf, a storm approaching typhoon proportions had worked itself up. On 17 October, the minesweeper began the preinvasion sweep of the Leyte assault beaches on schedule. The storm, however, reached the typhoon stage at that point and forced her to retire from the area.
The typhoon abated that evening; and, on the morning of the 18th, Zeal returned to resume her sweep. That day brought the warship her first contact with the Japanese. After she had cut a few moored mines, a "Val" dive-bomber flew over and dropped two bombs which missed nearby Velocity (AM-128) by about 200 yards. The Japanese plane made its attack and retired before any gun crews could man their battle stations. Over the next few days, Zeal sighted several enemy planes; but the attack on the 18th remained her only close contact with the enemy until after she completed her minesweeping chores on the 23d and moved farther into the gulf near Dulag to join the fire support group there.
During her stay in the gulf, Zeal missed the Battle for Leyte Gulf but participated in some engagements with enemy land-based aircraft. One particularly intense air attack came on 25 October when Japanese planes were attacking the ships from almost every angle. A twin engine "Betty" bomber flew up Zeal's starboard side and drew the combined fire of her 3-inch and 20-millimeter batteries. A few seconds later, that intruder burst into flames and splashed into the sea. Zeal escaped the air raids with little or no damage, and her crew suffered only one slight casualty. On 28 October, she stood out of Leyte Gulf on her way back to Manus. The minesweeper entered Seeadler Harbor on 5 November.
Nine days later, she began the first leg of a voyage back to the United States. Steaming via Pearl Harbor, she arrived in Portland, Oreg., on 4 December. She was overhauled there at the Albina Shinvards during December and the first two months of 1945. She completed repairs and departed Portland on 4 March, bound for refresher and minesweeping training along the coast of California. That employment occupied her for about a month.
On 2 April 1945, she departed the west coast to return to the war in the western Pacific. After stops at Pearl Harbor and at Eniwetok Atoll, the minesweeper arrived at Kerama Retto in the Ryukyus on 21 May to join in the last campaign of World War II—the seven-week old assault on Okinawa. During her tour of duty at Okinawa, Zeal served on the radar picket stations situated around the island and at some distance from which to provide early warning of air attack from enemy bases on Kyushu and Formosa.
Though she witnessed a number of kamikaze and conventional air attacks on other ships, she suffered only one such scrape herself. On the night of 27 May, a Japanese float plane started a run on her, but her antiaircraft batteries quickly discouraged him.
Zeal remained at Okinawa until the beginning of July at which time she embarked upon some large-scale minesweeping operations. The first, designated Operation "Juneau," was conducted in a 60-mile rectangle in the East China Sea. She returned to Okinawa late in July to conduct an availability in preparation for a similar operation, code-named "Skagway." On 15 August, while she was still undergoing repairs, Japan capitulated.
A week later, she departed Okinawa on her way to the "Skagway" area, but the mission was postponed because of the more pressing need of sweeping Japanese home waters for the occupation forces. By late August, she was on her way to northern Honshu and, on 6 September, reported for duty at Ominato Naval Base. She swept mines at that location until 19 October, at which time she received orders to head for Sasebo. She arrived in Sasebo on 24 October but departed two days later to participate in Operation "Klondike"—another major minesweep conducted in the East China Sea. "Klondike" lasted until 8 November, on which date she returned to Sasebo to begin repairs.
Zeal completed repairs on 25 November and departed Sasebo for another series of sweeps at various locations. These she conducted in the vicinity of Formosa and the Pescadores Islands, operating out of Kiirun, Formosa. At the conclusion of that assignment, she spent the holidays at Shanghai, China. She departed Shanghai on 3 January 1946 and arrived in Sasebo on the 5th. Ten days later, she began the first leg of her homeward voyage.
After stops at Eniwetok and Pearl Harbor, she entered San Diego on 9 February. Assigned to the San Diego Group, Pacific Reserve Fleet, Zeal was placed out of commission on 4 June 1946. She remained inactive until 19 December 1951 when she was recom-missioned at San Diego.
The minesweeper remained on the west coast until 19 May 1952 when she got underway for the western Pacific. After a stop at Pearl Harbor late in May, Zeal continued her voyage west and arrived in Sasebo on 18 June. On the 27th, she departed Sasebo for Korean waters and minesweeping operations near Wonsan, Hungnam, and Chongjin. During those operations, she came under fire of enemy shore batteries several times but sustained no damage. In August, she participated in the rescue of 26 of Sarsi's (ATF-111) crewmen after that tug had hit a mine and sunk. She served in the Korean combat zone until the fall of 1952. She departed Sasebo on 19 October and, after stops at Midway and Oahu, arrived in Long Beach on 15 November.
For more than two years, Zeal conducted operations —almost exclusively training evolutions—out of Long Beach, San Diego, and other west coast ports. On 21 January 1955, she departed Long Beach and embarked upon another deployment with the 7th Fleet. En route she was redesignated MSF-131. She reached Sasebo on 15 February and, for the next six months, conducted operations off the western coast of Korea as well as in the Sea of Japan. Zeal departed Yokosuka on 10 August and, after stops at Midway and Oahu, arrived in Long Beach on 5 September. She conducted west coast operations until decommissioned the following summer on 6 July 1956. She remained with the Pacific Reserve Fleet for just over a decade. Her name was struck from the Navy list on 1 December 1966, and her stripped hull was sunk as a target on 9 January 1967.
Zeal earned four battle stars during World War II and an additional four for her postwar minesweeping service. During the Korean conflict, she earned one battle star
The steel-hulled minesweeper Zeal (MSF-131) in the Far East, 4 August 1955, moored to a buoy alongside a sister ship. The increasing threat of magnetic mines, first used early in World War II, led to the eventual replacement of these ships by newer wooden-hulled sweepers. (NH 68593)