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USS Asheville (PG-21) was a gunboat that served in the United States Navy during the early days of America's participation in World War II. She was sunk by Japanese forces on 3 March 1942, south of the island of Java, in what was then the Netherlands East Indies.
The patrol gunboat Asheville (PG-21) — launched on 4 July 1918 and commissioned on 6 July 1920 — spent the larger part of her service as a part of the Asiatic Fleet with extensive service in China as a member of the Yangtze Patrol and in the Philippines. From 1929-1931, she was stationed in the Caribbean and Nicaragua during the so called Banana Wars. She was part of the Asiatic Fleet at the outbreak of World War II. The ship was on patrol in the Philippines when Pearl Harbor was attacked on 8 December 1941 (7 December in Hawaii). Ordered south by CINCAF to the Dutch East Indies (N.E.I.) in December 1941 with most of the rest of the American surface fleet, Asheville escaped early destruction only by making a tense 12-day, 2,000 mi (3,200 km) voyage to the south coast of Java.
The Japanese victory in the Battle of the Java Sea marked the end of the once-mighty Asiatic Fleet and all remaining Allied ships were ordered to retreat to Australia or Ceylon. Hampered by engine troubles and sailing alone, Asheville was discovered by a shipborne scout plane south of Java and overtaken by a Japanese destroyer squadron — consisting of the destroyers Arashi and Nowaki, and the heavy cruiser Maya — on 3 March 1942. As the cruiser stood by, the two Japanese destroyers closed and engaged Asheville at close range with their guns. After an intense 30-minute gun battle, the smoldering hulk of Asheville — its superstructure almost completely shot away — finally sank. After calling if there was an officer among the swimmers, one survivor — FM/2c Fred L. Brown from Ft. Wayne, Indiana — was picked up by a Japanese destroyer, more than likely simply to identify what ship they had sunk. Afterward the remainder of the survivors in the water were shot with machine guns and left to the sharks. Fireman Brown later died in POW camp in the Celebes, N.E.I., in March 1945. If not for the fact that Brown had told several of his fellow prisoners his story, no one would have ever known what had been the fate of Asheville.
Asheville was one of the few American surface ships lost with no known survivors at the end of the war.