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  USS Ortolan ASR-5 / AM-45 / Mine Sweeper 45
Submarine Rescue Ship

1,009 Tons
174' | 187' 10" | 35' 6"
2 x 3" guns
2 x 20mm AA

Click For Enlargement
Click For Enlargement
USN June 1943

Ship History
Named Ortolan for the European bunting-type bird. Laid down on 9 July 1918 by the Staten Island Shipbuilding Company of New York, New York. The ship was christened by Miss Theresa M. Finn and launched on 30 January 1919. Commissioning took place on 17 September 1919 with Lieutenant William A. James in command. Originally designated AM-45 or Mine Sweeper-45. Capable of 14 knots. Economical cruising speed was six knots.

Assigned to the United States Pacific Fleet on the west coast of the United States on 10 November 1919. Following stops at ports on the east and Gulf of Mexico coasts of the United States, and in Puerto Rico and Cuba, the naval vessel arrived at San Diego, California, on 13 June 1920. Nine days later she steamed north to the Puget Sound Navy Yard at Bremerton, Washington where she remained, with a caretaker crew, until 23 March 1921. Then, returning to the southern portion of California, the ship served as a tug for a year, and, on 3 May 1922, decommissioned at the Mare Island Navy Yard.

Recommissioned on 11 July 1922, she assumed the duties of submarine tender at the submarine base at San Pedro. From 9 June to 25 August 1923, USS Ortolan conducted an extended cruise off Alaska. Early in September 1923, USS Ortolan assisted in the salvage of the seven destroyers that ran aground and were wrecked in the Navy's greatest peacetime disaster, at Point Honda, California. Following that effort, the ship resumed her submarine tender duties out of San Pedro. Operating from San Pedro until 1927, USS Ortolan ranged along the west coast of from Oregon to Panama. During January to April 1924 participated in fleet maneuvers in the Caribbean Sea.

During July of 1927, Ortolan steamed westward, accompanying USS Holland (AS-3) (Submarine Tender-3) and two divisions of S Class submarines to Pearl Harbor. During the following month, she assisted in the search for competitors lost during the "Dole Race," the first flight linking the west coast of the United States and the Hawaiian Islands.

During September of 1927, USS Ortolan resumed her submarine tender duties along the west coast of the United States, and, for another two years, ranged the eastern Pacific Ocean areas as submarines conducted training exercises in those waters.

On September 12, 1929, her designation was changed from AM-45 to ASR-5 for Submarine Rescue Ship-5. Although her mission was now different, she continued to operate, primarily, in, and in the vicinity of, California, throughout the 1930s. Brief exceptions occurred when she participated in fleet problems, and, in 1936, when she had a four-month deployment to Pearl Harbor. During 1939, USS Ortolan was assigned to Submarine Squadron 6 at San Diego.

Wartime History
On December 10, 1941 USS Ortolansteamed west from the west coast of the United States, and, eleven days later, arrived at Pearl Harbor to assist in salvage efforts. For the next six months, the ASR worked on, and finally refloated, USS Oglala (CM-4) (Mine Layer-4) which had been sunk by the Japanese.

On 18 July 1942, USS Ortolan reported for duty for a tour with the submarines based at Pearl Harbor, recovering practice torpedoes and mines and assisting the submarines in various ways to prepare them for upcoming war patrols. The ship trained Navy divers, and, during October, prepared for combat duty with the installation of new sound gear and additional armaments. After crossing the Pacific, overhauled at Auckland during October 1942.

On November 20, 1942 arrived at Espiritu Santo . For the next ten days, she salvaged needed war supplies from the sunken SS President Coolidge.

Next, USS Ortolan steamed to Tulagi to provide temporary repairs to cruisers damaged during the Battle of Tassafaronga. The cruisers departed twelve days later. Then the ASR commenced a busy two months assisting vessels ranging from patrol torpedo boats to destroyers and transports and undertaking salvage and repair jobs.

During this period, working with a 320' lighter, USS Ortolan salvaged two Japanese submarines and an A6M Zero. During June 1943 , divers from the USS Ortolan (ASR-5) located and raised a sunken Type A midget submarine off Guadalcanal. Divers included: J.W. Crawford, Douglas R. Kemp and Lt. F. X. Sommer (M.C.) USNR. On July 17, 1943 the divers first removed the batteries. Afterwards, the hull rose to the surface of its own volition. Inside the hull, the bodies of both crew members were found, also documents in the engine room. Afterwards, the submarine was towed to Kukum Bay.

On January 17, 1944, USS Ortolan departed the Solomons bound for Noumea then returned to the United States, enroute undertaking transport and submarine training duties. Arrived at San Pedro on March 4, 1944. At the end of April, the ASR reported for duty with the Western Sea Frontier, and, for the ensuing eighteen months, operated as escort and torpedo recovery vessel for submarines conducting exercises off the coast of California.

Ortolan (ASR-5) earned one battle star for her services during WWII. Two months after the formal Japanese surrender, USS Ortolan again headed west. She trained Navy divers at Pearl Harbor until April of 1946; then got underway for the Far East. Arriving at Tsingtao, China, on 18 May, she operated with submarines of the United States Seventh Fleet, and conducted various diving operations, until November.

On the 13th of November 1946, she steamed homeward, and arrived at San Francisco, California, the day before Christmas. USS Ortolan (ASR-5) was decommissioned on 18 March 1947; struck from the Navy List on 10 June 1947; and transferred to the United States Maritime Commission for subsequent disposal. On 20 August 1947, the Maritime Commission sold the former ASR to the Bay Cities Transportation Company. USS

USS Ortolan (AM-45, ASR-5) Ship's History by Robert Loys Sminkey (retrieved May 26, 2005)

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Last Updated
August 10, 2019


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