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Ascension

 

A British island located in the South Atlantic 700 miles northwest of St. Helena. During the exile of Napoleon, the Royal Navy built a station on Ascension. The island is the site of an international cable station; during World War II an airfield was built there for patrol flights and as a refueling stop for transatlantic flights to Africa, southern Europe, and the Middle East. These aviation facilities figured prominently in the war between Great Britain and Argentina in the spring of 1982. The name was borne by a merchant ship of the City of London, which participated in the fight against the Spanish Armada in 1588.

 

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(PF-74: dp. 1,430; l. 304'0"; b. 37'6"; dr. 12'0" (mean); s. 20 k.; cpl. 120; a. 3 3", 4 40mm., 8 20mm., 2 dct, 4 dcp., 1 dcp. (hh.); cl. Tacoma; T. S2-S2-AQ1)

 

The unnamed frigate PF-74—originally classed as a gunboat, PG-182—was laid down on 30 April 1943 at Providence, R.I., by the Walsh-Kaiser Co., Inc., under a Maritime Commission contract (MC hull 1656); assigned to the United Kingdom under lend lease on 10 June 1943; launched on 6 August 1943; sponsored by Mrs. A. A. Kirby; and transferred to the Royal Navy on 24 November 1943. First named Hargood, the ship had been renamed Ascension by the time she was accepted by the British and was assigned the "pendant number" K.502.

 

Following initial trials and "work up" in the waters off Casco Bay, Maine, Ascension conducted her shakedown training out of Bermuda before proceeding on to the British Isles. She reached Ardrossan, on the Firth of Clyde, at the end of March for the installation of British items of equipment. Assigned to the 5th Escort Group—which operated from Londonderry, Ireland— Ascension helped to escort three convoys between Londonderry and Gibraltar over the next few months and returned from the third voyage on 17 September 1944.

 

Assigned to the 17th Escort Group, as the senior officer's ship, Ascension operated in the northwest approaches to the Irish Sea, as well as in the western reaches of the English Channel, until hostilities with Germany ceased in the spring of 1945. On 10 November 1944, Ascension cleared Scapa Flow, in the Orkneys, with four other frigates to sweep waters between the Shetlands and Faroes and to cover the return of a convoy from Russian waters. Late in the patrol, on 25 November, a Norwegian-manned "Sunderland" flying boat picked up a radar contact 120 miles west of the Shetlands. Shortly after the ships of the 17th Group arrived to investigate. Ascension's ASDIC picked up a U-boat.

 

Ascension, in company with Moorsom, launched "hedgehog" attacks. Projectiles from the two ships proved lethal and sent U-322 to the bottom.

 

With the defeat of Hitler, Ascension and some of her sister ships were eyed for dispatch to the Far East and were to be extensively refitted to serve as "fighter direction ships," with updated radars and "Squid" antisubmarine mortars. These ships were not well suited for service in the tropics (inadequate ventilation frequently created intolerable living conditions) and the Admiralty decided to retain them in home waters. Laid up in reserve at Dartmouth, England, in mid-June, 1945, Ascension was reactivated in April 1946 for her return to the American Navy.

 

Departing her old wartime base at Londonderry for the last time on 17 April 1946, Ascension sailed for the United States and arrived at the New York Naval Shipyard on 17 May. Decommissioned and returned to the United States Navy on 31 May, the now-unnamed PF-74 was declared surplus on 8 October. Stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 29 October 1946, the former frigate was sold to the Hudson Valley Shipwrecking Corp., Newburgh, N.Y., on 16 October 1947. Removed from naval custody on 7 November 1947, she was broken up for scrap by December 1948