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Patrol Boat Pe-56 Found Near Portland, Maine

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A U.S. Navy warship, sunk just two weeks prior to the end of World War II in Europe, has finally been found. The patrol boat PE-56 sunk off the coast of Maine in April 1945. The ship, long thought to have been the victim of an accidental explosion, was revealed in 2003 to have actually been sunk by a German u-boat.


PE-56 was one of sixty Eagle-class patrol boats built as submarine chasers in World War I. Built by the Ford Motor Company, PE-56 was 200 feet long, had a crew of 68, and mounted two four-inch guns, one three-inch gun, and two .50-caliber machine guns.


So only 125% better armed than the LCS classes. Looks like a cardboard model, though. Understandable, when the class requires 60 hulls in service in 4 years or less.

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Late in 1917, the Navy realized that it needed steel ships smaller than destroyers but having a greater operational radius than the wooden-hulled, 110-foot submarine chasers developed earlier in the year. The submarine chasers' range of about 900 miles at a cruising speed of 10 knots restricted their operations to off-shore antisubmarine work and denied them an open-ocean escort capability. Their high consumption of gasoline and limited fuel storage also were handicaps.

Attention turned to building steel patrol vessels. In their construction, it was necessary to eliminate the established shipbuilding facilities as possible sources of construction as they were totally engaged in the building of destroyers, larger warships, and merchant shipping. Accordingly, a design was developed by the Bureau of Construction and Repair which was sufficiently simplified to permit speedy construction by less experienced shipyards.

Earlier, in June 1917, President Woodrow Wilson had summoned auto-builder Henry Ford to Washington in the hope of getting him to serve on the United States Shipping Board. Wilson felt that Ford, with his knowledge of mass production techniques, could immensely speed the building of ships in quantity. Apprized of the need for antisubmarine vessels to combat the U-boat menace, Ford declared:

"What we want is one type of ship in large numbers." On 7 November, Ford accepted membership on the Shipping Board and an active advisory role. Examining the Navy's plans for the projected steel patrol ships, Ford urged that all hull plates be flat so that they could be produced quickly in quantity, and he also persuaded the Navy to accept steam turbines instead of reciprocating steam engines.

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The Eagle boats were a FDR creation as an eager yachtman he was. In WW2 their time had past.


A bit smaller than a Flower and a bit faster. Looks like an ok costal ASW craft to me.


Flowers were about 1/2 as more heavy (displacement). One would think the Eagles would be much faster. The Eagles were better armed.

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