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USS JACANA MSC 193

History

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Photos

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COMMANDING OFFICERS

LTJG W.W.Jordan
1955-1956
LT A.C.Taylor
1956-1958
LT L.B.Wensman
1958-Feb 1960
LT Donald E.Knepper
Feb 1960-Jun 1961
LT Paul I. Bledsoe
Jun 1961-Mar 1963
LT Robert L.Cox
Mar 1963-Dec 1964
LT Charles D.Sillery
Dec 1964-Jan 1967
LT Niles W.Berry
Jan 1967 to Sep 1968

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Courtesy of Ray Johnston

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Navy Expedtionary Medals (2) for Cuba 1961 & 1962
Armed Forces Expedtionary Medals (2) for Dominican Republic 1966.

Jacana {MSC-193) was launched as AMS-193 25 February 1954 by Quincy Adams Yacht Yard, Quincy, Mass.; sponsored by Mrs. Dorothy M. Deehan; reclassified MSC-193 on 7 February 1955, and commissioned 10 March 1955, Lt. (j.g.) W. W. Jordan in command.
After shakedown, Jacana arrived Charleston, S.C., her home port, 28 May 1955; and, during the year, engaged in tactical training and experimental exercises part of the Navy's ceaseless activity to maintain a superior-readiness capability that incorporates every modern technological advance. The motor mine sweeper arrived at her new home port, Yorktown, Va., 18 January 1957, and commenced mine warfare exercises in the Chesapeake Bay.
In addition to participating in mine warfare operations, Jacana performed important search and rescue missions for downed aircraft and engaged in amphibious exercises off Onslow Beach. She continued in this series of operations until 28 April 1962, when she proceeded to Port Everglades, Fla., for duty with the Naval Ordnance Laboratory Test Facility. After her mine evaluating mission and Caribbean exercises were completed, Jacana sailed for Halifax late September to participate in joint American-Canadian maneuvers. The combined exercises are proof of the free world's determination to thwart any Communist thrust toward world conquest. Soon after this exercise, the Cuban crisis brought a showdown with communism. Jacana remained on alert through November.
From 1963 into 1967 Jacana has operated along the Atlantic coast, engaging in mine exercises, amphibious training, search and rescue operations, and duty with the Naval Mine Defense Laboratory in Florida.
 
 
 
 
 

 

USS JACANA (MSC-193)
1963-1965
By:  William J. Coffey
On January, 1, 1963, the USS JACANA (MSC-193) was berthed at a Portsmouth, VA shipyard undergoing a periodic overhaul.  It was also the day I reported on board for duty and began a life-long love affair with this fine ship, one of the smallest of the Navy’s small combatants.
I was Ensign William J, Coffey, USNR and assigned to JACANA as the First Lieutenant.  Newly commissioned at the Officer Candidate School, Newport, RI and following a brief stint at Mine Warfare School in Charleston, SC, I had no seagoing experience and even less mechanical aptitude.  But on that cold day, I was pretty certain the pointy end was the bow and generally did not lack at all for self-confidence.
The JACANA had been launched as AMS-193 in 1953 but by the time of commissioning at the Quincy Adams Yard in Quincy, MA, it was designated a Coastal Minesweeper – MSC-193.  Over the next 9 years, JACANA was home ported at Charleston, SC; Yorktown, VA; and finally at the Naval Amphibious Base, Little Creek, VA.
The ship had a wooden hull and was about 140 feet long; had a 28 foot beam and 8 foot draft; and displaced about 360 tons.  A 20 mm cannon of WW-II vintage was mounted forward and a variety of lesser caliber arms were also carried on board.  The twin diesel, non-magnetic Packard engines and shafts gave a maximum speed of 12 knots although 10 knots was more realistic under most steaming conditions.  The ship’s compliment typically consisted of 4 officers and 32 enlisted.
JACANA, like all the ships in its Class, was quite seaworthy although in heavy seas it closely resembled a cork, bounding from crest to crest, not at all like a man of war slicing gracefully through the waves.  However, its engines and other equipment were made of non-magnetic alloys which lacked the tensile strength and durability of purer metals.  Generators and evaporators seemed especially susceptible to failing in heavy weather, however diligently the engine room gang worked to maintain them. 
As I soon learned, 1962 had been a busy year for the JACANA.  Joint exercises with the Canadian Navy off Halifax and patrolling in the Windward Passage off Cuba following the missile crisis were among the highlights.  Lt. Paul I. Bledsoe, USN was the Commanding Officer and Ltjg. Peter Crumpacker, USN was the Executive Officer.  Pete was also a minor celebrity because his father was a Rear Admiral and headed Naval Supply Corps.
JACANA was one of four MSC’s assigned to Mine Division 41.  Its sister ships were the USS FRIGATEBIRD (MSC-191); HUMMINGBIRD (MSC-192); and LIMPKIN (MSC-195).  The Division was an element of the Atlantic Fleet Mine Force headquartered in Charleston, SC. 
Early in 1963, we were released from the Shipyard and steamed to Little Creek for a short stay, followed by a visit to Charleston and then on to Guantanamo Bay (“GTMO”), Cuba for refresher training.  GTMO meant lots of work, non-stop training, and little time for play.  And unlike Little Creek, GTMO was all spit and polish; ties two-blocked; shoes shined; and lots of regulations to be observed.  The high points for JACANA were the stopping of a Soviet-flag freighter heading inbound to a Cuban port just upriver from GTMO and a delightful weekend visit to Port Antonio, Jamaica.
Of course this was the peacetime Navy and nothing occurring in 1963 at GTMO or anywhere else in the next two years could compare with the excitement, adventures and mortal danger encountered by our minesweeper brethren who served in WW-II, Korea and later Vietnam.  While there certainly were concerns about the Soviet Union, atomic warfare and Cuban-based missiles, it was also the height of the Camelot era when national optimism and a spirit of self-confidence were nearing their highest points of the 20th Century.  Little did we know how soon this would all come crashing down, beginning with President Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963.
Somehow we passed muster with flying colors at GTMO and headed home to Little Creek.  There we were berthed in a far corner of the Base with a division of Oceangoing Minesweepers and a contingent of SEALS and their PT-boat.  This was a “PHIBLANT” facility but their brass paid virtually no attention to us and we even less to them. 
As 1963 moved along, Lt. Robert L. Cox, USN relieved Capt. Bledsoe and Ltjg. Thomas P. Bragg, USN came aboard as the Executive Officer.  Capt. Cox, like most MSC skippers, was a “mustang”, having earned his submariner’s badge as an enlisted man and later a college degree and commission.  He was a high energy guy but always fair and had all of us fully focused on the tasks at hand – keeping the JACANA well trained and ready for whatever missions would be assigned.
On many days, JACANA and our MINE DIV 41 sister ships were underway in Chesapeake Bay or in the Atlantic, just to the east of Hampton Roads, running emergency drills and exercising our minesweeping skills.  Occasionally, we were committed to a larger exercise off Virginia Beach, Charleston or Jacksonville with amphibious and other “blue water” ships plus naval aircraft sweeping practice acoustic, magnetic and contact mines in connection with a landing exercise.  We regularly “detonated” a number of these mines, all fortunately well away from the ship.
While we were happiest in our anonymity at Little Creek, JACANA and the Division were periodically summoned to Charleston for inspections and drills conducted by the Mine Force staff.  There, everything was done by the book but somehow, despite our more casual ways, JACANA was more than able to meet and frequently exceed all of the training and readiness standards set for vessels of our class.  We were blessed with a great crew and a CO who truly knew how to lead.
Charleston itself was a lot of fun in those days.  Legally dry except for beer, there were more after-hours spots and related activities than our constitutions and pay grades could possibly keep up with.  I especially remember Sundays, a fully dry day, when many places served Russian Tea, a beverage having a remarkable similarity to the taste of beer.
But with hindsight, there was another, far less pleasant side to Charleston.  Several of JACANA’S crew were African-Americans and Charleston was then perhaps the most openly segregated city in America with “Whites Only” signs and other manifestations of hatred and intolerance widely displayed.  I suppose Norfolk was not so different but segregation practices there seemed less blatant.  Perhaps some might say the same about Boston. I only wish the Navy and each of us had been more sensitive to these horrendous practices and tried to do at least something to curb them. 
By 1964, Ensign William Simon, USN had checked in as Engineer Officer, relieving Ltjg. John Narciso, USNR.  XO Tom Bragg received a well-deserved appointment to Nuclear Power School and I was named to succeed him, something for which I will always be grateful to Capt. Cox.  Ensign Henry Levine USNR, who later went on to serve with much distinction and bravery aboard minesweeping boats in Vietnam, relieved me as First Lieutenant.
But perhaps the highlight of the year 1964 was MINE DIV 41’s temporary assignment to the Naval Mine Defense Laboratory at Panama City, FL.  Leaving Little Creek and following the obligatory visit to Charleston, we were proceeding along the east Florida coast when a vaguely worded “all ships” message was received regarding unsettled weather activity and a possible hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico.  That was all we needed to justify a swift diversion into Fort Lauderdale.  A low priority location report was sent to the Mine Force and, as we fervently hoped, it took several days for them to react and direct us back to sea.  And what a time we had in the interim.  Somehow the hurricane never did appear!
JACANA and many ships at this time communicated over distance primarily by Morse code.  Our radiomen would sit by the hour copying fleet broadcasts and transmitting lesser numbers of outbound messages.  There was little “real time” about this system but it somehow worked.  Finally, it was all replaced on JACANA by teletype and single side band equipment which, presaging the cell phones and email of today, were certainly more efficient but would it far more difficult to make unscheduled diversions into places like Fort Lauderdale.
Working for several weeks at Panama City, testing new minesweeping equipment, was a welcome change to the routine and also included a weekend visit to New Orleans.  Steaming at night through the Gulf of Mexico and then navigating up the Mississippi River were memorable experiences.
En route home to Little Creek, JACANA was diverted to the Bay of Tampa to search for a downed Navy aircraft, a task minesweepers were periodically called upon to perform.  Fortunately, the aviators were usually recovered alive by other means.  Our task was to locate the wreckage using mine detection sonar.  It all sounded fine in theory but by the time a minesweeper would arrive on station, the wreckage had usually sunk into the mud, beyond our sonar’s capacity.  Nevertheless, search we would diligently do, day and night until relieved.
1n early 1965, Capt. Cox received an assignment to the NATO staff in Europe and Lt. Charles D. Sillery, USN relieved as Commanding Officer.  Ensign Norman Pattarozzi, USNR came on board as Engineer Officer replacing Bill Simon.  JACANA continued to train at sea but as the year progressed, there was a gradual difference - the costs to maintain a growing naval force in Vietnam were skyrocketing and we were being ordered to spend more time in port in order to conserve fuel consumption and related expenditures.
July, 1965 arrived along with my relief as XO and separation orders.  On July 28th, President Johnson announced major force level increases for Vietnam and. as his speech continued, I sat waiting to hear an edict that “all reserves on active duty will remain so” or words to that effect.  But those words were never spoken and a few days later, in early August, I left JACANA at Little Creek and returned to civilian life.  
This fine small combatant had only a few year of active service left.  In about 1967, it became a reserve training ship at Fall River, MA and later, I believe, was transferred on loan to the Indonesian Navy.  On September 1, 1976, the USS JACANA (MSC-193) was sold by the US Navy for scrapping.

William J. Coffey was discharged from the Naval Reserve with the rank of Lieutenant.  He is a marine transportation consultant who resides in Newport, RI, and also serves as Adjunct Professor of Maritime Law at Roger Williams University in Bristol, RI.  He has been a NMA member for about 10 years.                                               
  

Members of the minesweeping community; The Lucid MSO-458 Foundation was formed by a group of minesweeper crewmen who served aboard US Navy MSO's. MSO's are a class of wooden hull oceangoing minesweepers that are now decommissioned and fading from public memory. The group has obtained the USS Lucid MSO-458 and has her docked at Bradford Island, California. Work has begun! The organization is restoring her and a public museum is established. The MSO is a little known and poorly documented, extremely interesting facet of Naval history. The USS Lucid Museum is dedicated to telling the story of the minesweeping men and their wooden ships, the last all wooden US Naval ships, to navigate the oceans. We will be telling the stories of Mine Recovery and UDT teams, Floating Pigs, Hammer Boxes, Magtails, Aluminum Engines and Towed Sonar. The little known stories of Contact, Magnetic and Acoustic minesweeping as well as the mystery of Magnetic Countermeasures will be told through the displays, narratives and museum media. Typhoons, tiny ships and ice-clad superstructures are only a small part of the "Wooden Ships and Iron Men" story. From sweeping the Mekong Delta in Viet Nam, observing the final Nuclear blasts on Johnston Island to sweeping the Persian Gulf, "Where the Fleet Goes, We've Been" will be clearly illustrated. Since there is no other Naval Museum that even attempts to tell the story of the MSO the USS Lucid is an important and living detail of US Naval History. First, Lucid must undergo a restoration. Previous civilian owners for commercial use have modified her. She needs hull repairs and painting and re-outfitting to be brought back to her former Naval dignity and glory. The Lucid MSO-458 Foundation has a workforce of planners, engineers and volunteer manpower who are vested and committed to this grand and worthy project. Bringing her to life is a large financial undertaking. We’re looking for tax-exempt gifts from the Military Industrial sector and individuals to help with this extremely valuable endeavor. Of course, all donors will be properly and prominently acknowledged aboard the vessel. Your donation will help preserve this vital part of Naval History. Please join us in telling the MSO story by sending a tax-exempt gift to Lucid MSO-458 Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit foundation through our website. http://www.usslucid.org
W.W."Mike"Warren EN2

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