Sailors who served and fought valiantly for the country were usually buried in Arlington National Cemetery and received the highest honor they rightfully deserved. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, as we know, is one of the most guarded sites in the world. Well-trained sentries from the 3rd Regiment of Foot, The Old Guard, watch the grave 24 hours a day, whatever the weather, to demonstrate the respect we have for these fallen heroes. While there are approximately 400,000 service members and their families buried in Arlington, there are only 249 sailors buried there. Indeed, for so many sailors, their grave is often their ship when it is sunk, or if the ship survives, age-old tradition has it that a sailor is buried at sea. Most of the time this happens far from home. us, at the bottom of the vast ocean, but sometimes that grave can be just steps from shore right here in the United States. Ships are also buried at sea or stripped to the bone in Breaking Yards ashore. Some more famous ships are preserved as monuments and museums and live. A submarine hunter who served the US Navy in World War II, called PC-1264, made history in his humble role and deserved a better graveyard than on a stretch of water called Arthur Kill offshore from Staten Island to New York.
Laying the keel of the USS PC-1264
USS PC-1264’s voyage began at the Consolidated Shipbuilding Company at Morris Heights in New York in October 1943 and was launched the following month. The PC-1264 was a US Navy PC-461 class submarine hunter designed to intercept and destroy German submarines lurking off the coast of the United States. Less expensive and easier to build coastal patrol boats augmented ocean destroyers and destroyer escorts while requiring less crew. These sub-hunters played an important role in meeting the need for coastal convoy protection and anti-submarine warfare. How important is it? Well, the navy built almost 350 PC-461 class boats during the war.
Pilot the ship
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in December 1941 sent a telegram to U.S. Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox in December 1941 requesting that African Americans be accepted into the Navy as more than just messmen . This was overruled, so they instead wrote a letter to President Roosevelt for their request, who did not ignore it and referred the matter to Fair Employment Practice Committee Chairman Mark Ethridge. They received the same negative response from the Navy.
On April 7, 1942, despite the expected backlash, President Roosevelt wrote his note to the United States Navy directing that blacks would be drafted into the General Service and Messman Branch beginning June 1, 1942. As a result, USS Mason and USS PC-1264 were manned with African American crews. Initially, PC-1264 was staffed by 53 African Americans and commanded by a white officer, Lt. Eric Purdon, who had difficulty obtaining permission to dock with their ship’s crew. They eventually obtained a permit from the United States Military Academy at West Point to dock, opening its doors to crew and even providing buses and tours for the men.
When they sailed to Miami at the Submarine Chaser Training Center, it was there that they faced forms of harassment like lengthy inspections of sailor ID cards each time they returned to base. There were also rumors that they planned to shoot the ship. Another fighter crew heard the plan, so they armed themselves and stood at the gate to prevent the Civil Guards from anything they intended to do.
PC-1264 began serving escort duty in 1944 after completing Fleet Sound School and returning to New York. She provided shipping escorts and protected the French submarine Argo from New York to Key West to ensure that American air and sea anti-submarine forces would not mistake it for a German submarine.
In February 1945, the ship was on duty conducting an anti-submarine run against a North Atlantic buoy when it spotted a submarine when a conning tower briefly rose. The U-Boat was thought to have been sunk by PC-1264, although later it was confirmed that another anti-submarine had sunk the U-Boat identified as U-866.
In May 1945, Ensign Samuel Gravely became the new African-American officer aboard the ship to serve as second-in-command and eventually commanding officer. While in Miami, the Shore Patrol accused Ensign Gravely of impersonating an officer, so he was detained (black naval officers were a very new thing). His crew defended him in a heated confrontation and was released after it was made clear he was, in fact, a US Navy officer. The base admiral demanded that the sailors who came to Gravely’s defense during this confrontation be court-martialed, but the then-commander, Lieutenant Purdon, bravely refused the admiral.
After the war, PC-1264 was decommissioned and transferred to the Maritime Commission for final disposal. She was later moved to Arthur Kill Cemetery on Staten Island. It is still there today, where the elements have slowly decayed it. His contribution to the full opening of the Navy to African Americans in the post-war Navy must never be forgotten.
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