Monday, December 14, 2009

USS Salisbury Sound AV-13

The USS Salisbury Sound seaplane tender was commissioned in 1945 .  The ship supported the PBY, Martin PBM and the Glenn Martin P5 Marlin seaplane in its various forms during the Cold War from 1946 through 1967.    The Martin PBM Mariner WW2 Seaplane was in use up until about 1956.  During those 21 years, the ship operated 19 tours of duty in the Western Pacific.   Lots of ASW patrols in the Straits of Formosa during those 21 years :-)
The P5M Marlin Seaplane was used in ASW (anti submarine warfare). There were 3 Seaplane tenders in the Atlantic and another 3 in the Pacific.  Anti Submarine warfare was a major part of the wartime effort  during WW2 using the Glenn Martin PBM Mariner and the Consolidated PBY Catalina.   

The P5M Marlin was one of the largest of the Seaplanes with a length of 100 ft and a wingspan of 117ft using 3500 HP engines @218 knots 1783 mi range and 50,000 lbs empty.   Made from 1948 to 1966 only 285 were built.   

In contrast the WW2 Glenn Martin PBM Mariner was 79ft long, 118ft wingspan, 1700hp engines, 2600 mi range and 33,000 lbs empty and it was made from 1939 thru 1945 with 1300 built.
While the most prolific Seaplane and most versatile of all time was the Consolidated PBY Catalina built from 1936 till 1945. The PBY Catalina was 63ft long, 104ft wingspan, 20,000 lbs empty, 2500 mi range. 
The PBY is still in use today as a water tanker for fire control.   Most all of the famous WW2 events concerning Seaplanes centered around the PBY Catalina.   You can google it and read all about its checked history that is still being made today.     As the last of the PBY's are finding their final resting places.
There is an active endeaver to locate a PBY to the Seaplane Base Museum at Whidbey Island  near the town of Oak Harbor Wash.    The USS Salisbury Sound seaplane tender was homeported at the Whidbey Island Seaplane Base from 1963 through the end of 1966.

I served aboard the Salisbury Sound seaplane tender as a Navy Radioman from 1962 until 1966.
From 1963 through the end of 1966 it was stationed at the Whidbey Island Seaplane Base in Wash state.
For the history buffs, the call sign of the USS Salisbury Sound was NAVL and when we took over duty in Westpac our call sign changed to T5GL when the Admiral Task Force Commander was taken aboard.   The station we worked the most often on CW was NDI in Naha Okinawa.   While we served in Westpac, our home port was White Beach, Okinawa.  White Beach was the staging area used during the battle for Okinawa towards the end of WW2.    There was a docking facility at White Beach and during the good weather we had the luxury of being docked.   During the inclement weather we would have to be anchored out.  Which required the use of shuttle boats back to shore.   

 The ship rotated duty with 3 other seaplane tenders into the Western Pacific (Westpac) used in ASW patrols (anti submarine warfare). The Salisbury Sound was used in the Korean War and during Viet Nam war. During Viet Nam the Marlin P5 Seaplanes were used for coast line surveillance as well as ASW patrols. Up to 12 Seaplanes could be airborne at the same time sending their  position reports using CW. The shipboard CW operator would decode the position reports, typing them on the mill. It was very hectic with all 12 planes trying to update position reports as the shipboard radio operator decoded and typed up the messages. In the 1965 Radioman Crew picture, that's me in the front row -- 3rd from the right.

The ship had the original AM and CW transmitters from WW2 as well as the original RBA receivers in use up until it was decommissioned in 1967. But the transmitters for RTTY were Collins URC-32 and mainly R390 receivers. The antennas aboard ship were primary 26ft whips and a flat top antenna that ran from the main mast to one of the cranes supperstructures. But the antenna that worked the best was the Discone at the ships bow. The discone was in the clear with no obstructions around it and it wasnt bothered by the power being transmitted by the whip antennas near the ships center. The attached pictures show the Discone and its tuning unit.   This discone cage antenna was added in 1963 and was a huge benefit.

I operated maritime mobile from the ship using my ham call of K7GRE for six months. I would use the spare Collins Urc-32 on 20M CW   Little did all the hams know that I was MM from the western pacific areas of westpac. Not being able to provide the ships location.  One regret is that I  didnt keep the stations logs from those Qso's.   After Viet Nam kicked into high gear, that was the end of ham radio maritime mobile from the ship.

During my 3 1/2 years aboard ship, there were only two distress situations.

While we were on the way to Westpac home base in Okinawa,  traveling through the Aluetian Islands near Alaska, we ran into 30-40 ft seas. After the ship lost power to one of the screws at 2am, the steering was out of commission and the ship went to general quarters due to loss of steering in heavy seas. The ship was taking on water through the ventilator shafts and was in danger of blowing the TNT charges under the Cranes.  If the ship rolled over 35 degs, the Cranes were set to be blown off the ship. Our normal communications was via radio teletype but there was a black out of commnications (as can happen in that area of the Ocean). We were finally able contact NPG in SFran using CW on 2713khz and send an SOS with our position report in case the ship went down. The CW contact with NPG was our only link to the outside world during that night. This was the only time I know of where our ship had to generate an SOS and the only way we could send it was via CW. By 7am, they got power back to both screws and the distress report was withdrawn. But it was a rough situation for several hours as the ship took on more water with no steering. The only other distress during those years was when we were on a training mission off the coast of Calif and the ships Captain didnt throw the live grenade far enough. The grenade was sucked into a vent shaft and the ensuing explosion placed the ship in drydock repairs for several days (((( ))))  I bet that one was a very short entry in the ships log :-)

After the Alaska Good Friday Earthquake Mar 27th 1964, the ship was at Whidbey Island Seaplane Base, Wash and got underway for Kodiak. I was on liberty at the time and missed the departure of the ship. Staying at the Naval Air Station Whidbey until they flew me to Alaska on a Navy transport plane where I met up with the ship at Kodiak Island.

On 28 March Salisbury Sound got underway on two hours notice for Kodiak, Alaska to assist in recovery operations following the tidal wave that hit Kodiak Island on the 27th [the "Good Friday" earthquake]. Arrival was on 31 March and parties were immediately organized to assist in the clean up.

During her operations in Alaska, the Salisbury Sound provided electricity, hot water and working parties of up to 40 hands to assist the stricken station to clear debris. For her efforts, she was awarded the Navy Commendation Medal.On April 10 the ship departed Kodiak and returned to her homeport at Whidbey Island. She arrived four days later and on 16 May held open house at Oak Harbor.  

The ship returned many times to the ports of call in Alaska during her 21 years at Sea.
I notice some of the ships logs posted at other places on the web are not as accurate as they should be.   
I wish I had kept a daily log of our activities during my 3 years aboard.  
Although I did keep some newspaper clippings which are posted too this site.

The below info is generic info on the Seaplane Tenders that you might find interesting.

USS Salisbury Sound (AV-13), a seaplane tender, is named for Salisbury Sound, Alaska, a strategically located basin near Sitkawitch, which forms a natural harbor especially suited for seaplane base operations.

During her last operations in Cam Rahn Bay Viet Nam, from 7 to 27 October, the ship pumped her millionth gallon of aviation fuel to her attached seaplanes, setting a record for a seaplane tender for number of gallons pumped during one cruise. On 27 October, the Salisbury Sound hoisted a 540-foot homeward bound pennant and steamed from Cam Rahn Bay for the last time.

"...A seaplane tender (or seaplane carrier) is a ship which provides the facililites necessary for operating seaplanes. These ships were the first aircraft carriers and appeared just before the First World War - the first being HMS Hermes commissioned in 1913. They had hangars for storing and maintaining the aircraft, but no flight deck as in a true aircraft carrier. Instead they used cranes to lower the aircraft into the sea for takeoff and to recover them after landing..."

There were 6 Seaplanes tenders in service up until 1967. Used mainly for ASW (Anti submarine warfare) In 1967, the Navy stopped using Seaplanes in the ASW role and decommissioned all of the Seaplane Tender's.

FOR EFFECTIVE COMBAT against " modern submarines that literally "fly" underwater, the Navy uses "boats" that fly above water, the P5M Marlin patrol seaplanes.These seaplanes, operating with various Atlantic and Pacific patrol squadrons, have been assigned to the coastal antisubmarine defense program and also in advanced areas of operations. Capable of staying airborne for II hours, the Marlins carry the latest types of detection gear and destructive weapons.The ASW operations of a Marlin-equipped patrol squadron (VP) in coastal waters will range from flying cover over convoys to mining approaches of areas where enemy submarines might hide. When deployed in the forward area, a VP outfit might find itself operating from an uncharted cove or bay, taking fuel

Salisbury Sound (AV-13) (Named after a sound near Sitka, Alaska)

Originally named Puget Sound (AV-13) keel was laid down on 10 April 1943 by Todd Shipyards Corp., San Pedro, Calif.; renamed Salisbury Sound on 5 June 1944; launched on 18 June 1944; sponsored by Mrs. John D. Price; and commissioned on 26 November 1945, Capt. Doyle G. Donaho in command.After shakedown, Salisbury Sound departed San Diego on 12 February 1946 and commenced her first of 19 deployments to the western Pacific, where she served during a portion of every year from 1946 through 1966.

Salisbury Sound is capable of supporting two (2) fifteen plane squadrons of the Mariner type, both in material upkeep and repair and personnel subsistence. Her facilities include engine repair, hydraulic repair, carburetor repair, metal, parachute, and photographic shop. In addition to her own officers and crew she is able to billet over 120 squadron officers and 200 crew members. Her most striking feature is her large after-deck where two huge seaplanes can be hoisted aboard and serviced at the same time. Two enormous cranes, one on her after-deck and one on her superstructure, can lift the planes with ease. Her hospital ward is fitted with 18 beds and a great number can be made available in event of emergency. high speed boats can be lowered over her sides by cranes and dispatched to refuel planes or boats at sea, and if necessary, tow them to safety. Supplies, trained mechanics, and medical rescue teams stand by ready to the blown over vast ocean reaches and parachuted to me immediate relief of planes or vessels in distress.

LIKE A DUCK - Using world's waterways for landing fields P5M Marlin can fill many roles in ASW program.The two bomb bays of the big plane are located in the nacelles aft of the radial engines. Under each wing are other racks which can accommodate various types of weapons including homing torpedoes, rockets, bombs and depth charges. Mines can also be carried by the versatile seaplane which also features a 70 million candle-power searchlight on the starboard half of the 118-foot wing assembly. This powerful light can spot a submarine at a range of more than one mile.The beauty of patrol squadron seaplanes is their mobility. One day they can fly missions from the seadrome at the Naval Air Station, Norfolk. Twenty-four hours later they can be moored to buoys at an advance base 1500 miles away. Their deployment does not hinge on the capture of an air field or the construction of hard runaways. They use the water as their runaway and can be serviced by Seaplane Tenders.To operate these planes a P5M squadron will have a complement of 55 officers and about 300 enlisted men.The ability of the P5M-2 Marlin seaplane to operate in conjunction with other forces from nearly any point on the 70 per cent of the earth's surface covered by water, its long range, and its assortment of weapons and detection gear have made it an important unit in the antisubmarine defense force.
The Marlin seaplane has a strange appearance in this age of swept-wing supersonic planes. The watertight hull looks high and bulky perched on the auxiliary wheels that are used only for beaching. The two 2500 hp piston-type engines slung under the high gull-shaped wings look almost too small to pull this 60,000-pound aircraft into the air.But in this case appearances lie. Cruising at a speed of 130 knots, the Marlin can use its detection gear to great advantage. This slow speed, still many times faster than a sub, allows its hull to be eased into a water landing with a feathery touch and Marlin-carried ASW weapons can be laid right on the target.Indicating the presence of detection gear is a large radar dome on the nose and a MAD gear rod protruding aft from the high "T" shaped tail. This arrangement of the MAD gear "divining rod" is found only on the second model (P5M-2) of the Marlin. The first model had the horizontal tail located in a normal position. Sonobuoys further increase the Marlins detection ability.

The ship bid farewell to her homeport 3 January 1967, and started her last voyage to Bremerton, Washington, where she docked at Pier Delta at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.The ship's Executive Officer, Commander Austin V. Young relieved Capt. Clarence E. Mackey as Commanding Officer 13 January 1967.On 31 March 1967, the USS Salisbury Sound was decommissioned and joined the Reserve Fleet, ending a 21-year career

The Navy's last SP-5M Marlin seaplane (BuNo 145533), attached to VP-40 (QE 10) is parked on the seaplane ramp at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland after making it's final flight from NAS North Island, San Diego, California, 12 July 1968. Photo from the Base Libary at NAS North Island, San Diego, California

The beginning of the end. The last Martin Marlin begins her run down the seaplane in San Diego Harbor commencing her final cross-country flight. The flight began in San Diego on July 8. After stops at Corpus Christi, Texas, and Jacksonville, Florida, Marlin beached at Patuxent River, Maryland, on July 12. The Navy's last seaplane was then retired and transferred to the Smithsonian Institution as a contribution to the proposed National Armed Forces Museum Park. Retirement ceremony of the last SP-5M (VP-VP-40) in the Navy. Photo from the Base Libary at NAS North Island, San Diego, California

BIT OF HISTORY: "...06NOV67 - 6--An SP-5B Marlin of VP-40 at NAS North Island made the last operational flight by seaplanes of the U.S. Navy. With Commanders J. P. Smolinski and G. Surovik as pilot and copilot and 15 passengers including Rear Admiral C. A. Karaberis on board, the flight ended sea-plane patrol operations in the Navy. For more than fifty years, seaplanes had been a mainstay in the Navy's enduring effort to adequately integrate aeronautics with the fleet. 9--Bennington recovered the unmanned Apollo 4 spacecraft about 600 miles northwest of Hawaii and after its 8_-hour orbital flight..."

Martin P5M Marlin Aircraft History

Below picture is of White Beach Okinawa today.   Its much different from the 1960's when there was only a club where you could get a meal and drinks and a USO with swimming pool.  White Beach was the home port for the Seaplane tenders while in Westpac.



  1. Interesting. I was in VAH-10 at Whidbey NAS in the late 60's and early 70's. Did not use my radio/cw skills. Should have. Your youtube vid with the speed adjustment device is very interesting. I've tried various things on my bugs, none of which worked very well. Its good to have a way to quickly slow down the bug to work new cw ops and then speed up for different qso. Thank you for taking the time to post that interesting video. 73's