Farewell, Munro, last of the 378s

In January 1965, USCGC Hamilton (WHEC-715) the first of the country’s 378-foot High Endurance Cutters– and the largest designed for the service up to that time– was laid down. Equipped roughly as a destroyer escort with six ASW torpedo tubes, sonar, and a 5″/38, they were also the country’s first CODAG engineering suites introduced into service.

The Hamilton-class cutters were one of the first naval vessels built with a combined diesel and gas turbine propulsion plant. “The twin screws can use 7,000 diesel shaft horsepower to make 17 knots, and a total of 36,000 gas turbine shaft horsepower to make 28 knots. The diesel engines are Fairbanks-Morse and are larger versions of a 1968 diesel locomotive design. Her Pratt-Whitney marine gas turbine engines are similar to those installed in Boeing 707 passenger jet aircraft.”

Over the years, they stood on the front line of the Cold War and saw some combat during Vietnam’s Operation Market Time providing naval gunfire support for troops ashore while busting blacked-out munition-laden trawlers poking around the littoral at night. In the 1980s, they FRAM’d with the provision to carry Harpoon AShMs while trading in the old 5-inchers for a 76mm OTO and a CIWS, then continued to soldier on.

When Hamilton struck in 2011, it started a slo-mo fuze on the 12 ships of the class that will burn out at the end of the month with the decommissioning of Kodiak-based USCGC Douglas Munro (WHEC-724), which joined the fleet in 1971– 50 years ago.

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Douglas Munro in Kodiak, July 2018. USCG Photo/ENS Jake Marx.

From COMDT COGARD, WASHINGTON DC:

UNCLAS
ALCOAST 088/21
SSIC 4500
SUBJ: USCGC DOUGLAS MUNRO (WHEC 724) 49 YEARS OF SERVICE
1. On 31 Mar 2021, after 49 years of faithful service to
our Nation, CGC DOUGLAS MUNRO will transition to In-Commission
Special status. This status begins the decommissioning process.
Throughout the cutter’s service, CGC DOUGLAS MUNRO crews
embodied the cutter’s motto –
“Honoring the Past by Serving the Present.”
2. CGC DOUGLAS MUNRO was named in honor of Coast Guard
Signalman First Class Douglas Albert Munro, who was awarded
the Medal of Honor for acts of extraordinary heroism in World
War II. As the Officer-in-Charge of an eight-craft amphibious
landing force during the Guadalcanal Campaign, Munro bravely
used his landing craft and its .30 caliber machine gun to
shield and protect several hundred Marines who were under
heavy enemy fire. He was mortally wounded during this effort,
but his actions allowed for the Marines to be extracted by
other landing craft. Commissioned on 27 Sep 1971 as the tenth
cutter in the Hamilton Class, CGC DOUGLAS MUNRO was originally
homeported in Boston, MA but quickly moved to its Seattle, WA
homeport in 1973. CGC DOUGLAS MUNRO again shifted homeport to
Honolulu, HI in 1981 and then to Alameda, CA in 1989. CGC DOUGLAS
MUNRO made a final homeport shift to Kodiak, AK in 2007.
3. Over the course of the cutter’s distinguished career, those who
sailed aboard CGC DOUGLAS MUNRO served in a multitude of domestic
and international theaters including the Bering Sea and Gulf
of Alaska, Persian Gulf and Horn of Africa, and Southeast Asia
and Eastern Pacific Ocean.
4. CGC DOUGLAS MUNRO’s proud legacy of honorable service to
the Nation began in the early 1970s patrolling Ocean Stations
Delta, Bravo, and November, providing weather data to trans-
Pacific flights, supporting oceanographic research missions,
and performing search-and-rescue operations. CGC DOUGLAS MUNRO
also patrolled the Pacific for decades as a critical enforcer
of fisheries regulations, particularly with the international
fleets of the former Soviet Union, Korea, Indonesia, and Russia.
In 1998, CGC DOUGLAS MUNRO interdicted over 11.5 tons of cocaine
on a Mexican flagged vessel, the XOLESUIENTLE, in what remains
to this day one of the largest single drug seizures in USCG
history. The following year, CGC DOUGLAS MUNRO seized the motor
vessel WING FUNG LUNG, which was attempting to transport 259
illegal Chinese migrants to the United States. In early 2005,
at the beginning of a six-month, 37,000 mile global circumnavigation
that included support to Operations IRAQI FREEDOM and ENDURING
FREEDOM, CGC DOUGLAS MUNRO diverted to render assistance to
countries affected by the devastating December 26, 2004 Indian
Ocean tsunami. CGC DOUGLAS MUNRO’s legacy was epitomized on
March 23, 2008 when the cutter and its embarked MH-65 Aviation
Detachment worked with a forward deployed Air Station Kodiak
MH-60 to recover 20 survivors of the F/V ALASKA RANGER that
sank in the Bering Sea early that morning. The Seventeenth
Coast Guard District Commander at the time of the rescue,
RADM Arthur Brooks, declared it “One of the greatest search
and rescue efforts in modern history.”
5. During the cutter’s last year of service, CGC DOUGLAS MUNRO
completed 159 days away from homeport patrolling over 23,000
nautical miles in the Bering Sea, Gulf of Alaska, and Pacific
Ocean to enforce laws, treaties, and regulations critical to
detecting and deterring Illegal, Unregulated, and Unreported
(IUU) fishing. This included an operation NORTH PACIFIC GUARD
deployment and two Alaska patrols, concluding the cutter’s long
legacy of safeguarding mariners in some of the world’s most
perilous waters.
6. The decommissioning of CGC DOUGLAS MUNRO comes 10 years
after CGC HAMILTON was the first WHEC-378 to be decommissioned
in March 2011. CGC DOUGLAS MUNRO’s decommissioning marks the
end of service for the 12-cutter HAMILTON class fleet, whose
crews proudly served the Nation for more than half a century.
The spirit of Douglas Munro will continue to live on in the
sixth National Security Cutter, CGC MUNRO (WMSL 755), the second
cutter to bear the name of the Coast Guard’s sole Medal of
Honor recipient.
7. To current and past CGC DOUGLAS MUNRO crews, Plankowners,
Shellbacks (Golden, Emerald, Horned, or otherwise), subjects
of the Golden Dragon, Blue Noses, and even Pollywogs: Well Done!
Through 49 years of service, CGC DOUGLAS MUNRO crews admirably
served the Coast Guard and the Nation. Congratulations and
Bravo Zulu!
8. ADM Karl L. Schultz, Commandant (CCG), sends.
9. Internet release is authorized.

As with all 11 of her sisters, Douglas Munro will be given a light refit and transferred to an overseas ally, namely Vietnam, which already operates the former USCGC Morgenthau (WHEC-722) and is slated to receive ex-USCGC Midgett (WHEC-726) this year. The 378s are all currently still afloat and in fleet use with Bangladesh, Nigeria, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka in addition to the Vietnamese ships.

As for her name, that of the service’s only MOH recipient, the Coast Guard commissioned the new Pascagoula-built 418-foot National Security Cutter USCGC Munro (WMSL 755) in 2017, leading to the curious state of the service having two large cutters on its active list named for the hero at the same time. 

378-foot Hamilton-class Coast Guard Cutter Douglas Munro (WHEC 724) and the new 418-foot Berthoff-class USCGC Munro (WMSL 755), working together off the  Hawaiian Islands, Aug. 29, 2020. USCG Photo

One comment

  • william feddema

    thank you for my time on munro i was pre comm in 1971 and served on board until promoted to cwo in dec ’72. she was my second 378 as i came off rush in vietnam also precomm on that one. finished my career on chase and hamilton. rush was out of alameda .munro chase and hamilton out of boston. thank you shipmates. sincerely bill feddema.

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