Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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Plymouth IV (PG-57)

(PG-–57: displacement 1,500 tons; length 264’5”; beam 46’2”; draft 19’0”; speed 15 knots; complement 155; armament 1 4-inch gun, 4 3-inch guns)

A town in Massachussetts on Plymouth Bay, 18 miles southeast of Brockton; founded by the Pilgrims in 1620.


The fourth Plymouth, built in 1931 by the Krupp Germania-Werft, Kiel, Germany, as Alva was given to the Navy, 4 November 1941, by her owner, W. K. Vanderbilt, New York, N.Y.; and was placed in reduced commission at Jacksonville, Fla., 29 December 1941, Comdr. F. W. Schmidt in command.

She departed Jacksonville, 31 December, for the Navy Yard, Washington, D.C., arriving 4 January 1942. She sailed 21 January and the next day entered the Norfolk Navy Yard. On 23 January, she was placed in commission in ordinary for conversion to a patrol gunboat. She was placed in full cornmission 20 April and assigned to Inshore Patrol Squadron, 5th Naval District, based at Norfolk. On 8 May she departed Norfolk, forming part of the escort for a convoy en route to Key West, Fla. She was on continuous escort duty between New York, Norfolk, and Key West until 27 August 1942, when she steamed from New York as convoy escort for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, returning as escort for another convoy 12 September. She made two more convoy escort voyages to Guantanamo Bay and return to New York between 17 September and 24 October 1942. She then resumed escort duty between New York and Key West. During one period of this duty, 24 December 1942 to 13 June 1943, Plymouth completed 8 convoy escort voyages from New York to Key West and back.

On her last voyage, Plymouth departed New York 4 August 1943 as part of the escort for a convoy bound for Key West. She made underwater sound contact about 90 miles east of Elizabeth City, N.C., on the following evening. As she swung left, to bear on the target, a violent underwater explosion occurred just abaft the bridge. The force of the explosion rolled Plymouth to starboard. She then took on a heavy list to port with her entire port side forward of amidships in flames. She sank within two minutes.

Lt. Ormsby M. Mitchel, Jr., USNR, in command of Plymouth, was thrown violently against a bulkhead and sustained serious injuries, which later required amputation of his left leg. Despite his own condition, he directed abandon ship operations, remaining at his post until the ship went down. Rescued from a raft by Coast Guard cutter Calypso (WPC-104), Lt. Mitchel was awarded the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism. Overall, rescue operations by Calypso and tug HMFT-22 were hampered by heavy seas and sharks and only 85 of the crew survived to be taken to Norfolk on 6 August.

01 August 2005

Published: Fri Aug 21 09:56:27 EDT 2015