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Loss of the PC-590


The Coast Guard manned USS PC-590 foundered in a typhoon off Okinawa on 9 October, 1945. There was no loss of life. On 28 September 1945, at 1455, while undergoing engine repairs at Buckners Bay, Okinawa, the PC-590 was ordered to proceed to Unten Ko, Okinawa, about 80 miles distant, to escape an approaching typhoon. Proceeding immediately at a speed of 14 knots the ship was forced to anchor south of le Shima for the night, proceeding to Unten Ko and thence to Katena Ka next morning, to an anchorage considered satisfactory for small craft from the average typhoon. This typhoon passed to the west and the 590 returned to Buckner Bay on the 2nd of October and anchored close to Baten Ko. During the forenoon and afternoon of 4 October 1945, the wind increased in velocity, and heavy swells ran into the harbor. The 590 was forced to move her anchorage into the middle of Buckner Bay. Another typhoon warning was now received, this one reported to be passing eastward. On the 5th the weather calmed down and the 590 made an uneventful passage to Miyako Retto to the south to pick up mail for an expeditionary group and then continued on 80 more miles south to deliver mail. During the morning of the 6th another typhoon warning was received, this one being some 350 miles northwest of Saipan at the time, and advancing on a west northwest track at the rate of about 15 knots per hour. This track showed the possibility of the typhoon passing south of Miyako Retto directly toward Formosa as had the one of 29 September, or by recurving, passing near Okinawa. Ishigaki Haugchi orders were received to proceed to Okinawa to escape this typhoon. On the 7th a dispatch repeating typhoon instructions remained unanswered and the 590 arrived at Buckner Bay at 0721 on the 8th.


The wind had lessened considerably, but at 0840 the vessel received a warning that the latest reports indicated the typhoon would pass close to Okinawa and that ships had sortied east to take shelter at Baten Ko. The 590 had on board 15 enlisted men from the DD-461 for transportation to the Receiving Station at Okinawa and requested boat transportation for them from the Receiving Station. A landing boat arrived alongside at 1430 and all passenger personnel departed. Meanwhile the wind began to increase to force 6 and the barometer had dropped to 29.14 at 1500. The typhoon was too advanced now to make a night run to Unten Ko, 80 miles north, where only daylight entrance was considered safe. The vessel therefore proceeded at 1530 toward anchorage in the clear area of Baten Ko. Typhoon warnings now began coming on repeatedly, one received at 1845 stating that the typhoon was expected to pass close to Okinawa.


The vessel rode well through the night of the 8th. The anchor was holding, but the winds steadily increased to force 9-10 and the barometer dropped to 2900. The ship was swinging widely at anchor on tacks up to 50 degrees off the wind. By 1100 on the 9th the wind had increased to force 11 and the barometer had dropped to 28.80, but the ship was still maintaining her position. 11 vessels were observed to have begun moving and starting for the beach and the PC-469 had broken or dragged free and disappeared down-wind in the storm.


At 1130 the anchor was still holding, but the bow soon drifted off the wind and the ship entered the trough of the sea, rolling badly. All hands were piped to emergency stations and the ship was maneuvered to port and starboard, 2/3 to standard being required on main engines with full rudder, to take in anchor chain and keep bow into seas. In this maneuver a destroyed mooring buoy was narrowly missed, as was a reef to the south and starboard. The electric windlass was not considered satisfactory. The Chief Carpenter's Mate was badly hurt and knocked unconscious by the terrific heave of the bow and five feet of solid water, which washed the entire anchorage detail 30 feet aft. The windlass continued slowly to bring in the anchor chain until it was discovered that the chain had parted at the 30 fathom connecting shackle. The port anchor was not dropped because under the then violent conditions sixty fathoms of chain would not have been effective.


Various courses were now necessary to avoid other vessels and the great difficulty of heading into the seas. The objective was to proceed eastward as slowly as possible to the lee of Tsuken Shima Island, to ride out the typhoon for the duration of the easterly gales, then to proceed to the west shore of Buckner Bay, to ride out an expected period of westerly gales, and finally to anchor to port chain when the typhoon abated. The radar indicated Teuken Shima Island with breakers, marking the long reef to its south, plainly visible on the scope. After closely avoiding about 12 ships the top of Teuken Shima Island appeared above the level of the driving salt spray at about 1250, two points off the starboard bow. Simultaneously an APD loomed 100 yards to starboard at anchor, with several net tenders at anchor dead ahead, and a YMS blinking to "stand clear, we are underway". The island was now 800 to 1200 yards distant. Wind velocity had increased to force 14 at 1330 and the barometer dropped to 28.50. It was decided not to anchor because of the short chain on the port anchor; the impossibility of adding the weakened starboard chain; and the last of searoom sufficiently close to shore. Instead, tacking procedure from port to starboard was again adopted, requlrlng full ahead, sometimes on both engines, with full rudder to maintain position the same for the PC-590. Col1ision seemed probab1e and all hands were ordered out of interior compartments. The large ship (USS MONA ISLAND [ARG 9]) blinked over telling the 590 to "stand clear". At this moment a buckling of the deck was appearing on the starboard side at frame 59. The MONA ISLAND moved astern until their stern was some 150 feet from that of the 590 and stopped abruptly. Cargo nets ran down their port side and the possibi1ity was seen of using them to get aboard if the ship drifted against the 590. The stern of the 590 was stil1 settling as the rescue ship again moved astern some 100 feet, finally stopping 50 feet away from the 590's stern shaft. A line gun was fired from the rescue vessel. The crew rushed aft and began hau1ing on the gun line and brought aboard a 3-inch manila line which was made fast around the stack and taut aboard the rescue ship. Waves across the after deck were meanwhile increasing in violence and solid water was being thrown up to the signal bridge. In short order a breeches buoy type of bosun's chair was let run down the 3-inch line to the PC-590.was let run down the 3-inch line to the PC-590. With hauling lines rigged at each end. The breeches buoy was found to be too far off the deck to be readily accessible so the line was hauled in farther and made fast around the deck bits on the port side at frame 63. The first man went up the breeches buoy to safety at about 1755, and after a few slow trips the rescue cycle was reduced to 127 seconds per man. By 18OO the force of the typhoon was brought more broadside. the waves increased alarmtngly and the roll and crash of the ship against the reef became more violent. By 1813. ten men had been drawn to safety; by 1836, 19 men. The wind had now backed past northwest and was driving hugh waves across the decks. To avoid serious injury and prevent them from washing overboard. the last men were sent forward to the wheelhouse, in spite of the ship's progressive breaking up. By 1845. the line tending position became perilous with the gunnery officer, the executive officer and others nearly washing overboard. Then two ammunition lockers broke loose and charged against the untended bitter and somehow by great good fortune jammed it against further slipping. Officers and men were personally seen completely submerged a dozen times and forcefully hurled against life lines, always somehow to crawling back to temporary safety again.


"The absence of any loss of life is due only to God's will" the commanding officer, Lt. Charles C. Pool, USCGR, later reported. By 1925, forty men were saved. Twenty minutes later the gunnery officer started up the line. Midway in transit the hauling line fouled around the engineering officer's right foot and he was jerked out of the 40 MM gun tub. At the same time his left foot twisted in the drifting gun cover and jammed on the upper gun tub edge. He was badly split apart by the tension and was upside down for a moment, his head under water. He was immediately extricated by the two officers still remaining on board. the commanding officer and executive officer. Meanwhi1e. the sudden stopping of the breeches buoy caused the gunnery officer to bounce in the cetanery and parted the 3-inch line dropping him into the sea. He started to sink at once, but heard a cry of "Hold On!" and was brought like a shot up to the deck on the MONA ISLAND. Within a few minutes the hauling line was pulled back aboard the 590, along with the breeches buoy and the remainder of the 3-inch line was attached. This was made fast around the 40 MM gun foundation and the engineering officer and executive officer went up without mishap. The commanding officer had gone up the line ten feet when the hauling line, now unattended, jammed again. Return to the ship was necessary to clear the badly twisted line. After three attempts to clear it, a knife was finally sent down the sloping line, the 590's hauling end was cut, and the trip up made safely. Shortly after this, at about 2015, the PC-590 broke completely in half.

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