Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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Chehalis II (PG-94)

1969–

The city in the state of Washington.

II

(PG-94: displacement 240; length 164'6"; beam 24'; draft 9'6"; speed 40 knots; complement 24; armament 1 3-inch, 1 40 millimeter, 4 .50-caliber machine guns; class Asheville)

The second Chehalis (PG-94) was laid down on 15 August June 1967 at Tacoma, Washington, by the Tacoma Boatbuilding Co.; launched on 8 July 1968; sponsored by Mrs. Oscar T. Mills, wife of the mayor of Chehalis, Wash.; accepted by the Navy on 4 November 1969 and commissioned on 8 November 1969, Lt. Paul D. Frazer in command.

After arriving at San Diego, Calif., on 18 November 1969, Chehalis began a period of shakedown training, coastal traffic control training, and upkeep. Equipped with a combination diesel and gas turbine engine system, the latter to provide high-speed operations, and variable pitch propellers for maneuverability, Chehalis was specifically designed to perform patrol, blockade, surveillance, and perimeter defense missions.

Assigned to Coastal Squadron Three, based at San Diego, Chehalis began carrying out type training that included gunnery, underway replenishment, and convoy exercises against fast coastal patrol boats (PCF) and fast patrol craft (PTF) "raiders.” She returned to San Diego on 19 December for Christmas leave and upkeep, after which she resumed training. Over the next six months, Chehalis practiced convoy attack and screening tactics, and participated in fleet exercise Ropeval 2-70. After further refresher training in early April, she completed final contract trials on 21 April 1970.

The gunboat entered the Long Beach [Calif.] Naval Shipyard on 5 June 1970 for post-shakedown repairs, emerging at the end of July. She then spent the remainder of the year developing high speed surface attack doctrine with other gunboats, participating in Navy Electronics Laboratory experiments, conducting sea-keeping trials with the hydrofoil gunboat Tucumcari (PGH-2), and serving as plane guard vessel for the attack aircraft carrier Hancock (CVA-19) in the waters off northern California.

Maintenance requirements, however, due to the gunboat’s high operating tempo and new equipment upgrades, brought Chehalis back to Long Beach Naval Shipyard on 1 February 1971.  After completion on 6 May, she received orders to proceed, along with sister ships Beacon (PG-99) and Green Bay (PG-101), to change fleet and homeport to River Squadron Two, Little Creek, Va. Arriving on 10 July, via Acapulco, Mexico, and the Panama Canal, the gunboats soon began exercises to test the suitability of PGs for conducting destroyer-type missions.

In Operation Beaver Tail-71, a coastal defense exercise in August 1971 off Narragansett Bay, Chehalis and Beacon demonstrated their effectiveness in planting sono-buoys, detecting and intercepting intruders, and conducting general patrol duties. A month later, in operation Escort Tiger, the gunboats guarded Vieques Island, Puerto Rico (19 September–3 October) and showed their effectiveness when they operated on short range patrol barriers. In early November, however, when the PGs operated against carrier task forces off Florida, those who evaluated the evolution found that long distance search and shadow missions, due to high fuel consumption, lay beyond the gunboats’ capabilities.

In January and February 1972 Chehalis continued evaluation tests in Destroyer associated mission areas. These included further long distance patrols off the Virginia capes and cold weather evaluation off Narragansett Bay. On 29 February, the gunboat departed Little Creek to begin her first Caribbean deployment. After a stopover at Port Everglades, Fla., the ship arrived at Guantanamo Bay on 6 March to commence surveillance operations and training. Interspersed with port visits to Haiti, Jamaica, and Great Inagua Island, the gunboat did not return to Little Creek until 21 July.

In August and September 1972, following a post-deployment stand-down, Chehalis participated in replenishment exercises with the patrol craft tender Graham County (AGP-1176), made port visits to New York and Newport, and conducted a guest cruise for Vice Admiral Fragoso of the Brazilian Navy. The remainder of the year, aside from a midshipman-oriented visit to Annapolis, and sound ranging tests in Hampton, Va., and a day cruise for Congressman Powell of Ohio, Chehalis remained in a holiday stand-down and pre-deployment leave period.

On 4 January 1973 the gunboat departed Little Creek for her second Caribbean deployment.  After refueling at Mayport, Fla., the ship arrived at Guantanamo on 13 January and began another series of surveillance operations. The crew also conducted selective refresher training in gunnery, engineering, damage control, and deck operations. Aside from a port visit to Cap Haitien, Haiti (23–26 February), and a brief stop at Mayport, the ship did not complete operations until 1 April when she returned to Little Creek.

On 30 April 1973, Chehalis entered Norfolk [Va.] Naval Shipyard for a regular overhaul and to receive a new anti-roll fin stabilizer system. Modifications, repairs, and tests were completed by 17 September and the gunboat returned to operations out of Little Creek. On 1 October, however, after discovering structural deficiencies in the fin stabilizers during a dependents’ cruise, the ship re-entered Norfolk Naval Shipyard for repairs.

Undocking on 7 January 1974, the gunboat returned to Little Creek on 23 January. On 9 February, after local underway training, Chehalis departed for a short stint of operations in the Caribbean, proceeding to Guantanamo Bay. Arriving on 14 February, after a port visit to Charleston, the ship participated in Exercise Escort Tiger XVI and refresher training until 8 March. While it was found the gunboat had too little range to operate effectively with transit convoys, the fin stabilizers did decrease the ship’s roll by 50% in some sea states.

Returning to Little Creek on 15 March 1974, Chehalis spent the next two months conducting type training, independent ship operations, and tactical development training off Morehead City, N.C. Over the remainder of the year, the ship participated in three more fleet exercises, conducted port visits at New York, St. Thomas, San Juan, and Annapolis, and made a working visit in November to Washington, DC, where civilian engineers who were designing Patrol Gunboats for Saudi Arabia visited the ship.

After a series of training operations the following spring, Chehalis received orders on 15 May 1975 to prepare for decommissioning and lease to the Naval Ship Research and Development Center.

Stripped of armament and converted to a towing platform at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, the ship was decommissioned on 21 August 1975 and renamed Athena. Assigned to the Naval Coastal Systems Laboratory, Panama City, Fla., the research vessel was assigned to the test and evaluation process of high speed acoustic sensors, towed devices, and other underwater systems. As of 2016, the vessel continues to be based at Panama City.

Timothy L. Francis

11 July 2016

Published: Tue Jul 12 13:36:34 EDT 2016