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AFSC Historical Corner:  Dennis Winn,  Auxiliary Pribilof Tender in the 1950s

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Dennis Winn
The Dennis Winn.  Auke Bay Laboratories photo.
 

Vessel Details
Year built: 1944
Location built: Bellingham, WA
Builder: Northwestern
Shipbuilding Co.
Designer: H. C. Hanson
Other names/id: Lt. Walter J. Will, FS-244
    (Army, WWII)
Expansion  (post ADFG)
Temehani  (post ADFG)
Length: 148'
Tonnage (tons): 540 gross
Original engine: 875 hp Fairbanks
Morse diesel
Known skipper: Clyde "Pop" Dell
Fisheries service: 1951-59
Disposition: sent to ADFG

During World War II, over 300 coastal freighters were constructed for the U.S. Army. Some of these were 148-foot wooden transports designed by the noted architect H. C. Hanson of Seattle, Washington. They proved valuable, especially in Aleutian waters, towing barges/vessels, and hauling troops and cargo to remote outposts. One of these ships was the Lt. Walter J. Will (FS-244), named after a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient who, while serving as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army, had died courageously in 1945 from wounds he sustained in combat.

Like the Agency's 1950-64 Pribilof Island tender Penguin II,  the FS-244 was built in 1944 at Bellingham, Washington, by the Northwestern Shipbuilding Company, a short-lived business (1942-45) established by regional investors from Seattle to construct boats during wartime. In November 1948, the surplus FS-244 was obtained by the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS, formed from the Bureau of Fisheries, BOF, in 1940). Shortly after her acquisition, the FS-244 was renamed the Dennis Winn, commemorating the BOF Bristol Bay management agent whose accomplishments included the first extensive aerial salmon spawning ground surveys conducted in western Alaska in 1931.
 

  FS-244
The Army ship FS-244 before her FWS renaming.  Kodiak Military History Museum photo.

The Fish and Wildlife Service made immediate use of the Dennis Winn. She was put into service in Alaskan waters replacing the FWS vessel Brown Bear's assigned work of making the regular trips to and from Bristol Bay with supplies and personnel. One of the Winn's skippers (possibly the first) was Captain Clyde C. "Pop" Dell, who was known to have been with the Agency around 1949.

Part of the ship's assignments in the 1950s were to frequently support the FWS tender Penguin II duties by transporting cargo and passengers to and from the Pribilof Islands. In the summer of 1955, the Winn hauled 200 tons of building material from Seattle to St. Paul Island (Pribilofs); cargo that greatly aided in the construction program to further the development of the islands. While stationed out of Juneau, Alaska, during the latter 1950s, the vessel was used for management and biological research activities by the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries (part of the USFWS).

As a condition of Alaska's recent statehood, the Dennis Winn was transferred to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in 1960. She was then put up for auction in the spring of 1961. After her sale the vessel was renamed the Expansion and "served as a mail boat for the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands and stopped monthly at False Pass to bring the mail and passengers, sailing out of Seward [Alaska]. She also had on board a small store where one could buy fresh produce, ice cream and other perishables." *

* From  False Pass City Government web site,  which features a 1968 photo of the mail boat M/V Expansion in False Pass.  Last accessed 7-1-13.

 
In November 1965, the vessel was sold in Seattle to French interests and operated as a transport ship in the South Pacific under the name Temehani. It is believed she sank near Bora Bora around 1981.  (From  Shipbuilding History web site  last accessed 8-28-13.).

 

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