Sunday, September 13, 2015

America's New Deal Navy: Gunboats

Above: Of the 32 PWA-funded ships of the early-mid 1930s, two were gunboats - and one of these gunboats was the U.S.S. Erie (PG-50). The Erie evacuated refugees from the Spanish Civil War, served as a training vessel, participated in the re-enactment of "the 1853 friendship visit of Commodore Matthew Perry to Japan" at the U.S. Naval Academy in 1937 (see note 1 below), and rescued about 100 shipwreck survivors during World War II. Unfortunately, the Erie was destroyed by a U-boat torpedo in 1942. Photo of Erie courtesy of Wikipedia.

Above: The second PWA-funded gunboat was the U.S.S. Charleston (PG-51). During World War II, the Charleston participated in the Battle of Attu (U.S. & Canada vs. Japan, on a remote Alaskan island in 1943) and received one battle star. The Charleston became a training ship after the war. Photo of Charleston courtesy of Wikipedia.

Gunboats were "armed with 4 6-inch guns and ten small anti-aircraft guns" and carried "crews of 201 men" (see note 2 below). According to a retired Navy captain, gunboats were "designed like small cruisers. They were built specifically to protect American lives and property in places around the world. They were never intended for major fleet actions and they conducted most of their operations alone" (see note 3 below).

Sources of information: (1) (2) Federal Works Agency, Millions for Defense, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1940. (3) Captain George Stewart, USN (Retired), "USTS Charleston (PG 51) Massachusetts Maritime Academy Training Ship 1948-1957," Naval Historical Foundation, October 15, 2013. (4) "Executive Order 6174 on Public Works Administration, June 16, 1933," American Presidency Project, University of California - Santa Barbara. (5) Naval History and Heritage Command (

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