From: Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, V. 1, Pt. A., 1991, pp. 259-260.
Towns in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Virginia, and a county in Virginia.
(PCER-853: dp. 903; l. 184'6"; b. 33'1"; dr. 9'5"; s. 15.7 k.; cpl. 99; a. 1 3", 2 40mm., 6 20mm., 2 dct., 2 dcp.; cl. PCER-489)
PCER-853 - was laid down on 16 November 1943 at Chicago, Ill., by Pullman Standard Car Manufacturing Co.; launched on 18 March 1944; and commissioned at New Orleans on 16 June 1944, Lt. W. W. Boynton in command.
Following shakedown in waters off Miami and Key West, Fla., PCER-853 proceeded via the Panama Canal to Hawaii. The ship reached Pearl Harbor on 14 September; was replenished there; and, shortly thereafter, got underway to join the 7th Fleet in the Admiralty Islands. En route, she stopped at Funafuti, Ellice Islands; and at Finschhafen, New Guinea, before anchoring in Seeadler Harbor, Manus Island. On 12 October, PCER-853 got underway in the screen for the ships carrying invasion forces to Leyte.
She remained off Leyte through 22 November, screening various ships and providing rescue and firefighting services. Throughout this time, the Allied forces, including PCER-853, fought off numerous Japanese air attacks. At the risk of endangering her own safety, the patrol rescue escort many times pulled alongside burning ships to save sailors' lives; she also made trips to landing beaches to recover wounded for evacuation.
Following a brief replenishment trip to Seeadler Harbor, the small ship returned to the Philippines on 18 December to support the landing on Luzon at Lingayen scheduled for early 1945. During the fighting, besides recovering casualties, PCER-853 served in Lingayen Gulf as an antisubmarine picket ship. After screening a convoy from Lingayen Gulf to Leyte Gulf, she left the Philippine theater on 6 February 1945, bound for Ulithi.
Repairs to her generators were made at that atoll. On 21 March, the ship sailed with a transport group bound for the assault on the Ryukyus. They reached the Kerama Retto area in late March, and PCER-853 soon began her job of receiving, treating, and transferring wounded. Her workload greatly increased due to the intensity of the fighting ashore on Okinawa and the success of the kamikaze attacks against ships in Ryukyuan waters. She operated from Kerama Retto through 30 June, carrying, shuttling wounded from Okinawa and its surrounding waters back to safety.
On that day, the ship joined a convoy bound, via Saipan, for Hawaii and reached Oahu on 19 July. Shortly after arriving at Pearl Harbor, PCER-853 entered the Navy yard there and was still undergoing overhaul when Japan capitulated. In September, the vessel steamed to the east coast of the United States and was placed in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet at Green Cove Springs, Fla.
In December 1947, PCER-853 was ordered to Philadelphia to serve as a training vessel for Naval Reserve personnel in the 4th Naval District. The ship was placed back in active status on 28 November 1950 and carried out training duty at Philadelphia for the next 10 years. On 15 February 1956, the ship was renamed the Amherst (PCER-853).
The vessel got underway on 24 April 1960 to steam to Detroit, Mich. There, she was attached to the 9th Naval District and continued serving as a Naval Reserve training ship. Amherst spent the remainder of her career making training cruises throughout the Great Lakes and visiting various ports in Michigan, New York, Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Canada.
On 6 February 1970, Amherst was placed in an "out of service, special" status for pre-transfer overhaul. Her name was struck from the Navy list on 3 June 1970, and the ship was transferred to the Republic of Vietnam. She served the Vietnamese Navy as Van Kiep II (HQ-14) as that nation fought to avert a communist takeover. When South Vietnam resistance crumbled, the ship escaped to the Philippines about 2 May 1975.
PCER-853 won two battle stars for her World War II service.
Transcribed and edited by Richard H. Bouchard.