USS Absecon (AVP-23)

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USS Absecon (AVP-23)
USS Absecon (AVP-23) off Houghton, Washington on 17 January 1943, six days before commissioning, with a Curtiss SO3C Seamew floatplane on her catapult
Career (United States)
Name:USS Absecon (AVP-23)
Namesake:Absecon Inlet in New Jersey
Builder:Lake Washington Shipyard, Houghton, Washington,
Laid down:23 July 1941
Launched:8 March 1942
Sponsored by:Mrs. Robert L. Moon, Jr.
Commissioned:23 January 1943
Decommissioned:19 March 1947
Fate:Loaned to U.S. Coast Guard 5 January 1949
Permanently transferred to Coast Guard 26 September 1966
Transferred to South Vietnam 15 June 1972
Captured by North Vietnam May 1975
Notes:Served as U.S. Coast Guard cutter USS Absecon (WAVP-374), later WHEC-374, 1949–1972
Served as South Vietnamese patrol vessel RVNS Pham Ngu Lao (HQ-15) 1972–1975
Has served as Vietnamese People's Navy patrol vessel PRVSN Pham Ngu Lao (HQ-01) since 1975
General characteristics
Class & type:Barnegat-class small seaplane tender converted for use as catapult training ship
Displacement:1,766 long tons (1,794 t) (light); 2,750 long tons (2,790 t) (full load)
Length:310 ft 9 in (94.72 m)
Beam:41 ft 1 in (12.52 m)
Draft:13 ft 6 in (4.11 m)
Installed power:6,000 horsepower (4.48 megawatts)
Propulsion:Diesel engines, two shafts
Speed:18.6 knots (34.4 km/h)
Complement:215 (ship's company)
367 (including aviation unit)
Sensors and
processing systems:
Radar; sonar
Armament:2 x single 5-inch (127-millimeter) 38-caliber dual-purpose gun mounts
4 x 20-mm antiaircraft guna
2 x depth charge tracks
Aircraft carried:Up to 3 floatplanes
Aviation facilities:One catapult and aircraft handling cranes
Notes:Converted during construction into a catapult training ship
 
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USS Absecon (AVP-23)
USS Absecon (AVP-23) off Houghton, Washington on 17 January 1943, six days before commissioning, with a Curtiss SO3C Seamew floatplane on her catapult
Career (United States)
Name:USS Absecon (AVP-23)
Namesake:Absecon Inlet in New Jersey
Builder:Lake Washington Shipyard, Houghton, Washington,
Laid down:23 July 1941
Launched:8 March 1942
Sponsored by:Mrs. Robert L. Moon, Jr.
Commissioned:23 January 1943
Decommissioned:19 March 1947
Fate:Loaned to U.S. Coast Guard 5 January 1949
Permanently transferred to Coast Guard 26 September 1966
Transferred to South Vietnam 15 June 1972
Captured by North Vietnam May 1975
Notes:Served as U.S. Coast Guard cutter USS Absecon (WAVP-374), later WHEC-374, 1949–1972
Served as South Vietnamese patrol vessel RVNS Pham Ngu Lao (HQ-15) 1972–1975
Has served as Vietnamese People's Navy patrol vessel PRVSN Pham Ngu Lao (HQ-01) since 1975
General characteristics
Class & type:Barnegat-class small seaplane tender converted for use as catapult training ship
Displacement:1,766 long tons (1,794 t) (light); 2,750 long tons (2,790 t) (full load)
Length:310 ft 9 in (94.72 m)
Beam:41 ft 1 in (12.52 m)
Draft:13 ft 6 in (4.11 m)
Installed power:6,000 horsepower (4.48 megawatts)
Propulsion:Diesel engines, two shafts
Speed:18.6 knots (34.4 km/h)
Complement:215 (ship's company)
367 (including aviation unit)
Sensors and
processing systems:
Radar; sonar
Armament:2 x single 5-inch (127-millimeter) 38-caliber dual-purpose gun mounts
4 x 20-mm antiaircraft guna
2 x depth charge tracks
Aircraft carried:Up to 3 floatplanes
Aviation facilities:One catapult and aircraft handling cranes
Notes:Converted during construction into a catapult training ship

The second USS Absecon (AVP-23) was a United States Navy Barnegat-class seaplane tender in commission from 1943 to 1947, converted during construction to serve as a catapult training ship. The ship was later used by the United States Coast Guard, South Vietnam's Republic of Vietnam Navy, and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam's Vietnamese People's Navy.

Construction and commissioning[edit]

Absecon was laid down on 23 July 1941 at Houghton, Washington, by Lake Washington Shipyard. She was launched on 8 March 1942, sponsored by Mrs. Robert L. Moon, Jr., the daughter of Captain G. E. Davis — who was then the chief of staff to the Commandant of the 13th Naval District — and the wife of Commander Robert L. Moon, Jr.. Absecon was unique among the Barnegat-class ships in that she was the only one fitted with an aircraft catapult and cranes for handling floatplanes. Her redesign from the standard seaplane tender configuration resulted from the U.S. Navy's need for pilots to gain experience needed to qualify for catapult operations in battleship- and cruiser-based floatplane aviation units. Absecon was converted to this configuration during construction. She commissioned at the Puget Sound Navy Yard at Bermerton, Washington, on 28 January 1943 with Commander Robert S. Purvis in command, and completed her fitting out period on 14 February 1943

United States Navy service[edit]

Absecon was assigned the duty of providing aviator training for catapulting and sled net recovery of floatplanes while underway. She commenced her shakedown voyage on 15 February 1943, her aircraft complement consisting of one Curtiss SO3C Seamew and a pair of Vought OS2U Kingfishers.

On her way from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean via the Panama Canal, Absecon picked up seven survivors from SS Olancho, a freighter which had been torpedoed by a German submarine.

Training operations in Florida waters[edit]

From March to September 1943, Absecon operated out of the Naval Section Base at Mayport, Florida, coordinating observation-plane pilot training and serving as a target for practice torpedo runs. On 16 April 1943, she struck a submerged wreck that caused considerable damage to her hull. Following repairs, she resumed her duties.

In September 1943, Absecon was shifted to operate from Port Everglades, Florida. She carried out her training activities there into the winter of 1943–1944. One event highlighted her service during this period: On 13 November 1943, while serving as a target ship for torpedo bombers, Absecon observed a small freighter, SS Franklin Baker, flying distress signals. Absecon initially attempted to tow Franklin Baker to shore. When it became apparent that Franklin Baker would not move even under tow and was a navigational hazard, Absecon took her crew on board and attempted to sink her. Two depth charges and eighteen 5-inch (127-millimeter) projectiles failed to sink the freighter. The United States Coast Guard assisted in the effort to sink Franklin Baker, eventually succeeding by setting demolition charges on board her.

USS Absecon off Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on 6 January 1944.

During 1944, Absecon conducted 1,394 catapult launchings and a corresponding number of recoveries and qualified 211 pilots, thus averaging approximately 116 launches per month with 18 pilots a month qualifying for the operation of cruiser and battleship-based floatplanes such as the SO3C, the OS2U, the Curtiss SOC Seagull, and the Curtiss SC Seahawk. Her peak month of operations was November 1944, when she conducted 279 launchings and qualified 58 aviators.

In addition to this duty, she continued to serve as a mobile target for torpedo planes. Shallow-running exercise torpedoes struck Absecon four times during 1944: on 30 January 1944, on 24 June 1944, on 19 August 1944, and on 31 October 1944. The first hit flooded two compartments, the third caused flooding in the forward engine room, and the last caused a small rupture in the shell plating.

Between 17 October 1944 and 20 October 1944, Absecon was caught in a hurricane while moored in Mayport. After sending her aircraft inland, she rode out the storm, experiencing winds of up to 100 knots (115 miles per hour or 190 kilometers per hour).

Absecon assisted the fishing boat Chip on 6 February 1945. She was again hit by an exercise torpedo on 19 February 1945 and was forced to enter dry dock at the Charleston Navy Yard in Charleston, South Carolina, to repair her starboard propeller.

On five occasions during 1945, aircraft capsized during recovery operations. All resulted in the salvage of the aircraft involved except the last, on 4 August 1945. On that occasion she sank the plane, apparently damaged beyond repair, with gunfire.

Absecon was based at Port Everglades until mid-July 1945, when she shifted to Pensacola, Florida, for duty involving training and logistical support of the observation aircraft operations there. Absecon carried out this training through the end of World War II on 15 August 1945 and into September 1945. During those nine months, she conducted 1,839 catapult launchings, an average of 204 per month, and qualified 274 pilots. Her peak production of pilots occurred in March 1945 when she qualified 45, and her peak number of launchings occurred during August 1945, when she conducted 340.

Post-World War II service[edit]

As the helicopter began to supplant cruiser- and battleship-based seaplanes, the need for qualifying pilots of floatplanes diminished accordingly. After a period as a training ship based at Pensacola, Absecon was decommissioned on 19 March 1947 and placed in reserve, laid up in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet in Orange, Texas.

United States Coast Guard service[edit]

USCGC Absecon (WHEC-374) on 27 December 1969.

Loaned to the United States Coast Guard on 5 January 1949, Absecon became the Coast Guard cutter USCGC Absecon (WAVP-374) and operated as such until 1972. Operating primarily in the Atlantic out of Norfolk, Virginia, she served as a weather ship on ocean stations, and also conducted search and rescue and law enforcement operations in addition to United States Coast Guard Academy cadet training cruises. In 1966 she was reclassified as a high endurance cutter and redesignated WHEC-374, and was transferred permanently to the Coast Guard.

Foreign service[edit]

Republic of Vietnam Navy service[edit]

Decommissioned by the Coast Guard on 9 May 1972, Absecon was transferred to South Vietnam on 15 July 1972 and was simultaneously commissioned into the Republic of Vietnam Navy as patrol vessel RVNS Pham Ngu Lao (HQ-15).

Vietnamese People's Navy service[edit]

The government of South Vietnam collapsed at the end of the Vietnam War in late April 1975. North Vietnam seized Pham Ngu Lao in May 1975. She was commissioned into the Vietnamese People's Navy of the now-unified Socialist Republic of Vietnam as patrol vessel PRVSN Pham Ngu Lao (HQ-01). Pham Ngu Lao's status in that secretive navy is murky, but she was thought to be in active service into the 1990s and perhaps as recently as 2000. Her status is unclear; she now apparently is inactive and may have been decommissioned.[1]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ See the annual editions of Jane's Fighting Ships since 1976 to trace the status of PRVSN Pham Ngu Lao (HQ-01) in the Vietnamese People's Navy as it is best understood

References[edit]