20 Years Ago: First (ish) Cutter Round the World
On 13 July 2001 the Hamilton-class 378-foot high endurance cutter, USCGC Sherman (WHEC-720) became the *third cutter (and first that was not an icebreaker) to circumnavigate the globe when she returned to the U.S. after a six-month deployment to the Arabian Gulf in support of U.N. operations under the command of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet.
According to her ship’s history:
During this cruise, she conducted 219 queries, 115 boardings, and five diverts. Her crew saved 38 lives, including 11 Iraqi smugglers when their vessel sank in a storm off UAE. She towed a 33,000-ton merchant carrier foundering in 50-foot seas off the Cape of Good Hope, saving 22 lives and keeping the ship from running aground at the entrance to Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Her crew also saved five Costa Rican fishermen found after they were adrift for 21 days.
Commissioned in 1968, Sherman was named for John Sherman, President Rutherford B. Hayes’s Treasury Secretary, and saw active duty in Vietnam, firing her 5″/38 DP in 152 NGFS missions during Operation Market Time and sinking the North Vietnamese armed freighter SL-3. As such, she was the only cutter to hold the Combat Action Ribbon for action in the Vietnam War and was one of the last warships in the U.S. maritime fleet to carry a Vietnam Service Award.
A regular on the Bearing Sea Patrol, she would often appear on the Mike Rowe-narrated fishing series Deadliest Catch. Stationed in Hawaii for much of her career, her final motto was Molu ‘Ekahi Hui ‘Ekahi.
Decommissioned in 2018, she was then transferred to the Sri Lanka Navy and renamed SLNS Gajabahu (P626), where she continues to serve as an OPV.
*For the record, the Wind-class medium icebreaker USCGC Eastwind (WAGB-279) was the first cutter to circumnavigate the globe on an Operation Deep Freeze cruise after departing Boston on 25 October 1960 bound for Antarctica, and arriving back in Boston 5 May 1961.
This was followed up by a similar Antarctic summer cruise by her sistership, USCGC Southwind (WAGB-280) [ex-USS Atka (AGB-3)] in 1968-1969.