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Grasp I (ARS-24)

(ARS-24: displacement 1,360 tons; length 213'6"; beam 39'; draft 14'4"; speed 15 knots; complement 120; armament: 4 40mm. 4 .50 cal. mg.; class Diver)

To make the motion of seizing or trying to seize; to clutch; to grip, as in, to hold for rescue or salvage.



Grasp (ARS-24) was laid down on 27 April 1943 by the Basalt Rock Co., Napa, Calif.; launched on 31 July 1943; sponsored by Mrs. McDonough, wife of Lt. Cdr. John B. McDonough, Assistant Supervisor of Shipbuilding at Basalt Rock Co.; and commissioned at Southern Pacific Docks, Vallejo, Calif., on 22 August 1944, Lt. Comdr. Jacob F. Lawson, in command.

After fitting out at San Francisco and shakedown out of San Diego, Grasp reported for duty with Commander, Service Force, 7th Fleet on 16 October 1944, and sailed for the Hawaii that same day, reaching Hilo on 27 October. On 24 November, the salvage ship motored southwest, towing covered lighters BCL-686 and BCL-1787 to Funa Futi in the Ellice Islands. She then towed drydock ARD-29 and floating workshop YR-67 to Manus, Admirality Islands, arriving there on 24 December.

After observing the Chiristmas holiday, Grasp and tug Chowanoc (ATF-100) pulled LSM-9 off the beach on 29 December. The two small craft did the same the following day for attack transport President Adams (APA-19), which had grounded on a reef in Seeadler Harbor. Those two salvage tasks were only a warm-up task for her more critical tasks of supporting the to prepare for her role upcoming Luzon operations in the Philippines. As part of Task Force 77.1, Grasp sailed with the landing force on 1 January 1945, arrived in Lingayen Gulf on the 9th and immediately set to work.

The salvage ship first aided transport War Hawk, damaged by a suicide boat that evening, helping to keep the damaged transport afloat. Then, after cargo ship Otis Skinner was hit by a kamikaze on 12 January, Grasp again provided fire-fighting and battle-repair services. Over the next week, the salvage ship pulled landing craft LCI-335 and LST-608 off the beaches and cleared the fouled propellers of LCI-333.

Grasp sailed on 18 January to Tacloban Harbor, Philippines, with damaged Brooks (APD-10) in tow. From there, she joined TG 77.8 and supported the initial landings at Zambales, Luzon, on the 25th. After pulling LST-991, LST-609, LST-777 and LST-714 from the beach, and recovering the anchor and cable for LST-609, Grasp sailed to Nasugbu Bay, Luzon, to retract LST-269 from the beach and recover the anchor and cable for LST-701. With those tasks complete, the salvage ship sailed to Manila Harbor, arriving there to a scene of utter devastation on 3 March.

The harbor, site of the Philippine capital and headquarters of the Japanese military government, was littered with hundreds of sunken ships and small craft. Dozens of U.S. Navy ships and small craft also lay idle, immobilized and in need of repair. Reattached to the ship salvage, fire-fighting and rescue unit of the Service Force, 7th Fleet, Grasp spent the next year patching and repairing damaged ships and small craft, towing salvage barges, refloating harbor buoys and raising, removing or dismantling over 350 vessels and small craft in Manila Harbor. In between all the salvage work, Grasp also helped dispose the immense quantities of abandoned Japanese ordnance found both on the docks and dumped in the harbor. In addition, Grasp also salvaged three merchant ships that ran aground on reefs off Mindoro and Luzon.

Departing the Philippines on 27 April 1946, Grasp sailed east and reached San Pedro, Calif., via Pearl Harbor and Astoria, Oreg., on 5 June. The salvage ship decommissioned there on 12 December 1946 and was placed in reserve that same day.

When the Korean war broke out on 20 June 1950, salvage and repair ships were again in short supply. Grasp was quickly refurbished and recommissioned at San Diego on 10 October 1950.

After a short workup period, the salvage ship sailed for Japan in January 1951, reaching Sasebo, via Pearl Harbor on 12 February. Grasp at once proceeded on to Wonsan, Korea, for salvage and patrol work there and off Songjin. The two communist-controlled ports As she patrolled the coast between were under seige by 7th Fleet units, primarily through daily shore bombardment missions against local transportation networks and against shore batteries. The harbors off the two ports were also sweeped for mines because the long, protected bays served as a safe ditching place for damaged planes returning from air raids against North Korea and the Yalu River crossings. During salvage and rescue operations there, Grasp frequently came under fire from North Korean shore batteries but was fortunately never hit. After two months off Wonsan and Songjin, Grasp returned to Sasebo on 15 April to conduct repair work on damaged ships.

After two more cruises off the Korean coast, interspersed with repair work in Japan, Grasp returned to Pearl Harbor on 10 October and remained there until sailing for home on 29 January 1952. Following quick repairs at San Diego, Grasp returned to Pearl Harbor on 12 March and from there steamed to Subic Bay, Philippines, for three months of salvage operations. She returned to Sasebo again via Pearl Harbor on 16 August and immediately resumed patrol duties off Korea. She again interspersed those patrols with salvage and repair work out of Sasebo in Japan. Returning to San Diego on 22 May 1953, the salvage ship resumed local operations and repair work there and in Hawaiian waters.

Despite the termination of open warfare in Korea on 27 July 1953, the area remained an important port of call for Grasp as the salvage ship settled into a pattern of yearly Western Pacific cruises out of Pearl Harbor intermixed with local operations and salvage work out of that Hawaiian port. As she sailed each year to join the 7th Fleet in its peacekeeping and patrol work in the western Pacific, Grasp visited such Asian ports as Yokosuka, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Manila, Okinawa, and Eniwetok.

Notable salvage operations during these years included the January-February 1954 salvage of the grounded LST-625 at Sokchori, Korea; the April 1954 debeaching of steamer San Mateo Victory at Cheju-do, Korea; and refloating the Hiroshima Maru II, a fishing vessel aground off Honolulu harbor. A break in the pattern took place in 1956-57, as Grasp twice sailed north to participate in Arctic resupply missions for the newly established Distant Early Warning (DEWLINE) radar stations in Alaskan waters. Grasp also supported various Cold War-related nuclear tests at Pacific atolls, including Operation Hardtack at Eniwetok in the first half of 1958 and Operation Dominic near Johnston Island in the spring of 1962.

Following a short deployment to the Far East in 1962, Grasp sailed on a longer tour in the region in October 1964. Arriving at Mariveles harbor, Philippines on 16 January 1965, Grasp was given the difficult task of salvaging the Philippine Navy destroyer Raja Soliman, which had capsized and sank during a typhoon the previous June. Other storms then filled the hulk with mud, sand and other debris. Over the course of three difficult months, Grasp's salvage crew parbuckled (pulled upright) the destroyer, lifted it off the harbor bottom, patched the damaged hull and pumped the ship dry. After returning to Pearl Harbor that summer, Grasp was assigned salvage and towing duty out of Guam, Marianas, changing her home port to Appia on 27 November 1965.

On 21 February 1966, Grasp began a surveillance cruise to the western Caroline Islands, visiting various atolls in the region before putting in to Subic Bay on 4 March. She then sailed to Yokosuka, Japan, and visited the Bonin Islands before returning to Guam on 8 April. The salvage ship conducted a second surveillance patrol to the Marianas in June and July. In August, Grasp apprehended Japanese fishing boat KO-21522, which was fishing inside the Bonin Islands territorial waters. After returning to Guam in September, the salvage ship began a yard overhaul inside ARD-29, where she remained into November, and then moved to the Ship Repair Facility until 9 February 1967.

On 18 April Grasp moved to Chichi Jima, where she performed salavage operations until 2 May. Following that evolution, she conducted another island surveillance cruise of the Marianas before reporting to Commander, Seventh Fleet, on 22 June for a five month assignment. During that period, Grasp towed various barges between Subic Bay, Okinawa and Yokosuka. She also conducted an unsuccessful underwater search for the lost bow ramp of U.S. Army LCU-1132 at Duong Dong, Republic of Vietnam between 5 and 11 August, a task made more difficult by frequent enemy mortar and small arms fire. A more successful operation was the refloating of Nationalist Chinese drydock AFDM-1 in Tsoying harbor in late September.

The following spring Grasp conducted three more island surveillance cruises, visiting the Carolines between 19 February and 4 March 1968 and again between 26 March and 2 April. During the latter cruise, the salvage ship took the Japanese ship Ebisu Maru No. 5 into custody. After salvage operations on merchant vessel Pacific Islander in Tanapag Harbor, Saipan, between 15-19 April, Grasp then visited atolls in the Marianas and delivered Red Cross supplies there. Later in the month she helped backload Navy supplies at Chichi Jima in preparation for the island's return to Japanese government control.

On 10 June Grasp again transferred to 7th Fleet control, conducting various missions in the western Pacific. These ranged from salvaging merchant vessel John C in the Paracel Islands, buoy repairs off Taiwan, repairing fuel lines off Chu Lai and recovered Air Force drones off Wallace Air Force Base, San Fernando, Philippines. Following another dry dock period inside AFDM-5 in late September, Grasp spent the remainder of 1968 conducting local operations out of Guam.

This pattern of operations, salvage and surveillance operations in the central Pacific and 7th Fleet duties in the western Pacific, continued for the next five years. From February to April 1969, for example, Grasp served as standby salvage ship in Da Nang harbor, Republic of Vietnam. While there she salvaged PCF-78 in the Song Cua Dia river, tug Farmer at Tan My, YFU-73 at Cua Viet, YFU-79 at Mui Da Nang and LCU-1482 salavage at Chau Me. Later that year, she trained Nationalist Chinese divers, repaired fuel lines in the vicinity of Da Nang and salvaged an old Victory ship, Norwich Victory, in the Paracel Islands. Other duties included more island surveillance missions in 1970 and 1971, which tracked Soviet ships in the region, and repairing underwater acoustic buoys to help track Soviet submarines. Grasp also conducted underwater hull inspections of 7th Fleet ships in various ports, salvaged Regulus (AF-57) at Hong Kong in fall 1971 and continued her very active public affairs and Project Handclasp humanitarian efforts in the Pacific Island Groups. In addition to continued island surveillance cruises thoughout this period, Grasp helped end the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War by participating in Operation End Sweep, the removal of American mines off Haiphong Harbor in the Gulf of Tonkin between 15 June and 11 July 1973.

During the first two weeks of February 1974, Grasp participated in what the unclassified command history refers to as a Special Operations "Tea Party", involving underwater cable repair. Between March and September, the repair ship conducted another deployment with 7th Fleet, locating a sunk fuel buoy at Yokosuka and training Nationalist Chinese divers in May, salvaging a lost F-4J Phantom off Subic Nay in June, conducting an emergency tow of Morton (DD-948) near Subic Bay on 20 June and salvaging liner Caribia in Apra Harbor in August. As part of the withdrawl of American forces in support of the Republic Vietnam, Grasp was transferred back to Hawaii in September, arriving at her new home port of Pearl Harbor on the 16th, her first time back in the United States since 1965. After a short salvage operation to refloat YCV-9 off Milokai in October, Grasp spent the remainder of the year in port.

Following a series of salvage training exercises in Hawaiian waters, Grasp sailed west on another Far East deployment on 5 November. After refueling at Guam, the salvage ship proceeded to the Philippines, arriving at Subic Bay on 28 November. While there, Grasp pumped out the flooded floating dry dock AFDL-7 during the first week of January 1976 and unsuccessfully searched for two Air Force F-4J Phantoms near Hermana Major Island the following week before sailing to Hong Kong for liberty and to "play mother for" Puffer (SSN-652) during the visit.

Sailing north to Yokosuka, Japan, Grasp spent 20 days in dry dock for rudder repairs before sailing for home on 23 April, arriving in Pearl Harbor on 6 May. Aside from a short trip to tow YTB-776 to Midway Island in August, the salvage ship spent the rest of the year conducting local operations in Hawaiian waters.

Grasp decommissioned at Pearl Harbor on 31 March 1978 and was both struck from the Navy list and transferred as part of the Security Assistance Program (SAP) to South Korea that same day. The salvage ship served in the South Korean Navy as Chang Won (ARS-25) until 1998.

Grasp was awarded two battle stars for World War II service.

07 February 2006

Published: Mon Jul 13 13:54:08 EDT 2015