The History of USS Current
" I'll never forget the ride of a lifetime, or the experiences. "
Rick Sasser BMSN 1967-1970
" What a wonderful time in our lives and we didn't realize it. "
Jim Wilson EN3 1959-1963
" Some things in life are short but leave you with a lifetime of memories.
My two and a half year tour of duty aboard USS Current had broadened
my vision and made it one of my most rewarding life experiences."
" Over the years as I reflected on those memories, I became increasingly
curious about the role USS Current played in United States Naval history."
After finding much historical information, I decided to share it
on the Internet with a one page history. That one page history
has evolved into the USS Current website.
The following is USS Current's history.
Jim Vasko ETN2 1965-1968
|USS Current History 1957-1972|
|USS Current History 1943-1957|
|Updated May 14, 2010|
The battle casualties and the hazards of navigation during World War II required the construction of a modern fleet of repair and salvage ships capable of responding to any emergencies at sea. Among the ships built for this purpose was the Auxiliary Repair and Salvage ship USS Current ARS-22, a Diver Class repair and salvage ship. On March 14, 1942, the Basalt Rock Company, Inc. of Napa, California was awarded the contract to build USS Current. A short time later, Current's designated captain, Lieutenant Commander James B. Duffy, USNR and his family were transferred to Napa, California. During the construction of Current, the Duffy family with their two children, Jimmie and Peter lived at quarters provided by the Navy at the Stags' Leap Winery Estate. Peter along with other Navy children went to elementary school in a one room school house near the Stags' Leap Estate.
Current's keel was laid on April 2, 1943. The hull and superstructure was built by a shipyard work force composed mostly of women. Launched on September 25, 1943 at Basalt Rock Company, Current's hull was floated down the Napa River to San Francisco Bay by tugs and outfitted in Oakland, California. At the completion of the outfitting, the ship underwent builder's trials and Navy acceptance trials on San Francisco Bay. Upon acceptance by the Navy, Current was then sponsored by Mrs. E.R. Booker and commissioned on June 14, 1944 at the Southern Pacific docks in Vallejo, California. Under the command of Lieutenant Commander Duffy, USNR, Current's crew began a period of battle readiness training and a shake down cruise to San Diego. Upon completion of the shakedown cruise, Current joined the Pacific Fleet under the operational control of the Commander Service Forces Pacific Fleet.
On August 6, 1944, Current departed San Francisco Bay for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Upon arrival at Oahu, Current refueled and remained there at Pearl Harbor while tows were being prepared and a convoy assembled. On September 11, Current departed Pearl Harbor with the floating dry dock AFDL-32, and fuel oil barges YO-94 and YO-95 in tow, as a part of a convoy for the forward area of operations. The convoy commodore was in Current. On September 20, after crossing the International Date Line at coordinates 180° 00´ West Longitude, 13° 00´ North Latitude, the traditional Golden Dragon crew initiation ceremonies were held onboard. The convoy arrived at Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands on September 28 and passed the tows to the rescue tug USS ATR-50. While at Eniwetok Atoll awaiting the formation of a new convoy, Current refueled, took on fresh water and conducted diving operations in one hundred forty six feet of water to search for the lost anchor from the Liberty ship SS John McLean.
As part of Task Unit 96.8.6, the newly formed convoy of 23 ships, Current departed Eniwetok Atoll on October 6 towing the concrete-hulled cargo barge USS Trefoil IX-149, loaded with general stores and the gasoline barge YOG-27. Also a part of the convoy and guide was the newly built Liberty Ship, General Vallejo, commissioned USS Megrez AK-126. The Megrez towed USS Silica IX-151 carrying fresh, frozen and dry provisions as well as medical supplies and the patrol craft YP-688. The War Shipping Administration tug SS Mobile Point towed the USS Corundum IX-164 carrying vehicle spare parts and barge YC-1006. The barracks ship USS Orvetta IX-157 was towed by the WSA tug MV Watch Hill. Two mobile fuel storage tankers, USS Quiros IX-140 and USS Giraffe IX-118 were also a part of the convoy as well as the WSA tug SS Cubits Point towing the floating repair dock ARD-25 en route to Guam. The destroyer USS Lamson DD-367 was the escort and anti-submarine warfare screen for the convoy. The convoy safely arrived at Ulithi Atoll in the Caroline Islands on October 14. After the towing cable was cast off, Current anchored in the Northern Anchorage of Ulithi Atoll in twenty-two fathoms of water. Current’s first major salvage assignment began a few days after arrival at Ulithi Atoll.
On October 12, 1944, Admiral Halsey’s Task Force 38 began three days of devastating air attacks on Japanese airfields and shipping on the Island of Formosa. The attacks by the task force’s four carrier groups, with its battleships, cruisers and destroyers were planned to destroy any potential Japanese air opposition prior to the allied invasion of Leyte to retake the Philippines from the Japanese occupation. The Japanese forces however, retaliated against Admiral Halsey’s task force with heavy and repeated air attacks.
At sunset on October 13, approximately ninety miles from Formosa at coordinates 22° 48´ North Latitude, 123° 01´ East Longitude, the heavy cruiser USS Canberra CA-70 was hit by an aerial torpedo. The torpedo opened a large jagged hole in the hull amidships between the two fire rooms below the armor belt and killed twenty-three men instantly. Flames flashed as high as the mast-head. About forty-five hundred tons of sea water poured through the large hole in her side as damage control parties worked frantically to seal off the affected compartments and control the flooding. Both engine rooms and after fire rooms flooded, causing total loss of power. Within ten minutes after the torpedo hit, the cruiser Wichita was alerted to take the disabled Canberra in tow in an attempt to get it out of range of more expected Japanese air attacks.
At 1845, the following evening, approximately eighty miles south of Sakishima Gunto at coordinates 22° 30´ North Latitude, 124° 50´ East Longitude, the light cruiser USS Houston CL-81, which had just assumed the Canberra’s position in the screen of Task Group 38.1 as the point ship in the northwest sector of the formation, was even more severely damaged after being hit by an aerial torpedo amidships on the starboard side, just above the keel. All four-engine rooms on the Houston became completely flooded to the overhead, leaving the ship without power. A short time later a fire ignited in the after steering compartment and caused a complete loss of rudder control, jamming the rudder in the left full position. The impact of the torpedo left many hatches and doors warped and leaking. The main longitudinal beams of the ship were also found to be warped and bent and the keel was thought to be cracked or broken. The Houston appeared to be breaking up. After receiving conflicting reports of the damage from damage control parties, the skipper, Captain William Behrens ordered the crew to abandon ship. The destroyer USS Grayson DD-435 rescued 194 men, the USS Cowell DD-547 rescued 195 men and the USS Sullivans DD-537 picked up 118 men. The USS Boyd DD-544 recovered 380 men and remained close aboard to serve as a communications relay for the Houston. After seven to eight hundred men had abandoned ship, the Houston's damage control officer Lieutenant Commander George Miller convinced Captain Behrens that the ship could be saved and convinced him to rescind his abandon ship order. The Houston signaled a request for a tow. Within twenty minutes, the cruiser USS Boston CL-69 approached and maneuvered to pass the tow cable. With the Houston in tow, the Boston set a southeasterly course for Ulithi Atoll, Caroline Islands along with the Wichita and the Canberra.
The Fleet tugs USS Munsee ATF-107 and USS Pawnee ATF-74 steaming in company on a southerly course toward Kossol Passage, Palau Islands, received orders from Admiral Halsey to come about, locate and join the refueling Task Group 30.8 in the Philippine Sea to top off their fuel tanks and to stand by for orders for their towing services. Both fleet tugs refueled then proceeded to the coordinates of the disabled cruisers. The Munsee, the first fleet tug to arrive on the scene assumed the towing of the Canberra from the cruiser Wichita on October 15, 1944.
At first light of an overcast dawn on October 16, the USS Pawnee sighted the USS Houston at the eastern approaches to Luzon Strait. When the Pawnee arrived on the scene, the Houston was rolling in long oily swells fifty miles long and listing fifteen degrees to starboard. At the top of the foremast, the SK search radar antenna was hanging at a precarious angle, jarred loose by the concussion of the exploding torpedo. The long barrels of the four six inch gun turrets pointed at various angles, frozen there when power was lost. On the fantail of the Houston, which housed the seaplane hanger and crane, one of the Vought OS2U Kingfisher observation planes was hanging off of the starboard catapult. The Pawnee assumed the towing of the Houston from the USS Boston. Both fleet tugs with their tows continued steaming on a course toward Ulithi Atoll within a mile of each other and at a speed of approximately three to four knots. Circling around the two fleet tugs and their tows at about one thousand yards were three cruisers, USS Birmingham CL-62, USS Santa Fe CL-60, USS Mobile CL-63 and nine destroyers including the USS Bell DD-587, USS Charrette DD-581, USS Burns DD-588, USS Morrison DD-560 and the fast minesweeper USS Trevor DMS-16. These ships provided a defensive screen against Japanese attempts to sink the two disabled cruisers. The sixteen ships became Task Group 30.3.1 or "Streaming Bait Division" as it was jokingly called by Admiral Halsey. The task group was under the command of Rear Admiral Laurance DuBose in the Santa Fe. About fifteen to twenty miles toward the northern horizon, Admiral Turner Joy's screening force with the light carriers Cabot CVL-28 and the Cowpens CVL-25 provided the combat air patrols for the task group.
Japanese broadcasts by Radio Tokyo and Tokyo Rose, monitored continuously by Admiral Halsey's staff, indicated the Japanese believed Task Group 30.3.1 or "Cripple Division 1" as it was nicknamed, was the last crippled remnants afloat of Admiral Halsey’s Third Fleet. With their erroneous information, Admiral Halsey attempted to lure the Japanese fleet into the Philippine Sea using the disabled cruisers as bait in hopes of drawing the Japanese into a sea battle. A Japanese attack force did depart Sasebo, Japan on October 14 with the mission to find the remnants of the American fleet and center the attack on its weak points. After Japanese reconnaissance aircraft located the ships of Task Group 30.3.1 they also observed that there was an attack force assembled by Admiral Halsey prepared for the Japanese fleet's arrival. The Japanese mission was then abruptly canceled. The Japanese decided instead to send flights of fighters and torpedo bombers from their home islands of Okinawa and Formosa to attack Task Group 30.3.1 and the disabled cruisers. The carriers’ combat air patrol aircraft shot down nearly ninety Japanese aircraft attempting to penetrate the defenses of the task group.
In the early morning hours of October 16, 1944, Current received orders from Naval Dispatch # H 2739, # 188 from COMSERVRON TEN to COMTHIRDFLEET to depart Ulithi Atoll, rendezvous with the severely damaged cruisers and render assistance. At 0410, YO-79 came alongside Current and delivered 32,000 gallons of diesel fuel. At 0610 the ship made preparations to get underway and was underway at 0633 from Ulithi Atoll. At 1348 on the afternoon of October 16, at coordinates 20° 54´ North Latitude, 125° 09´ East Longitude, while Current was steaming toward the disabled cruisers, three Japanese aircraft penetrated the carriers’ combat air patrols. A "Kate" torpedo plane released a torpedo narrowly missing the cruiser Santa Fe before it was shot down. The second was shot down by the destroyers of the task group, but the third, a twin engine Frances torpedo plane penetrated the anti-aircraft fire of several ships astern of the Houston. The torpedo plane, at approximately three thousand yards astern of the Houston and about seventy-five feet above the water, launched a torpedo that struck squarely on the stern of the Houston. The impact blew a thirty by thirty foot aircraft hanger hatch one hundred fifty feet into the air and then disintegrated, spraying the weather decks with shrapnel. The concussion of the torpedo hit caused about twenty men stationed in gun mounts to be blown overboard. Thousands of gallons of aviation gasoline stored in fuel tanks in the hanger bulkheads exploded, touching off a huge fire that engulfed the cruiser’s fantail and ignited the trailing oil slick on the water. After releasing its torpedo, the enemy plane continued to fly on a parallel course to the Houston for about two hundred yards before intense anti-aircraft fire from the destroyer USS Sullivans finally shot it down.
Captain Behrens requested and received permission to evacuate the remainder of the crew. Only a skeleton crew made up of the ship’s officers, chief petty officers and other volunteers with ship-fitting or communications skills remained to continue fire fighting and damage control. Bucket brigades and submersible pumps kept the flooding in check while damage control parties worked by battle lantern and flashlight to shore up weakened bulkheads and sagging decks. Heavy seas prevented destroyers from coming alongside the Houston to evacuate the crew. Men were forced to jump overboard in groups of one hundred and were rescued by the destroyers USS Ingersoll DD-652, USS Stephen Potter DD-538, USS Sullivans and the USS Cowell. The destroyer Cowell also stood by to provide light, power and pumping. The two torpedo hits caused the Houston to take on an estimated sixty three hundred tons of seawater, over forty five percent of the ship’s normal full load displacement. No ship had ever survived that level of flooding without sinking.
At 1425, on the afternoon of October 18, Current sighted the ships of Task Group 30.3. The destroyer John D. Henley DD-553 closed Current, exchanged messages by light and advised Current to depart the area and re-establish a new rendezvous location because of the proximity of Japanese naval forces detected in the area, hunting for the disabled cruisers. At sunrise, on the morning of October 19, at 0655, Current once again sighted the Canberra and the Houston at a distance of thirteen miles at coordinates approximately two hundred seventy miles east of Cape Engano in the Northern Philippines. At 0815, Current rendezvoused with the disabled cruisers and reported to the Commander Task Group 30.3, in accordance with COMTHIRDFLEET Order #172316. CTG 30.3 was Rear Admiral Lloyd J. Wiltsie in the USS Boston who became the new task group commander after Rear Admiral Dubose in the USS Santa Fe was detached on October 17.
Current immediately came alongside the Houston and at 0837 a salvage party of four men, LTJG William Norman, CM2 Kenneth Gilberson, SF1 Kenneth Young, and MM1 Arthur Ferrell departed in the motor whale boat to evaluate the damage and passed over a pair of high-capacity submersible electric pumps. They quickly began diving operations to close hatches and scuttles in flooded compartments that had been left open when the crew of the Houston abandoned ship after the first torpedo hit on October 14. At 0917, a salvage party with Ensign Philip Criblet, MOMM3 John Wohlfit and SF2 J. R. Barfuss departed Current in the #2 motor launch and boarded the Canberra to investigate the extent of salvage work needed and began diving operations to shore up bulkheads. Additional salvage equipment, pumps and lengths of hose were passed to both ships. The Houston was so flooded and listing that any extra weight topside that could be pried loose or cut by acetylene torch was thrown overboard. This was an attempt to lighten ship and get the ship on an even keel. Everything from the superstructure including the starboard catapult, the starboard motor whaleboat, the damaged Kingfisher observation plane, anti aircraft directors, winches, davits, two 36-inch searchlights, twenty-five tons of ordnance equipment, ready lockers, useless five inch ammunition, and radio equipment was jettisoned. More than one hundred twenty tons of gear was thrown over the side. On October 20, Current made an attempt to go alongside the cruiser Boston to receive lumber for additional shoring of bulkheads on the Canberra. Heavy seas and the danger of collision made that attempt impossible. Current instead received the needed shoring material by highline from the Boston’s starboard quarter. Three more ships eventually arrived on the scene, the rescue tug ATR-50, the civilian tug MV Watch Hill and the fleet tug USS Zuni ATF-95. Watch Hill joined USS Munsee in a tandem tow of Canberra while Zuni and the USS Pawnee tandem towed the USS Houston. Current maintained station approximately 1,000 yards from both cruisers during salvage operations.
During the salvage operations on October 20, Current was informed by Canberra's visual dispatch # 200835 that Ensign Philip Criblet, Current's assistant salvage officer in charge of salvage operations onboard the Canberra, drowned when a hatch closed on his air hose in the flooded engine room of the ship. Ensign Criblet's diving partner John Wohlfit made an unsuccessful attempt to free the air hose. Current’s diving officer Bos'n Peter Kowalchyk was then sent aboard to take charge of the salvage and diving operations on the Canberra. At 0945 on Saturday, October 21, 1944, the crew was called to quarters for a service in honor of Ensign Philip Criblet. Captain Duffy read prayers for the deceased. At 0955 both Canberra’s and Current’s colors were lowered to half-mast in memorium. A memorial service and the burial at sea was held aboard USS Canberra for Ensign Criblet. At 1010 the colors of both ships were two blocked.
Current's #1 and #2 three inch salvage pumps, a P-500 fire pump, shoring material and seven lengths of suction hose was shuttled to the Canberra. At 1600, on October 21, both fleet tugs Pawnee and Munsee were detached from their tows. Current and Zuni assumed a tandem tow of the Houston while ATR-50 and MV Watch Hill began the tandem tow of the Canberra. Current was designated the lead towing vessel and guide for the formation. During the course of the towing operation, Current’s motor whaleboat continued to deliver shoring material and supplies to the Houston.
At 0454 on October 27, Current sighted Falaulep Island at a distance of seven miles. At that point, Current and Zuni broke away from the rest of the formation towing the Houston toward Ulithi's lagoon. Within the next forty-five minutes, Current had entered Mugai Channel. There they stopped so Current could detach herself from the tandem tow to assist in maneuvering the Houston to the anchorage location. The tow cable was then shortened by Zuni for the final trip to Ulithi's Northern Anchorage.
In one of the great salvage feats of World War II, both the Houston and the Canberra arrived safely at Ulithi Atoll at noon on October 27, 1944 to the welcoming sound of ships' whistles and air horns from many of the navy ships at anchor at Ulithi Lagoon in a salute to the arriving cruisers. Once at Ulithi, Current continued salvage work on both ships. A violent typhoon struck the Caroline Islands on November 7. Current stood by the Canberra to assist if the typhoon caused additional problems or damage. In preparation to ride out the typhoon, the Houston was moved by the repair ship USS Hector to berth 671 in the southern anchorage, a shallow water anchorage three hundred yards from Pig Island. If the Houston's weakened condition caused it to sink from additional damage from the typhoon, salvage of the ship would be simplified in the shallow water and Houston's crew could easily swim to Pig Island. On November 10, Current came alongside Houston to provide electrical power, fresh water and salt flushing water.
On November 14, after final repairs were made, Canberra departed under her own power for dry-docking on the Advanced Base Sectional Dock ABSD-2 at Seeadler Harbor at Manus Island in the Admiralty Islands. Canberra’s final destination was the Boston Navy Yard where the cruiser received a complete overhaul. Current continued extensive repairs on the Houston to make her sea worthy, among other repair and salvage assignments on small ships, landing craft, lost anchors and mooring equipment damaged by the typhoon. At 0635, on November 20, Current sounded general quarters. In accordance with radio communications from COMSERVRON TEN, Current was directed to steam around the Houston’s anchorage during an alert caused by the sighting of a Japanese submarine in the northern anchorage area of Ulithi’s lagoon. At 1350, after the threat had passed, Current secured from general quarters. During the months of November and December, three divers were sent to Current for treatment of the Bends in Current’s recompression chamber. Two men were successfully treated, but a third man did not respond to treatment and was pronounced dead.
On the morning of December 13, Current came alongside and tied up to the Houston's starboard quarter to assist during the final evening of repair work, prior to Houston's departure for the Admiralty Islands. At 0650, on December 14, Current departed Houston after the repair party and salvage equipment returned to the ship. Final dewatering operations were completed on the Houston. The Houston was then tandem towed by the fleet tugs Lipan ATF-85 and Arapaho ATF-68 to Seeadler Harbor, for dry-docking on ABSD-2 for temporary repairs. The Houston then departed Seeadler Harbor under her own power on February 16, 1945, bound for the Brooklyn Navy Yard via San Pedro, California and the Panama Canal Zone. The Houston arrived in New York Harbor on March 23, 1945.
From December 15 to December 20, 1944 Current was on a two hour standby notice as the emergency salvage vessel for Admiral Halsey’s Task Force 38. The unexpected super typhoon "Cobra" developed in the Eastern Philippine Sea devastating the task force as it was attempting to rendezvous for refueling operations at sea after the amphibious assault of Mindoro in the Philippines. Current also stood by at Ulithi to render assistance to ships endangered by typhoon Cobra and cruised all beach areas checking small craft. On December 23 and 24, Current located and recovered an anchor and chain from the merchant vessel S.S. Bald Eagle and cleared a fouled screw on the rescue tug ATR-80. On December 27, Current moored alongside the repair ship USS Ajax AR-6 for power and began repairs on two auxiliary engines. Maintenance and repairs were delayed while waiting for the arrival of engine parts. Current continued minor salvage and repair jobs and retrieval of lost anchors and chain in the Ulithi area.
At 0700 on January 12, Current went to general quarters. In accordance with radio communications from COMSERVRON TEN, Current was underway to Ulithi’s Southern Anchorage 528 to render assistance to the ammunition ship USS Mazama AE-9. The Mazama became a battle casualty of a Kaiten, a one-man suicide submarine. After the attack, an investigation revealed the Mazama was attacked by a Kaiten launched by the Japanese submarine I-36. Because the war in the Pacific was going badly for the Japanese by the end of 1944, they formed special Kaiten units comprised of mother submarines that carried four or five one-man midget submarines. Several Kaiten units were dispersed throughout the Pacific to attack Allied ships. Kaiten Force "Kongo" was directed to destroy ships anchored at Ulithi Atoll's Southern Anchorage.
At 0650 on the morning of January 12, Mazama's crew sighted a suspicious object off the starboard quarter. Four minutes later an explosion rocked the ship and the Mazama began to list two degrees to port and was down at the bow. Pumps were immediately started to counteract the flooding. Later, ballast was emptied to reduce the forward draft. The ship was damaged in the number one hold by the concussion of the Kaiten that prematurely detonated 90 feet from the Mazama. The explosion killed one sailor and injured seven others seriously.
While underway to the Mazama, Current prepared two ten inch salvage pumps, a submersible six inch pump, two P-500 pumps with hose and fittings and rigged the forward and after booms for transfer of this equipment to the Mazama. At 0735, Current arrived at the scene of the damaged ammunition ship. Four rescue tugs were already moored to the Mazama. Current proceeded to tie up port side to ATR-34 heading down wind in a position to use the ATR’s booms to pass Current’s equipment to the damaged and settling bow of the Mazama. Current’s fire hoses, fire monitors and foam throwing equipment were manned and ready. The fire fighting party was prepared to board. Lieutenant Commander Duffy, captain of Current was senior officer in charge of the Mazama salvage operation and all vessels on the scene. After inspection, Mazama’s number one hold, containing fifty three hundred tons of ammunition, was found completely flooded and the number two hold partially flooded. At 0935, Current exchanged positions with ATR-34, to be directly alongside Mazama to more effectively use its salvage equipment and to be in a better position to use fire-fighting equipment if a fire ignited. After caulking and plugging of open seams and other damage control work was completed, the Mazama stopped settling and leakage into the number two hold was contained. The flooded holds were pumped out and serviceable ammunition from both holds was unloaded and transferred while damaged munitions were dumped at sea. On January 21, 1945 work on the Mazama was completed.
On January 27, Current moored alongside the engine repair ship USS Cebu ARG-6 for overhaul of the main engines and continued repair on two auxiliary engines. While waiting for the necessary repair parts, the ship had no main propulsion until repairs were completed on March 6, 1945. During this time a change of command ceremony took place. Lieutenant Commander James Duffy relinquished command of Current to Lieutenant Robert W. Swift, USNR.
While Current was anchored near Sorlen Island at Ulithi Atoll on March 11, an explosion occurred at 2007 approximately a mile off Current’s starboard quarter. Current immediately went to general quarters and made preparations for getting underway. With the anchor at short stay, a radio communication was received with orders to proceed immediately to the vicinity of Anchorage 27. At 2020, Current was underway to the anchorage site and made all preparations for fire fighting. Both fire monitors were manned. Six fire hose lines were rigged and pressurized, two forward, two amidships, and two aft, as well as an emergency line to Chrysler pumps and foam throwing equipment. Without warning, two low flying Japanese twin engine Yokosuka P1Y "Frances" bombers appeared. One crashed onto a lighted baseball diamond on Mog Mog Island, the adjacent military recreation island. The other bomber carrying a two thousand pound bomb struck the aircraft carrier USS Randolph CV-15 on the starboard quarter between the flight deck and the gallery deck at frame 205-210, the CO2 room, the aviation repair shop and the fantail. The Kamikaze penetrated the after hanger deck killing twenty-nine men and wounding one-hundred five. The impact and explosion destroyed approximately 4,000 square feet of the flight deck. An inferno of flames fed by gasoline from the destroyed bomber, destroyed carrier aircraft on the flight deck and in the hanger deck engulfed the entire stern section of the Randolph.
Once abeam of the Randolph, Current sent the carrier a message that preparations were made to spray chemical fire fighting foam. At 2030, Current maneuvered alongside the port quarter of the Randolph and began spraying foam and water from every available piece of equipment. The USS Munsee ATF-107 had already taken a position on the starboard quarter of the Randolph. Maneuvering was extremely difficult because of the many small boats milling around the area, the swinging of the Randolph at her anchor, the poor visibility caused by thick black smoke from the burning carrier, darkness and by blinding search lights directed toward Current’s bridge. All fire hoses and both fire fighting monitors were in continuous operation though out the entire time Current was alongside the Randolph. While maneuvering to effectively apply fire-fighting foam, the swing of the Randolph at anchor and the force of the wind and sea swells caused Current's stern to swing under Randolph’s flight deck. Current’s main topmast collided with the underside of the flight deck of the carrier causing the topmast to be bent forward. The collision also severed the topmast shrouds and caused the TBL radio transmitter antenna to slacken. This resulted in a loss of all radio communication. During the time spent alongside the Randolph, enormous amounts of water and chemical foam were pumped on the burning carrier in an attempt to extinguish the massive fires. Detonating 40mm and 20mm ammunition, exploded shell casings and other debris continuously rained down on Current’s decks. Fully fueled aircraft on Randolph's flight deck were intentionally pushed over the side to prevent a even greater inferno. The aircraft being jettisoned nearly fell on Current's deck. Fortunately, none of Current’s crew were injured during this operation. Later, among the debris on Current’s decks, part of a human hand was found. Fingerprint impressions were made of the hand and given to COMSERVRON Ten. The hand was then discarded overboard. At 2046, Current departed the side of the Randolph and circled the carrier in an attempt to moor again in a more favorable fire fighting location. While circling, other vessels moved into the vacated berth, preventing Current from returning to continue assistance. At 2155, Current received instructions to stand clear and return to anchor nearby. The fires on the Randolph were successfully extinguished and the damage repaired by the crew of the Randolph and the repair ship USS Jason ARH-1. The hospital ship USS Relief AH-1 anchored off of Randolph's starboard quarter to receive the casualties, most suffering from severe burns. Randolph's dead crewmen and the three Kamikaze crew were all buried on Falaulep Island. USS Randolph was repaired and later rejoined the 5th Fleet, participated in the invasion of Okinawa and launched aircraft to assist in the massive fire bombing raids on the Japanese home islands until the Japanese Surrender.
On March 12, while Current was at anchor at Ulithi, a seaplane exploded in flames close aboard Current but sank before any rescue could be attempted. Small boats in the area picked up the survivors. From March 15 to March 21, Current was moored to the USS Ajax to repair the damaged top mast, shrouds and radio antenna. On March 25, Current came to the assistance of the battle damaged aircraft carrier USS Franklin CV-13 by pumping out flooded compartments. On March 19, as part of the Fast Carrier Task Force off the coast of Kyushu, Japan, the Franklin was hit by two bombs, which ignited readied attack aircraft loaded with bombs, rockets and gasoline. On March 29, with another typhoon approaching the Caroline Islands, Current completed minor salvage work and made preparations to ride out the typhoon by anchoring further from shore. After the typhoon had passed the next morning, Current was instructed to proceed to the vicinity of Ulithi’s Light Beacon ‘J’ to salvage a sixty-ton paint barge that was blown high and dry on a reef. By 2110, the barge was re-floated and in tow to Anchorage Five at Ulithi Lagoon.
A very brief rest was taken from the on going salvage work. On April 4, 1945, Vice Admiral William W. Smith, Commander Service Force Pacific Fleet, presented the Silver Star Award to four of Current’s crewmembers for their courageous diving during the underway salvage operations to save the USS Canberra and the USS Houston from sinking while in enemy occupied waters. The Silver Star was presented to B'osn Peter Kowalchyk, USN, Charles Cockrell CM1/c, USN, 342-16-88, J. R. Barfuss SF2/c, USN, 328-91-19 and John J. Wohlfit MM2/c, USNR, 813-01-41. On April 8, five men from the hull repair ship USS Jason ARH-1 came aboard Current for second class diver training. They were qualified on a diving platform placed over the side in one hundred four feet of water. The remainder of April and the first part of May 1945 was spent conducting minor salvage, repair and diving operations around Ulithi Atoll.
On May 19, as part of Task Unit 50.9.12 with the fleet tug USS Jicarrilla ATF-104 as Task Unit Commander, Current departed Ulithi for Leyte Gulf with the barracks ship APL-11 and the covered lighter YF-246 in tow. At 0145 on May 24, Suluan Light was sighted. By 1526, APL-11 was anchored at San Pedro Bay, Leyte Gulf, Philippines. Current anchored near APL-11 to remove the tow cable, which became fouled in Current's starboard screw during the release of the tow. At 0800 on May 26, Current entered the repair dock ship ARD-17 to inspect the starboard screw and shaft for damage, and to clean and paint the hull. By May 28 the hull maintenance completed, Current anchored in San Pedro Bay, Leyte Gulf to make preparations for getting underway. After replenishment, Current departed Leyte Gulf independently on May 30, 1945 setting a course for Okinawa. Land was sighted at 0847 on June 2. By 1135, Current was anchored at the Nakagusuku Anchorage, Eastern Okinawa and reported to Commander Task Group 31.6 by radio communication. Current’s assignment at Okinawa was to assist the ships damaged by Japanese air attacks and the landing craft damaged during the assault landings on the beaches of Okinawa. Current also supported the ships sailing in the Third and Fifth Fleet raids on the Japanese home islands.
While offloading troops during the assault on Okinawa at White Beach, the infantry landing craft LCI-90 was hit by enemy fire. A large explosion at the water line near the engine room tore a hole in the starboard side causing LCI-90 to settle to the bottom. At 1011 on June 4 after LCI-90 was re-floated, the landing craft moored to Current to have damage cut away and to have emergency repairs completed. By 1945, LCI-90 departed Current for the night. Preparations now were being made to ride out another typhoon. On June 5, Current completed temporary repairs on LCI-90 and at 1509, LCI-86 moored to Current so divers could remove scraps of metal from a downed Japanese plane that became fouled in the shafts and screws. Current reported to Commander Task Group 32.3 on June 11 and anchored at the northern anchorage of Kerama Retto, Okinawa. On June 14, 1945, a collision damaged the minelayer USS Thomas E. Fraser DM-24 and the motor gunboat PGM-24. Current was requested to stand by to render assistance. While underway on June 18, Current sighted and destroyed an enemy mine. The following day at 1222 there was an undetermined underwater explosion that shook Current. The explosion was presumed to be an exploding enemy mine. After an inspection of the ship, no damage was found. The ship returned to anchorage at Kerama Retto on June 20.
The following day, seven men from Current were awarded a citation and the Navy Commendation Ribbon from Commander Third Fleet, Admiral William F. Halsey by the authority of Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas. The crewmembers were presented the citation and the Navy Commendation Ribbon by Current’s Commanding Officer Lieutenant Robert W. Swift, for their heroic work during salvage operations on the USS Canberra and on the USS Houston. LTJG William I. Norman, USNR, B'osn Peter Kowalchyk, Charles Cockrell CM1/c, Arthur W. Ferrell MM1/c, Kenneth O. Young SF1/c, Kenneth L. Giberson CM1/c and John J. Wohlfit MM2/c.
Current was instructed by radio at 1817 on June 22 to get underway and rendezvous with the yard minesweeper USS Rhea YMS-299. While underway for the USS Rhea on June 23, 1945, Current sighted and destroyed another enemy mine, discovered an uncharted shoal at a depth of twelve fathoms and reported the coordinates. Current then took YMS-299 in tow at 1647, while repairs were being completed on the disabled steering gear. Rhea was released at 2113 and proceeded under her own power after the emergency repairs were completed. Current was released by Commander Task Group 31.6 and then proceeded to Hagushi, Okinawa, the site of the amphibious landings during the invasion of Okinawa. On June 27, Current raised a sunken LCVP landing craft from the attack transport USS Beckham APA-133 from a depth of twelve fathoms of water off Orange Beach, Okinawa and returned it to the Beckham. On June 29, 1945 Current moored alongside the Liberty ship SS George Middlemas at the Hagushi Fleet Anchorage to patch a hole in her side about ten feet above the water line. On June 30, operations began to salvage a seven hundred fifty-pound anchor lost from LSM-86. At 0605, on July 1, 1945, Current moored port side to LST-501 off Purple Beach to remove an anchor cable fouled in the LST’s port screw. By 0956, the cable was cleared by the ship’s divers.
Current began progressive maintenance and availability moored port side to the landing craft repair ship USS Achelous ARL-1 from July 4 to July 13 at the Hagushi Anchorage and reported to Senior Officer Present Afloat in the attack transport USS Crescent City APA-21. While still under maintenance availability, Current moored alongside LST-816 at the Hagushi Anchorage and began diving operations to clear a fouled starboard screw. On July 14, Current began diving operations on the sunken SS Canada Victory at the Hagushi Anchorage to locate and salvage her anchors. The Canada Victory, loaded with ammunition, was hit in the stern by a kamikaze and sank within ten minutes. At 1458, Current anchored off of White Beach and prepared to pull LST-917 from the beach. The LST-917 was found to be hard aground. The operation was postponed until July 23 to await a favorable high tide. On July 19, in preparation for an approaching typhoon, Current towed the covered lighter YF-749 to Naha, Okinawa and anchored at berth 45. After the typhoon passed, Current returned YF-749 to the Hagushi Anchorage. On July 23, Current’s divers recovered the ninety-five hundred-pound starboard anchor with forty-five fathoms of two-inch anchor chain from the sunken SS Canada Victory. At 1847, after proceeding to the vicinity of White Beach, Okinawa, the main tow cable was secured to LST-917. In company with USS Jicarilla ATF-104, the LST was pulled off of White Beach at 1910. Current’s assistance was requested on July 24 to pull the tank landing craft LCT-1277 off of Purple Beach. By 1927, the LCT was re-floated. On July 26, Current was underway at 0550 to Buckner Bay, Okinawa via Naha to transfer the recovered anchor and chain from the Canada Victory to the salvage ship USS Valve ARS-28. The bad weather conditions, rough seas and an attempted mooring of the two ships rendered the transfer of the anchor and chain to the Valve too dangerous. The anchor and chain was successfully transferred to the Valve the following day.
On July 28, 1945, Current was instructed to get underway and proceed to Naha Harbor and make preparations to fight fire. After a medical team arrived onboard, Current departed for Naha at 1815 and moored starboard side to the USS Jicarilla, which was moored to the Liberty ship SS John A. Rawlins . After transferring the medical personnel to the Rawlins, Current sent an eight-man fire fighting team with one hundred canisters of liquid fire fighting foam to the John Rawlins. The Rawlins was hit by an aerial torpedo in the number three hold, portside, below the water line. Water pressure for the fire hoses was supplied by the fleet tug Jicarilla’s pumps from the port side and by the salvage ship Valve and the Coast Guard buoy tender USCGC Balsam WAGL-62 moored on the starboard side of the Rawlins. By 2330 on July 29, the stubborn fire was extinguished and dewatering operations began on the Rawlin’s number two hold. At 1000, on July 30, Current’s fire fighting team secured from fire fighting operations and returned to the ship.
On August 1, 1945 in preparation for another approaching typhoon, Current was instructed to take the surveying ship USS Pathfinder AGS-1 in tow and anchor the ship at the Naha Anchorage. On August 2, Current also anchored at Naha Harbor to ride out the typhoon. Once the typhoon had passed on the following day, Current again took the Pathfinder in tow and returned the ship to anchor at the Hagushi Anchorage. On August 4, an attempt was made to salvage a moored LCM at Purple Beach that sank by the stern during the typhoon. The operation was postponed because of weather conditions. The next day, Current’s divers cleared three fouled screws on the tank landing craft LCT-463 then proceeded to Ie Shima to tow the gasoline tanker AOG-27 to Buckner Bay. After returning from Buckner Bay to Hagushi, the gasoline barge YOGL-9 was taken in tow to an anchorage at Ie Shima. On August 9, Current returned to Purple Beach and raised the sunken LCM. The following day, the coastal transport APC-26 came alongside to receive a seven thousand-pound salvage anchor and two, one hundred-fathom lengths of inch and a half steel cable. At 2354, Current was instructed to proceed to the Naha anchorage to render assistance to the damaged Liberty ship SS James Singer, but the James Singer declined assistance. Current returned to the Hagushi Anchorage at 0258 on August 11. Diving operations resumed on the SS Canada Victory, but once again were halted due to an excessive tide set.
On August 13, 1945, Current departed for Buckner Bay and reported to Commander Task Unit 95.4.62 and made preparations for mine sweeping operations. Three sets of equipment for laying Rare Buoys were received aboard from LSM-166 and Barge 320. The ship was underway at 2000, on August 14, in company with the minesweeper USS Pirate AM-275. On August 15, at 1012, an All Navy message from Admiral Halsey announcing Japan’s unconditional surrender was received by radio and announced to Current’s crew. During the next week, Current joined a mine sweeping operation in company with the light minelayer USS Shannon DM-25. During this operation, Current located and destroyed several Japanese mines. Current returned to Buckner Bay for the remainder of August 1945 to conduct minor salvage and diving operations, to pull stranded landing craft from the area of White Beach and un-foul the screws of several landing craft.
On September 1, Current anchored at Buckner Bay and began salvage operations to remove parts and equipment from the hulk of the yard minesweeper YMS-103 on White Beach. YMS-103 was sunk after striking a mine on April 8, 1945. At 1340, on September 3, Current anchored at berth L-109 to pull the covered lighter YF-731 off a reef near Yonabaru. At 1735, the attempt was halted because of a receding tide and the lack of sufficient power due to the failure of the number two main engine. Needed parts to repair the main engine were not available. At 1649 the next day, in tandem with ATR-88, Current began pulling YF-731 and by 1730, the lighter was freed from the inner reef. On the next day at 1805, YF-731 came clear of the outer reef. Current anchored off of White Beach until September 12 to continue salvage operations on the grounded YMS-103 hulk.
On September 13, 1945, in a ceremony onboard the ship, Commodore T. J. Kelleher presented the Bronze Star to Lieutenant A. G. McLean, USNR and a commendation ribbon to G. F. Hutchings SP3, USNR for heroic fire fighting aboard the support landing craft LCS-119 on May 28, 1945. Current then proceeded to moor port side to USS Zaniah AG-70 for the next two days for maintenance availability, but was forced to depart the Zaniah due to approaching typhoon Ida then anchored at berth B-199 in a protected lee. At 1045, the SC-1474 streamed astern Current to ride out the typhoon because it had no anchors.
Late in the evening of September 16, 1945 during typhoon Ida, the coastal minelayer USS Weehawken CM-12 tried to get underway to take aboard the crews of Coast Guard cutters moored nearby. During the operation, she collided with several of the cutters and with the buoy tender USCGC Woodbine WAGL-289. After several additional collisions with the cutters and the Woodbine, Weehawken began to drag anchor toward Tsuken Shima at 2330. At 0440 on September 17, she struck a reef off Tsuken Shima. Fortunately, Ida began to subside and she was towed out of the shoal water later that day by Current after the ship's divers removed a submarine net that was fouling her screws. The tow line was secured at 2055 and a strain taken. The tow line was cast off at 2115 after the Weehawken was under her own power. The following day, Current cleared the screws of the fast minesweeper USS Southard DMS-10, which also became fouled on a submarine net during the typhoon.
On September 26, Current moored to the repair ship USS Vulcan AR-5 to continue maintenance and repairs. Current continued to assist other ships in the area from September 28 to October 1 in preparation to ride out another typhoon. From October 2 to October 6, Current moored to USS Cebu ARG-6 to continue maintenance availability. The next two days, preparations were made to ride out yet another typhoon.
On October 4, 1945 a typhoon named "Louise" developed just north of Rota in the Mariana Islands. The storm was expected to pass between Formosa and Okinawa and on into the East China Sea. "Louise" however failed to conform to pattern. As a result, the storm turned, slowed, gained intensity then struck Okinawa on the afternoon of October 9. Typhoon "Louise" has seldom been paralleled in fury and violence. The sudden shift of the typhoon 12 hours before its expected maximum caught many ships in the supposedly safe shelter of Buckner bay without time to put to sea far enough to clear the storm. On October 9, Buckner Bay was filled with ships at anchor. All units were quickly battening down and securing for the typhoon. At 1400, the wind had risen to 80 knots. By 1600 the typhoon reached its peak with steady winds of 100 knots and frequent gusts of 120 knots. The rain that drove in horizontally was more salt water than fresh water and even the larger ships at anchor began dragging anchor under the pounding of 30 to 35 foot seas. Because of the wind and rain, visibility was very bad. Buckner Bay was the scene of mass confusion as ships dragging anchor suddenly loomed in the darkness, collided or barely escaped collisions by skillful use of engines. 222 ships were grounded, 12 sunk and 32 were damaged beyond the abilities of ships' crews. Many ships had to be abandoned. Some crews were taken aboard other ships while others made their way ashore. 36 men died and 47 were listed as missing.
On October 9, Current was anchored at Buckner Bay and stood by to assist the covered lighters YF-1079 and YF-757 by direction of the harbormaster. As the typhoon approached on October 9, a message was received at 0623 from LST-965, anchored off of Current’s port quarter, requesting assistance from Current to carry the LST’s stern anchor and anchor it ahead of the LST. Due to increasing wind velocity and high seas, Captain Swift decided it would be too dangerous to maneuver alongside the LST to receive the anchor. At 1010, as wind velocity continued to increase, Current was forced to weigh anchor because the USS Ocelot IX-110, anchored near Current, began to drag anchor. Collision was imminent and was narrowly averted by less than one hundred feet. In order to render assistance to YF-1079 and YF-757 the ship anchored near YF-1079. The ever increasing wind, rain and salt spray made it impossible for Current to take visual bearings to fix the exact location of its anchorage and to determine if its own anchor was dragging. At 1045, a voice communication was received that YF-1079 was dragging anchor. When YF-1079 was contacted visually, Current was informed that its anchor began to hold again. Current planned to get underway, but because of the high seas, wind, poor visibility and the safety of the sea and anchor detail personnel on the weather decks, the decision was made to remain at anchor. About this same time, the Liberty ship SS Jack Singer anchored near Current, began dragging its anchor and made it imperative for Current to maneuver while still at anchor to clear a path for the Jack Singer. Collision was avoided by less than twenty-five yards. At the typhoon's maximum velocity, several small craft drifted or maneuvered past Current. It was impossible to identify or render any assistance because of poor visibility and the high seas. By 2200, the wind had abated enough to secure the main engines and ride at anchor. During the course of the typhoon, the USS Pawnee ATF-74 lost her anchors and at 1215, on October 10, moored alongside Current’s starboard side.
On October 11, Current shifted anchorage to berth L-105 with Pawnee moored alongside to starboard. The next two days, in accordance with instructions from Commander Salvage Division 104, Current anchored in Baten Ko, Buckner Bay with the starboard quarter secured to the cargo ship USS Flagler AK-181, aground on the east side of Baten Ko. The Flagler's anchors dragged during the typhoon and despite the use of both engines, the ship was blown ashore. The lower spaces and after engine room flooded. After power was lost, the ship was abandoned, but a small salvage party remained on board and successfully stopped the flooding as the typhoon subsided. Current began to survey the Flagler grounding and various other craft aground in Baten Ko. On October 14, Current started to supply electrical power to the Flagler for operation of its winches. The Flagler was re-floated on October 29, 1945.
At 1153, Current was underway in an attempt to pass a line to the grounded US Army Dredge Pacific. After securing the line to the dredge, Current began pulling at 1306, but discontinued the effort because of a receding tide. The following day, at 1320, in a tandem tow with USS Menominee ATF-73, the Dredge Pacific along with SC-1326 secured astern was pulled free from the beach. Both vessels were now underway under their own power.
From October 17 through October 20, Current moored starboard side to the US Army Dredge Mackenzie aground on a reef northeast of Baten Ko for salvage operations to patch an eighteen inch hole below the water line. On October 21, at 0752, dewatering operations began. By 1515, after the dredge was temporarily patched, the auxiliary tug USS ATA-185 secured a tow cable to the bow of the Mackenzie and began to take a strain in company with Current. The Mackenzie was freed at 1642. From October 22 through October 28, Current was anchored in the entrance to Baten Ko with the dredge Mackenzie moored to Current to continue the patching and dewatering operations. On October 29, because of ground swells, it was necessary to shift anchorage to berth L-104 in an attempt to decrease the roll of the two ships moored together. The protruding parts of the dredge were damaging the hull of Current. After re-anchoring, the problem continued so the dredge was streamed astern. An electrical power cable was also streamed to supply power to the submersible pumps. At 1028, on October 30, the shackle on the tow cable loosened and the tow parted. The ground swells continued to cause both ships to roll. A decision was made to anchor off the Mackenzie and pump out water as necessary using gasoline pumps until a floating dry-dock arrived to repair the Mackenzie. Current continued to serve the ships of the occupation forces at Okinawa until January 6, 1946 then departed for Sasebo, Japan.
After the Japanese surrender, an Allied commission made up of representatives of the United States, Britain and Russia was convened to determine the fate of the surviving Japanese fleet of ships and submarines. When the US Navy Submarine Force discovered that the ultra modern I-200 Sensuikan Taka class attack submarines reportedly could make twenty-five knots submerged, faster than any of the U.S. submarines, the U.S. antisubmarine forces were eager to study them for advanced design, training and evaluate them as high speed targets. The I-200 class submarines represented the best shipbuilding capability of the Japanese at the end of World War II.
Current arrived at Sasebo Harbor on January 8, 1946 and found Sasebo to be a wretched, burnt out city with an oily harbor and littered with sunken Japanese aircraft carriers, destroyers, submarines and other naval vessels. Sasebo's business district was totally destroyed by napalm from the Army Air Force B-29's fire bombing raids. Current's assignment was to escort two newly built Japanese submarines, HIJMS I-201 and the HIJMS I-203 to Pearl Harbor. On November 25, 1945, LCDR John Currie was designated as Officer in Charge of I-201 and LCDR Paul Schratz was assigned the Officer in Charge of I-203. From December 28 to January 8, the two Japanese submarines under American crews conducted a series of short sea trials supported by the submarine tender USS Euryale AS-22. After supplies and spare parts were taken onboard the submarines and preparations for sea completed, the formation left Sasebo at 0800, on a bleak, raw and windy morning of January 13, 1946. Current departed Sasebo in accordance with Commander Task Unit 55.5.3 instructions in a formation comprised of the USS Euryale as guide, the I-201, 1,500 yards astern, the I-203, 3,000 yards astern and Current 4,500 yards astern of the Euryale. The formation set an initial course of 180° true, to Guam. The formation was forced to ride out a severe typhoon and then slowed during the next few days to make engine repairs on both Japanese subs as well as the loss of steering on I-201. At 1615, on January 21, the ships arrived in Guam to a noisy welcome and remained there for liberty until January 25, then departed for Eniwetok in the Marshall Islands. At 0900, on January 26, I-201 again had an engine failure so Current took I-201 in tow. The day before arrival at Eniwetok, I-203 had a major engine failure, forcing an additional night at sea. The formation arrived at Eniwetok on January 31. The next planned leg of the voyage was to Johnston Island, but the formation Commodore, Captain Stanley P. Moseley decided to skip the stop at Johnston Island and head straight for Pearl Harbor. Since the direct route from Eniwetok to Hawaii was beyond the cruising range of the two submarines and because of their gross fuel waste through leaky gaskets and engine inefficiencies, he decided that both subs should be towed. The formation was again underway at 0700, February 2. Euryale began the towing of I-203 and Current resumed towing I-201 for the final leg of the voyage to Pearl Harbor. On February 14, the unique formation triumphantly arrived at Pearl Harbor solemnly dipping their ensigns in salute as they passed Battleship Row and the gutted hulk of the USS Arizona BB-39 on their way to the Submarine Base. The I-201 and I-203 were docked at the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base and placed in caretaker status with skeleton crews so they could be studied.
Shortly after arrival at Pearl Harbor, Current refueled, took on stores then departed for San Francisco. The ship arrived at the Golden Gate Bridge on February 27, 1946, ending its involvement in the war in the Pacific. Current was awarded two battle stars for service during World War II.
On March 26, 1946, at a Submarine Officer's Conference at the Bureau of Ships in Washington, D. C., a decision was made to dispose of all captured Japanese submarines by sinking. The reason for the decision was that apparently Russian scientists began demanding access to the captured Japanese submarines at Pearl Harbor. On May 21, the I-203 was the target vessel for operational testing of the Mark 9 torpedo exploder. At 1143, I-203 was sunk by a Mark 18-2 electric torpedo fired by USS Caiman SS-323 off the coast of Kalaeloa on the island of Oahu at coordinates 21° 13' North, 158° 8' West. On May 23, the I-201 was used as a target during testing of another Mark 9 torpedo exploder. At 1058, the former Japanese sub was sunk by a Mark 18-2 electric torpedo fired by USS Queenfish SS-393 at coordinates 21° 13' North, 158° 8' West.
At the conclusion of World War II, USS Current remained an active member of the Service Force Pacific Fleet. On April 16, 1946, Current departed Pearl Harbor for the Marshall Islands as one of six salvage ships assigned to Joint Task Force One to support Operation Crossroads, the first atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll. The tests were conducted during the month of July 1946. The Army Air Force and the Navy conducted the joint tests that arose out of the competition and a bitter rivalry between the two services over the impact of the new and powerful weapon, the atomic bomb, on their post war missions, prestige and budgets. The tests were also conducted to study the survivability of a fleet of ships exposed to an atomic bomb blast. The ships selected for the target fleet consisted of seventy obsolete ships that were scheduled to be decommissioned and ultimately sold for scrap. Three surrendered ships were also included as part of the target fleet, The Japanese flag battleship HIJMS Nagato, the cruiser HIJMS Sakawa and the German heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen awarded to the United States after World War II. The Navy’s ships included two aircraft carriers, the Saratoga and the Independence, four battle ships, the New York, the Arkansas, the Pennsylvania and the Nevada. Twelve destroyers, eight submarines, nineteen attack transports and numerous smaller vessels, including landing craft, yard oilers, several concrete dry-docks and barges were also selected as a part of the target fleet.
Current was one of the support ships at Operation Crossroads that was listed as radioactively contaminated after the bomb blasts. No data has yet been found to reconstruct the actual levels of radioactive contamination sustained by Current at Operation Crossroads. Varying degrees of contamination did occur to virtually all of the support ships that reentered Bikini Lagoon after both the Able and Baker blasts during late July and August 1946. This was primarily caused by severe radioactive contamination of the lagoon water following the underwater detonation of Test Baker. As a result, the highly radioactive water from Bikini lagoon was sucked into the heat exchangers of ships’ engines and into the saltwater intake piping systems used to convert seawater to fresh water for drinking, food preparation and personal hygiene onboard the support ships. During the radiation testing, ships’ hulls were found to be highly contaminated. It was discovered that marine organisms attached to the hulls absorbed very high levels of radiation. In an effort to minimize contamination of the drinking water, Operation Crossroads ships were instructed to scrape off marine growth from their hulls near the waterline and to not steam their evaporators in excess of eighty percent. Any repairs or maintenance of evaporators or condensers required a radiation monitor to be present.
A search of dosimeter data revealed that there was a total of seventy-seven crewmembers and an undetermined number of other individuals aboard Current during Operation Crossroads. Forty-six men were issued radiation film badges for parts of July and August 1946. One individual either did not return the badge or it was rendered unreadable due to adverse environmental conditions. Of the remaining forty-five individuals that wore radiation badges, the recorded mean radiation exposure level for the men on Current was .056 rem of gamma radiation with the range of radiation exposure from zero to .72 rem of gamma radiation. The radiation safety monitors found that Geiger Counters frequently malfunctioned and failed on many occasions to respond accurately. The Geiger Counter, coming to Bikini before being thoroughly tested, could only measure gamma radiation with any degree of reliability. Its measurement of of beta radiation was misleading and the Geiger Counter had no ability to measure plutonium's deadly alpha emissions which erupted with the Baker detonation.
Current arrived at Bikini Lagoon on June 3, 1946 and reported to Captain B. E. Manseau, Commander Salvage Task Unit 1.2.7. Current was among five other salvage ships assigned to Operation Crossroads including USS Preserver ARS-8, USS Deliver ARS-23, USS Clamp ARS-33, USS Conserver ARS-39 and USS Reclaimer ARS-42. Current began to prepare for the tests by placing buoys and target ships in their assigned positions. On June 30, Current departed Bikini Lagoon to take its position down range for Test Able. On July 1 at 0900, a air burst approximately 500 feet above the lagoon was observed by Current’s crew from a distance of over fifteen miles from ground zero. Approximately four hours later, Current, one of the monitoring ships, was instructed to reenter Bikini Lagoon and once in the lagoon observed numerous ships ablaze and explosions in the target area. The extreme heat generated from the initial fireball caused wooden decks, paint, mooring lines and other combustible materials on the superstructures of many of the target ships to ignite and burn. The Japanese cruiser Sakawa, which was near ground zero, burned fiercely and continued to burn for twenty-four hours. The force of the blast crushed its superstructure and the hull showed major damage. Sakawa’s stern was breached in several places. Even though the Sakawa was very radioactively contaminated, the fleet tug USS Achomawi ATF-148 was directed to tow the Sakawa to a beach in an attempt to save it from sinking. After the Achomawi had attached its main two-inch tow cable to the Sakawa and began to take a strain on the cable, the Sakawa’s bow rose up, the stern was already awash and the cruiser had lost all stability. Almost immediately, the Sakawa keeled over eighty-five degrees to port and began to sink by the stern. As the Sakawa was going down with Achomawi’s tow cable still attached to the bow, Achomawi continued to pay out the tow cable. Several attempts were made to stop the tow cable so it could be cut by an acetylene torch. Each time an attempt was made to stop the tow cable from reeling out, the strain of the sinking Sakawa would cause the Achomawi’s bow to lurch up. With seven hundred feet of cable on deck, the tow cable was finally cut. Approximately seven hundred feet of Achomawi’s tow cable went to the bottom of Bikini Lagoon with the Sakawa.
Three hours later Current moored alongside the target battleship USS Pennsylvania BB-38 and embarked a fire fighting team to extinguish the fires. A boarding party was also sent aboard to photograph and evaluate the extent of the bomb damage and radiation levels on board the ship. Both teams returned within forty-four minutes after extinguishing the fires. Current departed the USS Pennsylvania and anchored southeast of the target array on the southwest corner of Enyu Island for the night. The following day the ship moored alongside the target attack transport USS Fallon APA-81 for one hour and thirty-five minutes. Both the survey and fire fighting parties were placed on board to extinguish smoldering fires on the forecastle deck. After leaving the Fallon, Current tied up to the target heavy cruiser USS Salt Lake City CA-25 for one hour and eight minutes. The survey and fire fighting team was embarked on board for fifty-five minutes. After leaving the Salt Lake City, Current moored alongside the target submarines USS Apogon SS-308 and the USS Skipjack SS-184 for ten minutes each. The inspection team spent eight minutes on board each of the submarines. Current then moored alongside the target aircraft carrier Independence CVL-22 for forty-nine minutes to keep the carrier clear of other vessels in the area. It then followed the aircraft carrier while it was under tow by the USS Chickasaw ATF-83 to a new anchorage. Current returned the radiation monitors to the technical support ship USS Wharton AP-7 then proceeded to anchor in the lagoon. The ship moored alongside the target ship LST-125 for two hours to remove a kedge anchor then tied up along the stern of the LST to attach the anchor. Diving operations were conducted on July 14 to retrieve hydrophone cables.
On July 16, Current moored alongside the Japanese target ship Nagato for two hours and forty-seven minutes to hoist Nagato’s anchor aboard Current. After the anchor was secured onboard, Current anchored close aboard the German cruiser Prinz Eugen from 1029 to 0755 the morning of July 18. The ship weighed anchor and proceeded to moor to a buoy in the center of the target area and began laying cable for scientific measuring instruments in preparation for the second Crossroads atomic test. Current participated in a rehearsal of convoy operations from 1300 on July 18 to 1245 the next day. After leaving the convoy, the ship reentered Bikini Lagoon and circled the target attack transport USS Geneva APA-86 for five minutes in an attempt to remove radioactive contamination by washing it down with fire hoses. Current then circled the target ship USS Fallon for six minutes and proceeded close aboard the starboard side of USS Wharton for nine minutes. On July 20, Current anchored close aboard the starboard bow of the target aircraft carrier USS Saratoga CV-3 for twenty-five hours to conduct diving operations to recover a hawk anchor. The ship departed the Saratoga, anchored in the center of the target area and continued diving operations for an additional twenty-three hours.
On July 22, Current moored alongside the technical support vessel USS Kenneth Whiting AV-14, to receive air tanks. The ship then proceeded to anchor in various locations within the target area for six hours and twenty-five minutes to lay instrument buoys in preparation for the Test Baker detonation. The ship anchored three hundred yards south of the Prinz Eugen for the night. On the morning of July 23, the salvage vessel USS Mender ARSD-2 came alongside Current to receive the hawk anchor recovered a few days earlier. After leaving the Prinz Eugen, Current moored with a bowline to the target ship LST-133 and a stern line to a mooring buoy aft for four hours and 35 minutes to conduct diving operations on an instrument buoy. The ship’s motor whaleboat was hoisted aboard on July 24 and Current departed Bikini Lagoon to take its position for Test Baker. Current viewed the Test Baker detonation on July 25, more than ten miles from ground zero. Three hours later Current re-entered the lagoon once again to assist surveying teams to monitor the radiation levels and damage to the target vessels. The USS Geneva APA-86 and LCT-705 were boarded and inspected while Current moored alongside each ship for thirteen minutes and twelve minutes respectively. The Geneva was declared safe to board and the LCT-705 was found to be radioactively contaminated. On July 28, Current moored alongside LST-545 for nine minutes to place aboard and return a radiation monitoring team. The ship then tied up alongside LST-220 for eight minutes to put over the inspection team. After the boarding team returned, the ship tied up to LCI-329 for one hour and seven minutes. The inspection team returned after fifty-seven minutes. Current proceeded to LCI-327 and began washing down the target ship in an attempt to decontaminate it, then placed the survey team on board for six minutes. The next day, July 29, the ship once again moored to LCI-327 for one hour and 28 minutes. The first boarding team returned after 36 minutes. The LCI was washed down again and reevaluated for an additional seven minutes. The next target ship was the destroyer USS Wainwright DD-419, inspected for eleven minutes. Current then circled a seaplane for photographic evaluation and lowered the ship’s motor whaleboat to take an inspection team to board two PB2Y-5E Coronado seaplanes. Once the inspection team and the motor whale boat returned, the ship moored alongside the target destroyer USS Mugford DD-389 for thirty-eight minutes for inspection. The monitoring group inspected the target attack transport USS Cateret APA-70 and was on board for fifteen minutes. Current proceeded to circle the highly radioactive Mugford for one hour attempting to decontaminate it by washing it down, then came alongside for five minutes to place aboard the inspection team for three minutes. The following day Current continued to wash down the Mugford with the forward fire-fighting monitor for an additional hour and forty-eight minutes. The inspection team re-boarded for nine minutes to retrieve a recording device. One hour and forty two minutes were then spent washing down the destroyer Wainwright and placing the inspection team on board for sixteen minutes. The inspection team then boarded the target ship LCT-1114 and returned within ten minutes. Current’s motor whaleboat returned to LCT-1114 with a demolition team to sink the highly radioactive ship with a charge of dynamite. After the first charge failed to sink it, a second charge was placed and detonated sending the LCT to the bottom of the lagoon. On July 31, after a safety monitor arrived on board from the technical support ship USS Haven APH-112, Current departed for the Mugford once again and moored alongside for three hours and nine minutes, attempting to wash it down with water from the forward and the auxiliary monitors. A survey team then reboarded for seven minutes. Current proceeded to wash down the target ship USS Butte APA-68 for two hours and twenty-eight minutes, then moored alongside to embark the inspection team for twenty-five minutes. After departing Butte, Current laid to off the technical support ship USS Cumberland Sound AV-17 for twenty-five minutes to transfer recording instruments recovered from the Mugford. On August 1, Current washed down the attack transport USS Briscoe APA-65. The boarding party stayed on board for only three minutes. The USS Bracken APA-64 was then washed and boarded for thirteen minutes. Current washed down LCT 705 and boarded it for seven minutes.
The next day, Current returned to the radioactive USS Bracken to wash it down again and then sent on the inspection team for an additional thirty minutes. Current then went to the destroyer USS Rhind DD-404 to wash it down and board it for five minutes. From August 7 through August 12, Current conducted diving operations over the sunken submarine USS Apogon SS-308 and from August 13 through August 20, conducted diving operations over the sunken submarine Pilotfish SS-386. The next day, August 21, Current began the search for the sunken hulk of the Japanese battleship Nagato. After locating the Nagato, the next four days were spent conducting diving operations on the sunken battleship.
At the completion of the atomic tests, Current was reassigned to the Kwajalein Maintenance Force, Task Unit 1.2.12. This task unit was composed of four ships, USS Conserver ARS-39, USS Geneva APA-86, the hospital ship USS Haven AH-12 and Current as well as other small support craft. The task unit’s responsibility was to provide radiological decontamination and ammunition removal and disposal services for the Joint Task Force One ships moved from Bikini to Kwajalein during August and September 1946. On August 25, Current departed Bikini Lagoon for Kwajalein Atoll with the target ship LST 661 in tow and arrived at Kwajalein August 27. On the same day, Current departed Kwajalein for Wotho Island to return the target destroyer Mayrant DD-402 to Kwajalein. After returning Mayrant to Kwajalein on August 29, Current anchored off Ebeye Island in Kwajalein Lagoon. During the months of September, October and November, Current assisted in other activities including the rollup of operations at Bikini, the radiological survey of marine life around Wotho, Rongerik and Rongelap Islands, the preparation of ships for movement to shipyards and aid in the training of radiological safety school graduates who had been sent to Kwajalein for practical experience.
On December 2, Current departed Kwajalein for Pearl Harbor towing the former target submarine Skipjack which was sunk and later raised after the underwater Baker blast arriving at Pearl Harbor December 18, 1946. The USS Skipjack was later delivered to the Mare Island Shipyard for study and then sunk as a target off the Southern California coast on August 11, 1948. Current however, remained at Pearl Harbor for upkeep, shipyard availability and conducted routine activities in the Hawaiian area until January 31, 1947. On February 1, Current again departed for Kwajalein and arrived there February 11, 1947 to continue salvage and diving operations on the former target vessels including the battleships New York BB-34, Nevada BB-36, the cruisers Pensacola CA-24, Salt Lake City CA-25 and the aircraft carrier Independence CVL-22. Current remained in the Kwajalein area until July 22 then departed for Pearl Harbor arriving there on July 31, 1947. After a short stay at Pearl Harbor, Current towed the decommissioned cargo ship USS Matar AK-119 from Pearl Harbor to San Francisco arriving at San Francisco August 16, 1947. The former USS Matar was delivered to the Maritime Commission for lay up at the Defense Reserve Fleet, Suisun Bay, Benicia, California. Current then departed for San Diego, California on August 23, 1947 to began the preparations for its own decommissioning.
The post war reductions in the size of the operating fleet minimized the need for rescue and salvage ships. Consequently, Current was decommissioned on February 8, 1948 and on February 9 was placed with the Pacific Reserve Fleet at the US Naval Station, San Diego, California where she remained until October 10, 1951 when the outbreak of the Korean War renewed the need for rescue and salvage ships. Current was commissioned on July 10, 1951 under the command of Lieutenant Charles B. Tiernan, USN and reported to the Commander Service Force Pacific Fleet. On December 6, 1951, after receiving ammunition on board at Seal Beach, California, Current departed for Pearl Harbor arriving there on December 14, 1952 to deliver the ammunition and to refuel. Current then departed for the Western Pacific. Once back to the combat rescue and salvage role she knew so well during World War II, Current carried out a variety of salvage assignments. Most important was the courageous salvage work conducted by Current on the sunken Navy fleet tug USS Sarsi ATF-111 off the coast of Korea while under attack by North Korean enemy shore guns.
On August 27, 1952, at approximately 2340 while patrolling along the edge of mine swept waters between Wonsan and Hungnam in an area about three miles from Hungnam, North Korea, at Latitude 39º 45' North, Longitude 127º 42' East, the USS Sarsi struck a contact mine and sank in twenty-one minutes in approximately seventy-four feet of water. Five of Sarsi’s crew were killed. Sarsi's registered publications were reported to have been weighted and sunk, but it was unclear whether the bag was sealed securely. Operations plans, held on board, sank in a locked safe and eight bags of US mail were also lost. The Commander of Task Element 95.62 ordered a ship to remain in the area of the sunken ship to prevent possible enemy salvage of classified material. Some classified material was transferred to Sarsi’s whaleboat before the Sarsi sank, but was also lost when the whaleboat swamped in heavy seas. On August 30, Current began salvage operations. The Sarsi was located sitting upright on the bottom with the radar antenna approximately ten feet below the surface. The destroyer USS Boyd DD-544 provided suppression fire on twenty North Korean guns and several tanks observed on shore. During the day several 75mm guns from shore batteries fired on Current during salvage operations. Because of the ever present danger from enemy shore guns, a decision was made that the salvage of USS Sarsi was impossible and demolition was ordered. On September 5, Current’s divers recovered a considerable amount of Sarsi’s classified and cryptographic material from the area around the sunken fleet tug. READ USS CURRENT'S SALVAGE OPERATION REPORT
On December 16, 1952 the 7,198 ton cargo ship SS Quartette, the former US Liberty Ship James Swan, departed Honolulu with approximately 9,000 tons of milo maize in bulk, destined for the U.S. Army in Korea for use as animal fodder. The SS Quartette was underway with a course set for of the Osumi Straits, south of the Island of Kyushu, Japan. On December 20, the Master of the Quartette, Christoforos Catsambis miscalculated the time of arrival and the distance off Pearl and Hermes Reef. The Master calculated that the SS Quartette would pass nine or ten miles off Hermes Reef at noon on December 21. Shortly after 0700 on the morning of December 21, a lookout observed a "white line" on the water ahead of the ship and reported it to the Chief Mate who was the officer on the watch. According to the official US Coast Guard investigation, the Chief Mate and watch officer Issidoros Kyriakos made no attempt to change course or speed at any time after a lookout reported the white line ahead at least 5 minutes before the grounding of the SS Quartette. Cautious navigation was required because the position of the ship had not been accurately established since sometime prior to noon on the previous day and it was known that a chain of reefs extended along the port side of the intended course of the ship. At 0710, the Quartette, steaming at a speed of approximately 10.5 knots, ran aground on the east side of Pearl and Hermes reef at 27° 51´ North Latitude, 175° 43´ West Longitude. After several unsuccessful attempts to re-float the SS Quartette using engine maneuvers, the starboard lifeboat was lowered into the water and the entire crew of 36 men abandoned the Quartette on the morning of December 22 and were taken to Midway Island. The commercial ocean going tug Ono from Honolulu arrived at the grounding scene on December 25, attached a tow cable to the Quartette and dropped both anchors in an effort to prevent the ship from going further onto the reef. On January 3, 1953, during stormy weather, the tug Ono parted both anchors at the shanks and the Quartette was driven broadside on the reef where battering by heavy seas caused further extensive bottom damage to the hull. On January 6, the vessel was declared a total loss by its owners. Current and USS Yuma ATF-94 were called to the scene of the grounding and were able to save approximately two thousand tons of the milo maize from the doomed SS Quartette. Following the US Coast Guard investigation, the Master and the Chief Mate were both charged with negligence and incompetence. Their Masters licenses were suspended.
Current's next assignment was the Western Pacific. On June 15, after Current's return to Korea, North Korean shore batteries made a concerted effort to hit Current, USS Lofberg DD-759 and USS John A. Bole DD-755 operating together in the Wonsan area by firing 110 rounds of 105mm shells. All three ships escaped without any damage. However, while Current was anchored, one of the rounds struck Current's anchor chain and parted it causing Current to get underway. On June 20, Current was involved in a collision with the USS LST-855 ( USS Kent County ) while closing the LST to transfer cargo near Sasebo, Japan. The LST received a three by four foot hole approximately ten feet above the water line, but was able to continue operations following temporary repairs. By the middle of 1953, Current was again in Korean waters. On July 5, the USNS LST-578 ran aground in the vicinity of Cheju, on the island of Cheju-Do, flooding the lower compartments of the ship and sustaining major damage. Current spent nine days re-floating the stranded LST. This salvage job only served as a prelude to an enormous salvage operation that was compared to the salvage work accomplished on the capsized and sunken ocean liner SS Normandie in New York Harbor in 1942, one of the major maritime salvage operations in modern times.
Lieutenant Milton Hill, USN, assumed command of Current on July 21, 1953. Shortly thereafter, the ship was ordered to Pusan, Korea to assist in the salvage of the 9,218 ton SS Cornhusker Mariner, a newly built seven hold merchant vessel that went aground off Pusan Harbor. The Cornhusker Mariner, under contract with the United States Government, on its maiden voyage, bound from Inchon, Korea to Pusan arrived off Pusan Harbor at 1530 on July 6, 1953 and proceeded to an anchorage in the outer harbor selected by the ship's master, Nicholas Telesmanic. The ship anchored in eighteen fathoms of water during favorable weather in the outer harbor of Pusan at 1642. The master and the ship's officers kept a close watch on typhoon "Kit", a category 5 super typhoon and determined that the typhoon would not affect the Cornhusker Mariner. At about midnight, the winds and the weather began to intensify and steadily worsened throughout the night. The Third Mate standing the midnight to 0400 watch failed to take adequate anchorage bearings to determine whether the the ship was dragging anchor and also failed to notify the master of the steadily worsening weather conditions. Sometime after midnight the Cornhusker Mariner began dragging her anchor, accompanied by an an occasional slipping of the anchor chain at the windlass and at about 0342 became stranded on the rocks of Oryuk Island, an island that marks the northern side of the eastern approach to Pusan Harbor. Subsequent maneuvers to free the ship using anchors, rudder and leaving the engines at half-ahead for 49 minutes failed to free the Cornhusker Mariner. The Navy fleet tugs USS Chowanoc ATF-100 and the USS Munsee ATF-107 were called but were unable to dislodge the grounded ship. Wind and heavy seas were threatening to tear the ship apart. Due to the extensive damage to the bottom of the ship and the cracking sustained, the Cornhusker Mariner was considered a total loss. Following a U.S. Coast Guard investigation, Captain Telesmanic, the Third Mate, John McCarthy, and the Engineer in Charge, Francis Nangle were charged with negligence in the grounding of the Cornhusker Mariner.
Current arrived on the scene, and with Lieutenant Commander A. W. Mott, the COMSERVRON 3 salvage officer in charge, evaluated the grounded vessel and began to off load the salvageable cargo of Ballantine beer. A conclusion was made that total salvage was unfeasible. A decision was made to cut away and salvage the stern half of the merchant ship. Cutting and patching work on the stern section of the ship progressed on a twenty-four hour basis until September 16, 1953 when Current began towing the salvaged stern section of the Cornhusker Mariner from Pusan to a dry-dock at Sasebo, Japan. Within the next few months, Current returned home to Pearl Harbor. Current was awarded three battle stars for Korean War service.
In early September 1954, Lieutenant William McGee assumed command of Current. By mid September the ship left Pearl Harbor on an extensive tour of the Far East. This time, Current charted a course toward a new global trouble spot, Southeast Asia. With the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu and withdrawal from Indochina, the peninsula became divided into Laos, Cambodia and two Vietnams, the communist state of North Vietnam and the democratic state of South Vietnam. This new political arrangement prompted a massive exodus of people from North Vietnam to South Vietnam. The US Navy’s humanitarian effort evacuated approximately eight hundred thousand refugees by sea during what was called Operation Passage to Freedom. After leaving Hawaii, Current set a course for Kwajalein Atoll then on to Subic Bay, Philippines and from there to Haiphong, Vietnam where her assignment was to transport liberty parties to a semi permanently stationed ship. After approximately one month at Haiphong, Current departed for Saigon where she was called to assist the amphibious force command ship USS Estes AGC-12 that was disabled with a fouled screw. Current then left Saigon for Subic Bay with the water barge YW-130 in tow. After three short days in Subic Bay, the ship departed for five days of rest and recreation in Hong Kong. After leaving Hong Kong, Current spent four days en route to Sasebo, Japan. Numerous small salvage operations filled the ship’s schedule while in Sasebo.
On December 26, 1954, Current was underway to Ashiya Air Force Base located on Japan’s northern island of Kyushu to assist in the search and recovery of an aircraft propeller which was the suspected cause of an aircraft crash. The ship returned to Sasebo on New Year’s Eve for a much needed rest and remained there until January 16, 1955. Emergency orders then put Current underway a short time later to rendezvous off the Island of Formosa with a U.S. Navy destroyer task force from the Seventh Fleet. The existing cold war between the communist Republic of China and the Nationalist Chinese government of Formosa had escalated into the Quemoy-Matus Offshore Island Crisis. While in this tension filled area of the Formosa Straits, Current made several trips to Keelung, Formosa to shuttle classified messages, mail and cargo to the destroyer task force. At the conclusion of Vietnam’s Operation Passage to Freedom, Current departed to Subic Bay for maintenance and upkeep availability for the next month. After completion of the upkeep period, the ship departed for Manila, Philippines for three days of rest and recreation for the crew. On March 15, Current was underway for Pearl Harbor, arriving there on April 1, 1955.
During the spring of 1955, Current joined the USS Deliver ARS-23, USS Safeguard ARS-25 and Current’s sister ship USS Grasp ARS-24 in a dry-dock period at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard for the addition of reinforcement to the bow area and the construction of a bumper guard or blister around the waterline on the hull. The bow reinforcement was designed to make these salvage ships capable of safer and more extensive navigation in the ice filled waters of the Arctic region. This modification for minimizing hull damage from ice was made in preparation for Current’s next assignment in the hazardous waters of the Arctic Ocean. After shipyard modifications were completed, Current departed for Seattle, Washington and arrived there on June 25 with the other Naval and merchant ships assigned to the Distant Early Warning Line Project 572, the construction of a series of radar bases that would signal any potential enemy air attack via the polar route. The project's task was to deliver construction equipment and supplies via the relatively uncharted waters along the extreme northern coasts of Canada and Alaska from July 16 to September 30. Current's assignment was to aid the ships of the project with any repairs or salvage that might be needed. While beyond the Arctic Circle, Current found each assignment to be an urgency. The ever present ice floes caused damage from punctured hulls to twisted rudders. They needed to be repaired as quickly as possible so that the deep draft and heavily laden ships could deliver their cargos and quickly retreat from the Arctic waters before ice floes could cut off all means of exit. The most extensive salvage job undertaken in the Arctic by Current was the re-floating of the cargo ship USNS Sgt. Archer T. Gammon T-AK-243, formerly the SS Yale Victory, that took six days. Shallow water prevented an accompanying icebreaker from rendering any assistance, which meant that Current had ice floes to contend with as well as the task of dragging the Gammon free from the shoal on which she was grounded. There was also time for fun. While in the Arctic, the first timers to cross the Arctic Circle at coordinates 66° 32´ North Latitude, The Northern Domain of the Polar Bear, were initiated into the society of The Blue Nosers . They were initiated by having their noses dunked in washable blue ink and receiving a good natured hazing.
At the end of September 1955, Current finally returned to Pearl Harbor and entered dry-dock to have her own Arctic damages repaired. Having spent a month in dry-dock at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard getting the dents, scrapes and damage repaired from the preceding few summer months in the Arctic region, Current was again available for services to the Fleet in the Hawaiian Islands.
In 1955, during the filming of the comedy-drama movie " Mister Roberts " with Henry Fonda, James Cagney and Jack Lemmon, Current's crew was used in one the dock scenes of the movie.
The months of November and December 1955 were spent providing target towing and other services to the Fleet Training Group at Pearl Harbor. On January 16, 1956 Current departed Pearl Harbor for Kwajelein Atoll in the Marshall Islands where she spent a month inspecting and repairing mooring buoys. On February 22, she was underway returning to Pearl Harbor with the gasoline barge YOGN-182 in tow. During the months of March through May 1956, Current underwent her regular two-year shipyard overhaul. During this overhaul, the normal phosphorous bronze screws were replaced with steel screws more capable of withstanding the rigors of the ice-congested waters of the Arctic region.
On June 7, 1956 Lieutenant Commander Gerald G. Stangl, assumed command of USS Current. On June 20, 1956 Current was underway to Seattle, Washington arriving on June 29 to once again join a convoy of Navy, Coast Guard ice breakers and small cargo ships including USS Grapple ARS-7, the ice breaker USCGC Staten Island, USNS Ontonagon TAOG-36, USNS Chestatee TAOG-49, USNS Harris County LST-822 and USS San Bernardino County LST-1110, assembled there for the beginning of the1956 Arctic re-supply of radar stations of the Distant Early Warning Line Project 572 West.
Once the convoy departed Seattle for the Arctic on July 16, Current's crew was issued Arctic foul weather clothing including a parka with a hood, gloves and a face shield. The tasks Current was called upon to accomplish during the 1956 Arctic re-supply operation varied from escorting one cargo ship from Seattle through the Bering Straits. Another was escorting ships through the ice floes prevalent at Point Hope, Alaska. Holes in the hulls of LSTs punctured by ice were patched, and LST bow doors forced out of alignment by the ice floes were also repaired. On one occasion, Current was called to pull the grounded tanker USNS Chestatee off of an uncharted shoal. During the attempt, Current lost power and collided with the Chestatee. Current sustained minor hull damage with scraps and the loss of a section of railing, but the tow cable went slack and became fouled around Current's port screw, damaging the screw. Current was forced to return to Pearl Harbor using only the starboard screw.
During the re-supply operations at the last of the radar sites, Current received a request to assist USS Grapple at Victoria Island, Canada. Grapple was working on an LST that had dropped its retraction anchor while beaching and when backing off the beach punctured its hull in several locations. Current's assistance was requested because the LST repairs were taking longer than expected and the convoy was rapidly reaching the time limit on the north shores of Canada because the returning ice pack would restrict safe navigation to exit the Arctic waters. Current's task group was the last group of ships to depart the area and were forced to push very slowly through the thickening ice floes. As a side note, Current's sea water intake temperature while in the Arctic was measured at approximately 23 degrees. Due to the sub freezing temperatures of the region, salt water spray and seawater that washed up on the ship's weather decks and superstructure instantly froze, necessitating continual chipping and removal of ice.
Because of the likelihood of becoming locked in ice, Current's crew was given instructions on "Wintering Over", which involved leaving the ship, building shelters on the ice along with the removal of essential food, supplies and equipment from the ship. This was a precaution in the event the ice crushed Current's hull while locked in the pack ice.
A Coast Guard ice breaker was sent back to assist Current's task group, breaking up ice flows and leading the task group back to Point Barrow and into the Bering Sea.
While in the Arctic, the traditional "Blue Nose" initiation for Arctic Circle first timers was held on board. The crew was certainly happy to see the Hawaiian islands come into view on September 10, 1956. Current returned to Hawaii after a summer of cold weather and hard work in the Arctic with no liberty for 59 days. The ship spent the month of October 1956 in dry-dock at Pearl Harbor having Arctic damages repaired and then once again provided services to the Fleet in the Hawaiian area for the next few months.
The new year 1957 brought with it an Administrative Inspection in early January 1957 by Admiral Solomon, Commander Service Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet. After the inspection, Current's crew immediately made preparations for a tour of the Far East scheduled for early February. On February 5, 1957 Current departed Pearl Harbor on the first leg of another Western Pacific tour of duty that took her to Guam, Saipan, the Philippines, Hong Kong and Japan. While In the Mariana Islands, Current took part in a mine recovery training exercise in the Saipan area with various units of Mine Squadron One. A total of sixty drill mines were recovered. The first part of March 1957 was spent towing targets for the Fleet Training Group off Subic Bay, Philippines followed by an oceanographic survey of the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea that required the dynamiting and the clearing of a channel through a coral reef. This operation continued until the end of March 1957.
Early in April 1957, Current departed Subic Bay for six days of rest and recreation in Hong Kong, then after four days of steaming, arrived in Sasebo, Japan on Easter Sunday. The first few weeks in Sasebo were spent providing fleet services and the re-qualification of Current’s divers followed by a shipyard period of upkeep for voyage repairs. The upkeep period was interrupted by a series of fighter plane crashes in Japan’s Inland Sea between the Islands of Honshu and Kyushu. The end of May through the early part of June 1957 were spent on the search and recovery of the body of a Marine Corp pilot and his AD-6 Skyraider. The plane was on maneuvers and was believed to be practicing the "Idiot Loop" maneuver which was used for low altitude delivery of a nuclear weapon. Witnesses observed that the Skyraider never straightened out on the top leg of the loop. Another Marine Corp A3-D Skywarrior aircraft crashed in the harbor at Iwakuni, Japan. This plane had just completed engine repairs at the Iwakuni Naval Air Station and was being taken on a test flight when the engine stalled. The pilot attempted to return to the air strip but could only make it as far as the mouth of the river at the end of the air strip. He ditched and stepped into a raft. The Skywarrior sank into a relatively deep hole in the river bed coming to rest on its back. The salvage was a relatively easy assignment for Current once the plane was located. During the A3-D salvage operation at Iwakuni Harbor, Current was called to save the life of a Japanese diver stricken with the bends on the morning of June 2nd. 31 year old Sadachi Hatanaka was diving for shellfish in the Sea of Japan off the Okino Shima Islands in 130 feet of water. On June 3, the diver was rushed from Miho Air Force base to Iwakuni airport in a UF-1 Albatross aircraft and was quickly transferred by ambulance to Current's recompression chamber. At the time Hatanaka entered the recompression chamber he was completely paralyzed from the mid-chest to his feet and was in great pain. Current's Chief Hospital Corpsman Donald Aanerud volunteered to go into the recompression chamber with Hatanaka to monitor his condition. The Japanese diver and Chief Aanerud were subjected to an initial pressure in the recompression chamber equivalent to a depth of 165 feet of water. When, after a 30 minute stay at that pressure, the stricken diver felt no relief, a 38 hour treatment was indicated. The 38 hour decompression table, prescribed in the Bureau of Ships Diving Manual, provides for stays at various pressures for various lengths of time, up to 12 hours at one level. Lieutenant Tom Jones MC, a Navy physician who accompanied Hatanaka on the trip to Current, was in charge of the treatment and stood by the recompression chamber to communicate with Chief Aanerud through an intercom system in the chamber. On June 4, after 39 hours in the recompression chamber, the diver's crippling paralysis began to improve. He remained on Current for an additional 24 hours after he was removed from the chamber, to be nearby the recompression chamber in the event of a relapse. After the 24 hour period, he was transferred to the care of personal physicians. In appreciation for Current's humanitarian effort, the mayor of Iwakuni City came aboard to personally thank Captain Stangl and Current's crew. In appreciation for saving Hatanaka's life, the diver’s employer presented the crew with a gift of a Japanese Geisha doll. The doll has been displayed in a glass case mounted to the bulkhead of Current’s mess deck through the years.