USS Zircon (PY-16)

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USS Zircon
USS Zircon (PY-16) during World War II
United States
Name: USS Zircon
Namesake: The zircon, a semiprecious stone
Builder: The Pusey and Jones Corporation, Wilmington, Delaware
Completed: 1929
Acquired: 9 December 1940
Commissioned: 25 March 1941
Decommissioned: 10 May 1946
Struck: 5 June 1946
Fate: Transferred to Maritime Commission for disposal 17 October 1946; sold by War Shipping Administration 24 April 1947
Notes: Operated as private yacht Nakhodka 1929-1940
General characteristics
Type: Armed yacht
Displacement: 1,220 (estimated)
Length: 235 ft 4 in (71.73 m)
Beam: 34 ft 0 in (10.36 m)
Draft: 13 ft 0 in (3.96 m) mean
Speed: 14 knots
Complement: 108

USS Zircon (PY-16) was an armed yacht that served in the United States Navy from 1941 to 1946.

Zircon was built by the Pusey and Jones Corporation at Wilmington, Delaware, in 1929 as the private yacht Nakhoda. The U.S. Navy acquired Nakhodka from automobile body manufacturer Mr. Fred J. Fisher of Detroit, Michigan, on 9 December 1940, renamed her USS Zircon, and designated her as a patrol yacht (PY-16). She was outfitted for naval service at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in Brooklyn, New York and commissioned on 25 March 1941 with Lieutenant Commander Cornelius M. Sullivan in command.

Though assigned to New London, Connecticut, as an antiaircraft gunnery school ship specializing in machine-gun training for officer trainees, Zircon also conducted inshore patrols and visited ports from New York City to Casco Bay, Maine. Those duties continued until the autumn of 1941, at which time she began making mail and dispatch runs between Portland, Maine, and Argentia, Newfoundland.

In mid-February 1942, Zircon was reassigned to the Eastern Sea Frontier and initially conducted patrols along the coast of New Jersey. Following extensive repairs in June 1942, the converted yacht reported for duty with the Commander, Caribbean Sea Frontier, under whose auspices she escorted convoys between Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and New York City. She steamed back and forth between Cuba and New York City — occasionally calling at some of the islands of the West Indies, notably Trinidad and San Salvador Island — until 1 March 1944. At that juncture, she received a temporary assignment to the United States Coast Guard's weather patrol.

Between March and November 1944, Zircon operated out of Boston, Massachusetts, and plied the waters of the North Atlantic with the weather patrol. However, she continued to participate to some extent in the protection of New York City-Guantanamo Bay convoys and of other mercantile traffic along the North American coast.

On 11 May 1944, Zircon, under the command of Lieutenant Commander Douglas C. Bird, USNR, responded to sightings of explosions approximately fourteen miles outside Boston Harbor and immediately navigated toward the USS YF-415, which had been disposing of obsolete ammunition from the Hingham Naval Ammunition Depot when the fire and explosions occurred. Zircon crew members rescued fourteen of the YF-415's thirty-one crew members from the cold, fiery waters.

On 16 November 1944, Zircon reported for duty with the Commander, DD-DE (i.e., destroyer-destroyer escort) Shakedown Task Group. That duty lasted until 7 December 1944, when she was designated relief flagship for the Commander in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, based at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She served in that capacity through the end of World War II.

In September 1946, Zircon received orders to report to the Commandant, 6th Naval District at Charleston, South Carolina, to prepare for decommissioning and disposal. On 10 May 1946, she was decommissioned at Charleston. Her name was struck from the Navy List on 5 June 1946, and she was turned over to the Maritime Commission for disposal on 17 October 1946. She was sold by the War Shipping Administration on 24 April 1947.