USS Kittiwake (ASR-13) - Service History

Service History

After shakedown, Kittiwake departed Charleston, South Carolina, 3 October for Balboa, Canal Zone, arriving 8 October. Assigned to support and rescue duty with Submarine Squadron 6, the submarine rescue ship accompanied submarines during sea trials and maneuvers to monitor diving operations; to practice underwater rescue procedures; and to recover practice torpedoes. While based at Balboa, her operations carried her to the Virgin Islands, to Puerto Rico, and along the Atlantic coast to the Davis Strait.

Departing Balboa 31 May 1949, Kittiwake arrived Norfolk, Virginia 6 June to continue duty with SubRon 6. From 17 January to 1 February 1950 she provided divers and equipment during salvage operations to free the battleship Missouri, grounded in tidal banks off Thimble Shoals, Virginia. During the 1950s she cruised the Atlantic from New England to the Caribbean while supporting ships of the "Silent Service" with a trained and highly skilled crew. And while on station off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida, 20 July 1960, she stood ready to assist the fleet ballistic missile submarine George Washington as George Washington successfully launched the first two Polaris ballistic missiles ever fired from a submarine beneath the sea.

Kittiwake continued operating out of Norfolk until 1 August 1961 when she departed for the Mediterranean. Arriving at Rota, Spain, on 15 August, she cruised the Mediterranean from Spain to Greece while deployed with the United States Sixth Fleet. After supporting submarine maneuvers out of Piraeus, Greece, from 20 September to 9 October, she departed the Mediterranean 8 November and arrived Norfolk the 18th. She then conducted operations out of Norfolk for the next 18 months. While on duty off Key West 2 February 1963, she sighted a Cuban boat, Jose Maria Perez; took on board 12 refugees (including 3 children) fleeing communist oppression in Cuba; and carried them to safety at Key West.

Departing Charleston, South Carolina, 16 April, Kittiwake arrived St. Nazaire, France, 3 May with two Landing Craft Utility (LCU's) in tow. She proceeded to the Mediterranean 10 May and reached Rota the 14th. For more than two months she participated in fleet operations before departing Rota 31 July for the United States. Returning to Norfolk 10 August 1963, she resumed training and support operations with submarines, along the Atlantic coast. Through 1964 and 1965, Kittiwake continued her role in maintaining the readiness of individual submarines which were to carry out their missions of defense and deterrent effectively. She escorted them as they left the East Coast shipyards for sea trials, standing ready to come to their rescue should difficulties arise. Constant exercise in use of weapons by submarines was furnished by Kittiwake, such as running as a target and recovering exercise torpedoes and mines. The operations ranged from the Virginia Capes to the Atlantic missile range off Florida. On 6 April 1965, she departed Norfolk with submarines for exercises off the coast of Spain, thence to the Mediterranean Sea.

Kittiwake departed Toulon 31 May 1965, to operate out of Rota, Spain, in support of the fleet ballistic missile submarines of Submarine Squadron 16: Andrew Jackson, Woodrow Wilson, James Madison, and Nathan Hale. Following torpedo recovery and training off the coast of Spain, she sailed for Holy Loch, Scotland 30 June 1965, to give support to Submarine Squadron 14 there. She recovered torpedoes for the fleet ballistic missile submarines James Monroe and John Adams, provided underway training for men of the submarine tender Hunley, then sailed 20 July for Norfolk, arriving 30 July 1965. During the autumn months, Kittiwake guarded new Polaris submarines, Lewis and Clark and Simon Bolivar, during their builder's sea trials prior to commissioning.

Kittiwake operated on the United States East Coast and in the Caribbean until sailing for the Mediterranean 8 July 1966. She reached the Bay of Cádiz on the 20th and transited the straits 2 days later. She operated in the Mediterranean until emerging at Rota, Spain, 1 September. She headed for Holy Loch on the 6th and arrived on the 11th. Four days later she was ordered to the North Sea to assist in locating and salvaging the German submarine Hai (S-171). She reached the scene of the tragedy 17 September and remained on hand assisting salvage operations until the 20th. She continued to operate off Western Europe until returning to Norfolk 13 November. Kittiwake operated on the East Coast into 1967.

On 23 April 1984, Kittiwake collided with the attack submarine USS Bergall (SSN-667) at Norfolk, Virginia, while Bergall was moored to the pier astern of her. Kittiwake was getting underway for the first time since she had undergone maintenance, during which her main drive motor was re-wired improperly, causing it and the screw it drove to rotate in the opposite direction from that ordered by personnel on Kittiwake's bridge. This was unknown to Kittiwake's bridge personnel, who found that Kittiwake started to move astern when they were expecting her to move forward. Noting the backward motion, they ordered an increase in the motor drive speed in order to correct it and get Kittiwake moving forward, but unwittingly caused Kittiwake to move further astern and at a higher speed. Still not realizing that Kittiwake's main drive motor was operating in reverse of what they expected, Kittiwake's bridge personnel then ordered another increase in Kittiwake's forward speed, which only served to increase her speed astern. This continued until Kittiwake's stern backed into Bergall's sonar dome.

This section requires expansion with: history for 1984 through 1994.

In 1986, the Kittiwake recovered the black box from the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.

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