USS W T James
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W T James TR

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W. T. James

(TR: t. 267 (gross); 1. 150'; b. 22'; dr. 8'5" (mean);
s. 13 k.; cpl. 38; a. 13", 2 .30-cal. mg.)

W. T. James-a "Menhaden fisherman" built in 1912 at Wilmington, Del., by Harlan and Hollingsworthwas acquired by the Navy in the spring of 1917 from the Taft Fish Co., of Tappahannock, Va.; ordered delivered on I April; and accepted on 28 May for service as a minesweeper. Navy General Order No. 314 shortened the ship's name to James on 28 July, and the erstwhile fishing craft was commissioned in the 5th Naval District on 10 August 1917, Ens. E. R. Burr, USNRF, in command.

Designated SP-429, James was fitted out for "dis
tant service" at the Norfolk Navy Yard and, near the
end of August, departed the Tidewater area, bound
for Boston. There, with other sister ships which had
made the passage from Hampton Roads, James pre
pared for the voyage to European waters. Accordingly,
after shifting from Boston to Provincetown, Mass.,
on 25 August, James got underway for the Azores two
days later, on the first leg of the Atlantic cross , ing.

Reaching Ponta Delgada, Azores, on 6 Septembeir, James and her sister ships remained for fivp days, awaiting the tardy arrival of coal and water. On 11 September, the group departed the Azores on the last leg of the passage.

Disbanded as a mine squadron almost immediately after arriving at Brest, France, on 18 September, the vessels of the group soon were busy escorting convoys into and out of port. Between these missions, they spent long weeks. awaiting delivery of winches and French minesweeping gear. In November, the mine squadron was reconstituted under the command of Capt. Thomas P. Magruder. James, among the second group to be fitted out for minesweeping service, soon shifted to Lorient, Franed', where she would base for the remainder of the war.

From Lorient, James not only conducted minesweeping operations but covered coastal convoys, cleared important passages near Belle Isle, undertook night antisubmarine patrols using her crude listening gear, and assisted vessels in distress in her area. In July ,1918, James and two sister ships swept a minefield south of Belle Isle and, despite - the heavv weather in which the ships were forced to operate, accomplished their mission in such exemplary fashion that the three mine vessels received commendations from Vice Admiral Aubry, the French Prefet Maritime. During this operation, James cut out four mines in. the space of 17 minutes.

James remained in European waters through the winter of 1918-1919. She departed Brest on 27 April 1919, bound for the United States, but soon began encountering "boisterous weather" with increasing northwesterly winds and a choppy sea. At 1422, the escort commander, in Marietta (Gunboat No. 15). ordered the group to return to Brest.

When it became evident that James was taking on more water than usual, she was directed to proceed to Brest without delay. Unfortunately, the "Menhaden fisherman" worked so much that her scams opened, allowing water to flood the engine rooms and affect the boiler fires-an occurrence that severely limited the ship's capacity to deal with the rising flood waters.

James-her predicament grave-signalled the nearby MacDonough (Torpedo Boat Destroyer No. 9) and Rambler (SP-211) for aid. The former closed swiftly and attempted-unsuccessfully-to take the foundering minecraft in tow. The tug Penobscot (SP-982) managed to get a towline across to James the following morning and towed the ship for about 20 minutes before the line parted.
By that point, the heavy seas were nearly swamping the ship. Marietta closed as close as was practicable in the gale and put over a line. Rigging up a ferry arrangement with a liferaft from James, the trawler's entire crew reached safety on board the gunboat by shortly after 0800 on 28 April. Two hours later, James sank, six miles off Armen Light.

W. W. Burns


W. W. Burns-a wooden-hulled Chesapeake Bay schooner-was acquired by the Navy on 13 August 1861 at Baltimore, Md., for use as a stone-laden blockship. The purchase of W. W. Burns was one of 22 made at Baltimore in the summer of 1861, and she and the other 21 ships were slated to be loaded with stone, taken to the North Carolina coast, and sunk off the entrances to the major inlets leading to North Carolina sounds-Albemarle, Pamlico, and Okracoke. The project was the first of its nature undertaken by the Navy; and, due to delays and other problems, it failed. Some of the ships seem to have remained at their anchorages in Hampton Roads and deteriorated late that summer and into the autumn. W. W. Burns' ultimate fate as part of the first "stone fleet" venture is unrecorded.