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PG-16 / PR-1 Palos

The appropriation made by the act of Congress approved May 4, 1898, for one gunboat to be built on the Great Lakes was made available by the act of Congress, August 22, 1912, for the construction of a river gunboat. This vessel was to be a duplicate of river gunboat Monocacy and would be built at the navy yard, Mare Island.

The second Palos (PG-16), a shallow draft gunboat built for service on the Yangtze River, China, was pre-constructed at Mare Island Navy Yard in 1912; dismantled and shipped to Shanghai, China: laid down by the Shanghai Dock and Engineering Co., 28 April 1913; launched 23 April 1914; sponsored by Mrs. Lee S. Border, wife of Naval Constructor Border who supervised the gunboat's construction; and commissioned 24 June 1914, Lt. Frank Rorschach in command. Palos was one of two light draft warships designed for service on the Upper Yangtze River over 900 miles inland.

During the course of her service, the gunboat protected American interests in China down the entire length of the Yangtze, at times convoying U.S. and foreign vessels on the river, evacuating American citizens during periods of disturbance and in general giving credible presence to U.S. consulates and residences in various Chinese cities.

The handling of a ship in the river gorges is a hair raising experience for a commanding officer on his first trip. In one or two of the rapids the current is fast enough to make a 13-knot ship lose headway and sometimes go astern. The reader may imagine the feeling of a captain coming down the river for the first time in these same rapids when the pilot heads straight for a large rocky obstruction on the side of the gorge with water boiling all around it, and then turns the ship just in time to clear the stern by about 10 feet with the ship going at about 16 knots. A ship more then 150 feet long cannot make the turns necessary in the gorges., even if it is equipped with four rudders as was the PALOS.

Reclassified as a River Gunboat, PR-1, 15 June 1928, Palos continued Yangtze Patrol operations until October 1934 and then departed Shanghai for Chungking to take up duty there as permanent station ship. After a long and difficult voyage through the rapids, the gunboat docked at the Chungking Navy Club 12 November and remained there until decommissioned and struck from the Navy List 21 May 1937. She was subsequently sold to the Ming Sung Industrial Co., 3 June and scrapped.

The plans and specifications for light-draft river gunboat Monocacy, authorized by act of Congress approved March 4, 1911, were completed and circular signed by the Acting Secretary of the Navy April 3, 1912, and issued to bidders upon request thereafter. Bids for the construction of river gunboat Monocacy were opened at the department June 10, 1912. The department directed that river gunboat Monocacy be built at the navy yard, Mare Island, Cal.

The second Monocacy, a shallow draft gunboat built for service on the Yangtze River, was preconstructed at Mare Island Navy Yard in 1912 and then dismantled and shipped to Shanghai, China. She was laid down by the Shanghai Dock & Engineering Co., 28 April 1913; launched 27 April 1914; sponsored by Mrs. Andrew E. Carter; and commissioned 24 June 1914, Lt. Andrew E. Carter in command.

In 1913 the first American gunboats were built specifically for service on the Yangtze river. These ships the USS PALOS and the USS MONOCACY, were built at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, California. They were then disassembled and shipped to China aboard the American steamer MONGOLIA. In Shanghai they were reassembled at the Kiangnan Shipyard, and put into service in 1914. That year both vessels demonstrated their ability to handle the rapids of the upper river when they reached Chungking more than 1,300 miles from the sea, and went beyond to Kiating on the Min River. In 1917 the United States entered World War I and the guns of the PALOS and the MONOCACY were rendered inoperable. After China entered the war on the side of the allies the gunboats were re-armed..

MONOCACY (I) and the ASHUELOT were the first two ships sent specifically for river duty, in 1866, to protect American interests along the Yangtze. Their presence was legalized by the Sino-British Treaty of 1858 allowing the United States equal rights as a Treaty Power USS MONOCACY (I) commissioned in 1866. She was nicknamed "jinricksha of the Navy " and served 37 years in the Far East. In 1903 she was decommissioned and sold.

On December 25, 1919 the Yangtze River Patrol was formally organized. The MONOCACY (II) and the PALOS were the first two specially designed draft gunboats to join the patrol. They were lighter, more powerful, and had four rudders with a shallow draft which made them better able to navigate the waters of the mighty river. The first of eight ships to be specially built service on the Yangtze River, they were built side by side in Mare Island Navy Yard, then disassembled, shipped to China, were they were reassembled, and commissioned on June 24, 1914. Neither ship would ever make it back to the US.

Monocacy decommissioned at Shanghai 31 January 1939. The veteran gunboat, one of the last "Old China Hands," who had never seen the land which she served so well, was towed to sea and sunk 10 February, in deep water off the China coast.

The general characteristics of the vessel are as follows:

  • length 165 feet, 6 inches
  • Length between perpendiculars 160 feet.
  • Breadth, molded, extreme 24 feet 6 inches.
  • Depth at side, molded 5 feet 9 inches.
  • displacement 204 tons; Mean trial displacement, about 190 tons.
  • Mean draft to bottom of keel at mean trial displacement 2 feet 5 inches.
  • Speed (in deep water, 6 fathoms or more) 13.25 knots.
  • complement 47
  • Battery:
  • Two 6-pounders.
  • Two 3-inch field pieces, with carriages and limbers.
  • Six .30-caliber machine rifles.

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