Warship Wednesday: Feb. 10, 2016, The Long Serving Chinco

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday: Feb. 10, 2016, The Long Serving Chinco

USS Chincoteague (AVP-24) Photographed in mid-1945 following a West Coast overhaul. Her quadruple 40mm mount has been moved forward, but she retains an unshielded 5/38 gun on the fantail. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Catalog #: 19-N-88909

USS Chincoteague (AVP-24) Photographed in mid-1945 following a West Coast overhaul. Her quadruple 40mm mount has been moved forward, but she retains an unshielded 5/38 gun on the fantail. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Catalog #: 19-N-88909

Here we see an overhead shot of the Barnegat-class seaplane tender USS Chincoteague (AVP-24). This hardy but unsung vessel would see myriad service in both the Atlantic and Pacific under numerous flags for some 60 years.

Back in the days before helicopters, the fleets of the world used seaplanes and floatplanes for search and rescue, scouting, long distance naval gunfire artillery spotting and general duties such as running mail and high value passengers from ship to shore. Large seaplanes such as PBYs and PBMs could be forward deployed to any shallow water calm bay or atoll where a tender would support them.

Originally seaplane tenders were converted destroyers or large transport type ships, but in 1938 the Navy sought out a purpose-built “small seaplane tender” (AVP) class, the Barnegats, who could support a squadron of flying boats while forward deployed and provide fuel (storage for 80,000 gallons of Avgas), bombs, depth charges, repairs and general depot tasks for both the planes and their crews while being capable of surviving in a mildly hostile environment.

The United States Navy Barnegat-class seaplane tender USS Timbalier (AVP-54) with two Martin PBM-3D Mariner flying boats from the Pelicans of Patrol Squadron 45 in the late 1948. Timbaler´s quadruple 40mm gun mount on the fantail was added in around 1948. National Archives #80-G-483681

The United States Navy Barnegat-class seaplane tender USS Timbalier (AVP-54) with two Martin PBM-3D Mariner flying boats from the Pelicans of Patrol Squadron 45 in the late 1948. Timbaler´s quadruple 40mm gun mount on the fantail was added in around 1948. National Archives #80-G-483681

The 41 Barnegats were 2500-ton, 311-foot long armed auxiliaries capable of floating in 12 feet of water. They had room for not only seaplane stores but also 150 aviators and aircrew. Their diesel suite wasn’t fast, but they could travel 8,000 miles at 15.6 knots. Originally designed for two 5-inch/38-caliber guns, this could be doubled if needed (and often was) which complemented a decent AAA armament helped out by radar and even depth charges and sonar for busting subs.

All pretty sweet for an auxiliary.

The hero of our study, Chincoteague, was laid down 23 July 1941 at Lake Washington Shipyard, Houghton, Washington. Commissioned 12 April 1943, she sailed immediately for Saboe Bay in the Santa Cruz Islands where the Navy was slugging it out with the Japanese and the Empire was striking back on its own. She was assigned to be the mothership to Patrol Squadron 71’s (VP-71) new PBY-5 Catalinas near the island of Vanikoro.

There, on 16-17 July, she underwent eleven bombing attacks ranging from single airplane strikes to the onslaught of nine bombers at a time. While she beat off many of these, they left their toll.

From the Navy’s extensive report of Sept 1944.

-At 0738, on 17 July, two bombs missed the ship and landed in the water about 50 feet from the starboard side, detonating a short distance below the surface. Numerous fragments pierced the shell, some below the waterline. Several fires were ignited, including a gasoline fire, but these were effectively extinguished. Flooding through the fragment holes below the waterline reduced the GM of the vessel from about 3.2 feet to about 1.6 feet. In spite of this reduction in GM, the stability characteristics were still satisfactory for keeping the vessel upright in case of some additional damage or flooding…

-At 1150, some four hours later, a small general-purpose bomb* with a short delay in the fuze struck and penetrated the superstructure, main and second decks and detonated in the after engine room. The hull was not ruptured, but the engine room was flooded through a broken 8-inch sea suction line supplying cooling water to the main propulsion diesel engine. As the draft increased, water entered the ship through the fragment holes above the second deck, which had not been plugged effectively. Large free surface areas were created on the second deck…

-At 1420, another bomb landed in the water about 15 feet from the port side, detonating underwater. This did not rupture the hull, but the shell was indented in way of the forward engine room. The forward main engines stopped due to shock, leaving the vessel dead in the water…

Bomb damage diagram of USS Chincoteague (AVP-24) suffered on 17 July 1943 at Saboe Bay off the Santa Cruz Islands. Navy Department Library, USS Chincoteague (AVP-24) War Damage Report No. 47. Plate I

Bomb damage diagram of USS Chincoteague (AVP-24) suffered on 17 July 1943 at Saboe Bay off the Santa Cruz Islands. Navy Department Library, USS Chincoteague (AVP-24) War Damage Report No. 47. Plate I

Chincoteague was able to get underway, suffered nine dead, and was towed to California for overhaul after just 12 weeks of active service.

The Corsairs of VMF-214 helped a bit with air cover and sucker punch a few Jap planes coming back for round 12.

Frank Murphy later chronicled this in USS Chincoteague: The Ship That Wouldn’t Sink. As for VP-71, they were reassigned and moved to Halavo, in the Florida Island chain to continue operations there.

Emerging at Christmas 1943 with her repairs effected, her AAA suite was modified slightly.

USS Chincoteague (AVP-24) A port side view of the forward portion of the ship taken on 15 December 1943 at the Mare Island Navy Yard. The ship was completing repair of severe battle damage incurred in July 1943. Circled changes include new antennas on the foremast and just forward of the stack. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command. Catalog #: NH 97709

USS Chincoteague (AVP-24) A port side view of the forward portion of the ship taken on 15 December 1943 at the Mare Island Navy Yard. The ship was completing repair of severe battle damage incurred in July 1943. Circled changes include new antennas on the foremast and just forward of the stack. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command. Catalog #: NH 97709

USS Chincoteague (AVP-24) Photographed on 27 December 1943 off the Mare Island Navy Yard following repairs to severe battle damage incurred in July 1943. One of the four 5/38 guns in her original armament has been replaced by a quadruple 40mm mount. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Catalog #: 19-N-57482

USS Chincoteague (AVP-24) Photographed on 27 December 1943 off the Mare Island Navy Yard following repairs to severe battle damage incurred in July 1943. One of the four 5/38 guns in her original armament has been replaced by a quadruple 40mm mount. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Catalog #: 19-N-57482

Returning to the fleet in 1944, she saw heavy duty in the Solomon Islands around Bougainville, the occupation of the Marshall Islands, action in the Treasury Islands, then tended seaplanes at Kwajalein, Eniwetok, Kossol Roads in the Palau Islands, Guam, Ulithi Atoll, and Iwo Jima, earning six battlestars the hard way for her wartime service.

This included supporting the lumbering PB2Y-3 Coronados of VP-13 and the “Black Cat” PBY-5s of VP-91 in 1944, then the huge PBM-3D Mariners of VP-25 the next year.

A PB2Y-3 of VP-13 at Midway in 1944, the Chinco supported these planes from this squadron during anti-shipping operations in the Marshal Islands from 26 Feb–22 Jun 1944 with the big boats conducting two 600-900 mile patrols each day, the longest search sectors ever flown by a PB2Y-3 to that date.  The 66,000 pound PB2Y-3 could carry six tons of bombs and had a massive 115-foot wingspan

A PB2Y-3 of VP-13 at Midway in 1944. The Chinco supported the planes from this squadron during anti-shipping operations in the Marshal Islands from 26 Feb–22 Jun 1944 with the big boats conducting two 600-900 mile patrols each day, the longest search sectors ever flown by a PB2Y-3 to that date. The 66,000 pound PB2Y-3 could carry six tons of bombs and had a massive 115-foot wingspan

When the war ended, she poked around Chinese waters into 1946 conducting occupation and mopping up duties.

USS Chincoteague (AVP-24) Photographed in mid-1945 following a West Coast overhaul. Her quadruple 40mm mount has been moved forward, but she retains an unshielded 5/38 gun on the fantail. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Catalog #: 19-N-88911

USS Chincoteague (AVP-24) Photographed in mid-1945 following a West Coast overhaul. Her quadruple 40mm mount has been moved forward, but she retains an unshielded 5/38 gun on the fantail. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Catalog #: 19-N-88911

Like most of her 35 completed sisterships (the other six planned were canceled), she was decommissioned shortly after the war on 21 December 1946 and laid up at the Atlantic Reserve Fleet, Texas Group, Beaumont.

Also, like a number of her sisters (Absecon, Biscayne, Casco, Mackinac, Humboldt, Matagorda, Absecon, Coos Bay, Half Moon, Rockaway, Unimak, Yakutat, Barataria, Bering Strait, Castle Rock, Cook Inlet, Wachapreague, and Willoughby) she was loaned to the US Coast Guard where the vessels were known collectively as the Casco-class cutters, or commonly just referred to in Coastie fashion as “311” class vessels for their oal length.

09432410

Note most of her guns are gone but she has a new air-search radar on her aft mast which has a balloon hangar at its base. Also note the Hedgehog ASW device boxes just forward of the bridge.

On 7 March 1949, with her armament greatly reduced, her seaplane gear landed, and her paint scheme switched to white and buff, she was commissioned as USCGC Chincoteague (WAVP-375). She was actually the second such cutter to carry the name, following on the heels of an 88-foot armed tug used in the 1920s.

To be used in ocean station duty, Chincoteague and her sisters were given a balloon shelter aft and spaces formerly used to house aviators were devoted to oceanographic equipment while a hydrographic and an oceanographic winch were added. For wartime use against Soviet subs, she was later given an updated sonar and Mk 32 Mod 5 torpedo tubes.

Absecon and Chincoteague USCG Base Portsmouth VA circa 1964 note one has racing stripe and other does not.

Sisters Absecon and Chincoteague USCG Base Portsmouth VA circa 1964. Note one has racing stripe and other does not.

Homeported in Norfolk, she spent long and boring weeks on station far out to the Atlantic. This was broken up by an epic rescue in high seas when, on 30 October 1956, Chincoteague rescued 33 crewmen from the German freighter Helga Bolten in the middle of the North Atlantic by using two inflatable lifeboats, landing them in the Azores.

November 12, 1956 While on patrol weather station DELTA the cutter CHINCOTEAGUE rescued the crew of the stricken German freighter HELGA BOLTON

November 12, 1956 While on patrol weather station DELTA the cutter CHINCOTEAGUE rescued the crew of the stricken German freighter HELGA BOLTON

By the late 1960s, the Navy was divesting itself of their remaining Barnegat-class vessels as they were getting long in the tooth and seaplanes were being withdrawn. Further, with the new Hamilton-class 378-foot High Endurance Cutters coming online, the Coast Guard didn’t need these ships either.

09432411

Nevertheless, someone else did.

Sistership USS Cook Inlet in Coast Guard service as WAVB-384. She would be transferred to the Vietnamese Navy as RVNS Tran Quoc Toan (HQ-06) in 1971

A beautiful image of sistership USS Cook Inlet in Coast Guard service as WAVP-384. She would be transferred to the Vietnamese Navy as RVNS Tran Quoc Toan (HQ-06) in 1971

Between 1971-1972 Chincoteague and 6 of her sisters in Coast Guard service (Wachapreague, Absecon, Yakutat, Bering Strait, Castle Rock, and Cook Inlet) were transferred to the Navy of the Republic of Vietnam. Chincoteague became RVNS Ly Thuong Kiet (HQ-16) on 21 June 1972.

09432405

However, her war service in Vietnamese waters was short lived.

When Saigon fell in April 1975, she sailed along with Yakutat (RVNS Tran Nhat Duat), Bering Strait (RVNS Tran Quang Khai), Castle Rock (RVNS Tran Binh Trong), Cook Inlet (RVNS Tran Quoc Toan) and Wachapreague (RVNS Ngo Quyen) to the Philippines as a navy in exile filled with not only service members but also their families.  Absecon remained behind and served in the People’s Navy for a number of years.

The Philippine government disarmed the seaplane tenders-turned-frigates and interned them, then finally took custody of them after a few weeks to forestall efforts by the new government in Vietnam to get them back. As the U.S. still “owned” the ships, they were sold for a song to the PI in 1976.

In poor condition, some were laid up and stripped of usable parts to keep those in better shape in service. As such, Chincoteague sailed in Philippine Navy as patrol vessel BRP Andres Bonifacto (PF-7), the flagship of the fleet, for another decade along with her faithful sisters BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (Wachapreague), BRP Diego Silang (Bering Strait) and BRP Francisco Dagohoy (Castle Rock) along for the ride.

BRP Andres Bonifacio (PF-7) circa 1986

The Philippines planned to give these ships new radar systems (SPS53s) and Harpoons in the 1980s but the latter never came to fruition. Despite this, the aft deck which supported seaplanes for the U.S. Navy and weather balloons for the Coast Guard was replaced by a helipad for one MBB BO-105 light helicopter– continuing an aviation tradition even in her old age.

Left in a reserve status after 1985, Chincoteague/Ly Thuong Kiet/Andres Bonifacto was finally withdrawn from service in 1993, her three sisters already sold for scrap by then.

She endured as a pierside hulk used for the occasional training until she was sent to the breakers in 2003, the last of her class afloat. As such, she far outlasted the era of the military seaplane.

The closest thing to a monument for these vessels is the USS/USCGC Unimak (AVP-31/WAVP/WHEC/WTR-379), the last of the class in U.S. service, which was sunk in 1988 as an artificial reef off the Virginia coast in 150 feet of water.

Her name endures in the form of the USCGC Chincoteague (WPB-1320), an Island-class 110-foot cutter commissioned in 1988.

US_Coast_Guard_Cutter_Chincoteague_(WPB-1320)_passes_Fort_San_Felipe_del_Morro

As for the four seaplane patrol squadrons that flew from the Chinco in WWII, (VP-13, VP-25, VP-71, and VP-91) they were disestablished in 1945, 1950, 1946 and 1991 respectively with PATRON91 flying Neptunes and later P-3s during the Cold War.

VP-25

Specs:

AVP-10Barnegat.png original
Displacement 1,766 t.(lt) 2,800 t.(fl)
Length 311′ 6″
Beam 41′ 1″
Draft 12′ 5″
Speed 18.2 kts (trial)
Complement
USN
Officers 14
Enlisted 201
USN Aviation Squadrons
Officers 59
Enlisted 93
USCG
Officers 13
Enlisted 136
Largest Boom Capacity 10 t.
USCG Electronics
Radar: SPS-23, SPS-29D
Sonar: SQS-1
Philippine Navy electronics
Radar: AN/SPS-53, SPS-29D
Armament
USN
four single 5″/38 cal
one quad 40mm AA gun mount
two twin 40mm AA gun mounts
four twin 20mm AA gun mounts
USCG
one single 5″/38 cal. Mk 12, Mod 1 dual purpose gun mount
one Mk 52 Mod 3 director
one Mk 26 fire control radar
one Mk 11 A/S projector
two Mk 32 Mod 5 torpedo tubes (later deleted in 1972)
Fuel Capacities
Diesel 2,055 Bbls
Gasoline 84,340 Gals
Propulsion
Fairbanks-Morse, 38D8 1/2 Diesel engines
single Fairbanks-Morse Main Reduction Gears
Ship’s Service Generators
two Diesel-drive 100Kw 450V A.C.
two Diesel-drive 200Kw 450V A.C.
two propellers, 6,400shp
20 Kts max, 8,000 miles at 15.6 knots.

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

Nearing their 50th Anniversary, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

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About laststandonzombieisland

Let me introduce myself. I am a bit of a conflict junkie. I am fascinated by war and warfare, assassination, personal protection and weaponry ranging from spud guns and flame throwers to thermonuclear bombs and Soviet-trained Ebola monkeys. In short, if it’s violent or a tool to create violence it is kind of my thing. I have written a few thousand articles on the dry encyclopedia side for such websites as Guns.com, University of Guns, Outdoor Hub, Tac-44, History Times, Big Game Hunter, Glock Forum, Firearms Talk.com, and Combat Forums; as well as for print publications like England Expects, and Strike First Strike Fast. Several magazines such as Sea Classics, Military Historian and Collector, Mississippi Sportsman and Warship International have carried my pieces. Additionally I am on staff as a naval consultant and writer for Eye Spy Intelligence Magazine. Currently I am working on several book projects including an alternative history novel about the US-German War of 1916, and a biography of Southern gadfly and soldier of fortune Bennett Doty. My first novel, about the coming zombie apocalypse was released in 2012 by Necro Publications and can be found at Amazon.com as was the prequel, Chimera-44. I am currently working on book two of that series: "Pirates of the Zombie Coast." In my day job I am a contractor for the U.S. federal government in what could best be described as the ‘Force Protection’ field. In this I am an NRA-certified firearms, and less-than-lethal combat instructor.

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