"Wooden Ships and Iron Men" is a multi-volume history of minesweepers, meticulously researched by Cdr. David D. Bruhn, USN (Retired). The first volume told the larger story: "The U.S. Navy's Ocean Minesweepers, 1953-1994"; the recently-published second volume focuses on "The U.S. Navy's Coastal and Motor Minesweepers, 1941-1953" ($32 in paperback from Heritage Books; see www.davidbruhn.com for details). The book is available online and at the Chico State University bookstore.
Bruhn writes me that the book is intended primarily for veterans of World War II and the Korean War, but anyone who appreciates military history can profit from the author's work. There are more than 15 appendices, including a list of "unit awards for the assault and occupation of Okinawa" and "mine force personnel casualties." Also included are maps and historical photographs.
"When magnetic mines were encountered at the onset of World War II," he writes, "the U.S. Navy, having no wooden ships on hand to perform minesweeping, scoured waterfronts and procured fishing vessels that it fitted with sweep gear, manned with reservists, and assigned to Naval Districts to keep ports and harbors clear of mines."
But they weren't enough, so "the Navy designed and built seventy wooden-hulled 97-foot Accentor-class ships based on the proven fishing vessel model" which were then used "very far from home waters in every theater of war." All told, they earned "nearly 700 battle stars." (The Accentor, the first in its class, had a "221-ton maximum displacement" and "could make a speed of ten knots.")
Bruhn notes that "the cover art depicts the sinking of the steel-hulled minesweepers USS Pirate and USS Pledge at Wonsan, which served as the impetus for construction of the post-Korean War wooden-hulled ocean, coastal, and inshore minesweepers."
Encyclopedic in scope, the book places the story of the minesweepers in historical context, noting that the crews have not received due recognition, probably because the many reservists among them returned to civilian life and lost track of the "splinter fleet." After World War II the media concentrated on the fighter pilots, the "glory boys." Bruhn writes that "whatever type sweep they rode, these men deserve the tribute this study intends them. When asked about their naval service, they can say with pride, 'I served aboard a minesweeper!'"