Saluting 150 Years on Two Hulls

Last Friday, the Philippine Navy decommissioned the patrol craft BRP Miguel Malvar (PS19) and BRP Magat Salamat (PS20) on 10 December 2021 at Captain Salvo Pier, Naval Base Heracleo Alano.

While “Miguel Malvar’ and “Magat Salamat” may not ring a bell with naval history buffs on this side of the globe, the ships have a very long and interesting history.

Malvar was born in the Windy City of all places, originally built by the Pullman-Standard Car Company of Chicago during WWII as USS PCE(R)-852, a PCE(R)-848-class rescue patrol craft escort for the Navy. Commissioned in 1944, she has another Chicago connection as she was an ancillary part of USS Guadalcanal (CVE-60)‘s hunter-killer group that captured U-505, the German U-boat that has been preserved at that city’s Museum of Science and Industry since 1954. PCE(R)-852 carried 26 captured German POWs to Norfolk.

4 June 1944 Tug USS Abnaki (ATF-96) tows U-505 photo from USS Guadalcanal (CVE-60) Note the large U.S. Ensign flying from U-505’s periscope. 80-G-324351

Postwar, she was named USS Brattleboro and, redesignated E-PCER-852, she worked as a test vessel assigned to the Naval Underwater Sound Laboratory at New London, Connecticut until 1965 when she was laid up at Philly.

U.S. Navy photo of USS PCER-852 from the April 1958 edition of All Hands magazine

In 1966 she was transferred to South Vietnam for service in the Republic of Vietnam Navy as RVNS Ngọc Hồi (HQ-12) and served that doomed country for a decade, escaping with the fall of Saigon along with other South Vietnamese naval assets to the Philippines where she was part of the exiled fleet for a year before turned over to the PN, who renamed her Malvar and kept her on active duty under her third flag for 44 years.

As for Salamat, she was originally built by the Winslow Marine Railway and Shipbuilding in Washington State as USS Gayety (AM-239), an Admirable-class minesweeper with a similar hull to the PCE-842-class. Commissioned in time to see service off Okinawa, she suffered a near-miss from a 500-pound bomb and was damaged with several casualties who were buried at Zamami shima. Her postwar career limited largely to a training role, she was mothballed in 1954 then transferred to the South Vietnamese Navy in 1962 as RVNS Chi Lăng II, one of the first such American ships that force acquired.

CHI LANG II (HQ-08) (South Vietnamese patrol ship, ex-USS GAYETY, MSF-239) Photographed during the 1960s. NH 93779

Like Brattleboro/Ngọc Hồi, she escaped to Subic Bay after Uncle Ho’s kids took over the south, and was later folded into the PN as a corvette.

Notably, both ships maintained their WWII-era armament including 3″/50s, 40mm Bofors, and Oerlikons although their engineering suites and sensors have been upgraded over the years.

In all, these two vessels clocked in over 150 years of active duty, fighting in at least two armed conflicts, which is really not bad for being “war babies.”

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