USS Atakapa (ATF-149)

USS Atakapa (ATF-149)

USS "Atakapa" (ATF-149) was an "Abnaki"-class of fleet ocean tug. It was named after the Atakapa Native American tribe that once inhabited territory which is now southwestern Louisiana and southeastern Texas.

The fleet ocean tug (ATF-149) was laid down on February 17, 1944 at Charleston, South Carolina, by the Charleston Shipbuilding & Drydock Company; launched on July 11, 1944; sponsored by Mrs. B.H. Wiggs; and commissioned at the Charleston Navy Yard on December 8, 1944.

After shakedown in the Norfolk, Virginia area, "Atakapa" undertook her first assignment, a tow from the East Coast to California, departing Philadelphia on January 22, 1945 and reaching San Francisco on March 8. From that day through April 27, she engaged in routine towing operations along the West Coast. The ship sailed for Hawaii on the 27th and, upon her arrival at Pearl Harbor on May 10, resumed her towing operations. This duty was interrupted by a long tow from Pearl Harbor to Eniwetok, which began on June 20. After reaching Eniwetok on July 10, "Atakapa" left three days later bound for Johnston Island where she took two craft in tow and proceeded back to Pearl Harbor which she reached on July 26.

"Atakapa" engaged in towing and salvage operations until August 11 when she departed the Hawaiian Islands bound for the Aleutians. The tug reached Adak on August 22, a week after Japan capitulated. The units gathered there formed Task Force (TF) 42 and sailed on September 1 for Ominato, Japan. They reached Japan on September 13, and "Atakapa" served in Japanese waters into April 1946.

The tug returned to Pearl Harbor on April 23 for repairs before heading for the United States late in May. She transited the Panama Canal on June 14 and reached Jacksonville, Florida, on the 25th. The ship reported to Orange, Texas, on August 21 for duty and ultimate transfer to the inactive fleet. She was placed out of commission, in reserve, on November 8, 1946.

"Atakapa" was recommissioned at Orange on August 9, 1951, slightly over a year after Communist forces invaded South Korea. She held shakedown training at Newport, Rhode Island, and Norfolk, Virginia, and made the first major tow of her new career in February 1952, when she pulled a large vessel from Panama to Philadelphia. From April to July, "Atakapa" was stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and devoted herself largely to target towing. The vessel returned to Norfolk in July and spent the remainder of the year providing general towing and salvage services in the Norfolk area and along the East Coast.

For the next five and one-half years, "Atakapa" maintained a busy schedule of towing and salvage operations. She visited ports along the East Coast, in the Caribbean, and along the Gulf Coast.

On July 23, 1958, the tug began her first Mediterranean deployment in response to internal disorder in Lebanon. While operating with the 6th Fleet, she provided towing and salvage services and made port calls at Suda Bay, Crete; Beirut, Lebanon; Athens and Rhodes, Greece; and Catania, Sicily. Before returning to the United States, "Atakapa" towed a ship through the Suez Canal from Massawa, Ethiopia, to Naples, Italy.

The small ship spent 1959 and 1960 providing general services to East Coast ships. In early 1961, she spent six weeks in Puerto Rico participating in Operation "Springboard" and then crossed the Atlantic in May and June with a tow from Mayport, Florida, to Holy Loch, Scotland.

"Atakapa" began 1962 in upkeep at Little Creek, Virginia, but soon sailed for the Caribbean to take part in Operation "Springboard 62." She provided towing and target retrieval service for units serving at Guantanamo Bay. "Atakapa" returned to Norfolk in June for a tender availability. Upon its completion, she provided services for submarines operating out of Norfolk. In October, the tug reported for duty in the Caribbean in response to the Cuban Missile Crisis but returned home when tension subsided and ended the year at Little Creek.

On January 4, 1963, the ship sailed to San Juan, Puerto Rico, to take part in Operation "Springboard" for the third straight year, but was back in Little Creek on February 7 for a short availability. During March and April, "Atakapa" received an overhaul. After two months of refresher training, she put to sea in early October, bound for Guantanamo Bay. The tug returned to Little Creek in late November and finished the year in upkeep.

For the first few months of 1964, "Atakapa" operated in the Norfolk area. In June, she proceeded to Rota, Spain, with ARDM-1 in tow. After releasing the medium auxiliary repair dry dock, she remained deployed with the 6th Fleet for four months. The tug got underway in October to return to the United States, but was diverted en route to escort an LST to Bermuda and thence to Norfolk. They arrived in Hampton Roads on November 17, and "Atakapa" spent the rest of the year undergoing a tender availability.

After a brief period of local operations, "Atakapa" sailed in early 1965 to the Caribbean to participate in Operation "Springboard." Early in April, she returned to the Norfolk area for an overhaul at the Norfolk Shipbuilding & Drydock Company. Upon completing the yard period, the tug resumed operations in the Virginia Capes area. Late in the year, she operated briefly at Guantanamo Bay and, after visiting Ocho Rios, Jamaica, returned to Little Creek.

The ship's first major activity of 1967 was once again Operation "Springboard" in which she participated from 6 to March 19. The tug entered restricted availability at Norfolk on April 23 and, soon after it ended, began a deployment to northern Europe on May 15. She operated in the Norwegian Sea and visited ports in Norway, Scotland, and the Netherlands before returning to Little Creek on October 1. She operated in the Virginia Capes area through the end of the year and into May 1967. On the 19th of that month, the tug got underway for Scotland, reached Holy Loch on May 30, and on June 6 was underway again for Rota. She operated in the Mediterranean until late September and visited the ports of Suda Bay, Crete; Valletta, Malta; Naples, Italy; İzmir, Turkey; and Palma de Mallorca. "Atakapa" touched back at Little Creek on September 29; completed a period of leave and upkeep: and, on November 27, entered overhaul at the Norfolk Shipbuilding & Drydock Company.

The overhaul was completed in mid-April 1968, and the vessel began refresher training. On June 13, she got underway for operations in European waters and made port calls in Spain, England, Italy, Greece, and Crete. The tug left Rota on October 12; returned to Little Creek on the 22d; and, on December 17, began an availability alongside USS "Vulcan" (AR-5).

On February 25, 1969, "Atakapa" shifted to Little Creek for upkeep. On April 15, she was deployed to western Europe. She made port calls at Rosyth and Holy Loch, Scotland; Bergen, Norway; Aalburg, Denmark; and Portsmouth, England. She departed Rota on September 24 and reached Little Creek on October 7.

Late in January 1970, she sailed for Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to tow a ship back to Little Creek. She was deployed to Guantanamo Bay on May 13 to provide target services for warships undergoing gunnery practice. The ship left Cuba on June 12 and next towed a ship from Mayport, Florida, to Philadelphia. On June 25, the tug was back in the Virginia Capes area. Routine towing duties to various ports along the East Coast occupied her until October 16, when she sailed for Baltimore, Maryland, for hull repairs. On October 27, she shifted back to a shipyard in Newport News, Virginia, for the remainder of the overhaul.

Refresher training and upkeep lasted until late in March 1971. "Atakapa" made a brief voyage to St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, then returned to Little Creek on April 9. She was involved in routine towing operations along the East Coast until November 11 when she sailed for Guantanamo Bay. The tug returned to Little Creek on December 21 for the holidays.

After one and one-half months of training, "Atakapa" deployed to Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, on February 16, 1972. She provided target services for units participating in Operation "Springboard," but was back in home port on March 23. On May 1, the tug towed USS "Cache" (AO-67) to Beaumont, Texas, and then pulled a vessel from that gulf port back to Norfolk, arriving there on May 16. Local operations and availability occupied "Atakapa" through July 21, when she got underway for Guantanamo Bay. She operated from that Cuban port for the next five weeks and then returned to Little Creek on August 30 for local operations through the rest of the year and the first months of 1973. On April 11, "Atakapa" sailed for Guantanamo Bay, but was back in the Virginia Capes area on May 15. Another Caribbean deployment occurred from June 28 to August 9. After her return home, the tug operated along the East Coast.

In early 1974, "Atakapa" sailed for the Caribbean for the annual "Springboard" operations. She operated along the East Coast for the last few months of her career as a commissioned Navy ship. On July 1, 1974, the tug was decommissioned and turned over to the Military Sealift Command (MSC). Operating with a civil service crew, USNS "Atakapa" (T-ATF-149) continued to support the Navy carrying out MSC missions for another seven years. During the summer of 1981, she was taken out of service and prepared for transfer to the Maritime Administration's National Defense Reserve Fleet. In September 1981, "Atakapa" — still Navy property — was berthed at the Maritime Administration facility at James River, Virginia. On August 25, 2000, she was disposed of in support of a fleet training exercise.


*NVR []

External links

* [ NavSource Online: AT-149 / ATF-149 Atakapa]
* [ "Atakapa" crew site]

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