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USS Pirate; Report of Loss of USS Pirate (AM-275)

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U.S.S. PIRATE AM 275
c/o Fleet Post Office
San Francisco, Calif.

AM275/A16             
CEM/rem                  
Serial: 01A-50          
19 October 1950        

From: Commanding Officer
To: Secretary of the Navy
Via: (1) Commander Mine Division 32
(2) Commander Mine Squadron THREE
(3) Commander Service Force, Pacific Fleet

Subj: U.S.S. PIRATE (AM-275); Report of Loss of

Ref: (a) Art. 0778(c), U.S. Naval Regulations 1948
(b) USS PIRATE disp. 131612Z of October

1. In accordance with reference (a), and in amplification of reference (b), I have the following report.

2. At about 0515I on 12 October 1950, the U.S.S. PIRATE got underway from anchor in the approaches to Wonsan Harbor, Korea and proceeded on a course of 270T, speed 6 knots down the swept channel. The vessel was underway in accordance with verbal orders of Commander Mine Division 32, embarked in the vessel, Commander Seventh Fleet Op-order 7-50 and CTG 95.6 Op-order 4-50. General Quarters was sounded at about 0920I. Condition Able was set, the officers and crew donned life jackets and helmets, and the ship reported ready in approximately three (3) minutes. The special minesweeping condition was then set bringing all personnel not necessary for the operation of the vessel to the topside, dispersed in order to minimize casualties in event of mining, bow lookouts posted, and degausing energized with the vessel in Material Condition Able. The 3"/50 cal. gun crew was at the ready, but crew drawn back clear of the gun mount. The Commanding Officer had orders to fire only if fired upon. The moored gear was then streamed to three hundred (300) fathoms on both sides, employing a thirty (30) foot float pennant, intermediate and end cutters. At about 1000I the vessel became guide in an Oboe type sweep, port echelon, in a formation consisting of the following vessels: USS PLEDGE (AM-277); USS INCREDIBLE (AM-249); with danning vessels: USS REDHEAD (AMS-34) on station on the PIRATE's starboard float; and the USS KITE (AMS-22) on station on the INCREDIBLE's port float. The USS ENDICOTT (DMS-35) was astern of the formation to provide fire support. At 1045I the formation changed course to 258T, and speed 8 knots (220 rpm), and at 1112I, entered unswept waters.

3. The vessel continued on course 258T and at 1154I, swept five moored contact mines with the starboard gear and one with the port gear. From the height the mines rose in the water, the case depth was estimated at about 15 feet, the spacing regular and at 50 yard intervals. At about 1200I a report of mines was received from a helicopter via the ENDICOTT indicating three (3) lines of mines in the area bounded by the following islands: KOTO, REI-TO, RO TO, and SOKU SEMU. The position of the mine lines was not indicated, the angles at which they lay, nor the estimated case depth. Commander Mine Division 32 then ordered the formation to abandon the original plan of a turn to the south and to continue along the reported Russian swept channel. The Commanding Officer concurred because of the uncertainty of the position of the mine lines and the belief that the vessel would, in all likelihood, be mined while in the turn. Sonar reported many contacts within one minute prior to the mining of the vessel. The first definite reported contact was at 250T, range one hundred (100) yards; the course was immediately changed to 245T. Within seconds the bow lookout reported a shallow mine and indicated to the Commanding Officer (the conning officer) that the mine was close aboard the starboard bow; no further report was received. The rudder was ordered hard left, the time interval to the pivot point abaft the bridge was estimated, and then the rudder was ordered hard right. At no time did the conning officer sight the mine. A surviving quartermaster later reported that the mine cleared the starboard side at lest as far as amidships. A surviving sonarman also reported he had obtained a contact at about 240T, range 50 yards. The report of this contact was not received to the best of the Commanding Officer's knowledge; probably due to the short interval of time. An evaluation of the situation from the reports received, the time involved, and the configuration of the land indicated to the conning officer that the mine line was at an angle to the normal channel course with the leading edge off the port bow and the trailing edge off the starboard quarter. There was no time to accurately estimate the angle. The vessel was mined at approximately 1209I, frame 62, starboard side.

4. The explosion rendered the Commanding Officer unconscious for a period of approximately 30 seconds, and he regained use of his facilities when the column of water had ceased falling. At that time the vessel had a port list of about 20 and was righting herself rapidly. The Commanding Officer asked for an estimate of the damage; none was received because communications were out, and the phone talkers temporarily dazed. The vessel commenced listing to starboard at a steady rate with no indication of slowing and the stern settling at the same time. The vessel was ordered abandoned when the list reached approximately 15, the order being passed by mouth and the whistle cord pulled without results. A reasonable effort was made to save valuable ships papers. Destruction of publications and NCM was not possible. A class III allowance of publications was held. The abandonment of the vessel was quiet and orderly. Life rafts and floater nets were launched and an attempt to free the boat was made but the forward fall was fouled by loose gear. The Commanding Officer was the last man to leave the open bridge and signal bridge levels. When he arrived at the boat deck, there remained the Executive Officer and one enlisted man. Two men were observed in the ship's boat and the forecastle was inspected. The Executive Officer was ordered over the side and to the best of the Commanding Officer's knowledge, he was the last man to leave the ship. At this time the fantail was completely submerged and the list approximately 45 to the starboard. The mast entered the water over its entire length narrowly missing the Commanding Officer and several survivors. The vessel turned over and exposed about 40 feet of her keel forward. The total time from mining to her position of rest was approximately four (4) minutes.

5. Immediately after the mining of the vessel, shell bursts were observed off the port bow at a range of about one hundred (100) yards. The shell fire continued with shrapnel or small arms fire falling among the survivors in the water. The firing came from REI-TO and SOKU-SEMU islands and ceased when U.S. naval vessels in the vicinity opened fire.

6. The PLEDGE (AM-277) was mined about five minutes after the Commanding Officer had entered the water.

7. The survivors were gathered in groups around the life rafts and floater nets. Many acts of unselfishness were observed and the men generally were extremely cheerful. Boats from the PLEDGE, INCREDIBLE, and ENDICOTT took the wounded aboard and towed the rafts and nets to the ENDICOTT and INCREDIBLE. A helicopter from the ROCHESTER was of great help in locating survivors and in one case, dropped a rubber boat to an injured man. The area was searched thoroughly by small boats, helicopter, a PB4Y, and UDT teams from the DIACHENKO (APD-123).

8. A muster was held aboard the ENDICOTT when the survivors were aboard and together with a message from the INCREDIBLE, the following casualty list was determined:

 OFFICERS
 ENLISTED
(a) Attached - 6 (a) Attached - 71
(b) Missing -  0 (b) Missing -     6
(c) Injured -   3 (c) Injured -    40

Also surviving were Commander Mine Division 32 and his staff of one (1) quartermaster.

C. E. MC MULLEN



Source: USS Pirate War Diary by C. E. McMullen, 12 November 1950, enclosure (2), Ships History Branch, Naval Historical Center, Washington, DC.

Glossary:
AM -- minesweeper
Op-order -- Operational Order
CTG -- Commander Task Group
AMS -- motor minesweeper
DMS -- high-speed minesweeper; or destroyer minesweeper
NCM -- Navy Correspondence Manual
PB4Y -- long-range patrol plane
UDT -- underwater demolition team
APD -- high-speed transport
CO -- Commanding Officer
ARH -- heavy-hull repair ship

Note: All times are local, Korean, times (ie: 1145I is 11:45 a.m. in Korea).



10 April 2001