USS Navajo (AT-64)

For other ships with the same name, see USS Navajo.
Name: USS Navajo
Builder: Bethlehem Mariners Harbor, Staten Island, New York City
Laid down: 12 December 1938
Launched: 17 August 1939
Commissioned: 26 January 1940
Honors and
2 battle stars (World War II)
Fate: Torpedoed and sank, 12 September 1943
General characteristics
Class and type: Navajo-class fleet tug
Displacement: 1,270 long tons (1,290 t)
Length: 205 ft (62 m)
Beam: 38 ft 6 in (11.73 m)
Draft: 15 ft 4 in (4.67 m)
Speed: 16 knots (30 km/h; 18 mph)
Complement: 80
Armament: 1 × 3 in (76 mm) gun

USS Navajo (AT-64) was an oceangoing tugboat in the United States Navy, and the lead ship of its class. It was named for the Navajo people. Originally called the Navajo-class of fleet tugs, it was later renamed the Cherokee-class after loss of the first two ships of the class.

Navajo was laid down by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, Staten Island, New York, on 12 December 1938; launched on 17 August 1939, sponsored by Miss Olive Rasmussen; and commissioned on 26 January 1940, with Lt. Comdr. M. E. Thomas in command.

Operations in Hawaiian waters

Following shakedown and a brief tour on the east coast, Navajo, an oceangoing fleet tug, steamed to San Diego, where, in June 1940, the boat reported for duty in Base Force, later Service Force, Pacific Fleet. Until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the ship's towing and salvage capabilities were utilized in the central and eastern Pacific, and then, after 7 December 1941, in the Pearl Harbor area. Interrupted only by a resupply and reinforcement run to Johnston Island at the end of December 1941, it remained in the waters off Oahu into the spring of 1942.

Further operations in the Pacific Theater

In late April 1942, Navajo sailed to Canton Island where it and other vessels attempted the unsuccessful salvage of the 502 ft. troop ship SS President Taylor grounded on a coral reef. Then Navajo returned to Pearl Harbor whence the boat got underway for the war zone on 12 July 1942. Arriving in the New Hebrides just after the landings on Guadalcanal, it supported operations in the Solomons with repair and salvage work at Espiritu Santo, Nouméa, Tongatapu, and Suva, as well as under battle conditions at Tulagi, Guadalcanal, and Rennell. Towing assignments during those operations took the boat throughout the island groups of the South Pacific, and once in late November-early December 1942 to Sydney, Australia.

The Navajo was awarded a battle star for its salvage operations between 8 August 1942 and 3 February 1943 — a unique honor for a fleet tug.

Stateside overhaul

In the spring of 1943, Navajo returned to California, underwent overhaul, and in July 1943 got underway to return to the South Pacific. Steaming via Pago Pago, it arrived at Bora Bora on 21 August 1943 and commenced salvage and repair work on USS Pasig. At the end of the month the ship sailed for Pago Pago, whence it got underway to tow gasoline barge YOG–42 to Espiritu Santo.

Sunk by torpedo

While en route to Espiritu Santo on 12 September 1943, the ship was torpedoed by Type B1 submarine I-39 and rocked by an explosion. Within seconds a heavy starboard list resulted in a submerged starboard side. Navajo began going down rapidly by the bow and abandonment commenced. As the ship settled, depth charges secured to port and starboard K-gun projectors exploded. An estimated two minutes had passed before the tugboat sank, 17 members of the crew died during the attack.



Coordinates: 14°58′35″S 169°17′57″E / 14.97639°S 169.29917°E / -14.97639; 169.29917

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