Effort to bring minesweeper home to BI

Louis Charles Hoffmann Alloin is a visionary. He’d like to bring a minesweeper built on Bainbridge Island during World War II home to be used as a museum.

Problem is, he needs others to get on board to form a 501c3 nonprofit.

BI has an extensive Navy history, but not much to show for it, other than the Filipino American Community Hall at Strawberry Park, along with a building and batteries at Fort Ward, he said.

Alloin and others with the Fort Ward Amateur Radio Club want to change that. “We’re proud of our history,” he said.

BI was home to a Navy radio station, anti-aircraft artillery camp and the Winslow Marine Railway and Shipbuilding Co., which built 17 minesweepers for WWII. BI “came to the aid of our nation’s call to duty building naval minesweepers,” said Alloin, 73.

Alloin is trying to bring one of those minesweepers, the USS Gayety (AM-239), back to its original homeport at Eagle Harbor to serve as a Naval Reserve Museum Ship. After being used by U.S. in the war it was sold to South Vietnam and how the Philippines.

According to USNI news, many ships are sold to allies, scrapped or sunk for target practice or to create coral reefs. But 164 have been saved and used as museums for the public to visit. Some are static but others can be taken out on cruises. That is what Alloin is hoping for.

As a “Naval Museum In Motion,” the Gayety will be seaworthy, ready to serve the community in multitudes of services, such as: community fundraising, community engagements, youth programs, tourism attraction, historical landmark destinations, educational research services, film industry productions and more. Visitors from around the world can learn, study and tour BI Naval Ship Yard History, historical island landmarks and experience the diversity of island community culture, Alloin said.

With the Japanese American Exclusion Memorial at Pritchard Park, Alloin said BI does a good job of telling the story of those who were forced to leave and put in internment camps. But it doesn’t tell the story of the Navy presence on BI or of the many who fought in the war from BI or the 142 people who died from Kitsap County either in Europe or the Pacific. Sixteen of those went to Bainbridge High School.

Alloin said some people who are questioning the project are concerned about funding for the 184-foot ship. But the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Maritime Administration offer grants for such ship financing. Also, tickets could be charged for cruises, plus donations requested, he said.

Once city leaders endorse the project, the nonprofit Fort Ward Amateur Radio Club can begin the process of recruiting directors, creating committees and gathering the volunteers necessary for diplomacy communications, financial security, moorage/property development and other contract negotiations, the radio club’s website says.

BI chamber director Stefan Goldby said while it doesn’t officially endorse the idea of bringing a minesweeper to town yet he does see some merit to it. “It’s a cool idea but there’s no business plan. It’d be a long journey to really make it happen.”

A minesweeper under construction at Fort Ward. Courtesy Photo

A minesweeper under construction at Fort Ward. Courtesy Photo