May 19

The Life & Service of a World War 2 Mine Warfare Sailor. Part 10

Tuesday, May 19, 2020 12:01 AM


When we left, my grandfather’s ship, the USS Sway (AM-120), was off the coast of San Tropez, France participating in Operation Dragoon. As the initial landings were over the ship’s main job was to keep the shipping channels open and clear of any mines dropped from German aircraft. They also patrolled for German E-boat’s (small armed patrol craft) that tried to enter the area. As noted with previous blogs all entries come from the ship’s war diary unless otherwise noted.

August 22, 1944
Day’s Operations-0000-8 Patrolling from point “SS” to point “SR” Delta Assault area, Operation DRAGOON. 08-24 Anchored in Gulf of Tropez conducting mine watch. Made smoke at dusk. Acting as flagship Commander Mine Division 18.

August 23, 1944
Day’s Operations- 00-08 Anchored in Gulf of Tropez conducting minewatch. Underway at 0800 to conduct “M: type with USS Swift AM122 OTC. 1230 completed sweep results negative. 1330-1730 Taking fuel along side British tanker. 1800-2400 Anchored in Gulf of Tropez conducting mine watch. Made smoke during dusk. Acting as flagship Commander Mine Division 18.

USS Swift (AM-122) Auk class minesweeper and sister ship of the Sway
(Courtesy of the Author)

August 24, 1944.
0000-1600 Anchored in Gulf of Tropez. 1715- Proceeding to Camel area Operation DRAGOON, Left Camel area proceeded to Point H Delta area, to conduct mine watch for the night. Made smoke at dusk. Acting as flagship for Commander Mine Division 18.

The Sway continued this pattern of moving between the various assault areas until 30 August when she moved off to take on stores before returning to the Delta assault area to again take up station.

August 30, 1944
Day’s Operations: Anchored in Gulf of Tropez conducting mine watch. Got underway at 0615 proceeding to Camel area Operation DRAGOON, to get stores. Spent the day lying to in Baie De Cavaliere waiting for stores. Returned to the Gulf of Tropez and anchored for night conducting mine watch. Acting as flagship CominDiv 18.

August 31, 1944.
Day’s Operations Anchored in Gulf of Tropez conducting mine watch. Got underway and took 3 LCVP’s in tow. Proceeded to Toulon France, Anchored for the night in Baie De Corraone, France. Acting as flagship Commander CominDiv18.

The LCVP’s (Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel) is better known as the Higgin’s boat landing craft. These were used extensively for amphibious landings in World War II. Each boat carried roughly a platoon of men, 36 in total, to the beaches and were used in both European and Pacific theaters. More than 23,358 of them were built during the war. (1)

LCVP used in Normandy Invasion
(Courtesy of the Author)

September 1, 1944.
Day’s Operations: 00 Anchored in Garrone Bay France. 1800- Returned to Gulf of Tropez. Transporting Commander Mine Division Eighteen to various points on assault beaches, Operation DRAGOON. Acting as flagship for Commander Mine Division EIGHTEEN.

September 2, 1944.
Day’s Operations:00- Anchored Gulf of Tropez France. Got underway at first light and proceeded to Marseilles, France. Acting as flagship Commander Mine Division Eighteen. Orders received and decisions reached: Orders received by Commander Mine Division Eighteen relieving Mine Division Eighteen from duty maintaining swept channels, Gulf of Tropez area. Operating under Task Unit 80.10.

And with those orders the Sway’s participation in Operation Dragoon ended. My grandfather makes a note about Marseilles calling it “The best ever.”

September 3, 1944
Day’s Operations 00- Anchored in Rade Di Marseilles, France. 0700- underway to conduct oropesa maintenance sweep in company with Mine Division Eighteen. 1305- Completed sweep, results negative. Anchired in Rade Di Marseilles. Acting as flagship Commander Mine Division Eighteen.
Meteorological and sea information may have directly affected operations: Heavy seas with winds of 25 to 30 knots.
Pertinent remarks not included in after action report. Heavy seas made Oropesa sweeping especially difficult.

The Oropesa sweep or “O” sweep was one of several mine sweeping techniques employed in anti-mine warfare. The basic idea was the mine sweeper would tow a weighted line that would sink to a designated depth. That line or sweep wire would also have cutters that were designed to cut submerged mines free of their anchor and bring them to the surface where gunners could detonate them with rifle fire. The Mine gear used consisted of:

A cable to tow the equipment.
A “kite” to control the fixed depth of the sweep.
Cutters connected to the Cable to cut the mine mooring cable.
An “otter” to pull the cable and cutters outwards and away from the ship.
And Oropesa Float to stop it from all sinking to the bottom.

This sweep usually involved several minesweepers with the lead ship clearing the path for the next two vessels who cleared a path for the next two vessels and so forth. This spread out the sweep area and kept the primary danger to the lead vessel as the trailing vessels would travel through the area swept by the vessel or vessels in front of them. (2)

Oropesa sweep operation using 5 mine sweepers
(Courtesy of the Author)


Oropesa Equipment
(Courtesy of the Author)

The Sway continued sweeping operations in the area of Marseilles, France into October however, no mines were found. On 25 September 1944 one incident occurred that was not the typical which is where I will end this month. I will pick back up with the ship’s war journal in July with ship’s operations in October 1944.

September 25, 1944
Day’s Operations 00- Anchored in Rade Di Marseilles France, 0730-underway sweeping approach channels magnetic and acoustic. Results Negative. 1311-Fouled float pendant from starboard orepresa gear in starboard propeller. Returned to anchorage on one shaft. No damage to propeller, lost one float. 1530- Anchored Rade Di Marseilles, France. Acting as flagship commander mine division eighteen.

Enjoy the author’s earlier posts here:

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