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Buoyant (AM-153)


(AM-153: dp. 850 (tl.); l. 184'6"; b. 33'; dr. 9'9"; s. 14.8 k.; cpl. 104; a. 1 3", 4 40mm.; cl. Admirable)

Buoyant (AM-153) was laid down on 15 April 1942 at Portland, Oreg., by the Willamette Iron and Steel Corp.; launched on 24 November 1942; and commissioned on 30 September 1943, Lt. Walter L. Savell, Jr., in command.

The new minesweeper conducted shakedown trials out of San Diego during November and, following a three-week availability, was ready for orders. On 3 December, she set a course for Pearl Harbor, but received a change in orders en route to return to San Francisco. There, she fitted out for cold weather operations and, on 18 December, Buoyant headed for duty in the North Pacific. The crew spent Christmas at sea fighting heavy weather, but the ship arrived safely in Sweeper's Cove at Adak, Alaska, on 30 December.

For the first six months of 1944, Buoyant provided escort services along the Aleutian chain, making frequent stops at Kodiak, Dutch Harbor, Sand Bay, Amchitka, Adak, and Attu. During this entire period, she made no enemy contacts. The minesweeper completed her tour in the North Pacific and sailed from Dutch Harbor on 1 July, bound for San Francisco where she was scheduled for a three-week availability at Treasure Island.

On 1 August, Buoyant left the San Francisco skyline behind her as she sailed for Pearl Harbor and duty with the Pacific Fleet. She escorted an eight-ship convoy from Pearl Harbor to Eniwetok in company with Herald (AM-101) through ideal weather and a trouble-free voyage. From Eniwetok, the ship proceeded to Guam, again as a convoy escort, and continued on to Saipan, where she arrived on 4 September. Buoyant was assigned to the Forward Area Escort and Patrol Group and spent the next six months providing antisubmarine protection for ships in the sea lanes between Saipan and Eniwetok. While operating mostly with freighters and transports, Buoyant occasionally escorted submarines to their patrol areas or safely back into harbor afterwards. While at Saipan between runs, the minesweeper faced several Japanese air attacks. Buoyant did not train her guns on the enemy aircraft, but made smoke to cover the large ships at anchor in Tanapag Harbor.

During March 1945, while en route Eniwetok, the ship was ordered via Ulithi to San Pedro Bay, Leyte. At Ulithi, the Commander, Mine Squadron (MinRon) 10, broke his pennant on board Buoyant, then sailed in her to Leyte, where preparations moved forward for a large operation. Buoyant spent seven days in San Pedro Bay practicing minesweeping techniques, making voyage repairs, and training the crew in recognition gunnery, and enemy tactics. On 24 March, the minesweeper got underway with other minecraft of Mine Unit 19 as escorts for the Western Islands Reserve Tractor Group, consisting of 10 LST's carrying troops and vehicles.

On 31 March, the convoy arrived off Keise Shima, a small island group some six miles off Okinawa. The islands provided an ideal location from which XXIV Corps artillery could support the advance of ground troops on the main island. While Buoyant and the other escorts screened the LST's, those ships poured men and equipment onto Keise Shima. On 1 April, the main landings on Okinawa began. The minesweeper continued screening duties until late in the afternoon, when she was recalled to Kerama Retto. However, there was no time for relaxation because, at nightfall, Buoyant departed Kerama Retto to conduct an exploratory offshore sweep of Okinawa's eastern shoreline. She completed the sweep on 4 April, and Buoyant began clearing the approaches to Kimmu Wan and Nakagusuku Wan. After finishing that task on the afternoon of the 6th, the minesweeper passed into the harbor and swept for mines.

As the unit prepared to depart the harbor around 1730 that evening, Japanese aircraft appeared launched a massive attack on ships all along the eastern shore. Buoyant fired her main battery at two of the inbound attackers without success. When one kamikaze crashed Mullany (DD-528), Buoyant rushed to the destroyer's aid but her offer of assistance was refused. Instead, the minesweeper received instructions to search the northern shoreline in an unsuccessful hunt for a downed aviator. On the following day, Buoyant began sweeping operations in Nagagusuku Wan.

The first day's sweeping brought no results, but 8 April proved to be disastrous. Shortly after the day's operations began, PGM-18, acting as fire-support vessel, struck a mine. She sank within five minutes, and before YMS-103 could reach the scene to rescue survivors, she also struck a mine. The sweepers discontinued sweeping and began rescue operations. Buoyant recovered 10 men, including the badly wounded executive officer of YMS-103. After the rescue work, sweeping began again; but the group's troubles were not quite over. Later that afternoon, another YMS detonated a mine with its sweep gear, although this ship avoided sinking and even managed to continue her work. The clearing of Nakagusuku Wan was completed without further incident, and large gunfire support ships entered the anchorage to provide more effective bombardment for the troops ashore.

Buoyant remained at the north end of Nakagusuku Wan for the remainder of April, conducting routine check sweeps. Dawn and dusk air usually brought attacks, and the Japanese occasionmally attacked with suicide boats as well. On 4 May, Buoyant spotted one such boat just moments before it rammed Carina (AK-74). The explosion buckled a few deckplates and tore a hole in the transport's side. On 31 May, Buoyant headed for the United States for repairs to an engineering plant that had not been overhauled since leaving the shipyard in late 1943. Her course took her to Ulithi, Eniwetok, and Pearl Harbor before she arrived in Portland, Oreg., on 7 July, for a two-month overhaul.

The news of the Japanese surrender came on 15 August, but work continued on Buoyant. Trials and inspections were held the second week in September and, on the 17th, the minesweeper set sail for Hawaii. Upon her arrival at Pearl Harbor, Buoyant replenished with stores and made voyage repairs. On 11 October, she got underway with Improve (AM-247) and eight auxiliary motor minesweepers (YMS's) for Eniwetok. There, the group spent 10 days making repairs and then continued via Saipan to Okinawa, where the sweepers were dispersed to various ports of the Japanese empire to clear them for ships carrying occupation forces. Buoyant arrived in Japan on 15 December and was assigned to Wakayama and Sasebo, where she completed her tour with the occupation forces on 8 March 1946.

The minesweeper reported to the Commander of the Philippine Sea Frontier at Subic Bay on 13 March, where she was demilitarized. The minesweeper sailed for Shanghai in April and was decommissioned there on 29 May 1946. She was then turned over to Chinese Maritime Customs for disposal. Her name was struck from the Navy list on 19 July 1946.

Buoyant was awarded one battle star for her World War II service.

Mary P. Walker

22 November 2005

Published: Wed Jun 29 22:51:09 EDT 2016