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USS Ortolan (AM-45)
USS Ortolan (ASR 5)
Career US flag 48 stars.svg
Name: USS Ortolan
Builder: Staten Island Shipbuilding Co., New York City
Laid down: 9 July 1918
Launched: 30 January 1919
Commissioned: 17 September 1919, as Minesweeper No.45
Decommissioned: 18 March 1947
Reclassified: AM-45, 17 July 1920
ASR-5, 12 September 1929
Struck: 10 June 1947
Honours and
1 battle star (World War II)
Fate: Sold, 20 August 1947
General characteristics
Class & type: Lapwing-class minesweeper
Displacement: 1,009 long tons (1,025 t) full load
Length: 187 ft 10 in (57.25 m)
Beam: 35 ft 6 in (10.82 m)
Draft: 10 ft 4 in (3.15 m)
Propulsion: Harlan and Hollingsworth vertical triple expansion steam engine, 1 shaft
Speed: 14 knots (26 km/h; 16 mph)
Complement: 72
Armament: • 2 × 3"/50 caliber guns
• 2 × 20 mm guns

The first USS Ortolan was a Lapwing-class minesweeper in the United States Navy. She was later converted to a submarine rescue ship. She was named after the ortolan, a European bunting.

Ortolan was laid down 9 July 1918 by the Staten Island Shipbuilding Co., New York City, USA; launched 30 January 1919; sponsored by Miss Theresa M. Finn; and commissioned 17 September 1919, Lt. William A. James in command.

U.S. west coast operationsEdit

Assigned to the Pacific Fleet, Ortolan got underway for the west coast 10 November 1919. Following stops at east and U.S. Gulf coast ports, Puerto Rico, and Cuba, she arrived at San Diego, California, 13 June 1920. Nine days later she sailed north to Bremerton, Washington, where she remained, with a caretaker crew, until 23 March 1921.

Then returning to Southern California, she served as a tugboat for a year and on 3 May 1922 decommissioned at Mare Island, California. Recommissioned 11 July, she assumed the duties of tender at the Submarine Base, San Pedro, California. From 9 June to 25 August 1923 she conducted, as flagship, Commander, Composite Submarine Squadrons Pacific, her first extended cruise, cold weather operations off Alaska. During September she assisted in the salvage of the seven destroyers wrecked in the Honda Point Disaster, earlier in the month, then resumed tender operations out of San Pedro, California. Operating from there until 1927, she ranged the west coast of the Americas from Panama to Oregon — and once, January–April 1924, cruised in the Caribbean on fleet maneuvers.

In July 1927 she steamed west, accompanying Holland (AS-3) and two 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 $3 as submarines conducted training exercises.

Redesignated as submarine rescue vesselEdit

Redesignated a submarine rescue vessel ASR–5 on 12 September 1929, Ortolan's mission changed, but, throughout the 1930s, her area of operations continued, with brief exceptions for fleet problems and, in 1936, a four-month tour at Pearl Harbor, in the California area.

Japanese attack at Pearl HarborEdit

On 10 December 1941, Ortolan sailed west again and on the 21st arrived at Pearl Harbor to assist in the staggering salvage job which was the aftermath of the Japanese attack two weeks earlier. For the next half year she worked on, and finally floated, Oglala (CM-4). On 18 July 1942, she reported for a year's tour with Pearl Harbor based submarines, recovering torpedoes and assisting in preparations for war patrols. She then trained Navy divers and in October prepared for combat duty with the installation of new sound gear and new armament, two 3-inch and two 20 mm guns.

World War II Pacific Theatre operationsEdit

The Beached Transport SS President Coolidge—October 1942

Troop transport SS President Coolidge being abandoned after beaching.

Heading out across the Pacific, 1 November, she arrived at Espiritu Santo on the 20th. For the next ten days she salvaged needed war supplies from the sunken Army transport SS President Coolidge. Ortolan then steamed to Tulagi to make temporary repairs on cruisers damaged during the Battle of Tassafaronga. The cruisers sailed 12 days later and Ortolan commenced a busy two months during which she assisted vessels, PT boats to destroyers and transports, surveyed sunken Japanese and recovered downed "Zeros" for intelligence evaluation.

"Intelligence gathering" extended well into 1943 as Ortolan took on the salvaging of two Japanese submarines, one a two-man "midget", the other a 320-foot boat loaded with supplies. Both lay in the waters off Guadalcanal's northern coast. Although frequently interrupted for other, more pressing, salvage or repair jobs, Ortolan raised the "midget" and towed her to Kukum Bay in May, and, in June delivered her to Noumea.

Return to stateside operationsEdit

Overhaul at Auckland followed and in October she returned to the Solomon Islands. There, and in the New Hebrides, she continued salvage work into 1944. On 17 January, she departed for Noumea, thence heading east. After abbreviated transport and submarine training duties en route, she arrived at San Pedro 4 March 1944. At the end of April she reported for duty with the Western Sea Frontier and for the ensuing 18 months operated as escort and torpedo recovery vessel for submarines conducting exercises off California.

Pacific post-war operationsEdit

Two months after the formal Japanese surrender Ortolan again headed west. She trained Navy divers at Pearl Harbor until April 1946, then got underway for the Far East. Arriving at Tsingtao, China, 18 May, she operated with U.S. 7th Fleet submarines and conducted diving operations until November. On the 13th she sailed homeward, arriving at San Francisco, California, 24 December.


Decommissioned 18 March 1947, Ortolan was struck from the Navy List 10 June, and was sold by the Maritime Commission 20 August 1947 to Bay Cities Transportation Co.


Ortolan (ASR–5) earned one battle star during World War II.


This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.

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