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B. F. Macomber (S.P. 980)


The Navy retained the name carried by this vessel, in modified form, at the time of her acquisition.

(S.P. 980: 180 tons (gross); length 138 feet 5 inches; beam 22 feet 8 inches; draft 9 feet 1 inch (mean); speed 10 knots; complement 33; armament 2 one-pounders.)

B. F. Macomber, a wooden-hulled, single-screw steam fishing trawler of the "Menhaden Fisherman" type, was built in 1913 at Noank, Conn., by Palmer's Shipyard. Ordered taken over from her owners, the Atlantic Fisheries Co., of Newport, R.I., on 12 April 1918, this "strongly built... 1st class condition" craft was fitted out as a minesweeper for service in the Second Naval District.

Her name was apparently changed to simply Macomber (sometimes erroneously referred to in some contemporary Navy Directories as McComber) in accordance with the Navy Department General order of 28 July 1917 that shortened the names of "scout patrol" (S.P). boats to surnames. Given the identification  number S.P. 980, the ship was apparently commissioned soon thereafter. The exact date of the event is unknown, but her logs commenced on 12 June 1918, two months after the ship was ordered taken over. Her commanding officer at that time was Lt. Frank P. Betts, USNRF.

Macomber operated out of Newport, frequenting the waters off that port as well as those between Block Island, New London, Nantucket, Providence, and Melville, all familiar from her peacetime fishing days, performing minesweeping and local patrol duty. She carried out such tasks as opening and closing harbor gates as well as using her "submarine listening apparatus" in hunting for possible enemy submarine activities.

The vessel remained engaged in these somewhat prosaic tasks through the armistice of 11 November 1918, a date which saw the ship engaged in patrolling the waters between Handkerchief Light and Nantucket. With the end of hostilities, her patrol mission disappeared; but she remained in the Second Naval District. Transferred to duty at the Naval Station, New London, Macomber performed salvage and experimental work there into June 1919.

Sold to her former owners on 19 July 1919, the ship resumed carrying her prewar name, B. F. Macomber, and returned to her former peacetime piscatorial pursuits.

Robert J. Cressman

Updated, 2 November 2021

Published: Tue Nov 02 11:35:02 EDT 2021