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Grasp II (ARS-51)

(ARS 24)

USS Grasp (ARS 51)

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

Ship name number: II

The second ship to carry the name Grasp. The first Grasp was designated ARS 24, commissioned 22 August 1944 and decommissioned 31 March 1978.

Specifications: Include armament and major systems at time of commissioning.

ARS-51: displacement: 3,280 tons; length: 255’; beam: 51’; draft: 16’ 10”; speed: 15 knots; complement: 99 crew plus 16 temporary; equipment: 40 ton boom aft, 7.5-ton boom forward; towing and salvage gear, including beach salvage legs; 300-ton capacity lift rollers; diving gear.


Shipbuilder: Peterson Builders Inc., Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin

Keel Date: 30 Mar 1983

Launched: 02 May 1985

Sponsor: Mrs. Margaret Gelly, wife of retired Vice Admiral Edward C. Waller, former commander, United States Third Fleet.

Commissioned: 14 Dec 1985

Redesignated: (n/a)

Decommissioned: (n/a)

Recommissioning date: (n/a)

Strike Date: (n/a)

Final Disposition: (n/a)

Ship Insignia:


Image related to Grasp II
Caption: Ship's seal

Shield: The seahorse symbolizes Grasp as a Navy "work horse," and also denotes that its duties are performed both above and below the water's surface. It also endows the ship with the fine qualities of the horse - strength, endurance and speed. The grappling iron, an old but efficient method of locating and retrieving wreckage from the sea, indicates the ship's salvage operations. The looped and twisted line running from the iron to a neat, orderly coil signifies the ship's capabilities of restoring order from chaos, as demonstrated by Grasp (ARS 24) during WWII, Korea, and Vietnam in the clearing of harbors and the restoring of damaged ships and installations. The three arrowheads on the seahorse commemorate service in these three conflicts. The wavy blue area against the gray "riveted" border, suggests the sea against the hulls of ships, and denotes the ship's mission of salvage and repair.

The Crest: The two hands "grasping" the trident allude to the ship's name. The upper hand suggest the "helping hand," and denotes the many humanitarian services performed by the former Grasp. The mailed hand symbolizes the past and present ship's combat capabilities. The modified trident is a symbol of the tools used in sea salvage and repair with the center prong, a flame, suggestive of the cutting and welding torch. The four stars commemorate the battle stars awarded to the previous Grasp in WWII and Korea. The globe denotes the extensive cruises of the former ship, and world-wide salvage and repair capabilities of the present one.

Motto: "Any Ocean, any time"

Chronology and Significant Events:

12-22 Nov 1985: After fitting out at Sturgeon Bay, Grasp sailed to her new home port at Little Creek, Va.

14 Dec 1985: Commissioned. Her mission is to provide rescue, salvage and towing operations for the Navy.

Jan-Jun 1986: Inspections, certifications and local operations.

01-03 Jul 1986: Conducted first escort operation, accompanying Shreveport (LPD-12) from New York to Little Creek.

31 Jul-02 Aug 1986: Escort Merrimack (AO-179) from rendezvous point in Chesapeake Bay to Little Creek.

03-14 Aug 1986: Assisted in tow of Wisconsin (BB-64) to Ingalls Shipbuilding, Pascagoula, Mississippi.

16-25 Nov 1986: Conducted first tow; rigging up Army barges Hoffman and Haines at Quebec City and delivering them to Little Creek.

27 Jan-05 Feb 1987: Dry dock period in Sustain (ADFM-7) for repairs.

Feb-Mar 1987: Salvage, survey and dive training.

08 Apr-08 Oct 1987: Conducted first major overseas deployment. While operating in the Mediterranean, the salvage ship towed targets during exercises, cleared kedge anchors at Naples, towed ex-Impetuoso (D-558) out to sea for a live torpedo shot in June and visited other ports in France, Greece, Israel and Spain.

02-06 Dec 1987: Towed ex-Croaker (SS-246) from New London to Little Creek.

09-28 Mar 1988: Tow of ex-Arcturus (AF-52) out to sea for over-the-horizon target exercises off NAS Pensacola, Florida.

28 Mar-7 Apr 1988: Salvage and recovery of an Air Force F-16 that crashed vicinity of Fort Myers, Florida.

13-15 Jun 1988: Firefighting, beaching, diving and retraction exercises in the Chesapeake Bay with ex-Keywadin (ATA-213).

26 Sep-17 Oct 1988: Mooring buoy installation in Chesapeake Bay.

12-25 Jan 1989: USCG law enforcement detachment operations in the West Indies.

25 Jan-03 Feb 1989: Diverted to the Bahamas, where Spruance (DD-963) had run aground east of St. Andros Island. Grasp, in company with Mohawk (TATF-170), provided bollard pull and refloated the destroyer after deballasting. Grasp then towed Spruance to Pascagoula, Mississippi.

21 Apr-20 Oct 1989: Conducted second major overseas deployment to the Mediterranean. During which, Grasp participated in mine clearing exercises in addition to port visits to Italy and Turkey in addition to the islands of Sardinia, Corsica and Sicily. The salvage ship also conducted contingency operations off Lebanon in August.

27 Nov-17 Dec 1989: In support of a Trident II missile test from Tennessee (SSBN-734), Grasp joined Nashville (LPD-13) and Kittiwake (ASR-13) in successfully enforcing a 5,000 yard safety circle against various Greenpeace vessels that were trying to halt the test by violating the safety zone.

16-25 May 1990: Following EOD and SEAL team exercises off Florida in January and April, Grasp located and raised the wreckage of an SH-2E Seasprite that had splashed off Mayport, Florida, finishing the job on the 23d. She then located a lost AQS-14 sonar system off Cape Henry, Virginia, on the 25th.

29 May-12 Jul 1990: Located and salvaged the wreckage of an S-3B Viking that had gone down in 10,430 feet of water in the Virginia Capes OpArea. The mission was accomplished using the Orion deep ocean search system and the CURV III remote operating vehicle.

25-30 Apr 1991: After dive school support and salvage training over the winter, Grasp recovered elements of an Air Force F-16A off Atlantic City, New Jersey.

09-10 Jul 1991: Conducted an emergency tow of Chase (WHEC-718) in the Chesapeake Bay, after the cutter went dead-in-the-water.

30 Aug 1991-29 Feb 1992: Conducted third overseas deployment. While operating in the Mediterranean, the salvage ship conducted mine clearing exercises off Izmir, Turkey; recovered an anchor and 450-feet of chain lost off Butte (AE-27) in Augusta Bay, Sicily; visited the islands of Elba and Sicily; and helped NATO survey ship Alliance conduct accoustic exercises.


Image related to Grasp II
Caption: Grasp (ARS-51) moored pierside Barcelona, Spain, 1 January 1992 (Photo by Ignacio Lopez, former sailor Armada Espana).

12 May-10 Jun 1992: In quick succession, Grasp salvaged a sunk weather observation buoy in the Virginia Capes, recovered a T-2C ejection seat off Pensacola, Florida, and salvaged an F/A-18D Hornet off of Mayport, Florida.

03 Oct 1992: Carried out an emergency tow of Nitro (AE-23).

14-17 Dec 1992: Towed ex-Affray (MSO-511) from Newport, Rhode Island to Portsmouth, Virginia.

08 Mar-27 Apr 1993: Harbor clearance operations at Roatan Island, Honduras. Raised sunken motor vessel Wendy from 60-feet of water after 200-hours of dive time and 41 days of heavy rigging. Also conducted humanitarian relief operations on island as part of Project Handclasp. Received Meritorious Unit Commendation.

Jun-Aug 1993: Towed ex-Mahan (DDG-42) from Charleston to Philadelphia (15-19 Jun); towed ex-Elmer Montgomery (FF-1082) from Mayport to Philadelphia (28 Jun - 09 Jul); towed ex-Iwo Jima (LPA-2) from Norfolk to Philadelphia (14-15 Jul) and conducted an emergency tow of Mount Baker (AE-34) from Cape Hatteras to Norfolk (12-13 Aug).

Nov 1993: Towed ex-Wainwright (CG-28) from Charleston to Philadelphia (08-16 Nov) and conducted an emergency tow of Yellowstone (AD-41) from the Virginia Capes to Norfolk (16-17 Nov).

06-13 Dec 1993: Dry dock period in Sustain (ADFM-7) for repairs.

09 Feb 1994-02 Aug 1994: Conducted fourth overseas deployment. Grasp salvaged an F-14B Tomcat off Brindisi, Italy in March before deploying to Massawa, Eritrea for harbor clearance operations in April, where she removed the wreckage of Guiseppina, a 220-foot motor vessel scuttled during the Eritrean war for independence. In early June, Grasp recovered a splashed F/A-18C Hornet off Bari, Italy before participating in the 50th-anniversary of D-Day celebrations in France.

28 Aug-12 Sep 1994: Towed ex-Woodrow Wilson (SSBN-624) from Charleston to Cristobal, Panama, where the submarine was turned over for tow to Bremerton, Washington for recycling.

13-30 Sep 1994: Participated in Operation Uphold Democracy out of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where she helped refloat Monsoon (PC-4) and recovered the warships' lost anchor and chain.

20 Feb-18 Jul 1996: Conducted fifth overseas deployment. Grasp conducted diving exercises with the Portuguese Navy and a mine exercise off Italy in March; visited Malta and Sardinia in April; removed the wreckage of a sunken fishing vessel from Sfax harbor, Tunisia, and conducted a mine removal exercise off Spain in May; and visited Constanta, Romania and Istanbul, Turkey in June.

21 Jul-28 Aug 1996: Following explosion and crash of TWA Flight 800 over Long Island Sound on the night of 17 July, Grasp began recovery operations off East Moriches, New York on the 24th. The salvage ship recovered the flight data recorders the next day, the right wing and part of the cabin on 7 Aug and one engine on the 9th.

03-07 Mar 1997: Recovered wreck of an HH-60 Seahawk in 350 feet of seawater off Cape Hatteras using remotely operated vehicles (ROV) and three-point deep water moors. A line handling accident in rough weather injured five sailors and all were medivaced to a hospital.

19-31 May 1997: Towed ex-Blackhaw (WLB-390) to Puerto Rico for in support of a pre-deployment exercise by the George Washington (CVN-73) battle group.

28 Jul-11 Aug 1997: Towed ex-New York City (SSN-696) from Portsmouth to Cristobal, Panama, where the submarine was turned over for tow to Bremerton, Washington for recycling.

13-21 Sep 1997: Assisted in recovery operations following the sinking of a civilian ferry near Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

05-12 Dec 1997: Unsuccessful search for an Air Force F-15, lost in 4,500-feet of seawater.

20 Jan-20 Jul 1998: Conducted sixth overseas deployment. In contrast to her previous deployments, Grasp focused on dive-related exercises, mostly wreck clearance and explosive ordnance removal. During the deployment, Grasp's divers worked with the British Royal Navy at Gibraltar, French divers at Toulon, Tunisians at Bizerte, Moroccan divers at Al Hoceima, Bulgarian divers at Varna and met with Turkish divers at Istanbul.

29 Mar-13 May 1999: Following a winter of maintenance, sea trials and certifications, Grasp sailed to Boston at the end of March. Between 9-23 April, the salvage ship conducted a dual-tow of ex-Phoenix (SSN-702) and ex-Baltimore (SSN-704) from Boston to Cristobal, Panama. Grasp then individually towed the submarines through the Panama Canal before rigging them for the tow north to Bremerton, Washington for recycling.

14 Jun-01 Jul 1999: Assisted in the NOAA-sponsored Monitor research expedition, helping Mobile Diving Salvage Unit Two conduct photo site survey and determine the feasibility of salvaging the engine room of the sunken warship.

18-27 Jul 1999: Conducted search and recovery efforts at the crash site of John F. Kennedy Jr.'s Piper 32 aircraft near Martha's Vineyard. Recovered remains and cleared entire debris field in a total of seven dives.


Image related to Grasp II
Caption: Grasp (ARS-51) anchored over the crash site of TWA Flight 800 near Moriches Inlet, Long Island, N.Y., 25 July 25, 1996 (DoD photo).

Oct 1999-Mar 2000: Service inspections discover cracks in diesel-engine pistons and overhaul conducted early the following year.

30 Mar - 26 Sep 2000: Conducted seventh overseas deployment to the Mediterranean. Work included diving operations with Tunisians at Bizerte, Moroccan divers at Al Hoceima, mine exercises near Augusta Bay, Sicily and Barcelona, Spain, diving with French divers in Toulon, and Algerians in Algiers. Additionally, Grasp conducted a salvage exercise involving recovery of a Sherman tank off Solerno and an exercise with British divers at Gibraltar. Other port vists included Rota, Port Mahon, Sardinia, Gaeta, and Lisbon.

16-18 Mar 2001: Assisted in emergency tow of Elrod (FFG-55) from Cape Hatteras into Hampton Roads.

20 Apr-1 May 2001: Towed ex-Narwhal (SSN-671) from Norfolk to Rodman, Panama, where the submarine was turned over for tow to Bremerton, Washington for recycling.

31 May-04 Jun 2001: Towed ex-Keywadin (ATA-213) out to sea for use as a target in a Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) battlegroup exercise.

11-21 Jul 2001: Recovered wreck of an Air Force F-16 off Charleston, South Carolina.

05-11 Aug 2001: Towed ex-Daniel Webster (MTS-626) from Norfolk to Charleston.

19-20 Sep 2001: Assisted Apache (T-ATF-172) in debeaching Bob Hope (T-AKR-300), which had run aground in the Chesapeake Bay.

03-11 Dec 2001: Recovered wreck of a crashed Marine Corps EA-6B off Cape Look Out, North Carolina.

04-11 Mar 2002: Located wreck of a downed Navy CH-46D off the Virginia coast.

10 Apr-14 May 2002: Towed ex-Atlanta (SSN-712) from Norfolk to Rodman, Panama, before towing ex-Francis Hammond (FF-1067) from Rodman to Brownsville, Texas.

05-13 Jun 2002: Towed ex-Wainwright (CG-28) out to sea for Harpoon missile exercise. During operations, unsuccessfully searched for crashed U.K. Lynx helicopter.

21 Oct 2002-06 May 2003: Conducted eighth overseas deployment to the Mediterranean. Major duties in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) included force protection and hull sweeps of incoming vessels in Augusta Bay, Sicily and support to mine hunting operations off the Suez Canal in the eastern Mediterranean.

18 Jun - 20 Oct 2003: Shipyard period at NORSHIPCO, Norfolk, and overhaul of all four main engines after service inspection discovered cracked pistons. Overhaul period was interrupted by a sortie to avoid Hurricane Isabel.

17-30 Jun 2004: After spending the winter and spring doing maintenance, sea trials, and certification, Grasp and MDSU 2 assisted NOAA in Operation Clean Sweep, recovering debris and equipment left from the 2003 Monitor turret recovery, and performed a site survey to investigate storm damage after Hurricane Irene.

16-18 Jul 2004: Served as base platform for filming "Sunken Sub" episode of National Geographic series "Expeditions to the Edge."

19 Jul 2004: Debeached USCG craft 47244, aground on Cape Hatteras beach.

20 - 31 Jul 2004: Towed ex-Nicholson (DD-982) from Naval Weapons Station Charleston to sea for a SINKEX in support of weapons testing.

24 Aug 2004: Met Norfolk (SSN-714) at sea. Her anchor windlass had failed, leaving the anchor fully deployed, and the submarine was unable to enter shallow water. Grasp cut the chain and recovered the anchor, allowing Norfolk to proceed to port.

25-30 Aug 2004: Towed ex-Thorn (DD-988) from Norfolk to NavSea inactive ship facility, Philadelphia.

06 -10 Sep 2004: Successfully hawked for and recovered anchor and chain for Comfort (T-AH-20), after chain parted in heavy weather sending the ship aground near Norfolk.

20 Sep - 15 Oct 2004: Towed ex-Ticonderoga (CG-47) from Pascagoula to NavSea inactive ship facility, Philadelphia.

25 - 29 Oct 2004: Towed ex-Stump (DD-978) from Norfolk to NavSea inactive ship facility, Philadelphia.

03 - 10 Nov 2004: Towed YD-251 from Groton, CT to Norfolk.

01 Dec 2004 - 23 Feb 2005: Drydocked maintenance period at Collana’s Shipyard, Norfolk.

24-25 Feb 2005: Recovery of anchor and chain for Spica (T-AFS 9) after chain parted offshore Cape Henry.

11 Apr- 10 Oct 2005: Conducted ninth overseas deployment to the Mediterranean. While deployed, Grasp took part in dive exercises in Albania, Croatia, Israel and Tunisia. The salvage ship also took part in exercise Adriatic Engagement 2005, Sorbet Royal, 2005, a multinational submarine rescue exercise 11-30 July, and conducted exhibition dives with Spanish, Turkish, and Italian submarines using Submarine Rescue Chamber (SRC) 8. Hosted the first ever joint Russian-US diving operation, conducting surface supplied dives from Grasp to a Turkish submarine.

19 Jan 2006: Decommissioned at Naval Amphibious Base, Little Creek, Va., and transferred to Military Sealift Command (MSC).

Home Port Assignments


Norfolk, Va. (Little Creek)

Dec 1985


Commanding Officers

Date Assumed Command

LCDR Thomas B. Service 14 Dec 1985
LCDR James H. Gibson 13 Mar 1987
LCDR Michael C. Herb 09 Jun 1989
LCDR Vernon B. Millsap, Jr. 09 Aug 1991
LCDR Jeffrey M. Hill 12 Dec 1993
LCDR William P. Orr 04 Aug 1995
LCDR Ronald L. Harrell 20 June 1997
LCDR Eric B. Anderson 19 Mar 1999
LCDR Kurt E. Hedberg 30 Mar 2001
LCDR Brian C. Moum 03 June 2003


Major Overseas Deployments (or deployments away from home port for more than 2 months)

Date of Departure

Return Date

Detachments On Board

Area of Operation

08 Apr 1986

08 Oct 1986




21 Apr 1989

20 Oct 1989




30 Aug 1991

29 Feb 1992




09 Feb 1994 02 Aug 1994 n/a Med/Red Sea
20 Feb 1996 18 Jul 1996 n/a Med/Black Sea
20 Jan 1998 20 Jul 1998 n/a Med/Black Sea
30 Mar 2000 26 Sep 2000 n/a Med
21 Oct 2002 06 May 2003 n/a Med
11 Apr 2005 10 Oct 2005 n/a Med/Adriatic


Unit Awards Received


Meritorious Unit Commendation

1989, 1990, 1993, 1994, 1995


Navy Unit Commendation



Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal




Navy Expeditionary Medal 1991, 1994, 1996, 1999
Navy Battle (E) 1988


Command Histories Submitted:

1985-1994, 1996-1999, 2001




20 January 2006

Published: Tue Jul 14 08:45:49 EDT 2015