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USS Curb (ARS-21) on 16 May 1944
Click on this photograph for links to larger images of this class.

Class:        DIVER (ARS-5)
Design        Navy ARS-5
Displacement (tons):        1,478 light, 1,940 lim.
Dimensions (feet):        213.5' oa, 207.0' wl x 39.0' e x 14.1' lim.
Original Armament:        2-1.1"Q
Later armaments:        2-40mmT (1944-47: ARS-6, 8-9, 20, 22-23, 25-26, 33-34); 2-40mmT 4-20mmS (1946: ARS-7); 2-40mmT 2>3-20mmT (1951-55: ARS 7-8, 22-25); 2-40mmT 2- 20mmT 2-20mmS (1952-55: ARS-8, 24); 2-40mmT (1958-59: ARS 7-8, 22-25);
1-40mmS (1963-68: ARS 6-8, 22-25); 1-40mmS 2-20mmT (1972: ARS-7); 1- 40mmS (1975: ARS-7);
2-20mmT (1972: ARS-6, 8);
None (1975: ARS-6, 8, 23-25);
2-20mmS (1977: ARS 6-8, 23-25)
Complement        96 (1944)
Speed (kts.):        14.8
Propulsion (HP):        3,000
Machinery:        2 screws, diesel-electric

Construction:
ARS Name Ord. Builder Keel Launch Commiss.
5 DIVER 20 Sep 41 Basalt Rock 6 Apr 42 19 Dec 42 23 Oct 43
6 ESCAPE 20 Sep 41 Basalt Rock 24 Aug 42 22 Nov 42 20 Nov 43
7 GRAPPLE 20 Sep 41 Basalt Rock 8 Sep 42 31 Dec 42 16 Dec 43
8 PRESERVER 20 Sep 41 Basalt Rock 26 Oct 42 1 Apr 43 11 Jan 44
9 SHACKLE 20 Sep 41 Basalt Rock 26 Oct 42 1 Apr 43 5 Feb 44
19 CABLE 14 Mar 42 Basalt Rock 24 Nov 42 1 Apr 43 6 Mar 44
20 CHAIN 14 Mar 42 Basalt Rock 21 Dec 42 3 Jun 43 31 Mar 44
21 CURB 14 Mar 42 Basalt Rock 1 Jan 43 24 Apr 43 12 May 44
22 CURRENT 14 Mar 42 Basalt Rock 2 Apr 43 25 Sep 43 14 Jun 44
23 DELIVER 14 Mar 42 Basalt Rock 2 Apr 43 25 Sep 43 18 Jul 44
24 GRASP 14 Mar 42 Basalt Rock 27 Apr 43 31 Jul 43 22 Aug 44
25 SAFEGUARD 14 Mar 42 Basalt Rock 5 Jun 43 20 Nov 43 30 Sep 44
26 SEIZE 14 Mar 42 Basalt Rock 28 Sep 43 8 Apr 44 3 Nov 44
27 SNATCH 14 Mar 42 Basalt Rock 28 Sep 43 8 Apr 44 11 Dec 44
33 CLAMP 2 Dec 41 Basalt Rock 2 Mar 42 24 Oct 42 23 Aug 43
34 GEAR 2 Dec 41 Basalt Rock 2 Mar 42 24 Oct 42 24 Sep 43

Disposition:
ARS Name Decomm. Strike Disposal Fate MA Sale
5 DIVER 30 Jul 46 31 Jan 50 28 Mar 49 Sold --
6 ESCAPE 1 Sep 78 12 Jul 95 4 Dec 80 USCG 25 Aug 09
7 GRAPPLE 1 Dec 77 1 Dec 77 1 Dec 77 Trf --
8 PRESERVER 7 Aug 92 16 Mar 94 1 Feb 99 MA/T 26 Aug 05
9 SHACKLE 29 Jun 46 19 Jul 46 29 Jun 46 USCG --
19 CABLE 15 Sep 47 15 Apr 77 15 Sep 47 MC --
20 CHAIN 9 Nov 46 30 Dec 77 ca Nov 79 Sold --
21 CURB 20 Dec 46 30 Apr 81 10 May 47 MC --
22 CURRENT 28 Apr 72 1 Jun 73 27 Aug 74 Sold --
23 DELIVER 15 Aug 79 15 Aug 79 15 Aug 79 Trf --
24 GRASP 31 Mar 78 31 Mar 78 31 Mar 78 Trf --
25 SAFEGUARD 28 Sep 79 6 Aug 87 28 Sep 79 Trf --
26 SEIZE 28 Jun 46 13 Nov 46 28 Jun 46 USCG --
27 SNATCH Dec 46 1 May 70 8 Nov 71 Sold --
33 CLAMP 6 May 47 1 Jul 63 1 Jul 63 MA/T --
34 GEAR 13 Dec 46 30 Apr 81 24 Feb 53 MA --

Class Notes:
FY 1942 (ARS 5-9, 19-27), 1941 (ARS 33-34 as BARS 3-4). On 9 Dec 40 CinCUS recommended that five salvage vessels be procured, two for assignment to the Base Force, two to the Patrol Forces, and one to the Commandant, 12th Naval District. The Bureau of Ships in early February 1941 stated that there were no suitable commercial vessels available and that the "Bird" class minesweepers were suitable for shore-based salvage operations but not for use by the Fleet. The Bureau felt that, regardless of the decision then under deliberation as to whether salvage would be taken over completely by the Navy or operated by private salvage firms under the Navy, the Government would be required to furnish salvage vessels and equipment. The Bureau therefore recommended that five salvage vessels be constructed and made available for Fleet salvage. This was in addition to the requirement for eight salvage vessels for shore-based salvage in the Naval Districts that the Bureau outlined in the same February 1941 letter. This correspondence plus a series of correspondence within the office of CNO between 14 Jan 41 and 10 Feb 41 led to the inclusion of five salvage tugs in a program for 550,000 tons of auxiliary vessels for FY 1942 that was authorized by Congress on 24 May 41 and funded on 3 Jul 41.

CNO on 15 Feb 41 and SecNav on 18 Feb 41 tasked the General Board to determine the definite characteristics of a "fleet tug (ATS) to be used primarily for salvage purposes." These tugs were to operate from Naval Districts with the support of shore facilities or from the fleet with the support of repair ships or tender facilities. They were to be relatively simple and economical to construct and were to be suitable for the salvage of stranded vessels of the largest size and for the salvage of vessels damaged at sea by enemy action or by collision. They were to be designed with special regard to handiness, deck space, stowage space, and ruggedness. Construction was to be such, if possible, as to permit utilization of commercial shipbuilding facilities with minimum interference with the current shipbuilding program. The Board then outlined the general parameters of such a ship using dimensions and characteristics recommended to it on 21 Feb 41 by the Salvage Section of BuShips, which had obtained them from officials of Merritt-Chapman & Scott. These called for a vessel that had a length of 200 feet, speed of 16.25 knots, a single screw, and an armament of 2-20mm guns. On 28 Mar 41 BuShips submitted a design that used the hull and propelling machinery of the new NAVAJO (AT-64) class fleet tugs modified by adding a forecastle and lowering the main deck in order to reduce the freeboard aft to maintain adequate stability. The ship, which like the tugs had a long cruising radius, was to have the minimum freeboard aft consistent with seaworthiness and stability, with a form of stern that would facilitate handling tows close aboard or alongside. The design included two booms of at least 15 tons capacity each, one forward and one aft, a decompression chamber, holds for salvage gear forward and aft, and an open deck for working space aft. On 5 Apr 41 the General Board submitted these characteristics to SecNav, and CNO and SecNav approved them on 12 Apr 41, with the exception that the decompression chamber was deleted to free up more deck space for salvage work. CNO's transmission of these characteristics to the Bureau of Ships on 14 Apr 41 constituted his directive to the Bureau to build the ships, a directive that was reaffirmed by the District Craft Development Board on 21 Jun 41.

On 5 Aug 41 CNO approved some changes in these characteristics, changes that BuShips had recommended on 31 Jul 41 based on recent war experiences of the British. The first change was the adoption of twin screws instead of a single screw to improve capabilities in scouring sand, silt, etc., from around ships grounded on loose bottom, to improve maneuverability, and to reduce maximum draft aft. The second change was the specialization of the design on salvage and the removal of the towing engine, leaving the ocean towing function to fleet tugs. This permitted the adoption of a flat-bottomed hull form having fairly full ends to permit the salvage ship to take the bottom without listing or burying where it was desirable to continue work around a wreck in shoal water regardless of the stage of the tide. It also allowed increasing storage capacity in holds without increasing the length of the ship. The change in hull form required accepting a slightly reduced top speed -- 16.0 knots instead of 16.25 -- to retain the original machinery plant. The final change was to modify the boom arrangements from one 15-ton boom forward and one aft to two 15-ton booms forward and one 6-ton boom aft (later two 6-ton booms re-rated to 10 tons on a pair of kingposts), in order to facilitate handling heavy stores from the forward holds and the laying-out of beach gear. Reflecting these changes, CNO in the same letter directed that the designation of the ships be changed from Fleet Tugs (ATS) to Salvage Vessels (ARS). BuShips assigned the numbers ARS 5-9 in place of ATS 1-5 on 8 Sep 41 and the names of these five ships were assigned on 22 Sep 41. This design was also used to build four steel hulled salvage ships requested earlier in 1941 by the British (see the BARS-1 class). The towing engine was restored and the boom arrangement further modified after the ships began entering service. The ships were also fitted with rollers and tackle for lifting over the bow, making them useful in harbor clearance as well as salvage.

In mid-December 1941 the Navy began developing a list of its total requirements in ships for a maximum war effort. On 12 Jan 42 the General Board submitted to SecNav a list of the additional ships of each type that would be required, including 9 more salvage ships (ARS 19-27). On 16 Feb 42 SecNav directed the construction of these ships. ARS 33-34, which had been built as BARS 3-4 (see the BARS-1 class) under British Lend Lease requisition UK 750 of 6 Jun 41, were formally allocated to the U.S. Navy by the Munitions Assignment Board on 25 Aug 42. These two ships were both commissioned before ARS 5-9 began to enter service.

After completion of the first units concerns arose about their stability. The definitive fix was made in the ARS-38 class (q.v.), but ARS 21-27 were fitted with wooden sheathing on the sides of their hulls and ARS-8 was given experimental buoyant blisters. The most visible configuration change made to the design after the ships began entering service, however, was the replacement of the two kingposts aft (connected at the top by a lattice girder) and their two booms with a single larger kingpost and two (later one) lengthened booms. The modification appears to have been first proposed on 23 Jun 43 by the Navy's Assistant Supervisor of Shipbuilding at Napa, Calif. where the ships were being built. This alteration was incorporated into ARS-6 and the later vessels of the class before completion. On 23 May 45 the Commanding Officer of GEAR (ARS-34, ex BARS-4) urgently requested that his vessel be similarly modified, explaining that the present twin booms could only be swung outboard by use of outriggers and that inability to rig these under some conditions had impeded efforts to lift the heavy weights needed to save some battle damaged vessels from sinking. Postwar photographs of ARS-34 and probably ARS-33 and ARS-5 indicate that they soon received this modification, probably in 1945-1946.

The emergency wartime contract with Merritt-Chapman & Scott to operate the Naval Salvage Service was terminated on 11 May 47, at which time the Maritime Commission was to have sold to the company replacements for two Navy-owned vessels that it was operating. The MC was unable to provide the ships, however, and in order to maintain the firm's salvage services in U.S. waters the Navy temporarily chartered CABLE and WILLET (ARS-12) for operation by the company. It soon became clear that all vessels available to the MC were unsuitable and on 18 Dec 47 the Navy chartered to the salvage firm CABLE and CURB under a new contract with the firm for the maintenance of two salvage ship on the east coast. On 2 Feb 49 SecNav authorized the sale of DIVER to the company on terms to be arranged by BuShips. The ship was delivered to and accepted by the salvage firm on 12 Apr 49. In the meantime, the wartime contract with Merritt-Chapman & Scott, NObs-36, was drastically reduced to cover the operation of a single salvage ship on the West Coast, initially VIKING (ARS-1) and later GEAR.

Ship Notes:
ARS Name Notes
5 DIVER Ex ATS-1 8 Sep 41. In USN reserve 1946-49. Sold to Merritt- Chapman & Scott, delivered 12 Apr 49, and renamed RESCUE. Renamed RESCUE M. 1976, scrapped 1988.
6 ESCAPE Ex ATS-2 8 Sep 41. In USN reserve 1946-51 (decomm. 2 Jul 46, recomm. 27 Dec 51). To NDRF 12 Oct 79, from NDRF 4 Dec 80. USCGC ESCAPE (WMEC-6) 1980. Returned to Navy 12 Jul 95. To NDRF 26 Sep 00, MA/T (title to MA for disposal) 28 Jul 01. Departed NDRF 15 Sep 09 for scrapping by Bay Bridge Enterprises, Chesapeake, Va., scrapping completed 26 Feb 10.
7 GRAPPLE Ex ATS-3 8 Sep 41. In USN reserve 1946-51 (decomm. 30 Aug 46). To Taiwan as TA HU 1977, still listed 2009.
8 PRESERVER Ex ATS-4 8 Sep 41. In USN reserve 1946-50 (decomm. 23 Apr 47). Decomm. 30 Sep 86, recomm. 26 Sep 87. To NDRF 11 Jan 96. Scrapping contract 26 Aug 05 with Bay Bridge Enterprises, Chesapeake, Va., departed NDRF 30 Nov 05, scrapping completed 11 Mar 06.
9 SHACKLE Ex ATS-5 8 Sep 41. USCGC ACUSHNET 1946. Still in service 2010 as the Coast Guard's oldest commissioned cutter.
19 CABLE Loaned to MA and delivered 15 Sep 47 to Merritt Chapman & Scott for operation as replacement for WARBLER (ARS-11). In 1973 was under bare boat charter from the Navy's Supervisor of Salvage to Murphy Pacific Marine Salvage Co. Sunk as target 7 Aug 78 by USS VALDEZ (FF-1096).
20 CHAIN In USN reserve 1946-58. To MSTS from reserve 1 Jul 58, converted to oceanographic research ship by Bethlehem Steel, Boston, and transferred 13 Nov 59 on loan to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. Carried in Navy records as ARS-20 until 1 Apr 67 when reclassified AGOR-17. Navy date of record for scrap sale is 7 Nov 79.
21 CURB Loaned to MA 10 May 47 and delivered to Merritt-Chapman & Scott for operation under contract with BuShips as replacement for WILLET (ARS-12). In 1973 was under bare boat charter from the Navy's Supervisor of Salvage to Murphy Pacific Marine Salvage Co. In poor condition at Key West when scrap sale of 13 Jul 82 fell through. Trf. to the General Services Administration for donation as fish reef off southern Florida 17 Mar 83, sunk 24 Nov 83.
22 CURRENT In USN reserve 1947-51 (decomm. 9 Feb 48, recomm. 11 Oct 51). Sold by Navy 27 Aug 74 to John A. Williford of Novato, Calif., resold to Valor Navigation SA 20 May 75.
23 DELIVER To South Korea as GUMI 1979, stk. 1998
24 GRASP In USN reserve 1946-50 (decomm. 12 Dec 46). To South Korea as CHANG WON, stk. 1998.
25 SAFEGUARD In USN reserve 1947-51 (decomm. 17 Dec 47). Loaned to Turkey as ISIN 1979, sold to Turkey 17 Aug 87, still in service 2010.
26 SEIZE Grounded on Clipperton Is. 30 Dec 44, refloaded mid-Jan 1945 and towed to San Diego for repairs. USCGC YOCONA 1946, decomm. 14 Jun 96. Returned to Navy, was training hulk at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, in Aug. 2003.
27 SNATCH In USN reserve 1946-58 (inactive 23 Dec 46, probably decomm. a few days earlier). Converted to oceanographic research ship 1959 by Puget Sound Bridge and Drydock Co., Seattle, Wash., and loaned 1960 to Scripps Institution of Oceanography who renamed her ARGO. Carried in Navy records as ARS-27 until 1 Apr 67 when reclassified AGOR-18. Returned to Navy ca. April 1970, to buyer 6 Dec 71 and scrapped.
33 CLAMP Ex BARS-3 (British ATLANTIC SALVOR) 23 Sep 42. In USN reserve 1946-62. To NDRF 25 Oct 62. To Navy for use as target by COMNAVAIRSYSCOM 4 Dec 86 but not used, to NDRF 24 Apr 95. Title to MA for disposal 1 Feb 99. Still in NDRF Suisun Bay 2010.
34 GEAR Ex BARS-4 (British PACIFIC SALVOR) 23 Sep 42. In USN reserve 1946-53. Loaned to MA 24 Feb 53 and delivered to Merritt- Chapman & Scott for operation as replacement for VIKING (ARS- 1). Inactive ca. 1975. Sold by Navy for scrapping 1 Jul 82.

Page Notes:
ARS        1942
Compiled:        31 Mar 2011
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2011