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USS Irene Forsyte

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(IX-93: length 144'; beam 27' 7"; speed 13 knots; armament one 4-inch gun, one 40-mm. gun, two 20-mm. guns, one ASW [anti-submarine warfare] "mousetrap" rocket launcher)

McLean Clan--a three-masted schooner--was laid down in 1920 by MacLean Construction Co., Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, and put into service in 1922.

The schooner participated in the coastal trade into the 1930s, when she was purchased by Captain Thomas Antle. Renamed Irene Myrtle, the schooner barely survived the tough trade conditions of that time and was in poor condition by the end of the decade. Given a new lease on life by the increased shipping traffic provoked by the war, she served in the coal trade between New England and Nova Scotia into 1942. That summer, while the ship was loading coal at New London, Connecticut, Captain Antle died and the ship was eventually put up for sale.

At this time, the U.S. Navy began looking for a smaller coastal vessel to serve as a "Q-ship," as it would complement the larger decoy ships' Big Horn (AO-45), Asterion (AK-100) and Atik (AK-101). Purchased on 16 November 1942, the schooner was renamed Irene Forsyte and designated IX-93 on 7 December and delivered to the Thames Shipyard, New London, for conversion. Fitted with new engines, quick-firing armament, as well as concealed radar and sonar equipment, the auxiliary was commissioned 26 August 1943, Lt. Comdr. Richard Parmenter in command.

Based on the experience of Q-ships during World War I, it was hoped Irene Forsyte, with her relatively heavy armament concealed, could lure German submarines into close quarters on the surface and sink them with gunfire. Success in the venture would require a good disguise. After a volunteer crew sailed the schooner from New London on 29 September 1943, she changed her name and flag to that of a Portuguese "Grand Banks" fishing schooner. The crew also further concealed the guns and altered her rigging and profile. The disguised Q-ship then stood southeast in hopes of encountering enemy submarines.

Unfortunately, Irene Forsyte was caught and heavily damaged in a severe hurricane near Bermuda in October. The schooner's seams opened up and the crew averted sinking only by anchoring in Hamilton Sound, Bermuda. She was reconditioned and prepared to resume her cruise; but, when it was decided that the project held little promise of sinking enemy submarines, she was ordered back to the United States.

The schooner arrived New York 8 November 1943 and, after an inspection three days later, she was decommissioned 16 December 1943. Transferred to the War Shipping Administration, she was used for a time on a loan basis by the Merchant Marine Cadet Corps as a training ship until returned to the Navy for disposal on 28 November 1944. Stricken from the Navy list on 22 December 1944, the schooner was transferred to the Maritime Commission and eventually sold at public auction 18 October 1945.

Purchased by a Cuban shipping firm, she was renamed Santa Clara and served another six years in the island trade. The old schooner met her end off La Ceiba when, heavily laden, she ran into bad weather, took on water and sank on 21 December 1951.


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