Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Index to blog topics

1. Farewell to the Patrol Frigates
2. Patrol Frigates in the North Atlantic
3. Patrol Frigates in the North Pacific/Bering Sea
4. Patrol Frigates in Southwest Pacific - Leyte campaign
5. Patrol Frigate building program 1943-44
6. Patrol Frigates to USSR -1945, returned 1949
7. Patrol Frigates to Royal Navy 1943, returned 1946
8. Origin and configuration of Patrol Frigates
9. Patrol Frigates manned by US Coast Guard WWII

Monday, March 8, 2010

Farewell to the Patrol Frigates

As the war was winding down in the summer of 1945, all frigates remaining in commission, apart from those still under Lend Lease to the Royal Navy and the USSR, were either already established weather ship or soon to be converted. Nineteen frigates were transferred from the Navy to the Coast Guard in the final stages of weather service for the frigates, and in any case, weather ships continued as Coast Guard responsibility beyond the frigate era, which ended in September 1946. In the period from war's end in 1945, frigates could be found on all stations in the Atlantic and in the Pacific from the Marshalls in eastern Micronesia to the Philippines and Guam and north to the Bering Sea. GULF PORT and ORLANDO were converted to weather ships in New York in July 1945, subsequently steaming in tandem to Pearl Harbor before shaping a course for Adak in the Aleutians and serving on Station " J" until May 1946, then departing the Aleutians for Seattle for decommissioning and to the breakers in November 1947. GLADWYNE and MOBERLY were converted in Boston in July 1945 in preparation for steaming to Pearl Harbor and then on to Majuro and Kwajalein in the Marshalls, where they served until making for Pearl Harbor in mid-December for duty in Hawaian waters. GLADWYNE departed Pearl Harbor 2 April 1946 for plane guard duty out of San Francisco until ordered to Seattle for decommissioning and subsequently sold to Mexico on 27 November 1947, serving as the PAPALOAPAN until scrapped in 1965. MOBERLY remained in Hawai, patrolling Weather Station 2, until ordered to Seattle for decommissioning and disposition as scrap in October 1947. EL PASO and RACINE were bound for the Philippines following conversion to weather ships in July 1945. RACINE proceeded to the island of Samar as her duty station, working there until departing for Seattle on 14 April 1946 for decommissioning and later to the breakers in December 1947. The irony of EL PASO's return to Leyte Gulf was that she had not suffered a scratch during action against the enemy, but came close to being lost in a violent typhoon in November 1945. With emergency repairs at Subic Bay and Guam, EL PASO made it to Seattle for belated decommissioning on 18 July 1946 and finally to the breakers in October 1947. It was left to CORPUS CHRISTI and HUTCHINSON, the last frigates to serve on active duty in the Pacific, to complete the long journey from western Australia to California for conversion to weather ships in October 1945 at Terminal Island. CORPUS CHRISTI worked Weather Station "D" out of San Francisco until decommissioned in August 1946. HUTCHINSON made for Seattle and two tours on Station Able, then to San Francisco for plane guard duty until decommissioning in September 1946. She went to Mexico in November 1947 and served in the Mexican Navy as the CALIFORNIA.

As quickly as the Navy decommissioned the Atlantic weather ships, European nations geared up for acquiring needed weather ships from the laid up list. SHEBOYGAN went to Belguim in March 1947, ABILENE and FORSYTH to the Netherlands in May and July 1947. When France agreed to maintain two of the eastern Atlantic stations, four frigates were purchased in March 1947 and reconditioned in New Orleans before making for Brest and final preparation as meterological vessels. The four new French weather frigates were LAPLACE (ex-LORAIN), MERMOZ (ex-MUSKEGON), BRIX (ex-MANITOWOC) and VERRIER (ex- EMPORIA). The four served the French Navy until 1952, all but LAPLACE, lost on 16 September 1950 by the explosion of a long embeded German mine in fifteen fathoms of water while anchored off St Malo, France.

Colombia acquired three frigates, GROTON bought at disposal by the State Department, 26 March 1947, and BISBEE and BURLINGTON acquired at Yokosuka, Japan. All three served in the Korean conflict flying Colombian colors but under US Navy orders. ALMIRANTE PACILLA (ex-GROTON) was scrapped in 1965. CAPITAN TONO (ex-BISBEE) and ALMIRANTE BIRON (ex-BURLINGTON) went to the breakers in 1962.

The return of the vessels loaned to the Soviet Union at Cold Bay under Project Hula in summer 1945, became a sticky issue with growing strained relations berween the two nations. An agreement was not reached until 1948, when the Soviets announced approximate dates for return of the frigates. In October and November 1949, twenty-seven frigates, less ex-BELFAST reported a total loss from storm and beaching damage, discarded their EK numbers and returned to the US Navy at Yokosuka, Japan. The Korean War was seven months away. North Korean troops poured across the 38th Parallel on 25 June 1950 and the war was on. In the face of a badly depleted fleet, the frigates moored close to the scene of war became immediate candidates for reactivation. Thirteen were chosen - five Kaiser products, TACOMA, SAUSALITO, ALBUQUERQUE, EVERETT, HOQUIAM; four Consolidated Steel ships, GLENDALE, GALLUP, BISBEE, BURLINGTON; four Great Lakes craft, NEWPORT, BAYONNE, EVANSVILLE, GLOUCESTER. An excess of forty battle stars were earned by the thirteen frigates by the time EVERETT, the last to leave the fleet, was decommissioned on 10 March 1953. MUSKOGEE and ROCKFORD were loaned to the Republic of Korea Navy in October 1950. All twenty-seven of the former Lend-Lease frigates, except for BISBEE and BURLINGTON that went to Colombia, were ultimately transferred to Asian allies - eighteen to Japan, five to the Republic of Korea, and two to Thailand. The former trouble-plagued TACOMA served the ROK Navy as TAEDONG (PF-63) until 28 February 1973. She was struck from the Navy list on 2 April 1973 and donated to the ROK Navy as a museum and training ship. All twenty-seven frigates flying the flags of Japan, Korea and Thailand sailed respective coastal waters well into the 1960s and beyond. As late as the 1990s the RTNS TACHIN ( ex-GLENDALE) and RTNS PRASAE ( ex-GALLUP) were still flying the colors of the Royal Thai Navy.

All twenty-one colony-class frigates loaned to Britain in 1943 were returned in 1946, moored in the James River and sent to the breakers in 1947. Navy manned ASHVILLE and NATCHEZ were sold to Argentina and the Domincan Republic in 1946 and 1947 respectively. EUGENE, GRAND ISLAND and PEORIA went to then friendly Cuba in 1947. Among those sold for scrap in 1947 not earlier noted were ORANGE, BROWNSVILLE, GRAND FORKS and MILLEDGEVILLE, The US Navy could finally breath a sigh of relief, a gang of ships never quite accepted by Navy brass, parcelled off to the Coast Guard during World War II, a few later briefly serving in the Korean War and the last of them off to the breakers or in foreign hands scattered around the world.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Patrol Frigates in the North Atlantic

Of the forty-five frigates built in six the Great Lakes yards, all but the four that joined the Seventh Fleet in the South Pacific served in the Atlantic and adjacent waters. The greatest number, nineteen, were converted to weather ships during post-shakedown availability. Weather ships were identified by the box affair or "hanger" for inflating weather balloons that replaced the aft 3-inch gun. Weather patrol in the North Atlantic was a duty that tried a sailor's soul. Working out of frigid and barren Argentia, Newfoundland, often returning to Argentia in winter sheathed in ice to the point of instability, and only brief periods of availability to look forward to in Boston or Bermuda for storm inflicted repairs, was a form of sea duty that no sailor in the Pacific would have traded for. North Atlantic weather duty had a debilitating psychological quality to it (perhaps more so aboard EMPORIA than others -- six COs from October 1944 to July 1946.) EMPORIA lost a watch stander washed overboard from a mid-ship 40mm gun tub in a violent Christmas eve storm, December 1944. Storm damage took its toll on weather ships to the extent that DAVENPORT following severe storm damage in October 1945 was ordered to report to Commandant First Naval District for disposition. On patrol Station 2 at 58 degrees N - 37 dgrees W in November 1944, MUSKEGON took a pounding for fifteen days with winds at times recorded at 80 knots. The frigate was swept by a massive wave on the 1st of December causing extensive damage subject to major repair in Argentia. Topside storm damage most commonly amounted to caved in gun tubs, loosened ready boxes, broken telephone hookups at gun mounts, twisted depth charge racks and occasional loss of depth charges, and at times swept away life rafts. Other frigates that logged patrols out of Argentia from mid-1944 to spring 1946 were SHREVEPORT, FORSYTH, GROTON, HINGHAM, GRAND RAPIDS, WOONSOCKET, DEARBORN, COVINGTON, SHEBOYGAN, ABILENE, BEAUFORT, CHARLOTTE, MANITOWOC, LORAIN AND MILLEDGEVILLE. In a bit of welcome duty, LORAIN, MILLEDGEVILLE and GREENSBORO were awarded a brief respite by reassignment for operations as a unit of Task Force 26 based in Recife, Brazil, in support of Army Air Corps and Army Trasnport Command redeployment in the South Atlantic, The frigates steamed via Trinidad for Recife to undertake alternate patrols on Station 12 for the month of December 1945, followed by a week's R&R in Trinidad on return to Argentia. SHREVEPORT engineered an escape from Argentia to make Recife on 17 December for patrol on Station 13 until March 1946.

The second greatest number of Great Lakes frigates. sixteen, were visible from late 1944 to the end of the European war in May 1945, guiding convoys from Norfolk, Virginia, to Oran, Algeria in the Mediterranean. Oran was a major marshalling port for goods destined for Allied armies surging across the Rhine in Germany and those wiping up Italy. KEY WEST, BRUNSWICK and UNIONTOWN shared honors for the most trips, three round trips each. NEWPORT, GLOUCESTER, POUGHKEEPSIE, EVANSVILLE and BATH were retained in service on the Eastern Sea Frontier for coastal escort, patrol and training duties until sent to Seattle for refit and Lend-Lease as the last frigates transferred to the USSR before the program ended in September 1945. Apart from the three honored for the most trips across the Atlantic, thirteen others engaged in convoy duty to Oran including: HURON, GULFPORT, BANGOR, ANNAPOLIS, GLADWYNE, MOBERLY, KNOXVILLE, READING, PEORIA, DAVENPORT, NEW BEDFORD, ORLANDO, and RACINE.

On 8 December 1944, while rounding up stragglers for correct position in a convoy to Oran, HURON was rammed by Liberty ship JAMES FENNIMORE COOPER. Soon HURON was down by the stern, electricty failed and the engine room abandoned due to flooding. Many of the crew were safely transferred to DEs-171, 168 and 326. HURON remained afloat awaiting collision mats to be placed on the 10th and 11th and the vessel taken under tow by ARS-21, first to Bermuda for temporary repairs and then under tow by seagoing tug CHACTAW bound for Charleston Navy Yard. After repairs HURON saw the war out as Flagship, Fleet Sonar School Squadron, Key West, Florida. With convoy GUS-63 numbering seventy-nine ships, BRUNSWICK AND KNOXVILLE departed Oran on 2 January 1945. On the 3rd, after clearing the Straits of Gibralter, Liberty ship HENRY MILLER was torpedoed by U-870. MILLER was soon down by the head but stable. A search for the submarine by the frigates proved unsuccessful. Nearing dusk, fearing bulkhead failure, the master of MILLER ordered twenty-five seamen and twenty-four armed guard into lifeboats. Within minutes of casting off, all were safely aboard BRUNSWICK and bound for delivery in Gibralter the next day. A skeleton crew brought MILLER into Gibralter. All hands survived the torpedo attack, but the ship, not so lucky, was declared a CTL (constructive total loss)

BANGOR sailed on her first convoy for Oran on 23 January 1945. On her second day out she rescued a boatswain mate who had fallen overboard from her screening mate ERICSON (DD-440) The return convoy lost one ship in a torpedo attack. A coordinated depth charge attack by BANGOR and others failed to produce evidence of a U-boat sinking. From 6 February to 19 May, 1945, NEW BEDFORD completed three trips to Oran. On the return voyage of her first trip, an Oran stowaway was landed at Gibralter. Next, the sudden illness of NEW BEDFORD'S chief engineer required transfer to a friendly port hospital. Next a crew member suffered acute appendicitis, requiring rigging a breeches bouy to GLADWYNE for her surgeon to swing across chilly Atlantic waters to perform an emergency appendectomy. Public Health Service doctors aboard the frigates were noted as breeches bouy veterans. On a return voyage from Oran on 5 May 1945, RACINE raced to come alongside SS LISNER in order for breeches bouy delivery of her surgeon on an emergency call. Upon return to RACINE, the Good Samaritan was dunked into a foaming swell as lines slackened between ships. Between two trips to Oran, MOBERLY got in on the last sinking of a U-boat, 6 May 1945, two days before European hostilities ended. Coastal collier BLACK POINT was struck by a torpedo in late afternoon on 5 May, fired by U-853, five miles southeast of Point Judith, Rhode Island. MOBERLY and ATHERTON (DE-169) arrived on scene three hours after the sinking, which had claimed lives of one Navy armed guard and eleven merchant seamen. ATHERTON made first contact and attacked with both hedgehog and depth charges, followed by MOBERLY. Large amounts of debris surfaced. ATHERTON was credited with the sinking with MOBERLY assisting. This marked the end of war in the Atlantic.