Of a mids cruise and a rare sword
The Coast Guard Historical Foundation posted this excellent find from Periscope Film from the cusp of WWII.
“Made in 1939 just before WWII, this short film shows the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, and a Cadet Cruise. The cruise begins in Cartagena, Colombia. There’s a visit to a Colombian warship and old town Cartagena. The cruise then progresses through the Panama Canal at the 3:18 mark, including the port of Balboa. Crossing the Equator, a special ceremony is conducted at the 4:10 mark. This is a shellback initiation. Next is a visit to Guayaquil, Ecuador at the 4:50 mark, and then a ride on a railroad in Peru (6:30), followed by Valparaiso, Chile and the Chilean Naval Academy. At Santiago (7:45), the Coastguardsmen are guests at a military review. The film ends with gunnery practice at sea.”
This led to a debate on their social page over which ship is shown in the film, in which I weighed in (from my sketchy fake Facebook account like the troll I am).
In several shots its clear its a 327, and I have a pretty confirmed kill that its the USCGC Bibb (WPG-31) a 327-foot Treasury-class commissioned in 1936. At one point it shows an invitation with the ship’s name on it. Then at the 8.25 mark it shows the ship’s log with “Henry Coyle, Comdr, USCG” at the top as CO, which is the clencher.
The future Bibb commander Henry was appointed as a cadet to the Revenue Cutter School of Instruction (now the Coast Guard Academy) then at Curtis Bay, MD (now the Coast Guard Yard) on Oct. 14, 1907, resigned and was reappointed in 1910 then graduated from the academy– which by then had moved to the old Army base of Fort Trumbull in New London, Connecticut– and was promoted to ensign in June 1913 followed by Lieutenant (j.g.) in June 1918 stationed at Woods Hole, Mass., where he doubtless took part in the Attack on Orleans (more on this in an upcoming Warship Weds).
Post-WWI, Coyle made full lieutenant in January 1923 and LCDR in April 1924 (times moved fast in the days of Prohibition when the USCG was adding ships every week to fight the rum runners).
Commander Henry Coyle next commanded the Coast Guard cutter Mendota in 1937 which was involved in rescuing 21 survivors from the 5,815-ton Greek freighter Tzenny Chandris (ex-Eastern Packet) who were in the water for nearly a day and a half suffering from shark attacks.
Coyle, with 25 years at sea under him, then became skipper of the Bibb in 1938 for the above cadet cruise and the entry of the U.S. into WWII.
Coyle went on to command the Coast Guard-manned Navy transport USS General William Mitchell (AP-114) during WWII, was authorized to receive a decoration from Greece, retired as a full captain in 1952, and died the same year.
Interestingly, his slightly-modified M1852 Naval officer’s sword issued to the Revenue Cutter Service (from Sico Bros in Baltimore– remember the cadet academy was then in nearby Curtis Bay ) recently came up for auction.
With 30″ blade retailed by the Sisco Bros./Baltimore having etched panels of nautical motifs and the name (without rank), Henry Coyle etched in a panel on the reverse. Shagreen and twisted brass wire wrapped handle. Brass pommel with chased oak leaves, brass knuckle bow with branches and earlier pre-1915 service designation, USRCS. Leather scabbard with brass bands and rope designed carrying rings. Throat inscribed with large fouled anchor. Brothers Charles T. and John E. Sisco operated “a regalia and military equipment” store in Baltimore until 1925. This uncommon sword dates to before 1915 when the numerically small United States Revenue Cutter Service was officially merged with the Life Saving Service to form the United States Coast Guard.
As for the Bibb, she was decommissioned 30 September 1985 after 48 years of service and sunk as an artificial reef off the Florida Keys on 28 November 1987.
However, the Revenue Cutter School of Instruction that Coyle graduated from at Fort Trumbull in New London has since 1915 been the USCGA, where the cadets left from in the 1938 tour video at the top of this post, and is still very much in daily use.