Daily Event for December 29

1942: The high speed minesweeper USS Wasmuth DMS-15 sank off the Aleutian Islands. Wasmuth was built in 1920 by the Mare Island Naval Ship Yard in Vallejo, California. She was launched as USS Wasmuth DD-338 and commissioned on Dec. 16, 1921.  She was decommissioned in 1922 and remained in reserve until 1930 when she was recommissioned.

Wasmuth was used in fleet exercises and training for the next ten years. Then in 1940 it was decided to convert several old destroyers into a mine warfare roll. The Wasmuth was converted into a high speed minesweeper at Pearl Harbor in late 1940 through early 1941 and redesignated DMS-15. The biggest change was the loss of her 12 torpedo tubes and the addition of mine detection gear. All of her main four inch guns, the anti-aircraft guns and the depth charge racks were left in place.

Staying mostly in the Hawaiian Islands area the Wasmuth was at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Her crew reacted to the air attack with the .50 cal. machine guns and one crewman, S/1c James P. Hannon was credited with downing a Japanese aircraft. The ship received no damage in the attack.

Wasmuth patrolled the waters off Hawaii following the attack never locating an enemy vessel although, she dropped two depth charges on suspected underwater targets. Wasmuth continued to patrol off Hawaii and escorted two convoy's, one to California and one back.

On August 14, 1942 Wasmuth departed Pearl Harbor for duty in the Aleutian Islands. In the frigid northern waters Wasmuth patrolled and escorted supply ships. Wasmuth was on one of these escort missions, December 26, 1942 during a sever storm when two of her depth charges were knocked out of their racks and went over the side. They both exploded and blew away part of the stern leaving the ship in sinking condition.

It became apparent that the ship would go under as the pumps could not keep up with the volume off water entering the ship. The oilier Ramapo AO-12 came to the rescue. Coming along side of the dying Wasmuth, Ramapo and her brave crew rescued every one of the one hundred and thirty six people on board despite the treacherous seas and freezing temperatures. The heroic rescue took over three and a half hours.

The Wasmuth was left to the whims of the sea, which took her early on the 29th of December. The USS Wasmuth DMS-15 received one battle star for the defense of Pearl Harbor.

© 2005 Michael W. Pocock