Wayne’s yacht was WWII minesweeper
Friday, August 1, 2008 – DAVID C. HENLEY Publisher Emeritus
John Wayne was a passionate lover of the sea, and today, 29 years after his death at the age of 72, his famed yacht the Wild Goose is still plying the Pacific, a living reminder of the screen actor whose motion picture career began in 1926 when he appeared as a Yale football hero in the film “Brown of Harvard.”
The 136-foot, 340-ton Wild Goose is more than just a yacht. It boasts a distinguished career in the U.S. Navy as well.
Built by the Ballard Marine Corp. of Seattle in 1942 to serve as a USN minesweeper, the wooden-hulled vessel was one of 561 of the YMS class constructed in 35 shipyards for use during WWII. More than 150 of them were sold to Great Britain and other allied navies.
The minesweeper that was to become Wayne’s yacht was numbered YMS-328, the YMS designating it was a Yard Minesweeper. Crewed by four officers and 29 enlisted personnel, YMS -328 was assigned to the Alaskan Sea Frontier Command in the Aleutians during World War II, sweeping enemy mine fields at Attu and the U.S. mine fields at Kiska and patrolling out of Adak.
Armed with a 50 mm cannon and two 20 mm guns, YMS-328 was ordered in 1945 to sail for the Western Pacific and participate in the invasion of Japan. That order was rescinded when the U.S. dropped atomic bombs upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki which brought about the end of WW II.
During WW 11, 20 of the YMS minesweepers were sunk by enemy fire in the Pacific and Atlantic campaigns and 12 were present at Japan’s surrender at Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945.
Many of the minesweepers saw service during the Korean War (by then they were given names) and were used by Navy reservists into the 1960s. The last YMS was decommissioned in late 1969.
Transferred to the Navy base at Bremerton, Wash., following her duty in the Aleutians, YMS-328 was decommissioned and sold to Canadian than yachtsman Harold A. Jones in 1948.
Subsequently sold twice more to wealthy Americans, it was purchased by Wayne in 1965 for $116,000. He completely refurbished the ship, adding a custom interior featuring dark wood paneled walls, a master stateroom, quarters for children and guests, a wet bar and a poker table.
Wayne also raised the overhead in most of the interior by six to eight inches to accommodate his 6-foot, 4 inch frame.
Wayne hired a full-time crew of four, homeported the Wild Goose outside his home in Newport Beach in Orange County, and took countless trips on the vessel to Mexico, Oregon, Washington State and Canada.
Entertaining passengers such as Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin and Pres. Richard Nixon during these voyages, Wayne was “in his prime as the owner of one of the world’s most famous private yachts,” its former captain, Bert Minshall, told me as we toured the boat several years ago.
Two months before his death in 1979, Wayne sold the Wild Goose for $750,000 to Los Angeles attorney Lynn Hutchins, and today the ship is owned by Hornblower Cruises, which operates it and several other former yachts out of its cruise terminals in Orange County, San Diego and Los Angeles.
Last week, my son, Dave, and I went out on Newport Bay in Newport Beach where we caught up with the Wild Goose when she was carrying a group of sightseers on a tour of the harbor.
The photo accompanying my column was taken by Dave just after the Wild Goose passed by Wayne’s former Newport home, which today is occupied by the owner of the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles.
Shawn Ware, captain of the Wild Goose, told us the ship’s original twin-diesel engines are still is good shape and the Wild Goose is drydocked once a year for maintenance, hull cleaning and painting.
Costs for individuals taking two-hour Wild Goose cruises begin at $28, excluding food and beverages, and $4,600 for groups to charter the entire ship. The yacht can accommodate 150 guests.
“The Wild Goose may be 66 years old, but she’s in excellent condition, running well and has many good years ahead of her,” said Capt. Ware as he maneuvered the historic vessel into port.
David C. Henley is publisher emeritus of the LVN
Author Bio: Founder and Executive Editor for research and publications at World War II History - focused on preserving the history of WWII and providing related data and materials to the public.