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NavSource Online: Mine Warfare Vessel Photo Archive

Quail (AM 15)



Call sign (1939):
Negat - Int - King - Queen

ex-Minesweeper No. 15



Call sign (1919):
George - Tare - Vice - Dog

Scuttled 5 May 1942

Lapwing Class Minesweeper:

  • Laid down, 14 May 1918 by the Chester Shipbuilding Co., Chester, PA
  • Launched, 6 October 1918
  • Commissioned USS Quail, (Minesweeper No. 15), 29 April 1919
  • Designated AM-15, 17 July 1920
  • Damaged by Japanese bombs and gunfire, Quail was scuttled, 5 May 1942 at Corregidor, Philippine Islands
  • Struck from the Navy list 8 May 1942.

    Specifications:

  • Displacement 840 t.
  • Length 187' 10"
  • Beam 35' 6'
  • Draft 9' 9"
  • Speed 14 kts.
  • Complement 61
  • Armament: Two 3" gun mounts
  • Propulsion: Two Babcock and Wilcox header boilers, one 1,400shp Harlan and Hollingsworth vertical triple-expansion steam engine, one shaft.
    Click on thumbnail
    for full size image
    Size Image Description Source
    USS Quail (Minesweeper No. 15)
    Quail 267k Photo from "Sweeping the North Sea Mine Barrage" by the U.S. Navy North Sea Minesweeping Detachment Joe Radigan
    Lapwing 118k Review of the Atlantic Fleet Minesweeping Squadron, November 1919. Ships of the squadron anchored in the Hudson River, off New York City, while being reviewed by Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels on 24 November 1919, following their return to the United States after taking part in clearing the North Sea mine barrage. Identifiable ships present include (left column, from front to rear): Turkey (Minesweeper No. 13); Quail with SC-354 alongside; USS Lark (Minesweeper No. 21) with SC-208 alongside; Swan (Minesweeper No. 34) with SC-356 alongside; and USS Flamingo (Minesweeper No. 32) with an unidentified submarine chaser alongside. (right column, from front to rear): USS Thrush (Minesweeper No. 18); Two unidentified minesweepers, one of which is probably Lapwing (Minesweeper
    No. 1)
    ; USS Kingfisher (Minesweeper No. 25); and, in no particular order, tugs Patapsco and Patuxent. USS SC-245 is at the far right, passing between the two anchored columns.
    U.S. Navy photo NH 44904
    Naval Historical Center
    USS Quail (AM 15)
    Quail 44k . Vicky Viray
    Quail 92k Six "O" type submarines nested alongside a pier, in the Central American or Caribbean area, circa 1923-1924. USS O-6 (SS-67) and USS O-9 (SS-70) are the two outboard submarines. Quail is also alongside the pier, in the left background.
    Courtesy of the Estate of Virginia Cornwell, 1982.
    U.S. Navy photo NH 93672
    Navy Historical Center
    Quail 90k Alongside the Coast Battleship No. 4 (IX 6) (ex-USS Iowa [BB 4]), circa 1924.
    Naval History and Heritage Command photo NH 77309
    Robert Hurst
    Quail 44k USS Galveston (CL-19) with Quail. Probably at Corinto, Nicaragua, in December 1926 -- February 1927, during the Nicaraguan revolution.
    Collection of John Spector, donated by Mrs. Minnie Spector, 1986.
    U.S. Navy photo NH 101153
    Navy Historical Center
    Quail 321k c. 1933-1934
    French Frigate Shoals, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
    A Loening OL-8 observation aircraft from Utility Squadron SIX (VJ 6) prepares to hook on to Quail's crane
    Photo courtesy of the National Naval Aviation Museum
    Bill Gonyo
    Quail 99k U.S. Navy photo from the January 1986 edition of All Hands magazine Joe Radigan

    Commanding Officers
    01LT Robert Rohange, USN - Awarded the Navy Cross (1919)
    Retired as Lieutenant
    29 April 1919
    02Chief Boatswain George Oliver Augustine, USN30 June 1920
    03ENS Charles Lucas, USN20 June 1921
    04LT Elwood Wilkes Andrews, USN20 June 1921 @1300
    05Chief Boatswain Birney Osro Halliwill, USN30 December 1921
    06LCDR David Allen Weaver, USN30 September 1922
    07LT Albert Osenger, USN6 October 1923
    08CAPT Amon Bronson, Jr., USN10 December 1923
    09LT Hartie Hiram Brown, USN5 April 1924
    10CAPT Earl Kenneth Wortman, USN10 July 1925
    11LT Herbert Russell Mytinger, USN28 September 1929
    12LT John James Patterson, III, USN2 July 1931
    13LT Louis Frederick Teuscher, USN25 June 1932
    14LT Henry Theodore Wray, USN25 March 1935
    15LT Van Rensselaer Moore, USN9 April 1935
    16LCDR John Henry Morrill, II, USN - USNA Class of 1924
    Awarded the Navy Cross (1941) - Retired as Rear Admiral
    27 May 1938 - 5 May 1942
    Courtesy Wolfgang Hechler, Ron Reeves and Joe Radigan

    View the Quail (AM 15)
    DANFS history entry located on the Haze Gray & Underway website

    When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, Quail was in the Philippines as part of the US Asiatic Fleet. During the defense of Corregidor, Quail served in her capacity as a minesweeper and swept a channel that provided access to South Harbor, Corregidor. But as the Japanese began closing in on Corregidor, almost all of the remaining American ships in the Philippines were destroyed. Somehow the Quail managed to survive enemy air and sea attacks for several weeks. But her luck finally ran out on 5 May 1942. On that day, the Japanese bombed the small American gunboat Mindanao and the minesweeper Pigeon and sank both of them. Quail had been hit by three 6-inch shells and was in very bad shape. Two-thirds of her crew was sent to man the guns on Corregidor, leaving only a handful of men on board the ship.

    On the night of 5 May, as the Japanese bombarded Corregidor for their final invasion of the island fortress, Lieutenant Commander J. H. Morrill was standing on board what was left of his ship, the minesweeper Quail. He watched in awe as the Japanese pounded Corregidor with hundreds of cannons positioned on the coast directly opposite the island. What Morrill didnít know while watching this spectacle was that he was standing on the last ship of the US Asiatic Fleet in Philippine waters. By 4:30 AM on 6 May, Morrill received a message from land that he was to place the rest of his men ashore at Fort Hughes, Caballo Island, to man the antiaircraft guns there. As more of Morrillís crew left the ship to go to Fort Hughes, Japanese aircraft were bombarding Corregidor as well as Fort Hughes. However, during these air raids, the Japanese seemed to ignore the damaged Quail, perhaps thinking that the sinking minesweeper wasnít worth bombing. By 10:30 AM Morrill received his last order from headquarters on Corregidor instructing him to scuttle his ship.

    Lieutenant Commander Morrill went ashore at Fort Hughes and found some men to help him scuttle Quail. But when they were ready to board the shipís boat to return to the minesweeper, a shell sank their small boat. Morrill and four men swam 200 yards to another small boat moored near the dock and, while under enemy fire from circling Japanese warplanes, somehow managed to return to Quail. Morrill and his men made it back to the minesweeper and they scuttled the ship.

    After Quail was gone, Morrill and his men took their boat, a 36-foot naval motor launch, and went to the deserted tug Ranger that was beached nearby on Caballo Island. Once there, Morrill decided that he was not going to surrender to the Japanese and that he and his men were going to escape. They searched Ranger for clothes, guns, ammunition and, most important, diesel fuel for their motor launch. They found about 450 gallons of diesel fuel on board the beached tug and stowed it in their boat. That night, Morrill went to Fort Hughes and asked the surviving members of Quailís crew if they wanted to join him on his journey. He had a pocket watch, some diesel fuel, a few small-scale charts of the Philippines and the Netherlands East Indies, and a little food and water. He proposed that they board the 36-foot motor launch and try to make it to Australia. Some of the crewmembers were just too exhausted to even contemplate such a journey, but 17 men decided to join Morrill and take their chances with the sea rather than surrender to the Japanese.

    At 10:15 on the evening of 6 May 1942, Lieutenant Commander J. H. Morrill and 17 of Quailís crewmembers set off on a remarkable journey south towards Australia. They initially traveled at night and hugged the coastline as their 36-foot motor launch plodded along at three knots. The men camouflaged the tiny vessel with green fronds and branches and painted it black so that it would look like a harmless native fishing boat. They avoided numerous Japanese aircraft, destroyers, minesweepers, and patrol boats as they continued southwards along the Philippine coastline. They stopped a few times along the coast of Luzon, where some kind Filipino villagers gave them food and water. By 13 May, they headed into the more open waters of the Sibuyan Sea and moved past the southwest end of Masbate Island in the central Philippines. They passed a Japanese tanker along the way, but the tanker ignored them, possibly thinking that they were either pirates or fishermen. They reached Cebu on May 15. On that same day they landed on the northwest coast of Leyte and bought some diesel oil and canned goods from a Chinese storekeeper. Morrill and his men also learned that the Japanese were on Leyte and that they were looking for Americans. Morrill and his crew left and continued south, headed for Surigao Strait between Leyte and Dinagat Islands.

    On 17 May, the small group reached Tandag on northeastern Mindanao and obtained more supplies and fuel from another Chinese merchant. But the Japanese were making rapid advances throughout the Philippines and Morrill and his men managed to avoid enemy patrol boats that night by hiding in a secluded cove. On 18 May they left Port Lamon, where friendly Filipinos gave them more fuel. They continued their journey southward, eventually reaching Fisang Island north of Timor in the East Indies on 24 May.

    The natives of the Dutch East Indies were not too helpful to the Americans and they would not take either American or Philippine currency. So the only way Morrill and his men could get any supplies was through trading what few valuable belongings they had for some desperately needed fuel oil and food. The small boat left Fisang but was only able to make it to the island of Keor, in the easternmost part of the Dutch East Indies, before their small engine gave out. The people on Keor didnít seem any friendlier, but the Americans had to stay to repair their engine. The engine had to work well because they were about to leave on the last part of their journey across a large distance of open ocean for Australia. So they beached the boat and the men of the Quail replaced a burned-out bearing with one carved out of hard wood and installed it. Remarkably, it worked.

    Morrill and his men left Keor and continued their journey south to Australia. On 4 June 1942, this small band of Americans reached Melville Island just north of Darwin, Australia, where they met some friendly Australian missionaries. They obtained food and water from the missionaries and the next day they left Melville and, with no fanfare and no recognition, slowly made their way into Darwin harbor. They tied up their boat and, once on shore, tried to report to any Americans in the harbor. All they found were a few American officers with an Army Air Force unit.

    After 29 days and traveling 2,060 miles in a 36-foot motor launch, Lieutenant Commander J. H. Morrill brought his 17 men from the Quail to safety. They went from Corregidor to Darwin with no sextant, no decent charts, and only a pocket watch as a chronometer. Lieutenant Commander Morrill received the Navy Cross and was eventually promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral.

    Although the Quail was lost, some of its crew decided that surrendering to the Japanese on Corregidor was not an option. Even though the odds against them were enormous, these incredibly brave men in their small boat managed to avoid Japanese aircraft and warships while, at the same time, battling the sea as well as the weather. But like so many of the men in the old U.S. Asiatic Fleet, they simply refused to give up. It was a remarkable achievement by a group of sailors who were determined to get back home so that they could live to fight another day.


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