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MOA: The heart of a historic warship returns home to EC

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One of the newly received artifacts that will be on display at the Museum of the Albemarle when it reopens the “Out of the Blue: Coast Guard Aviation” exhibit on Feb. 7, will be the ship’s bell from the U.S. Navy Submarine Chaser, USS PC-705. On loan to the museum from the U.S. Navy’s Naval History and Heritage Command in Washington, DC, the bell was presented to the ship by the Navy upon her commissioning on Oct. 2, 1942.

The USS PC-705 was one-of -30, 110-foot wooden submarine chasers built for the Navy by the Elizabeth City Shipyard during World War II.

More than 450 of this class of warships were built by the US during the war. Initially classified as a Patrol, Coastal (PC), her designation was later changed to Submarine Chaser (SC), when the 173-foot steel subchasers were produced.

Subchasers built in Elizabeth City participated in all theaters of operation during the war. They patrolled all major US ports, escorted convoys across all oceans, and participated in almost all amphibious assaults.

Although commissioned as a Navy vessel, SC-705 was one of many Navy warships that were manned by U.S. Coast Guard personnel during the war. Armed with a variety of weapons, the SCs carried forward-firing antisubmarine rockets, a 40-mm dual purpose gun, 20-mm antiaircraft guns, and depth charge launchers.

The subchasers were a formidable addition to the Navy’s complement of escort and antisubmarine patrol warships. Capable of making 21 knots, they were equipped with radar, sonar, a radio direction finder, a depth sounder, and a sound hydrophone.

The majority of SC-705’s wartime service was spent on the Greenland Patrol. She escorted convoys from New York and Boston, to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Argentia and St. John’s, Newfoundland, and Keflavik, Iceland, and conducted patrols in the Davis Strait and Labrador Sea. Between patrols, she tied up to piers at Grønnedal and Ivigtut, Greenland.

Oftentimes, SC-705 escorted Navy Patrol Frigates (PF) to and from Weather Stations in the North Atlantic. Providing the fleet with accurate weather data observations, in the days before weather satellites, these weather station ships also served as air-sea rescue ships for downed aircraft and torpedoed ships.

It was tough duty serving onboard the subchasers. In even moderate seas, the SCs pitched and rolled with a constant corkscrew motion, and had great difficulty maintaining course in a following sea.

A common complaint of their crews was that the ships “would roll on wet grass.” In conducting patrols and escort duties, SC-705 often had to contend with winter storms causing 35-foot seas, 50-knot winds, and lowering temperatures down to -18° F.

The USS SC-705 finished her career assigned to duty at the Naval Station in Quonset Point, RI, serving as a radar-target towing vessel. Decommissioned on Jan. 22, 1946, she was transferred to the Maritime Commission for disposal.

George Converse is a retired U.S. Marine and volunteer naval history researcher for Museum of the Albemarle