During the U.S. mobilization prior to the Second World War the need for anti-submarine escorts to counter the German U-boat threat was dire. The U.S. Navy responded with two small combatant designs which were inexpensive to construct and man, making them capable of being constructed and deployed rapidly and in great numbers. In the Fleet these were known by their overall lengths, the 110 foot and 173 foot Subchasers. To reduce confusion, the 173 foot subchasers were classified as Patrol Craft. This is a fine shot of USS PC-546 underway off the U.S. East Coast in 1942, one of a series.
The PC-461 class was designed as a convoy escort with specified speed of 22 knots, 10 knots above the typical convoy speed of 12 knots. They were 173’ 8” (53 meters) in length, displaced 450 tons, and were powered by two 1,440 hp diesel engines. In service they were good for approximately 20 knots. Here is PC-546 again, the radar atop her superstructure is an SC-1 surface search set which was not fitted to all units of the class.
A fine shot of interest to modelers as PC-546’s whaleboat approaches from astern. This shows off details of the welded steel hull and depth charge racks. Note the uneven application of her black boot topping, which has already worn through to the primer in some areas.
The whaleboat being recovered showing details of the boom and rigging. This photograph affords a fine view of details of the deck supports for the boat which is generally hidden from view. Her boat has received the same camouflage as the ship.
PC-551 underway in a channel. The ships were fitted with a false stack, the diesel exhaust was actually routed out through the hull sides, clearly visible here. (LIFE Magazine photograph)
PC-551 again, underway off the coast. The large group of khaki-clad officers in her superstructure suggests a short familiarization voyage to give shiphandling experience to trainees.
A fine view aft from the crow’s nest aboard PC-556 showing many useful details. The early-built PC’s carried two 3”/50 guns, one forward on the fo’c’sle and one aft as seen here. The aft 3” gun was replaced by a 40mm Bofers on many later-built units due to a shortage and this change was made permanent.
Here is PC-556’s forward 3”/50, manned and ready. The 3” gun was a dual-purpose weapon and was capable of engaging both surface targets and aircraft. With a trained crew it was able to fire up to twenty rounds per minute, and was the smallest gun capable of firing rounds equipped with the Variable-Time radio proximity fuse which increased the gun’s effectiveness against aircraft several times over.
PC-620 moored alongside showing the fine lines and low silhouette of the class. These ships were rather easy to build and man, freeing up larger Destroyer types for more demanding work in more restrictive environments. A total of 343 were built. The U.S. Navy has no analogous small combatant today, although such a type is sorely needed.
A nice stern view of PC-620. Visible are the two roll-off depth charge racks each with seven depth charges. Forward of these the class carried either two or four K-guns for projecting depth charges off the beam, each with four charges. On the fo’c’sle forward of the gun they carried “mousetrap” racks for projecting Hedgehog projectiles forward. A very credible ASW vessel for such a small hull, and still versatile enough to perform a wide variety of additional missions.
Many interesting details of PC-620 are visible here, compare this photograph to the similar view of PC-556. A clothesline is rigged from the boat handling boom as the crew goes about their in port duties.
A nice shot of PC-466 in coastal waters showing details of her camouflage. Just visible aft of the mast is a 20mm Oerlikon gun mount, the PC’s could carry up to five of these in single mounts, later changed to four twin mounts on a few vessels.