Fishing trawler Cohassett prior to its conversion into USS YP-389. Courtesy of the National Archives.
The Sinking of the USS YP-389:
The USS YP-389 started its life as a steel hull fishing trawler. Its original name was the Cohassett. Its life as a fishing vessel didn't last very long. A year after it was built it was put into service by the U.S. Navy. On February 6, 1942, Cohessett was converted to a minesweeper, AMc-201. Even its career as a minesweeper didn't last long either. By June, it had been retrofitted and reclassified as a patrol vessel, USS YP-389. It was assigned to patrol the North Carolina area, particularly the Hatteras minefield area. One of its duties was to warn any merchant vessels if they strayed off course.
When retrofitted USS YP-389 was equipped with on 3-inch/23 gun, two .30 caliber Lewis Machine guns, and six depth charges. The weaponry would be fine to fight a battle with another patrol boat but no match for a German U-boat. Adding to it being overmatched it was unequipped with any sound gear. This meant if a U-boat was in the area, USS YP-389 would have no idea of its presence.
The USS YP-389 was patrolling off Cape Hatteras minefield. It would patrol the outskirts of the minefield's north to south buoy, turn around and head back following the same pattern. Meanwhile, the German U-boat U-701 arrived in the area on June 16 ready to look for merchant ships to sink. The U-boat's captain, Horst Degen, grew frustrated with the USS YP-389's constant patrolling.
So at 2:45 AM on June 19, the U-701 attacked the patrol vessel. Knowing that the vessel was small the U-boat didn't want to waste a torpedo. At the same time, it didn't want to give USS YP-389 time to report its location or drop depth charges. The U-701 began its attack with its deck guns. This started a gun battle between the two enemies. The Germans opened fire with the anti-aircraft funs from the starboard quarter. They followed this up with rounds from the deck gun. This attack was a mixture of armor piercing, high explosive, and incendiary shells. The USS YP-389 tried to avoid the shelling by maneuvering in a way that presented the German U-boat with a smaller target. With this maneuvering, it only allowed the ship to its two machine guns. The main gun was out of service due to a faulty firing spring. Using this strategy was ineffectual and appeared to make for an easier target. A distress signal was sent via radiotelephone and four depth charges were dropped to discourage the U-boat from chasing the ship. One of the depth charges wound up being a dud. The shelling from the U-boat started a fire forward but was quickly extinguished. However, another shell disabled the carbon dioxide extinguishing system and flooded the engine room with fumes. Next, the fuel tanks were hit, and then the wheelhouse and chart house was on fire. The ongoing battle lasted over an hour and a half. Prior to USS YP-389, the crew abandoned the ship in their life jackets. They did this because the lifeboats were destroyed in the gun battle.
The men floated in the water until the next morning when they were rescued by two Coast Guard cutters at 8:00 AM. The USCGC CG-462 and USCGC CG-486 brought the men to the Ocracoke Coast Guard Station. Eight injured men and the body of one of the men who died was mortally wounded and died while waiting to be rescued were then taken to Morehead City Section Base. Four of the seriously injured men were then flown to the Norfolk Naval Hospital by a Hall flying boat.
THE SHIP'S SPECIFICS:
|Built: 1941||Sunk: June 19, 1942|
|Type of Vessel: New England Fishing Trawler converted to U.S. Navy patrol vessel||Owner: U.S. Navy|
|Builder: Bethlehem Shipbuilding Co, Quincy, MA||Power: Diesel engine|
|Port of registry:||Dimensions:|
|Previous Names: Cohassett, USS AMc-201|
LOCATION OF THE SINKING:
Here is the location of the sinking: 34° 10'N, 76° 41'W
LOST CREW MEMBERS :
Total Lost: 6, Survivors: 18
|Last||First||Date of Death||Position||Home||Age|
|Cole||Wilson Burnett||June 19, 1942||Fireman Third Class||Flint, NI|
|Crabb, Jr.||Vincent Weathers||June 19, 1942||Fireman Second Class||Dallas, TX|
|Doucette||John Collins||June 19, 1942||Fireman Third Class||Lynn, MA||19|
|Hensley||Charley Francis||June 19, 1942||Seaman Second Class||Ridgeway, MO|
|Hia||Magnus||June 19, 1942||Seaman First Class||Brooklyn, NY|
|McLean||Cornelius Francis||June 19, 1942||Seaman Second Class||Boston, MA|
SURVIVING CREW MEMBERS:
A listing of the surviving crew:
|Anotil||D.L.||Seaman Second Class|
|Baker, Jr.||Roy Palmer||Ensign|
|Battisti||Anthony Tony||Seaman Second Class|
|Behrman||George||Seaman Second Class|
|Bonsall||Eugene Carroll||Fireman Third Class|
|Harris||Calvin Paul||Motor Machinist's Mate First Class|
|Holt||Nelson||Seaman Second Class|
|Long||Robert J.||Seaman Second Class|
|MacPherson||Gelbert Leslie||Signalman Second Class|
|McKellar||Robert Morrison||Ensign||March 7, 1920||Seattle, WA||22|
|Murch||Robert Lyman||Seaman Second Class|
|*Nazarsky||William Walter||Seaman Second Class||Aug. 30, 1924||17|
|Sesselman||William John||Fireman Third Class|
|Smith||W.A.||Ship's Cook Third Class|
|Tunmer||George||Machinist's Mate First Class|
|White||Leroy Albert||Seaman Second Class||Jan. 22, 1921||Brockton, MA||21|
|Wilson||Robert||Fireman First Class|
* He was aboard the Richard Caswell as a Seaman First Class when it was sunk on July 16, 1943, by German U-boat U-513.
Photos of the F.W. Abrams:
Multibeam survey of USS YP-389. Photo courtesy of NOAA.
Photomosaic of USS YP-389. Photo courtesy of NOAA, Monitor National Marine Sanctuary.
The wreck of the USS YP-389, a United States Navy yard patrol boat. Photo courtesy NOAA, Monitor National Marine Sanctuary
Cohasset undergoing conversion at the Marine Basin, Brooklyn, NY on Feb. 14, 1942. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.