Naval History and Heritage Command

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Penguin II (Minesweeper No. 33)

A bird of the Antarctic.

II

(Minesweeper No. 33: displacement 1,009 (full load); length 187'10"; beam 35'6"; draft 10'4"; speed 17.4 knots; complement 78; armament 2 3-inch; class Lapwing)

The second Penguin (Minesweeper No. 33) was laid down on 17 November 1917 at Elizabethport, N.J., by the New Jersey Dry Dock & Transportation Co.; launched on 12 June 1918; sponsored by Miss Lillian Rae, daughter of James Rae, a foreman iron worker employed by the contractor; and commissioned on 21 November 1918, Lt. (j.g.) Edgar T. Hammond in command.

Penguin, commissioned too late for service during World War I, performed minesweeping and salvage work in the New York area until sailing for Kirkwall, Scotland, 22 May 1919. On 5 June she reported to the North Sea Minesweeping Detachment. Then, fitted out with "electrical protective devices," she was soon busy clearing the North Sea Mine Barrage.

On 9 July, a mine exploded in her kite, causing minor damage. In August, while laying buoys for the sixth sweeping operation, she suffered a similar explosion, with severer results. Temporary repairs restored her to working condition until a lengthy repair and overhaul period at Chatham prepared her to sail homeward.

Penguin returned to New York in November, then sailed to join the Pacific Fleet's Mine Squadron 4, with which she operated, in the eastern Pacific, until decommissioned and placed in reserve at Pearl Harbor, 1 June 1922.

Recommissioned 13 October 1923, she was fitted out for temporary service as a gunboat and assigned to the Asiatic Fleet. Sailing west she took up duties as a Yangtze Patrol vessel, operating out of Shanghai. She remained on China station until the end of the decade, then sailed to Cavite, whence she steamed to Guam, where she was homeported for the last years of her naval career.

During the thirties, she performed various services for the administrators of Guam, including patrol and rescue missions in areas traversed by the newly established transpacific air routes. However, with increased political tension in the Far East, and increased possibilities for war, her patrol duties were stepped up and took on a more defensive posture.

Early on the morning of 8 December 1941 (7 December east of the I.D.L.) she returned to Agana Harbor from such a patrol to receive word of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Soon thereafter Japanese planes swarmed over the island. Bombs fell on fuel storage tanks and shore installations. Penguin slipped her mooring and moved outside the harbor to gain maneuvering space. Her anti-aircraft fire drove some of the bombers higher thus limiting their accuracy. The enemy's attention, however, was soon focused on the ships. Penguin became the object of bombing and strafing runs. No direct hits were scored, but one group of bombs straddled the ship. The resulting explosions killed 1, wounded over 60, and caused extensive damage.

Downing one plane, Penguin's guns kept up the pace until the ship had been maneuvered to a position a mile and a half off the beach. There, in 200 fathoms, she was scuttled to prevent her capture by the enemy. Her crew made the shore in life rafts and those not seriously wounded continued the defense of Guam.

Published: Tue Dec 01 09:34:21 EST 2015