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USS Erie (PG-50)
USS Erie
Erie in 1940
Career (USA)
Name: Erie
Namesake: Lake Erie
Builder: New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, New York
Launched: 29 January 1936
Commissioned: 1 July 1936
Fate: Torpedoed and beached on 12 November 1942; capsized during attempted salvage, 5 December
General characteristics [1]
Type: Patrol gunboat
Displacement: 2,000 long tons (2,000 t) (standard)
2,715 long tons (2,759 t) (full load)
Length: 328 ft 6 in (100.13 m) o/a
308 ft (94 m) p.p.
Beam: 41 ft 3 in (12.57 m)
Draft: 14 ft 10 in (4.52 m) (full load)
Installed power: 6,200 shp (4,600 kW)
Propulsion: 2 × Parsons geared single redution steam turbines
2 × Babcock & Wilson boilers
2 × shafts
Speed: 20 kn (23 mph; 37 km/h)
Complement: 243
Armament: 4 × 6 in (150 mm)/47 cal guns
16 × 1.1 in (28 mm)/75 cal anti-aircraft guns (4x4)
Armor: Belt: 1 in (2.5 cm)
Deck: 1.25 in (3.2 cm)
Conning Tower: 3 in (7.6 cm)
Gunshields: 1 in (2.5 cm)
Aircraft carried: 1 × floatplane

USS Erie (PG-50) was the lead ship in a class of two United States Navy patrol gunboats. Launched and commissioned in 1936, she operated in the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea until torpedoed and fatally damaged by a German submarine in 1942.[2][3]


Erie spent November and December 1936 on her shakedown cruise protecting American interests and citizens during the Spanish Civil War. For most of 1937 she trained midshipmen, operating out of United States Naval Academy in Annapolis. On 3 February 1938 she became flagship of the Special Service Squadron which operated along the coasts of Central and South America. Her duties included training, neutrality patrol, and guard ship for the Panama Canal.[2]

On 21 January 1939, Erie participated in search-and-rescue efforts related to the ditching and sinking of the Imperial Airways Short Empire flying boat Cavalier in the Atlantic Ocean. She transferred a doctor to the commercial tanker Esso Baytown, which rescued the airliner's 10 survivors, but because of the high seas and darkness had to discontinue the search for the other three people who had been aboard Cavalier.[4]

World War II

At the outbreak of World War II Erie was stationed Balboa, Panama, at the Pacific end of the Panama Canal. On 13 December 1941, Erie picked up 50 Japanese internees at Puntarenas from the Costa Rican government.[5] On 14 December, Erie boarded MV Sea Ray and removed a Japanese on board, and ordered Sea Ray into Balboa the next day.[5] On 16 December, she boarded MV Santa Margarita and ordered her to Puntarenas, and later the same day, towed a disabled motor boat, Orion, into the same port.[5]

In June 1942, 'Erie was transferred to Cristobal, at the Atlantic end of the Canal, and joined the Battle of the Caribbean against German U-boats operating between Panama and Cuba.

On 12 November while leading convoy TAG-20 between Trinidad and Guantanamo Bay, Erie was struck by one of three torpedoes fired by U-163. She was badly damaged, and had 7 crew killed and 11 wounded. She was beached to prevent her sinking, and burned for days.


A few weeka later, Erie was raised and towed to the inner harbor of Willemstad. On 5 December, during further preparations for salvage, Erie capsized. The wreck was left in place until 1952, when it was partially raised, towed out to sea, and sunk in deep water.


  1. Lenton 1974, pp. 3–4
  2. 2.0 2.1 "USN Erie". Dictionary of American Naval fighting ships. United States Navy. Retrieved 12 December 2012. 
  3. "NavSource Erie". Service Ship Photo Archive. NavSource Naval History. Retrieved 12 December 2012. 
  4. "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". 23 January 1939. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Cressman, Robert (2000). "Chapter III: 1941". The official chronology of the U.S. Navy in World War II. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1-55750-149-3. OCLC 41977179. Retrieved 18 December 2007. 
  • Lenton, H.T. (1974). World War 2 Fact Files: American Gunboats and Minesweepers. London: Macdonald and Jane's. ISBN 0-356-08064-1. 

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