SMALLER, FASTER—with more
power, maneuverability and versatility than any other Navy ship of her type—this
new patrol gunboat and her sister ships are the forerunners of tomorrow’s
With a length of 164 feet and a
width of 23 feet, USS Benicia (PG 96) is smaller and lighter than an ocean
minesweeper, requires less than half as many personnel, and has many of the
features of a destroyer. But she is also something more than just a gunboat.
She is a totally new concept in naval operating procedures.
Benicia is manned by four
officers and 24 enlisted men, all of whom were especially chosen for the
unusual duties on board. It is the men who man Benicia that make her such a
Each member of the crew as more
than one job. For example, Storekeeper 1st Class Moise Hernandez has the
primary responsibility of keeping the ship supplied with more than 11,000
repair parts, 80 per cent of which are unique for a patrol gunboat. Hemandez
also requisitions all the food, takes his turn as cook, and serves as the
skipper’s phone talker. Although Hernandez is one of the key people aboard,
every man has a myriad of duties. Benicia and her sister ships are some of the
very few Navy ships in which most of the senior enlisted men are qualified as
officers of the deck.
COOPERATION AND TEAMWORK among
the crew are necessary for the ship’s survival. For example, there is no
damage control party aboard Benicia such as is found on conventional Navy
ships. All 28 men share the responsibility of damage control. If a man is
wounded and unable to man his post, almost any other member of the crew can
competently step in to take his place.
This independence on the part
of the officers and crew has spawned a certain kind of camaraderie in today’s
Navy. They do not function as a typical Navy crew, or even as a team, but
rather as a club—a club of professional men who enjoy their work and working
with each other. A large part of this attitude comes from the captain,
Lieutenant Jim Tumbull.
In one of the few commands left
for today’s young lieutenants, Captain Turnbull has laid the foundation for
Benicia’s excellent morale. He is an officer who enjoys his work.
This is evident not only to the
crew, who share his enthusiasm, but also to anyone who talks to him about his
ship. He gives the impression of being not just the commanding officer of a
new Navy ship, but the head of a club that operates a high speed yacht, of
which he is very proud.
THE MOST REVOLUTIONARY ASPECT
of the gas turbine power plant is that it is only about 20 feet in length arid
takes up less space than a normal Navy ship’s engine control board. There
are no boilers or condensers, just gas turbine power.
Pound for pound, this gunboat
is probably the most lethal surface ship in any Navy. She is armed with a
3-inch gun mount forward, a 40-mm gun mount aft, and two twin 50-caliber
machine guns amidships. Her crew carries small arms: M-16 rifles, M-60 machine
guns, shotguns, 45-caliber pistols, grenade launchers and various other small arms.
Narrative and photos provided by Dave Donaldson.
John Miller, information found on the DANFS Site:
The second Benicia (PG-96) was laid down on 14 April 1969 at Tacoma, Washington by the Tacoma Boatbuilding Co. after a fire in August 1968 destroyed the incomplete hull laid down on 3 January 1967; launched on 20 December 1969; sponsored by Mrs. William F. Petrovic; and commissioned at Tacoma on 25 April 1970, Lt. James L. Turnbull in command.
After fitting out at Tacoma, Benicia made her first port of call in her namesake city of Benicia, Calif. She then cruised south, arriving at her home port of San Diego in early May. Designed for offshore patrol and the control of coastal maritime traffic, the patrol gunboat was equipped with a combination diesel and gas turbine (CODOG) engine system. Ordinarily, she would cruise normally on her diesels but, in an emergency, the gas turbine engine provided extremely high bursts of speed, allowing Benicia to maneuver quickly and radically in confined, coastal waters.
Assigned to Coastal Squadron (CosRon) 3, the gunboat's crew conducted type training exercises and shakedown procedures in Benicia that summer. Operating in the waters off San Diego, the crew conducted turbine evaluations, tested the gunboat's variable-pitch propellers, and familiarized themselves with her communication and navigation systems. After completing her final contract trials in September, Benicia began a post-shakedown availability at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard in mid-October. During this seven-week repair period, the gunboat was assigned to the administrative command of Coastal Division (CosDiv) 32 at San Diego. Following the availability, Benicia spent the rest of the year in port at San Diego.
Starting on 28 January 1971, Benicia began evaluation of a special surface-to-surface guided-missile system designed for gunboats. Part of a larger study intended to develop anti-missile boat warfare doctrine, this system was designed to increase gunboat firepower and counter the anti-ship missile threat from Soviet-made fast attack boats. Equipped with a single Standard ARM missile launcher on the fantail, Benicia conducted fire control and operational tests in preparation for a live-fire exercise. On 6 March, she became the first American gunboat to successfully fire a guided missile.
With the missile study complete on the 12th, the gunboat began another series of experiments. Called the "Seakindliness and Performance Trials," these were designed to test the endurance sea-keeping ability of gunboats in heavy seas. If the gunboats could operate in the open ocean, they could better protect convoys, conduct surveillance missions, and support conventional amphibious warfare operations. Following these successful exercises, Benicia spent the rest of the summer participating in fleet and amphibious training exercises. These included convoy attack and screening tactics, inshore patrol, and a large-scale, joint Army-Navy special forces exercise.
On 15 August, the gunboat's crew received orders informing them that Benicia was to be leased to the Republic of Korea. The South Korean crew arrived in San Diego in mid-September and several weeks of pre-transfer training took place in that port. Benicia was decommissioned on 15 October 1971, and she was transferred to the South Korean Navy that same day. She served as Paek Ku 51 (PGM-351) until decommissioned and returned to United States Navy in 1991. Benicia's name was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 30 August 1996, and she was scrapped in Korea in 1998.
Timothy L. Francis
Information found on the DANFS Site from the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.
Ship's Muster Sheet (Updated 12 March, 2014)
|Van Saun, David
Return to Ships List
Muster list updated by Terry W. McManuels