Historic Tug’s Fate Sealed
She earned four battle stars, survived the Battle of Iwo Jima, carried out heroic rescues during “the Perfect Storm,” and served 46 years in between, but time and a lack of money have caught up with the USS Zuni (ATF-95), said Harry Jaeger, who for ten years had attempted to save the Navajo-class fleet tug.
She was the last example of her class in the United States, after her sister ships USS Moctobi (ATF-105) and Quapaw (ATF-110) were broken up last year.
Jaeger is operations manager for the Zuni Maritime Foundation, which had dedicated itself to restoring the vessel to her World War II color and configuration with the hope of turning her into a museum and educational vessel.
But after suffering a major leak and a collapsed bulkhead last year, time ran out for “the Mighty Z.” At press time, the Zuni had been turned over to the American Marine Group in Norfolk, Virginia, to pursue negotiations with East Coast states to sink her as a reef and sport-diving attraction.
While having the Zuni turned into a dive ship wasn’t what the volunteers wanted, “at least we’ll know where she is,” said Jaeger.
The Zuni was commissioned in 1943 and served in the U.S. Navy in World War II’s Pacific theater. In 1945 she was at Iwo Jima soon after the battle began and would perform various missions for the warships there during the ensuing month, at one point being stranded during an LST rescue attempt and losing two of her crew. Decommissioned in 1946, the Zuni became the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Tamaroa (WMEC-166). Her Coast Guard service was highlighted by the rescue of a yacht crew and a downed Air National Guard helicopter crew during the 1991 “Perfect Storm” chronicled in Sebastian Junger’s best-seller of that name.
The Tamaroa remained in the Coast Guard fleet until 1994. Following her retirement, she was part of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York before being sold at auction. She gained a new lease on life when purchased by a private donor in 2002 and donated to the Zuni Maritime Foundation, which began its restoration efforts.
Over the years the ship was moved several times, eventually ending up in Norfolk. And that’s what ultimately doomed her, said Jaeger—the lack of a place to call home. “We went to 11 or 12 different cities looking for a home port and we were turned down every time.”
While the tug’s fate remained in limbo, Jaeger and his small group of volunteers accomplished a lot of work. “We were about 80 percent toward our goal of restoration . . . . When we worked, we lived aboard the ship. We made our own electricity, we had the galleys functioning, we could sleep about 40 people, and we had operational radar and two-way marine radios. We probably had 85 or better percent of the necessary equipment that was posted on that ship.
“The main galley was fully operational with all the tools and equipment set up to serve 100 people. For a ship that had nothing on it when we got it, that is a pretty damn great accomplishment.” Now that the Zuni is being consigned to the depths, though, “We’ve been transferring equipment to other historic ships. . . . If the ship is going to be used as a reef, we couldn’t leave that stuff behind.”
And so another vessel class fades into oblivion—but not for lack of a dogged preservation effort on the part of Jaeger and company. “We’re all volunteers and we worked really hard doing this, so it’s a disappointment. But you have to face reality.”
Commander Edward Peary Stafford, 1918–2013
Commander Edward Peary Stafford, U.S. Navy (Retired), the author of the classic 1962 book The Big E: The Story of the USS Enterprise, “embarked on his final voyage,” his wife wrote us recently, on 24 September at his home in Melbourne, Florida. He was 95.
Commander Stafford wrote for Naval History and the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, as well as contributing regularly to National Geographic. He is best known, however, for naval books, including Subchaser (1988), Little Ship, Big War: The Saga of DE-343 (1984), and The Far and the Deep (1967). He wrote not only with flair, but authority, too.
In World War II, he commanded a subchaser in the Caribbean and Mediterranean seas before he was executive officer of a destroyer escort in the Pacific. After the war, he graduated from Dartmouth College and was commissioned a lieutenant commander in December 1946. After serving as executive officer in a destroyer, he was ordered to flight training and assigned to hurricane-tracking with a patrol squadron. What most people don’t know about Ed is that he was “a successful contestant,” as he once characterized it, on the TV quiz show The $64,000 Question in 1957.
Even with all the success he’d enjoyed in the Navy and on the literary front, Edward Peary Stafford, the grandson of Rear Admiral Robert E. Peary, pursued a lifetime passion: preserving the honor of his family. From the time then-Commander Peary claimed to “discover” the North Pole in 1909, “every few years,” Stafford wrote in the December 1971 Proceedings, “someone has come forth in public print to doubt or deny that he did so.” His article was a rebuttal to a piece that appeared in the June 1970 issue titled “Peary and the North Pole: The Lingering Doubt,” written by astronomer Dennis Rawlins. His major criticism was that no proof appeared to exist that would substantiate Peary’s claim.
On the heels of an official report issued by the National Geographic Society in 1989, providing “photogrammetric” analysis of images taken of the Peary expedition (and thus proof of the claim), the Naval Institute revisited the dispute with “All Angles: Peary and the North Pole,” a panel discussion that highlighted its April 1991 Annual Meeting. Nearly 20 years after Ed’s rebuttal appeared, the most vocal panelist that day was one Dennis Rawlins.
The debate often grew heated, with all apparent living members of the Peary/Stafford families on hand, and it reconvened after the allotted time in a U.S. Naval Academy classroom. The families put an offer on the table. Rawlins or anyone in the room would get a check for $35,000 on the spot if conclusive evidence could disprove Peary’s claim. No money ever changed hands.
U.S., U.K. Agree to Protect Shipwreck
An 18th-century British warship that sank near present-day Miami, Florida, is now protected by the National Park Service under terms of an international agreement announced in August and formalized by an American-British memorandum of understanding.
“This agreement underscores the significance that our agency and the Royal Navy place on cultural resources,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “In addition to preservation of this important site, the formal memorandum of understanding is the basis for future cooperative projects.”
Commodore Eric Fraser of the Royal Navy represented the United Kingdom in signing the memorandum to protect the sunken HMS Fowey. The wreck is located in Biscayne National Park.
“The United Kingdom is hugely grateful for the professional diligence and care shown by the National Park Service in the protection of the historic wreck of HMS Fowey,” said Fraser. “This memorandum will see U.K. and U.S. organizations working closely together in the further exploration of the site.”
On 27 June 1748, the Fowey, a fifth-rate frigate, struck a coral reef and sank, coming to rest on the sea bed. The wreck was discovered inside the park by a local sport diver in the 1970s. National Park Service divers later identified the wreck.
Jarvis said the Fowey site is a nationally significant archaeological resource, listed in the National Register of Historic Places. “As an archaeological site it continues to provide information about 18th-century maritime life and the historic maritime landscape of South Florida.”
The memorandum of understanding recognizes British title to the wreck and the intention of the National Park Service to continue to care for it in accordance with its own policies, the Sunken Military Craft Act of 2004, and the UNESCO convention on Underwater Cultural Heritage. The National Park Service and the Royal Navy will also exchange information and consult on management and future preservation of the site.
Biscayne National Park Superintendent Brian Carlstrom described the value that the agreement would have for the park and its resources: “This is the latest step in the continuing preservation effort for the Fowey, and solidifies our relationship with the British people in protecting our shared heritage for the enjoyment and education of future generations.”
Although the wreck is closed to the public, the National Park Service Submerged Resources Center produced a video tour that is available at http://vimeo.com/72920037.