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  USS Ortolan ASR-5 / AM-45 / Mine Sweeper 45
Submarine Rescue Ship

1,009 Tons
174' | 187' 10" | 35' 6"
2 x 3" guns
2 x 20mm AA

Click For Enlargement
Click For Enlargement
USN June 1943
Ship History
Built by the Staten Island Shipbuilding Company in New York, New York. Laid down July 9, 1918. Launched January 30. 1919 by Miss Theresa M. Finn. Commissioned September 17, 1919 into the U. S. Navy (USN) as USS Ortolan (AM-45) or Mine Sweeper 45 with Lieutenant William A. James in command. Named Ortolan for the European bunting-type bird. This vessel was capable of a maximum speed of 14 knots with economical crusing speed of 6 knots.

On November 10, 1919 assigned to the Pacific Fleet and departed New York via ports on the east coast then via Puerto Rico and Cuba then via the Gulf of Mexico to cross the Panama Canal before reaching San Diego on June 13, 1920. Nine days later departed northward to Puget Sound Navy Yard at Bremerton where she remained, with a caretaker crew, until March 23, 1921. Then, returned to southern California and used as a tug boat for a year. On May 3, 1922 decommissioned at Mare Island Navy Yard.

Recommissioned on 11 July 1922, she assumed the duties of submarine tender at the submarine base at San Pedro. From 9 June to 25 August 1923, USS Ortolan conducted an extended cruise off Alaska. Early in September 1923, USS Ortolan assisted in the salvage of the seven destroyers that ran aground and were wrecked in the Navy's greatest peacetime disaster, at Point Honda, California. Following that effort, the ship resumed her submarine tender duties out of San Pedro. Operating from San Pedro until 1927, USS Ortolan ranged along the west coast of from Oregon to Panama. During January to April 1924 participated in fleet maneuvers in the Caribbean Sea.

During July of 1927, Ortolan steamed westward, accompanying USS Holland (AS-3) (Submarine Tender-3) and two divisions of S Class submarines to Pearl Harbor. During the following month, she assisted in the search for competitors lost during the "Dole Race," the first flight linking the west coast of the United States and the Hawaiian Islands.

In September of 1927, USS Ortolan resumed her submarine tender duties along the west coast of the United States, and, for another two years, ranged the eastern Pacific Ocean areas as submarines conducted training exercises in those waters.

On September 12, 1929, her designation was changed from AM-45 to ASR-5 for Submarine Rescue Ship-5. Although her mission was now different, she continued to operate, primarily, in, and in the vicinity of, California, throughout the 1930s. Brief exceptions occurred when she participated in fleet problems, and, in 1936, when she had a four-month deployment to Pearl Harbor. During 1939, USS Ortolan was assigned to Submarine Squadron 6 at San Diego.

Wartime History
On December 10, 1941 Ortolan steamed departed the west coast and eleven days later arrived at Pearl Harbor to assist in salvage efforts on sunken U. S. Navy warships damaged and sunk during the Japanese attack. For the next six months, the ASR worked on, and finally refloated, USS Oglala (CM-4) (Mine Layer-4) which had been sunk by the Japanese.

On 18 July 1942, USS Ortolan reported for duty for a tour with the submarines based at Pearl Harbor, recovering practice torpedoes and mines and assisting the submarines in various ways to prepare them for upcoming war patrols. The ship trained Navy divers, and, during October, prepared for combat duty with the installation of new sound gear and additional armaments. After crossing the Pacific, overhauled at Auckland during October 1942.

On November 20, 1942 arrived at Espiritu Santo . For the next ten days, she salvaged needed war supplies from the sunken SS President Coolidge.

Next, USS Ortolan steamed to Tulagi to provide temporary repairs to cruisers damaged during the Battle of Tassafaronga. The cruisers departed twelve days later. Then the ASR commenced a busy two months assisting vessels ranging from patrol torpedo boats to destroyers and transports and undertaking salvage and repair jobs.

During this period, worked with a 320' lighter, USS Ortolan salvaged two Japanese submarines and an A6M Zero. During June 1943 , divers from the USS Ortolan (ASR-5) located and raised a sunken Type A midget submarine off Guadalcanal. Divers included: J.W. Crawford, Douglas R. Kemp and Lt. F. X. Sommer (M.C.) USNR. On July 17, 1943 the divers first removed the batteries. Afterwards, the hull rose to the surface of its own volition. Inside the hull, the bodies of both crew members were found, also documents in the engine room. Afterwards, the submarine was towed to Kukum Bay.

On January 17, 1944, USS Ortolan departed the Solomons bound for Noumea then returned to the United States, enroute undertaking transport and submarine training duties. Arrived at San Pedro on March 4, 1944. At the end of April, the ASR reported for duty with the Western Sea Frontier, and, for the ensuing eighteen months, operated as escort and torpedo recovery vessel for submarines conducting exercises off the coast of California. Ortolan (ASR-5) earned one battle star for her services during World War II.

Two months after the formal Japanese surrender, USS Ortolan again headed back to Pearl Harbor and trained divers until April 1946 then departed across the Pacific arriving at Tsingtao on May 18, 1946 and operated with U. S. Navy (USN) submarines from the 7th Fleet and conducted various diving operations until November 1946.

On November 13, 1946 crossed the Pacific arriving at San Francisco on December 24, 1946. Decommissioned March 18, 1947. Struck from the Navy List on June 10, 1947 and transferred to the United States Maritime Commission for disposal.

On August 20, 1947 sold to Bay Cities Transportation Company. Ultimate fate unknown likely scrapped or otherwise disappeared.

USS Ortolan (AM-45, ASR-5) Ship's History by Robert Loys Sminkey (retrieved May 26, 2005)
NavSource - USS Ortolan (ASR 5)

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Last Updated
August 4, 2020


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