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Gannet I (Minesweeper No. 41)


A large, white, web-footed sea bird.


(Minesweeper No. 41: displacement 950; length 187'10"; beam 35'6"; draft 9'10"; speed 14 knots; complement 72; armament 2 machine guns)

The first Gannet (Minesweeper No. 41) was laid down on 1 October 1918 at New York, N.Y., by the Todd Shipyards Corp.; launched on 19 March 1919; sponsored by Miss Edna Mae Fry, daughter of a foreman employed at the building yard; and commissioned at the New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, N.Y., on 10 July 1919, Lt. John E. Armstrong in command.

Gannet departed New York on 11 August 1919 and reached San Diego, Calif., on 2 November after training out of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A unit of the Train, Pacific Fleet, she based at San Diego, Calif., and was subsequently assigned to Aircraft Squadron, Battle Fleet, and later to Base Force, U.S. Fleet. and was reclassified as AM-41 on 17 July 1920. Serving primarily as a tender to aircraft squadrons, she also performed towing, transport, and passenger service along the western seaboard, and made periodic cruises as tender to aircraft units participating in Army-Navy exercises, fleet problems, and maneuvers off Hawaii, the Panama Canal, and in the Caribbean Sea. She spent the summer months of 1926, 1929, and 1932-35 as tender to aerial survey expeditions to Alaska and the Aleutian Islands. On 30 April 1931 Gannet was designated a minesweeper for duty with aircraft. She was reclassifled as AVP-8 on 22 January 1936.

Gannet departed San Diego on 18 August 1937 and based at Coco Solo, Panama, as tender for aircraft squadrons of the Scouting Force until 1 June 1939. Arriving at Norfolk on 9 June, she then became tender to Patrol Wing 5, Aircraft Scouting Force. In a series of cruises from Norfolk, she tended Navy patrol planes based at Key West, Bermuda, Santa Lucia, and Trinidad; then steamed north on 22 September 1941 to establish an advance seaplane base at Kungnait Bay, Greenland (6-23 October). She served on plane guard station in the Davis Strait for an Iceland-Argentia ferry flight before returning to Norfolk on 11 November.

Gannet was tending patrol planes at Hamilton, Bermuda, when the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor. She returned to Norfolk on 12 December 1941 and sailed on 21 January 1942 for Bermuda to serve as tender to Patrol Squadron (PatRon) 74, which provided air patrol and coverage in approaches to that base. Gannet also was communication center for all aircraft operations in that area.

Departing Bermuda on 2 June 1942, Gannet joined British armed yacht HMS Sumar the next day in an unsuccessful search for the torpedoed merchantman Westmoreland, which had been torpedoed and shelled by the German submarine U-566 (Kapitanleutnant Dietrich Borchert, commanding) the previous day (1 June). On 7 June, northwest of Bermuda, Gannet was torpedoed by U-653 (Kapitanleutnant Gerhard Feiler). She went down so rapidly that her decks were awash within 4 minutes, and she carried 16 of her crew down with her.

Her commanding officer, Lt. Francis E. Nuessle, fought free of the suction, joined other survivors, and ordered the life rafts tied together in the heavy seas with wounded hoisted on board and the uninjured hanging on the sides. Twenty-two men were rescued by two PBM Mariners of PatRon 74 which made  daring landings in heavy seas. The high speed minesweeper Hamilton (DMS-18), led to the scene by one of the same planes, rescued 40 others.

Interim Update, Robert J. Cressman

22 November 2021


Published: Mon Nov 22 17:24:56 EST 2021