Vireo II MSC-205 - History

Vireo II MSC-205 - History


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Vireo II

(MSC-205: dp. 412; 1. 145'; b. 28'; dr. 12'; s. 12.8 k. cpl. 40; a. 1 20mm., 2 .50-car. mg., 1 81mm. M.; cl. Redwing)

Vireo (MSC-205) was laid down as AMS-205 on 14 September 1953 at the Bellingham Shipyards, Bellingham, Wash., launched on 30 April 1954, sponsored by Mrs. Arvin E. Olsen, redesignated MSC-205 on 7 February 1955, and commissioned at the naval station at Tacoma, Wash. on 7 June 1955, Lt. (jg.) Leland E. Mench in command.

After completing tests and trials at Seattle, Vireo moved south at the beginning of July for shakedown training out of San Diego. The cruise occupied her until the second week in September at which time she began preparations for final acceptance trials to be conducted early in November. Upon passing those tests on the 4th, Vireo became an active unit of Mine Squadron (MinRon) 7. She operated from Long Beach, Calif., until 1 March 1956 when she stood out of that port bound for the western Pacific. En route, she stopped at Pearl Harbor and, for the remainder of March and the entire month of April, the minesweeper conducted training operations in Hawaiian waters. She resumed her voyage westward on 9 May and arrived in Yokosuka, Japan, on the 31st.

Vireo served at Sasebo, Japan, as a unit of MinRon 3 for almost a decade and one-half. Her 14 years and 4 months in the Far East can be divided into two easily discernible periods. The first eight years, from June 1956 to July 1964, were devoted entirely to peacetime operations out of Sasebo. These included minesweeping exercises with other ships of the United States Navy and with units of the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force as well as with navies of the Republic of Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand. She visited such diverse places as the Sea of Japan, the coast of Korea, the Philippine Islands, Okinawa, and the East and South China Seas. She punctuated her operations with port calls at Hong Kong, Okinawa, Keelung and Kaohsiung on Taiwan, Subic and Manila Bay in the Philippines, and at a host of Japanese ports including— among others—Beppu, Kobe, Kagoshima, Sasebo, and Yokosuka. The visits allowed her crew to rest after operations at sea, to replenish stores and supplies, and to refurbish the ship. During the crisis in 1958 over the Nationalist-held islands of Quemoy and Matsu located just off the communist Chinese mainland, Vireo rushed from Japan to join American forces in the area and spent the months of September and October patrolling near the islands. In November, she resumed her routine peacetime minesweeping exercises, port calls, and occasional salvage or rescue operations. Activities such as these characterized her duty until mid-summer 1964.

The war in Vietnam dominated Vireo's final six years in the Far East. In July 1964, just before the Tonkin Gulf incident gave impetus to an ever-widening American participation in combat in Vietnam, the minesweeper headed for Southeast Asian waters for a series of "special operations." Though she resumed her normal schedule early in August, the minesweeper began regular tours of duty on station off the South Vietnamese coast the following spring when an inshore patrol was established—under the code name Operation "Market Time"—to interdict the waterborne flow of arms to the Viet Cong insurgents. In carrying out her "Market Time" duties, Vireo patrolled stretches of the South Vietnamese coast relatively close inshore and stopped suspicious-looking craft—mostly junks but occasionally trawlers—to check their identity and to inspect cargoes and crews for illicit arms and communist infiltrators. During her first year on the patrol, she conducted five tours of duty of about two or three weeks duration—on junk surveillance assignments uncomplicated by any combat. Those periods were punctuated by port visits to her old haunts, normal mine exercises, and periods in port for upkeep and repair.

The year 1966, however, proved a different story altogether. After completing an overhaul at Sasebo Vireo departed that port on 10 April to resume "Market Time" patrols off the coast of South Vietnam. Exactly one month later, while engaged in those operations, the minesweeper received her baptism of fire. At about 0430, USCGC Point Guard encountered a steel-hulled trawler trying to make a landfall near the mouth of the Cua Bo De River. The Coast Guard cutter received heavy .50-caliber gunfire when she tried to force the trawler to heave to for inspection but, while requesting assistance in the form of Brister (DER-327) and Vireo succeeded in forcing the enemy ship aground. At a hasty conference on board Brister, it was decided to attempt to salvage the grounded gun runner. While USCGC Point Grey approached the trawler with a towline from Vireo, Brister launched her motor whaleboat to assist. The Coast Guard cutter received a withering machine gun fire from insurgents ashore as she neared the enemy. She answered that fire promptly and Vireo joined in with 150 rounds of 20 millimeter. Brister, her battery masked by the cutter, could not bring her 3-inch guns to bear on the enemy. Ultimately, the Coast Guard cutter had to break contact and move off in order to get her wounded crewmen medical assistance. Vireo covered her retirement with 20-millimeter fire and provided a haven for Brister's motor whaleboat while air strikes were called in to silence the enemy machine gun emplacements. Further air strikes eventually destroyed the trawler, and Vireo returned to "Market Time" duty. For participation in the action at Cua Bo De River, Vireo won the Navy Unit Commendation, and her commanding officer received the Bronze Star Medal.

Over the next four and one-half years, Vireo maintained her schedule of "Market Time" patrols alternated with unilateral and multilateral mining exercises and port visits at various places throughout the Orient. On 1 August 1970, Vireo learned that her home port had been changed from Sasebo to Long Beach, Calif., where she was scheduled to begin duty as a Naval Reserve training ship on 1 October. She departed Sasebo on 17 August and, after stops at Yokosuka and Pearl Harbor, arrived in Long Beach on 17 September. On 1 October, the minesweeper was placed out of commission. That same day, she departed Long Beach for her Naval Reserve duty station, Seattle, Wash. After four years and six months of operations along the northwest coast of the United States, Vireo began deactivation preparations on 1 April 1975. Three months later, on 1 July 1975, her name was struck from the Navy list. Though scheduled for disposal by sale at the time of her striking, as of May 1978, no such action appeared to have taken place.


After completing tests and trials at Seattle, Vireo moved south at the beginning of July, for shakedown training out of San Diego. The cruise occupied her until the second week in September, at which time she began preparations for final acceptance trials to be conducted early in November. Upon passing those tests on 4 November, Vireo became an active unit of Mine Squadron (MinRon) 7. She operated from Long Beach, California, until 1 March 1956, when she stood out of that port, bound for the western Pacific. En route, she stopped at Pearl Harbor and, for the remainder of March, and the entire month of April, the minesweeper conducted training operations in Hawaiian waters. She resumed her voyage westward on 9 May, and arrived in Yokosuka, Japan, on 31 May. ΐ]

Vireo served at Sasebo, Japan, as a unit of MinRon for almost a decade and one-half. Her 14 years and months in the Far East can be divided into two easily discernible periods. The first eight years, from June 1956 to July 1964, were devoted entirely to peace time operations out of Sasebo. These included minesweeping exercises with other ships of the United States Navy and with units of the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force as well as with navies of the Republic of Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand. She visited such diverse places as the Sea of Japan, the coast of Korea, the Philippine Islands, Okinawa, and the East and South China Seas. She punctuated her operations with port calls at Hong Kong, Okinawa, Keelung and Kaphsiung on Taiwan, Subic and Manila Bay in the Philippines, and at a host of Japanese ports including, among others, Beppu, Kobe, Kagoshima, Sasebo, and Yokosuka. The visits allowed her crew to rest after operations at sea, to replenish stores and supplies, and to refurbish the ship. During the crisis in 1958, over the Nationalist-held islands of Quemoy and Matsu, located just off the communist Chinese mainland, Vireo rushed from Japan to join American forces in the area and spent the months of September and October, patrolling near the islands. In November, she resumed her routine peacetime minesweeping exercises, port calls, and occasional salvage or rescue operations. Activities such as these characterized her duty until mid-summer 1964. ΐ]

Vietnam War service [ edit | edit source ]

The war in Vietnam dominated Vireo ' s final six years in the Far East. In July 1964, just before the Tonkin Gulf incident gave impetus to an ever-widening American participation in combat in Vietnam, the minesweeper headed for Southeast Asian waters for a series of "special operations." Though she resumed her normal schedule early in August, the minesweeper began regular tours of duty on station off the South Vietnamese coast the following spring when an inshore patrol was established, under the code name Operation Market Time, to interdict the waterborne flow of arms to the Viet Cong insurgents. In carrying out her "Market Time" duties, Vireo patrolled stretches of the South Vietnamese coast relatively close inshore and stopped suspicious-looking craft, mostly junks but occasionally trawlers, to check their identity and to inspect cargoes and crews for illicit arms and communist infiltrators. During her first year on the patrol, she conducted five tours of duty, each of about two or three weeks duration, on junk surveillance assignments uncomplicated by any combat. Those periods were punctuated by port visits to her old haunts, normal mine exercises, and periods in port for upkeep and repair. ΐ]

The year 1966, however, proved a different story altogether. After completing an overhaul at Sasebo, Vireo departed that port on 10 April, to resume "Market Time" patrols off the coast of South Vietnam. Exactly one month later, while engaged in those operations, the minesweeper received her baptism of fire. At about 04:30, Point Grey encountered a steel-hulled trawler trying to make a landfall near the mouth of the Cua Bo De River. The Coast Guard cutter received heavy .50-caliber gunfire when she tried to force the trawler to heave to for inspection but, while requesting assistance in the form of Brister and Vireo, succeeded in forcing the enemy ship aground. At a hasty conference on board Brister, it was decided to attempt to salvage the grounded gun runner. While Point Grey approached the trawler with a towline from Vireo, Brister launched her motor whaleboat to assist. The Coast Guard cutter received a withering machine gun fire from insurgents ashore as she neared the enemy. She answered that fire promptly, and Vireo joined in with 150 rounds of 20-millimetre (0.79 in). Brister, her battery masked by the cutter, could not bring her 3-inch (76 mm)/50 caliber guns to bear on the enemy. Ultimately, the Coast Guard cutter had to break contact and move off in order to get her wounded crewmen medical assistance. Vireo covered her retirement with more 20-millimeter fire and provided a haven for Brister ' s motor whaleboat while air strikes were called in to silence the enemy machine gun emplacements. Further air strikes eventually destroyed the trawler, and Vireo returned to "Market Time" duty. For participation in the action at Cua Bo De River, Vireo won the Navy Unit Commendation, and her commanding officer received the Bronze Star Medal. ΐ]


Red-eyed Vireos and Philadelphia Vireos

Spring migration is coming to an end. Bringing up the rear are Black-billed Cuckoos, Yellow-bellied Flycatchers, Nelson’s Sparrows and Saltmarsh Sparrows. The north-flowing river of birds is running dry.

We see an almost synchronous arrival of a guild of songbirds collectively called the leaf-gleaning insectivores. These birds include our vireos, warblers and tanagers. All of them make a living by preying on caterpillars and other herbivores that attack the leaves of deciduous trees. The leaf-gleaning herbivores are the friends of the trees, gobbling up the leaf-eating insects. A cascade of events occurs in spring allowing the warblers and vireos to return: leaf-out, followed by emergence of caterpillars, followed by the arrival of the leaf-gleaning birds. In central and southern Maine, the first ten days of May capture the arrival of many of these birds.

Among these arrivals are Red-eyed Vireos. I daresay that Red-eyed Vireos vie for the title of most common woodland bird in eastern North America. A bird of treetops, Red-eyed Vireos are much more often heard than seen.

Hearing a Red-eyed Vireo is a snap because they sing vigorously all through the day. Their song is a series of two- and three-note phrases. An effective mnemonic for learning the song is “here-I-am, where-are-you, over-here, in-the-tree”.

The song is rather monotonous and dry. Despite the seeming monotony of their song, Red-eyed Vireos show remarkable diversity in their two- and three-note phrases. A typical Red-eyed sings around 45 phrases. Those phrases are strung together to make a distinctive song type. Each song type consists of the same one to five phrases. A typical male sings about 30 song types.

A less common vireo breeding in Maine, the Philadelphia Vireo, needs to be considered in this column. Red-eyed and Philadelphia vireos share an intriguing overlap in their song.

The Philadelphia Vireo closely resembles the Red-eyed Vireo but has a less distinct line above the eye and has a yellow wash on the underparts. The Philadelphia Vireo is also smaller, averaging 12 grams in weight to the 17-gram weight of a typical Red-eyed Vireo.

Most nesting male songbirds defend their territories against other males of its species but not against males of other species. However, Red-eyed Vireos and Philadelphia Vireos defend their territories against their own species and against the other species.

The song of the Philadelphia Vireo is very similar to the song of the Red-eyed Vireo song. Even highly experienced birders pass off singing Philadelphia Vireos as the more common Red-eyed Vireos. The reason for the similarity will soon be apparent.

In northern New England forests, insect prey may become quite hard to find during the breeding season. Because both vireos eat the same insects, there is an advantage for a territorial vireo to keep a member of its own species and members of the other vireo species away from its food sources.

In most cases, the vireos avoid direct confrontations over the boundaries of a territory. Instead, a territorial bird proclaims his ownership of a territory by singing from perches throughout his territory. Similarly adjacent territory owners sing throughout their territory. The neighboring birds recognize unseen but real boundaries, avoiding physical interactions.

The problem the Philadelphia Vireo has is how to maintain exclusive ownership of a territory, defending against a larger and stronger Red-eyed Vireo that may be trying to expand his territory. Philadelphia Vireos have solved the problem by becoming a social mimic. These birds mimic the song of the Red-eyed Vireo.

Play-back experiments have shown that Red-eyed Vireos cannot tell the difference between a Red-eyed Vireo song and a Philadelphia song. No wonder birders have trouble telling the two species apart by song! On the other hand, Philadelphia Vireos can distinguish between a Philadelphia Vireo song and a Red-eyed Vireo song.

Philadelphia Vireos mimic the song of the Red-eyed Vireo to level the playing field it’s a case of deception over brawn.


Decommissioning – Reserve ship

Over the next four and one-half years, Vireo maintained her schedule of "Market Time" patrols alternated with unilateral and multilateral mining exercises and port visits at various places throughout the Orient. On 1 August 1970, Vireo learned that her home port had been changed from Sasebo to Long Beach, where she was scheduled to begin duty as a Naval Reserve training ship on 1 October. She departed Sasebo on 17 August, and, after stops at Yokosuka and Pearl Harbor, arrived in Long Beach on 17 September. On 1 October, the minesweeper was placed out of commission. That same day, she departed Long Beach for her Naval Reserve duty station, Seattle. [2]


Warship Wednesday (on a Monday), Dec. 7, 2020: Battle Tug Edition

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday (on a Monday), Dec. 7, 2020: Battle Tug Edition

Photographed by Vernon M. Haden, San Pedro California. Donation of Ted Stone, 1977. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 85837

Here we see, resplendent with her peacetime fancy hull number and with her #1 3″/50 mount trained rakishly to port and #2 mount to starboard, the “Old Bird” Lapwing-class minesweeper USS Vireo (Minesweeper No. 52) with assembled officers, crew, and mascot, circa winter 1934. Don’t let this seeming refugee from a TinTin comic fool you, Vireo always seemed to be there when it counted, even when she couldn’t always tip the scales when needed.

Inspired by large seagoing New England fishing trawlers, the Lapwings were 187-foot ships that were large enough, at 965-tons full, to make it across the Atlantic on their own (though with a blisteringly slow speed of just 14 knots).

They could also use a sail rig to poke along at low speed with no engines, a useful trait for working in a minefield.

Lapwing-class sister USS Falcon AM-28 in Pensacola Bay 1924 with the Atlantic submarine fleet. Note her rig

Not intended to do much more than clear mines, they were given a couple 3″/23 pop guns to discourage small enemy surface combatants intent to keep minesweepers from clearing said mines. The class leader, Lapwing, designated Auxiliary Minesweeper #1 (AM-1), was laid down at Todd in New York in October 1917 and another 53 soon followed. While five were canceled in November 1918, the other 48 were eventually finished– even if they came to the war a little late.

Speaking of which, our subject, the first on the Navy List named for the small green migratory bird, was laid down on 20 November 1918 by the Philadelphia Navy Yard and commissioned on 16 October 1919, with Navy Cross-recipient, LT Ernest Robert Piercey, USN, in command– the first of her 21 skippers across an unbroken span.

USS Vireo (AM-52) Anchored in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, January 1920. NH 43603

Vireo would spend a decade on the East Coast performing the typical routine duties of a peacetime minesweeper– pulling targets transporting men, mail, and materiel repairing buoys and beacons and operating with the fleet on annual maneuvers.

This was broken up by towing several former German warships to sea off the Virginia capes in the summer of 1921, where they were sunk by Army aircraft in attempts by Billy Mitchell to prove that capital ships were vulnerable to attack from the air– an ironic footnote to her story that you will get later.

Phosphorus Bomb Test 1921 Sinking of the Cruiser Frankfurt and SMS Ostfriesland

Phosphorus Bomb Test, 1921 Sinking of the Cruiser Frankfurt and SMS Ostfriesland

It was about that time that the Navy figured out these economical little boats with their shallow draft (they could float in ten feet of seawater) could be used for any number of side jobs and started re-purposing them.

Six of the “Old Birds” were reclassified as salvage ships (ARSs) while another half-dozen became submarine rescue ships (ASRs). The Coast Guard picked up USS Redwing for use as a cutter during Prohibition while the U.S. Coast & Geographic Survey acquired USS Osprey and USS Flamingo and the Shipping Board accepted USS Peacock as a tug.

USS Vireo (AM-52) In the harbor, March 1922. USS Rail (AM-26) is in the left background. NH 50207

A few were retained as minesweepers in the reserve fleet, some used as depot ships/net layers, one converted to a gunboat, another to an ocean-going tug, three were sunk during peacetime service (USS Cardinal struck a reef off Dutch Harbor in 1923 while USS Curlew did the same off Panama in 1926 and USS Sanderling went down in 1937 by accident in Hawaii) while nine– including past Warship Wednesday alumni Avocet and Heron included– became seaplane tenders.

As for Vireo, she was one of the few who was never sidelined. Tasked to support the Puerto Rican – Nicaraguan Aerial Survey, serving as an ersatz seaplane tender to three Loening amphibian airplanes, in early 1931 then detailed transferred to the Pacific Fleet, she remained busy her entire career.

Group photograph of the officers and the sailors of the Puerto Rican-Nicaraguan Aerial Survey group in front of Vireo, 24 January 1931 in their whites. Note the officers with their swords, and chiefs in double-breasted jackets. She has the traditional U.S. aviation roundel on her bow, typical of seaplane tenders in this era, but does not have her twin 3-inch guns mounted which are in the photo at the top of this post. National Archives photo 80-G-466337

USS Vireo Docked in San Juan, 6 February 1931, a better view of her seaplane tender markings

USS Vireo (AM-52) in a West Coast port, 1932. Note she has dropped the tender premise and is back to being a sweeper now, with her big hull number back. NH 50320

In 1940, with the fleet’s general shift from California to Hawaii as part of the decay of relations with the Empire of Japan, Vireo moved to Pearl Harbor and was involved in the pre-war buildup on Palmyra and Johnston Island.

The Day that would live in Infamy

On 7 December 1941, Vireo along with three sisterships, Rail (AM-26), Bobolink (AM-20), and Turkey (AM-13) were tied up at the coal docks at Pearl Harbor in upkeep status. Three other sisters converted as seaplane tenders and submarine rescue ships, Avocet (AVP-4), Swan (AVP-7) and Widgeon (ASR-1) were at the submarine rail. Meanwhile, a seventh sister, Grebe (AM-43), was in overhaul.

About 0800 an explosion was heard. This was investigated. Immediately planes bearing the Japanese insignia was seen. General Quarters was immediately sounded and at about 0815 a second group of enemy planes flew over toward Hickam Field. This vessel immediately opened fire and expended 22 rounds of 3″ A.A. ammunition.

About 0830 this vessel brought down one enemy plane flying forward of the bow, toward seaward, over Hickam Field, from left to right. The bursts of #2 A.A. gun of this vessel were definitely spotted in the path of this plane and the plane was seen to land in the vicinity of Hickam Field. 400 rounds of .30 caliber Machine Gun ammunition was expended. Battery consists of 2-30 caliber machine guns, and 2-3″/50 A.A. guns.

There was no damage to this vessel nor loss of life. At 0830 there was one personnel casualty to the radioman, PRICE, Aubrey Evan, RM2c, USN, on watch at the telephone on dock astern of this vessel. He received a shrapnel wound in jawbone and neck. This casualty was immediately transferred to the hospital at Pearl Harbor and returned to duty this date.

This vessel was immediately put into Condition ONE at General Quarters, engines put together and ship made ready for getting underway.

During the action, the conduct of all officers and the crew was commendable. Everyone did his job 100%. There was no hysteria but commendable coolness and control.

At 1348 this vessel received orders to get underway and to report to Commander Base Force at Ten-ten dock. This vessel was ordered to West Loch to bring u 5″, 3″, and .50 cal. ammunition for the U.S.S. California which was badly in need of ammunition. At 1455 while waiting for ammunition to arrive at the Ammunition Depot, West Loch, hauled an ammunition lighter loaded with 14″ powder away from Ammunition Depot dock, where it was a menace, and moored it alongside the old Navajo. Returned to Depot, picked up ammunition and delivered it to U.S.S. Argonne at 1730.

At 2100 moored alongside U.S.S. California and commenced salvage work.

View of USS California (BB-44), taken a day or two after the Japanese raid. USS Bobolink (AM-20), at left, USS Vireo (AM-52), and YW-10 are off the battleship’s stern, assisting with efforts to keep her afloat. The “birds” would stay at California’s side for three days. Morison noted in his book, “Although minesweepers Vireo and Bobolink closed the battleship and applied their pumps, and numerous ‘handy billies’ (portable gasoline-driven pumps) were obtained from other vessels, California slowly settled.” Collection of Vice Admiral Homer N. Wallin, USN(Retired), 1975. NH 95569

Tragically, late that night Vireo was one of the ships that filled the skies over Pearl Harbor with ack-ack on the report of approaching unidentified aircraft.

At about 2110 anti-aircraft fire commenced and a plane was seen shot down and an aviator fell astern of this vessel. This vessel immediately rescued the aviator and identified him as an Enterprise aviator who had been shot down. A dispatch was immediately sent to assure control that planes in the air were Enterprise planes. The aviator was transferred to the U.S.S. California and then to the hospital.

Ensign Eric Allen, Jr., USN (1916-1941) USNA class of 1938. On 12 August 1940, the day after he reported to NAS Pensacola to commence his flight training. He had just come from a tour of duty in USS TRENTON (CL-11). Ultimately assigned to VF-6 in ENTERPRISE (CV-6). He was shot down by U.S. anti-aircraft fire on the night of 7 December 1941 at Pearl Harbor picked up by USS VIREO (AM-52), he died at the Ford Island Dispensary soon thereafter. NH 96617

Over the next several months, Vireo supported the Pearl Harbor salvage effort whenever she was not off conducting minesweeping and patrol operations in the Greater Hawaii area, including runs to Johnston Island and the Port of Hilo.

With a huge naval clash on the horizon, on 28 May 1942, under secret orders, Vireo left Pearl at nine knots to escort the tanker Kaloli (AOG-13) to Midway Island. During the voyage, Vireo was reclassified as an ocean-going tug (AT-144) and would arrive at the atoll on 3 June, ordered to hold up off Hermes Reef and await orders.

The next day saw the pivotal stage of the battle there, with the Japanese losing four carriers in exchange for Yorktown (CV-5) which was left dead in the water. With the carrier ordered largely abandoned, Viero was called into action to take the stricken American flattop in tow, arriving at 1135 on 5 June and getting underway by 1308– at three knots, a 1,350-ton minesweeper hauling a crippled 30,000-ton leviathan. The next day, the destroyer Hammann (DD-412) came alongside Yorktown to help with the salvage task while five other tin cans provide a screening force.

That is when Japanese Type KD6 submarine I-168 came on the scene.

I-168 arrives and sights the carrier and her screen. For seven hours, LCDR Tanabe Yahachi skillfully makes his approach, steering by chart and sound with only a few periscope sightings. Undetected, he penetrates the destroyer and cruiser screen. At 1331, from 1,900 yards, he fires two torpedoes at the overlapping formation, followed by two more three seconds later. The first torpedo hits HAMMANN, breaks her back and sinks her in about four minutes. As she goes down, her depth charges explode and kill 81 of her 241-strong crew. At 1332, the next two torpedoes strike YORKTOWN starboard below the bridge. The fourth torpedo misses and passes astern.

Battle of Midway, June 1942 Diorama by Norman Bel Geddes, depicting the explosion of depth charges from USS Hammann (DD-412) as she sank alongside USS Yorktown (CV-5) during the afternoon of 6 June 1942. Both ships were torpedoed by Japanese submarine I-168 while Hammann was assisting with the salvage of Yorktown. USS Vireo (AT-144) is shown at left, coming back to pick up survivors, as destroyers head off to search for the submarine. 80-G-701902

Vireo freed herself from the carrier by cutting the towing cable with an acetylene torch and then doubled back to commence rescue operations.

Up her sides clambered carriermen and destroyermen alike, while she maneuvered near the carrier’s canting stern to take on board members of the salvage party who had chosen to abandon the carrier from there. She then proceeded to secure alongside the wounded flattop in the exact spot where Hammann had met her doom. Yorktown rolled heavily, her heavy steel hide pounding the lighter former minecraft’s hull with a vengeance as the ships touched time and time again during the rescue operations. This mission completed, battered Vireo stood away from the sinking carrier, which sank shortly after dawn on the 7th.

Her rudder damaged by Hammann’s depth charge seaquake, Vireo ran aground on her way back to Midway harbor and after she made it back to Pearl under her own power, she was given a complete overhaul and drydocking.

USS Vireo (AT-144) At Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, following repairs from Battle of Midway and overhaul, 20 August 1942. Catalog #: 19-N-34748

James Claude Legg, Lieutenant USN ID photo taken circa 2 May 1942. Lieutenant Legg commanded USS VIREO (AT-144) during the Battle of Midway, earning a Navy Cross for his performance of duty in towing the damaged USS YORKTOWN (CV-5). From service record book in NMPRC, St. Louis, MO., 1984. Catalog #: NH 100171

As for I-168, the Japanese boat would never see the end of the war, presumed lost with all 97 hands in the area north of Rabaul after she is hit by four torpedoes from USS Scamp (SS-277) in 1943.

The Rest of the War

Overhauled and assigned to ComAmphibForSoPac, the now green-camouflaged painted Vireo set out for the Guadalcanal area on 12 October, to take part in resupply operations for the Marines of the Cactus Air Force at Henderson Field. The little convoy, consisting of the freighters Alchiba (AKA-23) and Bellatrix (AKA-20), was screened by the gunboat Jamestown (PG-55) along with the destroyers Meredith (DD-434) and Nicholas (DD-449), with the freighters and Jamestown each pulling “a barge carrying barrels of gasoline and quarter-ton bombs” without any air cover whatsoever at 10-knots.

I repeat, pulling “a barge carrying barrels of gasoline and quarter-ton bombs” without any air cover whatsoever at 10-knots.

On the 15th, the world’s most flammable convoy was warned that a Japanese carrier task force was headed its way and was ordered to turn around with Meredith and Vireo breaking off in one element with a fuel barge in an (expendable) effort to keep the Marines flying. They got close, within 75 miles of Guadalcanal, before they spotted Japanese scout planes.

The skipper of the destroyer, LCDR Harry Hubbard, feeling the slow minesweeper-turned-tug was a sitting duck, ordered the ship abandoned and, with the vessel’s fuel barge tied to it, was going to send her to the bottom so that she wouldn’t fall into the hands of the Japanese then beat feet. That’s when 38 aircraft (21 low-level bombers and torpedo planes, 8 dive bombers, and 9 fighters) from the carrier Zuikaku arrived on the scene and, concentrating on Meredith, sent her to the bottom with no less than 14 bombs and 7 torpedoes– enough ordnance to sink the Bismarck!

Remarkably, the abandoned Vireo, saved from one of Meredith’s torpedoes by none other than the Japanese, was still afloat.

However, Vireo was drifting away, and only one raft-load of Meredith and Vireo survivors reached the tug, where they were later rescued. The other rafts, filled with burned and mangled Sailors, became a preview of what would happen to Sailors on the USS Juneau (CL-52) and USS Indianapolis (CA-35) later in the war. As the rafts and wreckage drifted for three days and three nights, numerous Sailors died from wounds, exposure, salt-water ingestion (and resulting mental incapacity and hallucinations), and from particularly aggressive shark attacks. One shark even jumped into a raft and ripped a chuck from an already mortally wounded Sailor. There was not enough room on the rafts, so the less-injured Sailors treaded water, hanging on to the rafts, and had to fight off the sharks as best they could. Most of the injured, including burned and blinded Hubbard, perished in the rafts.

Finally, the destroyers USS Grayson (DD-435) and USS Gwin (DD-433) found 88 survivors of Meredith and Vireo adrift. (About another dozen had earlier been found on the Vireo.) However, 187 from Meredith and 50 from Vireo died in a desperate attempt to get fuel to the Marines on Guadalcanal.

Grayson recovered Vireo and the other barge and returned them to Espiritu Santo. During her return, the Vireo was manned by a salvage crew from the Grayson and survivors from Meredith and Vireo. The intact fuel barge, recovered by the tug Seminole, was delivered to Henderson Field under escort by Grayson and Gwinn, meaning the mission was ultimately somewhat successful if pyrrhic.

With a largely new crew, Vireo remained at the sharp end, coming to the assistance of the cruisers Pensacola (CA-24) and Minneapolis (CA-36) following damage they received at the Battle of Tassafaronga.

Near the USS Aaron Ward (DD-483) when that Gleaves-class destroyer was hit by three Japanese bombers in April 1943, Vireo came tried unsuccessfully to rescue the crushed tin can but had to break the tow when she dived to the bottom just short of Tulagi.

Nonetheless, Vireo continued in her role and came to the assistance of the Battle of Kula Gulf’s “cripples division,” the broken cruisers Honolulu (CL-48), St. Louis (CL-49), and HMNZS Leander, towing the bowless Honolulu in to Tulagi.

USS Honolulu (CL-48) in Tulagi Harbor, Solomon Islands, for temporary repair of damage received when she was torpedoed in the bow during the Battle of Kolombangara. USS Vireo (AT-144) is assisting the damaged cruiser. 80-G-259446 (More detail on the curious sign, penned by Captain Oliver O. “Scrappy” Kessing, USN, commander of the Tulagi Naval base, here)

Then came the support of the liberation of the Philippines, and other hairy stops on the island-hopping campaign to Tokyo (see= Okinawa, see= kamikazes).

VJ Day came with Vireo in the PI, as her war history notes:

The news of the cessation of hostilities between the Allies and the Japanese left everyone aboard just a little bit bewildered, anxious to get started home, and with rosy visions of the plastic post-war world. This missive leaves the Mighty V at Manila, the burned and ruined Pearl of the Orient, the Japs defeated, the Vireo still very very much afloat and still towing strong.

Jane’s 1946 entry on the three Old Birds still around which were classified at the time as tugs, Owl, Vireo, and Woodcock. They would soon be retired.

When the war came to an end, the old tug, surplus to the needs of the Navy, arrived at San Francisco on 5 February 1946 and reported to the Commandant, 12th Naval District, for disposition. That disposition was that she be declared surplus and disposed of, stricken 8 May and transferred to the Maritime Commission the next year. Her ultimate fate is unknown, but there is a report that she was headed to Latin America in early 1947, intended to be converted for service as a Panamanian-flagged lumber boat carrying hardwoods between Long Beach and Panama.

As for the rest of her class, other “Old Birds” served heroically in the war.

Pearl Harbor vet Avocet would spend most of the war in Alaskan waters, caring and feeding PBYs while fending off Japanese air attacks during the Aleutians Campaign. Heron received the Navy Unit Commendation for saving the damaged destroyer USS Peary (DD-226) in the Molucca Strait and repeatedly fighting off a horde of attacking Mavis seaplanes in the process. Six of the class– Tanager, Finch, Quail, Penguin, Bittern, and Pigeon, were lost in the Philippines invasion as part of the doomed Asiatic Fleet. Scuttled at Corregidor, a 36-foot whaleboat from Quail filled with 18 officers and men, but sailing with virtually no charts or navigational aids, transversed 2,060 miles of often Japanese-held ocean reaching Australia after 29 days. The Germans sank USS Partridge at Normandy and sent both Gannet and Redwing via torpedoes to the bottom of the Atlantic.

Most of the old birds remaining in U.S. service were scrapped in 1946-48 with the last on Uncle Sam’s list, Flamingo, sold for scrap in July 1953.

Some lived on as trawlers and one, USS Auk (AM-38) was sold to Venezuela in 1948, where she lasted until 1962 as the gunboat Felipe Larrazabal. After her decommissioning, she was not immediately scrapped and is still reported afloat but abandoned in a backwater channel. She is likely the last of the Lapwings.

Vireo’s name was recycled for a Bluebird-class minesweeper (MSC-205) which, commissioned at the naval station at Tacoma, Wash., on 7 June 1955. The little boat would see some hot action in Vietnamese waters during Operation Market Time, engaging in surface actions with North Vietnamese smuggling trawlers. She was decommissioned in 1975 and went on to serve the nation of Fiji as the Kuva for another decade.

USN 1131998 USS VIREO (MSC-205)

Seagoing Minesweeper plan 1918 S-584-129

Displacement: 950 tons FL (1918) 1,350 tons (1936)
Length: 187 feet 10 inches
Beam: 35 feet 6 inches
Draft: 9 feet 9 in
Propulsion: Two Babcock and Wilcox header boilers, one 1,400shp Harlan and Hollingsworth, vertical triple-expansion steam engine, one shaft. (1942: Two Babcock and Wilcox header boilers, one 1,400shp Chester Shipbuilding 200psi saturated steam vertical triple expansion reciprocating engine.)
Speed: 14 knots (26 km/h 16 mph) 12

by 1936. 14 again after 1942.
Range: 1,400 nm at 14 knots on 275 tons fuel oil
Complement: 78 Officers and Enlisted as completed Up to 85 by 1936
Armament:
(1919)
2 × 3-inch/23 single mounts
(1928)
2 x 3″/50 DP single
2 x .30-06 Lewis guns
(1944)
2 x 3″/50 DP single
Several 20mm Oerlikons and M2 12.7mm mounts

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

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The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.


Military Sealift Command

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Laststandonzombieisland

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday (on a Monday), Dec. 7, 2020: Battle Tug Edition

Photographed by Vernon M. Haden, San Pedro California. Donation of Ted Stone, 1977. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 85837

Here we see, resplendent with her peacetime fancy hull number and with her #1 3″/50 mount trained rakishly to port and #2 mount to starboard, the “Old Bird” Lapwing-class minesweeper USS Vireo (Minesweeper No. 52) with assembled officers, crew, and mascot, circa winter 1934. Don’t let this seeming refugee from a TinTin comic fool you, Vireo always seemed to be there when it counted, even when she couldn’t always tip the scales when needed.

Inspired by large seagoing New England fishing trawlers, the Lapwings were 187-foot ships that were large enough, at 965-tons full, to make it across the Atlantic on their own (though with a blisteringly slow speed of just 14 knots).

They could also use a sail rig to poke along at low speed with no engines, a useful trait for working in a minefield.

Lapwing-class sister USS Falcon AM-28 in Pensacola Bay 1924 with the Atlantic submarine fleet. Note her rig

Not intended to do much more than clear mines, they were given a couple 3″/23 pop guns to discourage small enemy surface combatants intent to keep minesweepers from clearing said mines. The class leader, Lapwing, designated Auxiliary Minesweeper #1 (AM-1), was laid down at Todd in New York in October 1917 and another 53 soon followed. While five were canceled in November 1918, the other 48 were eventually finished– even if they came to the war a little late.

Speaking of which, our subject, the first on the Navy List named for the small green migratory bird, was laid down on 20 November 1918 by the Philadelphia Navy Yard and commissioned on 16 October 1919, with Navy Cross-recipient, LT Ernest Robert Piercey, USN, in command– the first of her 21 skippers across an unbroken span.

USS Vireo (AM-52) Anchored in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, January 1920. NH 43603

Vireo would spend a decade on the East Coast performing the typical routine duties of a peacetime minesweeper– pulling targets transporting men, mail, and materiel repairing buoys and beacons and operating with the fleet on annual maneuvers.

This was broken up by towing several former German warships to sea off the Virginia capes in the summer of 1921, where they were sunk by Army aircraft in attempts by Billy Mitchell to prove that capital ships were vulnerable to attack from the air– an ironic footnote to her story that you will get later.

Phosphorus Bomb Test 1921 Sinking of the Cruiser Frankfurt and SMS Ostfriesland

Phosphorus Bomb Test, 1921 Sinking of the Cruiser Frankfurt and SMS Ostfriesland

It was about that time that the Navy figured out these economical little boats with their shallow draft (they could float in ten feet of seawater) could be used for any number of side jobs and started re-purposing them.

Six of the “Old Birds” were reclassified as salvage ships (ARSs) while another half-dozen became submarine rescue ships (ASRs). The Coast Guard picked up USS Redwing for use as a cutter during Prohibition while the U.S. Coast & Geographic Survey acquired USS Osprey and USS Flamingo and the Shipping Board accepted USS Peacock as a tug.

USS Vireo (AM-52) In the harbor, March 1922. USS Rail (AM-26) is in the left background. NH 50207

A few were retained as minesweepers in the reserve fleet, some used as depot ships/net layers, one converted to a gunboat, another to an ocean-going tug, three were sunk during peacetime service (USS Cardinal struck a reef off Dutch Harbor in 1923 while USS Curlew did the same off Panama in 1926 and USS Sanderling went down in 1937 by accident in Hawaii) while nine– including past Warship Wednesday alumni Avocet and Heron included– became seaplane tenders.

As for Vireo, she was one of the few who was never sidelined. Tasked to support the Puerto Rican – Nicaraguan Aerial Survey, serving as an ersatz seaplane tender to three Loening amphibian airplanes, in early 1931 then detailed transferred to the Pacific Fleet, she remained busy her entire career.

Group photograph of the officers and the sailors of the Puerto Rican-Nicaraguan Aerial Survey group in front of Vireo, 24 January 1931 in their whites. Note the officers with their swords, and chiefs in double-breasted jackets. She has the traditional U.S. aviation roundel on her bow, typical of seaplane tenders in this era, but does not have her twin 3-inch guns mounted which are in the photo at the top of this post. National Archives photo 80-G-466337

USS Vireo Docked in San Juan, 6 February 1931, a better view of her seaplane tender markings

USS Vireo (AM-52) in a West Coast port, 1932. Note she has dropped the tender premise and is back to being a sweeper now, with her big hull number back. NH 50320

In 1940, with the fleet’s general shift from California to Hawaii as part of the decay of relations with the Empire of Japan, Vireo moved to Pearl Harbor and was involved in the pre-war buildup on Palmyra and Johnston Island.

The Day that would live in Infamy

On 7 December 1941, Vireo along with three sisterships, Rail (AM-26), Bobolink (AM-20), and Turkey (AM-13) were tied up at the coal docks at Pearl Harbor in upkeep status. Three other sisters converted as seaplane tenders and submarine rescue ships, Avocet (AVP-4), Swan (AVP-7) and Widgeon (ASR-1) were at the submarine rail. Meanwhile, a seventh sister, Grebe (AM-43), was in overhaul.

About 0800 an explosion was heard. This was investigated. Immediately planes bearing the Japanese insignia was seen. General Quarters was immediately sounded and at about 0815 a second group of enemy planes flew over toward Hickam Field. This vessel immediately opened fire and expended 22 rounds of 3″ A.A. ammunition.

About 0830 this vessel brought down one enemy plane flying forward of the bow, toward seaward, over Hickam Field, from left to right. The bursts of #2 A.A. gun of this vessel were definitely spotted in the path of this plane and the plane was seen to land in the vicinity of Hickam Field. 400 rounds of .30 caliber Machine Gun ammunition was expended. Battery consists of 2-30 caliber machine guns, and 2-3″/50 A.A. guns.

There was no damage to this vessel nor loss of life. At 0830 there was one personnel casualty to the radioman, PRICE, Aubrey Evan, RM2c, USN, on watch at the telephone on dock astern of this vessel. He received a shrapnel wound in jawbone and neck. This casualty was immediately transferred to the hospital at Pearl Harbor and returned to duty this date.

This vessel was immediately put into Condition ONE at General Quarters, engines put together and ship made ready for getting underway.

During the action, the conduct of all officers and the crew was commendable. Everyone did his job 100%. There was no hysteria but commendable coolness and control.

At 1348 this vessel received orders to get underway and to report to Commander Base Force at Ten-ten dock. This vessel was ordered to West Loch to bring u 5″, 3″, and .50 cal. ammunition for the U.S.S. California which was badly in need of ammunition. At 1455 while waiting for ammunition to arrive at the Ammunition Depot, West Loch, hauled an ammunition lighter loaded with 14″ powder away from Ammunition Depot dock, where it was a menace, and moored it alongside the old Navajo. Returned to Depot, picked up ammunition and delivered it to U.S.S. Argonne at 1730.

At 2100 moored alongside U.S.S. California and commenced salvage work.

View of USS California (BB-44), taken a day or two after the Japanese raid. USS Bobolink (AM-20), at left, USS Vireo (AM-52), and YW-10 are off the battleship’s stern, assisting with efforts to keep her afloat. The “birds” would stay at California’s side for three days. Morison noted in his book, “Although minesweepers Vireo and Bobolink closed the battleship and applied their pumps, and numerous ‘handy billies’ (portable gasoline-driven pumps) were obtained from other vessels, California slowly settled.” Collection of Vice Admiral Homer N. Wallin, USN(Retired), 1975. NH 95569

Tragically, late that night Vireo was one of the ships that filled the skies over Pearl Harbor with ack-ack on the report of approaching unidentified aircraft.

At about 2110 anti-aircraft fire commenced and a plane was seen shot down and an aviator fell astern of this vessel. This vessel immediately rescued the aviator and identified him as an Enterprise aviator who had been shot down. A dispatch was immediately sent to assure control that planes in the air were Enterprise planes. The aviator was transferred to the U.S.S. California and then to the hospital.

Ensign Eric Allen, Jr., USN (1916-1941) USNA class of 1938. On 12 August 1940, the day after he reported to NAS Pensacola to commence his flight training. He had just come from a tour of duty in USS TRENTON (CL-11). Ultimately assigned to VF-6 in ENTERPRISE (CV-6). He was shot down by U.S. anti-aircraft fire on the night of 7 December 1941 at Pearl Harbor picked up by USS VIREO (AM-52), he died at the Ford Island Dispensary soon thereafter. NH 96617

Over the next several months, Vireo supported the Pearl Harbor salvage effort whenever she was not off conducting minesweeping and patrol operations in the Greater Hawaii area, including runs to Johnston Island and the Port of Hilo.

With a huge naval clash on the horizon, on 28 May 1942, under secret orders, Vireo left Pearl at nine knots to escort the tanker Kaloli (AOG-13) to Midway Island. During the voyage, Vireo was reclassified as an ocean-going tug (AT-144) and would arrive at the atoll on 3 June, ordered to hold up off Hermes Reef and await orders.

The next day saw the pivotal stage of the battle there, with the Japanese losing four carriers in exchange for Yorktown (CV-5) which was left dead in the water. With the carrier ordered largely abandoned, Viero was called into action to take the stricken American flattop in tow, arriving at 1135 on 5 June and getting underway by 1308– at three knots, a 1,350-ton minesweeper hauling a crippled 30,000-ton leviathan. The next day, the destroyer Hammann (DD-412) came alongside Yorktown to help with the salvage task while five other tin cans provide a screening force.

That is when Japanese Type KD6 submarine I-168 came on the scene.

I-168 arrives and sights the carrier and her screen. For seven hours, LCDR Tanabe Yahachi skillfully makes his approach, steering by chart and sound with only a few periscope sightings. Undetected, he penetrates the destroyer and cruiser screen. At 1331, from 1,900 yards, he fires two torpedoes at the overlapping formation, followed by two more three seconds later. The first torpedo hits HAMMANN, breaks her back and sinks her in about four minutes. As she goes down, her depth charges explode and kill 81 of her 241-strong crew. At 1332, the next two torpedoes strike YORKTOWN starboard below the bridge. The fourth torpedo misses and passes astern.

Battle of Midway, June 1942 Diorama by Norman Bel Geddes, depicting the explosion of depth charges from USS Hammann (DD-412) as she sank alongside USS Yorktown (CV-5) during the afternoon of 6 June 1942. Both ships were torpedoed by Japanese submarine I-168 while Hammann was assisting with the salvage of Yorktown. USS Vireo (AT-144) is shown at left, coming back to pick up survivors, as destroyers head off to search for the submarine. 80-G-701902

Vireo freed herself from the carrier by cutting the towing cable with an acetylene torch and then doubled back to commence rescue operations.

Up her sides clambered carriermen and destroyermen alike, while she maneuvered near the carrier’s canting stern to take on board members of the salvage party who had chosen to abandon the carrier from there. She then proceeded to secure alongside the wounded flattop in the exact spot where Hammann had met her doom. Yorktown rolled heavily, her heavy steel hide pounding the lighter former minecraft’s hull with a vengeance as the ships touched time and time again during the rescue operations. This mission completed, battered Vireo stood away from the sinking carrier, which sank shortly after dawn on the 7th.

Her rudder damaged by Hammann’s depth charge seaquake, Vireo ran aground on her way back to Midway harbor and after she made it back to Pearl under her own power, she was given a complete overhaul and drydocking.

USS Vireo (AT-144) At Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, following repairs from Battle of Midway and overhaul, 20 August 1942. Catalog #: 19-N-34748

James Claude Legg, Lieutenant USN ID photo taken circa 2 May 1942. Lieutenant Legg commanded USS VIREO (AT-144) during the Battle of Midway, earning a Navy Cross for his performance of duty in towing the damaged USS YORKTOWN (CV-5). From service record book in NMPRC, St. Louis, MO., 1984. Catalog #: NH 100171

As for I-168, the Japanese boat would never see the end of the war, presumed lost with all 97 hands in the area north of Rabaul after she is hit by four torpedoes from USS Scamp (SS-277) in 1943.

The Rest of the War

Overhauled and assigned to ComAmphibForSoPac, the now green-camouflaged painted Vireo set out for the Guadalcanal area on 12 October, to take part in resupply operations for the Marines of the Cactus Air Force at Henderson Field. The little convoy, consisting of the freighters Alchiba (AKA-23) and Bellatrix (AKA-20), was screened by the gunboat Jamestown (PG-55) along with the destroyers Meredith (DD-434) and Nicholas (DD-449), with the freighters and Jamestown each pulling “a barge carrying barrels of gasoline and quarter-ton bombs” without any air cover whatsoever at 10-knots.

I repeat, pulling “a barge carrying barrels of gasoline and quarter-ton bombs” without any air cover whatsoever at 10-knots.

On the 15th, the world’s most flammable convoy was warned that a Japanese carrier task force was headed its way and was ordered to turn around with Meredith and Vireo breaking off in one element with a fuel barge in an (expendable) effort to keep the Marines flying. They got close, within 75 miles of Guadalcanal, before they spotted Japanese scout planes.

The skipper of the destroyer, LCDR Harry Hubbard, feeling the slow minesweeper-turned-tug was a sitting duck, ordered the ship abandoned and, with the vessel’s fuel barge tied to it, was going to send her to the bottom so that she wouldn’t fall into the hands of the Japanese then beat feet. That’s when 38 aircraft (21 low-level bombers and torpedo planes, 8 dive bombers, and 9 fighters) from the carrier Zuikaku arrived on the scene and, concentrating on Meredith, sent her to the bottom with no less than 14 bombs and 7 torpedoes– enough ordnance to sink the Bismarck!

Remarkably, the abandoned Vireo, saved from one of Meredith’s torpedoes by none other than the Japanese, was still afloat.

However, Vireo was drifting away, and only one raft-load of Meredith and Vireo survivors reached the tug, where they were later rescued. The other rafts, filled with burned and mangled Sailors, became a preview of what would happen to Sailors on the USS Juneau (CL-52) and USS Indianapolis (CA-35) later in the war. As the rafts and wreckage drifted for three days and three nights, numerous Sailors died from wounds, exposure, salt-water ingestion (and resulting mental incapacity and hallucinations), and from particularly aggressive shark attacks. One shark even jumped into a raft and ripped a chuck from an already mortally wounded Sailor. There was not enough room on the rafts, so the less-injured Sailors treaded water, hanging on to the rafts, and had to fight off the sharks as best they could. Most of the injured, including burned and blinded Hubbard, perished in the rafts.

Finally, the destroyers USS Grayson (DD-435) and USS Gwin (DD-433) found 88 survivors of Meredith and Vireo adrift. (About another dozen had earlier been found on the Vireo.) However, 187 from Meredith and 50 from Vireo died in a desperate attempt to get fuel to the Marines on Guadalcanal.

Grayson recovered Vireo and the other barge and returned them to Espiritu Santo. During her return, the Vireo was manned by a salvage crew from the Grayson and survivors from Meredith and Vireo. The intact fuel barge, recovered by the tug Seminole, was delivered to Henderson Field under escort by Grayson and Gwinn, meaning the mission was ultimately somewhat successful if pyrrhic.

With a largely new crew, Vireo remained at the sharp end, coming to the assistance of the cruisers Pensacola (CA-24) and Minneapolis (CA-36) following damage they received at the Battle of Tassafaronga.

Near the USS Aaron Ward (DD-483) when that Gleaves-class destroyer was hit by three Japanese bombers in April 1943, Vireo came tried unsuccessfully to rescue the crushed tin can but had to break the tow when she dived to the bottom just short of Tulagi.

Nonetheless, Vireo continued in her role and came to the assistance of the Battle of Kula Gulf’s “cripples division,” the broken cruisers Honolulu (CL-48), St. Louis (CL-49), and HMNZS Leander, towing the bowless Honolulu in to Tulagi.

USS Honolulu (CL-48) in Tulagi Harbor, Solomon Islands, for temporary repair of damage received when she was torpedoed in the bow during the Battle of Kolombangara. USS Vireo (AT-144) is assisting the damaged cruiser. 80-G-259446 (More detail on the curious sign, penned by Captain Oliver O. “Scrappy” Kessing, USN, commander of the Tulagi Naval base, here)

Then came the support of the liberation of the Philippines, and other hairy stops on the island-hopping campaign to Tokyo (see= Okinawa, see= kamikazes).

VJ Day came with Vireo in the PI, as her war history notes:

The news of the cessation of hostilities between the Allies and the Japanese left everyone aboard just a little bit bewildered, anxious to get started home, and with rosy visions of the plastic post-war world. This missive leaves the Mighty V at Manila, the burned and ruined Pearl of the Orient, the Japs defeated, the Vireo still very very much afloat and still towing strong.

Jane’s 1946 entry on the three Old Birds still around which were classified at the time as tugs, Owl, Vireo, and Woodcock. They would soon be retired.

When the war came to an end, the old tug, surplus to the needs of the Navy, arrived at San Francisco on 5 February 1946 and reported to the Commandant, 12th Naval District, for disposition. That disposition was that she be declared surplus and disposed of, stricken 8 May and transferred to the Maritime Commission the next year. Her ultimate fate is unknown, but there is a report that she was headed to Latin America in early 1947, intended to be converted for service as a Panamanian-flagged lumber boat carrying hardwoods between Long Beach and Panama.

As for the rest of her class, other “Old Birds” served heroically in the war.

Pearl Harbor vet Avocet would spend most of the war in Alaskan waters, caring and feeding PBYs while fending off Japanese air attacks during the Aleutians Campaign. Heron received the Navy Unit Commendation for saving the damaged destroyer USS Peary (DD-226) in the Molucca Strait and repeatedly fighting off a horde of attacking Mavis seaplanes in the process. Six of the class– Tanager, Finch, Quail, Penguin, Bittern, and Pigeon, were lost in the Philippines invasion as part of the doomed Asiatic Fleet. Scuttled at Corregidor, a 36-foot whaleboat from Quail filled with 18 officers and men, but sailing with virtually no charts or navigational aids, transversed 2,060 miles of often Japanese-held ocean reaching Australia after 29 days. The Germans sank USS Partridge at Normandy and sent both Gannet and Redwing via torpedoes to the bottom of the Atlantic.

Most of the old birds remaining in U.S. service were scrapped in 1946-48 with the last on Uncle Sam’s list, Flamingo, sold for scrap in July 1953.

Some lived on as trawlers and one, USS Auk (AM-38) was sold to Venezuela in 1948, where she lasted until 1962 as the gunboat Felipe Larrazabal. After her decommissioning, she was not immediately scrapped and is still reported afloat but abandoned in a backwater channel. She is likely the last of the Lapwings.

Vireo’s name was recycled for a Bluebird-class minesweeper (MSC-205) which, commissioned at the naval station at Tacoma, Wash., on 7 June 1955. The little boat would see some hot action in Vietnamese waters during Operation Market Time, engaging in surface actions with North Vietnamese smuggling trawlers. She was decommissioned in 1975 and went on to serve the nation of Fiji as the Kuva for another decade.

USN 1131998 USS VIREO (MSC-205)

Seagoing Minesweeper plan 1918 S-584-129

Displacement: 950 tons FL (1918) 1,350 tons (1936)
Length: 187 feet 10 inches
Beam: 35 feet 6 inches
Draft: 9 feet 9 in
Propulsion: Two Babcock and Wilcox header boilers, one 1,400shp Harlan and Hollingsworth, vertical triple-expansion steam engine, one shaft. (1942: Two Babcock and Wilcox header boilers, one 1,400shp Chester Shipbuilding 200psi saturated steam vertical triple expansion reciprocating engine.)
Speed: 14 knots (26 km/h 16 mph) 12

by 1936. 14 again after 1942.
Range: 1,400 nm at 14 knots on 275 tons fuel oil
Complement: 78 Officers and Enlisted as completed Up to 85 by 1936
Armament:
(1919)
2 × 3-inch/23 single mounts
(1928)
2 x 3″/50 DP single
2 x .30-06 Lewis guns
(1944)
2 x 3″/50 DP single
Several 20mm Oerlikons and M2 12.7mm mounts

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.


Vireo II MSC-205 - History

Once the abandoned Yorktown 's crewmen were safely recovered, her escorts departed, leaving behind the destroyer Hughes to keep watch. Early the next day, 5 June, a seaplane from the Japanese cruiser Chikuma spotted the drifting carrier. In mid-morning, Hughes discovered two injured men who had been left behind, rescued them and examined the ship. Later, the tug Vireo came on the scene and took Yorktown under tow, while working parties jettisoned boats and an anchor. However, the old tug could do little more than keep the big ship headed into the wind.

Several other destroyers arrived early on 6 June, carrying a salvage party of Yorktown crewmen. Boarding the carrier at daybreak, the men set to work pushing guns, aircraft and other removable weights over the side, counterflooding to reduce the list and performing the many other tasks involved in saving their ship. USS Hammann lay alongside to provide power, water and other assistance, while other destroyers patrolled nearby to protect Yorktown from intruders.

By mid-afternoon, prompted by the previous day's seaplane report, the Japanese submarine I-168 crept undetected into the area. Taking a submerged attack position, she fired four torpedoes, hitting Hammann and Yorktown amidships on their starboard sides. The destroyer went down in a few minutes. Many of her crew killed or badly injured in the water when her depth charges exploded as she sank. Vireo cut the towline, and the salvage party were taken off the now even-more-greviously wounded carrier. But she continued to float, and plans were made to restart work the next morning.

This page features views related to the salvage efforts and the torpedoing of Yorktown and Hammann by the Japanese Submarine.

If you want higher resolution reproductions than the Online Library's digital images, see: "How to Obtain Photographic Reproductions."

Click on the small photograph to prompt a larger view of the same image.

Battle of Midway, June 1942

Scene in the hangar of USS Yorktown (CV-5) during salvage operations on 6 June 1942. A Douglas TBD-1 "Devastator" torpedo plane is being prepared for jettisoning, as part of efforts to lighten the listing ship.
Photographed by Photographer 2nd Class William G. Roy. This view looks to port, out the forward hangar bay opening, with the sea visible beyond.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 46KB 740 x 605 pixels

Battle of Midway, June 1942

Diorama by Norman Bel Geddes, depicting USS Hammann (DD-412) alongside USS Yorktown (CV-5) assisting her salvage team, immediately before both ships were torpedoed by Japanese submarine I-168 , on 6 June 1942.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Online Image: 128KB 740 x 575 pixels

Reproductions of this image may also be available through the National Archives photographic reproduction system.

Battle of Midway, June 1942

Diorama by Norman Bel Geddes, depicting the torpedoing of USS Hammann (DD-412) and USS Yorktown (CV-5) by Japanese submarine I-168 , during the afternoon of 6 June 1942.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Online Image: 108KB 740 x 535 pixels

Reproductions of this image may also be available through the National Archives photographic reproduction system.

Battle of Midway, June 1942

USS Hammann (DD-412) sinking with stern high, after being torpedoed by Japanese submarine I-168 in the afternoon of 6 June 1942.
Photographed from the starboard forecastle deck of USS Yorktown (CV-5) by Photographer 2nd Class William G. Roy. Angular structure in right foreground is the front of Yorktown 's forward starboard 5-inch gun gallery.
Note knotted lines hanging down from the carrier's flight deck, remaining from her initial abandonment on 4 June.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives.

Online Image: 59KB 740 x 620 pixels

Reproductions of this image may also be available through the National Archives photographic reproduction system.

Battle of Midway, June 1942

USS Hammann (DD-412) disappears beneath the waves, after being torpedoed by Japanese submarine I-168 in the afternoon of 6 June 1942.
Photographed from the starboard forecastle deck of USS Yorktown (CV-5) by Photographer 2nd Class William G. Roy.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives.

Online Image: 71KB 740 x 605 pixels

Reproductions of this image may also be available through the National Archives photographic reproduction system.

Battle of Midway, June 1942

Diorama by Norman Bel Geddes, depicting the explosion of depth charges from USS Hammann (DD-412) as she sank alongside USS Yorktown (CV-5) during the afternoon of 6 June 1942. Both ships were torpedoed by Japanese submarine I-168 while Hammann was assisting with the salvage of Yorktown .
USS Vireo (AT-144) is shown at left, coming back to pick up survivors, as destroyers head off to search for the submarine.


A History of Video Game Music

This feature offers a timeline of significant milestones in the evolution of video game music. It includes details ranging from pong on up to the modern era, with audio clips of some landmark games, as well as links to video clips of more modern games.

By Gamespot Staff on March 28, 2005 at 4:44PM PST

Video game music has come a long way, baby.

Once an afterthought in terms of game design and overall pop-culture consciousness, video game music is now a legitimate industry of its own. Today, internationally renowned orchestras perform entire concerts of music composed specifically for video games, and game soundtracks regularly feature top-drawer techno, hip-hop, rock, and punk bands. Video game soundtracks have their own real estate now in retail outlets both online and off. There's even a small but growing movement of video game music cover bands, which incorporate 1980s console hardware into live performances of classic arcade ditties. Wild.

Music is, of course, only one element of the overall sound design of video games, and in this larger arena too, exponential leaps have been made in a relatively short period of time. With the advent of directional and simulated surround sound, game audio became integral to the action itself. (Hear that crunching, gnawing sound to the left? That's why we're taking this here passage to the right. ) First-person "sneakers," like the popular Thief series, turned the art of listening and eavesdropping into a survival skill in itself.

And for some games, sound and music are the point in and of themselves. Consider the genre of rhythm games like Dance Dance Revolution and Frequency. With these titles, interacting with the soundtrack is the very focus of the gameplay. DDR and similar games have made an even broader impact on the video game form by introducing full-body tracking and dance pads (or drum kits or guitars) as the central control interface.

In fact, historians will likely look back on these last few and current years as the golden age of video game music. As a media form, video games are emerging from the "ghetto" of teenage fanatics and hardcore techies into the sunlight of respectability and mainstream acceptance. This is a cyclical process in mass media, as new technology creates new forms--from hip-hop to animation to graphic novels to even cinema itself.

The Forgotten Element.

As with film, television, and other primarily visual mediums, sound and music in the beginning were often the forgotten elements in video game design. That's because sound elements have a more subtle effect than do splashy visuals or hyperspeedy gameplay. In fact, oftentimes the mark of superior sound design is that you don't consciously notice it at all. Instead, it goes to work on you subconsciously--heightening tension, manipulating the mood, and drawing you into the gameworld faintly but inexorably.

Consider the ominous ambient sounds of survival horror titles like Resident Evil, which compound the tension as you happen upon those relentless zombies chewing up your Alpha Team comrades. This is a technique descended directly from cinema--try watching a horror film (or playing a horror game) with the sound muted. The absence is startling and indicates how critical sound can be.

Even early games like Space Invaders earned much of their addictive appeal by getting into your head with thumping, repetitive sound schemes. As the aliens got faster and closer, the music got faster and louder. Properly designed, sound and visual cues work together to produce an experience greater than the sum of their parts.

Dedicated gamers have come to appreciate just how integral good sound and music can be to the overall gameplay experience. Arcade classics such as Pac-Man and Defender relied on superb digital sound schemes to provide us with ditties, melodies, beeps, and buzzes we'd never heard before. With the introduction of the 16-bit and 32-bit eras and with the expanded storage capabilities of CD-ROM, video game music moved into the realm of true composition. Video game soundtracks now constitute their own category in the retail music market. Mainstream cross-pollination continues as well, from "Pac-Man Fever" to the recent phenomenon of techno and rock artists who contribute to game soundtracks.

In 2000, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) decided to let interactive games compete in the annual Grammy awards. Individual proponents within the game music industry are lobbying for a video-game-specific category in the future. So far, however, not much progress has been made. As it stands now, individual composers or record labels can submit video game soundtrack music independently in one of three general categories: Best Soundtrack Album Best Song or Best Instrumental Composition for a Motion Picture, Television, or Other Visual Media.

As technology has progressed and overall game design has evolved, video game music is now a fertile area of development and growth. Accelerating crossover between video games and Hollywood has resulted in licensed commercial music leaping between various new media forms. Consider that House of the Dead is now a movie, James Bond is a game franchise, and TV's Alias is a marquee title for industry heavyweight Acclaim. Many new games now ship with an entirely separate audio CD for the stand-alone soundtrack, and video game music is finally getting the popular and critical attention it deserves.

What a long, strange trip it's been. So join us now for a leisurely "scroll" down the History of Video Game Music

Thanks to BasementArcade.com, Paul's Atari 2600 page, and the Video Game Music Archive for the music files used in this feature.

The Early Days

1958-
The Silent Era
The very first video games, alas, had no sound component whatsoever. In 1958, William Higinbotham, an engineer at Brookhaven National Laboratory, a US nuclear research facility, fashioned a crude tennis-type game on an oscilloscope. (Many experts consider this the first "hack" of a computer system.) Five years later, Spacewar--MIT student Steve Russell's protogame--featured two dueling spaceships controlled by toggle switches. It was created on the hulking PDP-1 computer, a $120,000 mainframe the size of a Buick. Both games, however, were silent.

1972
Magnavox Odyssey Released
The first home video console, the Magnavox Odyssey, is released in the US. The fully analog system is fully silent as well.

1972
Pong Heard Around the World
Nolan Bushnell test-markets his protovideo game, Pong, at Andy Capp's Tavern in Sunnyvale, California. The arcade video game as we know it is born. The sonar-blip sound that's generated as a digital ball is batted back and forth is the first true video game sound effect. It proves to be oddly compelling and kind of hypnotic.

Space Channel 5, your father is Simon.

1974
Simon Says
Milton Bradley releases Simon, one of the most popular handheld games ever. Simon plays patterns using four separate tones and four different-colored lights. You repeat the patterns, and then a new note is added every go-around. In that sense, Simon was the first game to incorporate music as a game element--in a very Zen, free-jazz kind of way.

1975
Shots Heard Around the World
Midway Games imports Gunfight from the Japanese company Taito. Gunfight is the first game to use a microprocessor (instead of hardwired circuits). A one-channel amplifier provides mono gunshot sounds.

When wood paneling was in.

1977
Atari Comes Home
The Atari Video Computer System (VCS) hits shelves in time for the Christmas holiday season. Nine game cartridges are available upon the system's release, and the sounds of a generation are born. Scratchy and primitive sound effects on the VCS (later known as the 2600) are still unlike anything to ever come out of a TV set. Highlights: the rumbling tanks of Combat, the bleep-bloop-bleep rhythm of Breakout, and the ominous silence of Adventure.

1978
Space Invasion
Midway imports Space Invaders from Taito. A great example of simple, effective sound design, Space Invaders owes a large part of its appeal to its menacing, paranoia-inducing soundtrack. Not music per se, the thumping audio track actually accelerates in tempo as the enemy invaders draw nearer (and move faster). The effect: sweat, panic, and increased blood pressure in a generation of gamers.

1978
Odyssey2 Gives Voice to the People
The Magnavox Odyssey2 used programmable 2K ROM game cartridges so that each game could be designed with unique sound and music. Previously, games were limited to the palette of sounds hardwired into the specs of the console itself. The Odyssey also came with a speech synthesis unit (released as an add-on) for phonetic speech capability and improved music and sound effects.

1979
Never Tell Me the Odds!
Atari's Asteroids hits arcades, and like Space Invaders, it employs a thumping, repetitive rhythm that speeds up as gameplay intensifies. The piercing laser shots, exploding asteroids, and high-pitched squall of enemy UFOs add to the sonic tension. Another great, early sound design.

1979
Baseball Gets a Word In
The first talking game to appear in the home console arena, Major League Baseball for the Intellivision system featured a computer-generated voice with a woefully limited vocabulary: "strike," "ball," "out," and so forth. Talking commentary would go on to become a de rigueur element of sports games.

1980-1985

1980
Taunting Berzerkers
Manufacturer Stern introduces the innovative shooter Berzerk, which features the most recognizable voice synthesizer module of the early arcade era: "Get the humanoid!" "Intruder alert! Intruder alert!" "The humanoid must not escape!" "Chicken! Fight like a robot!" Inexplicably, players seem to enjoy being mocked and taunted by a machine and continue to feed it money. The market for Microsoft operating systems is born.

1980
The Pac-Man Cometh.
The most popular video game of all time (in terms of pure pop-culture consciousness) makes its debut, with more than 100,000 units shipped to the US alone. The game boasts many memorable sound and music elements. The opening ditty is one of just a few video game melodies to become instantly recognizable. If we want to get cerebral about it, we can ponder Pac-Man's voracious, insatiable eating of dots--is this the sound of consumerism run amok? Also consider the sound of Pac-Man dying (blinking out), which has become a universally accepted "defeat" sound.

1980
Pac-Man Fever
Video game music hits the pop charts: Atlanta musicians Jerry Buckner and Gary Garcia spoof Ted Nugent's song "Cat Scratch Fever" with "Pac-Man Fever." Sample lyric: "I've gotta callus on my finger/And my shoulder's hurtin' too/I'm gonna eat 'em all up/Just as soon as they turn blue." The song goes to number nine on the US singles charts. A follow-up album features additional songs dedicated to Frogger, Centipede, Donkey Kong, Asteroids, Defender, Mousetrap, and Berzerk. Buckner and Garcia rerelease the Pac-Man Fever soundtrack on CD in 1999.

1980
Smart Bomb! Smart Bomb!
A side-scrolling space shoot-'em-up from Williams, Defender rivals Pac-Man for the most popular arcade game of its time, with more than 55,000 units sold worldwide. Despite being limited by the standard single-channel mono amp, Defender features a busy, chaotic sound design. The game's constant thrusting and shooting, with subsequent exploding aliens, creates a wall-of-noise effect that adds greatly to the game's dynamic intensity

Gorillas rolling barrels at a plumber--it made so much sense at the time.

1981
Donkey Kong Ditty
Nintendo's blockbuster arcade game features another winning sound design. Shigeru Miyamoto created the music himself on a small electronic keyboard. The Donkey Kong ditty, deceptively simple and impossibly tenacious, will subsequently lodge itself in the brain cells of an entire generation.

1981
Tempest: Sound and Fury
Atari's first color vector game, Tempest, hits arcades, and true to its name, the relentless sound schematic rivals Defender for sheer wall-of-noise power. Tempest was one of the first machines to use Atari's POKEY chip, the primary function of which is to generate sound. The chip has four separate channels, and the pitch, volume, and distortion values of each can be controlled individually. Tempest uses two chips, for a total of eight "voices" arranged in endless combinations. Atari releases a separate soundtrack for the game, believed to be the first stand-alone audio soundtrack in the video game industry.

1982
Double Your Fun: The Atari 5200
Atari's 5200 system incorporates the four-track POKEY chip and is essentially a console version of the Atari 8-bit computers (400/800, XL, XE, XEGS). Several arcade favorites migrate to the home console and benefit from its improved technology--think Vanguard, Robotron: 2084, Joust, Ms. Pac-Man, Dig Dug, Pole Position, and Centipede.

1982
The Original DJ: Q*bert
Meanwhile, back in the arcade, cult favorite Q*bert incorporates some innovative sound elements. As author Steven Kent points out in his book The First Quarter: A 25-Year History of Video Games, sound engineer David Thiel programmed random numbers into the speech chip that generated Q*bert's "voice." The result: Whenever Q*bert died, he muttered angry gibberish that sounded like speech (but wasn't). At the same time, a word balloon appeared over his head with messages like "@!#@!"--the first alien swear words. The game also used mechanical pinball hardware to generate the "thunk" you hear when Q*bert falls off the pyramid--a decidedly analog solution to a digital dilemma.

1982
Don't Stop Believin'
Video game music and rock 'n' roll collide in the first of many subsequent meetings when Journey Escape for the Atari 2600 is released. In the game, you must guide the members of rock 'n' roll supergroup Journey past hordes of swarming groupies and photographers to their scarab escape vehicle. Digitized Journey songs are, naturally, provided. What must have seemed like a merely good idea at the time now seems like absolute and total genius.

1983
Into the Dragon's Lair
Cinematronics releases Dragon's Lair in 1983, which was the first arcade game to feature laser-disc technology. As such, the game was also one of the first to incorporate stereo sound and actual human voices. The animation staff--former Disney artists--use their own voices for the characters.

1983
Spy Hunter in Stereo
Another of the first stereo sound games, Spy Hunter has one channel dedicated solely to the familiar Peter Gunn spy caper theme and the other dedicated to activated game sounds--machine guns, helicopter blades, and other in-game action noises. It's a classic game, and Spy Hunter's reputation is marred only by the fact that it produced--in the words of the Simpsons' comic book guy--the "worst sequel ever."

1985
The Dawn of the NES
Nintendo test-markets its soon-to-be-dominant Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in New York. The 8-bit system uses a powerful Motorola 6502 processor.

1985
The Tetris Syndrome
Russian programmer Alex Pajitnov inflicts the powerfully addictive Tetris upon the world. The infectious soundtrack adds greatly to the puzzle game's enduring appeal. Subsequently, millions of glassy-eyed players endure endless loops of vaguely martial Russian Muzak playing in their heads.

The water level had some memorable music.

1985
Super Mario Bros. Arrives
Nintendo releases Super Mario Bros. for the NES. Considered by many to be composer Koji Kondo's first true masterpiece, the music and sound design of Super Mario Bros. sets a new high-water mark. Constantly shifting tone to match the action onscreen, Kondo's sound design achieves a new kind of synthesis with the gameplay. Try playing the game with the sound off, and you'll quickly miss those music and sound cues--for example, the exact timing of your immunity power-up wearing off. With the Super Mario Bros. soundtrack, video game sound design begins to move in a new direction, away from cinematic conventions and toward something altogether new.

1986-1990

1986
Sega, Atari React
Sega releases its 8-bit Sega Master System (SMS) in the US. The system features four dedicated sound channels--three for music, one for noise. Atari releases the 8-bit 7800 game console, which has built-in backward compatibility for 2600 games.

1986
Dawn of the Disk Era
Nintendo releases a peripheral for the Famicom (the Japanese NES)--a $150 disk drive called the Famicom Disk System. The device never makes it to the US market, but it signals the beginning of the shift from cartridges to digital discs.

Zelda's music was quite memorable.

1987
Zelda: A Legend Begins.
Shigeru Miyamoto's The Legend of Zelda comes to the NES, pioneering a key Nintendo franchise in 1987 in the US. The game's music won many fans and can be found reproduced in MIDI and MP3 format all over the Web.

The Final Fantasy series is widely known for its excellent scores.

1987
Final Fantasy Debuts
In 1987, Square releases Final Fantasy for the NES in Japan. A franchise is born, and it will generate what is considered by fans and historians to be the best video game music ever made. Composer Nobuo Uematsu breaks entirely new ground with his sweeping and cinematic musical scores and continues to work his magic in sequels to this day.

1989
Introducing the Game Boy
Nintendo's handheld phenomenon, the Game Boy, is released and features four channels for sound--each of which can be mapped to the left, to the right, or to both speakers.

1989
Turbocharge it: The TurboGrafx-16
NEC releases the TurboGrafx-16 in the US (only the graphics processor is true 16-bit). NEC also releases a $400 portable CD player attachment, which plays games that are stored on compact discs.

1989
In the Beginning: Sega Genesis
Sega responds to the TurboGrafx-16 with its 16-bit Genesis system, which features six-channel stereo sound.

1989
Mega Man 2: The Superior Sequel
Like Aliens or The Godfather Part 2, Mega Man 2 is one of those rare sequels considered better than the original. While the game's superior graphics are often heralded (they pushed the limits of what the NES could do), many gamers remember this title more for its effective music and sound design. Each level had its own theme music, with phrases and motifs specific to the game's long list of prosaically named villains: Bubble Man, Quick Man, Metal Man, Crash Man, Wood Man, Heat Man, Flash Man, Air Man, and, of course, the evil Dr. Wily himself.

Jackson's grace was captured on the Genesis.

1989
Moonwalking With Michael
Sega launches a huge campaign to promote its title for the Genesis system, Michael Jackson's Moonwalker--seemingly the ultimate meeting of video games and pop music. The game, which features synthesized versions of MJ hits, such as "Billie Jean," "Another Part of Me," and "Beat It," is offbeat, but excellent. Jackson contributed to the creative development of the game, which follows the superstar as he shimmies through graveyards and pool halls, looking for kidnapped children. Yes, it all seems even creepier now.

1990
Super Famicom Hits Japan
Nintendo of Japan unveils its Super Famicom, a 16-bit system with better audio and 3D graphics than those of the Genesis and TurboGrafx-16.

1990
SNK NeoGeo Makes the Scene
SNK releases the $399 24-bit NeoGeo in arcade and home formats. The home system's dedicated 8-bit sound processor provides 15 separate channels. Check out GameSpot's History of SNK feature for even more information on this remarkable console.

1991-1995

1991
Super Famicom Arrives in US
Nintendo releases the 16-bit Super Famicom in America and calls the $249.95 console the Super NES (SNES). The system uses a dedicated 8-bit Sony SPC700 sound chip with eight separate channels.

1991
ActRaiser Goes to the Symphony
This Super NES title from Japan is often cited as one of the first to effectively incorporate a sweeping symphonic score. A quirky kind of hybrid, ActRaiser combined side-scrolling action with RPG and world-building elements. Taking its cue from classical Hollywood film score traditions, the soundtrack was indeed beautifully orchestrated. Also, your character was actually a deity called "The Master." So, you know, that never hurts.

1991
Introducing Play-by-Play
Joe Montana Sportstalk Football II for the Sega Genesis debuts, marking the first time a sports game employs continuous play-by-play commentary. Previous games had featured the occasional shout-out, but Sportstalk was the first game to feature an announcer describing the action on the field as it happened. The Madden football franchise would go on to dominate the field, so to speak, upping the commentary ante with each release. Whether or not this is progress depends greatly on your opinion of John Madden.

1991
Word on the Streets of Rage
Sega releases Streets of Rage for the Genesis system. A classic side-scrolling beat-'em-up, the game's techno soundtrack takes full advantage of the Genesis system's advanced sound hardware. The songs include rumbling drum samples, sticky melodies, and innovative use of stereo effects.

1992
Sega CD Released
Sega releases the $299 Sega CD system, as the migration toward superior CD-based storage continues.

1993
3DO Console Arrives
Panasonic releases the 32-bit 3DO console system to rave reviews. The system uses a custom 16-bit processor with 17 separate channels to and from system memory, taking maximum advantage of the CD-ROM format. The $700 price tag cools sales.

1993
Sonic CD Ups the Ante
Breaking new ground in home gaming sound fidelity, Sonic CD for the Sega CD system boasts what is perhaps the first truly CD-quality soundtrack. The music credits read like a professional commercial release, with multiple composers, arrangers, and mixers, as well as individual musician credits for guitar, drums, bass, and synthesizer.

1993
Jaguar Pounces
Atari leaps over its competition by introducing the 64-bit Jaguar Atari, bypassing the 32-bit arena altogether. It's actually two 32-bit coprocessors, affectionately named "Tom" and "Jerry." Jerry, a 32-bit digital signal processor, handles sound duties and is able to produce CD-quality sound with full stereo effects

1993
Star Fox: Space Opera Refined
A high-profile release for Nintendo, Star Fox is a 3D space shooter with polygonal graphics designed principally to highlight Nintendo's Super FX chip. But the designers pulled out the stops on the audio end as well, with voice effects that were state of the art for the time and a suitable space-operatic musical score. Forever shall the voices of your wingmen--Slippy Toad, Falco Lombardi, and Peppy Hare--live on!

Final Fantasy III let your characters hop into mech-like vehicles.

1994
Final Fantasy's Apex
Square's wildly popular Final Fantasy series hits a new high with Final Fantasy VI (III in the US in 1999) for the SNES. A great example of Uematsu's brilliance, this soundtrack demonstrates the increasing sophistication of video game music. Character-specific leitmotifs recur throughout gameplay, and the sheer variety of styles employed is audacious. Uematsu is deservedly compared to film composer John Williams. (The game's soundtrack would ultimately place first in GameSpot's Readers' Choice of the all-time greatest video game soundtracks.)

1995
More Sound: Sega 32X
Sega releases its 32-bit console peripheral, the 32X, which enables the Genesis to run a new set of 32-bit cartridge games. The 32X adds two more sound channels with its built-in PCM stereo sound chip.

1995
Sega Saturn
Sega releases its 32-bit, $399 Saturn in the US in May. The system employs two sound processors--a Yamaha FH1 24-bit digital signal processor and a 22.6MHz Motorola 68EC000 sound processor

1995
Sony PlayStation Arrives
Sony releases the 32-bit PlayStation in the US in September at a price of $299. The 24-channel sound chip provides CD-quality stereo sound and has built-in support for digital effects such as reverb and looping.

1996-2000

1996
Nintendo 64
Nintendo launches its Nintendo 64 in the US. The beefed-up, cartridge-based 64-bit system breaks tradition by relying on its exceptionally powerful CPU to handle much of the task of creating music and playing back sound effects.

The boxes of nail ammo in Quake bore the Nine Inch Nails logo.

1996
Quake and Nine Inch Nails
If ever there were a marriage made in hell (and we mean that in a good way), it has to be Quake plus Nine Inch Nails. The venerable first-person shooter was, upon release, a breakthrough in terms of dark and scary immersive action. The same can be said for the soundtrack, put together by Trent Reznor of the industrial angst flag-bearer Nine Inch Nails. Look closely, and you can see the NIN logo embedded in the game.

1996
Creepfest Resident Evil
The release of Capcom's Resident Evil for the PlayStation, Sega Saturn, and PC marks the creation of a new genre: survival horror. The game borrows from the more exceptional horror films and raises ambient sound to a new level of spookiness--from the gristly crunch of a skull-gnawing zombie to the creepy ticking of a grandfather clock.

Wipeout XL had a hopping soundtrack to match the pace of the game.

1996
Techno Meets Wipeout XL
Psygnosis unveils Wipeout XL for the PlayStation. The kicking techno soundtrack includes contributions from marquee names such as The Chemical Brothers, The Prodigy, and Future Sound of London. You can choose the track you want to listen to as you race, a feature that would become more or less standard in extreme sports and racing games. The soundtrack is still available today from Amazon.

Parappa was kind of like Sesame Street, but even cooler.

1997
Enter PaRappa the Rapper
A top-selling hit in Japan, SCEA's PaRappa the Rapper hits the US. The bizarre premise and gameplay strike a chord with gamers thirsting for originality. As the insecure puppy PaRappa, you must master various styles of rap and hip-hop "singing" to impress the girl puppy you have a crush on. The music is both funky and funny, and the 2D painted paper-doll animation is distinctive. The soundtrack placed in GameSpot's Top 10 Video Game Soundtracks feature and appeared in the Readers' Choice vote as well. Though the sequel, Parappa 2, wasn't as good as the original, you can still get a good idea of what PaRappa was like in these movie clips.

1997
King of the Castlevania
Konami's superior 2D action title, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, brings a slick and menacing new vibe to the soundtrack arena. Themes range from sinister heavy-metal riffs to grand, gothic classical tracks. Mixing classical and hard-rock compositions with the overarching gothic theme makes for a bloody good soundtrack. The voice acting is superior as well. The game disc holds a secret music track.

Ocarina of Time's music was just one of the many things that made it a classic.

1998
The Legend of Zelda Returns
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time debuts on the Nintendo 64. Besides boasting an amazing soundtrack, it's one of the first titles to feature music-making as part of its gameplay. In the game, you use the ocarina, a kind of flute, to teleport, open portals, or summon allies. There's also a musical puzzle in which you must follow the bass line of a song to make it through the Lost Woods.

1998
Let's Dance
Konami releases Dance Dance Revolution, probably the best known of the various "Benami" music games to hit arcades in Japan. It's safe to say that Dance Dance Revolution employs a novel form of player interface: As songs are played, the screen scrolls a pattern of arrows, which float to the top of the screen. When the arrows hit the action bar, you must step on corresponding arrows on the dance pad. The closer you are to the beat, the more points you score. Other Benami games include Guitar Freaks (play a guitar to music), DrumMania (play a drum kit peripheral), and HipHopMania (scratch turntables to music). The movies available at Bemanix.com show how creative DDR players can get with their moves.

1999
Enter the Dreamcast
The highly anticipated Dreamcast hits stores with its powerful 128-bit central processor and superintelligent sound processor, which has a 32-bit RISC CPU with 64 channels.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater was a game whose formula many have attempted to mimic.

1999
Skate Punks Unite!
Rockstar Games ups the ante in the licensed soundtrack department with the release of Thrasher: Skate and Destroy for the PlayStation. The old-school hip-hop lineup includes licensed favorites from Run DMC ("King of Rock"), Public Enemy ("Rebel Without a Pause"), Sugarhill Gang ("Rapper's Delight"), Grandmaster Flash ("White Lines"), Afrika Bambaataa ("Planet Rock"), and Eric B. and Rakim ("I Know You Got Soul"). The competing title, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, goes alt-punk instead, with songs by the Dead Kennedys, Goldfinger, and Primus.

1999
A Word From the Subculture: The 8bitpeoples
A collective of artists sharing a common love for classic video games, the 8bitpeoples first came together in 1999 and have since recycled and repurposed classic video game music in one thousand and one different directions. Contributors have built entire series of records around sound samples from arcade games, and others play live shows incorporating classic home console hardware. It's great stuff, with a solid DIY ethic: Almost all the music is free and comes with downloadable cover art so that anyone can "manufacture" physical copies of the albums.

Vib-Ribbon was genuinely unique.

1999
The DIY Soundtrack
Released in Japan and the UK only, the truly strange Vib-Ribbon takes the relationship of music and gameplay in an entirely different direction. Playing the rabbitlike creature Vibri, you must navigate levels that are themselves determined by the music track that's playing. Moody mope-rock equals slow and steady frantic techno equals fast and furious. The kicker is that you can pop your own audio CDs into the PlayStation to generate entirely new levels based on the tempo of the music. It's a cult classic.

2000
The PlayStation 2 Hits Stores
Sony's much anticipated PlayStation 2 finally gets a limited US release on October 26, 2000. Along with the 128-bit Emotion engine CPU, the system boasts 48 channels of sound plus 2MB of dedicated sound memory. Significantly, the PS2 can also play DVD movies, another step toward the promised land of home entertainment convergence.

2000
The Hitmen of Budapest
The popular Hitman series from Io Interactive launched in 2000, bringing stealthy third-person assassination fun to the whole family. Io initiated what has since become an increasingly popular practice: commissioning an entire orchestra to score the action--in this case, the Budapest Symphony Orchestra. Everyone got along, evidently, and the BSO has gone on to score more Io games including subsequent Hitman titles and the Red scare strategy title Freedom Fighters. Hitman 2's soundtrack was also scored by the orchestra, and was every bit as good. Click below for a sound clip.

Seaman was disturbingly unique in many rights.

2000
The Art of Conversation: Seaman
Sega's virtual-pet simulation for the Dreamcast, Seaman, invites you to actually converse with onscreen characters rather than simply yell at them ("Dammit, Lara, flip sideways--then shoot!"). The game employs sophisticated voice-recognition technology, which lets you gradually hold adult conversations with the little aqua critters on everything from politics to baseball. Check out GameSpot's very own Jeff Gerstmann harassing Seaman in this video

2000
Talk With the Pokémon, Walk With the Pokémon.
Nintendo releases a surprisingly fun entry into the voice-recognition arena with Hey You, Pikachu! for the Nintendo 64. The game is aimed squarely at the younger crowd but is endless fun for anyone with a short attention span. Using the included microphone and voice-recognition pad, you converse with and guide Pikachu through a literally endless series of miniquests by issuing voice commands.

2001-Today

2001
Game Boy Gets Funky
Nintendo releases a new adapter for the Game Boy Color, and it turns the handheld system into a portable MP3 player. The $80 unit, called the SongBoy, attaches to the top of the Game Boy and equips the system with 16MB of memory (expandable to 32MB) for playing MP3 music files.

2001
Video Game Radio
The proliferation of Internet radio--particularly commercial services like Live 365 and Shoutcast--brings the inevitable: radio stations dedicated to all video game music, all the time. Stations like WGDG Videogame Music are still broadcasting today, playing past and present soundtracks and themes as well as random sound effects, 1980s video game commercials, audio interviews with game makers, video game cartoon theme songs, and original trivia.

2001
Super Smash Bros. Melee Mix
It was bound to happen: The video game remix. Much in the way dance and techno producers have long remixed classic songs, the music designers behind Super Smash Bros. Melee dropped remixed original game soundtracks and character motifs into this hit GameCube title. It makes perfect sense: The Smash Bros. titles are predicated on the idea of pitting heroes from various game titles against one another. And so here we have Mario vs. Link vs. Donkey Kong vs. Kirby vs. Fox McCloud vs. Pikachu. It's a wildly creative sound design--some motifs are character-specific, some are location-specific, some are faithful to the original, and some are completely reimagined. And somehow it all works. Check out our SSBM movies page for a taste of the remixed classic songs.

It may not look like much but Frequency offers an intense experience.

2001
Tuning in Frequency
Another entrant in the rhythm game genre, Frequency (from American developer Harmonix) features an all-star techno lineup including BT, Crystal Method, Orbital, DJ Q-Bert, Powerman 5000, and Paul Oakenfold. Frequency is notable in that it reduces visuals to a near-abstract level (it looks a little like an updated version of the arcade classic Tempest) and provides a gameplay experience that is primarily aural. Look at it this way--without the music elements, Frequency would be a circa-1986 Mac puzzle game. Watch GameSpot's archived movies for a glimpse.

2001
Enter the Xbox
In November 2001, industry behemoth Microsoft entered the fray of home console gaming with the highly anticipated Xbox. Sound capability was a major focus, and Microsoft promised "movielike" sound from its 64-voice I3DL2 audio processor. With 64MB of unified memory and a 200MHz bandwidth to the CPU, sound designers were given an enormous amount of power to work with.

2001
Nintendo Strikes Back
Nintendo's GameCube also hits retail shelves in November, with its own array of heavy-duty sound specs. A specially dedicated 16-bit DSP sound processor powers 64 channels with a 48KHz sampling frequency.

Pooh and Tigger are just two of the familiar faces in Kingdom Hearts.

2002
Magic Kingdom Hearts
A surreal adventure into genre-splicing and cross-marketing, Kingdom Hearts combines the RPG elements and basic style of the Final Fantasy series with--weirdly--characters and locations from classic Disney movies. Characters such as Goofy and Donald, plus others from films such as The Nightmare Before Christmas,Hercules, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan, are all represented with corresponding musical motifs. All of the important characters are voice-acted, with some being voiced by the actors who represented them in the movies. And the line between games and movies blurs just a little bit more… GameSpot's numerous movies are a great way to sample Kingdom Hearts.

2003
The Revolution Will Be Televised
It was really just a matter of time. Rhythm genre heavyweights Konami (Dance Dance Revolution) and Harmonix (Frequency) team up to deliver Karaoke Revolution, bringing the dubious recreational activity to home gamers. The game requires a USB microphone (included) and actually rewards players on their ability to sing in key--or, technically, within prescribed thresholds of timing and pitch. Song selection is a mix of karaoke classics and contemporary pop, and the lyrics scroll onscreen just like a pro karaoke machine. The funny thing is that the game can't actually recognize words, so as long as you're following the melody and changes, you can sing in French, Icelandic, pig Latin, whatever. Check out the available movies to see GameSpot editors as well as Jennifer Love Hewitt belting out tunes from the game.

Aside from licensed tunes, there's quite a bit of product placement in T.H.U.G.

2003
Going Underground With Tony Hawk
It's become expected that skateboard and other "extreme sport" titles will have rockin' soundtracks--in fact, it's become part of the genre definition itself. Tony Hawk's Underground is more or less the current state of the art. The soundtrack is huge, with more than 70 total songs sorted by genre. Artists include KISS, Deltron 3030, Murs, RA the Rugged Man, Bracket, NOFX, The Clash, and Sublime. You can actually disable entire genres, or individual tracks, depending on your taste and mood. Essentially, this suggests that one soundtrack is no longer enough and opens up the possibility that future games may offer multiple soundtracks in various genres. Check out GameSpot's movie footage for T.H.U.G.

2004
FF concert in LA
Square Enix announces that its first North American Final Fantasy orchestral concert will take place at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles in May. The concert will feature music from the Final Fantasy series of role-playing games, as performed by the acclaimed Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Master Chorale. While similar game music concerts have been previously performed in Japan and Europe, this marks the first major North American symphonic performance exclusively composed of video game compositions. Concert hall vendors immediately announced plans to switch concessions from wine and cheese to Doritos and Coke.

2004. and Beyond!
Next-Generation Platforms on the Horizon
Details on at least four highly anticipated new game platforms begin to circulate in 2004. Sony's PlayStation Portable (PSP)--designed to compete with Nintendo's Game Boy--is slated to hit Japan in late 2004 and global markets in early 2005. The handheld will feature 3D PCM sound with stereo speakers and headphone output. Next-gen home console successors the Xbox 2, GameCube 2, and PlayStation 3 are also expected in 2005/2006. Specification details are little more than rumors as of now, but all three are expected to compete ferociously to be first to market, which could mean technical concessions. Stay tuned.

Who's Who in Video Game Music

Hirokazu Ando - Super Smash Bros. series

Taro Bando - Super Mario Kart, F-Zero X, F-Zero GC

Robin Beanland - Killer Instinct, Killer Instinct 2, Conker's Bad Fur Day, GoldenEye (video game), Perfect Dark

Masashi Hamauzu - SaGa Frontier 2, Tobal No. 1, Final Fantasy X

Tadashi Ikegami - Super Smash Bros Melee

Jun Ishikawa - Kirby series, Alcahest

Kenji Ito - SaGa series, Seiken Densetsu 1, Koi ha Balance: Battle of Lovers, Tobal No. 1, Shinyaku Seiken Densetsu

Yasuhiro Kawasaki - Illusion of Gaia

Grant Kirkhope - GoldenEye 007, Perfect Dark

Koji Kondo - Super Mario Bros. series, Legend of Zelda series, Star Fox series, Yume KouJou Doki Doki Panic, New Demon Island, The Mysterious Castle of Murasame

Yuzo Koshiro - ActRaiser, ActRaiser 2, Ys series

Michael Land - Monkey Island series, Star Wars games, SimCity 4

Tsukasa Masuko - Shin Megami Tensei series, Blazeon, Kabuki Rocks (with Ichiban Ujigami), Kyuuyaku Megami Tensei

Noriko Matsueda - Bahamut Lagoon, Chrono Trigger, Tobal No. 1, The Bouncer, Final Fantasy X-2

Toru Minegishi - Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

Yasunori Mitsuda - Chrono Trigger, Front Mission: Gun Hazard (with Nobuo Uematsu and Junya Nakano), Radical Dreamers, Chrono Cross, Xenogears, Legaia 2: Duel Saga, Shadow Hearts, Xenosaga

Junya Nakano - Front Mission: Gun Hazard, Tobal No. 1, Final Fantasy X

Akito Nakatsuka - Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

Masanori Oodachi - Castlevania series

Nakano Ritsuki (later known as Rikki) - Singer for Final Fantasy X main theme Suteki Da Ne

Hitoshi Sakimoto - Final Fantasy Tactics, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, Final Fantasy XII

Motoi Sakuraba - Tales of Phantasia, Tenshi no Uta: Shiroki Tsubasa no Inori, Zan 2 Spirits, Zan 3 Spirit, Star Ocean series, Golden Sun series

Ryuji Sasai - Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest, Bushido Blade 2, Jikkuno Hasha SaGa 3 (Final Fantasy Legend III), Rudora no Hihou

Tsuyoshi Sekito - All-Star Pro Wrestling series, Brave Fencer Musashi, Final Fantasy II (Wonderswan Color and Final Fantasy Origins versions), Chrono Trigger (PlayStation version)

Yoko Shimomura - Front Mission series, Live-A-Live, Super Mario RPG (with Nobuo Uematsu and Koji Kondo), Chocobo Stallion, Parasite Eve, Kingdom Hearts

Koichi Sugiyama - Dragon Quest series, E.V.O.: Search for Eden, Hanjyuku Hero series, Itadaki Street 2: Neon Sign ha Bara Iro ni, Monopoly (Japanese version), Syvalion

Keiichi Suzuki - Earthbound

Yukehide Takekawa - Soul Blazer

Tommy Tallarico - Earthworm Jim, Spot Goes to Hollywood, MDK, Maximo

Hirokazu "Hip" Tanaka - Balloon Fight, Earthbound, Kid Icarus, Metroid, Super Mario Land president of Pokémon Co.

Kazumi Totaka - Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins, Yoshi's Story, Doubutsu no Mori, Luigi's Mansion, Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire

Yuka Tsujiyoko - Fire Emblem series, Paper Mario

Nobuo Uematsu - Final Fantasy series, Apple Town Monogatari, Cruise Chaser Blassity, King's Knight, DynamiTracer, Front Mission: Gun Hazard (with Yasunori Mitsuda and Junya Nakano), Ehrgeiz, Makaitoushi SaGa (Final Fantasy Legend I), SaGa 2 Hihou Densetsu (Final Fantasy Legend II), Romancing SaGa 1 and 2, Chrono Trigger (with Yasunori Mitsuda and Noriko Matsueda), Super Mario RPG (with Yoko Shimomura and Koji Kondo)

David Wise - Donkey Kong Country series, Jet Force Gemini, Star Fox Adventures

Kenji Yamamoto - Super Metroid

Michiru Yamane - Twinbee (NES), Castlevania: Bloodlines, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance (with Soshiro Hokkai), Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (with Soshiro Hokkai and Takashi Yoshida), Castlevania: Lament of Innocence, Gungage (with Sota Fujimori), Genso Suikoden III (with Tadashi Yoshida and Masahiko Kimura)


Birds of America

This, reader, is one of the scarce birds that visit the United States from the south, and I have much pleasure in being able to give you an account of it, as hitherto little or nothing has been known of its history.

It is an inhabitant of Louisiana during the spring and summer months, when it resorts to the thick cane-brakes of the alluvial lands, near the Mississippi, and the borders of the numberless swamps that lie in a direction parallel to that river. It is many years since I discovered it, but as I am not at all anxious respecting priority of names, I shall not insist upon this circumstance. In the month of May 1809, I killed a male and a female of this species, near the mouth of the Ohio, while on a shooting expedition after young Swans. The following spring, I killed a female near Henderson in Kentucky. In 1821, I again procured a pair, with their nest and eggs, near the mouth of Bayou La Fourche, on the Mississippi, and since that period have killed eight or ten pairs.

The nest is prettily constructed, and fixed in a partially pensile manner between two twigs of a low bush, on a branch running horizontally from the main stem. It is formed externally of grey lichens, slightly put together, and lined with hair, chiefly from the deer and racoon. The female lays four or five eggs, which are white, with a strong tinge of flesh-colour, and sprinkled with brownish-red dots at the larger end. I am inclined to believe that the bird raises only one brood in a season.

The manners of this bird are not those of the Titmouse, Flycatcher, or Warbler, but partake of those of all three. It has the want of shyness exhibited in the Red-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireo. It hangs to bunches of small berries, feeding upon them as a Titmouse does on buds of trees and again searches amongst the leaves and along the twigs of low bushes, like most of the Warblers. On the other hand, it differs from all these in their principal habits. Thus, it never snaps at insects on the wing, although it pursues them it never attacks small birds and kills them by breaking in their skulls, as the Titmouse does nor does it hold its prey under its foot in the way of the Yellow-throated Vireo, a habit which allies the latter to the Shrikes.

The flight of this bird is performed by a continued tremor of the wings, as if it were at all times angry. It seldom rises high above its favourite cane-brakes, but is seen hopping up and down about the stems of low bushes and the stalks of the canes, silently searching for food, more in the manner of the Worm-eating Warbler than in that of any other bird known to me. Their confidence at the approach of man is very remarkable. They look on without moving until you are within a few feet, and retire only in proportion as you advance towards them. In this respect it resembles the White-eyed Vireo.

When wounded by a shot, it remains quite still on the ground, opens its bill when you approach it, and bites with all its might when laid hold of, although its strength is not sufficient to enable it to inflict a wound. I have never heard it utter a note beyond that of a querulous low murmuring sound, when chasing another bird from the vicinity of its nest. The young all leave the nest, if once touched, and hide among the grass and weeds, where the parents continue to feed them. I once attempted to feed some young birds of this species, but they rejected the food, which consisted of flies, worms, and hard-boiled eggs, and died in three days without ever uttering a note. In 1829, I shot one of these birds, a fine male, in the Great Pine Swamp in Pennsylvania.

This species is an inhabitant of the Columbia river district, where several specimens were procured by Mr. TOWNSEND. I found it abundant in Maine, and it reaches Pictou in Nova Scotia, beyond which I saw none on my way to Labrador. We found it in the Texas, arriving from farther south late in April. My friend Dr. BACHMAN informs me that it is "every year becoming more abundant in South Carolina, where it remains from about the middle of February to that of March, keeping to the woods. It has a sweet and loud song of half a dozen notes, heard at a considerable distance." Mr. NUTTALL has favoured me with the following notice respecting it:--

"About the beginning of May, in the oaks already almost wholly in leaf, on the banks of the Columbia, we heard around us the plaintive deliberate warble of this species, first mentioned by WILSON. Its song seems to be intermediate between that of the Red-eyed and Yellow-breasted species, having the preai, preai, &c. of the latter, and the fine variety of the former in its tones. It darted about in the tops of the trees, incessantly engaged in quest of food, and now and then disputing with some rival. The nest of this bird is made much in the same manner as that of Vireo olivaceus. One which I examined was suspended from the forked twig of the wild crab-tree, at about ten feet from the ground. The chief materials were dead and whitened grass-leaves, with some cobwebs agglutinated together as usual, externally scattered with a few shreds of moss (Hypitum) to resemble the branch on which it hung here and there were also a few of the white paper-like capsules of the spider's nest, and it was lined with fine blades of grass and slender root fibres. The situation, as usual, was open, but shady."

SOLITARY FLYCATCHER, Muscicapa solitaria, Wils. Amer. Orn., vol. ii.p. 143.
VIREO SOLITARIUS, Bonap. Syn., p. 79.
SOLITARY VIREO or FLYCATCHER, Vireo solitarius, Nutt. Man., vol. ii.p. 305.

SOLITARY FLYCATCHER or VIREO, Vireo solitarius, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. i.p. 147 vol. v. p. 432.

Upper parts light olive-green, head greyish-blue lower white, the sides greenish-yellow eyelids and a band of white from the bill over the eye a dusky spot before the eye quills and coverts brownish-black two bands of white on the wing, formed by the tips of the secondary coverts and first row of small coverts primaries narrowly edged with yellowish-green, secondaries broadly with white tail-feathers brownish-black, the outer edged with white head and sides of neck inclining to greyish-blue.

From Texas to Nova Scotia, rather abundant. Rare in the interior. Columbia river. Migratory. THE AMERICAN CANE.


Watch the video: MSC


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