The first Pelican was laid down 10 November 1917 at Gas Engine and Power Co., Morris Heights, N.Y.; launched 12 June 1918 sponsored by Miss E. B. Patterson; and commissioned 10 October 1918, Lt. (j.g.) G. E. McHugh, USNR, in command.
Upon completion of fitting out, she sailed for Scotland on 6 April 1919, to assist in the sweeping of the North Sea Mine Barrage. Arriving 20 April, she and other minesweepers immediately went to work in sweeping mines. During this service Pelican's naval career almost ended when it had hardly begun. While sweeping several mines, one of them exploded underneath her hull causing her to take on a great amount of water and slowly settle by the head. Despite heavy seas, and threat of imminent sinking, Pelican's crew, with the assistance of two of her sisterships, and after 19 hours of effort, managed to bring the badly damaged vessel into port at Scapa Flow for temporary repairs. Fully repaired at Newcastle on-the-Tyne, Pelican departed for home, arriving at New York on 6 December.
Pelican next transferred to the Pacific Fleet and operated out of Pearl Harbor until decommissioned there 3 May 1922.
Recommissioned 17 August, she performed miscellaneous tasks, such as survey work and photography missions, while attached to Naval Air Station, Pearl Harbor. Reclassified AVP-6 on 22 January 1936, Pelican was assigned to Commander Aircraft, Scouting Force for further duty. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor found Pelican on the West Coast. With the beginning of war, the sturdy little vessel commenced tending aircraft and serving as convoy escort, until May 1943, when she joined the Atlantic Fleet. She alternated tending seaplanes and serving as convoy escort, performing an unglamorous but vital part of the war effort. Reporting to the Fleet Sound School in March 1945, Pelican assisted in experiments with new ASW gear until October, when she arrived at Charleston Navy Yard. Decommissioned 30 November, she was struck from the Naval Vessel Register 19 December. She was sold for scrap in November 1946.