New Eagle for the Eagle

As we have touched on in past Warship Wednesdays, “America’s tall ship,” the United States Coast Guard Barque Eagle (WIX-327) is a 295-foot, three-masted training vessel assigned to the USCGA to serve as a schoolship for future Coast Guard and NOAA officers (as well as a smattering of cadets from overseas allies).

Built by Blohm and Voss in Hamburg, she entered service in the Gorch Fock-class segelschulschiff Horst Wessel in 1936, training the officers for the rapidly expanding Kriegsmarine.

Horst Wessel

Somehow surviving WWII, she was taken over by a USCG crew at Bremerhaven in 1946 and sailed to this side of the Atlantic where she has been active ever since. Today she is both the oldest Coast Guard vessel and the only one on active duty that participated in WWII, albeit under another flag.

She still had holdovers from her wartime service until recently, swapping out her original German-made diesel about 30 years ago for a Caterpillar D399 that was itself upgraded for a more efficient MTU 8V4000 in 2018.

Speaking of upgrades, she has just been fitted with a new figurehead.

Which is at least her fifth…

Her original German eagle figurehead

The massive figurehead was modified to carry the USCG crest in its talons, a more appropriate symbol.

Ditching the original eagle figurehead (which is now in the USCGA Museum), in 1952, the barque received the smaller eagle from the old revenue cutter-turned training vessel Salmon Chase.

Her original German figurehead is on display at the USCGA Museum

Chase’s 1890s era eagle fitted to Eagle. She carried it from 1952-70.

In 1971, it was decided to upgrade the figurehead and preserve the historic one from the Chase. With that, a copy of Chase’s was made of fiberglass and painted gold.

The fiberglass addler

It proved less than resilient and was severely damaged in heavy seas. I mean, it’s fiberglass.

In time for the Bicentennial in 1976, the damaged figurehead was replaced with a new 12-foot long one, carved of Honduras mahogany and weighing almost a ton. Gilded in gold, it served for 45 years and was just removed at the Coast Guard Yard last month.

The figurehead of the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle is seen on a foggy Sunday morning at the Coast Guard Yard, Baltimore, Nov. 17, 2013. The Eagle, a 295-foot barque home-ported in New London, Conn., is a training ship used primarily for Coast Guard cadets and officer candidates. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lisa Ferdinando)

The new figurehead is being fitted at the USCG Yard and should be ready for sea shortly.


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