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Gunboat Photo Archive

Asheville (PG 21)

Call sign:
Nan - Easy - Love - Victor

Call sign (1933):
Nan - Item - Sugar - Tare

ex-Gunboat No. 21

Call sign (1919):
George - Jig - King - Watch

Sunk 3 March 1942

Asheville Class Gunboat:

  • The first Asheville was laid down 9 June 1917 at the Charleston Navy Yard, Charleston, SC
  • Launched 4 July 1918
  • Commissioned USS Asheville (Gunboat No. 21), 6 July 1920
  • Designated PG-21, 17 July 1920
  • Sunk 3 March 1942 by Japanese destroyers Arashi and Nowaki south of Java, Netherlands East Indies
  • No one will ever know exactly how many men had been on board the Asheville because she undoubtedly took additional military personnel aboard in Tjilatjap, but the number was probably between 160
    and 170. The ship's normal complement was 166, most of whose names appeared later on the list of missing. The Japanese picked up only one man from the water, probably to determine the name of the vessel they had just sunk. He was 19-year-old Fireman Second Class Fred Lewis Brown of Fort Wayne, Indiana, who would die in 1945 while a prisoner of war at Makassar, the Celebes. Brown left the only witness account of the Asheville's sinking, related to a fellow prisoner who reported it to the Casualty Section of the Bureau of Naval Personnel after the war. According to the former POW:
    Brown was asleep in the fire room when the firing started. Prior to the firing Brown had heard no general quarters alarm given so that it would seem the battle had not been anticipated. Upon running to the deck after hearing the firing, he saw that the bridge had been hit and badly damaged and also that the forecastle had been hit. As soon as he got topside he abandoned ship as the rest of the crew were doing. Brown noticed that many of the personnel who had been on the deck during the firing had been killed. The survivors were scattered in the water. After the Asheville had sunk, three Japanese destroyers [sic] came alongside of the survivors but only one threw out a rescue line. Brown grasped a line and was hauled aboard ship. The rest of the survivors were left in the water by the Japanese. Brown was transferred from the Japanese destroyer to a Dutch hospital ship and taken to Makassar, where he was made a prisoner of war. Nothing was ever heard further about the remaining members of the crew
  • Struck from the Naval Register 8 May 1942.


  • Displacement 1,575 (lt), 1760 (fl) t.
  • Length 241' 2"
  • Beam 41' 2"
  • Draft 11' 4"
  • Speed 12 kts.
  • Complement 159
    1921 - 159
    1942 - 166
  • Armament: Three 4"/50 gun mounts and two 3-pounders
    1942 -Three 4"/50 mounts and four 3"/50 mounts
  • Propulsion: Three Thorny-Croft Bureau Modified boilers, one 800shp Parsons steam turbine, one shaft (converted to oil in 1922).
    Click on thumbnail
    for full size image
    Size Image Description Source
    Asheville (Gunboat No. 21)
    Asheville 142k 9 June 1917
    Keel laying ceremony. The first major warship built at the shipyard
    Robert Hall
    Asheville 562k 4 July 1918
    Charleston Navy Yard
    Library of Congress photo from National Museum of the U.S. Navy
    Michael Mohl
    Asheville 89k Workmen waiting for the signal to begin sliding the Asheville down the ways Robert Hall
    Asheville 52k Asheville christened with pure mountain water from Asheville, NC her namesake
    Asheville 104k 4 July 1918
    Asheville slides into the Cooper River
    Asheville 259k View taken on 11 September 1918, showing a marine railway under construction in the foreground. Asheville is fitting out in the left middle distance. In front of her is USS Walter Adams (SP 400). USS SC-368, with dark numbers painted on her bow, is further to the right
    U.S. Navy photo NH 45247
    Original photo: Naval Historical Center
    Replacement photo: Robert Hall
    Asheville 496k Original photo: In drydock for her final fitting-out
    Replacement photo: 1 November 1919
    Library of Congress photo from National Museum of the U.S. Navy
    Original photo: Robert Hall
    Replacement photo: Michael Mohl
    Asheville 485k Original photo: c. 1920
    Asheville near completion at the Charleston Navy Yard
    Courtesy U.S. Warships of World War I
    Replacement photo: 1 March 1920
    Charleston Navy Yard
    Library of Congress photo from National Museum of the U.S. Navy
    Original photo: Mike Green
    Replacement photo: Michael Mohl
    Asheville 144k Under construction
    U.S. Navy photo
    Jim Kurrasch, Battleship Iowa, Pacific Battleship Center
    USS Asheville (PG 21)
    Asheville 409k Replacement photo: Airing bedding
    Photo from National Museum of the U.S. Navy
    Original photo: Philip R. Abbey
    The Yangtze Patrol website
    Replacement photo: Michael Mohl
    Asheville 71k Scott McCoy
    Asheville 79k Close up of above photo
    Helena 308k c. 1923/1924
    Hong Kong, China
    American Man of War in Hong Kong Harbor. Identified ships are: Huron (CA 9), Helena (PG 9), Sacramento (PG 19), Asheville (PG 21), Black Hawk (AD 9), Hart
    (DM 8), Rizal (DM 14), Hulbert (DD 342), Noa (DD 343), William B. Preston (DD 344), Preble (DD 345)
    , later DM-20; Sicard (DD 346), later DM -21; Pruitt
    (DD 347)
    , later DM-22; Finch (AM 9), Bittern (AM 36) and SS President Jackson
    Photo by A. Fong
    Photo from the collection of Chief Walter E. Pegg
    Jay Milewski
    Asheville 152k c. 1924
    Hong Kong
    While serving as flagship of Commander, South China Patrol
    Collection of Henry J. Poy who served as a radioman in Asheville at the time
    Naval History and Heritage Command photo NH 91411
    Robert Hurst
    Asheville 229k Line drawing from the April 2009 edition of Naval History magazine Joe Radigan
    Asheville 81k In Asiatic waters
    U.S. Naval Photographic Center photo from "Gunboats and Marines: The United States in China, 1925-1928" by Bernard D. Cole
    Robert Hurst
    Sacramento 113k c. 1920.
    USS Sacramento (PG 19), USS Robin (AM 2), and Asheville at Charleston, SC
    Vance A. Adams
    Asheville 282k With awnings spread to combat the sun's heat while anchored in the Canal Zone, while serving with the Special Service Squadron in the late 1920s. Note her tall stack, and tall masts (to support the antennae at the height necessary to extend the range of the primitive radio equipment in use at that time). The wind sail rigged aft provided some comfort for the crew below decks, especially in the tropics, in the days before forced draft ventilation
    National Archive photo 80-G-1034878 from the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships
    Original photo: Naval History and Heritage Command
    Replacement photo: Robert Hurst
    Asheville 118k c. Late 1920s
    A junk makes its way past the gunboat in an unnamed Chinese port
    U.S. Naval Institute photo from the April 2009 edition of Naval History magazine
    Joe Radigan
    Asheville 255k In dry dock, during the 1930s
    Courtesy of Mrs. Ulrika Mikel, Silver Spring, Maryland, 1972
    Naval History and Heritage Command photo NH 76469
    Mike Green
    Asheville 283k Post card postmarked USS Asheville, 4 July 1941 Arnold Putnam
    Asheville 46k 1 March 1942
    The last known photograph of Asheville as she made her escape from Tjilatjap, Java
    U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command photo by Lion G. Miles from the April 2009 edition of Naval History magazine
    Joe Radigan
    Asheville 255k 3 March 1942
    Crew list of officers and men lost in the sinking of Asheville
    Michael B. Kirby
    Asheville 256k Photo from the 30 August 1942 edition of the Asheville Citizen Times, Asheville, NC Ron Reeves

    Commanding Officers
    01LCDR Elliott Buckmaster, USN - USNA Class of 1912
    Awarded two Navy Distinguished Service Medals (1942) and the Navy and Marine Corps Medal (1914) - Retired as
    Vice Admiral
    6 July 1920 - 12 July 1920
    02CDR Jesse Bishop Gay, USN - USNA Class of 1901
    Awarded the Navy Cross (1919) - Retired as Captain
    12 July 1920 - 1921
    03LCDR James Otto Richardson, USN - USNA Class of 1902
    Retired as Admiral
    29 April 1922 - 1923
    04CDR Adolphus C. Staton, USN - USNA Class of 1902
    Awarded the Medal of Honor (1914) and the Navy Cross (1918) - Retired as Rear Admiral
    1923 - 24 June 1924
    05CDR Roscoe Franklin Dillen, USN - USNA Class of 190424 June 1924 - July 1926
    06CAPT John Matt Enochs, USN - USNA Class of 190123 October 1926 - 1928
    07CDR Ward William Waddell, USN - USNA Class of 190920 June 1929 - 1930
    08CDR Arie Alverdo Corwin, USN - USNA Class of 1907
    Awarded the Navy Cross (1918) - Retired as Captain
    21 August 1931
    09CDR John Lesslie Hall, Jr., USN - USNA Class of 1913
    Awarded two Navy Distinguished Service Medals (1942 and 1945), the Army Distinguished Service Medal (1944) and two Legions of Merit with Combat "V" (July and November 1943) - Retired as Admiral
    31 May 1933 - 1934
    10CDR John Howard Wellbrock, USN - USNA Class of 1910
    Awarded the Navy Cross (1918) - Retired as Captain
    1934 - 1 February 1935
    11CDR Robert Philip Luker, USN - USNA Class of 19141 February 1935
    12CDR Allen George Quynn, USN - USNA Class of 1915
    Awarded the Legion of Merit (1943) - Retired as Rear Admiral
    1938 - 1939
    13CDR Hobart Andrew Sailor, USN - USNA Class of 19181939 - 11 July 1940
    14CDR Eliot Hinman Bryant, USN - USNA Class of 1919
    Awarded the Navy Distinguished Service Medal (1942) and the Legion of Merit with Combat "V" (1945) - Retired as
    Vice Admiral
    11 July 1940 - 16 December 1940
    15CDR Kenneth Mortimer Hoeffel, USN - USNA Class of 1917
    Awarded the Navy Cross (1941), the Army Distinguished Service Medal (1942) and the Prisoner of War Medal (1942 - 1945)
    16 December 1940 - December 1941
    16LCDR Jacob William Britt, USN - USNA Class of 1928December 1941 - 3 March 1942
    Courtesy Wolfgang Hechler, Ron Reeves and Joe Radigan

    View the Asheville (PG-21)
    DANFS History entry located on the Haze Gray & Underway Website
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