In 1975, the PCE(R) 853
Patrol Craft-Escort and Rescue became Philippine Navy ship
Datu Marikudo PS 23
by Guy B. Merritt, CPhM USN I_____________________
PCE(R) - meaning Patrol Craft, Escort and Rescue - is a little known ship insofar as the public is concerned, but in the Navy this class made a name for itself in the final phase of the Pacific War.
They provided medical aid and rescue facilities to
every type ship afloat - sub-chaser to
the battleship - and in addition, served as escort vessels in every
invasion from the initial Philippine landing to the occupation of
The light units of the fleet, which numbered many
hundreds in every invasion, did not have medical officers. To these ships,
faced with the problem of caring for their wounded and the necessity of their
disposal in order to return unhampered to action, the PCE(R)’s gave great
assistance. As the kamakaze menace increased, the
burden on all medical ships increased, and to the 853 and other ships of her class, fell
the duties of removal and treatment of the wounded and survivors from crippled
ships, as our naval forces pressed onward to
The PCE(R) 853, was built in inland waters, and
brought down the
The story of the PCE(R) 853 is the same as the story of many similar small craft:
different characters in divers geographical locations, but
sagas of courage, ingenuity and devotion to duty, wherever. The 853, commissioned
In her first 2 days of action she laid alongside the SC 1004 to extinguish a fire in the sub chaser’s magazine. Later, while attempting to transfer casualties to the decks of the LST 464, she was forced to cast off because of intensive air attacks. While lying astern of the LST, a Jap bomber scored a “near miss” with little damage, but a direct hit from the 853 ‘s 3-inch anti-aircraft guns erased the Jap.
surprise Japanese air attack, on the
Acting as an ambulance ship until 28 November, the 853 handled 136 Army casualties and 35 merchant mariners. The task force commander sent this message that night:
HAZARDOUS MISSIONS, RESCUE OF MEN FROM SHIPS WHICH WERE
VICTIMS OF SUICIDE AI’4D BOMBING ATTACKS, HAVE BEEN PERFORMED
BY THE PCE(R)’s 853 AND 852 N A VERY COMMENDABLE MANNER
Throughout December 1944 and January 1945 the ship was used for escort duty, screening, and as an ambulance ship. Then in February, she put into the naval base at Ulithi for much -needed repairs and recreation.
Late in March preparations were made for the invasion
When more than one ship was hit simultaneously it was extremely difficult to determine which burning vessel was the one for which assistance was ordered.
During all actions great efficiency and coordination
was displayed by the deck force and the pharmacist’s mates in the difficult
tasks of effecting rescue under conditions of darkness and smoke screens, in
the face of air attacks and fires. During the invasion of
Between 4 April and 30 June coming alongside other ships 69 times for the rescue and transfer of survivors and patients, a total of 1.996 men were handled.
Commander, Task Group, of which the 853 was a part’ expressed his opinion to the 853 ‘s service in his last message to her:
THE PROMPT AND SEAMANLIKE PERFORMANCES OF PCE(R) 853 ON
NUMEROUS DIFFICULT MISSIONS HAVE BEEN SPLENDID AND A SOURCE OF GREAT SATISFACTION TO SOPA.