Ordered in 1917 the fifty-four ships of the Lapwing-class served as minesweepers, minelayers, and fleet tugs. The ships were also known as the "Bird-class," as they were named after different bird species. The ships were approximately 187 feet long, could speed at 14 knots, and had an armament of two 3"/50 caliber and .30 caliber machine guns. During World War I, the U.S. Navy used these ships to clear the North Sea Mine Barrage, an expanse of over 70,000 mines laid between the Orkneys, islands north of Scotland, and Norway. Lapwing-class ship removed 2,160 mines from British waters.
After the war, the ships primarily served as small-seaplane tenders, submarine rescue vessels, and fleet tugs. For example, USS Lapwing became reclassified as AVP-1 in January 1936. In World War II, during the Battle of the Atlantic, on June 7, 1942, USS Gannet (AM-41) was torpedoed and sunk by German submarine, U-653, off Bermuda. About a year later, on June 29, 1943, USS Redwing (AM-48) was rocked by an underwater explosion damaging her hull just below the bridge. While being towed, she rolled over and sank. While en-route to France, following Operation Overlord (Normandy), USS Partridge (ATO-138) was hit on June 11, 1944, by a torpedo from a German E-boat and sank. She was reclassified earlier in May.
In the Pacific, during the Battle of Corregidor, USS Finch (AM-9) was hit by a Japanese bomb and sank on April 10, 1942. In a similar fate, USS Pigeon (ASR-6) was bombed and sank on May 4. To prevent USS Quail (AM-5) being captured, she was scuttled on May 5. Following the war, the Lapwing-class remained in service but most were decommissioned a few years after the war.
A model of a Lapwing-class minesweeper is on display in the World War I exhibit at the National Museum of the U.S. Navy, Bldg. 76.
Image: 80-G-1025944: USS Finch (AM-9), summer 1934. Photographed off Tsingtao, China. Official U.S. Navy photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.