USS CHIEF (AM-315)
The head or leader of a group.
AM - 315: dp. 890 l. 221'2" b. 32'2"dr. 10'9" s. 18 k. cpl. 105 a. 1 x 3"cl. Auk
“She operated with TF 95 around mine-infested Wonsan Harbor and was twice fired on by enemy shore batteries.”
Originally intended for Great Britain, HMS Alice (BAM-2) was launched 5 January 1943 by General Engineering and Dry Dock Co., Alameda, Calif.; renamed and reclassified Chief (AM-315), 23 January 1943; and commissioned 9 October 1943, Lieutenant Commander J. M. Wyckoff, USNR, in command.
Recommissioned, 28 February 1952 at Long Beach, Chief conducted training exercises off San Diego, until 7 July when she sailed for Sasebo, Japan, arriving 3 August. She operated with TF 95 around mine-infested Wonsan Harbor and was twice fired on by enemy shore batteries. She returned to Long Beach 5 February 1953 for local operations and training.
Her second Korean tour from 5 October 1953 to 2 June 1954 found her patrolling with TF 95 off both coasts of Korea to preserve the truce. She returned to west coast operations, and on 1 November 1954 was placed in commission in reserve.
Reclassified MSF-315 on 7 February 1955, she was placed out of commission in reserve 15 March 1955.
USS Chief received five battle stars for World War II service and two for Korean war service.
From: Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships
Footnote: “Friendly Fire Incident” August 15, 1952 - Operation “Flycatcher”
USS CHIEF(AM-315), arrived in the Korean War Zone in August , 1952, joining the veteran ships of the Mine Division in their interdiction efforts in and around Wonsan Harbor. The Mine Division was comprised of AM and AMS type minesweepers, supported by larger Destroyer Minesweepers (DM and DMS) and the Salvage Squadron primarily operating Diver class ARS’s.
The primary task of these units during this period of the war was to sweep the harbors and channels of mines, to allow larger vessels access to these areas for Naval Gunfire Support.
They would typically sweep into the harbor, drawing fire from the concealed shore batteries, which were then subdued by the 5” guns of the DMS’s and other Destroyers. It took tremendous nerve to work under the guns of the hidden shore batteries, under direct fire, while a vicious counter-battery duel was erupting around them.
The other primary task of these ships was “flycatcher” patrol, in which they would engage enemy mine laying sampans, sinking or capturing as many as possible. It was during this period that SYMBOL (AM-123), operating with TOUCAN (AM-387), intercepted large numbers of communist sampans running food and supplies along the coast. The two ships shot up a total of 70 sampans while boat crews captured seven, taking 30 prisoners.
There were only five USN ships sunk during the Korean War. Four were Minesweepers, and the fifth was a salvage tug. All were sunk by mines with heavy losses. In addition, many units of the mine division suffered direct hits and near misses while exchanging thousands of rounds in ship to shore battles.
It was during one of these exchanges on the night of August 12, 1952, that USS GRAPPLE (ARS-7), on “flycatcher” patrol since August 8, took a hit below the waterline from a shore battery at Wonsan. Fortunately the shell did not explode, and the damage control party repaired the 6” by 15” hole made by the projectile. Three days later while still on patrol, GRAPPLE received more serious injuries, this time at the hands of a friend.
On August 15, 1952, an unfortunate incident occurred. GRAPPLE had been fully engaged in Korea since May 17, 1952, and was patrolling on this night seeking out sampans laying mines, as was CHIEF, newly arrived in the war zone the week prior.
Because of a mistake in identification signals, CHIEF opened fire on GRAPPLE at a range of about 900 yards. Several shells fell short or exploded above the ship, but one 3'' projectile hit just above the pilot house, killing 2 men, injuring 11 others, critically, and doing extensive damage to the pilot house and gun deck.
After repairs at Sasebo, GRAPPLE returned to Korea, making three more "flycatcher" patrols to protect U.S. ships operating off shore before returning to Pearl Harbor 9 December 1952. She then sailed for overhaul at Seattle.
CHIEF also resumed operations after this unfortunate incident, returning to Long Beach , February 5, 1953 for local operations and training.
Both ships never returned to Korean waters until after the armistice.