Death for the Magpie

Before she became a minesweeper, the U.S.S. Magpie worked in the California fishing fleet as a dragger or purse seiner, and she was known as the City of San Pedro. In 1936 the Navy bought her and 20 sister boats, gave them each a 3-in. gun, gear to catch something more deadly than tuna, and names from the birds, such as Bunting, Crossbill, Crow, Puffin and Heath Hen. They all had wooden hulls, so thin that a dummy torpedo dropped in practice from a plane once sank one. Still, the Magpie and her sisters, not without casualties, served in...

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