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Whitehall II (PCER-856)

(PCER-856: dp. 850 (tl.); l. 184'6"; b. 33'1"; dr. 9'5"; s. 15.7 k. (tl.); cpl. 99; a. 1 3", 6 40mm., 4 dcp., 1 dcp. (hh.), 2 dct.; cl. PCER-848)


A town in Washington County, N.Y., at the southern end of Lake Champlain. Whitehall has been called the birthplace of the United States Navy since that was where Benedict Arnold constructed 16 small ships in 1776 to prevent a British fleet from invading American territory down the Lake Champlain-Hudson River corridor. The American ships were defeated on 11 October 1776 at the Battle of Valcour Island, but they delayed the British advance and then won a great strategic victory by enabling the Americans to have another year in which to strengthen their forces in the area. Thus, a year later, the Americans defeated the British at Saratoga in the pivotal battle of the War for Independence.


The second Whitehall was laid down on 17 December 1943 at Chicago, Ill., by the Pullman Standard Car Manufacturing Co. as PCER-856; launched on 21 April 1944; sponsored by Miss Mary B. Visznecki; and commissioned on 11 November 1944, Lt. Maynard L. Berry, USNR, in command.

PCER-856 remained at Chicago until early December, first for an availability and later to participate in a war bond drive. On 7 December, she departed Chicago and headed for New Orleans by way of the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. Arriving at her destination on 18 December, she remained there almost two months undergoing repairs to her shaft struts, damaged during the trip from Chicago. At the conclusion of repairs, she got underway for Miami, Fla., whence she completed shakedown training between 17 February and 8 March 1945. After 11 days of repairs and modifications at the Miami Shipyard, the ship headed north to Norfolk, Va., from which port she conducted special trials in Chesapeake Bay for the Bureau of Ships. She departed Norfolk on 2 April and arrived in Key West, Fla., on the 6th. After a brief period of antisubmarine warfare (ASW) training at the Fleet Sound School, PCER-856 headed for the Canal Zons on 11 April. She transited the canal on the 17th and shaped a course for Hawaii. During that voyage, she made two hedgehog runs on an underwater sound contact later evaluated as non-submarine.

The warship arrived in Pearl Harbor on 5 May but remained only 14 days for repairs before continuing on to the western Pacific. She departed Oahu on 19 May, made stops at Eniwetok, Guam, and Ulithi, and arrived off Okinawa on 18 June. At Okinawa, the ship drew duty with the antisubmarine patrol protecting the auxiliaries in Hagushi anchorage. Additional assignments consisted of escort missions between the several anchorages around the island and the evacuation of battle casualties. On 25 and 26 June, PCER-856 participated in the unopposed occupation of one of Okinawa's many islets, Kume Shima. She remained at Okinawa for another month after that operation, getting underway for the Philippines on 25 July. She arrived at Leyte on the 30th and began a month of repairs. Halfway through the availability period, she received word that hostilities had ceased, and she joined the other ships at Leyte in one of the most spectacular pyrotechnic displays ever made, in celebration of the war's end. The warship completed repairs early in September and returned to Okinawa on the 9th. On the 13th, she ran aground but 90 minutes later backed off under her own power. Damage proved minimal, she lost only her underwater sound projector. She remained at Okinawa for about a month, safely riding out four typhoons in the process.

On 15 October, PCER-856 departed the Ryukyus to return to the United States. Further problems with her shaft struts forced her into port at Midway Island where she entered drydock for temporary repairs. She finally reached Pearl Harbor on 6 November but stayed only two days before continuing on to San Diego. Her stay at San Diego, from 18 to 28 November, brought more repairs in preparation for her voyage to Key West. On the 28th, she departed San Diego and, 17 days later, arrived in Key West. There, she completed her inactivation overhaul. On 20 February 1946, she departed Key West and headed north for Norfolk, where she arrived three days later. PCER-856 remained at Norfolk, inactive, for the next eight months. During that time, on 26 June 1946, she was placed out of commission, in reserve. Though not in commission, she returned to active service that fall as a part of the Naval Reserve training program. Early in November, she moved to Philadelphia where she came under the control of the Commandant, 4th Naval District.

For the remainder of her Navy career, PCER-856 served in the reserve training program. From November 1946 to April 1960, she was based at Philadelphia and operated along the east coast. She was returned to commissioned status on 18 November 1950 though she remained a Naval Reserve training ship. On 15 February 1956, she was named Whitehall. The ship changed home ports in April 1960, leaving Philadelphia late in the month and arriving in Cleveland, Ohio, on 6 May. During the remaining decade of her career, Whitehall annually made between eight and twelve fortnight cruises on the Great Lakes and numerous weekend cruises for the purpose of training reservists. During those cruises, she visited all the major ports on the lakes, both American and Canadian. On 15 March 1962, she was ^designated PCE-856. In April 1970, a board of inspection and survey found her to be unfit for further naval service. On 9 May, she departed Cleveland for the last time. After transiting the St. Lawrence Seaway and stopping at Montreal and Halifax, she arrived in Philadelphia on 20 May. Whitehall (PCE-856) was decommissioned at Philadelphia on 1 July 1970, and her name was simultaneously struck from the Navy list. On 17 May 1973, she was sold to the R. W. Denny Corp., of Montvale, N.J., for scrapping.

Whitehall earned one battle star for World War II service as PCER-856.

Published: Mon Nov 02 07:59:40 EST 2015