There is a naval ship named after our fair City of Marathon. The second US Navy ship to be named Marathon was the Patrol Gunboat USS Marathon PG-89. PG stands for patrol gunboat. This ship was named in honor of Marathon, Florida; Marathon, Ohio; Marathon, New York; Marathon, Texas; and Marathon, Wisconsin.
The USS Marathon was commissioned for service 11 May 1968 at Tacoma, Washington. Its ship’s crest symbolized its mission with an emblem and motto emblazoned on a shield. The crest contains elements surrounding a battle by Greek warriors on the Plain of Marathon. In 490 B.C. Greek countrymen saved Athens from Persia at the Battle of Marathon.
The USS Marathon PG-89 was a brown-water vessel designed to operate in shallow waters and rivers, primarily to address perceived Cuban threats at the time. Patrol gunboats like the Marathon were heavily armed and suited to riverine warfare. They were particularly good at drug interdiction operations as well. They featured gas turbine engines that are now predominate in today’s Navy.
The USS Marathon was the first patrol gunboat to earn the Green E and C. These awards were for excellence in engineering and communications respectively. They earned these awards on 5 September 1969. Also in 1969 the ship was painted in camouflage for special upcoming operations, the first combatant painted this way since World War II.
The USS Marathon eventually served three tours with distinction in Vietnam. Other operations were conducted off Singapore, Taiwan, and the Philippines. These ships and other vessels in time evolved into today’s modern special warfare branches and even today’s Navy SEALs (Sea, Air and Land).
The US Navy decommissioned the USS Marathon 31 January 1977 at the naval base located at Little Creek, Virginia. She was then transferred to the Reserve Fleet.
In April 1977 the USS Marathon was transferred to the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. They loaned the ship to the Naval Sea Cadet unit near Cape Cod. The Marathon became the T/S Marathon. T/S stands for training ship. The ship was used for naval training and as testing platforms for the new gas turbine engines.
I could not find the date that the Marathon was scrapped, but Internet sources seem to indicate that the ship ended up at a Beaumont, Texas scrap yard. In all probability, the ship was stripped and no longer exists. The service of the officers and the crew, though, will always live on.
The City of Marathon received several letters from a member of the Patrol Gunboat Association asking for a city flag and a proclamation of thanks. In June 2005, I was asked to write the proclamation to honor the ship and the crews. Of course I was honored to write the city proclamation. The officers and crew who served aboard these patrol gunboats put their lives on the line for our liberties. I personally thank them and owe them my deep appreciation.
L. E. Shaffer, USN Chief Warrant Officer 3, Retired
(September 29, 2009)