USS Leader (MSO 490)
USS LEADER was constructed by the J. M. Martinac Shipbuilding Corporation at Tacoma, Washington. Her keel was laid on 22 September, 1953 and was launched as AM-490 on 15 September, 1954. Mrs. Norman Nordlund of Tacoma, Washington was the sponsor. Commissioning ceremonies were conducted at the U. S. Naval Station, Tacoma, Washington, on 16 November, 1955 with LCDR Harvey E. Toponce, USN as her first Commanding Officer.
On 16 November, 1955 LEADER joined the U. S. Pacific Fleet. Upon reporting to Commander Mine Force, she was assigned to Mine Squadron 9 and Mine division 96. LEADER became flagship of Mine division 96 on 27 December, 1955. Shortly thereafter, in January, 1956, LEADER was transferred to Mine Division 95 and became flagship of the Division.
After an extensive shakedown period between January and April 1956, the period from May through August 1956 was spent in the Long Beach Naval Shipyard undergoing post shakedown overhaul and making preparations for LEADER's first deployment to the Western Pacific.
Mine Division 95
On 1 October 1956, Mine Division 95, Enhance, Excel, Guide, LEADER, and Lucid, having loaded more than 50, 55 gallon drums of lube and fuel oil on each fantail, left Long Beach for WesPac. Laying over in Pearl Harbor, reprovisioning at Midway Island, and arriving at Yokosuka for repair before reporting to Commander, Mine Flotilla 1 in Sasebo. The division arrived at Sasebo following a pleasant journey through the Inland Sea of Japan, the Shimoniseki Strait and two weeks spent on patrol in the Tsushima Strait, site of a famous Russo-Japanese sea battle, which separates South Korea and Japan.
Shimoniseki Strait is notorious for its 15 knot currents at full tidal flow. Since an MSO could only make 14 knots at FLANK speed (while all of the Engineers crossed their fingers), MSOs often would delay entering the Strait until the, twice daily, slack water occured.
In January, LEADER visited Keelung (Chi-Lung) and participated in minesweeper training at Kaohsiung, Formosa (Taiwan). The division then enjoyed a week-long liberty in Hong Kong, British Crown Colony. She returned to Sasebo on 26 January for routine maintenance. LEADER, and other MinDiv 95 ships, left Sasebo on 8 February, 1957 for Saipan, Marianas Islands and participated in a mine evaluation exercise, arriving in Yokosuka on 1 March to prepare for the voyage back to California. The division departed Yokosuka on 19 March and headed for Long Beach, arriving on 15 April 1957, reprovisioning at Midway Island and Pearl Harbor.
Lieutenat John C. Vasse, USN, relieved LCDR Harvey Topponce, USN, as Commanding Officer on 22 April, 1957 and became LEADER's second "skipper". From 12 April, 1957 until 2 April, 1959, LEADER operated out of her home port in routine operations and participated in many minesweeping exercises. She completed two annual overhauls, two refresher training periods in San Diego, conducted competetive and recurring exercises and held two dependents' cruises which were highlights during this period. LEADER spent the July 4th holiday (1958) in Monterey, California, participating in the Commodore Sloat celebration.
On 2 April, 1959, LEADER, with CoMinDiv 93 (LCDR Childers, USN) aboard, once again departed Long Beach for her SECOND extended cruise to the Western Pacific. She visited such ports as: Pearl Harbor, T. H., Midway Island; Yokosuka, Nagoya, Sasebo and Kagoshima in Japan; Keelung and Kaoshiung in Formosa; and Hong Kong, BCC. During this cruise, LEADER participated in Joint Minesweeping Exercises with units of the Chinese Nationalist Navy, Republic of Korea Navy and Japanese Maritime Self Defense Forces.
While enroute to Yokosuka, and still three days from land, the Leader bridge crew spotted a small Japanese fishing boat lying DIW and flying a distress flag. HM1 Pritchard, who was married to a Japanese National, acted as interpreter and determined that the small, single cylinder, diesel engine had worn out its bearings and the fellow had run out of water and food while drifing at sea. He had plenty of fuel but no bearing material to repair the diesel engine. One of the LEADER crew members was a hobbyist in leather and gave the fisherman all of his supply of leather which is the emergency alternative bearing material for those small diesel engines. The cooks gave hime rice and fresh water and after helping him to repair his engine, the LEADER stood off a few yards as the fisherman got underway and continued his fishing, happy as a lark, with his little single cylinder diesel engine chugging merrily away.
In late June, while steaming in moderately calm seas, in the Straights of Formosa, outward bound from Keelung, on the North end of Formosa (Taiwan), one of the lookouts spotted a large plume of water about two miles off the Starboard beam. Wondering what could have caused such a large "splash" in the middle of the Straights, the bridge crew concentrated its attention in that direction. Continuing to scan the area around the splash, one of the lookouts spotted a parachute about 500 feet above the water.
Captain Vasse immediately sounded "Man Overboard" and told LEADER to come right to a course where the parachute would enter the water. The Commodore ordered the rest of MinDiv 93 to proceed on the previous course toward Kaoshiung. We saw the parachute enter the water about one mile ahead of us. When we were about 500 yards from the man in the water, Captain Vasse ordered BM1 DeWitt to launch the Motor Whale Boat and recover the man floating in the life raft. BM2 Weiss assumed coxswain of the MWB with EN3 Carl Haynes as Engineer, and proceeded to pick up the man who had, literally, fallen from the skies. The biggest difficulty in the recovery was the parachute which did not want to get into the Motor Whale Boat. The man said that he had to recover the parachute or he would not be allowed to fly any more.
When the man was brought to the bridge he informed us, in rather well spoken English, that he was a Nationalist Chinese pilot that had been on a flight over Communist China and had been attacked by the mainland Chinese Air Force and his Sabre Jet had been damaged in a dogfight. He had limped as far home as he could get and then, fire in the cockpit had forced him to bail out before he could reach the coast of Formosa. In the tradition of pilots rescued at sea, he presented his sidearm (an S&W 38 Special) to BM2 Weiss and the life raft to BM1 DeWitt. He said that he had to keep his flight suit to show the flame singed leg to his superiors as proof that the plane had been on fire. Some of the Nationalist Chinese military had damaged equipment out of loyalty to the Communist Chinese and he needed to prove that the bail out was necessary.
After a restful weekend in Kaoshiung, the LEADER participated in a week long exercise with minesweepers of the Chinese Nationalist Navy. At the completion of the exercise on 3 July, everyone was ready for the 4th of July celebration staged by the Kaohsiung-Recreation Center Country Club, which included cold drinks, games, and fireworks for the enjoyment of all.
LEADER and Mine Division 93 got under way on 6 July for Hong Kong for R&R (rest and relaxation), leaving port for Sasebo after seven days with ?all hands? (crew members) broke but happy.
Upon arrival, following a very pleasant trip through the Formosa Strait, the LEADER went alongside Luzon for a two week tender availability before leaving for Chinhae, Korea for another week long mine exercise, this time with units of the Republic of Korea Navy.
Departing Chinhae on 15 August, LEADER returned to Sasebo. Provisioned and fueled, Enhance, Guide, and LEADER left Sasebo for Yokosuka for a four-day visit before participating, only with U.S. Navy units, in a mine exercise in Tokyo Bay. This exercise was made difficult by the extremely heavy shipping in the bay. Upon completion of the exercise, on 4 September, LEADER returned to Yokosuka for interim drydocking and to make all final preparations for the journey home.
On 15 September, 1959, LCDR Donald F. Milligan, USN relieved LCDR John C. Vasse, USN and became LEADER's third Commanding Officer.
LEADER with Mine Division 93 departed Yokosuka on 21 September for home, arriving on 16 October 1959 following a stop for fuel at Midway and a two-day layover at Pearl Harbor. LEADER received the Armed Forces Expeditionary medal for service between 20 June and 5 July 1959.
On 19 October, 1959; LEADER was under way for a structural depth-charge test; at completion, she berthed at the U.S. Naval Shipyard Long Beach, for installation of the Mark 7 Rotovac, one of the Navy's newest and most sophisticated acoustic minesweeping devices of that time.
Mine Division 93
Mine Division 93, Enhance, Excel, Guide, LEADER, and Lucid, left Long Beach on the first of May, 1961 after 26 days in transit and stops in Pearl Harbor and Midway Island, arrived in Yokosuka. The ships had worked with the Girl Scouts to collect clothing and other articles to distribute to the needy children of Japan & Korea. Kobe was the first port of call in June, where, as part of the People to People program, Guide and LEADER hosted hundreds of orphans on Fathers Day. LEADER and Guide proceeded to Sasebo and joined up with MinFlot 1 in training exercises prior to leaving for Kaoshiung and Hong Kong.
On 1 Jul., 1961 LCdr. F. P. Kauzlarich relived LCdr. Donald F. Milligan and became LEADER's fourth Commanding Officer while LEADER was in Sasebo. Typhoon Elsie shortened the R&R in Hong Kong and then the Division participated from 18 - 20 July in a joint minesweeping exercise with the Nationalist Chinese Navy. Then the Division returned to Sasebo, their normal "Home Port" while in WesPac.
LEADER waited until the seas calmed after thyphoons Helen and Ida before proceeding to Pohang, South Korea, in August, for a massive amphibious exercise called "Sharpedge".
LEADER joined Excel at Subic Bay to prepare for a historic operational visit to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. LEADER then proceeded to Subic Bay to train the Vietnamese Navy in minesweeping exercises both in port and underway.
The rest of Division 93 joined LEADER and Excel in Subic Bay inpreparation for the long journey across the Pacific to Long Beach.
The division stood out of Subic Bay on 6 October for the Pacific crossing, via Guam, Midway, and Pearl Harbor. Once again, LEADER proved her seaworthiness while struggleing with heavy seas and foul weather nearly the entire trans-pacific trip. Mine Division 93 arrived on 14 November 1961 at Long Beach. LEADER received the Armed Forces Expeditionary medal for service between 15 and 17 July 1961.
In March 1961, LEADER and other Mine Division 93 ships conducted an oceanographic survey off the coast of San Diego.
1963 ? 5 April
Mine Division 93
LEADER, along with the rest of Mine Division 93 (Enhance, Excel, Guide,and Lucid) sailed from Long Beach on 5 April 1963 for WesPac. Stopping for two days at Pearl Harbor for R&R and logistics and a four hour stop at Midway for fuel, they proceeded to Guam and on 29 April approached Typhoon Olive. Spawned two days previously southwest of Guam, the storm took a path towards the division that necessitated an evasive course to the south. Having dodged Olive, on May 2, the ships encountered another emergency when a man on Enhance perforated an artery in his right arm. The Mine Squadron 9 medical officer aboard LEADER was ?highlined? (transferred ship to ship, via a Jacobs chair suspended from a line, held taut by a team of line handlers on each ship) at dusk during heavy seas, to Enhance, and he determined surgery ashore was necessary. The destroyer escort USS Haverfield (DE 393) rendezvoused with Enhance, picked up both doctor and patient, and proceeded to Guam, arriving on 3 May. When the division arrived at Guam a day later, the patient was recovering well.
After two weeks in the drydock Richland (AFDM 8), LEADER, Enhance, Excel, and Lucid left Guam on 19 May for Buckner Bay, Okinawa to participate from 25 to 31 May in the fleet service mine test "Copperwire". The ships departed 1 June for Sasebo, arriving in port two days later. Other division units participated during May in training exercises in the waters surrounding Guam. Mine Division 93 was under way on 12 June in company with Commander, Mine Flotilla 1 in Epping Forest, for "Operation Flagpole", an amphibious exercise with units of the Republic of Korea Navy off the coast of Pohang, Korea. During the exercise, the division sought shelter twice in Kaoshiung, Formosa, during the week of 21 June, from Typhoon Shirley and then sailed to Sasebo. The sweeps returned to Korea after the typhoon had passed to recover drill mines, and upon completion, returned, on 30 June, to Sasebo.
LEADER and the division left Sasebo on 12 July for Kobe, to conduct a mine exercise with JMSDF units in the Inland Sea of Japan. The exercise was cancelled the following day, and the MSOs proceeded to Yokosuka for upkeep. The division put to sea on 1 August to make a port visit to Shimizu, Japan. During the three days following their arrival on 3 August, twenty-seven thousand visitors toured the ships. LEADER departed on 6 August for Sasebo, but had to seek shelter at Yokosuka to avoid Typhoon Bess before continuing on to the division's destination; arriving on 15 August for upkeep.
The coastal minesweeper USS Cormorant (MSC 122) joined LEADER and MinDiv 93 on 26 August for transit to the United States. The division arrived on 30 August at Kaohsiung, Taiwan to take part in a combined U.S.-GRC mine exercise. The exercise was postponed on 4 September by the advent of Typhoon Faye, requiring the MSOs and Cormorant to evade south to the northern tip of Luzon. Following passage of the eye of the storm to the north, all ships returned to the operating area for mine recovery, departing on 7 September for a visit to Hong Kong.
After visiting Hong Kong from 10 to 16 September, the LEADER and MinDiv 93entered the naval station at Subic Bay to make final preparations for the voyage home. The division and Cormorant left Subic Bay on 23 September, transiting the San Bernardino Straits and arriving in Guam a week later. Departing Guam on 8 October, the ships almost immediately headed into strong winds and heavy seas from the northwest that slowed speed over ground to as little as four-and-one-half knots on occasion. When the usually marginal fuel situation, on this leg of the journey home, became critical, Excel was detached on the 17th to make port, refuel, and return to replenish the other ships. The remaining ships were detached the following day, LEADER to attempt to reach Midway as a back-up for Excel: Lucid and Cormorant to proceed as far as possible along the track, and Enhance and Guide to maintain steerageway in twenty-five knot winds and fifteen-to-twenty-foot sea conditions. The abatement of these wind-sea conditions late in the evening on the 18th allowed the arrival of LEADER, Excel, Lucid, and Cormorant in port unaided. Meanwhile, Commander, Hawaiian Sea Frontier assumed operational control, detaching the radar picket escort ship USS Lansing (DER 388) and the oiler Ashtabula (AO 51) to rendezvous with and refuel Guide and Enhance. The division, less Enhance, departed Guam for Pearl Harbor on 20 October, arriving on the 25th. Due to her distance from Guam after receiving fuel, Enhance sailed directly for Pearl Harbor. The division and the MSC were joined upon their arrival in Hawaii by the inshore minesweepers USS Cape (MSI 1) and USS Cove (MSI 2), for the final leg of the transit to Long Beach. Departing on 26 October, the group of mine warfare ships arrived home on 5 November 1963.
In 1965, LEADER again proceeded to WesPac and patrol duties off the coast of Viet Nam. During this deployment, LEADER surprised a sleeping whale in the South China Sea and colloded with the huge marine mammal, ripping off the sonar dome and requiring its replacement in dry dock. (See Mark Bradley's Viet Nam memories, below.) LEADER returned to Long Beach after a successful tour in the South China Sea.
On 2 March 1968, Mine Division 93 left Long Beach for Santa Rosa Island. At Becher's Bay, the ships, with their division commander in tactical command, took part from 3 to 8 March in Fleet Service Mine Test 5-68. Participating units included, besides LEADER, Guide, Excel, and Enhance, the submarine USS Raton (SS 270), the self-propelled harbor utility craft YFU-37, an EOD Unit detachment, and minelaying aircraft.
1967 ? 6 January
Mine Division 93
LEADER, with the rest of Mine Division 93, (Enhance, Excel, Guide, and Lucid) accompanied by the Chinese Nationalist coastal minesweeper RCNS Vung Lo, left Pier 9 on 6 January 1967 for the Western Pacific. The minesweepers made the usual stops for fuel and upkeep and arrived on 23 February at Subic Bay. Vung Lo had detached from the group at Guam bound for her new home, Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
Enhance relieved Firm on 1 March of her Market Time duties and, over the next twenty-six days, she investigated and boarded junks and replenished eight times with service force ships. She departed Vietnamese waters on 27 March en route Sattahip to join Mine Division 93 in the combined mining and mine countermeasures exercise Tiger Stripe, from 31 March to 5 April. LEADER under the the control of Commander Mine Flotilla 1, embarked in the Epping Forrest, participated in "Operation Tiger Stripe" from 37 March to 5 April, 1967. It involved forces from the United States, including ocean minesweepers, Explosive Ordnance Disposal personnel, and minelaying aircraft; Great Britain; and Thailand. The division left on 7 April for Bangkok, to enjoy four days of rest and relaxation. The ships moored at the Royal Thailand Ordnance Station during the visit.
Departing Thailand, LEADER and the division returned to Subic Bay for necessary upkeep and maintenance before their next patrol in Vietnam.
At Subic Bay, LEADER utilized the degaussing ship USS Surfbird (ADG 383) to range-check her degaussing systems.
LEADER, Enhance, and Excel departed Subic Bay on 1 October for Guam and an interim dry-docking. Mine Division 93 left Guam on 23 September for Long Beach. Three days outside of Pearl Harbor the ships encountered extremely heavy seas, resulting in Enhance loosing about one-hundred-and-fifty board-feet of bow straking. Arriving at Long Beach on 18 November 1967, the five minesweepers entered port despite heavy fog to end the ten-and-one-half month deployment.
1968 ? 12 August
Mine Division 73
Mine Division 73, Conquest, Enhance, Illusive, and LEADER, bid farewell to friends and loved ones on 12 August 1968 and sailed from Long Beach for Vietnam, with stops en route at Pearl Harbor for voyage repairs, Johnston Island (probably the smallest inhabited island in the Pacific) for fuel, and Kwajalein Atoll for fuel, stores, mail, and a visit to the exchange, before arriving at Guam on 10 September. LEADER participated between 18 October and 5 December 1968 in Operation Sea Lords. A former crew member recalls that during the deployment, LEADER was always involved in some operation, she fired her weapons a lot, and that he and his shipmates did not get much sleep as they were always at general quarters.
We had eight PBRs (Patrol Boat River) we worked with who did most of the river combat; we were their support and helped them whenever we could. During one operation we lost a couple of the PBRs and I remember transferring the bodies of the deceased crew members.
A year after the operation began, Commander U.S. Naval Forces Vietnam issued a Navy News Release of 18 October 1969
?Sealords Completes First Year of Operations.?
One year ago this week the United States Navy in Vietnam announced the beginning of "Operation Sea Lords", a
new offensive effort designed to interdict enemy infiltration into the III and IV Corps Tactical Zones.
An acronym for "Southeast Asia Lake, Ocean, River, Delta Strategy", Sea Lords started on October 18, 1968 when
a Navy Swift boat (PCF) reconnoitered the entrance to the Cua Lon River on the Gulf of Thailand side of the Ca
Mau Peninsula. Following this mission, Swift boat crewmen conducted a series of incursions along the southern rivers
and canals upsetting base camps and cutting Viet Cong supply and communication lines.
On November first, Vietnamese Marines from the 4th Battalion and elements of the 21st ARVN Division boarded
Vietnamese and American riverine craft and the force swept through the Rach Gia-Long Xuyen Canals. The force
worked with Kien Giang Province Regional Force and Popular force troops during the sweeps and uncovered large
quantities of enemy weapons and munitions. Since that first landing, river patrol boats and riverine craft have regularly
patrolled the canals.
Further north, on November 16th, the Navy launched Operation Tran Hung Dao, a series of interdiction patrols on
two waterways along the Cambodian border from Ha Tien to Chau Doc. Swift boats (PCFs) patrolled the western
end and river patrol boats (PBRs) the eastern end.
Then in December of last year, the Brown Water Navy announced Operation "Giant Slingshot", another part of Sea
Lords. River Patrol boats (PBRs) and river assault craft (RACs) of the U.S. and Vietnamese Navies were dispatched
to the Vam Co Dong and Vam Co Tay rivers, which form a natural boundary around the "Parrot's Beak" section of
the Cambodian border protruding into Vietnam.
Within two months after Giant Slingshot began, Allied forces uncovered over 100 enemy caches of munitions and
inhibited enemy plans for an attack on Saigon. During the hunt for enemy caches, the U.S. Navy worked closely with
the U.S. Army 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) and the joint force became known locally as the "NavCav".
Vietnamese RAIDS and RAGS (River Assault and Interdiction Divisions and River Assault Groups) have played an
ever-increasing role in Giant Slingshot since U.S. gunboats were turned over to the Vietnamese Navy in February and
June of this year. Vietnamese PBR divisions are also expected to start patrols on the two rivers this month.
In January 1969, the U.S. Navy moved a task force of PBRs and armored assault craft into a 56-mile-long canal
complex across the Plain of Reeds, establishing the final link of a 250-mile-long naval blockade extending from Ha
Tien in IV Corps to Tay Ninh City in III Corps. Dubbed "Barrier Reef", this operation is impeding enemy movement
along the two canals.
The most recent operation by combined Vietnamese and American naval forces is called Tran Hung Dao III or
SEAFLOAT, an advance tactical support base set on floating barges in the Cua Lon River some 200 miles southwest
of Saigon. Republic of Vietnam troops, and the two navies, protect woodcutters and fishermen from Viet Cong
extortionists and attract local citizens back into an area which was formerly a Viet Cong stronghold.
Since Sea Lords began a year ago, over 2,000 enemy soldiers have been killed throughout the Delta, and nearly 550
tons of enemy weapons, munitions and supplies captured, destroyed or damaged.
Brown Water Navy sailors have not been solely responsible for all the enemy losses. Vietnamese Navymen have
moved into the operational areas since the beginning of 1969. VNN sailors are either serving on U.S. patrol boats in a
training capacity, or operating their own gunboats which have been transferred to the Vietnamese Navy.
Two-hundred twenty-nine U.S. craft have already been turned over to the Vietnamese Navy and approximately
one-third of these are now deployed in portions of the Sea Lords operating areas.
Operation Sea Lords continues today combining with other armed forces to interdict enemy supply lines in III and IV
Corps, relieve the threat of attack on major population centers, and keep enemy troops off balance in their
The highest award that may be received by a U.S. Navy ship for extraordinary heroism is the Presidential Unit Citation. USS LEADER (MSO 490) received this award for participation between 18 October and 5 December 1968 in Operation Sea Lords.
LEADER arrived in Hong Kong from Subic Bay on 2 January, 1969, and berthed at the east wall of Victoria Basin. She proceeded four days later to Cam Rahn Bay, for an intelligence briefing before taking up her patrol duties. On 12 January, she left port for area 8B. LEADER commenced surveillance operations of coastal merchant traffic on the 14th. LEADER returned to Cam Rahn Bay on 18 January; departing the following day to resume Patrol. From 21 to 23 January, LEADER anchored approximately nine miles off the entrance to the Song Canb Hoo River as part of her patrol. During the remainder of the patrol, LEADER operated independently in area 8B. Sahe was relieved by Pivot on 8 February; and then returned to Subic Bay.
LEADER left Subic Bay for two days of special salvage operations, off the coast of Mindanao. Finding nothing to recover, she returned to port on 25 February, 1969. LEADER, along with Mine Division 73, left Subic Bay for Guam the next day. LEADER headed into Northeasterly swells before arriving on 5 March, 1969. LEADER next docked at Kwajalein Atoll for fuel. Jelly beans, potato chips, and other vital sailor needs, were available there, and morale soared as many read letters urging a quick return voyage to Long Beach. The liberty was much appreciated, but the lure of Home Port was stronger than the desire for more liberty. Putting to sea, the minesweepers again encountered easterly swells, which continued to cause poor sea conditions, until one day out of Hawaii. Conquest, Enhance, Illusive and LEADER arrived at Long Beach on April Fools Day, 1969, and sat outside the breakwater, awaiting permission to enter the harbor. Pier 9 had not been ready to moor the ships until 10:00 a.m. that morning.
LEADER was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, for service from 18 October 1968 to 5 December 1968 as part of Task Group 194. The Presidential Unit Citation is the highest award a U.S. military unit may receive. LEADER was the only MSO to receive the award, which is awarded in the name of the President, to units of the Armed Forces of the United States and cobelligerent nations, for extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy. The unit must have accomplished its mission under such extremely difficult and hazardous conditions to set it apart from and above other units participating in the same campaign. The degree of heroism required is the same as that which would be required for award of a Navy Cross to an individual. A copy of the Presidentioal Unit Citation can be found at PUC.
LEADER was decommissioned on 30 November 1970 at Naval Station, Long Beach and placed in the ?Out of Commission Special? category. LEADER was transferred to Harbor Boat Shipyard, Terminal Island, California for conversion. She remained in a rehabilitation and modernization overhaul until 11 February, 1972, when she was re-commissioned. Her new crew, which had been gathering in San Diego and Long Beach since the previous July, moved aboard on 31 January 1972, the day of delivery to the Navy. After leaving the Harbor Boat yard, the ship began her fitting-out availability at Long Beach Naval Shipyard, and the crew began loading operating-space items and consumables. On 10 February she moved from the shipyard to Pier 9 at the adjacent naval station in preparation for re-commissioning the following day.
With a new crew which had not streamed MCM gear together, LEADER began refresher training to bring herself up to the high standard which she had established in the mid 1950s and continued through the 1960s
Operation End Sweep Go to http://www.geocities.com/Pentagon/Bunker/2170/operationendsweep.html for more info on Operation End Sweep
When President Nixon?s announced the mining of North Vietnamese ports by U.S. aircraft on 11 May 1972, minesweepers, which had been low amongst Navy priorities, rapidly became a topic of vital concern. The mines were placed as part of Operation Linebacker II, and under the terms of the 1973 Paris Peace Accords, the U.S. was responsible for clearing those mines. The subsequent activity of minesweeping helicopters and ocean minesweepers, to clear the mines from the harbors of North Vietnam was code-named "Operation End Sweep".
On 8 November 1972, the day following the Presidential election, Mine Flotilla 3 units LEADER, Enhance, and Illusive received verbal orders to make all preparations to head for WesPac for the conduct of minesweeping operations along the coast of North Vietnam. To prepare for this SECRET operation, the three MSOs put to sea on 20 November for a condensed minesweeping exercise off Huntington Beach in Southern California. Entering port after twenty-four straight hours of hard work, LEADER on-loaded her magnetic material; before standing down for the Thanksgiving holiday. On 15 November, she had off-loaded magnetic material and on-loaded ammunition at Long Beach Naval Station, in preparation for making runs (passes) on the Long Beach degaussing range to ?check range? and calibrate her degaussing system.
On 4 December 1972, Task Unit 10.5.1, comprised of Enhance, Illusive, and LEADER, left Long Beach for Pearl Harbor, under special orders in a cold and lashing rainstorm, . After weathering high seas and heavy rains for the first two days of the transit, the weather and seas abated, and the three ships settled down to an uneventful passage. The ships of the task unit refueled from the fleet ocean tug USS Cocopa (ATF 101) on 9 December and stood into Pearl Harbor at first light, five days later. Planning on remaining at Pearl Harbor only long enough to refuel and re-provision, extensive engine repairs to Enhance and a temporary stalemate in the Vietnam peace talks, found the ships at year?s end, still in port, where they awaited sailing orders for continued transit to Westpac, to assist in the clearing of mines.
Minesweepers Enhance, Illusive, and LEADER arrived on scene on 15 March from Long Beach, having reached the Gulf of Tonkin six days earlier. They had been in transit for over three months, delayed by voyage repairs, fuel stops, and political/diplomatic delays.
Many units of Task Group 78.2 left Subic Bay on 15 June for Haiphong Harbor. They were the tank landing ship USS Westchester County (LST 1167) with Commander, Mine Flotilla 1 embarked, the minesweeper special (device) Washtenaw County (MSS 2), the salvage ship USS Grasp (ARS 24), the ocean minesweepers Engage, Impervious, and LEADER, and US Fleet Tug Moctobi. The task group arrived at the Haiphong Harbor roadstead the following day.
Task Group 78.2 departed Haiphong Harbor on 18 July for Subic Bay, bringing Operation End Sweep to a close. Conquest, Engage, Enhance, Esteem, Illusive, Inflict, Impervious, and LEADER left Subic Bay in company on 31 July for Guam; arriving at Apra Harbor on 7 August 1973. Bidding the Mine Flotilla 1 ships goodbye, Conquest, Enhance, Esteem, Illusive, and LEADER departed Guam on 13 August, accompanied by the oiler USS Caliente (AO 53), for Pearl Harbor. The minesweepers arrived in port on 27 August. The Mine Flotilla 3 sweeps pressed onward to Long Beach and arrived home on 10 September.
Admiral T. H. Moorer, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, noted the superlative efforts of Task Force 78, in a memorandum to the Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Elmo R. Zumwalt:
It is with pleasure that I commend the U.S. Navy for outstanding performance during Operation End Sweep. From the inception to the conclusion of this operation, the Navy was required to achieve far reaching goals in minimum time under conditions of unusual stress which placed stringent demands on many Navy personnel.
Noteworthy was the remarkable manner in which the Mine Warfare Force, under the direction of the Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet, and ably supported by the Navy Material Command, formulated comprehensive mine countermeasures plans, assembled forces, and equipments, and provided in-depth training for U.S. Marine Corps pilots in relatively new air/mine countermeasures skills. The performance of the surface and airborne mine countermeasures forces in the waters of North Vietnam exemplified the highest levels of professional competence, and devotion to duty.
I wish to add my personal ?well done? to Rear Adm. Brian McCauley as Commander Task Force 78. His superior performance at the negotiating table, always in a tense atmosphere, was particularly noteworthy. The efforts of the Navy in Operation End Sweep contributed significantly to the timely release of U.S. prisoners of war, and to the attainment of the nation?s objectives in Southeast Asia.
In sincere appreciation of your extraordinary contributions to this vital military mission, I wish to extend my personal congratulations to you and the United States Navy for a job well done.
During the following year LEADER was transferred to the East Coast and Home Ported in Charleston, SC.
From 17 to 22 June 1974, LEADER (with Commander Mine Squadron 10/12 embarked) and Fearless took part in a fleet service mine test in an operating area near Charleston. The exercise involved raking, sweeping, and recovery of a statistical sample of seventy drill mines from various mine stockpile points. The recovery of mines was essential for the successful analysis of the test.
From 5 to 13 May 1975, Fleet Service Mine Test 2-75 was conducted in a shallow field in the Charleston operation area. Participating units included Illusive, Inflict, Affray, Exultant, Fearless, Detector, and LEADER. The test began with the MSOs raking seventy-two assorted mines dropped by P-3, A-6, and A-7 aircraft. During the next ten days, minesweepers cleared the field of all mines by minehunting, minesweeping, and vectoring of EOD teams to the ordnance. Recovery efforts ended on 21 May.
Minesweepers performed similar duties again in 1975. Atlantic Fleet MSOs were tasked with locating and marking ship wrecks off the coast of South Carolina to be used as fishing havens by the South Carolina Marine Wildlife Research Division. On 23 June, LEADER located a shipwreck prior to returning to Charleston on 26 June.
On 3 September 1976, a team of civilian oceanographers and electronic technicians from the U.S. Naval Hydrographic Office arrived in Charleston and, with assistance from LEADER's crew, began loading their equipment for a MACAS survey scheduled the following week. Because the magnetic-cable reel was inoperable, the special MACAS cable was loaded on the ship's acoustic cable reel; a Raydist navigation system, a Wang computer, and bathyconductograph equipment were also installed.
LEADER was under way from Charleston on 9 December 1975 to conduct tests of AMS mine simulators. Embarked on board for the test were the Commander, Mine Division 125, U.S. Navy technical representatives, and a captain from the Canadian navy. During the evaluation LEADER successfully used the CUBIC Western ARGO DM-54 navigational system.
On 1 October 1976, LEADER got under way from Charleston for Port Everglades to conduct, with Detector, operational tests of an improved deep moored sweep. On the 6th, the ships successfully steamed, operated, and recovered the sweep. The following day they again streamed the sweep, made turns to both port and starboard while it was deployed, and recovered the gear. Contributions made by the two MSOs during these two days included recommendations for improved communications between the guide and consort ships; time-saving techniques for streaming and recovering the gear; and the elimination of safety hazards during explosive-cutter installation. LEADER returned to home port on 9 October.
LEADER got under way on 7 September 1976 to commence the MACAS survey of the approaches to Charleston Harbor. The survey would generate data on the conductivity of the water and the ocean bottom; its tabulation would provide information on possible mining and mine countermeasures operations for Charleston approaches. After calibrating the Raydist, LEADER began electrically pulsing the MACAS cable and collecting data. Despite casualties to the cable and Wang computer, heavy weather, and Raydist difficulties, the LEADER accomplished about 75 percent of the planning survey by the completion of the operation, on 18 September.
During March, 1977, installation of the Halon 1301 firefighting system was completed in USS LEADER, the first MSO to receive the ship alteration.
Exactly twenty-five years to the day after USS Dash (MSO 428), the first ocean minesweeper, was commissioned, USS Illusive (MSO 448) and USS LEADER (MSO 490) put to sea from Charleston on 14 August 1978 for a year-long deployment to Europe. This event also marked the first time MSOs had deployed to that area of the world since 1971. The seas in the North Atlantic in the winter are no picnic for large steel-hulled ships, and particularly not for small, wooden, "mature" minesweepers. En route to Portsmouth, United Kingdom, the minesweepers were accompanied by the salvage ship USS Edenton (ARS 2), from which they refueled astern every third day. LEADER and Illusive arrived in Portsmouth on 15 September, 1978. Bermuda, their first stop after leaving the United States is a British self-governing colony in the western Atlantic; it lies east-southeast of Cape Hatteras. Ponte del Gata, a port city on the island of Sao Miguel was their second stopping place. The Azores, part of Portugal, lie about a thousand miles west of Lisbon in the North Atlantic. For centuries they have served as stepping stones between Europe, Africa, and the Americas, and are still used today by ships and planes for that purpose. Before reaching the United Kingdom, the ships touched at Bermuda, Ponte del Gada, the Azores and El Ferrol, Spain.
After the thirty-three-day voyage, Illusive entered H.M. Dockyard for two weeks of repair work, including the replacement of two of four main engines. LEADER left on 27 September and Illusive the following day for Ostende, Belgium, to join the permanent NATO squadron of mine countermeasures ships, referred to as Standing Naval Force Channel (StaNavForChan). Created on 11 May 1973, the squadron comprises vessels from the different NATO navies that normally operate in the English Channel area, The ships are appointed for six to twelve months in rotation. The channel is a sailing area with some of the densest shipping in the world, and in the case of war or crisis, Western Europe is reprovisioned. However, its proven vulnerability to mines underlines the vital importance of mine countermeasures vessels in that specific area. Rudyard Kipling paid tribute in "Sea Warfare", in 1916, to British mine clearance efforts in these waters:
DAWN off the Foreland--the young flood making
Jumbled and short and steep?
Black in the hollows and bright where it's breaking?
Awkward water to sweep.
Sent up Unity, Claribel, Assyrian, Stormcock, and Golden Gain.
Noon off the Foreland--the first ebb making
Lumpy and strong in the bight.
Boom after boom, and the golf-hut shaking
And the jackdaws wild with fright!
Mines located in the fairway,
Boats now working with chain,
Sweepers--Unity, Claribel, Assyrian, Stormcock, and Golden Gain.
Dusk off the Foreland--the last light going
And the traffic crowding through,
And the five damned trawlers with their syreens blowing
Heading for the whole review!
Sweep completed in the fairway.
No more mines remain.
Sent back Unity, Claribel, Assyrian, Stormcock, and Golden Gain.
After their arrival, the squadron was composed of seven ships: two Dutch minesweepers, one British minehunter, one German and one Belgian minesweeper, and the two American ocean minesweepers.
The NATO ships entered Ostende on 29 September and remained there until 7 October. During this period, the officers and some crew members of the LEADER and Illusive attended Eiguermin, the Belgian and Dutch minecountermeasures school, to become familiar with the StaNavForChan NATO procedures. The ships participated from 8 to 18 October in the Dutch mine exercise Sweetwater 78, which began in Den Helder, Holland. At completion, the squadron set a course South by Southwest for Rotterdam, mooring in the heart of the Europort for five days of liberty. Located on the Nieuwe Maas River, Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe and one of the largest in the world. Through Rotterdam passes much of Western Europe's shipping.
The squadron put to sea on the 24th for StaNavForChan NATO exercises. LEADER and Illusive arrived in Flushing, Holland, on 26 and 27 October, respectively, for a ten-day visit. Located just north of Belgium, Flushing (also known as Vlessigen) is a port city on Walcheren Island in the southwestern part of the Netherlands.
LEADER and Illusive participated from 6 to 10 November in the Belgium mine exercise FlexEx 78 and then entered port at Ostende for a two-day post-exercise debrief. The ships departed for Wilhelmshaven, Germany, on 13 November. LEADER entered port the on the 18th of November. The force participated from 28 to 29 November in the German mine exercise SefEx 78. However, severe weather limited the squadron's ability to either sweep or minehunt.
LEADER sailed for Borkum, an East Frisian Island belonging to West Germany, following the exercise. Arriving on 1 December, she was the first U.S. Navy ship to visit the island since World War II.
LEADER put to sea on 4 December and arrived after a three-day transit at Ghent. Known for its textiles and fine lace, the East-Flanders city is on the Scheldt River in northwest-central Belgium. While in port, LEADER hosted the squadron officers and their guests in the wardroom for a Christmas breakfast. LEADER left Ghent for Portsmouth on 12 December and spent the remaining fifteen days of 1978 in nontidal Basin 1 there, while her crew stood down for the Christmas holidays.
As 1979 began, Illusive and LEADER were attached to the StaNavForChan, which now represented nine nations, the composition of the force having changed as allied ships were rotated. LEADER left Portsmouth on 8 January to rendezvous the following morning with the MCM force off Belgium for training and exercises. She entered Den Helder four days later due to damage to her sonar towed body. At first light divers from HMS Hubbertson inspected LEADER's hull, finding no damage. Two days later she participated in a pierside exercise, in which her crew repelled hostile boarders and underwater swimmers, all Royal Dutch Marines.
On the morning of 18 January LEADER left port to conduct minesweeping operations with Danish ships Omoesund and Ulvsund. At the completion of the exercise, LEADER entered Den Helder to embark the commander of the Standing Naval Force Channel and his staff operations officer. After a night transit, LEADER conducted operations off Ostende with the Omoesund and entered port for the weekend. The following week all MCM force commanding officers, junior officers, and operations specialists attended the mine countermeasures school in Ostende. During the week HNLMS Sittard departed the force. As she passed the moored Standing Naval Force Channel ships, she was besieged with thrown garbage, flares, thunderflashes, and streams of water from fire hoses. It was a traditional ceremony for detaching ships, and it would be repeated in June when LEADER and Illusive departed the force.
The force left port on 29 January for three days of exercises, and in late afternoon on the 31st LEADER entered the Firth of Forth in southeast Scotland, anchoring off Edinburgh, the capital city and a burgh of Midlothian on the Firth of Forth. On 2 February after two days of exercises, the LEADER entered nearby Rosyth, Scotland, for a weekend of official receptions and liberty for the crew.
After joining the force on 4 February at Rosyth, Illusive participated with LEADER from the 5th through the 14th in a joint British and Channel Force exercise in the Firth of Forth. The following day the Standing Force sailed from Rosyth in a force-10 gale, bound for Den Helder, Holland. (A ten on the Beaufort wind scale describes 48 to 55-knot winds and 18 to 27-foot waves.) During the transit a large wave crashed on the German minesweeper FGS Paderborn, damaging her bridge and mast guidewires. It would have taken a very tough sailor to, in like conditions aboard a small wooden ship, pen the below poem:
A strong nor'wester's blowing, Bill;
Hark! don't ye hear it roar now?
How I pities them
Unhappy folks on shore, now.
Charles Dibden--Sailor's Consolation.
Attributed to Pitt (song writer) and Hood.
The ships continued on through the night. In early morning the force received word that Den Helder was closed due to ice, and the group altered course for Flushing, Holland, arriving on 17 February for upkeep through the 25th. The MCM force left Flushing on the 26th for a week of exercises, with Commander Mine Squadron 12 embarked in LEADER, during this period. On the first of March the ships entered Den Helder for eleven days of liberty, which included trips to the German Air Force Museum, and soccer games.
Illusive visited Den Helder from 28 February through 5 March before participating in a StaNavForChan exercise in the North Sea from 5 to 8 March. The exercise was followed by a port call at Hamburg, Germany, for the next three days. Hamburg is a port on the Elbe River ninety miles inland. The last joint mine exercise of the winter, Exercise Jaguar, was hosted by the German Naval Force, from 12 to 15 March, in the North Sea. LEADER rendezvoused mid-exercise with the German oiler FGS Neinburg for refueling and light-jackstay transfer.
On the morning of 16 March, after a two-day transit the force entered the Thames River from the North Sea and berthed, in late afternoon, near the Tower of London. While in port a reception was held, which the force's officers, the Lord Mayor of London, the Belgian ambassador, and others attended. On 21 March, LEADER entered H.M. Naval Base at Chatham, a borough in Kent in southeast England, and remained there until 17 April.
At completion of these periods the U.S. minesweepers left their respective ports and joined up to proceed to Portsmouth, conducting sea trials and training while en route. Arriving on 23 April, LEADER received a visit from Rear Adm. A. J. Whitsone, RN, the Flag Officer for Sea Training. Under way on 27 April, LEADER headed to nearby Lyne Bay to perform an electromagnetic survey of the bay, returning to Portsmouth the next day for a period of upkeep. The crews of the LEADER and Illusive took advantage of the time by engaging in a game of softball.
The Standing Force arrived in French waters in early May for mine exercises and made two visits to Brest, a port in Brittany, in northwest France, on 9 and 11 to 13 May. LEADER returned to sea on 8 May, conducting, in the Bay of Biscay, a bottom-depth survey in preparation for a deep moored sweep demonstration. The bay is located by France's west coast and the northern coast of Spain. The following day, LEADER entered Brest to embark six French naval officers to observe a deep moored sweep on the 10th. After a night transit, LEADER returned to Brest on 11 May. While the ship's officers toured the French Mine Warfare School, her crew enjoyed a bus tour of the French countryside.
Departing Brest Illusive and LEADER arrived at Portsmouth on the 14th after a night transit. For the next six days the force remained in port while a Standing Naval Force Channel change of command took place, in which Commodore Marin, Belgian Navy, was relieved by Commodore Willis, Royal Navy. With the ceremonies ended, the force put to sea on 21 May to call at La Pallice, an important base for Atlantic fishing boats on an inlet of the Bay of Biscay. Putting to sea from the port of La Rochelle, France, on 25 May, the ships stopped the following day in Brest. LEADER embarked an Explosive Ordnance Disposal team, and the previous pageantry and good times were traded for seventeen days of fast-paced work during a large-scale NATO exercise. From 28 May to 8 June the force and the French navy participated in mine exercise NorMinEx 79 off the French coast. The ships visited the port of Brest during the exercise to restock and refuel, and upon completion, they entered Lorient, in northwest France, on the Bay of Biscay, for six days of maintenance and well deserved rest.
On the 15th the force sailed for Lisbon, Portugal, the last port for the U.S. ocean minesweepers as members of StaNavForChan. En route a kite-flying contest was held; LEADER and Illusive earned awards for the highest and best-sustained flights in the squadron. Following their arrival on 18 June, Illusive and LEADER conducted a deep moored sweep for the Portuguese navy, their final operation with the force. Illusive and LEADER detached from StaNavForChan on 25 June, undergoing the traditional barrage, and set a course for Rota, Spain, arriving at that port the following day. In Rota, LEADER again demonstrated deep moored sweep techniques, this time for the Spanish navy. The remaining time was spent in port preparing for the return transit of the Atlantic.
Departing Rota on 16 July, the minesweepers set sail for Ponte del Gada in the Azores, arriving on 20 July. They put to sea two days later for Hamilton, Bermuda. Logistics support was provided en route by the dock landing ship USS Plymouth Rock (LSD 29). The ships arrived in the port of Hamilton on 30 July. They began their final journey home on 2 August but were ordered to return to Hamilton due to bad weather. LEADER and Illusive again set sail on the 5th and arrived in Charleston on 8 August. A well earned stand-down period allowed the crews to spend time with their families and friends, whom they had not seen since departing nearly a year earlier, on 14 August 1978.
For service while serving as members of the Standing Naval Force Channel from 28 September 1978 to 25 June 1979, Illusive and LEADER received the Meritorious Unit Commendation.
1980s - 1994
On 14 July 1980, Illusive and LEADER departed Charleston for special operations near Roosevelt Roads, arriving in port on 19 July, and departing the next day for the operational area some two hundred miles to the north. At completion of the operation several days later, LEADER returned to Charleston, arriving 15 August.
Atlantic Fleet ocean minesweepers departed on their final deployment to Northern Europe and the Mediterranean when USS Exultant (MSO 441) sailed from Mayport, Florida, on 7 June 1983, and Illusive, LEADER, and Fearless (MSO 442) left Charleston a day later to rendezvous on the way to Bermuda. Exultant was a Mine Division 126 ship, the remaining sweeps were Mine Group 2 units. Illusive and LEADER were active-force ships, and Fearless and Exultant were assigned to the Naval Reserve Force.
LEADER and Illusive deployed to northern Europe and the Mediterranean on 25 April 1981 as members of a U.S. MCM task group for operations with the Standing Naval Force Channel (StaNavForChan). On April 30. 1981 the MSOs joined at sea the amphibious transport dock ship USS Nashville (LPD 13), their escort for the transatlantic crossing and the support ship for all U.S. units. Aboard Nashville were RH-53D minesweeping helicopters from HelMinRon 14, two MSBs (minesweeping boats) from Mine Division 125, a detachment of EOD divers from Explosive Ordnance Group 2, and the task group staff. The task force was scheduled to proceed directly to Ostend, but heavy weather forced it to make two unscheduled stops, at Ponta Delgada, and El Ferrol, Spain.
LEADER and the task force arrived in Ostend on 21 May and remained in port until the first of June. While in Belgium, the officers of the minesweepers attended the Belgium/Netherlands MCM School to learn current NATO techniques in mine countermeasures planning and execution. LEADER and the other U.S. ships left Ostend on the first of June for Rosyth, for Operation Roebuck. The MSOs joined StaNavForChan on the 4th. The mine countermeasures exercise was conducted just outside of Rosyth in the Firth of Forth by the three American ships and other minesweepers representing England, Belgium, West Germany, the Netherlands, and Norway. Illusive minehunted and provided support to minesweeping boats 16 and 51.
A trip to Edinburgh was scheduled at the end of the exercise, but the need for repairs sent Illusive to nearby Rosyth. LEADER arrived in Leith, a port district of Edinburgh on the Firth of Forth, on 11 June, for a four-day visit. The Standing Force with Illusive and LEADER pulled into Portsmouth for a three-day stopover from 19 to 22 June, en route to Rota. Arriving on the 27th, the force participated with the Spanish navy until the second of July in the minesweeping exercise "Cormoran", in the Bay of Cadiz, southeast of Rota.
Leaving Rota, the task group entered the Mediterranean for an eight-day transit to Souda Bay, Crete, south of the mainland between the Sea of Crete and the Mediterranean Sea. Souda Bay is an inlet on the north coast of Crete. While in Crete, from 10 to 19 July, the minesweepers participated in Damsel Fair, a Greek multilateral exercise involving forces from Greece, England, France, and Italy. LEADER and the salvage ship USS Recovery (ARS 43) supported the operation by recovering the exercise mines. LEADER arrived, on 22 July, in Athens for a ten-day repair period.
LEADER and Illusive next sailed to Izmir, Turkey, a historic port city on an inlet to the Aegean Sea, to participate in Operation Deft Fighter with the Turkish navy. Unfortunately, this exercise proved the inability of MSOs and MSCs to sweep together in formation, due to different handling characteristics. It is difficult enough for similar-type ships to keep station and turn (wheel) together, as the bow of each minesweeper (in the diagonal formation) is close behind and inside the diverted mechanical sweep gear of the ship in front of it. LEADER worked with a Turkish explosive ordnance disposal team in minehunting.
After a two-day port visit, the minesweepers left Izmir for Augusta Bay, a port city on the island of Sicily, for a brief port visit from 10 to 13 August. During this period the ships received a visit from VAdm. William H. Rowden, the commander of the U.S. 6th Fleet. Illusive and LEADER departed Augusta Bay on the 14th for Palma de Mallorca, Spain, for a port visit from 18 to 28 August. During this period, the ships conducted a MCM demonstration for the Spanish navy.
At completion of the port visit in Palma, the task group left the Mediterranean for Falmouth, a historic naval port and area of Cornwell located on the southwest corner of England, on the southern end of the Fal Estuary. LEADER and Illusive participated in operation Ocean Safari, arriving there on 4 September. Overlooking the mile-wide mouth of the River Fal, at the most westerly point where it is possible to anchor safely, is Pendennis Castle. Henry VIII built it and St. Mawes Castle, on the opposite side of the estuary, in the sixteenth century to protect the deep water port and sheltered anchorage from an enemy invasion force. Here StaNavForChan participated in a mine-clearance and port-breakout exercise with other NATO forces. The operation, which started on 7 September in the southwest approaches to the English Channel, was suspended temporarily on the 10th due to bad weather. On 17 September, upon completion of the exercise, the two minesweepers left Falmouth and began the twenty-day trip home; they arrived in Charleston on 9 October 1981.
For their participation in the original U.S. MCM Task Group deployment, which involved operations with StaNavForChan and the first entry of U.S. ocean minesweepers into the Mediterranean Sea in over ten years, Illusive and LEADER, as well as the other units of Mine Countermeasures Task Group 1-81, were awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation.
LEADER got under way from Charleston on 18 January 1985 for Nassau, rendezvousing that evening with Illusive, affectionately referred to by her crew as the "Mighty I". After enduring very rough weather the following day, LEADER's crew watched (while off the coast of Florida) the San Francisco Forty-Niners beat the Miami Dolphins in the Super Bowl on the 20th, and put out a double-O (mechanical minesweep diverted to port and starboard) on the 21st. From 22 to 24 January the two ships visited Nassau and held a swim call south of Cuba, en route to the naval base at Guantanamo Bay. Underway on 1 February, the sweeps set a course for Colon, Panama, arriving at mid-day on the 4th. The following day, various officers attended a meeting with the Panama Canal Commission and toured the Gatun Locks.
The ships began a sonar survey of the canal on the 6th, in support of an intraservice exercise, "Kindle Liberty." Illusive worked the Atlantic approach to the Panama Canal, while LEADER surveyed the waters between the approaches to Gatun Locks and Colon Harbor. On the 7th, LEADER surveyed the approaches to Colon and anchored overnight. The following day, the CNO of the El Salvadoran navy visited LEADER at her anchorage. She resumed sonar surveys outside the Colon breakwater later in the day and again anchored overnight.
Departing early on 9 February, Illusive and LEADER passed through the Gatun Locks, completing the transit at sunrise, and then conducted a sonar survey of the first two reaches of Gatun Lake, including both anchorages. During this work, EOD divers operated from LEADER. That night, while the ships swung at the hook, the division commander and ships' commanding officers attended a reception in Rodman, hosted by the commanding officer of the naval station. On 10 February, the MSOs minehunted the entire canal, from Gatun Anchorage to the Rodman Naval Station, except for the two locks and the Gailland Cut. They moored that night at the naval station, marking the first time that Illusive had been in the Pacific Ocean since 1972.
Illusive completed Kindle Liberty and retransited the Panama Canal on 14 February, 1985. At the completion of a postexercise debrief, she began the return transit to Charleston on the 16th. In response to a message, requesting the best route to evade a storm, Illusive received a shore weather station's reply "no way around, no place for haven." Illusive adopted this phrase as her motto. She arrived in home port on 2 March, after a stop at Guantanamo Bay for fuel and provisions and another at Port Everglades for five days of liberty.
Desert Storm - 1991
The minesweepers USS Impervious (MSO 449), USS Adroit (MSO 503), USS LEADER (MSO 490), and the MCM ship USS Avenger arrived in the theater 30 September,1991 on the Dutch heavy-lift ship Super Servant III. USS Adroit and USS Impervious were Naval Reserve Force minesweepers, which deployed to the Gulf augmented by Reserve crews. On 7 October, the six MH-53E AMCM helicopters arrived by USAF C-5A airlift. USS Tripoli (LPH 10), which had been part of the amphibious task force, was assigned to the USMCMG as a support ship for the AMCM helicopters and as the USMCMG command ship. The USMC landing force disembarked and off loaded its equipment as the USMCMG staff embarked in USS Tripoli on 22 January. In addition, two UAE-flagged vessels, Vivi and Celina, were contracted as support ships for EOD teams that accompanied the USMCMG. These forces, along with the EOD teams, formed the USMCMG, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE.
After the RSNF discovered the first drifting mine in December, the USMCMG found and destroyed six drifting mines before Operation Desert Storm started. On 24 January, the USMCMG left Abu Dhabi and conducted training and maintenance while enroute to its designated MCM operating area in the northern Persian Gulf. The task force started its MCM operations on 16 February, 60 miles east of the Kuwaiti coast, working initially to clear a 15-mile long, 1,000 yard wide path to a 10-mile by 3.5-mile FSA south of Faylaka Island.
While sweeping toward the shore of Faylaka Island on 17 February, the MCM force was targeted by Iraqi Silkworm antiship missile fire control radars in Kuwait. The ships moved out of the missile's range while Coalition forces located and attacked the radar site. With the Silkworm missile threat diminished, the MCM forces began to move back to the previous minesweeping areas at 0240 on 18 February. At 0435, after operating for 11 hours in an undetected Iraqi minefield, USS Tripoli hit a moored contact mine in 30 meters of water. The explosion ripped a 16 foot by 20 foot hole below the water line. As USS Avenger and USS LEADER attempted to assist the damaged warship, USS Princeton (CG 59), while unknowingly heading along a line of Manta mines, continued to provide air defense for the MCM Group. At 0715, USS Princeton actuated a Manta mine in 16 meters of water. A sympathetic actuation of another mine about 350 yards from USS Princeton occurred about three seconds later. These mine blasts caused substantial damage to USS Princeton, including a cracked superstructure, severe deck buckling, and a damaged propeller shaft and rudder. As damage control teams overcame fires and flooding aboard USS Tripoli and USS Princeton, the minesweepers USS Impervious, USS LEADER, and USS Avenger searched for additional mines in the area. The minesweeper USS Adroit led the salvage ship USS Beaufort (ATS 2) toward USS Princeton; USS Beaufort then towed the damaged warship to safety.
USS Princeton restored her TLAM strike and Aegis AAW capabilities within two hours of the mine strike and reassumed duties as the local AAW commander, providing air defense for the Coalition MCM group for 30 additional hours until relieved. USS Tripoli was able to continue her mission for several days before being relieved by USS Lasalle (AGF 3) and USS New Orleans (LPH 11). The amphibious assault ship USS New Orleans detached from the ATF and provided the flight deck for AMCM helicopters while the USMCMG staff moved aboard USS Lasalle to continue coordinating the mine clearing operations. USS Tripoli then proceeded to Bahrain for repair.
16 March 1991, Naval forces continue counter air-defensive, combat air patrols and minesweeping operations. Marine forces maintain defensive positions. 81 crewmembers of the minesweeper USS LEADER (MSO 490), whose minesweeping efforts enabled the battleships USS MISSOURI and USS WISCONSIN to safely transit mine-infested waters for close-in gunfire support, return from six-month deployment in the Arabian Gulf to NAVBASE Charleston SC. Ship remains overseas, manned by crew of minesweeper USS EXULTANT (MSO 441), as part of crew rotation policy for minesweepers.
25 March 1991, Naval forces continue counter air-defensive, combat air patrols, maritime interception and minesweeping operations. While actively sweeping for mines in the Arabian Gulf, the minesweeper USS LEADER (MSO-490) deployed its magnetic acoustic influence combination sweep which detonated a suspected mine approximately 600 yards behind the ship. No injuries, crankshaft cracked in the #1 main propulsion unit. Ship continued mission, then proceeded to Bahrain shipyard under its own power for scheduled maintenance.
Before the start of Operation Desert Storm, the US ability to gather intelligence on Iraqi minefield locations, or observe and counter Iraqi minelaying activity in international waters (considered a hostile act under international law) was degraded by restrictions on naval and air operations in the northern Persian Gulf. To avoid any possibility of provoking Iraqi military action before Coalition defensive and later offensive preparations were complete, CINCCENT restricted naval surface forces in the Gulf to operating south of the 27 degrees 30'N parallel (approximately 72 miles south of the Kuwaiti-Saudi border) until early January Similar restrictions kept the flight paths of aircraft south of 27 degrees 45'N (approximately 55 miles south of the Kuwaiti-Saudi border) unless tactically required to exceed that limit. Those restrictions precluded gathering intelligence on Iraqi mining activity and also prevented NAVCENT from acting to deter or counter Iraqi forces from setting mines adrift in the Gulf.
LEADER was decommissioned 12 December 1991 and struck from the Navy Register 18 March 1992, Leader was sold 15 April 1994 and scrapped.
Posted by Michael Goss
Aug 14 2004 05:59:33:000AM