In August, 1919, the chasers that had served in the Northern Russia Expedition were fitted for minesweeping duties in the North Sea. Time was of the essence, in clearing the minefields: The work had to be completed before winter, or shipping lanes would be unsafe until the next year.
The minesweeping process involved a pair of minesweepers running along the sides of the minefield with a serrated metal cable between them. Metal kites were used to keep the sweep cable at the correct depth. The goal was to detonate the mines, but some would have the tethers cut and float to the surface.
To ready the chasers for their assignment, deck guns and gasoline drums were removed from the deck, and crews performed target practice, preparing to shoot and sink with rifle fire any mines that floated to the surface without detonating.
The work was incredibly dangerous, and resulted in significant damage to minesweepers, chasers and other vessels, as well as fatalities. Many Navy Crosses were awarded for service in clearing the North Sea mine barrage, including to each submarine chaser CO who served in the minesweeping division.
--Todd Woofenden, editor
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