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USCGC Absecon (WAVP-374)
USCGC Absecon (WAVP-374)
USCGC Absecon (WHEC-374, ex-WAVP-374) on 27 December 1969
Career (United States)
Name: USCGC Absecon
Namesake: Absecon Inlet, on the coast of New Jersey (previous name retained)
Builder: Lake Washington Shipyard, Houghton, Washington
Laid down: 23 July 1941
Launched: 8 March 1942
Completed: January 1943
Acquired: Loaned by United States Navy to Coast Guard 5 January 1949
Transferred permanently from Navy to Coast Guard 26 September 1966
Commissioned: May 1949
Decommissioned: 9 May 1972
Reclassified: High endurance cutter, WHEC-374, 1 May 1966
Fate: Returned to U.S. Navy 9 May 1972
Transferred to South Vietnam 15 June 1972
Captured by Socialist Republic of Vietnam May 1975
Notes: Served as United States Navy catapult training ship USS Absecon (AVP-23) 1943-1947
Served as South Vietnamese patrol vessel RVNS Pham Ngu Lao (HQ-15) 1972–1975
Has served as Vietnamese People's Navy patrol vessel PRVSN Pham Ngu Lao (HQ-01) since 1975
General characteristics
Class & type: Casco-class cutter
Displacement: 2,610 tons (full load) in 1970
Length: 311 ft 7 in (94.97 m) overall; 299 ft 11 in (91.41 m) between perpendiculars
Beam: 41 ft 0.75 in (12.5159 m) maximum
Draft: 13 ft 1 in (3.99 m) maximum in 1964
Installed power: 6,080 bhp (4,530 kW)
Propulsion: Fairbanks-Morse geared diesel engines, two shafts; 166,430 US gallons (630,000 L) of fuel
Speed: 17.3 knots (32.0 km/h) (maximum sustained in 1966)
10.0 knots (18.5 km/h) (economic)
Range: 10,138 nautical miles (18,776 km) at 17.3 knots (32.0 km/h) in 1966
20,000 nautical miles (37,000 km) at 10.0 knots (18.5 km/h) in 1966
Complement: 151 (10 officers, 3 warrant officers, 138 enlisted personnel) in 1964
Sensors and
processing systems:
Radars in 1964: SPS-23, SPS-29B
Sonar in 1964: SQS-1
Armament: In 1970: one single 5-inch (127 mm) 38-caliber gun, 1 x Mark 52.3 director, 1 x Mark 26-4 fire-control radar, 6 x .50-caliber (12.7-millimeter) machine guns
All antisubmarine weapons (previously 1 x Mark 10 Mod 0 antisubmarine projector, 2 x Mark 32 Mod 2 torpedo tubes) had been removed by 1970

USCGC Absecon (WAVP-374), later WHEC-374, was a Casco-class United States Coast Guard Cutter in service from 1949 to 1972.

Construction and U.S. Navy service

Absecon began life as the United States Navy Barnegat-class catapult training ship USS Absecon (AVP-23). She was laid down on 23 July 1941 by Lake Washington Shipyard at Houghton, Washington as a Barnegat-class seaplane tender, but was converted during construction for use in catapult training. She was launched on 8 March 1942 and commissioned into the U.S. Navy on 28 January 1943. She spent her Navy career in Florida waters training battleship and cruiser floatplane pilots, as well as serving as a mobile target for Navy torpedo planes using exercise torpedoes. She was decommissioned on 19 March 1947 and placed in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet at Orange, Texas.

Transferred to the United States Coast Guard

Barnegat-class ships were very reliable and seaworthy and had good habitability, and the Coast Guard viewed them as ideal for ocean station duty, in which they would perform weather reporting and search and rescue tasks, once they were modified by having a balloon shelter added aft and having oceanographic equipment, an oceanographic winch, and a hydrographic winch installed.

The Navy loaned Absecon to the Coast Guard on 4 January 1949. After she underwent conversion for service as a weather reporting ship, the Coast Guard commissioned her as USCGC Absecon (WAVP-374) in May 1949.

U.S. Coast Guard service

Absecon was stationed at Norfolk, Virginia, throughout her Coast Guard career. Her primary duty was to serve on ocean stations in the Atlantic Ocean to gather meteorological data. While on duty in one of these stations, she was required to patrol a 210-square-mile (544-square-kilometer) area for three weeks at a time, leaving the area only when physically relieved by another Coast Guard cutter or in the case of a dire emergency. While on station, she acted as an aircraft check point at the point of no return, a relay point for messages from ships and aircraft, as a source of the latest weather information for passing aircraft, as a floating oceanographic laboratory, and as a search-and-rescue ship for downed aircraft and vessels in distress, and engaged in law enforcement operations.

During the 1950s, Absecon frequently visited Naval Station Argentia, Newfoundland, and Bermuda, between stints on patrol on the high seas in the north and central $3 and periods of regular upkeep at Norfolk. On 5 March 1955, Absecon provided medical assistance to a cadet aboard the Swedish training schooner HMS Falken en route to Bermuda.

On 21 September 1957, Absecon, on her ocean station in the central Atlantic, picked up a distress call from the West German four-masted steel-hulled bark Pamir. The square rigger, homeward bound from Buenos Aires, Argentina,[1] with a cargo of barley and with 86 men[2] (52 teen-aged cadets among them) on board, had run into Hurricane Carrie and been battered severely by the vicious storm, ultimately sinking. Absecon altered course immediately and stood toward Pamir's last position. Arriving on the scene on 22 September 1957, Absecon immediately began sweeping the stormy sea for signs of life, aided by Portuguese Air Force and United States Air Force planes from the Azores and U.S. Navy planes from Bermuda. Sixty ships,[3] representing 13 nations, searched for survivors for one week, with Absecon coordinating their efforts. Ultimately, six survivors—four crewman and two cadets—were recovered; the American merchant ship Saxon rescued five men on 24 September 1957, three days after Pamir had sunk, while Absecon found Pamir's last survivor, 22-year-old Günter Haselbach,[4] on 25 September 1957. The other 80 men and boys had perished.

In 1958, Absecon made a cruise to Europe, visiting Hamburg, West Germany; Amsterdam, the Netherlands; Dublin, Ireland; and Lisbon, Portugal, before returning, via Bermuda, to the United States East Coast.

In 1960 and again in 1962, Absecon participated in a Coast Guard cadet practice cruise to Canada, Europe, and Bermuda. She was damaged by heavy seas on 7 March 1962 while putting to sea from Norfolk to assist merchant ships during a storm.

On 13 September 1963, Absecon rescued the third engineer of the West German merchant ship Freiberg midway between Bermuda and the Azores after he had fallen overboard and remained in the water for 17 hours.

From 20 July 1963 through 23 July 1963, Absecon stood by the disabled merchant ship Seven Seas in the mid-Atlantic and escorted the ship to St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada.

In February 1966, Absecon stood by the disabled British merchant ship Parthia while waiting for a commercial tug.

Absecon was reclassified as a high endurance cutter and redesignated WHEC-374 on 1 May 1966.

On 13 November 1969, Absecon evacuated a crewman of the merchant ship Morgenstern in need of medical assistance while Morgentsern was in the mid-Atlantic.

In late 1971, while battling 30 foot + seas on Ocean Station Charlie in the North Atlantic, Absecon was hammered by a 50 ft (estimated) rogue wave that tilted her sideways 32.5 degrees, .5 degrees short of her roll over point.

Early in 1972, Absecon was called to SAR (search and rescue) action while on Ocean Station Bravo when a Navy pilot went down while on a training mission off the Virginia coast. Only a life jacket was recovered from the ocean and the wreckage and pilot were never located.

Decommissioning and transfer to South Vietnam

In April 1972, Absecon and two of her sister ships, Coast Guard cutters USCGC Chincoteague (WHEC-375) and USCGC McCulloch (WHEC-386), were deployed as Coast Guard Squadron Two, with crews composed mainly of members of the United States Coast Guard Reserve. They were originally scheduled to sail to Subic Bay in the Philippine Islands, but were diverted to the U.S. Navy base at Apra Harbor, Guam. Eventually the three cutters were decommissioned, transferred to the U.S. Navy, and then transferred to South Vietnam.

The Coast Guard decommissioned Absecon on 9 May 1972 and returned her to the U.S. Navy the same day. She was struck from the Naval Register.

Foreign service

Republic of Vietnam Navy service

Absecon was transferred to South Vietnam on 15 July 1972 . She was commissioned 'into the Republic of Vietnam Navy as patrol vessel RVNS Pham Ngu Lao (HQ-15).

Vietnamese People's Navy service

South Vietnam collapsed in late April 1975, bringing the Vietnam War to an end. In May 1975, North Vietnam seized Pham Ngu Lao. The ship was commissioned into the Vietnamese People's Navy, the navy of the now-unified Socialist Republic of Vietnam, as PRVSN Pham Ngu Lao (HQ-01). The secretive policies of the Vietnam People's Navy make Pham Ngu Lao's status difficult to determine. She may have remained active until as recently as 2000, although she is thought to have been decommissioned since then. Her current status is unknown.[5]

See also


  1. Per the Coast Guard Historian Office's history of USCGC Absecon (at she was outbound from Naval Station Argentia, Newfoundland, but this seems to be a confusion of "Argentia" with "Argentina."
  2. Per Coast Guard Historian Office's history of USCGC Absecon (at she had 87 aboard, but this may mistakenly include a cadet left behind in Buenos Aires for medical treatment.
  3. Per the Coast Guard Historian Office's history of USCGC Absecon at
  4. Also rendered as "Gunter Hasselbach" and "Gunter Hasselback"
  5. See the annual editions of Jane's Fighting Ships since 1976 to track the assessment of the status of PRVSN Pham Ngu Lao (HQ-01) in the Vietnamese People's Navy.


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