USS Antelope (PG-86) was built by Tacoma Boatbuilding Company, Tacoma, Washington, and commissioned in November, 1967. It was the third ship of the Asheville Class of Patrol Gunboats. Antelope was one of two Patrol Gunboats fitted with the MK-87 Fire Control System, a highly sophisticated, track-while-scan, digital fire control radar which controlled both the 3 inch gun mount and, later, the RIM-66B STANDARD surface-to-surface missile system.
The emblem of Patrol Gunboat 86 pictures the stag pronghorn antelope, a native of our country’s western plains. The pronghorn is known for his great speed, agility, and constant watchfulness, and thus, epitomizes these admirable qualities in ANTELOPE and the men who man her. The motto "Keeping the Watch" draws a parallel between the vigilance of this noble animal and the vigilance of all mariners.
Initially homeported in Guam, Antelope participated in operations in South Viet Nam and was involved in the sinking of a large North Vietnamese trawler in south Vietnamese territorial waters April 11.
The approximately 160-foot enemy vessel was intercepted while heading toward shore near the South China coast in the lower Ca Mau Peninsula, 175 miles southwest of Saigon. Antelope together with the Vietnamese Navy motor patrol gunboat HQ-619 challenged the trawler. The trawler refused to surrender and attempted to evade.
After warning shots were fired by Antelope, the enemy trawler opened fire while trying to escape. U.S. Coast Guard high endurance cutters Rush and Morgenthau then moved into position to provide support with their five-inch guns.
The incident later broke into a surface action as the trawler continued to exchange fire with the U.S. and Vietnamese ships. "Black Pony" OV-10 aircraft from Light Attack Squadron Four aided the allied ships with rocket and machine gun attacks on the enemy boat. Eventually the enemy trawler exploded and disappeared from radar screens.
Antelope subsequently changed homeports to Long Beach, CA. Assigned to Commander, Coastal Division Thirty Two, headquartered in San Diego, Antelope began a major conversion and overhaul at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard, which included the installation of two box launchers, each containing two STANDARD RIM-66B surface-to-surface missiles, and integration into the MK-87 Fire Control System. Following successful system testing on the Pacific Missile Range, Antelope departed Long Beach in July, 1972 for Little Creek VA and, ultimately, her new homeport of Naples, Italy.
Antelope departed Little Creek in company with USS Graham County (AGP-1176), a bow-door LST which had recently been converted to serve as a Patrol Gunboat tender and support ship. She arrived in Naples in September, 1972, joining USS Defiance (PG-95) and USS Surprise (PG-97), also homeported in Naples, but not fitted with surface-to-surface missiles.
Antelope became an element of the U.S. Sixth Fleet, attached to Patrol Division Twenty One, conducting numerous operations, usually serving as Orange Forces simulating Soviet anti-ship missile platforms during Sixth Fleet exercises. Other notable operations included joint operations with Greek fast patrol boats, an initial "show the flag" visits to La Maddalena Sardinia in advance of the homeporting of a submarine tender and nuclear submarines, and a port visit to Split, Yugoslavia while it was still a Communist country. Antelope joined other Sixth Fleet forces in extended real world operations, patrolling Eastern Mediterranean waters during the Jordanian Crisis in October, 1973.
Antelope and her sister ship Ready returned to Little Creek in July 1977 and on 01 October, 1977 were decommissioned. Former Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, Jr., who had been instrumental in the missile conversion and forward deployment of the Patrol Gunboat, was the guest speaker. Antelope was subsequently transferred to the Environmental Protection Agency, renamed Oceanographic Survey Vessel (OSV) Peter W. Anderson and is now homeported in Annapolis MD.
A special Thank-you and "BRAVO ZULU" to Captain David A. Spriggs, USNR, for providing this information on the USS Antelope . Captain Spriggs was assigned to the USS Ready as Engineering Officer from September, 1971 until June, 1972. At that time, he assumed duties as Executive Officer / Operations Officer until October, 1973.
Narrative and photos provided by Dave Donaldson.
Muster list updated by Terry W. McManuels
Copyright © 2006 PGRA. All rights reserved. Revised: 03/11/14.