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Antelope III (PG-86)


Black and white image of ship traveling from right to left, showing a wide, white wake
Caption: Antelope (PG-86), underway after her 1971 overhaul, showing her Standard missile launchers in the extended position, aft. (NH 86886)

Large, fast, ruminant mammals which generally resemble deer except for their two single-prong horns.


(PG-86: displacement 245 (full load); length 164'6"; beam 23'11"; draft 5'4"; speed 40 knots; complement 24; armament 1 3-inch, 1 40-millimeter, 4 .50-caliber machine guns; class Asheville)

The third Antelope (PGM-86), a high-speed, aluminum-hulled motor gunboat, was laid down on 1 June 1965 at Tacoma, Wash., by the Tacoma Boatbuilding Co., Inc.; launched on 18 June 1966; sponsored by Mrs. Paul V. Snow, the wife of the Deputy Counsel of the Naval Ships Systems Command; reclassified as a patrol gunboat on 28 March 1967 and simultaneously redesignated PG-86; and commissioned on 4 November 1967, Lt. Jon J. Gershon in command.

Following fitting out at Tacoma, Antelope moved to her first home port, San Diego, Calif., whence she conducted shakedown training and operational tests before entering the Long Beach Naval Shipyard for post-shakedown availability. She then spent most of the remaining months of 1968 in operations along the west coast. Late in the year, she prepared to conduct CNO Project CS-48, evaluating new gunfire control equipment.

The gunboat completed this assignment in April 1969 and then entered the Long Beach Naval Shipyard for an overhaul to bring her back to top trim and to enhance her ability to carry out her primary missions: off-shore patrol, control of coastal traffic through high-speed interdiction, and close-in naval gunfire support for friendly forces ashore. When this work had been finished, she conducted refresher training out of San Diego before departing that port on 2 November and proceeding to the Marianas in company with her sister ship Ready (PG-87) and the attack cargo ship Seminole (LKA-104). After stops at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and Midway, the ship arrived at Apra Harbor, Guam, her new home port, on 26 November. The next day, she began a restricted availability at the ship repair facility there. During the week, numerous improvements were made to her installed systems before she headed for Vietnamese waters on 19 January 1970.

Reaching Cam Ranh Bay on the 28th, Antelope began participating in Operation Sea Float (that utilized a floating Mobile Advanced Tactical Support Base) on the Cua Lon River with “night harassment and interdiction gunfire; area fire preparatory to, and suppression fire during, troop sweeps; and mobile naval gunfire support for friendly forces under ambush.” On the last day of January 1970, her guns assisted three ambushed Allied inshore patrol craft. A fortnight later, after she had bombarded both ends of the Rach Bien Nhan Canal to prepare for an Allied advance, UDT (underwater demolition team) swimmers went ashore and ascertained that her gunfire had destroyed 19 communist bunkers, 11 buildings, and 26 cisterns.

On 15 February 1970, Ready relieved Antelope, freeing her to return to Cam Ranh Bay for upkeep. On the 23rd, the gunboat got underway for a brief stint of Market Time duty. Such service entailed stopping, boarding, and inspecting all vessels that she encountered to eliminate all waterborne logistical support of communist forces fighting in Vietnam. She returned to Sea Float on the 28th and, on 2 March, while supporting sweeps ashore by friendly troops, received about 10 rounds of hostile, but harmless, small-arms fire. A week later, while shelling communist bunkers, she sighted and destroyed “. . . two heavily loaded sampans fleeing down a canal.”

Next came more Market Time duty, this time in the Gulf of Siam. There, besides serving as the command center for Coastal Division 11, she sent inspection parties on board over 350 sampans and junks between 20 March and 2 April 1970. On the latter date, the ship resumed Operation Sea Float. Three days later, she was ambushed on the Cua Lon River by a rocket patrol which fired six B-40 rockets at the ship from less than 100 yards. Antelope immediately opened fire with all her weapons and drove the enemy off before any casualties or serious damage to the ship occurred.

From 10 through 13 April 1970, the gunboat left the rivers and entered the South China Sea to support a force of Montagnard troops landing on and sweeping through communist-held territory. During the operation, her boat evacuated 115 men. Thereafter, the warship conducted gunfire support missions until the 17th when she ended 31 consecutive days underway and headed for Cam Ranh Bay and brief upkeep.

On 25 April 1970, Antelope returned to Sea Float. About an hour past midnight on 4 May, an explosion on her starboard side amidships jarred the gunboat. Investigation soon revealed a 5-inch hole in her main deck, probably caused by “... a satchel charge catapulted from the north bank of the Cua Lon.” No casualties or interior damage from the blast, however, resulted. Five days later, while the vessel was descending the river to enter the South China Sea, communist forces lying in ambush fired at least six B-40 rockets at her. Her alert gun crew returned the fire “. . . while the first three rockets were still airborne.” Antelope suffered no hits or damage. Again, on the 11th, while fighting off a launch bomb attack from an ambush site on the bank of the Bo De, she drove the communist troops from their weapons and sent a landing party ashore which captured eight bomb launchers, four bombs, and several B-40 rockets.

After four days of upkeep at Cam Ranh Bay, the ship got underway for special operations in the Gulf of Siam and troop support in Cambodia. At the end of May 1970, she resumed Sea Float duties, but a failure of her number one main engine soon forced her back to Cam Ranh Bay for repairs.

On 11 June 1970, she proceeded north to play the part of a communist high-speed patrol boat attacking an Allied task force with missiles, guns, and torpedoes in Exercise Beacon Tower II in the Gulf of Tonkin. She then visited Hong Kong before returning to Guam on 3 August. There she underwent a restricted availability which lasted until 18 January 1971.

The next day, she sailed for the Philippines. After a brief stop at Subic Bay, she pushed on back to Vietnamese waters where she arrived on the last day of January and began Market Time duty in the Gulf of Thailand. As on her first deployment to Vietnam, her service in checking infiltration was again interrupted by upkeep and occasional naval gunfire support missions.

She headed back toward the Marianas on 24 April 1971. En route to Guam, she visited Keelung and Kaohsiung, Taiwan, and Subic Bay before reaching Apra Harbor on 18 May. Meanwhile, she had been assigned a new home port, Long Beach, Calif.; and, on the 30th, she sailed for that base which she reached on 18 June.

On the last day of that month, she entered the Long Beach Naval Shipyard for overhaul and alterations. The yard work, which gave the ship an interim surface-to-surface missile capability, lasted until 31 January 1972. Antelope spent the next few months in independent exercises; fire control system antenna collimation; missile firing; and receiving new main diesel engines, additional communications equipment, and self-synchronizing clutches.

On 10 July 1972, the gunboat began preparations for a transfer to the Atlantic Fleet. A fortnight later, she got underway in company with Ready and the tank landing ship Barnstable County (LST-1197) and proceeded via Acapulco, Mexico, to the Isthmus of Panama. She transited the canal on 7 August and reached Little Creek, Va., on the 14th. On 30 August, she, Ready, and Graham County (AGP-1176) sailed for the Mediterranean. On 1 September, Antelope’s home port was changed to Naples, Italy. Following stops at Ponta Delgada, Azores, and at Rota, Spain, the warships reached Naples on the 17th. Antelope’s operations for the remainder of the year included missile handling exercises at Augusta Bay, Sicily; Komar [Soviet fast attack craft] simulation operations with Task Group (TG) 60.2; NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] Exercise National Week XIV; her firing of a missile with a warhead; a visit to Izmir, Turkey; and special warfare operations at Souda Bay, Crete.

The gunboat’s service in 1973 was much like that which she had performed during her last three months of 1972. Highlights during the first six months were: an amphibious exercise at the Monte Romano Training Anchorage (24-29 January) and a visit to Monaco during the following week; a National Week XV exercise (19-24 February); towing ITASS sonic test device late in February; an amphibious exercise at Portoscuso, Sardinia, and a visit to Bizerte, Tunisia, in April; a missile tracking exercise at Souda Bay at the end of May, NATO Exercise Dawn Patrol 73 in June; and bilateral operations with Greek fast patrol boats which continued from 21 July to 10 August. During the latter half of the year, she took part in international Operation Zeus in the vicinity of Thasos Island, Greece (21-29 August) and NATO Exercise Deep Furrow 73 from 20 to 30 September, before firing a missile off Crete on 1 October. This shot scored a direct hit on a Mk. 35 SEPTAR target boat and was the first successful firing in the Mediterranean of the telemetered Standard surface-to-surface missile system.

The ship visited Barcelona, Spain, in mid-January 1974; took part in amphibious exercises at Gythion, Greece (3-10 February); and participated in Exercise National Week XVI (13-21 February). Next, she devoted more than four months to an overhaul in a private shipyard at Naples.

A short visit to Souda Bay, Crete; surveillance operations in the western Mediterranean; and visits to Malaga, Spain, took up most of July 1974. Then, after a stop at the Spanish island of Majorca in the Balearics from 29 July to 1 August, she remained at Naples (4-20 August) and then returned to Spain for visits to Cartagena and Malaga before putting to sea on 31 August for a fortnight of surveillance operations in the western Mediterranean, then took part in Exercise Flintlock 74 out of Venice (3-17 October). Antelope next returned to Naples and remained there until getting underway early in February 1975 for missile exercises. Thereafter, during more than two years, her operations spanned the Mediterranean from east to west and from southern Europe to the shores of North Africa. She left the “Middle Sea” in August 1975 for a brief visit to Casablanca, Morocco.

Her subsequent missions during this latter part of her service with the Sixth Fleet were like those she had already performed. She visited many of the same ports; took part in similar exercises, and underwent another overhaul at Naples (10 January-7 May 1976). On 1 April 1977, she was reassigned to Nisida Island as her home port.

Her deployment to European waters ended on the last day of July 1977, and she departed Rota for home. Following stops in the Azores and at Bermuda, she reached Little Creek on 21 August and was decommissioned at Pier 11, U.S. Naval Amphibious Base, on 1 October 1977 along with her sister ships Ready, Grand Rapids (PG-98) and Douglas (PG-100). She was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register the same day [1 October 1977].

Transferred to the Environmental Protection Agency on 17 January 1978, which retained her name, Antelope was placed in service on Lake Michigan as a survey vessel to gather data to determine the impact of waste disposal upon the Great Lakes. She was renamed Peter W. Anderson in 1985 and served into 2001 as an ocean survey vessel.

James L. Mooney, updated, Robert J. Cressman

24 August 2020

Published: Fri Sep 10 15:53:49 EDT 2021