A long-legged, web-footed shore bird possessing a slender, up-curved bill, found in western and southern states.
(Minesweeper No. 19: dp. 950; 1. 180'0"; b. 35'6"; dr. 9'9 1/2" (mean); s. 12.4 k.; cpl. 72; a. 2 3", 1 .30-cal. Lewis mg.; el. Lap wing)
The first Avocet (Minesweeper No. 19) was laid down on 13 September 1917 at Baltimore, Md., by the Baltimore Drydock and Shipbuilding Col.; named Avocet on 17 November 1917;
launched on 9 March 1918; sponsored by Miss Frances Virginia Imbach, daughter of the superintendent of the upper plant of the Baltimore Drydock and Shipbuilding Co., and commissioned at the Norfolk Navy, Yard, on 17 September 1918, Lt. Christian Crone in command.
Avocet operated in the waters of the 5th Naval District, primarily in the Lynnhaven-Hampton Roads area, through the Armistice in November 1918. Her duties consisted principally of minesweeping as late as the first week of December, but she also provided tug services as required, towing the disabled steamship Manta from 17 to 23 November, passing the tow to the tugs Wahneta and Mohawk off Cape Henry on the 23d.
Entering the Norfolk Navy Yard on 19 December, Avocet remained there into the second week of January 1919, during which time her main battery of two 3-inch guns was removed, on 10 January. Avocet subsequently resumed sweeping the approaches to Hampton Roads, at Lynnhaven Roads and off Cape Henry, on the 13th, and later performed service as a tug between Hampton Roads, Baltimore, Norfolk, and Portsmouth, N.H., during. February and March, 1919. She briefly visited New York City between 10 and 15 March, for recreation, before she returned to Norfolk on the 20th.
Spending the rest of March 1919 at the Norfolk Navy Yard, Avocet called at Annapolis from 4 to 9 April 1919 before dropping back down to Norfolk on the 9th. Later in April the ship visiting Charleston, S.C., and Norfolk, before sailing north for New York City, where she arrived on 1 May. Ordered thence, on 10 May, to the Norfolk Navy Yard for docking and repairs, Avocet spent the balance of May and much of June, 1919, fitting out for extended duty sweeping the North Sea Mine Barrage, and ultimately sailed from Norfolk for Boston on 28 June in company with Quail (Minesweeper No. 15) and Lark (Minesweeper No. 21). The three ships reached their destination on 1 July, and set out the following day for Kirkwall, in the Orkney Islands, with Avocet as flagship for the division which had been joined by Whippoorwill (Minesweeper No. 35). The four minesweepers reached Kirkwall on the evening of 14 July.
Over the months that followed, Avocet spent 63 days in the minefelds and only 15 in port, frequently having to battle the North Sea in the course of the already hazardous tasks involved in minesweeping. Once in the course of her operations on the minefields, on August, she narrowly missed hitting a Britishlaid contact mine. Avocet, like her sisters clearing the North Sea Mine Barrage, was based principally at Kirkwall, but also used Lervig Bay and Stavanger, Norway, as bases as well. Ultimately departing Kirkwall on 1 October 1919, Avocet arrived at Brest, France, on the first leg of her homeward-bound voyage, on 5 October. She lingered there until departing for the United States on the 16th, towing the water barge Rin Tin Tin and steaming in company with Thrush (Minesweeper No. 18), the latter tow- freight lighter Ninette.
The little convoy reached Ponta Delgada, in the Azores on 22 October, and cleared the port on the 25th for Bermuda. En route, on the morning of 28 October Avocet intercepted an SOS from the schooner Marie Geresee of Barcelona, Spain, which had been rammed by the steamer SS Hickman, expressing the crew's intent to abandon ship. Avocet changed course accordingly, to render assistance, but, finding out while standing toward the scene that Hickman had rescued the schooner's crew and was proceeding toward New York with them on board, resumed her voyage. The little convoy paused at Bermuda from 5 to 7 November, and ultimately reached Hampton Roads on the 10th.
Having delivered their tows, Avocet and Thrush sailed for Tompkinsville, Staten Island, New York, on the 17th, and arrived the following day. On 24 November, Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels reviewed the ships of the Minesweeping Squadron, including Avocet, at New York, and lauded their accomplishment in clearing the North Sea Min Barrage. The following day, Avocet led a division of nine of her to Charleston, arriving there on the 28th, and rem South Carolina port through the end of the year 1919.
Avocet sailed for Panama on 3 January 1920 and reached Colon one week later. Transiting the Panama Canal on the 13th, the ship departed Balboa on the 17th, and reached San Diego, Calif., on the 28th. She remained there until 1 March 1920, when she shifted to San Pedro. In reduced commission, Avocet lay inactive at San Pedro through the summer of 1920, and, during this time, was classified as AM-19 on 17 July 1920, during the fleet-wide assignment of alphanumeric designations.
Towed to the Mare Island, Navy Yard by Brant and Heron (AM-10), between 13 and 16 September 1920, Avocet spent the remainder of 1920 and the first seven months of 1921 inactive and in reduced commission at Mare Island. Underway for the Territory of Hawaii on 21 August 1921, she made the voyage. in company with Heron and Finch (AM-9), and the three ships reached Pearl Harbor on the last day of August. Avocet remained inactive in Hawaiian waters into October; she then briefly visited Honolulu from 4 to 6 October before she sailed for Guam on the latter date in company with Heron and Finch. Reaching Guam on 23 October, the ships arrived at Cavite, Philippine Islands, on 2 November, and joined the Asiatic Fleet's Philippine Detachment.
Avocet remained at Cavite for the next several weeks, a comparatively uneventful stay enlivened only by a fire that broke out in the Cavite Navy Yard early on the morning of 18 November 1921. The minesweeper sent her fire and rescue charge of the executive officer, Ens. Forrest A. Rho yard forces in battling the blaze. This party returned to aid to the ship an hour later, minus one of its number who had sustained injuries ashore. He rejoined the ship the following day.
Shifting to Olongapo on 7 December, Avocet remained there until towed back to Cavite by Finch on 26 and 27 January 1922. After spending all of February- in the yard at Cavite, the ship ran her post-repair trials on 9 March-the same day her captain received orders directing him to decommission her. Mooring alongside Heron in Canacao Bay, near Cavite, on 25 March, Avocet spent the rest of this stage of her career inactive, her crew busily en ed in wire-brushing and red-leading the ship for inactivation. .3 April 1922, Avocet was decommissioned at Cavite.
Avocet's inactivity, however, lasted only a little over three years. Reconditioned for service at Cavite, the ship was recommissioned on 8 September 1925, Lt. Grady B. Whitehead in command. Avocet was recommissioned to serve as an "auxiliary aircraft tender", assigned to the Asiatic Fleet's air squadrons.
For the next two years, Avocet operated exclusively in the Philippines, tending aircraft from Torpedo Squadrons (VT) 20 and 5A, in locales that ranged from Olongapo and Subic Bay to Manila, and the southern islands. For the remainder of 1925, these operations were interspersed with duty supporting advanced base evolutions at Port Concepcion and Libas, as well as a visit to Iloilo on Navy Day to "show the flag." From October to December, she provided support for destroyer exercises in Manila Bay, towing targets for the "flush-deckers" of Destroyer Divisions 39, 43, and 45.
During 1926, she provided target services for Asiatic Fleet submarines in January, and towed targets for Jason (AV-2) as the aviation tender conducted her battle practices in February. After exercising with submarines again out of Mariveles in April, she. operated locally between Olongapo and Manila Bay into the spring, occasionally transporting passengers and freight back and forth. Her advanced base operations in 1926 took her to Loos Bay, Dapitan Bay, and Zamboanga, where, along with Heron (AVP-2), she tended planes of VT-20. She also operated during the summer at Jolo. Repairs at Cavite kept the ship in the yard there from mid-August through mid-September, after which time she commenced operations at Polloc Harbor, Parang, Mindanao. Before October was out, she had extended her operations to transporting passengers to Cebu.
While the turmoil in China in 1927 kept much of the Asiatic Fleet engaged in Chinese waters, Avocet remained in the Philippines, operating principally at Olongapo and Manila. She exercised with Asiatic Fleet submarines in February, recovering torpedoes, and then performed a brief stint of tug work at Olongapo, assisting the mooring of the transport Chaumont (AP-5) and Me Dollar liner, SS President Lincoln, on 9 and 11 May. That summer, Avocet operated at Zamboanga, Jesselton (North Borneo), and Iligan Bay, Mindanao. Early in August, she transported General Nathorst of the Philippine Constabulary from olo to Zamboanga, and then tended planes in Surigao Strait before she returned to Cavite at the end of September. For the remainder of 1927, the ship operated in Manila Bay, Subic Bay, and underwent the usual upkeep at Cavite.
The year 1928 began with local operations out of Manila Bay, through February, and early in March she assisted the fast minelayer Rizal (DM-14) in that ship's battle practice and battle miming exercises; on 12 March, she lay off Corregidor as a unit of the Inshore Patrol Force in Army-Navy war games, challenging strange ships and, during the day, noting the passage of "enemy" planes over Corregidor. At one point on the evening of 13 May she observed two "enemy" vessels inside her patrol area-Jason and the submarine tender Canopus (AS-9)-the "enemy" so close at hand that Avocet had to stop and back down to avoid contact.
On 16 March, Avocet towed targets for the oiler Pecos (AO-6) before she operated out of Bolinao Harbor, tending the planes of VT-5A. On 23 March she put into the Cavite Navy Yard where, over the ensuing weeks she received minor repairs, a remodelled magazine, and a pair of 3-inch antiaircraft guns. After running trials and assisting the fast minelayer Hart (DM-8) in her battle and mining practices, Avocet sailed for China on 25 April in company with Finch and Pecos, the oiler towing two battle raft targets.
Arriving at Chefoo on 3 May, Avocet shifted down the coast to Shanghai on the 14th, returning to North China waters on the 18th. She spent the remainder of May, all of June, and much of July at Chefoo, tending planes and providing tow and target services for the fleet flagship Pittsburgh (CA-4) as that cruiser conducted her battle practices. On 9 July, Avocet's deck watch noted a sampan under sail capsize 1,000 yards off the ship's starboard beam; the tender accordingly called away a rescue party and soon had two Chinese men on board, dried their clothes and sent them ashore in Jason's liberty launch.
At the end of July, Avocet sailed for Hsinho, China, with liberty parties from Heron and Jason embarked, touching at Dairen, Manchuria, en route back to Chefoo. Reaching that port on 14 August, she soon commenced her own battle practices with her recently installed battery.
A typhoon, however, curtailed the ship's activities. At 2015 on 26 August 1928, Avocet grounded on a sand bar. With the wind clocked at Force 8, Avocet remained at the mercy of the tempest for the rest of the night, but fortunately sustained no major damage. When the storm abated, help soon arrived, with Commander, Aircraft Squadrons, Asiatic, Comdr. Richmond K. Turner, flying his pennant in Bittern (AM-26), taking charge of salvage work.
Heron attempted, unsuccessfully, to get a line across while working parties from the destroyer tender Black Hawk (AD-9) and the light cruiser Trenton (CL-11) came on board to assist.
Bittern, meanwhile, started laying out anchors to seaward. Bittern, Finch, and Heron all attempted to free their stranded sister ship but without success on the 27th, as surging surf and
heavy swells moving in from offshore complicated matters of getting divers over the side with high-pressure hoses to try and blast away the mud holding the ship fast. Three destroyers MacLeish (DD-220), Parrott (DD-218), and Simpson (DD-221)-were even enlisted to try and free Avocet by steaming by at high speed and attempting to create a wave that would free the ship C. Ultimately, after working parties from three cruisers arrived to help lighten the ship by transferring stores and
ammunition to lighters and boats, a dredge was brought alongside and a fuel oil barge took on the ship's fuel. The combined efforts of Avocet's three sister ships, the waves again created by
the three destroyers, and the ship's own engines, finally allowed Avocet to slide free at 2135 on the 29th.
After minor repairs alongside Black Hawk, Avocet sailed for Shanghai, arriving there on 7 September. Docked and her damage investigated, she underwent more permanent repairs and an overhaul while she lay in dock. While there, she witnessed the commissioning of the new river gunboat Panay (PR-5).
Avocet departed Chinese waters on 15 October, and arrived at Cavite on the 20th. Steaming thence to Lemery and Taal for Navy Day observances, the ship operated locally between Olongapo and Manila before she proceeded to Salomague, where she provided services to a British flying boat squadron on a Wood will visit to the Philippines before it got underway for Hong Kong on 18 November, briefly hosting the British fliers and the Salomague reception committee on the 16th.
Avocet migrated to the southern Philippines early in 1929, to Zamboanga and Polloc Harbor. She tended Army amphibian aircraft at Bolinao Harbor before she then operated at Looc Bay and Catbolagan; she sailed thence to Iloilo on 25 March to relieve Penguin (AM-33) as station ship for the Eclipse Expedition, a task she turned over to Finch on 8 April. Returning then to Cavite, Avocet remained there a month, sailing for China on 10 May.
Arriving on the 15th, Avocet remained at Shanghai until 10 June, when she sailed for Nanking, and remained at that Yangtze port from 12 to 23 June before returning via Shanghai to Cavite. The ship returned to Chinese waters soon thereafter, however, carrying passengers to Shanghai before proceeding again to Nanking, where she served as station ship from 13 July to 20 September. Returning to Manila on 3 October, Avocet remained in the Philippines for the rest of 1929.
The years 1930 and 1931 brought more of the same: local operations in the Philippines, a yearly overhaul at Cavite, interspersed with tending planes and providing services in Chinese waters. In the spring of 1930, Avocet, along with Heron and Jason, visited Hong Kong and Amoy for the first time, and then spent the period from 5 May to 8 September operating at Tsingtao before returning to Manila Bay on 30 September, via Shanghai. In the spring and summer of 1931, Avocet-specifically designated as a "minesweeper for duty with aircraft" on 30 April 1931-operated at both principal Asiatic Fleet operating areas in North China, Chefoo and Tsingtao, tending planes and towing targets. Towed back to the Philippines by Heron at the end of this second deployment, Avocet remained in Philippine waters through the spring of 1932.
Avocet's operations for 1932 were proceeding as routine: operating in Manila Bay, tending planes from VT-5A with men from that squadron living on board a former coal barge, YC-147, moored alongside. On 10 March, however, she received urgent orders to proceed to the scene of a marine disaster; a fire had broken out on board a Japanese merchant ship, SS Kaku Maru. Avocet got underway immediately, at 1550 on the 10th, and arrived on the scene at 0110 the following morning. Avocet managed to get a line to the stricken ship, assisting Pigeon (AM-47) in the tow, but that line parted. Pigeon managed to beach Kaku Maru in Paluan Bay, while the destroyer Tracy (DD-214), which had taken Kaku Maru's crew on boa, transferred the 29 Japanese sailors to Avocet, which took the men to Manila and disembarked them that evening.
Avocet resumed her routine soon thereafter, towing targets at the end of March for destroyer battle practices. She underwent an overhaul at Cavite from 11 April to 16 May, and ultimately stood out of Manila Bay for the last time at 1923 on 18 July 1932, bound for the Hawaiian Islands. After stopping at Guam from 25 to 29 July, the minesweeper sailed thence or Pearl Harbor, arriving at her destination on 12 August 1932.
Avocet then operated out of the Fleet Air Base, Pearl Harbor, through early April, 1933, local operations punctuated only by Upkeep in the navy yard. She sailed independently for French Frigate Shoals on 15 April, anchoring there on the 17th to commence advanced base operations-the first such evolutions for Pearl Harbor-based flying boats. She got underway on the 19th to reach her plane-guard station, and soon logged in the arrival of 30 flying boats from Patrol Squadrons (VP) 1, 4 and 6. She supported P-6, providing berthing and messing facilities for the squadron's officers and men, over the next several days, out of French Frigate Shoals, until recovering the seaplane moorings and breaking camp on 28 and 29 April. She sailed the latter day for Parl Harbor in company with the small seaplane tender Pelican (AVP-6). Arriving back at the Fleet Air Base on 2 May, Avocet operated locally for the remainder of the year 1933, acting as plane guard for familiarization flights, night flying, and, on one occasion, salvaged the wreckage of a crashed Douglas PD-1 flying boat from VP-9, during August, 1933, recovering the body or one of the pilots and parts of the aircraft.
Avocet plane-guarded the last leg of the inbound flight of the new Consolidated P2Y flying boats of VP-10 as they arrived at Pearl Harbor on 11 January 1939, and then operated locally until heading for Kahului, Hawaii, with the seaplane tender Wright (AV-1), on 29 January. Avocet _participated in advanced base operations and Hawaiian Tactical Exercise No. 2 at Kahului until 8 February, when the ship sailed for Pearl Harbor with Lark, ultimately rendezvousing with Wright and the "Blue" Force before ceasing exercises on the 9th.
The ship then sailed for a plane guard station for the flight of VP-8F to Midway, arriving at Laysan Island on 14 February, thence to station "affirm" 35 miles south-southwest of Nihoa Island, in the Hawaiian chain, Having completed her duties there, Avocet returned to Pearl Harbor on 19 February, remaining there a month before sailing for San Diego on 19 March. She arrived at that west coast port on 28 March.
Underway for Corinto, Nicaragua, on 3 April, Avocet tended the Martin PM-1 flying boats from VP-7F and 9F from 13 to 15 and briefly served as the flagship for Rear Admiral Alfred Johnson, Commander, Aircraft, Base Force, while at Corinto. She accompanied the fleet's patrol planes as they migrated across the Gulf of Dulce, and, after transiting the Panama Canal on 24 April 1934, met them at Coco Solo, whence she followed them to the Bay of Caldera, off the coast of the Dominican Republic.
One highlight Of this period came on 10 May when Avocet received word that one of VP-9F's planes had been forced down, and was under tow of a merchant ship, SS Prospector. Underway from the Bay of Caldera at 1304 on 10 May, the ship rendezvoused with Prospector at 2238, and at 0040 on the 11th, first took the Martin PM-1 under tow and then hoisted it on board for re later that day. Avocet later operated out of St. Louis Solo,
Bay, Haiti, before returning to Coco So Solo, Pacific-bound, on 16 May, and hoisting out the repaired PM-1 en route. After transiting the Panama Canal on 19 May, she reached San Diego on the 30th.
Following a brief period of voyage repairs at the Mare Island Navy Yard, Avocet sailed for San Francisco, and thence to Juneau, Alaska, for her first deployment to Alaskan waters. She stood watch on plane-guard station off Cape Scott, British Columbia, from 26 to 28 July, before she reached Juneau on 28 July, and over the weeks that followed operated at Yakutat Bay, Seward, Cordova and Ketchikan. Again she served briefly as Rear Admiral Johnson's flagship in August, 1934, and provided VP-9F with berthing and messing facilities while at Cordova.
Winding up her first stint in Alaskan waters when she sailed from Ketchikan on 20 August, Avocet called at Astoria, Oreg., en route to Mare Island, and after spending the period from 7 September to 1 October at San Diego, returned to Pearl Harbor on 9 October. She conducted local operations out of the Fleet Air Base at Pearl Harbor for the remainder of the year 1934. During that nod she took part in Hawaiian Tactical Exercise No. 3 with VP-10F at Nawiliwili, Kauai, in late October.
For the first four months of 1935, Avocet operated locally out of Pearl Harbor, before she sailed for Midway on 3 May to take part in advanced base operations as part of Fleet Problem XVI. In that major fleet exercise, the five squadrons of Pearl Harborbased patrol planes were to fly to Midway and join the force commanded by Rear Admiral Thomas C. Hart, Commander, Cruisers, Scouting Force, in his attack and seizure of the island;
WHITE were then to operate from Midway to defend it from the WHITE fleet, supporting the marines defending the island by scouting "enemy' dispositions. With Midway yet to be devel- oped as a base, logistics were a prime concern to Rear Admiral Johnson, commanding the patrol planes, and the five squadrons had to be virtually self-supporting. Avocet and her sister ships, and the submarine tender Beaver (AS-5), had to support the six different types of patrol planes by carrying an unusual number and variety of spare parts.
Concerned over the problems presented by the location in which his planes would operate Rear Admiral Johnson sent his chief of staff, Capt. John H. Hoover, in Beaver, to Midway in advance, with Avocet accompanying Beaver. Hoover was to "look over the situation," have the channels buoyed and 500-pound anchors laid out for the flying boats expected to arrive. Arriving on 8 May, this advanced party, despite "rain squalls and continued bad weather," succeeded in " skillfully and expeditiously" accomplishing its task. Over the days following, Avocet supported seaplane operations out of Midway, way, accommodating men from VP-8 on board during this time.
Departing Midway on 24 May, Avocet reached Pearl Harbor on the 29th, and operated locally out of the Fleet Air Base into March of 1936, when she sailed for French Frigate Shoals and Pearl and Hennes Reef, to support survey operations there. Back to Pearl Harbor on 23 April, Avocet operated on a passenger-carrying service between Pearl Harbor and Hilo, Hawaii, that August.
On 25 September, Avocet transferred her ammunition to the ammunition depot at Pearl Harbor, taking on board 3,700 pounds of granular TNT for blasting operations at Johnston Island. She then sailed for that island on the 28th. She subsequently returned to Pearl Harbor on 12 October. She returned to Johnston Island later the same month, and supported advanced base operations there with VP-4, there and at Pearl and Hermes Reef She spent the remainder of the year 1936 and the first four months of 1937 operating out of Pearl Harbor, French Frigate Shoals, and Hilo.
On 5 May 1937, Avocet shifted from Pearl Harbor to Honolulu, and the following day embarked a 16-man National GeographicUnited States Navy Eclipse expedition, under Capt. Julius F. Hellweg, USN (Ret.), the superintendent of the Naval Observatory. Hellweg later described his first sight of Avocet as she lay moored on the waterfront: "Her undisturbed, peaceful air, her smart appearance, her very evident readiness to go, cheered us tremendously." Seen off on her scientific voyage by a arty that included the territorial governor, the Honorable Joseph B. Poindexter, and the commandant of the 14th Naval District Rear Admiral Orin G. Murfin, Avocet sailed for Canton Island.
After soundings at Enderbury Island revealed no good anchorage there, Avocet proceeded thence to Canton, arriving the same day, 13 May. While returning to Enderbury to land observers on 24 May, the ship remained at Canton Island for the eclipse expedition through 8 June. Joined by the British sloop HMS Wellington on 26 May, with men from a New Zealand expedition embarked, Avocet observed the total eclipse of the sun at 0836 on 8 June 1937. Sailing for Pearl Harbor on the afternoon of .9 June, the ship arrived at her destination on the 16th, disembarking her distinguished passengers upon arrival.
It was around this time that the noted American aviatrix, Amelia Earhart (Putnam), attempted a round-the-world flight, accompanied only by her navigator, Fred Noonan, and flying a Lockheed Model 12, "Electra." When she disappeared in the vicinity of what was believed to be Howland Island, the Navy launched a search to find her. Shortly after noon on 8 July 1937, Avocet arrived at Lahaina Roads, the deep-water anchorage off the island of Maui, and moored to the port side of the aircraft carrier Lexington (CV-2). She commenced issuing gasoline to the carrier at 1300 and completed the task at 2015; Lexington soon sailed to carry out an extensive, but in the end unsuccessful, search for the missing aviatrix.
Avocet returned to Johnston Island for further blasting opera tions from 20 to 27 July; later, on 16 August, she picked up the tow of ex-Eagle No. 10 (PE-10) and sailed for Lahaina Roads. On 18 August, Argonaut (SS-166), in target practice, sank the old "Eagle" boat by gunfire.
Subsequently transporting passengers to Kahului and Hilo, Avocet tended VP-l at the latter port from 23 to 31 August 1937 before she returned briefly to Pearl Harbor. She sailed thence for French Frigate Shoals on 1 September, and tended, in succession, VP-8, VP-10, VP-6 and VP-4, until 19 September, at which point she returned to the Fleet Air Base. She remained at Pearl Harbor until 15 October, when she sailed for American Samoa.