A guide, chief, commander; the head of a group.
(MSO-490: dp. 620 lt.; 172; b. 36'; dr. 10': s. 15 k.; cpl. 74; cl. Aggressive)
Leader (AM-490) was laid down by J. M. Martinac Shipbuilding Corp., Tacoma, Wash., 22 September 1953; launched 15 September 1954; sponsored by Mrs. Norman Wordlund; reclassified MSO-490 7 February 1955, and commissioned 16 November 1955, Lt. Comdr. Harvey E. Toponce in command.
After shakedown, Leader joined Mine Squadron 9 at Long Beach 21 December. During 1956, she performed mine evaluation exercises and tactical training until 1 October when she departed on her first WestPac cruise. Arriving Yokosuka 30 October, she operated with the 7th Fleet for the next 5 months performing mine warfare exercises in the Far East. Returning home 12 April 1957, the minesweeper resumed mine evaluation tests along the west coast; and she continued these operations for the next 2 years.
From 1959 through 1968 Leader alternated six WestPac cruises with west coast mine warfare and mine countermeasure exercises. During her 1961 cruise. Leader became the first warship ever to visit the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh when she completed the 180-mile transit up the Mekong River 27 August. On this same cruise she directed South Vietnamese units in minesweep training operations. During her tour with the 7th Fleet in 1965, Leader again operated off South Vietnam, this time under more serious circumstances. From June to August she performed special minesweeping operations and played a major role in the expanded American effort to assist the courageous people of Vietnam in their fight against Communist aggressors. Her tour completed, Leader returned to Long Beach 14 December to resume training operations.
1966 saw an extensive overhaul for the minesweeper, from 9 May to 30 September. After further training and readying for deployment, Leader once again sailed for WestPac 6 January 1967. She participated in Market Time operations for the better part of her tour, returning to Long Beach 18 November. She operated locally through the first half of 1968. Then, on 12 August, Leader departed Long Beach for another extensive deployment, and continues operating off Vietnam into 1969.