St. Augustine (PG-54)
A city in Florida, the first settlement of colonists from Europe to be established in territory now a part of the United States.
(PG-54: displacement 1,720 (full load); length 272'2"; beam 36'; depth of hold 15'11"; draft 14'6"; speed 14 knots; complement 185; armament 3 3-inch, 4 .50-caliber machine guns, 2 depth charge tracks)
The yacht Viking was completed in 1929 for George F. Baker at Newport News, Va., by Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co.; she was later sold to Norman B. Woolworth who renamed her Noparo.
The Navy purchased the vessel on 5 December 1940 at New London, Conn.; and she underwent conversion to a gunboat at the Bethlehem Steel Corp. yard, Boston, Mass. Designated as PG-54, she was renamed St. Augustine on 9 January 1941; and commissioned on 16 January 1941, Lt. Cmdr. John R. Litchfield, Jr., USNR, in command. .
Assigned to the First Naval District, St. Augustine operated on patrol out of Boston until 1942 when she was transferred to the Eastern Sea Frontier, for which she escorted convoys between New York and various Caribbean ports.
St. Augustine got underway from New York on 6 January 1944, leading a convoy of ships bound for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Late that evening, when 73 miles south-southwest of Cape May, N.J., at 38°12'N, 74°10'W, she was rammed amidships by the U.S. merchant tanker Camas Meadows (American Petroleum Transport Corp.). The gunboat’s seams were split by the collision, and she sank in five minutes. Tug Allegheny (AT-19) and the Moran Towing & Transportation Co. tug Point Judith immediately stood out of Cape May to search for survivors. Tragically, the rough, wintry seas claimed 115 of St. Augustine’s crew; only 30 survived the ordeal.
St. Augustine was stricken from the Navy Register on 22 January 1944.
Updated, Robert J. Cressman
4 August 2020