USS PC-823

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PC-701 Pak Tu San.jpg
ROKS Baekdusan (PC-701) was pending in the harbor
Career (US)
Name: USS PC-823
Builder: Leathem D. Smith Shipbuilding Corp.
Laid down: 8 November 1943
Launched: 15 January 1944
Commissioned: 24 July 1944
Decommissioned: 11 February 1946
Struck: June 1948; transferred to United States Merchant Marine Academy
Renamed: Ensign Whitehead
Fate: Transferred to South Korea, September 1949
Career (ROKS)
Name: ROKS Baekdusan (PC-701)
Acquired: 17 October 1949
Decommissioned: 21 August 1960
General characteristics
Class and type: PC-461
Displacement: 280 tons
Length: 173 ft 8 in (52.93 m)
Beam: 23 ft 0 in (7.01 m)
Draft: 10 ft 10 in (3.30 m)
Speed: 20 knots
Complement: 65
Armament: 1 x 3", 1 x 40mm., 3 x 20mm., 2 x depth charge track, 4 x depth charge projector (K-guns), 2 x depth charge projector (Mousetrap).

USS PC-823 was laid down on 2 June 1943 at the Leathem D. Smith Shipbuilding Corp. in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin; launched on 15 January 1944; and commissioned on 24 July 1944.

PC-823 served in the western Atlantic Ocean during World War II, being assigned to air-sea rescue duties during at least some of that time. On 11 February 1946, PC-823 decommissioned and transferred to the United States Maritime Commission. She was transferred to the United States Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, New York on 18 May 1948, and renamed Ensign Whitehead as a training ship. Her name was struck from the Navy List in June 1948. In September 1949, she was transferred to the Republic of Korea Navy and renamed ROKS Baekdusan (PC-701). The mast of Baek-du-san (PC-701) remains in Korean Naval Academy.

South Korea[edit]

Baekdusan (PC-701) with South Korean flag painting on the side of the ship

On 11 November 1945, when the Republic of Korea Navy was established, ROKN had only LCVPs and light wooden patrol ships. The first Chief of Naval Operations of the ROKN, Admiral Son Won-il, emphasized the necessity to have a new naval ship replacing the deteriorated ships. However, South Korea was extremely poor immediately after independence from the Imperial Japan. Neither natural resources nor economic structures was available to support ROKN to afford a new ship. Therefore, ROKN decided to gather money by themselves, organizing ‘Vessel Construct Finance Committee’ in June 1949. From top executives to cadets, they paid 5%~10% of their salary, and some of the midshipmen sold steels and junks to make more money; wives helped to make money by doing laundry and sewing. After four months, ROKN gathered $15,000. However this amount of money was not enough at all to buy a new battleship. After hearing the efforts of ROKN, the South Korean government funded $45,000 more, totaling $60,000. On 17 October 1949, South Korea finally acquired USS PC-823 Ensign Whitehead which was a training ship of the United States Merchant Marine Academy. Fifteen naval officers spent two months in the U.S. to fix her. Her condition was so terrible the only thing worked was the engine. At last, on 26 December 1949 at New York, ROKN’s first naval battleship, Baek-du-san (PC-701) was born. Departed New York, PC-701 attached 3 inch main deck gun at the Hawaii Naval Station and purchased 100 shells at Guam. She finally entered back to at Jinhae Naval Base, South Korea, shortly before the June 1950 outbreak of the Korean War, on 10 April 1950. With the limits of 100 rounds, the only training the sailors could do was taking aim but not shooting.

On the night of 25/26 June 1950, on the South Korean eastern coast, she patrolled against infiltrators from the north. About twenty miles from the key port of Busan its crew sighted an unidentified ship. The PC-701 challenged by flashing light and, receiving no response, turned its searchlight on the intruder. The light revealed a 1,000 ton freighter with an estimated six hundred to one thousand soldiers crowded on her decks. Heavy machine guns were mounted aft on the freighter with which the crew quickly opened fire. The gunfire struck the PC-701's bridge killing the helmsman and seriously wounding the officer of the deck. She returned fire and in the running gun duel. According to the veterans of PC-701, to increase the accuracy and penetration, PC-701 approached near 400 meter to the freighter. The sailors had to come out with their M1 Garands to prevent North Korean soldiers swimming toward PC-701. The freighter was sunk between Busan and Tsushima Island. This very first ROKN’s victorious battle is known as Battle of Korea Strait.

Except for the fortuitous position of the PC-701 and the fighting qualities of the craft's crew, the North Korean soldiers might have successfully landed at the vital Busan. The poor state of combat readiness at the port could easily have led to its loss. In such an event, not even the small Allied toehold on the peninsula would have remained to support the U.S. counteroffensive in Korea. This single naval action may well have prevented the fall of South Korea.


NavSource Online:Submarine Chaser Photo Archive PC-823

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