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Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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(PG-38: dp. 620; l. 165'6"; b. 26'; dr. 10'; s. 11 k.; cpl. 103; a. 4 4" r.f.)

Former name retained.

Elcano (PG-38) was built of iron in 1885 in Spain; captured during the Battle of Manila Bay 1 May 1898; transferred to the Navy 9 November 1899; outfitted for naval use at Cavite; and commissioned 20 November 1902, Lieutenant Commander A. G. Winterhalter in command. She was reclassified PG-38 on 17 July 1920.

Sailing from Manila 26 December 1902, Elcano with two other Spanish gunboats, Villalobos and Pompey inaugurated the Yangtze River Patrol. Based on Shanghai from February 1903, their mission was to protect American citizens and property, and promote friendly relations with the Chinese. On 20 October 1907, Elcano returned to Cavite and was placed out of commission 1 November 1907.

Recommissioned 5 December 1910, Elcano went back in March 1911 to the China Station, based at Amoy until World War I. Recalled to Manila in April 1917, she patrolled off Mariveles and Corregidor until the end of the war. Elcano returned to Shanghai 3 February 1920 to rejoin the Yangtze Patrol. Two days later, she made a short dash southwest to search for the ill-fated British tanker Brisbane. She inquired throughout the Chusan Archipelago, and found much of the Brisbane's oil in the natives' possession but no trace of the tanker, her 45 men or the captain's wife.

Elcano became well known during 8 more years of service in Chinese waters. In July 1921 she helped land Marines at Ichang and, as station ship, protected American lives and property there until September 1922. She continued to patrol from her base at Shanghai, obtaining information on political conditions, visiting ports where American citizens were located, and sending her officers ashore to confer with local officials and American consuls.

During the Chinese revolution in 1926 and 1927, Elcano's personnel required immense tact, patience and judgment in facing the turmoil of the times. She transported refugees from the interior and convoyed concentrations of those fleeing the lawlessness of the war-torn country. On 24 March 1927 a major clash occurred at Nanking where the American Consul General and others were besieged on Socony Hill where they had congregated for safety. Elcano joined in the barrage laid around the hill to prevent wholesale massacre.

In November 1927 Elcano was given new status as receiving ship at Shanghai for crews assembled for gunboats under construction. She was decommissioned 30 June 1928, and used as a target until sunk 4 October 1928.