Sunday, July 28, 2013

Repairs to the subchaser, SC-701

In July 1943, Dad's repair ship, Vestal, worked on 2 different submarine chasers: USS SC-640 in early July, and USS SC-701 beginning on today's date.

Subchasers were a class of some of the smallest warships in the U.S. Navy. In the Pacific Theater these ships were tasked with some of the most dangerous missions in the war, from convoy escort duty to the deployment, resupply, and rescue of coast watchers in islands deep behind Japanese lines.

Often overshadowed by the much larger cruisers, destroyers, and battleships, the subchasers had a remarkable war history of their own. Part of the so-called "Splinter Fleet" (so nicknamed for their wooden hulls) 438 of these sub chasers were deployed in WWII, largely in the Atlantic against the German submarines. Many, however, were sent to the Pacific and saw a lot of action against the Japanese submarine force as well as involvement in naval battles in the Solomons and elsewhere.

Source: NavSource Online
A subchaser's crew included 3 officers and 25 enlisted men. At 95 tons and 110 feet in length, these small warships were armed with a 40 mm gun and two .30 cal. machine guns plus a depth charge projector. Each ship presented a smaller, but deadly force with which the enemy had to contend. At least one subchaser (SC-699) is credited with sinking a Japanese sub. Many subchasers were sunk, run aground, or otherwise seriously damaged in hazardous coastal patrols.

Both the SC-640 and SC-701 were commissioned in 1942. Not much additional information is available about either ship. Apparently, both were based out of Espiritu Santo. In 1943-1944, SC-701 patrolled along the shores and harbors of the New Hebrides Islands and also provided escort for cargo ships. After the war, in 1946, the SC-640 was transferred to the Maritime Commission. The SC-701 followed 2 years later. Apparently that is where their known history ends. But these two submarine chasers, just a couple of a host of under-sung heroes of WWII, briefly crossed paths with my dad, Frank Dolan, in Espiritu Santo for a few days in July 1943.

Sources: USS Vestal War Diary, July 1943; USS SC-701 War Diary 1943-1944; The Splinter FleetPatrol Craft Sailor Association

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