USS Oglala (CM-4)

USS Oglala (CM-4)

USS "Oglala" (CM-4, later ARG-1) was a minelayer in the United States Navy. She was named for a sub-tribe of Lakota, residing in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

She was originally built as Eastern Steamship Company's "Massachusetts" at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1907 for overnight coastal passenger steamer service through the Cape Cod Canal and Long Island Sound between Boston, Massachusetts and New York City.Beals, Victor "Comment and Discussion" "United States Naval Institute Proceedings" September 1973 p.88] During the First World War, she was purchased by the Navy and decked in to improve seaworthiness for conversion to a minelayer. The ship was commissioned in December 1917 and renamed "Shawmut" a month later. She steamed to Britain in June 1918 and spent the rest of World War I helping to plant the anti-submarine mine barrage across the North Sea. "Shawmut" laid 2970 anchored mines while under command of CAPT Wat Tyler Cluverius USN. Captain Cluverius had been a midshipman aboard USS Maine (ACR-1) at Havana Harbor.

In December 1918, "Shawmut" returned to the United States. Through the next two decades, she served as an seaplane tender and minelayer, receiving the hull number CM-4 in 1920. To avoid verbal confusion with "Chaumont", she was renamed "Oglala" in January 1928. At about the same time, she was given new boilers and other modifications, changing her appearance from two smokestacks to one. "Oglala" was flagship of the 1934 Aleutian Islands Survey Expedition.Mallison, W.T., Jr., LT USNR "Comment and Discussion" "United States Naval Institute Proceedings" July 1973 p.97]

Despite many recognized deficiencies resulting from her civilian origins and advanced age, "Oglala" served as the Fleet's principal minelayer into the early 1940s. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, she suffered underwater damage from nearby bomb and torpedo explosions, gradually rolled onto her port side and sank.

7 December 1941

On the morning of 7 December 1941 USS "Oglala", flagship of the Pacific Fleet Mine Force, was tied up outboard of the light cruiser "Helena". They were alongside Pier 1010 at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard, with an eight-foot floating cushion (camel) between them. Japanese torpedo planes of the first attack wave hit the cruiser with a single torpedo, which ran under "Oglala" to hit Helena's starboard side. The torpedo's explosion broke through the minelayer's port bilge amidships, and she rapidly took on water. A bomb that burst nearby caused further damage. With the marginal watertight integrity typical of older ships, "Oglala"'s flooding could not be contained.

When it became clear that she might sink, "Oglala" was moved aft of "Helena", so she would not pin the warship against the dock. About two hours after receiving her initial damage, she rolled over to port and sank beside 1010 dock. There "Oglala" became the object of a prolonged, and ultimately successful salvage effort.

alvage, 1942

Though "Oglala" was originally evaluated as a total loss, with the only salvage goal being to clear valuable pier space, it was ultimately decided to fully recover and repair the ship. The salvage effort was complex work, with the inherent difficulties of righting and refloating a capsized ship compounded by "Oglala's" poor stability. Fifteen to eighteen divers were kept busy for nearly 2000 underwater hours during the salvage, patching her hull, rigging chains, cutting away unwanted structure and executing many other tasks. After her tophamper had been removed, ten salvage pontoons were used to pull the ship upright while air was pumped into her to lighten the load. The first righting attempt, made on 11 April 1942, failed when several connecting chains parted. However, a second try succeeded twelve days later.

"Oglala" was now upright, but still mostly underwater. A large wooden cofferdam was built around the edges of her decks to allow water to be removed from her interior. The ship was refloated in June, but resank on 25-26 June when the failure of a pump led to cascading flooding in her forward hull. Afloat again on 29 June, she promptly went down for a third time when the cofferdam failed. After another raising, a serious fire on 2 July nearly produced a fourth resubmergence. However, the next day "Oglala" was finally drydocked, completing a job that became a legend among marine salvors. She received temporary repairs during much of the rest of 1942 and, in December, left Pearl Harbor for the U.S. west coast, there to be refurbished for active service.


Through 1943 and into 1944, the old ship was permanently repaired and converted to an internal combustion engine repair ship. She was redesignated ARG-1 in May 1943 and recommissioned at the end of February 1944.

After arriving at Milne Bay, New Guinea, in April 1944, "Oglala" began tending patrol, mine and landing craft. She shifted her base to Hollandia, New Guinea, in July and to Leyte, Philippine Islands, in December 1944. Returning to the U.S. west coast in early 1946, "Oglala" was decommissioned in July of that year and transferred to Maritime Commission custody. She remained a depot ship at Benicia, California for the Suisun Bay National Defense Reserve Fleet until September 1965, when she was sold to Joffee Shipbreakers of Richmond, California for scrapping.Shackleton, John R., LCDR USNR "Comment and Discussion" "United States Naval Institute Proceedings" September 1973 p.88]

As of 2005, no other ship in the United States Navy has been named "Oglala".


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