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Yakutat (AVP-32)


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Caption: Yakutat (AVP-32) as a Coast Guard cutter (WHEC-380), in the gray finish used on cutters operating in Vietnam.

A bay on the southern coast of Alaska.

(AVP-32: displacement 2,411 (full load); length 310'9"; beam 41'2"; draft 11'11"; speed 18.5 knots; complement 367; armament 2 5-inch, 8 40 millimeter, 6 20 millimeter, 2 depth charge tracks; class Barnegat)

Yakutat (AVP-32) was laid down on 1 April 1942 at Seattle, Wash., by Associated Shipbuilders, Inc.; launched on 2 July 1942; sponsored by Mrs. Peter Barber, a mother who had lost three sons when the battleship Oklahoma (BB-37) was sunk on 7 December 1941 at Pearl Harbor; and commissioned on 31 March 1944, Comdr. George K. Fraser in command.

After her shakedown in the San Diego, Calif., area, Yakutat got underway on 25 May and arrived at San Pedro, Calif., late the following day. Following post-shakedown availability in the West Coast Shipbuilders' yard at San Pedro, the small seaplane tender sailed for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on 17 June; she reached Ford Island one week later.

Underway at 0700 on 28 June, Yakutat steamed for the Marshalls as an escort for Makin Island (CVE-93). Arriving at Kwajalein on 6 July, she shifted to Eniwetok within a week, where she embarked officers and men of a patrol service unit and took on board a cargo of 5-inch illuminating ammunition. She sailed for Saipan on 14 July.

Reaching recently secured Tanapag Harbor on 17 July, Yakutat began setting up a seaplane base there and immediately commenced servicing seaplanes, providing subsistence and quarters for the aviators and aircrews attached to those aircraft. The tender provided the aircraft with gasoline and oil via bowser fueling boats and commenced servicing planes by the over-the-stern method as well.

Yakutat remained at Tanapag Harbor for the rest of July, all of August, and into September. After shifting to the Garapan anchorage, Saipan, on 8 September, Yakutat transferred all plane personnel to Coos Bay (AVP-25) and sailed for the Palaus on the 12th. In company with Chandeleur (AV-10), Pocomoke (AV-9), Onslow (AVP-48), and Mackinac (AVP-13), Yakutat reached Kossol Passage on 16 September, the day after the initial landings on Pelelieu.

Proceeding to the seaplane operation area via a "comparatively well-marked channel" and "while sweeping operations went on continuously" nearby, Yakutat soon commenced laying out a seaplane anchorage. The following day, the tender serviced the first plane of Patrol Bomber Squadron (VPB) 216, furnishing fuel and boat service.

With nine planes operational, VPB 216 was based on Yakutat, conducting long-range patrols and antisubmarine sweeps daily. During that time, the tender also served as secondary fighter director unit and experienced air alerts on six occasions. Enemy planes remained in the vicinity for varying lengths of time and occasionally dropped bombs in the lagoon area.

Yakutat serviced the Martin PBM patrol planes into early November 1944. On 9 November, the ship got underway for Ulithi and arrived there the following day. Yakutat tended planes there from 13 to 26 November before she underwent a drydocking for a routine bottom cleaning and hull repairs. She then sailed for Guam on the 29th.

Reaching Apra Harbor on the 30th, Yakutat loaded spare parts for Martin PBM Mariner flying boats before she got underway on the 2d to return to Saipan. She arrived later the same day; completed the discharge of her cargo two days later and, on the 5th, took on board 13 officers and 30 men of VPB 216 for temporary subsistence.

Yakutat tended planes of VPB 16 and VPB 17 at Saipan through mid-January of 1945. She departed Tanapag harbor on the morning of 17 January, steamed independently for Guam, and reached her destination later that day. However, she remained there only a short time, for she sailed on the 19th for the Palaus and reached Kossol Roads on the 21st. Yakutat discharged cargo there and fueled seaplanes until 6 February, when she sailed in company with St. George (AV-16) and escorted by PC-1130, bound for the Carolines.

Anchoring at Ulithi on the 7th, Yakutat tended seaplanes there for most of February; highlighting that brief tour was the ship's going to the vicinity of a crashed Vought OS2U Kingfisher floatplane on the 10th. After salvaging equipment from the plane, the aircraft apparently too badly damaged to warrant repair, Yakutat sank the plane with gunfire and returned to her anchorage in the seaplane operating area.

On 25 February, Yakutat sailed for the Marianas in company with St. George and reached Garapan harbor two days later. She tended seaplanes there for a little less than a month before sailing for Okinawa on the 23d to take part in Operation "Iceberg," the conquest of the Ryukyus.

Yakutat tended the PBM Mariners of VPB 27 for the rest of the war. The seaplane tender established seadrome operations at Kerama Retto on the 28th and spent the rest of the important Okinawa campaign engaged in her vital but unsung task. The presence of enemy aircraft in the vicinity on numerous occasions meant many hours spent at general quarters stations, lookouts' eyes and radar alert for any sign of approaching enemy planes. Yakutat provided quarters and subsistence for the crews of the Mariners and furnished the planes with gas, lube oil, and JATO (jet-assisted take-off) units. The twin-engined Martin flying boats conducted antisubmarine and air-sea rescue ("Dumbo") duties locally, as well as offensive patrols that ranged as far as the coast of Korea.

Although the ship received a dispatch on 21 June to the effect that all "organized resistance on Okinawa has ceased," her routine remained busy. A week later, for example, a Consolidated PB2Y Coronado crashed on take-off and sank approximately 500 yards off the starboard beam of the ship. Yakutat dispatched two boats to the scene and rescued eight men. Boats from another ship rescued the remaining trio of survivors from the Coronado. All men were brought on board Yakutat, where they were examined and returned to their squadron, VPB 13.

On 15 July, Yakutat sailed for Chimu Wan, Okinawa, in company with Norton Sound (AV-11), Chandeleur, Onslow, Shelikof (AVP-52), and Bering Strait (AVP-34), but returned to port due to a typhoon in the vicinity. However, she got underway again the following day and reached Chimu Wan the same date. She remained there, tending seaplanes, largely anchored but occasionally moving to open water to be free to maneuver when typhoons swirled by. On one occasion, while returning to Chimu Wan after a typhoon evacuation, Yakutat made sonar contact on a suspected submarine, on 3 August. The seaplane tender made one attack, dropping depth charges from her stern-mounted tracks, but lost the contact soon thereafter.

Yakutat was at Chimu Wan when Japan capitulated and hostilities ended on 15 August. With the officers and men of the crew assembled aft, the ship's commanding officer, Lt. Comdr. W. I. Darnell humbly led his crew in offering thanks to God "for being kept afloat to see the final day of this war."

Although V-J Day meant that offensive operations against the Japanese ceased, it only meant the beginning of the long occupation of the erstwhile enemy's homeland and possessions. Yakutat remained at Chimu Wan for the rest of August and for most of September, before she sailed for Japanese home waters on 20 September, in company with St. George.

En route, the two seaplane tenders caught up with Vice Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf's Task Unit 56.4.3 formed around the battleships Tennessee (BB-43) and California (BB-44) and became units of Task Force 56, and later, when redesignated, as Task Force 51.

Yakutat reached Wakanoura Wan, Honshu, on the 22d, finding Floyds Bay (AVP-4C) already there and operating as tender for seaplanes. Yakutat underwent a brief availability alongside Cascade (AD-26) before she commenced her tending operations at Wakanoura Wan. She operated as tender for seaplanes using that port until 12 October, when she shifted to Hiro Wan where she performed seaplane tender operations and seadrome control duties for a little over a month.

Underway on 14 November, Yakutat arrived at Sasebo on the 15th, stayed there until the 19th, and then set sail for the United States with 58 officers and 141 enlisted men embarked as passengers. After stopping at Midway for fuel on the 27th, the small seaplane tender continued on, bound for the Pacific Northwest.

Reaching Port Townsend, Wash., on 6 December, Yakutat transferred all passengers to LCI-957 for further transportation and then shifted to Sinclair Inlet, Wash., where she offloaded all bombs and ammunition before reporting on the 7th to the Bremerton Group of the Pacific Reserve (19th) Fleet.

Yakutat subsequently shifted south to the naval air station at Alameda, Calif., where she was decommissioned on 29 July 1946. Transferred on loan to the Coast Guard on 31 August 1948, the erstwhile small seaplane tender was towed to the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in September, where she was fitted out into the winter months. She was recommissioned at San Francisco on 23 November 1948 as USCGC Yakutat (WAVP-380).

Proceeding via the Panama Canal and Kingston, Jamaica, Yakutat eventually commenced weather patrol duties in the North Atlantic out of Portland, Maine, in late January 1949. Homeported at New Bedford, Mass., in 1949, Yakutat operated out of that port over the next 11 years, always ready to perform her assigned missions of search and rescue, ocean station patrol, and providing meteorological and oceanographic services. Periodically, the ship conducted refresher training in company with naval units out of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

During the course of her operations. Yakutat proceeded, in February 1952, to the scene of an unusual maritime disaster that occurred off Cape Cod. Two tankers, SS Fort Mercer and SS Pendleton, each broke in two and foundered, almost simultaneously. Yakutat, as ship in tactical command of the rescue efforts, consequently picked up men from both ships and directed the rescue efforts by other participating vessels in the vicinity. Later that year, in December, Yakutat rescued survivors of a plane crash off the entrance to St. George's Harbor, Bermuda, with her small boats.

Participating in Coast Guard operations as part of Operation "Market Time" off the coast of Vietnam in 1967 and again in 1970 and 1971, Yakutat was also re-designated as a medium endurance cutter and given the alphanumeric hull number WHEC-380. Returned to the Navy in 1970, Yakutat was transferred to the Navy of the Republic of South Vietnam on 10 January 1971.

Renamed Tran Nhat Duat (HQ-03), the former seaplane tender and weather ship cooperated with units of the United States Navy on coastal patrol and counter-insurgency missions off the coast of embattled South Vietnam until the collapse of that country in the spring of 1975.

Fleeing to the Philippines, Tran Nhat Duat and her five sisterships of the former South Vietnamese Navy lay moored in Subic Bay awaiting disposition, ships without a country. The Philippine government, however, acquired the ships in 1975, and title was formally transferred on 5 April 1976. Tran Nhat Duat and her sistership Tran Quac Toan (HQ-06) (ex-Coofc Inlet, WHEC-384 and AVP-36) were acquired only to be cannibalized for spare parts to keep the other four units of the class in operating condition.

Yakutat (AVP-32) received four battle stars for her World War II service. She also received one award of the Navy Unit Commendation, one award of the Meritorious Unit Commendation, and four battle stars for Vietnam service while assigned to the United States Coast Guard.

Published: Tue Dec 29 14:57:31 EST 2015