Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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Chachalaca (AMc-41)

1941–1946

A bird.

(AMc-41: displacement 173; length 97'1"; beam 21'6"; draft 9'; speed 10 knots; complement 17; armament 2 .50-caliber machine guns; class Accentor)

Chachalaca (AMc-41) was laid down on 27 December 1940 at South Bristol, Maine, by the Bristol Yacht Building Co.; launched on 11 June 1941; and sponsored by Miss Joanne Witherell, daughter of Lt. (j.g.) James N. Witherell, SC, S-V, USNR.


Little Joanne Witherell holds what appears to be an appropriately sized bottle of Great Western champagne as she prepares to christen Chachalaca – up to that time the largest vessel ever constructed by the Bristol Yacht Building Co. -- on 11 June 1941. (Chachalaca (AMc-41) Ships Name and Sponsor Files, History and Archives Division, Naval History and Heritage Command)
Caption: Little Joanne Witherell holds what appears to be an appropriately sized bottle of Great Western champagne as she prepares to christen Chachalaca – up to that time the largest vessel ever constructed by the Bristol Yacht Building Co. -- on 11 June 1941. (Chachalaca (AMc-41) Ships Name and Sponsor Files, History and Archives Division, Naval History and Heritage Command)


Chachalaca at her building yard, 28 July 1941. (U.S. Navy Bureau of Ships Photograph 19-LCM-24954, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)
Caption: Chachalaca at her building yard, 28 July 1941. (U.S. Navy Bureau of Ships Photograph 19-LCM-24954, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)

Delivered to the Navy at the Boston Navy Yard on 25 August 1941; Chachalaca was placed in service on 11 September 1941, Lt. (j.g.) John E. Stonington, USNR, officer-in-charge.

Upon completion of fitting out, Chachalaca was to have reported to Commandant, Fifth Naval District, for training at the Mine Warfare School at Yorktown, Virginia. The entrance of the U.S. into hostilities that followed the Japanese attack on the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 prompted the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) to request on 9 December that readiness of the vessel be expedited. Despite that urging, however, materiel conditions delayed Chachalaca’s departure, first to 29 December then to 3 January 1942. Ultimately, the coastal minesweeper did not clear Boston until 5 January, with the ship making arrival at Hampton Roads her destination on the 8th.

Ordered to proceed thence to Naval Operating Base (NOB) Norfolk, Va., upon completion of training (carried out at the Mine Warfare School, Yorktown, Va.), Chachalaca reported to the Commandant, Fifth Naval District, for onward routing. The coastal minesweeper sailed for the Tenth Naval District on 24 January, escorted by Montcalm (AT-39), and the ocean-going tug and her charge reached San Juan, Puerto Rico, on the 28th.

Assigned to the Naval Operating Base (NOB) at Trinidad on 1 April 1942, Chachalaca began immediate operations, and operated daily. Soon after arrival, however, her magnetic sweep cable broke, and despite immediate repairs with locally available materials, broke again after only one day’s use.  “If adequate repair materials…were available, a better job could have undoubtedly been done. Because of lack of such,” the Commander Inshore Patrol, Trinidad Sector, complained on 4 April, “it was necessary to order by dispatch a replacement cable for this vessel.”

Sister ship Caracara (AMc-40) experienced materiel casualties as well soon after her arrival, prompting Commander Inshore Patrol, Trinidad Sector, to ask that the Bureau of Ships take steps to provide the necessary spare parts to keep the two ships operating. “The urgency of this may be better understood,” the commander declared on 4 April 1942, “if the Bureau realizes that these [Chachalaca and Caracara] are the only two vessels available between the British and ourselves that are capable of actually doing a sweeping job in the Gulf of Paria.”

Assigned to the Caribbean Sea Frontier in accordance with a ComInCh dispatch of 23 July 1942, she operated as part of the district defense forces, until assigned to Commandant, Tenth Naval District, on 21 April 1944, reporting back to the Commandant, Tenth Naval District, on 25 April. Her sweeping operations in those waters continued through the end of hostilities in the European and Atlantic theaters.


Chachalaca and Caracara moored alongside a pier at Trinidad, 10 August 1942. Chachalaca appears to be in Measure 12 camouflage, where Caracara seems to be in a Measure 12 (modified) scheme. Note how both vessels, however, appear to display an aerial recognition feature: a vertical white band that extends from the main deck to the top of the pilot house. (U.S. Navy Photograph 80-G-451543, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)
Caption: Chachalaca and Caracara moored alongside a pier at Trinidad, 10 August 1942. Chachalaca appears to be in Measure 12 camouflage, where Caracara seems to be in a Measure 12 (modified) scheme. Note how both vessels, however, appear to display an aerial recognition feature: a vertical white band that extends from the main deck to the top of the pilot house. (U.S. Navy Photograph 80-G-451543, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)

Assigned to Commandant, Sixth Naval District, on 27 June 1945, she served there until detached in August 1945, at which point Chachalaca sailed for Miami, Fla., then continued on to Charleston, S.C., arriving at the Naval Frontier Base on 7 September 1945. Chachalaca was placed out of service there on 4 January 1946.

Stricken from the List of District Craft on 8 May 1946, ex-Chachalaca was accepted by the U.S. Maritime Commission on 10 September 1947, and was physically delivered to Evald Sooder of Miami, Fla., the purchaser, the same day.

Robert J. Cressman
25 April 2018

Published: Thu Apr 26 11:36:45 EDT 2018