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USS Waxsaw (AN-91)

Net Tender Stories

Forgotten WWII Mines

By Jerry Staples ENC USN RET USS Waxsaw (AN-91)

I went aboard USS Waxsaw July 1957 in Key West, FL, as EN3, she was attached to Mine Evaluation unit Key West. We took out experimental mines to the Gulf and dropped them. Then kept shrimp boats away for two weeks, then brought them up and took them back to Key West for Evaluation.

There was still WW11 mines in the Gulf that must have been forgotten about. One day a shrimp boat came into port with a “LIVE MINE” in its net “POOP HIT THE FAN“. Mine Sweepers were called in from Charleston, SC to sweep and the Waxsaw was to pick them up and disarm them. Somewhere somebody must have found records of forgotten about mines. We took the whale boat and pulled a steel plate behind us, the ships sonar would ping off the plate to a mine and then somehow triangulate approximately where the mine was “I guess“. Anyway the sweeper would sweep and the mines would POP to the surface. When this happened the Waxsaw would go along side and pick it up. There were three divers aboard. A HMC Master diver, BM1 Fry, who may have also been EOD, and HT1 Ernie Gallion. My job was the boom operator on the O-1 deck. There was a cradle made to set the mines in on deck to be disarmed. The divers would go in the water and attach a swivel to the mine and I would lower the boom hook down, under the direction of deck boss BM1 Weaver, “ who in himself was a piece of work” and the divers would attach the hook to the swivel and I under the direction of Weaver would pick it up and very gently lay it in the cradle.

I was 3rd or 2nd class then. The bridge crew and engine room crew were to be very sure to be on their toes to keep us where we needed to be. EN1 Maxwell Todd and EN3 Curttis Boatmun were in the engine room. This operation went on several days without any problems. When the mine was laid in the cradle there was a round recessed plate on the surface with eight or ten bolts holding it on. Under the plate was the detonator. BM1 Fry and HT1 Gallion would take a ratchet & socket and take the plate off, take the detonator out, which looked like a beer can, and lower it over the side. We would then lower the mine over the side, back off and the Gunners Mates would have target practice.

One occasion that sticks out in my mind, is one of the mines at the time the plate was being taken off, started to tick, “the timer I guess”. Anyway it got pretty tense on deck before the detonator was dropped over the side, VERY GENTLY. Every thing from then on went without any trouble.

So we went back to our Original duties until we went to Philadelphia to put the USS Waxsaw out of commission. That was the first and last time I served on a Net Tender in my 20 year career in the Navy.


Jerry had an interesting career during his 20 years of Navy Service. With his wife Phyllis and 3 children with him he was in Adak in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska for 3 1/2 years. While there he was sent to Marinette, Wisconsin to accept delivery of a 110 foot YTB Navy Tug and with a civilian crew that traveled via the St Lawrence Seaway to the east coast, down to the Panama Canal and north to Long Beach, California. At Long Beach he and a navy crew took the tug to Adak.

During the Viet Nam War he served there on a heavily armed 31 foot PBR boat, patrolling the rivers searching junks, sampans and other crafts for enemy contraband and participated in night-time ambushes. A dangerous assignment where there were many casualties.

Jerry and Phyllis attended our Providence, R.I. reunion. They live in Milan, Missouri about 30 miles from the Iowa border.

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