USS Mackinac (AVP-13)

USS Mackinac (AVP-13)

USS "Mackinac" (AVP-13) [ [ Mackinac] , Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships] (1942-1946) also served as USCGC Mackinac (WHEC-371) (1949-1967) was a "Barnegat"-class small seaplane tender. It was built at the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Washington for the United States Navy, and was commissioned in January 1942. Her first duty following trials was to carry the explorer Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd (retired) on an inspection tour of U.S. bases in the South Pacific in May and June 1942. In August 1942 she commenced duty in support of operations in the Solomons, during which she set up several advanced bases for seaplanes. At one of these, two enemy submarines surfaced and shelled Mackinac and Ballard (AVD-10), along with their seaplanes. The two tenders returned the fire, but neither side suffered any damage. In July 1943 Mackinac departed Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides to receive a two month overhaul at Mare Island.

Mackinac resumed seaplane tending duties in November 1943 when she arrived in the Gilberts. She then participated in a series of campaigns in the Central Pacific, culminating in operations at Okinawa in mid-1945. This service was interrupted only by two months of repairs at San Diego in early 1945. Following the Japanese surrender, "Mackinac" performed occupation duty in Japan through January 1946 and then proceeded to Orange, Texas, where she was decommissioned in November 1946. "Mackinac" was loaned to the United States Coast Guard in April 1949 and served out of New York as the cutter "Mackinac" (WAVP-371, later WHEC-371) through 1967. She was returned to the Navy and expended as a target in July 1968.

Mackinac II

The second "Mackinac" (AVP‑13) was laid down 29 May 1940 at Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Washington; launched 15 November 1941; sponsored by Mrs. Ralph Wood, wife of the commanding officer, Naval Air Station. Seattle, Washington; and commissioned 24 January 1942, Comdr. Norman R. Hitchcock in command.

After 3 months of trial runs, Mackinac, escorting a large convoy, sailed for Pearl Harbor 11 May, 1942 arriving 19 May. On 22 May famous explorer Rear Adm. Richard E. Byrd (retired) and his staff came on board for an inspection cruise of U.S. bases in the South Pacific, debarking at Auckland, New Zealand, 23 June. The seaplane tender then headed to Nouméa, New Caledonia, 18 July.

With preparations underway for the Guadalcanal‑Tulagi landing 7 to 9 August, "Mackinac" was assigned the task of setting up a seaplane base at Malaita, the most advanced post of the campaign, while her PBYs searched the sealane between Truk and Guadalcanal. One of the first ships to anchor in the Solomon Islands, "Mackinac" retired to Espiritu Santo 12 August.

Despite constant evacuation alerts and numerous searchplane losses, "Mackinac" next set up base at Graciosa Harbor, Santo Cruz, 20 August. Early morning, 12 September, two submarines surfaced at the harbor entrance to shell "Mackinac" and "Ballard" (AVD‑10), together with their planes. The tenders retaliated; but no damage occurred for either side.

Following her return to Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, on 25 October "Mackinac" assisted with her boats in rescuing survivors of SS|President Coolidge after the Army troop transport had struck two mines in the harbor entrance.

On 12 November “Mighty Mac” established an advanced seaplane base at Vanikoro Island, Santa Cruz, and began tending an average of six planes a day. Several highranking officers visited her during this duty, including Vice Admiral W. F. Halsey.

"Mackinac" got underway from Espiritu Santo with a convoy for the West Coast 9 July 1943, arriving San Francisco 25 July for overhaul. The tender returned to Pearl Harbor 28 September. After a month of transport duty between Midway and Maui, Hawaii, "Mackinac" left Pearl Harbor with Curtiss 20 November for the Ellice Islands.

When a PBY was forced down near Nui, Gilbert Islands, "Mackinac", after locating it early 24 November, rescued the crew and safely towed the plane to Nuku Fetau despite adverse weather. On 1 December she arrived at recently secured Tarawa to tend planes there through January 1944, despite some 22 air raids.

"Mackinac" then steamed for Makin with VPB‑72 (Navy medium patrol bomber squadron 72) to participate in the Marshall campaign with around‑the‑clock seaplane tending. With the strategic atolls of Majuro and Kwajalein secured by the early part of February, the ship was ordered on to Kwajalein, anchoring 9 March. While her squadron was conducting rescue operations at Majuro, Makin, Eniwetok, and Kwajalein, she was laying out the seaplane area and assisting the construction of a naval airbase on Ebeye Kwajalein.

On 23 June "Mackinac" departed for Eniwetok en route to Saipan. As the conquest of Saipan was still in the assault stage, Mackinac was under almost constant fire while stationed there.

Relieved 19 August, "Mackinac" joined "Chandeleur" (AV10), "Pocomoke" (AV‑9), "Yakutat" (AVP‑32), and "Onslow" (AVP‑48) in sailing for Kossol Passage, Peleliu, Palau Islands, arriving one day after D‑Day, 15 September. For the next 3 months "Mackinac" marked navigational obstructions off Kossol before leaving for Ulithi 25 December. On 21 January 1945 "Mackinac" got underway with "Chandeleur" for San Diego via Pearl Harbor, arriving 7 February. The ship returned to Saipan in April.

On 11 May "Mackinac" joined a seaplane group based at Kerama Retto, Ryukyu Islands, during the Okinawa operations, and continued a variety of duties, including air‑sea rescue and bombardment of Japanese‑held Rose Island. After the group moved operations to Okinawa 14 July “Mighty Mac” tended motor torpedo boats through early August. After the Japanese capitulation 15 August, she was assigned to join TG 30.5, arriving Sagami Bay, Tokyo, Japan, 28 August.

Following occupation duty, "Mackinac" left for the West Coast 10 January 1946, arriving San Pedro, California, 29 January. After repairs, she sailed for the Atlantic via the Panama Canal, arriving Orange, Texas, 26 March. Mackinac decommissioned and entered the Atlantic Reserve Fleet at Orange, Texas, January 1947.

She was transferred to the U.S. Coast Guard in April 1949 and served as "Mackinac" (WHEC‑371) until returned to the Navy for use as a target to destruction early in 1968.

"Mackinac" received six battle stars for World War Il service.


Malaita, a large and brooding island off to the northeast of Guadacanal, was not much better. No American was known to have visited it since Jack London in 1908, whence he had fled in disgust from fierce storm and head hunters. Now Commander Norman R. Hitchcock took the tender Mackinac up the back of the island and threaded his way into Maramasike Estuary on the south-east coast, through waters for which there were no charts. He opened for business with 9 PBY's on the morning of August 8. Their beat was to be north and westward watching the sealanes down from the powerful Japanese base at Truk.

The plan was for MacArthur to watch the western approaches, and his B-17's were doing that August 7 when they raised Rabaul and spotted Mikawa's forces gathering from New Ireland -- spotted them but failed, in the pattern of the day, to give adequate intelligence. ["The Battle of Savo Island", by Richard F. Newcomb p. 74]


* [ Source article]
* [ USN page] on USS "Mackinac".


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