The Erie Class gunboats were an updated version of the old peace cruiser with important additional wartime roles. It is because these gunboats had a role usually filled by a cruiser that they are worth some mention in this report. The roles the new gunboat would fill in a wartime setting were listed by Captain Ingersoll of Fleet Training as antisubmarine and anti-destroyer screening, high-speed minesweeping ahead of the battle fleet, tactical control of fleet submarines, plane guard duty for slow carriers, support of destroyer attacks made from ahead of an enemy fleet, convoy warfare, and fire support of amphibious operations.
Unfortunately the Erie Class was too slow to perform most of these functions. Although the ships were intended to spend most of their service in Asiatic or Caribbean waters, their design was governed by their proposed semi-cruiser employment in wartime. The Erie was designed to embark an aircraft because of the needs of the Asiatic station. The Erie Class gunboats could augment the dwindling number of tender-based aircraft. The hull was designed with a wide transom to facilitate minelaying or for carrying depth charges, while the rake and sheer of the bow resisted green water. Diesel propulsion was considered but abandoned in favor of steam turbines because the turbines would fit in a smaller space, and Erie was a tight design.
One of the problems the General Board had in choosing a final design for the Erie Class concerned armor: did an armored ship violate the letter or the spirit of the Treaty? The board convinced itself that it was allowed by their interpretation and the Erie was designed to allow the ready addition of a 3 inch side belt in time of war. While it appears the belt was not fitted at delivery, photos from the war years seem to show it.
The Erie class was not particularly successful. It consisted of only 2 ships; the name-ship was torpedoed in November 1942 and after being towed to harbor, capsized and became a total loss. Considering how small a ship this was, loss to one torpedo hit does not reflect badly on the design. The sister was decommissioned in 1946 after only 10 years of service.
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