USS Viking (ARS-1)
|Name:||USS Flamingo (AM-32)|
|Owner:||United States Navy|
|Laid down:||18 October 1917|
|Launched:||24 August 1918|
|Commissioned:||12 February 1919|
|Decommissioned:||5 May 1922|
|Fate:||Transferred to U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, 23 January 1923;|
|Owner:||U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey|
|Acquired:||23 January 1923|
|Commissioned:||1 March 1923|
|Name:||USS Viking (ARS-1)|
|Owner:||United States Navy|
|Acquired:||27 June 1941|
|Commissioned:||3 January 1942|
|Struck:||19 April 1953|
|Fate:||Sold on 22 July 1953|
|Class and type:||Lapwing-class minesweeper|
|Length:||180 ft (55 m)|
|Beam:||35 ft 6 in (10.82 m)|
|Draft:||9 ft (2.7 m)9½"|
|Propulsion:||Triple expansion reciprocating steam engine, two Babcock & Wilcox boilers, one shaft.|
|Speed:||14 knots (26 km/h; 16 mph)|
|Armament:||2 × 3"/50 caliber gun mounts|
USS Flamingo (AM-32) was a Lapwing-class minesweeper built for the United States Navy near the end of World War I. After service overseas clearing mines after the Armistice, the ship was laid up until 1922 when it was transferred to the Commerce Department for use by the United States Coast & Geodetic Survey. Renamed USC&GS Guide, the ship performed research duties on the West Coast of the United States for nearly 20 years. In June 1941, Guide was transferred back to the Navy and was named repair ship USS Viking (ARS-1). She worked primarily from bases in California until 1953, when she was sold for scrapping.
The first USS Flamingo (AM-32) was laid down 18 October 1917 by the New Jersey Drydock and Transportation Co., Elizabethport, New Jersey; launched, 24 August 1918; Commissioned USS Flamingo, Minesweeper No. 32, 12 February 1919; Flamingo fitted out at the New York Navy Yard and later shifted to Tompkinsville, Staten Island, New York, on 29 March. The minesweeper performed various towing jobs and carried stores locally in the 3d Naval District into the spring of 1919. On 10 April, she suffered damage in a collision with an unnamed Panama Railroad Co. tug, and underwent repairs at Port Richmond, Staten Island. Shifting to the New York Navy Yard soon thereafter, USS Flamingo began fitting out "for distant service."
Flamingo departed Tompkinsville on 18 May, bound for the Orkney Islands. Proceeding via Boston, Massachusetts, the minesweeper arrived at Kirkwall, Scotland, on 5 June, to begin her tour of duty with the United States Minesweeping Detachment, North Sea. Along with American subchasers, chartered British naval trawlers, and fellow Lapwing-class sweepers, Flamingo would participate in the clearing of the North Sea Mine Barrage.
Laid by the United States Navy after America entered World War I, the barrier had served as a formidable obstacle for German U-boats based at North Sea ports. By 1919, however, the barrage hampered the resumption of peaceful commerce.
On 23 June, Flamingo transported officers and men from Kirkwall to Inverness, Scotland, and returned to her base in the evening carrying supplies for the detachment flagship, Black Hawk (AD-9) (Destroyer Tender No. 9). The minesweeper then performed tugboat duty at Kirkwall between 25 June and 7 July. Four days later, she sailed to assist in clearing group 11 of the mine barrage in the second phase of the fourth clearance operation conducted by the Minesweeping Detachment.
The first days were uneventful. On 15 July, Flamingo anchored for the night, as was usual practice, to the northward of the minefield. During the ensuing evening hours, strong winds and currents caused the ship to drag her anchor. She slowly worked southward from her original position. The next morning, when Flamingo weighed her anchor to get underway, she discovered that she had drifted into the minefield and had fouled one of the horned spheres in her anchor cable. The deadly device was trailing just beneath the fantail of the ship.
The mine exploded beneath Flamingo's stern. The underwater blast badly damaged the rudder, disabled the capstan and generator, and dished in the ship's stern plating in several places. Eider (AM-17) (Minesweeper No. 17) lent assistance and towed Flamingo to Invergordon, Scotland, for drydocking and repairs on 17 July.
Flamingo was ready to return to the base at Kirkwall by early in the next month. She transported a cargo of steel and lumber to Black Hawk on her return voyage, arriving at Kirkwall on 13 August. Two days later, the minesweeper towed her crippled sister ship Pelican (AM-27) (Minesweeper No. 27) to South Shields, England, for drydocking and repairs in the wake of her mining the previous month.
Later in August, Flamingo resumed her minesweeper duties with the detachment, working out of the Norwegian ports of Lervic, Stavanger, and Haugesund before returning to Kirkwall via Otters Wick, Orkney, on 7 September. She subsequently participated in the final sweep of the mine barrage—the climactic sweep which detonated five mines, cut loose 47, and destroyed 50—into late September. Once the arduous and dangerous job was complete, Flamingo and her sister ships could head home to the United States for a well-earned rest. Flamingo departed Kirkwall on 1 October and— after a voyage which took the minecraft via Plymouth and Devonport, England; Brest, France; Lisbon, Portugal; the Azores; and Bermuda—eventually arrived at Tompkinsville on 20 November.
The pause at Tompkinsville was a brief one, however, for Flamingo was underway five days later—on 25 November—bound for the Portsmouth Navy Yard in Maine. She arrived on the 28th and soon commenced an overhaul. Assigned to the 1st Division, 2d Mine Squadron, Atlantic Fleet, on 1 July 1920, Flamingo received the classification AM-32 on 17 July, as the Navy adopted its modern system of alphanumeric hull numbers. The minesweeper operated with the 2d Mine Squadron into the autumn of 1920, until placed in reserve at the Portsmouth Navy Yard on 18 November.
Flamingo remained inactive for almost a year and one-half before an executive order of 25 March 1922 authorized the Navy to transfer the vessel to the Commerce Department, and she was accordingly decommissioned on 5 May 1922. Turned over to the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey for use as a survey vessel, at Portsmouth, on 23 January 1923, the erstwhile minecraft was renamed USC&GS Guide, first ship of the name, on 1 March 1923.
After she had been converted and fitted out on the United States East Coast, USC&GS Guide departed New London, Connecticut, bound for her new duty station, San Diego, California. On her voyage to the west coast, the ship made history by using—for the first time by a vessel of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey—a sonic depth finder to measure and record the depth of the sea at points along her course. Before she reached San Diego, California—the date of her arrival has not been found, but she transited the Panama Canal on 8 December— USC&GS Guide had accumulated much data beneficial to the study of the movement of sound waves through water and measuring their velocity under varying conditions of salinity, density, and temperature.
Based at San Diego, California, and surveying off the west coast of the United States, USC&GS Guide performed her important duties for the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey for nearly two decades. Meanwhile, as war clouds gathered and tension mounted in Europe and the Far East in the late 1930s, the United States Navy expanded to meet the emergency—especially after the outbreak of hostilities following the German invasion of Poland in September 1939.
On 25 July 1941, work to convert the ship to a salvage vessel began at the San Diego Marine Construction Co. During the reconfiguration, on 5 August, the U.S. Navy renamed the ship Viking, third ship of the name, and classified her ARS-1. While the alterations were still in progress, Japanese aircraft attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 plunging the United States into World War II. Placed "in service" on 3 January 1942, Viking was pronounced ready for duty on 12 February.
Manned by a civilian crew and operated from San Diego, California, by the Merritt, Chapman, and Scott salvage firm—a civilian company working under a contract let by the Bureau of Ships—Viking stood ready to perform salvage and rescue tasks in the 11th Naval District.
Between 3 and 6 July 1942, Viking assisted two local patrol craft, YP-267 and YP-269, which had run aground off San Diego, towing them both back to port for repairs. From the ship's movement reports, Viking appears to have spent an uneventful autumn and winter at her home port.
She shifted to San Francisco, California, briefly in January 1943, en route to Guadalupe to perform emergency salvage operations under the aegis of the Commander, Western Sea Frontier. Returning to San Diego, California, in February, the salvage vessel operated there into 1944.
On 27 October, Viking sailed for San Pedro for refit and returned to San Diego later in November. On the last day of 1944, Viking departed her home port in company with Tenino (ATF-115), bound for Clipperton Island. There, the two vessels joined Seize (ARS-26) to free the grounded LST-563. During the rescue operation, Viking suffered damage from heavy seas and put into San Diego for repairs soon thereafter.
The salvage vessel subsequently operated out of San Diego and San Pedro, California through the end of World War II in mid-August 1945. She performed tug and tow services with ships ranging in size from destroyers to LST's into the 1950s. In December 1949, she aided the grounded steamer SS Aristocratus off the south point of Santa Rosa Island.
Eventually, Viking's area of operations embraced Long Beach and Port Hueneme, California, as well as the San Diego locale.
Relieved by Gear (ARS-34) as salvage vessel for the 11th Naval District, Viking was returned to Navy custody by the Merritt, Chapman, and Scott salvage firm. On 17 March 1953, she was authorized for disposal; and her name was struck from the Navy list on 19 April 1953.
She lay at the Naval Supply Depot, San Pedro, California, until sold on 22 July 1953 to Nathan Cohen and Son, Inc., of Los Angeles, California. The veteran of service in the United States Navy, as well as of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, was scrapped soon thereafter.
- This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.
- Photo gallery of Viking at NavSource Naval History