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The story of a WWII wooden minesweeper,
USS YMS 339, and her skipper and crew in the Pacific.

    Attached is an original history completed in 2009, based on multiple sources including ship's log research at the National Archives, the discovered diary of one crewmember, recollections of others, and familiy photos maintained over the years.  

    Follow Maurice E. Fitzgerald, a 29 year old lawyer from Milford, Massachusetts, who had never gone to sea but who volunteered to become a Navy "90 day wonder".  He went on to skipper a newly-built 136 foot wooden minesweeper and her 33 man crew, seeing combat in 9 amphibious landings in the Pacific.  They were targeted by enemy shore batteries, multiple kamikazes, deadly mines that in one afternoon sank 2 minesweepers in close company, and accidentally by a friendly aircraft.  At Balikpapan, Borneo, in 18 days of continuous sweeping against an enemy held shore, the longest in history, they were among the only WWII minesweeper men to earn the Presidential Unit Citation for "extraordinary heroism" in action.


    Each chapter is an Adobe PDF file that can be downloaded by clicking on each link below:

        Chapter 1: A new warship

        Chapter 2: 90 day wonder

        Chapter 3: Of mines and men

        Chapter 4: Under the southern cross

        Chapter 5: Call sign November Quebec Kilo Oscar

        Chapter 6: All glory is fleeting

        Chapter 7: The baseball beaches of Borneo

        Chapter 8: Victory and peace

        Chapter 9: Three flags - and epilogue


The Sinking of USS YMS 365

by Commander Richard L. Bigelow, USNR (retired)

Photo YMS 365

In early 2019, this site's webmaster came across information on the web about USS YMS 365, a sister ship to YMS 339 in the story above.  YMS 365 was sunk by a mine while minesweeping preceeding the invasion at Balikpapan, Borneo.  Her skipper prior to the sinking was then LT(jg) Dick Bigelow.  His son, Commander Richard L. Bigelow, USNR (retired) wrote a detailed story of the ship, along with many interesting photos.  With his permission, the story of YMS 365 is reproduced here in full for the first time on the internet.  It represents another example of the courage and sacrifice of the men who went to world war on these small wooden ships, without whom the successful amphibious landings of the Pacific would not have been possible.

The story of USS YMS 365 is comprised of three PDF files that may be downloaded by clicking on the links below:

    The Sinking of USS YMS 365 part 1

    The Sinking of USS YMS 365 part 2

    The Sinking of USS YMS 365 part 3