Sunday, August 11, 2013

Work on the subchaser PC-477

For 3 days beginning on this date in 1943, Dad's ship, Vestal, worked on the submarine chaser PC-477* for a third time this year. Since the work involved engine repair, it's doubtful that Dad, a metalsmith, did any of the actual labor. However, ship engine repair was just one of the myriad jobs that a repair ship like Vestal was equipped to perform.

Launched January 1942, 173-foot PC-477, like other Patrol Costal ships (PCs) in its class, was designed primarily for anti-submarine warfare, but it also performed convoy escort duty and coastal patrol, thereby freeing up destroyers for other duty. PCs were armed with a 3-inch gun, a 40 mm and three 20 mm machine guns, depth charge tracks, depth charge projectors, and rocket launchers. They were operated by a 65-man crew.

Most of the PCs were assigned either to patrol the East Coast or serve further east in the war against Germany. But many were also deployed to the Pacific Theater, mainly for submarine patrol duty. Several operated out of Espiritu Santo where Dad was stationed. In fact, crews from his ship did repair and installation work on several PCs while Dad was there.

The USS PC-477 was the first subchaser to participate in the Solomons Campaign. On December 7, 1942, off Guadalcanal, PC-477 witnessed a torpedo hitting the USS Alchiba.** Tracking the enemy submarine that fired it, PC-477 fired depth charges on the 2-man mini-sub, forcing it to the surface. While the PC-477 was attempting to capture the disabled sub, an American plane dropped 2 bombs and sank it. PC-477 and the aircraft shared the joint kill.

Having served gallantly through the war, the USS PC-477 was decommissioned in 1946, and like most of the PCs built for the war, she was sold for scrap. Of the more than 350 PCs commissioned during the war, none survive today in the United States. Sadly, the daring exploits of the PCs and the 50,000 brave men who served on them have been largely forgotten. But the significant role this "forgotten fleet" played in winning the war is without question.

PC-477 fueling at sea, May 1942
Source: WWII Archives

* Earlier work was performed in January (routine repairs) & May (radar installation)

** Alchiba was first torpedoed by a mini-sub on November 28. While she was undergoing temporary repairs, on December 8, she was hit a second time by a torpedo launched from a mini-sub. The Vestal performed Alchiba's repairs from this damageSee an earlier blog for more information.

Sources: USS Vestal & USS PC-477 War Diaries, August 1944; Patrol Craft of World War II, William. J. Veigele; Patrol Craft Sailor Association; NavSource Photo Archives

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