1942: A Yacht is Handed Over to the U.S. Navy for Wartime Duties

January 3, 1942

Just a little less than a month after the United States entered World War II on the side of the Allies, a yacht was acquired by the U.S. Navy from William F. Ladd for use in that global conflict. (Ladd had been adjutant general of Connecticut between 1930 and 1939 and would serve in the war as a U.S. Army pilot.) Ladd’s yacht was constructed by the Mathis Yacht Building Company in Camden, New Jersey, in 1932, and her original name was Alamo.

Ladd sold this yacht to Lucius B. Manning, president of the Cord Automobile Corporation, in 1934. Manning, who renamed the vessel Ronaele, sold her back to Ladd in 1936. Between that time and when the Navy acquired her, the yacht was called not only Ronaele but also Relimpa and Ranley.

After Ladd handed over his yacht to the Navy, she was renamed USS Alabaster (PYc-21). This vessel was commissioned into naval service on January 31, 1942, under the command of Lieutenant Commander A.F. Edel of the U.S. Naval Reserve (designated as the U.S. Navy Reserve since 2005).

Starting that February, Alabaster was used for coastal patrol duties along the section of the Eastern Seaboard between the Delaware Bay and Chesapeake Bay. She was deployed for this purpose until September 1943, when the Navy began reequipping her to instead help with antisubmarine warfare (ASWA) efforts.    

In January 1944 — after the needed modifications were made and her crew had undergone ASW training — Alabaster departed from Cape May, New Jersey, for a voyage that ultimately took her to the Southwest Pacific to assist in naval operations there in the fight against Japan. Over the next year-and-a-half, Alabaster traveled to locations such as New Guinea, the Admiralty Islands, and the Philippines so that her crew could instruct other Navy personnel in the use of ASW devices.

As the war drew to a close in 1945, Alabaster was declared surplus to the needs of the Navy. She returned to the United States that fall, arriving at San Pedro, California, on October 25 and being decommissioned on December 17.

In 1947, Alabaster ended up being sold to C.S. Smith, a retired U.S. Army Reserve colonel. (In addition to his military career, Smith served as both mayor of the California city of Compton and the publisher of the Herald American newspaper chain.) Smith restored the vessel as a private cruising yacht. He also gave her back the name Alamo in honor of the historic Spanish mission in his hometown of San Antonio, Texas. The yacht officially known once again as Alamo achieved show-business fame as a floating casino called Fortuna II that regularly appeared in the 1959-60 TV series Mr. Lucky.

In 1960, Alamo was sold to Enrique Braun of Acapulco and renamed Fiesta II. The yacht then served as a harbor cruise vessel until 1982, when she was sold and towed to Puerto Vallarta for use as a floating restaurant. While being modified, this vessel caught on fire and sank. The wreckage of this one-time World War II coastal patrol yacht has since become a popular scuba diving site.

Photo Credit: Public Domain

For more information on USS Alabaster (PYc-21), please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Alabaster

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