Tuesday, August 18, 2009

USS Samar (PG-41)

Figure 1: USS Samar (PG-41) anchored in Chinese waters, circa 1913-14. Note the awnings still in use, the trim paint job and the ship "dressed up and over" with flags. Naval Historical Center Photograph NH 91362. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 2: USS Samar (PG-41) moored in the Dagupan River, Luzon, Philippines, circa 1899-1900. Note the tropical awnings for protection against sun and rain (especially as the crew often slept on deck owing to the heat), laundry hanging out to dry, and the fishing village in the background. A sign of her rough service is the poor state of the funnel and hull, both in need of painting. Naval Historical Center Photograph NH 44046. Click on photograph for larger image.

Samar was a 243-ton iron gunboat built for the Spanish Navy by the Manila Slip Company at Canacao, the Philippines, and captured during the Spanish-American War by the US Army. Samar was handed over to the US Navy on 9 November 1898 at Zamboanga. The ship was sent to Manila on 13 April 1899 and was commissioned there on 26 May 1899 as USS Samar (Gunboat No. 41). The ship was approximately 121 feet long and 17 feet wide, had a top speed of 10.5 knots, and had a crew of 28 officers and men. Samar was armed with one 3-pounder gun and two 1-pounders.

Samar initially was assigned to assist the US Army in suppressing the Philippine insurrection. She patrolled off the coasts of Negros and Panay in the Philippines and in November 1899 the gunboat escorted an Army Expeditionary Brigade under Brigadier General Lloyd Wheaton to San Fabian in Lingayan Gulf. Samar provided gunfire support to the Army by bombarding insurgent entrenchments on the landing beaches at San Fabian. Samar then steamed to Vigan in northwestern Luzon, where she transported Army troops and was used to maintain communications throughout the region. Samar eventually went to the Cavite Naval Station for an overhaul and then sailed south to Zamboanga in southwestern Mindanao. After patrolling the area for several months from Cebu in the north to the Jolo island group in the south, Samar returned to Cavite and was decommissioned on 23 September 1901.

Re-commissioned on 19 June 1902, Samar steamed south again to Zamboanga where she assisted the US Marines and Army in suppressing the Moro rebellions in the southern Philippines. Samar returned to Cavite in December and participated in fleet maneuvers with the Southern Squadron of the Asiatic Fleet in January 1903. Samar went on to participate in hydrographic surveys off southern Mindanao and supported Army operations at Simpetan. The gunboat returned to Cavite and once again was decommissioned there on 22 August 1904.

Re-commissioned on 11 March 1908, Samar was assigned to the Pacific Fleet’s Third Squadron which was given the task of patrolling the Yangtze River and the Chinese coast near Canton. The gunboat’s primary mission was to protect American lives and property, especially American missionaries and businessmen who were living along China’s coast and near her major rivers. Samar arrived at Hong Kong on 18 April and began patrolling the Chu-Kiang delta between Hong Kong, Macau, and Canton. She also steamed up the Si-Kiang River to Wuchow and then moved north along the Chinese coast to Swatow and Amoy.

Towards the end of 1909, Samar was based at Shanghai, where she patrolled the lower Yangtze River up to Nanking and Wuhu. After anti-foreign riots erupted in Changsha in April 1910 (which resulted in a number of missions and merchant warehouses being destroyed), Samar steamed up the Yangtze River to Hankow and then Changsha to show the flag, help restore order, and rescue any Americans in need of assistance. Samar returned to Shanghai in August and went up the Yangtze River again the following summer, visiting Wuhu in June 1911 but then running hard aground of Kichau on 1 July. The ship was stuck in the Chinese mud for two weeks before breaking free and sailing back down river. Samar returned upriver and visited Hankow in August and Ichang in September. She remained in Ichang that winter, partially because of the low water levels in the Yangtze during the dry season (which made navigating the river extremely difficult), but also because of a rebellion that took place in Wuchang in October 1911 which threatened the entire area. After tensions gradually eased, Samar returned down river in July 1912 and eventually reached Shanghai in October. Samar patrolled the lower Yangtze River after violence broke out there in the summer of 1913, when rival Chinese warlords began fighting each other. After another trip up river to Hankow in February 1914, Samar returned to Shanghai for an overhaul in March.

Samar was assigned to the China Station throughout World War I. Unfortunately, after Samar collided with a Yangtze River steamer in July 1919 (an accident that severely damaged her bow), the gunboat was placed on the disposal list at Shanghai. Although Samar was re-designated PG-41 on 17 July 1920, the gunboat never returned to active duty. USS Samar returned to Cavite where she was decommissioned for the last time on 6 September 1920 and then sold on 11 January 1921. Her final fate is unknown.

PLEASE NOTE: Due to vacation scheduling, next week's ship will be posted on August 26 instead of August 25. Thank You.