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Winfield S. Cahill (S.P. 493)


The Navy retained the name carried by this vessel (sometimes slightly modified) at the time of her acquisition.

(S.P. 493: tonnage 299 (gross); length 150'0"; beam 24'6"; draft 12'0" (mean); speed 12.0 knots; complement 37; armament 1 3-inch, 2 machine guns)

Winfield S. Cahill, a wooden-hulled single-screw "Menhaden Fisherman" built in 1912 by M. M. Davis, of Solomons, Md., was acquired by the Navy from the Eubank Tankard Co., of Kilmarnock, Va. The contract for purchasing the vessel was signed on 4 June 1917, and she was delivered to the Navy eight days later, on 12 June.

While the ship was being fitted out at the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Va., Adm. William S. Benson, as Acting Secretary of the Navy, promulgated General Order No. 314, on 28 July 1917, whereby the compound names of all scout patrol (S.P.) vessels were shortened to the surname only. Thus, Winfield S. Cahill became, officially, simply Cahill (S.P. 493), although she would be, at times in the future, referred to indiscriminately as either Cahill, Winfield S. Cahill, or W. S. Cahill.

Commissioned at the Norfolk Navy Yard on 10 August 1917, Lt. (j.g..) John B. Will in command, Cahill soon sailed for France as part of Squadron 4, Division 10, Patrol Force, Atlantic Fleet. Initially earmarked for escort duty "on distant service," Cahill and her sisters proved to be not only inadequate for the task but also unsafe. Originally designed for a very low freeboard to facilitate commercial fishing trawler operations, the ship was immersed even further by the addition of guns and deckhouses. This increased the ship's tophamper to a point where she became decidedly unstable in heavy seas such as those encountered off Brest, the port from which the "Menhaden Fiishermen" operated.

After the foundering of Rehoboth (S.P. 384) on 4 October 1917, Cahill and her sisters were relegated to minesweeping duties, their previous places as escorts for troopships and supply vessels being taken by other craft. Cahill performed minesweeping operations out of Brest for the duration of the Great War [World War I].

Since it was apparently deemed inadvisable to take the former fishing craft back across the Atlantic, Cahill was decommissioned on 8 September 1919 and sold abroad. She is carried on mercantile registers of the time as Winfield S. Cahill, her original name, until she was renamed Eraclea when acquired by the Genoa, Italy-based firm of Societa Navagazione & Galligianti about 1922. She operated under Italian registry, out of Genoa, until about 1927 or 1928, when she was acquired by Demetrios Z. Pandakis of Piraeus, Greece, who subsequently used her as a tug until 1937 or 1938, after which time her name disappeared from shipping registers.

Updated, Robert J. Cressman

1 December 2021

Published: Wed Dec 01 15:29:30 EST 2021