Tuesday, December 28, 2010

USS Lorain (PF-93)

Figure 1: USS Lorain (PF-93) under construction at the American Shipbuilding Company, Lorain, Ohio, 1944. Courtesy the Historical Collections of the Great Lakes. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 2: Launching of USS Lorain (PF-93) at the American Shipbuilding Company, Lorain, Ohio, on 18 March 1944. Courtesy Russ Hartley. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 3: USS Lorain (PF-93) leaving Lorain, Ohio, in 1945. Courtesy Murray Thompson. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 4: USS Covington (PF-56), left, and USS Lorain (PF-93), right, docked at New York City in 1946. The original photograph is dated 11 May 1946, when the ships were on loan to the US Coast Guard. Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1974. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Named after a city and county in northern Ohio, USS Lorain (PF-93) was a 1,430-ton Tacoma class patrol frigate that was built by the American Shipbuilding Company at Lorain, Ohio, and was commissioned at Baltimore, Maryland, on 15 January 1945. The ship was approximately 303 feet long and 37 feet wide, had a top speed of 20 knots, and had a crew of 176 officers and men, all of whom were members of the United States Coast Guard. Lorain was heavily armed for anti-submarine warfare, with three 3-inch guns, two twin 40-mm guns, nine 20-mm guns, one Hedgehog anti-submarine spigot mortar, eight depth-charge projectors, and two depth-charge tracks.

Lorain left Baltimore on 28 January 1945 and completed her shakedown training off Norfolk, Virginia, and Bermuda. The ship then headed north for additional training to Casco Bay, Maine. On 11 April, Lorain steamed to Argentia, Newfoundland, and used that location as a base for weather patrols in the north Atlantic. While serving as a weather ship, Lorain travelled to Reykjavik, Iceland, and also patrolled the waters off Greenland and the Azores.

Lorain returned to the United States and arrived at Boston, Massachusetts, on 14 September 1945. She conducted weather patrols off New England until late October and on 2 December headed south for duty in the Caribbean. An escort assignment took her to Brazil in early 1946 and, after two weather patrols east of Bermuda, she returned to Boston on 7 March 1946. Lorain was decommissioned at Boston on 14 March 1946.

The ship then was sold as World War II surplus to the French Navy on 26 March 1947 and was commissioned into the French Navy on that same day. Renamed La Place (F-13), the ship was disarmed a year later and served as a weather observation ship in the north Atlantic. Shortly after midnight on 16 September 1950, La Place reached St. Malo, France, and decided to anchor offshore before entering the port the next morning. But a recent storm had disconnected a magnetic sea mine that was left over from World War II and had been tethered to the ocean floor. The mine evidently floated to the surface and struck the ship, causing a huge explosion. La Place sank almost immediately and only 42 of her crew of 75 men were rescued from the icy waters after the ship went down. In one of the stranger twists of fate, a ship that was originally built to serve in World War II was actually sunk by a mine that was laid during the war, even though the ship went down on 16 September 1950, more than five years after the end of World War II.