Tuesday, August 11, 2009

USS Pampanga (PG-39)

Figure 1: USS Pampanga (PG-39), date and place unknown. Courtesy Robert M. Cieri. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 2: Olongapo Naval Station, Philippines, with a view of the waterfront, circa 1914-1916. Ships present are (from left to right): USS Monadnock (Monitor # 3), USS Monterey (Monitor # 6), USS Bainbridge (Destroyer # 1), USS Decatur (Destroyer # 5), USS Pampanga (1899-1928), and USS Piscataqua (1898-1931). From the collection of C.A. Shively, 1978. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 3: Radioman First Class Henry J. Poy, USN, "riding high" in a rickshaw at Canton, China, while serving on USS Pampanga (PG-39), 1924. Collection of Henry J. Poy. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Pampanga was a 243-ton schooner-rigged iron gunboat that was built for the Spanish Navy by the Manila Slip Company at Cavite, the Philippines, and was captured during the Spanish-American War by the US Army at Manila Bay in June 1898. She was commissioned into US service as the USS Pampanga (Gunboat No. 39) on 18 June 1899, but officially was handed over to the US Navy at the Cavite Navy Yard on 9 November 1899 after being overhauled and refurbished. The ship was approximately 121 feet long and 17 feet wide, had a top speed of 10 knots, and had a crew of 30 officers and men. Pampanga was armed with one 6-pounder gun and three 3-pounders.

Pampanga supported the US Army in suppressing the Philippine insurrection by patrolling Lingayen Gulf, Luzon, transporting troops and supplies, blockading rebel towns, and bombarding rebel forces on shore. She continued assisting the US Army after being moved to Cebu in mid-1900 and then to the island of Samar in 1901. Pampanga returned to Cavite and was decommissioned on 18 June 1902, but was re-commissioned on 30 January 1904. The gunboat remained based at Cavite until 1906 and then was ordered to patrol the waters off Zamboanga, the Philippines, and Borneo. She returned to Cavite to be decommissioned once again on 30 April 1907.

On 31 December 1908, Pampanga was loaned to the US Army as a patrol boat and ferry boat, transporting people and supplies from Corregidor Island in Manila Bay to various points on the island of Luzon that surrounded Manila Bay, most notably the major port of Cavite. The ship was given back to the US Navy on 11 November 1910 and Pampanga was re-commissioned on 12 April 1911. Pampanga was sent to patrol the southern Philippines and on 24 September she was steaming off the coast of Semut, Basilan Island. A small detachment from the gunboat under the command of Ensign Charles E. Hovey was ordered to take some supplies to the US Army camp on Tabla Island. While moving towards the Army camp, the small landing party was attacked by hostile natives and Ensign Hovey was killed. Three of his men also were injured. US Army troops retaliated by attacking the natives and killing the assailants. Pampanga remained in the southern Philippines until being decommissioned at Olongapo on 31 May 1915.

Pampanga was transferred to Hong Kong and was re-commissioned there on 3 January 1916. She was assigned to the US Asiatic Fleet and was attached to the South China Patrol station. On 17 July 1920, Pampanga was re-designated PG-39. As with most American gunboats, she was given the task of protecting American lives and property and steamed in the West River to Canton and beyond. This was especially dangerous duty during the turbulent 1920s, when China was plagued by political unrest and Civil War. Pampanga made many trips to Hong Kong, Swatow, and other ports along the Chinese coast. Pampanga remained in this area until she was decommissioned at Hong Kong for the last time on 6 November 1928. USS Pampanga was sunk as a target ship off the coast of China on 21 November 1928.