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|46k||Model of the PGM-18 built by Joe Kelliher of the PCSA||Bob Daly/PC-1181|
|01||LTJG John C. Bigham, Jr., USNR||28 November 1944 - 1945|
|02||LT David E. Shotwell, USNR||1945|
The PC-1255 was converted to the PGM-18 at the Dade Dry Docks Shipyard in Miami, Florida during September thru December, 1944.
The PC-1255/PGM-18 was built by the Luders Marine Construction Company of Stamford, Connecticut. Luders Marine had been in the luxury yacht and sail boat business on Long Island Sound since 1908. They were well known for their unique designs, fine work and devotion to quality craftmanship. During world War II they built over 80 ships of all types for the war effort including twenty 110 foot wooden SC subchasers and twenty-two steel hulled PC subchasers for the Navy. Her keel was laid down on the 29th of September 1943 and the hull was launched on the 23rd of January 1944. Her main propulsion engines were a pair of 1600 h.p. H.O.R. Hamilton RB-99-DA and her radio call letters were N D E D.
Late in the month of August, 1944, the completed Luders ship hull #510 with a mixed crew of yard and Navy men sailed from Stamford, across Long Island Sound, thru Hell Gate and down the East River to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The rest of her crew reported aboard in a draft from the U.S. Naval Subchaser Training Center (SCTC) Miami, FL with sea bags, hammocks and records.
At 1130 hours on the first of September 1944, Luders hull #510 was commissioned into the U.S. Navy as the USS PC-1255. Commander Hosse, USN, representing the Commandant of the Navy Yard, placed the ship in commission, pursuant to the orders from the Chief of Naval Operations.
John C. Bigham, Jr., Lt. (jg), USNR assumed command of the new subchaser. Her Ensign and the Union Jack were raised and the first watch was set with Herbert T. Losch, Ens., USNR as O.O.D.
The rest of the day was spent receiving seemingly endless truck loads of stores and supplies. Three hundred lbs. of potatoes, small arms with ammo, 1400 gallons of #9250 lube oil for the main engines, 40 mattresses, three cartons of light bulbs, half a case each of oranges, apples and medical supplies. We took on fuel oil and topped off our fresh water tanks. A busy day for all hands.
The following morning, the bo's'n sounded reveille at 0630 hours. After chow, the crew was mustered for morning colors... and the parade of stores and supplies began again. At noon, a civilian pilot, J. W. Barlow, was aboard to "conn" the new subchaser from the Navy Yard, down the East River, thru New York harbor, and the Narrows to Marine Basin in Gravesend Bay, New York.
We stayed moored to the port side of the north pier at Marine Basin for six days taking on stores and supplies. Everything had to be inventoried and stored in its proper storage locker. Engine spare parts and stores for the bo's'n and his deck gang consumed a lot of manpower and time. The storekeeper and his striker were very busy people.
Friday, 8 September 1944. At 0915 we were underway from Marine Basin and proceeded to Sandy Hook Bay to receive our first load of ammunition. After dropping anchor, the ammunition lighter YE-644 from the Naval Ammunition Depot at Earle, New Jersey was pushed along side with our cargo including 36 Mark 6 depth charges along with 16 depth charge arbors for the "K" guns. With all hands turning to, the loading and stowage was completed by 1930 hours. Raising anchor, we proceeded to the U.S. Naval Frontier Base at Tompkinsville, Staten Island mooring alongside of the PC-1084.
Sunday, 10 September 1944. 1200 hours: Underway from alongside the PC-1084 for a short trip across the Kill Van Kull to the U.S. Naval Base in Bayonne, New Jersey to have the ship depermed, a type of degaussing to demagnetize the hull as protection from magnetic mines and torpedoes. We were back moored alongside the PC-1084 by 1600 hours.
The next day at 0830 hours, Special Sea Detail was set and were underway for a trip up the East River to Long Island Sound for speed runs and calibration of the radio direction finder.
Tuesday, 12 September 1944. After morning colors, we proceeded to Raritan Bay off the southern coast of Staten Island to re-compensate our magnetic compass. The degaussing process always seemed to sabotage the magnetic compass.
"Swinging the ship" is accomplished by steaming on the cardinal points of the compass to determine the curve of compass error or deviation. We returned to Pier 7 by 1200 hours. After noon chow, the deck gang broke out the chipping hammers, wire brushes and zinc chromate paint in their never ending job of attacking rust. The Oil King topped off our fuel and fresh water tanks.
For the next three days all the departments were busy making preparation to get underway for the Naval Training Center in Miami, FL.
Saturday, 16 December 1944. At 0855 hours Special Sea Detail was set and with a long blast from our air horn we backed out from between the PC-1194 and the PGM-20. Heading south through the Narrows, we hugged the starboard side of the channel out of New York harbor. We passing the Scotland Light Ship abeam at 1030 hours. We increased our speed to standard (15 knots).
After setting the regular steaming watch, the drills started. General Quarters was sounded, fire drills, collision and man overboard drills were repeated. Underway, General Quarters was sounded at dawn and dusk every day.
We test fired all our guns and tried our hand at manual steering. The weather remained good and by Monday, the 18th of September, the Charleston Light was observed on the starboard beam at 0340 hours the Savannah Light at 0750 hours.
Tuesday, 19 September 19441325 hours: We were moored to the starboard side of the ammunition dock at Port Everglades, Florida unloading our ammunition. By 1730 hours we had finished and underway for Miami. At 1925 hours we were given our orders by signal lamp, to moor starboard side of the school ship PC-611, berth "D," Pier 2, Sub chaser Training School, Miami, FL.
The rumors were confirmed that our PC-1255 was going to be converted into the motor gunboat PGM-18. Wednesday, 20 September 1944, 0930 hours: Underway, we moved over to the Belcher Oil Terminal to unload our fuel and lube oil. We unloaded 9,000 gallons of diesel fuel and 2200 gallons of lube oil. A draft of thirty-two crew members were transferred from the vessel to the High School Barracks for the duration of the conversion. By 1730 hours a commercial tug had moved us to the Dade Dry Dock Company yard.
Thursday, 21 September 1944, 1100 hours: The captain placed the USS PC-1255 in reduced commission while being converted into the USS PGM-18, under authority of the Industrial Manager, Seventh Naval District.
Between Thursday, 21 September 1944 at 1100 hours and Monday, 18 December 1944 at 1200 hours the PC-1255/PGM-18 was held in reduced commission while the conversation was being completed at the Dade Dry Docks yard adjacent to the Subchaser Training Center. I was during this time that many of the crew were given leave and attended training schools. The actual completion date was on Tuesday, 28 November 1944 when the full crew reported back aboard at the Dade Dry Docks North pier.
The next few weeks were spent cleaning and getting things organized into the new surroundings. Access to the forward deck area and deck house compartments had been reworked. We took on dry stores and supplies, fuel and water. Tested the new magazine sprinkler systems and fire fighting equipment. Tested the main engines. We spent two days undergoing an Inclination test with weights on the deck to measure the new stability of the ship. The pharmacist's mate held periodic "short arm inspections." The crew enjoyed liberty in Miami and the Shore Patrol got to know us well.
Saturday, 16 December 1944, 0900 hours: Underway to Port Everglades to pick up our ammunition. At 0950 we passed the Miami sea buoy abeam to port and turned north. 1125 hours found us moored astern of our sister ship, the USS PC-1256 at the ammunition depot.
We took on the following ammunition: 192 rounds of AA 3in/50 cal., 65 rounds of AP 3in/50 cal., 45 rounds of 3in/50 cal. illuminating shells, 1280 rounds of AA 40 mm, 1280 rounds AP 40 mm, 18,540 rounds of HEI 20 mm, 9540 rounds of HET 20 mm, 90 rounds of BL&P 20 mm, 4000 rounds of .22 cal. rifle, 10,500 rounds of .50 cal., 1800 rounds of .45 cal., 1500 rounds of .30 06 cal., 50 rounds of line throwing shells and a box of hand grenades.
By 2015 hours we were back at SCTC Miami moored alongside the PGM-29 at Pier 2.
Monday 18 December 1944. Moored as before, portside to berth G, Pier 2, SCTC, Miami, with the PGM-29 alongside.
At 1300 hours. Crew mustered at Quarters. We were informed that our ship, the PGM-18 had been placed in the state of full commission by the Captain on verbal orders from the Industrial Manager, 7th Naval District. We then held a "field day" in preparation for the Captain's inspection at 1600 hours. At 1850 port section liberty commenced.
At 0815 hours the following morning we were underway to position the ship for calibration of the magnetic compass. After "Swinging Ship," we began full power runs and returned to pier 2, Naval Training Centerby 1100 hours.
The captain went ashore to report that our ship was ready to start its "shakedown" period.
With Christmas less than a week away the Storekeeper and our cook began ordering provisions for the holiday meal.
We received aboard the following: 300 lbs. of fresh turkey, 300 lbs. of irish potatoes, 4 gallons of stuffed olives, 45 lbs. of mixed nuts, 8 gallons of ice cream and 30 gallons of fresh milk.
Wednesday, 20 December 1944. 0730 hours: Crew mustered at quarters. While the main engines were being warmed up the captain informed us that the shakedown period was about to start, to be on our toes and to expect anything. 0830 hours: Lieutenants Mc-Clain, Myers and Schramn, shakedown inspectors from the training center came aboard. Set special sea detail. Singled up all lines. General Quarters, fire in the galley area. This went on for the next two weeks except for Christmas and New Years Day. Another day was spent dock side to drain and clean our starboard fresh water tank, which had become contaminated. During the drills, with clip boards in hand, the inspection officers were everywhere timing our reactions. General Quarters, steering casuality drill - shifted to manual steering, collision - damage control, shore up a bulkhead forward, in the engine room, gas attack, fire drill, abandon ship, all hands to General Quarters, first stream of water to scene in 34 seconds, man over board.
Our officers were also constantly put to the test with questions about proper operations of the ship and their division. Working with the PGM-29 we practiced towing and fueling at sea exercises. We held many hours of dry and live gunnery practice firing at fixed and towed targets. Aircraft spotting and firing at towed targets.
Thursday, 28 December 1944. Underway at 1130 hours for another day of drills and firing. We expended 15 rounds of 3"/50 cal. AA, 240 rounds of 20 mm and 72 rounds of 40 mm firing at balloon targets. We expended another 22 rounds of 3"/50 cal. ap, 228 rounds of 40 mm, and 417 rounds of 20 mm firing at a towed target at dusk. Secured from General Quarters at 2215.
At 2330 hours, in company with the PGM-29, we headed south for Women Key off Key West, Florida. Anchoring there at noon the following day. Underway again at 1630 hours for evening bombardment drill at targets on Women Key with the PGM-29 firing 3"/50 cal. illumination shells for us.
We reversed this duty for their bombardment drill. By 2200 hours we had secured from the drill and heading back to Miami.
Saturday, 30 December 1944. 1115 hours: Moored alongside the PGM-17, north side of Pier 2 SCTC. After noon chow, we commenced holding general drills at dock side. For the next three days we continued the daily drill of getting underway and going out to sea to hone our skills at General Quarters, man overboard, fire, abandon ship, collision, damage control, firing at surface and aerial targets.
Wednesday, 3 January 1945 SCTC inspectors aboard for the final inspection. 1547 hours. Secured from shakedown inspection.
Thursday, 4 January 1945 0845 hours: Underway for Ammunition Dock at Port Everglades to unload ammo before going into post shakedown dry docking. After unloading our ammunition and pyrotechnics, we returned to Pier 3 at SCTC, Miami mooring alongside the PC-1146 at 1905 hours.
Friday, 5 January 1945. At 0812 hours we were underway being towed stern first by the Navy tug "Meade." A smaller yard tug was at the bow to assist us around the turns of the Miami river to the Merrill-Stevens shipyard at 11 Street N.W. We were docked along side of the PC-492 and for the next few days supplied power to her.
Sunday, 7 January 1945, At 1630 hours we were hauled out of the water on a marine railway. During the next four days, the hull was scraped, cleaned and painted with a new type bottom paint that was applied hot. New zinc plates were attached to the rudder posts to neutralize the electrolytic action. All thru hull fittings were checked. Strut bearings were examined and the main drive shafts were repacked. On deck, many last minute adjustments were made to the radio, radar and refrigeration equipment. A pipe frame with a canvas awning was installed over the flying bridge area for protection from the sun and rain. At 1730 hours on Thursday, 11 January 1945 we were back in the water and being towed back to Pier 2, SCTC to be moored alongside of the PGM-21 by 2000 hours.
The next week was spent returning to Port Everglades for a full load of ammunition, taking on stores, testing all our guns, never ending drills and went to sea for speed runs and gunnery practice.
Wednesday, 17 January 1945 1100 hours: Pursuant to order #391-44 from the U.S. Atlantic Fleet Training Command, we departed Miami for San Diego via the Panama Canal. We proceeded south thru the Straits of Florida, along the northern coast of Cuba. Turning south at the western end of Cuba, we steamed thru the Yucatan Channel and headed for Coco Solo in the Canal Zone arriving there on Sunday, 21 January 1945. Moored along side of the PC-1206, pier 2, at the Coco Solo Naval Base in the Canal Zone at 1015 hours. After taking on fuel, fresh water and supplies we had port and starboard liberty in our first town outside of the continental U.S. We roamed the main streets of Colon with its Indian merchants selling silk stockings, gaudy pillow cases and trinkets. Harry Kris's Dog House Bar was our favorite watering spot. No women allowed. Cash Alley was interesting and safe if you didn't mind the smell of "Lysol" disinfectant.
Tuesday, 23 January 1945. With a civilian pilot aboard we entered the Canal at 0835. After a fast passage, the pilot had left the ship by 1400 hours and we were headed out into the gentle swell of the Pacific ocean. Our next stop would be at Manzanillo, Mexico for fuel and fresh water. During the four day trip we held all kinds of drills. General Quarters at sun up and sunset, fire, man overboard, collision, and abandon ship. We test fired all our guns.
Dropping anchor in Manzanillo at 0900 hours on Sunday, 28 January 1945. While anchored we received stores from a Mexican ship chandler, Antonio Zamora Silva of Manzanillo. Two hundred lbs. of flour, 2 crates of oranges, 1 crate of limes, 280 loves of bread, and six tins of black pepper. At 1540 hours we were along side of a Mexican oil tanker taking on 10,000 gallons of fuel and 1250 gallons of water.
The following day at 1701 hours, pursuant to COMPASEAFRON dispatch # 222140, we were underway again for San Diego, California.
As we steamed north en route to San Diego, we held gunnery practice and went thru all our shipboard drills every day. Sounding General Quarters, we dropped an oil drum target overboard, and maneuvered to give our 20 mm and .50 cal. gun crews some target practice. Shifting to manual steering could be a dangerous procedure. The process called for the disconnection of the electric steering cables which left the rudder post arm free to swing with the motion of the ship. Attaching the cables from the manual steering winch stabilized this motion. The manual steering party had to be very careful.
Friday, 2 February 1945. 0938 hours: We passed through the outer submarines net of San Diego harbor... and hove to pick up a pilot... Lt. E. Carlisle, USCG, came aboard to pilot the ship to the destroyer base and repair yard.
1045 hours moored alongside of PGM-29. We were underway again at 1245 hours with factory and yard personnel aboard to run main engine tests. 1400 hours Moored alongside the fleet tug ATA-214.
1900 hours: Six west coast crew members were given three day leaves.
During the next three days we took on stores, supplies and topped off our fuel and fresh water tanks. All divisions were catching up on their logistical work.
Tuesday, 6 February 1945. By 1500 hours all crew members had returned from authorized leave. We got under way en route from San Diego to Pearl Harbor, T.H. pursuant to COMPASEAFRON dispatch #222140. Steaming independently on Course 255 Tat 15 knots. Ship in material condition baker, personnel condition II. For the next seven days and 2291 nautical miles, besides the regular steaming watches and division logistic work we participated in many firing drills at balloon and surface targets. The 20 mm and .50 cal. guns crews expended hundreds of rounds in target practice. We also had drills in man overboard, collision, fire and abandon ship. Wednesday, 14 February 1945.0545 hours: Molakai Island was sighted. Crossing Kaiwi Channel, Diamond Head came into view. By 1015 hours we were hove-to awaiting instructions from the signal tower to enter the harbor.
1036 hours. A harbor patrol boat came alongside and granted us permission to proceed. 1122 hours. Moored port side of the USS PC-493 at berth Easy, DE Docks, Navy Yard, Pearl Harbor, T.H.
For the next ten days, all divisions caught up with their maintenance work. The motor mac's, with some help from the base performed a minor overhaul of the main engines. The engine lube oil was changed to a heavier grade from #9250 (SAE-30) to #9370 (SAE-40). All used lube oil was pumped ashore and replaced with 2352 gallons of fresh #9370 oil.
We received 20, 20 mm magazines and 1080 rounds of 20 mm ammunition from the USS PC-1177.
For a few days while work was being done to our generators we received power from the USS PC-493. A few men were transferred off and a few more men came aboard to fill our compliment of crew. We received stores and supplies for the engine room, galley and deck gang.
With the anticipation of leaving Honolulu soon, liberty was taken with gusto. The Shore Patrol became aware of the PGM-18. Too much to see with so little time.
While at Pearl Harbor, our Captain, John C. Bigham, Lt., USNR, broke his ankle and was replaced by Cyril Bayley, Lt., USNR.
Friday, 23 February 1945 By this time we were moored alongside of the PGM-29 at pier #1 Navy Yard, Pearl Harbor. Retested the magazine sprinkler systems and brought aboard ship's service stores. Received 13,950 gallons of fuel oil from the fuel barge YOG-18. Loaded ammunition: 70 rounds of 3in/50 cal. AA; 768 rounds of 40 mm; 3240 rounds of 20 mm and 4160 rounds of .50 cal. and one AN-M3 destructor unit.
Monday, 26 February 1945, 0700 hours: Commenced warming up the main engines and topping off our fresh water tanks. 0745 hours: Underway pursuant to CTF-16, dispatch #242341, dated 24 February 1945. As OTC, in company with the PGM-29, our orders were to steam to Eniwetok atoll, Guam and beyond. By 0755 we were clear of the submarine nets. Aloha and Mahalo!!!
During the morning hours, naval aircraft towing target sleeves gave us the opportunity to practice and hone our AA firing skills. After leaving the firing area, we headed west on a course of 255° true at standard speed. The PGM-29 took up station 1000 yards on our starboard beam.
Tuesday, 27 February 1945. Steaming as before. 1352 hours: Sounded General Quarters. Held fire drill. ..1430 hours: Released three target balloons for 40 mm, 20 mm and .50 cal. firing practice.
1930 hours: Sounded General Quarters. Changed course challenged unknown ship on our port quarter. Ship was identified as the USS General S. D. Sturgis (APA-137).
Wednesday, 28 February 1945. Steaming on base course 260° true in company with the PGM-29, this vessel being OTC. 0614 hours: An unidentified ship that was overtaking us on a parallel course, opened fire on us. They fired two rounds of 3in/50 or 5in/38 cal. projectiles which fell short by about 2000 yards. She did not respond to signal lamp or our IFF challenges and immediately reversed course. We monitored their radio message reporting the sighting of an enemy submarine. We sent out a message explaining that the submarine report was false and that we had been mistakenly identified as a submarine (because of their low profiles, PGM's and PC subchasers were often mistaken for submarines). Later, the same ship overtook us and was identified as a U.S. Army freighter. She identified herself with her international radio call letters A N G P (SS Minot Victory).
NOTE: This is the last page in the PGM-18's official smooth deck log. Smooth deck logs are reconstructed from the rough deck logs and the quartermaster's notebooks. These were lost when this vessel was sunk, due to enemy action on 8 April 1945. We can continue the history using the deck logs of the PGM-29 and personal notes from former crew members.
Proceeding west in the company of the PGM-18, we were constantly practicing our gunnery loading and tracking skills. Working together. We also had small arms practice firing at oil drums dropped by the other PGM. We crossed the International Date Line at 0740 hours on the morning of 2nd of March, 1945, which on crossing became the 3rd of March 1945. We all became "Dragonbacks."
On the 5th of March, 1945, we conducted a towing drill with the PGM-18. An hour later we secured from the drill when the towing hawser broke.
At noon on the 6th of March, 1945, eight days after leaving Pearl Harbor, we arrived in the lagoon at Eniwetok Atoll. We anchored and reported to the port director by signal lamp in compliance with our basic orders. After taking on fuel and water, we rafted together with the PGM-18 in the anchorage.
The PGM-29 sustained some damage when the Liberty ship SS John A. Tod rammed into her while anchored. She had to stay behind to have the damage fixed while we continued with our journey to Guam and then on to the Advanced Fleet Anchorage at Ulithi. We had some R & R at Ulithi going ashore for some warm beer and pitching horse shoes on Mog-Mog Island. After a week or ten days we headed north with a group of minesweepers headed for Kerama Retto, Ryukyu Islands for the invasion of Okinawa. This was a period of time of heavy Kamikaze attacks. After a successful pre-invasion cleanup of mines at Kerama Retto and on the west coast of Okinawa, the sweepers turned their forces to the east coast to clean up Chimu and Nakagusuku Wan, (re-named Buckner Bay after U.S. Army Lt. General Simon Boliver Buckner KIA on Okinawa.
On the morning of 7 April, 1945, the PGM-18 moved into Nakagusuku Wan to help protect the YMS's from the Japanese shore batteries and to destroy any mines the sweeps cut loose.
Following the YMS-103, the PGM-18 hit a mine. The explosion blasted her entirely out of the water. Eye witnesses reported that they could see five feet of day light under her keel before she came down, splashed, rolled over and sank. Thirteen of her crew were dead or missing. The survivors climbed onto life rafts. The YMS-103 turned back in a rescue effort but before she could pick up the survivors she hit two mines. The first blowing her bow off and the second her stem. She lost five killed and seven wounded. Rescue vessels eventually picked up all the survivors. The vessel had only been in commission as the PGM-18 for a little over one hundred days (111 days). They received one battle star for the Assault and Occupation of Okinawa Gunto.
-R. W. Daly
Crew Member Martin J. Delaney, Yeoman 1/c remembers:
"I was at my GQ duty station as the aft talker when we hit the mine. I was blown clear. When I got my bearings, I was floating in my life vest and feeling quite dazed. I don't know how long I was in the water but the YMS-103 had spotted me and was coming about to pick me up when she also hit a mine. I was forced down in the water by the blast and confused at which way was up ... I finally was able to head for the surface. After I surfaced, I don't remember how long I was in the water. I was finally picked up by a destroyer. They took good care of me with dry clothes, food, a bunk and a half bottle of Seagrams. (I finished it and then slept for 18 hours) I was transferred to a troop ship heading for Pearl Harbor."
-Martin J. Delaney, Yeoman 1/c.
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