One of the last WWII vets on active duty, stands down

Here we see the beautiful Miguel Malvar-class offshore patrol “corvette” BRP Cebu (PS28) of the Philippine Navy on 3 October 2019, as she gave her last day of military service in a career that began in 1944– giving her a rock-solid 75 years of hard duty under two flags. Not bad for a ship considered at the time of her construction to be disposable.

If she looks familiar, she was originally built as USS PCE-881, a former PCE-842-class Patrol Craft Escort, by the Albina Engine and Machine Works, Portland, Oregon during WWII. She commissioned 31 July 1944 and transferred to the PI in 1948 on loan, only striking from the U.S. Navy Register in 1975.

The “oldest fighting ship of the Philippine Navy,” she gave 71 unbroken years of service to Manila to include a famous SAR operation to save the crew of MV Princess of the Stars of Sulpicio Lines, which capsized off the coast of San Fernando, Romblon at the height of typhoon Frank in 2008.

Derived from the 180-foot Admirable-class minesweeper as a substitute for the much more numerous 173-foot PC-461-class of submarine chasers that were used for coastal ASW, the PCE-842-class was just eight feet longer but a lot heavier (650-tons vs 450-tons), which gave them much longer endurance, although roughly the same armament. They carried a single 3″/50 dual purpose mount, three 40mm Bofors mounts, five Oerlikon 20 mm mounts, two depth charge tracks, four depth charge projectors, and two depth charge projectors (hedgehogs)– making them pretty deadly to subs while giving them enough punch to take on small gunboats/trawlers and low numbers of incoming aircraft.

While the U.S. got rid of their 842s wholesale by the 1970s– scrapping some and sinking others as targets– several continued to serve in overseas Allied navies for decades.

The Philippines has used no less than 11 of these retired PCEs between craft transferred outright from the U.S. and ships taken up from former Vietnamese service, eventually replacing their Glen Miller-era GM 12-567A diesel with more modern GM 12-278As, as well as a host of improvements to their sensors (they now carry the SPS-64 surface search and commercial nav radars, for instance.) Gone are the ASW weapons and sonar, but they do still pack the old 3-incher, long since retired by just about everyone else, as well as a smattering of Bofors and Oerlikon.

The class is being retired in conjunction with the arrival of more capable Pohang-class vessels donated by South Korea.

The country still has three of the class on their Naval List, expected to retire by 2022.

  • BRP Miguel Malvar (PS-19), former USS Brattleboro (PCE(R)-852), ex RVN Ngọc Hồi, in PI Navy since 1975.
  • BRP Magat Salamat (PS-20), former USS Gayety (AM-239), ex RVN MSF-239, since 1975.
  • BRP Pangasinan (PS-31), former USS PCE-891, transferred from the U.S. in 1948.

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