While Belleville was basking in the glory of 150th birthday celebration in 1964, Mascoutah was enjoying a different distinction.
The USS Mascoutah, a new U.S. Navy harbor tugboat, was getting its finishing touches in a New York shipyard.
I came across a picture of a model of the tug in the July 9, 1964, Belleville News-Democrat while looking at items about Belleville's anniversary.
I checked with the Mascoutah Historical Society and they supplied me with a folder of information gathered by Marilyn Welch. She said most of her material came from Paul Mueth, now of Lebanon, who was the head of the Mascoutah Chamber of Commerce and attended the christening ceremony for the ship, along with Mayor August Joellenbeck in December of 1964.
The USS Mascoutah, YTB-772, actually was launched on July 22, 1964, and put into service Oct. 11 of that same year.
It was built at the Jakobson Shipyard in Oyster Bay, New York, off Long Island, at a contract cost of $500,000. It carried a crew of eight and could develop 500 horsepower. It was 85 feet long, 24.5 feet wide, drafted 11 feet and could reach 12 knots per hour, or about 11 mph.
It was assigned to the Fifth Naval District in Norfolk, Va.
It was named for the local town, which was named for the Mascoutans, a prairie tribe.
The U.S. Navy protocol was to name tugs of the Natick class after towns with Indian names. Mascoutah was recommended by U.S. Rep. Melvin Price.
It had a new cycloidal propulsion system that meant that even without a rudder it was able to maneuver in different directions using it engines.
Several people from Mascoutah attended the christening ceremony in Norfolk. City officials brought along a history book of Mascoutah, a plaque, a visiting scroll from the local Rotary Club and a Mascoutah High School yearbook as gifts.
The new tugboat made all the region's newspapers and the christening event even showed up on some local television stations.
It was quite a distinction for the town of 3,000.
The Mascoutah was reclassified in 1965 as YTM-760. This meant it went from being a heavy duty tug to being a medium duty tug.
In 1966 it was transferred to the Fourth Naval District in Philadelphia.
In 1986 it was reassigned to the National Defense Reserve Fleet.
In 1989 it was sold to a private company and became the Eddie Mac I.
It still is in service with Atlantic Towing as the Atlantic Aspen, based in St. John's, New Brunswick in Canada.
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