Mariners’ Museum in Newport News recently completed a ship model cleaning project for the museum. Here is the result of one of their efforts, the fresh-looking 1982 model of USS Subchaser 136. This sturdy vessel was one of the original 110-foot subchasers of World War I, and was the last hull number in a series of twenty-one built at Norfolk Naval Shipyard. Subchaser 136 served in an anti-submarine group along the Atlantic coast headed by USS Jouett (DD-41). SC 136 crossed the ocean in mid-1918, but arrived just as the war ended.
The Navy designed and deployed subchasers as an inexpensive solution to the critical need for anti-submarine platforms. Built out of wood (as steel was scarce in the wartime economy), the ships were built for speed and equipped with 3-inch guns and depth charges. They often worked in groups, usually with a torpedo-boat destroyer accompanying them. American yards turned out over 400 of the ships and many of them were sold to Allied nations.
Other good friends at The Subchaser Archives have posted a great series of images of SC 136 in the Caribbean in 1919, attending to the crew of USS May (SP 164), which grounded near Santo Domingo. They are available here: http://www.subchaser.org/set-sc136-09.
HRNM’s model was built by Mr.Thomas E. Tragle, a renowned builder of ship models, whose USS Monitor is also part of the museum collection. Mr. Tragle studied architectural drafting and mechanical drawing and these skills led him to employment in the model department of Newport News Shipbuilding. Later he joined the training department at Fort Eustis, where he built many different models until his retirement in 1972. From 1976 to 1986 he served as director of model building in the architecture department at Hampton Institute. He died in 1989.
Of interest to readers of this blog, Mr. Tragle was a Navy veteran of World War II, assigned to USS PC 496, a World War II subchaser. PC 496 sank in the Mediterranean as a result of a torpedo attack by an Italian submarine. Mr. Tragle has models in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution, including a Union gunboat, USS Carondolet. Other works of his are displayed in the Watermen's Museum, where he served on the board of directors.