Forty nine minesweepers of the Lapwing class were built between 1917-20. Six were reclassified as Submarine Rescue Vessel (ASR) in 1929. Six were lost accidentally and nine were lost in action during World War Two. The remainder were withdrawn from service by 1946.
From 1933 to 194l, Lapwing participated in various exercises with aircraft, helping develop American naval aviation capability for its decisive role in future wars Reclassified AVP-1 on 22 January 1936, she operated primarily with seaplanes in the Canal Zone, along the west coast, and in the Caribbean. Based at Trinidad, British West Indies, upon the outbreak of World War II, Lapwing was assigned to the North Atlantic. Departing the Caribbean 26 February 1942 she arrived Narsarssuak,Greenland, 12 May. Operating with Patrol Wing 3, Lapwing remained in the frigid North Atlantic, engaging in patrol and ASW missions with seaplanes. After another brief tour in the Caribbean, the seaplane tender arrived Key West 13 June 1943 for duty as a training ship. Operating out of the Fleet Sound School for 11 months, Lapwing aided in the perfection of air AEIW technology.
Six were reclassified as Submarine Rescue Vessel (ASR) in 1929. As a Submarine Rescue Vessels, their primary mission was to salvage and aid submarines in distress. They had a complement of divers and was equipped with deep sea diving equipment. There was a McCann rescue chamber for rescuing men from sunken submarines. They also had a helium mixing tank for aiding divers in making deep dives. The recompression chamber was a complete "divers hospital" to prevent the dreaded "bends" in divers subjected to sudden ascents from deep depths.
Widgeon (Minesweeper No. 22) was laid down on 8 October 1917 at Chester, Pa., by the Sun Shipbuilding Co.; launched on 5 May 1918; and commissioned on 27 July 1918. Selected for conversion to a salvage vessel for duty on the Pacific coast, the minesweeper was decommissioned at Charleston, S.C., on 15 April 1922. She underwent conversion at the Charleston Navy Yard and was recommissioned there on 5 March 1923. Despite her new equipment, the ship retained her minesweeper designation. In a departmental letter of 21 November 1923, the Navy's Bureau of Construction and Repair specified that Widgeon 's equipment be utilized to determine "their exact capabilities in salvage work." Furthermore, "Widgeon should be considered available for salvage or rescue work and the Commander, Submarine Divisions, Pacific, is authorized to send ... Widgeon to render such service when needed." Operating out of Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, Widgeon served as the primary submarine rescue vessel for the Hawaiian area. During this time, she proved her versatility by recovering practice mines or torpedoes and served as a training ship for fleet divers. In 1926, the ship was extensively altered to increase her capabilities as a submarine rescue vessel. The ship was finally reclassified ASR-1 on 22 Januarv 1936, over a decade after she began operating as such.
USS Falcon, a 950-ton Lapwing class minesweeper, was built at Morris Heights, New York. She was permanently assigned to submarine salvage duties in 1921, after completing salvage work on USS S-5 (SS-110) during that year. In 1925, Falcon briefly deployed to the Pacific, steaming as far west as Hawaii before returning to her usual Atlantic coast station. In 1925-26, Falcon assisted in the salvage of the sunken submarine S-51 (SS-162). During the later 1920s and into the 1930s, she supported the development of more advanced submarine salvage and rescue techniques as well as acting as tender for submarines operating off the U.S. coast and in the Caribbean. In January 1936, some fifteen years after being given the job function, Falcon was formally reclassified as a submarine rescue ship and redesignated ASR-2. In May 1939, she was urgently called north from her base at New London, Connecticut, to assist in rescuing crewmen from USS Squalus (SS-192),
The first Chewink (AM-39) was launched 21 December 1918 by Todd Shipyard Corp., New York City. She was reclassified ASR-3 on 12 Sept. 1929.
The first Mallard (AM-44) was laid down by Staten Island Shipbuilding Co., New York, N.Y., 25 May 1918. Transferred to submarine rescue operations following conversion at Boston Navy Yard June to December 1928, Mallard was redesignated ASR-4 on 12 September 1929. From January to March 1929 she joined S-4 (SS-109) in experimental maneuvers off Key West, Fla. The next year Mallard sailed for Coco Solo, her new home port, for patrol off Panama, where she remained throughout World War II attached to Submarine Squadron 3. During that time she performed target-towing and diver-training services for ships of the fleet.
The first Ortolan (AM-45) was laid down 9 July 1918 by the Staten Island Shipbuilding Co., New York, NY. In July of 1927 she steamed west, accompanying Holland (AS-3) and 2 divisions of "S"-boats to Pearl Harbor. The following month she assisted in the search for competitors lost during the "Dole Race", the first flight linking the west coast and Hawaii. In September she resumed her west coast tender activities and for another two years ranged the eastern Pacific as submarines conducted training exercises. Redesignated a submarine rescue vessel (ASR-5), 12 September 1929, Ortolan's mission changed, but, throughout the 1930s, her area of operations continued. In July of 1927 she steamed west, accompanying Holland (AS-3) and 2 divisions of "S"-boats to Pearl Harbor. The following month she assisted in the search for competitors lost during the "Dole Race", the first flight linking the west coast and Hawaii. In September she resumed her west coast tender activities and for another two years ranged the eastern Pacific as submarines conducted training exercises. Redesignated a submarine rescue vessel (ASR-5), 12 September 1929, Ortolan's mission changed, but, throughout the 1930s, her area of operations continued,
When hull classification symbols and numbers were assigned to ships 17 July 1920, Pigeon was designated AM-47. She began serving Submarine Division 16, U.S. Asiatic Fleet in September 1928. After ranging from the Philippines to the China coast, she fitted out as a "Submarine Salvage Vessel" at the Cavite Naval Station April-July 1929. She sailed from Manila Bay 13 July to cruise with Asiatic Fleet Submarines along the China Coast until returning to Manila 11 September. The following day she was reclassified a Submarine Rescue Vessel (ASR-6).
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