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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
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Weatherford

 

Cities in Oklahoma and Texas.

 

(PC-618: dp. 280; l. 173'8"; b. 23'0"; dr. 10'10"; s. 20.2 k. (tl.) ; cpl. 65; a. 1 3", 1 40mm., 2 dcp. (mousetrap), 2 dct.; cl. PC-461)

 

PC-618 was laid down on 29 April 1942 by George Lawley & Sons, Inc., at Neponset, Mass.; launched on 1 August 1942; and commissioned on 7 September 1942, Lt. Stewart in command.

 

Following two weeks of shakedown training in the coastal waters between Boston and New York, PC-618 entered New York on 19 September to begin a tour of duty escorting coastwise convoys under the auspices of the Commander, Eastern Sea Frontier. She drew the New York to Key West run and, over the next six months, made eight round-trip voyages between the two locations. On 31 March 1943, she returned to New York from the last of these voyages and immediately began intensive training for a new assignment. She and her sister ship PC-617 trained as the deceptive escort for the mystery- or Q-ship Big Horn, a former tanker armed and specially outfitted for her unique duty. They completed their preparations in time to sail with Convoy UGS-7A on 14 April. Upon reaching the waters around the Azores—believed to be heavily infested by U-boats— the decoy straggled behind the convoy in an attempt to bait U-boats into an imprudent attack while PC-618 and her sister waited just over the horizon. On 3 May, a German submarine closed the decoy and received a hedgehog attack from Big Horn. The two patrol craft charged to the attack as well, but the U-boat easily evaded all attacks and slipped away. Later that month, after a brief visit to Bermuda, Big Horn and her escorts returned to New York empty-handed.

 

On 27 July, PC-618 put to sea with Big Horn and PC-617 as part of Convoy UGS-13 in hopes of a more successful U-boat hunt. Again, however, she and her associates failed to make a kill. The decoy ship Big Horn again straggled about 50 miles behind the convoy while the two patrol craft waited just over the horizon. On one occasion, Big Horn sighted a submarine, and one of the escorts attacked the U-boat, unsuccessfully, with her mousetrap battery. Otherwise, the cruise proved uneventful, and PC-618 returned to New York in August with no submarines to her credit. After another hunting cruise in the vicinity of Recife, Brazil, conducted in the latter half of August and the month of September, PC-618 returned to New York early in October for additional training. In November, the Big Horn decoy/killer group was reconstituted for one final, but also unsuccessful, cruise in the area around Bermuda. That assignment ended late in December at Boston, and the group was dissolved for the last time.

 

During the first three months of 1944, PC-618 conducted antisubmarine patrols along the coast between her base at New York and the coast of Maine. On 13 January—while escorting a convoy to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba—she attacked a submerged sound contact and claimed a probable hit. However, no evidence ever corroborated that claim. The subchaser returned to New York at the end of the month and resumed her patrols in that area. When not conducting those patrols, she practiced her ASW technique with friendly submarines. Fruitless submarine searches and training exercises occupied her until April, when she departed the United States for European waters in preparation for the upcoming invasion at Normandy.

 

Initially based at Dartmouth, England, PC-618 briefly conducted antisubmarine patrols between that port and Plymouth before concentrating all her energies on training and preparing for the invasion of France. During repeated practice landings along the southern coast of England, she rehearsed and re-rehearsed her role for the upcoming amphibious landing. Before dawn on 6 June 1944, PC-618 took station near the middle of a three-mile stretch off the Normandy coast dubbed "Omaha Beach." There, the subchaser served as a control ship for the boats which landed units of the Army's 116th Regimental Combat Team (RCT) in sector Easy Green, located just west of center on Omaha Beach opposite the Les Moulins defile. In addition to guiding the landing craft ashore all day, the little warship provided close-in gunfire support for the hard-pressed and artillery-poor troops of the 116th RCT, on one occasion destroying an enemy position which had been harassing the soldiers.

 

As soon as the troops began their move inland late on the 6th, PC-618 resumed antisubmarine patrols. Though she was scheduled to be based at Cherbourg, France, the stubborn German resistance in that port city forced her to conduct her patrols from the base at Dartmouth until Cherbourg fell on the night of 29 and 30 June.

 

At midsummer, she moved her base of operations to Cherbourg and, for the next 11 months, conducted antisubmarine patrols and guarded cross-channel traffic in support of the Anglo-American lunge across France and Belgium to Germany. On 7 May 1945, 11 months and one day after the D day landings, the Germans capitulated. One month later, PC-618 started the voyage home where she was to be overhauled in preparation for the planned final assault on Japan. After stops at Fayal in the Azores and at Bermuda, the ship arrived in Miami, Fla., where she began extensive repairs. On 14 August, with PC-618's repairs less than half complete, the Japanese capitulation removed the urgency of their completion and obviated the ship's voyage to the western Pacific. She completed her availability early in October and moved, under tow, to Key West, Fla., for duty with Service Force, Atlantic Fleet.

 

Further material casualties however, postponed her active utilization. After successive repair periods at Key West, Port Everglades, and Norfolk, she finally resumed active duty at Key West with the Operational Development Force in March 1946. However, due to a shortage of officers, she had ceased all operations by early summer; and she was recommended for disposal by the Commander, Operational Development Force. By August, she was completely immobilized and, in September, inspected by a board of inspection and survey. Probably as a result of that inspection, the decision was made to transfer "special ordnance gear" from PC-576 to PC-618, to refurbish her fully, and activate her as an experimental subchaser with the Operational Development Force. Those alterations were completed at the Charleston Naval Shipyard during the winter of 1946 and 1947. By late spring of 1947, PC-618 had resumed active duty with the Operational Development Force testing antisubmarine warfare equipment and techniques. Based at Key West, she ranged the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the West Indies, and along the southeastern coast of the United States. In the fall of 1955, she added the New England coast to her itinerary when she moved to New London, Conn., to conduct experimental operations from that port for a brief period of time. The ship returned to Key West early in December and resumed her routine from that base.

 

For the remainder of her active career, the ship conducted experimental operations along the east coast and in the Gulf of Mexico, out of both Key West and New London. On 14 February 1956, PC-618 was named Weatherford. She changed operational control from Commander, Operational Development Force, Atlantic Fleet, on 10 February 1959. On 1 November 1965, after almost six years of Atlantic coast operations with the Atlantic Fleet Service Force, Weatherford was decommissioned, and her name was struck from the Navy list. For the next three years, the former patrol craft served the Navy as a salvage training hulk. On 1 November 1968, she was sunk as a target.

 

PC-618 earned one battle star during World War II