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Arapaho II (AT-68)

(AT-68: dp. 1,589 (tl.); 1. 205'0"; b. 38'6"; dr. 15'4"; s. 16.5 k. (tl.); cpl. 85; a. 1 3", 4 .50-cal. mg.; cl. Navajo)


An important plains tribe of the Algonquian family, closely associated with the Cheyenne, who lived between the south fork of the Platte River and the headwaters of the Arkansas. The name itself may be derived from the Pawnee words "tirapihu" or "larapihu," meaning trader


The second Arapaho (AT-68) was laid down on 8 November 1941 at Charleston, S.C., by the Charleston Shipbuilding & Drydock Co.; launched on 22 June 1942; sponsored by Mrs. Alice Posey Hatcher; and commissioned on 20 January 1943, Lt. E. H. Wootan in command.

The tug conducted her shakedown training in the vicinity of Key West, Fla., and returned to Norfolk to prepare for a transatlantic voyage. On 19 March, she sailed for Casablanca, Morocco. There, she took the torpedo-damaged attack cargo ship Almaack (AKA-10) in tow for the voyage back to the United States. She and her charge arrived back in Norfolk on 20 May. In mid-June, the tug moved south to search the Florida Strait for the submarine R-12 (SS-89) which had sunk as a result of battery explosions. After fruitlessly seeking this ship from 18 to 23 June, Arapaho set sail on 25 June, apparently from Key West, with a barge in tow on her way to Panama. She left the barge in the Canal Zone and continued her voyage to San Diego where she arrived on 15 July.

For the next three months, the tug conducted towing and salvage operations, first along the west coast and then, from early in September, out of Pearl Harbor. On 16 October, Arapaho departed Hawaii with two supply lighters in tow, bound for the Ellice Islands. She reached Funafuti on 30 October and began heavy towing operations between the Ellice and Gilbert Islands. For a time, she served as an antisubmarine guard ship at recently captured Tarawa Atoll. On 4 December, Arapaho embarked 12 civilians who had been liberated from a Japanese internment camp on Makin and set sail, via Funafuti, for Pearl Harbor. From Funafuti, the tug steamed in company with aircraft carrier Independence (CVL-22), severely damaged in the Gilberts operation by an aerial torpedo. The ships arrived at Pearl Harbor on 18 December.

Arapaho underwent repairs until near the end of the first week in January 1944. On 6 January, she headed back to the Gilberts. Over the next five months, the tug was based successively at Tarawa and Majuro, though she made numerous tows to other islands in the Gilbert, Marshall, and Ellice groups. By 13 June, she had moved her base of operations to Eniwetok where she engaged in harbor duty and salvage work. On 3 July, Arapaho set a course for Pearl Harbor which she reached on the 9th to begin a month of repairs. She returned to Eniwetok on 26 August and, except for a round-trip voyage to Guam, operated there until the second week in October.

At that time, she put to sea towing ARD-15 and YF-786 to Ulithi, Service Squadron (ServRon) 10's new advanced base, and, following her arrival at that atoll, worked in and out of its lagoon engaged in haror and salvage duties. Between 4 and 10 November, she assisted Zuni (ATF-95) in towing Reno (CL-96) into Ulithi. The light cruiser had been torpedoed by I-41 off the San Bernardino Strait on the 3d. In December, the tug towed Houston (CL-81) from Ulithi to Manus in the Admiralty Islands. From there, she towed YO-186 to Kossol Passage in the Palau Islands. After towing LST-278 to Guam in January 1945, Arapaho returned to Ulithi on the 23d and began a major overhaul of her main propulsion plant. The ship completed repairs and returned to active duty on 18 March.

She operated out of Ulithi until mid-June when she moved to Guam. From there, the tug headed for Okinawa on 5 July with ARD-26 in tow. Arapaho and the auxiliary repair dock arrived in Kerama Retto 10 days later. The tug remained at Okinawa until after the end of hostilities in mid-August. Late that month, she voyaged back to Guam to pick up ARD-21 for tow to Okinawa. She returned to Kerama Retto with her charge on 7 September and resumed local towing duty.

That assignment continued until 9 November 1945 when she began the long journey back to the United States. She stopped at Pearl Harbor for a few days early in December and arrived in San Pedro, Calif., on 27th. Arapaho remained at San Pedro assigned to the inactive fleet awaiting inactivation overhaul for a little more than a year. On 8 and 9 January 1947, she was towed to San Diego where she was decommissioned on 15 January 1947. She remained with the Pacific Reserve Fleet until July 1961. On 1 July 1961, her name was struck from the Navy list. On 10 July 1961, she was transferred to the Argentine Navy which commissioned her that same day as Comandante General Zapiola. The tug remained active with the Argentine Navy until November 1971 when she ran aground and was declared a total loss.

Arapaho (ATF-68) earned four battle stars during World War II.

Published: Thu Jun 18 09:17:21 EDT 2015