(PC-617: dp. 280; l. 173'8"; b. 23'0"; dr. 10'10"; s. 20.5 k.; cpl. 65; a. 2 3", 2 20 mm., 2 dcp., 2 dct.; cl. PC-542)
A city in southern Texas located about 50 miles north northwest of Corpus Christi. It is the seat of government for Bee County.
PC-617 was laid down on 29 April 1942 at Neponset, Mass., by George Lawley & Son, Inc.; launched 18 July 1942; and commissioned at the Boston Navy Yard on 28 August 1942, Lt. Carl M. Fellows, USNR, in command.
After fitting out, PC-617 departed Boston on 14 September for Miami, Fla., touching briefly at New York en route. On 6 October, following shakedown training out of Miami, the submarine chaser reported to the Commander, Eastern Sea Frontier, for duty. Designed to patrol inshore waters and prevent enemy submarine attacks on commerce, PC-617 was assigned to the inter-locking coastal convoy system. Operating out of Tompkinsville, Staten Island, she covered the weekly KN and NK convoys that ran between Key West and New York.
In April 1943, PC-617 joined Task Unit (TU) 27.8 and operated in company with Big Horn (AO-45), which had been fitted out as a decoy or "Q-ship." Designed to look like a harmless merchant ship, in reality the oiler carried a hidden armament of 3-inch and 20-millimeter guns. Big Horn, escorted by PC-617 and PC-618, deliberately "straggled" from a convoy in the Azores/Dakar area in an attempt to lure German U-boats into attacking the "helpless" merchant ship. In midsummer, as part of a "special submarine hunting group," the three warships operated in the central Atlantic in support of escort carrier "hunter-killer" operations against the U-boats. The submarine chaser continued these kinds of operations with Big Horn into the fall.
After receiving improved armaments, 40-millimeter guns and a Mark 20 depth-charge projector ("Mousetrap"), at the New York Navy Yard, PC-617 sailed with TU 27.8 on 15 November for operations in the central Atlantic. On 30 November, however, salt water corrosion damaged her sound gear, and PC-617 sailed for Casablanca, arriving there on 1 December. After repairs in a floating drydock, she helped search for enemy blockade runners near the Azores before returning to Tompkinsville on the 30th.
In January and February 1944, the submarine chaser escorted convoys on the New York-to-Guantanamo-Bay route before returning to Staten Island in preparation for deployment to Europe. Transferred to the 12th Fleet on 21 March, PC-617 sailed for England with a slow (2 knot) tug-and-barge convoy on the 26th. The long crossing was not uneventful. On 11 April, the submarine chaser had to sink a drifting barge with 20-millimeter gunfire, as the tow line could not be repaired during a storm. Then, on 12 April, she screened Moffett (DD-362) as that destroyer rescued the crew of ATR-98, which sank after a collision with the tug Abnaki (AT-96) off the Azores. The convoy finally reached Plymouth on 19 April.
The submarine chaser then operated in the English Channel, conducting harbor patrols and local convoy duty between Falmouth, Plymouth, and Portland during preparations for Operation "Neptune," the Allied invasion of Europe. Assigned to Task Group (TG) 124.5, PC-617 helped escort LCTs from Portland, England, to the Baie de la Seine off Normandy, France, on the morning of 6 June. After arriving in the rendezvous area at 0430, she coordinated LCT waves carrying tanks and troops to the beach. Later that morning, PC-617 rescued men from broken down amphibious trucks, before learning of landing-craft congestion off "Omaha" Beach. At 1215, she closed beaches "Easy Red" and "Fox Green" to assist LCTs unable to land because of underwater obstructions and enemy gunfire. While clearing out LCTs "lying to in apparent confusion," the submarine chaser came under enemy machine gun and artillery fire but suffered no hits. She continued sorting out the confused landing craft situation over the next two days, helping to collect stragglers and smooth unloading operations.
Transferred to TG 122.4 on the 9th, PC-617 operated in the area screen force between Port-en-Bessin and Cap de la Hague. The primary mission of the screen force was to prevent German E-boats based at Cherbourg from interfering with the convoys shuttling troops and supplies to the Normandy beachhead. She also helped protect shipping during German air raids, firing her antiaircraft guns at the few enemy fighters and bombers that risked night raids on the Baie de la Seine.
She came under attack herself on 5 July when a Junkers JU-88 unleashed a Henschel HS-293 radio-guided glide bomb in her direction. Providentially, the lethal weapon missed PC-617, exploding about 25 yards away on her starboard beam and showering the ship with sludge and water and over 100 metal fragments. The massive concussion, however, knocked the gun crews flat, temporarily blew out electrical circuits throughout the ship, and left "all three toilet bowls in crew's head shattered beyond use." Remarkably, only two men suffered slight injuries from the blast.
Repaired at Plymouth, PC-617 continued escort and screen duties in the Baie de la Seine until 10 August when she moved to Cherbourg. From there, she conducted shuttle and harbor patrol duties in the Morlaix-St. Michel area through October. On 16 November, the submarine chaser shifted to Le Havre, where she escorted convoys and conducted outer anchorage patrols into the new year. On 16 January 1945, one of the ships in a convoy that PC-617 was escorting out of the harbor, SS Marina, struck two mines and suffered extensive damage. PC-617 closed the stricken ship, rescued 67 passengers and crew, and helped tow the damaged vessel back to port.
She remained at Le Havre, escorting coastal convoys and helping to destroy floating mines, through the end of the war in Europe. Ordered home in late May, PC-617 arrived at the Dade Drydock Co., Miami, Fla., for duty with Service Squadron (ServRon) 2, Pacific Fleet. She never set out for the Pacific, however, remaining at Miami until she was towed to Key West, Fla., on 3 October. After sailing to Norfolk on 21 February 1946, the submarine chaser's fate was finally decided on 28 March when PC-617 received orders to proceed to the Charleston Naval Shipyard for pre-inactivation drydocking. After moving to Green Cove Springs, Fla., on 18 April, PC-617 was placed out of commission, in reserve, on 16 August 1946 and assigned to the Atlantic Reserve Fleet in the St. John's River.
Named Beeville on 15 February 1956, the ship was struck from the Navy list on 5 September 1957. She was sold for scrap to Ships & Power, Inc., Miami, Fla., on 5 August 1958.
Beeville received one battle star for her World War II service as PC-617.
Timothy L. Francis
23 February 2006