The Ageless Warriors of the Philippine Navy! WW2 ships still serving in 2021!*

If you like World War 2 US Navy ships (and EVERYONE does!) then the new Republic of the Philippines Navy (PN) pages we just loaded are essential reading. The Shipsearcher Identification Section (SIS) have documented many navies that had long-service ships in their active fleets, but this one is exceptional. Up until very recently, a large number of the PN’s fleet were composed of wartime hulls! Notable amongst these veterans are Landing Ship Tanks, a Cannon Class destroyer escort, and a nice flotilla of patrol corvettes.

BRP Rajah Humabon PS-11 cannon-class DDE, 2010 DVIDS
BRP Rajah Humabon PS-11, participating in the USN-Philippine Navy Exercise Balikatan 2010. This destroyer escort, originally commissioned as USS Atherton DE-169 in 1943, served more than 75 years US Navy 1347033 PO3 Mark Alvarez

BRP Rajah Humabon Cannon-class Manila Philippines 2010

To put this active service in perspective, very few of the plankowners (first crewmembers) of these ships are still with us today. These simple designs were churned out in an assembly-line process in shipyards on both coasts to meet vital wartime needs and replace early losses. Newly commissioned, these ships were present at some of the epic amphibious landings of the Second World War, patrolled in both Pacific and Atlantic theatres, escorted vital convoys, were attacked by enemy forces, and were credited with the destruction of enemy units. Many went on to rack up more battle stars for service in Korea and Vietnam.

PCE-891 building NHHC 194319-N-61177
PCE-891 under construction in 1943 (outboard ship). After service as BRP Pangasinan PS-31, she was finally decommissioned 1 March 2021!  Courtesy of the Naval History and Heritage Command. NARA 19-N-61177.

BRP Pangasinan PS-31 Cavite 2015

Paths to Philippine Navy service took two routes: After USN service and periods in reserve, many units were transferred during the 1960s; Other elderly ships had first been transferred as military aid to the Navy of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam). Their crews and war refugees had fled to Subic Bay after the Fall of Saigon in  early 1975.** These soon joined sister-ships already in PN service.

BRP Laguna LT-501, formerly USS LST-230, which participated at the Normandy landings in June 1944 and Operation Dragoon, the August 1944 landings in the South of France. Credit: 1t0pe125, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

LST 1 class Cavite 2017

By the annals of their wartime records alone, every one of these ships would have been a good candidate for preservation. Sadly, their exploits, so many years ago, are probably little known stateside. Most of these relics wound up at the ship breakers in the last 20 years. A few more were retired, with great fanfare, in March, 2021. Reports suggest the very last of the WW2 wartime fleet will be out of service by the end of this year. That really will be the end of an era.

BRP Malvar
One of the last: BRP Miguel Malvar PS-19, originally USS Brattleboro PCE(R)-852 (1944), which has also served in the Republic of Vietnam Navy as RVN Ngọc Hồi. One of the most decorated ships in Philippine naval history, she recently helped rescue 33 people off the Coast of Langahan Island.  Credit: 1t0pe125, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It isn’t surprising, since this is one of the last navies we intend to document in this project, that we took our time with these pages and sought out as many interesting views as possible. Good imagery loaded into Google Earth for the naval areas around Cavite City/Manila and some of the other far-flung naval stations along the Philippines’ immense coastlines allowed us to document more of the fleet than usual.

USS Redbud AKL-398, originally built as a Buoy Tender for the US Coast Guard in 1943. After USN service she was transferred to the Philippine Navy as BRP Kalinga, now serving with the Coast Guard. Credit: U.S. Navy Bureau of Ships, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

BRP Kalinga AG-89 Manila port 2018

In recent years, the navy has been modernizing and expanding to meet new threats, in an unstable region, by acquiring more capable ships. Two ex-US Coast Guard Hamilton Class High Endurance Cutters have been refitted to become patrol frigates and to train crews in the operation of (sort-of) modern warships. The navy is no longer making-do with ships transferred after long service elsewere, either. Two Rizal class frigates, heavily modified version of the Korean-built Incheon class, and two large Tarlac Class Amphibious Warfare Ships have recently entered service. This is our 48th navy documented through satellite imagery. Please check out the pages for more interesting ship histories and an almost encyclopedic series of satellite views of this remarkable navy, and enjoy!

New technology purpose-built for the PN: BRP Jose Rizal (2020). Credit: Philippine Navy, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

*Yes, we know “Ageless Warrior” is the nickname of the USS Coral Sea CV-43.

**We explored this story in our recent post, about the People’s Army of Vietnam Navy, where other RVN units were captured and put into Vietnamese service.