Category Archives: homeland security

“He’s as bad as the worst and as good as the best of us”

The Treasury-class United States Coast Guard Cutter George W. Campbell (WPG/AGC/WHEC-32) was 327-feet of rock and roll. Entering service on the eve of WWII, she spent the conflict first on the razor edge of FDR’s neutrality patrol, then, once the balloon went up, as a Navy gunboat on the more frozen regions of the North Atlantic, shepherding 19 convoys across the big, U-boat infested waters.

It was on this duty that maritime artist Anton Fischer famously accompanied the ship.

Coast Guard Cutter Campbell by Fischer.

Campbell would end the war as an amphibious warfare command ship in the Pacific then go on to have tours in the Korean War and Vietnam before she was finally dispatched in 1984 in a SINKEX.

After that final mission, the Commandant of the Coast Guard flashed, “The Queen is Dead, Long Live the Queen,” celebrating her 46-year career.

However, this post is about Campbell’s equally famous mascot, Sinbad.

Sinbad of the USCGC Campbell (WPG-32) keeps an eye on the convoy in the North Atlantic with his fellow crewman, circa 1943

“Sinbad,” mascot on Coast Guard cutter Campbell, circa 1944, shown at “General Quarters” on the cutter’s 5″/51. Note the “kill” mark for a U-boat

As detailed by the USCGC’s Historian’s Office:

The crew of the Coast Guard cutter Campbell adopted a mixed-breed puppy in 1938. Little did they know that their canine companion would become a world-famous Coast Guard veteran. He was, literally, a member of the crew, complete with all the necessary enlistment forms and other official paperwork, uniforms, and his own bunk. He sailed on board the combat-tested cutter through World War II and saw much action, both at sea and in port.

As Life Magazine reported: “An Old Sea Dog Has Favorite Bars and Plenty of Girls in Every Port.” Until recently he had the honor and distinction of being the only Coast Guardsman to be the subject of a biography! It was Sinbad of the Coast Guard, written by Chief Specialist George R. Foley, USCGR and published by Dodd, Mead and Company of New York during the war. The book made him an international celebrity.

Sinbad was a common figure in recruiting-centered advertising during WWII.

Sinbad, who was aboard when Campbell fought U-606 on her convoy duty, was also kinda squirrely and got in trouble a lot. For instance, he was ashore on liberty one night in Southern Greenland and created quite a ruckus by chasing the residents’ sheep around the country-side. Sinbad was then duly masted and banished from shore leave in Greenland for the remainder of his days:

“Sinbad is a salty sailor but he’s not a good sailor. He’ll never rate gold hashmarks nor Good Conduct Medals. He’s been on report several times and he’s raised hell in a number of ports. On a few occasions, he has embarrassed the United States Government by creating disturbances in foreign zones. Perhaps that’s why Coast Guardsmen love Sinbad, he’s as bad as the worst and as good as the best of us.”

The old USCGC Campbell‘s name was recycled some 30 years ago in a 270-foot Famous-Class cutter homeported in Kittery, Maine. While she has had her own run-ins with a different kind of submarine in recent years.

A bronze Sinbad holds a place of honor over the cutter’s mess. 

Returning to her namesake’s stomping grounds, the current Campbell recently operated in conjunction with the Danish Navy in Greenland’s waters.

USCGC CAMPBELL transited south along the west coast of Greenland overnight with the HDMS KNUD RASMUSSEN and rendezvoused in a position just offshore of Evighedsfjorden (Eternity Fjord). CAMPBELL received KNUD’s Executive Officer, Commander Bo Ougaard, on board to serve as an ice pilot and provide local knowledge to assist CAMPBELL in safely entering and transiting Evighedsfjorden. Once inside Eternity Fjord, CAMPBELL launched her MH-65 Dolphin aircraft and proceeded up the fjord to the head where the glacier begins. (Photo by Seaman Kate Kilroy)

While in Greenland, they also took Sinbad ashore, with the Chiefs taking him drinking at a local dive.

Sinbad at the Port of Nuuk Greenland Campbell (Photo by Seaman Kate Kilroy)

As noted by Campbell’s goat locker:

Our Chief Petty Officers (the only ones allowed to touch the bronze Sinbad statue on our messdeck) brought Sinbad ashore in Nuuk, Greenland, for his return today. It’s good to see Sinbad back in Greenland again!

Bravo Zulu!

Coast Guard picks up even more FRCs, go Glock

If you have followed me here for even a minute, you know that I am a fan of the Coast Guard’s 154-foot Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutter program.

Sept 24, 2020: Coast Guard Fast Response Cutter Myrtle Hazard (WPC 1139) arrives in Guam, where four of her class will form a squadron in the U.S.’s most forward-deployed territory, so to speak. 

The $27 million-per-unit FRCs have a flank speed of 28 knots, state of the art C4ISR suite, a stern launch and recovery ramp for a 26-foot over-the-horizon interceptor cutter boat, and a combat suite that includes a remote-operated Mk38 25mm chain gun and four crew-served M2 .50 cals.

The addition of other light armaments, such as MK-60 quadruple BGM-176B Griffin B missile launchers, MK19 40mm automatic bloopers, and MANPADs, would be simple if needed, provided the Navy wanted to hand it over.

Based on the Dutch Damen Stan 4708 platform with some mods for U.S. use, Louisiana’s Bollinger Shipyards won a contract for the first unit, USCGC Bernard C. Webber (WPC-1101), in 2008 and has been plowing right along ever since.

Speaking of Bollinger, the yard just announced the USCG has exercised the contract option for another four craft, bringing the total number of hulls to 60, not an insignificant number.

It is thought the ultimate goal is to have 58 FRCs for domestic work– where they have proved exceedingly capable when operating in remote U.S. territories such as Guam, in the Caribbean, and in the Western Pacific– and six hulls for use in the Persian Gulf with the Coast Guard’s Patrol Forces Southwest Asia, a regular front-facing buffer force with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

Changing pistolas

Guardsman on patrol somewhere along the Atlantic coast shown in the new uniform of the U.S. Coast Guard Mounted Beach Patrol, 1943. Note the M1917 revolver holster  S&W Victory Model in .38 Special and Army-pattern tack 

While under the Treasury Department, from 1790 to 1968, the Revenue Marine/Revenue Cutter Service/Coast Guard most commonly relied on pistols for their day-to-day work in countering smugglers, pirates, and other assorted scoundrels. These guns usually came from commercial sources. In fact, the old Revenue Cutter Service was one of the first organizations to buy large numbers of Mr. Colt’s revolvers, long before they were popular.

By WWI, the Cuttermen started using more standard handguns in line with the Navy, switching to .45ACP revolvers and pistols, which they utilized until switching to Beretta M9s in the mid-1980s– becoming the first branch of the military to be issued with the new 9mm.

In 2006, with the Coast Guard transferred to Homeland Security, they went with the then-common pistol used by the Secret Service and Federal Protective Service (the old GSA Police with better funding)– the Sig Sauer P229R DAK in .40S&W.

Fast forward to 2020 and the USCG is now using Glocks, piggybacking off the recent CBP contract, rather than go with the Sig Sauer M17/M18 as used by the rest of the military. 

The Coast Guard is now using the Glock 19 Gen5 MOS in 9mm as their standard handgun

Say it with me: Alto Tu Barco!

Of Munro and Blackjacks

The 418-foot Legend-class Coast Guard Cutter Munro (WMSL 755), one of four stationed at Alameda, this week returned home after a 3-month multi-mission patrol that included both spending 37 days in the Bering Sea enforcing fisheries regulations and patrolling the maritime boundary line separating U.S. and Russian waters– interacting with a Russian Border Guard vessel in the process– then shipping down to Hawaii for two weeks of the biennial Rim of the Pacific 2020 (RIMPAC) exercises.

The nut to take from this is the fact that Munro spent a lot of her RIMPAC time practicing interoperability with Navy MH-60S Sea Hawks, a vital force multiplier that the big cutters of her class would no doubt embark in the event of a real-life DOD tasking.

PACIFIC OCEAN (Aug. 25, 2020) An MH-60S Sea Hawk Helicopter assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21 hovers next to the U.S. Coast Guard Legend-class cutter USCGC Munro (WMSL 755) during exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2020. (U.S. Navy photo 200825-N-UM706-1593 by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Madysson Anne Ritter)

As noted by the USCG:

Munro’s patrol included the embarkation of a U.S. Navy MH-60S helicopter and aircrew from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 21, nicknamed the “Blackjacks” during RIMPAC. Over two weeks, Munro and the Blackjacks conducted 380 flight evolutions, 55 touch and go landings, 34 vertical replenishment evolutions transferring cargo by helicopter, and multiple helicopter in flight refuels.

Now if the Navy could just add some Mk.32 ASW tubes, a towed array, and some ASuW missiles to the Legends

DOD: Chinese Navy now largest, Beijing doubling nuclear capability

The latest Defense Department 200-page report, “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China — 2020”  has some startling facts in it.

Below are some of the starkest excerpts, in the report’s language, not mine:

> The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN)—the largest navy in the world—is an increasingly modern and flexible force that has focused on replacing previous generations of platforms with limited capabilities in favor of larger, modern multi-role combatants. As of 2019, the PLAN is largely composed of modern multi-role platforms featuring advanced anti-ship, anti-air, and anti-submarine weapons and sensors.

> Naval Shipbuilding and Modernization: The PLAN remains engaged in a robust shipbuilding and modernization program that includes submarines, surface combatants, amphibious warfare ships, aircraft carriers, and auxiliary ships as well as developing and fielding advanced weapons, sensors, and command and control capabilities.

The country’s rocket forces are increasingly advanced.

Nuclear Deterrence

> China’s strategic ambitions, evolving view of the security landscape, and concerns over
survivability are driving significant changes to the size, capabilities, and readiness of its nuclear
forces.

> China’s nuclear forces will significantly evolve over the next decade as it modernizes, diversifies, and increases the number of its land-, sea-, and air-based nuclear delivery platforms.

> Over the next decade, China’s nuclear warhead stockpile—currently estimated to be in the low200s—is projected to at least double in size as China expands and modernizes its nuclear forces.

> China is pursuing a “nuclear triad” with the development of a nuclear-capable air-launched ballistic missile (ALBM) and improving its ground and sea-based nuclear capabilities.

> New developments in 2019 further suggest that China intends to increase the peacetime readiness of its nuclear forces by moving to a launch-on-warning (LOW) posture with an expanded silo-based force

West Coast layups

The country’s maritime services last week said goodbye to four long-serving warriors, with over 130 years; worth of pennants between them.

USCGC Mellon (WHEC 717) sits in full dress at the pier before a decommissioning ceremony in Seattle on Aug. 20, 2020. USCGC Mellon was a High Endurance Cutter homeported in Seattle and served as an asset in completing Coast Guard missions around the world for 52 years. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Clark)

Besides the 52-year-old Coast Guard Cutter Mellonwho fired 5-inch shells on NGFS in Vietnam and is the only USCGC to have fired a live Harpoon missile— the Navy laid up a trio of Avenger-class mine countermeasures ships last week: USS Ardent (MCM 12), USS Scout (MCM 8), and USS Champion (MCM 4) at Naval Base San Diego.

NAVAL BASE SAN DIEGO, Calif. – Lt. Cdr. Sam Moffett, commanding officer of the Mine Countermeasure ship USS Ardent (MCM 12), delivers remarks during the decommissioning ceremony of the Ardent at Naval Base San Diego. Ardent was decommissioned after nearly 30 years of distinguished service. Commissioned Feb. 8, 1994, Ardent assisted in the recovery of a downed F/A-18C in the North Arabian Gulf and provided support following the bombing of USS Cole (DDG 67) in Port of Aden, Yemen. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kevin C. Leitner/Released)

The good news is that at least the Coast Guard’s 12 1960s-era 378-foot Hamilton-class cutters have been replaced by 11 (with a possible 12th on the horizon) much more capable 418-foot Legend-class National Security Cutters, the Avengers were supposed to be phased out in favor of LCS-based MCM platforms. Just going to leave that there.

There are now 40 154-foot patrol craft in the USCG

The new Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutter (FRC) has been termed an operational “game-changer,” according to senior Coast Guard officials. Based on the Dutch Damen Stan 4708 platform with some mods for U.S. use, Louisiana’s Bollinger Shipyards won a contract for the first unit, USCGC Bernard C. Webber (WPC-1101), in 2008 and has been plowing right along ever since.

A couple weeks ago, the yard delivered the 40th FRC to the Coast Guard, not a bad job in just 12 years.

USCGC Oliver Henry (WPC-1140), note her 25mm gun has not been installed. Photo via Bollinger. 

The newest vessel, USCGC Oliver Henry (WPC-1140), was placed in commission, special status, on 30 July and will remain in Florida while the crew completes pre-commissioning trials and maintenance. The cutter is scheduled to arrive in Santa Rita, Guam, later in 2020, and will be the second of three planned FRCs stationed in Guam, an important upgrade to sea surveillance and patrol capabilities in America’s forward-deployed territorial bastion.

“The Fast Response Cutters are a real game-changer here in the Pacific for the Coast Guard,” said LCDR Jessica Conway, the Coast Guard 14th District’s patrol boat manager. “Already the FRCs stationed here in Hawaii are conducting longer missions over greater distances than the older patrol boats they are replacing.”

FRCs have a flank speed of 28 knots, a state of the art C4ISR suite, a stern launch and recovery ramp for a 26-foot over-the-horizon interceptor cutter boat, and a combat suite that includes a remote-operated Mk38 25mm chain gun and four crew-served M2 .50 cals.

Note the 25mm gun forward. Unlike older models, it is the stabilized Mod 2 variant with a day/night electro-optical sight. The Mod 2 has shown to be 3x more likely to hit a target than the eyeball-trained and manually-slewed Mod 0/1 guns.  

While listed as having a range of ~2,500nm, FRCs have deployed on 4,400nm round-trip patrols to the Marshall Islands from Hawaii– completing two at-sea refuelings from a Coast Guard buoy tender– and have shown themselves particularly adept at expeditionary operations in devastated littorals in the aftermath of hurricanes. Further, the class has deployed to the coast of South America in joint Operations Tradewinds exercises for the past two years.

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Oliver Berry staging out of San Diego headed to Oahu,  2,600-nm West on a solo trip. Not bad for a yacht-sized patrol boat

“Here in the Pacific one of our greatest challenges is distance,” said Conway. “With the FRCs boasting a larger crew size and greater endurance, they are able to complete missions both close to shore and over the horizon, aiding both the people of Guam and our partners in the region.”

In a hat tip to the fact they are so much more capable, the USCG uses the WPC hull designation, used last by the old “buck and a quarter” 125-foot cutters of the Prohibition-era with these crafts, rather than the WPB patrol boat designation of the ships they are replacing.

Most important, later in 2020, Bollinger will be delivering the first of a half-dozen FRCs to the USCG that will be home-ported in Manama, Bahrain, to replace the 1980s-vintage 110-foot Island Class Patrol Boats supporting Patrol Forces Southwest Asia, the service’s largest unit outside of the United States. PATFORSWA is almost continually engaged with Iranian asymmetric forces in the Persian Gulf region.

Kanyon: Not just a torpedo

Possibly one of the scariest weapons ever devised, the Russian 2m39 Poseidon (aka Status-6) NATO: Kanyon, a 65-foot long nuclear-powered intercontinental torpedo with an estimated warhead as large as 100 mega-tons, may or may not ever become operational. Submarine wonk HI Sutton over at Covert Shores has been covering this device for the past couple of years.

To put the strategy behind such a weapon into perspective, Dr. Mark B. Schneider, a Senior Analyst with the National Institute for Public Policy, just penned an essay at Real Clear Defense that paints a grim picture.

“Poseidon is a strategic rather than a tactical nuclear weapon. Calling it a ‘torpedo’ is also a mischaracterization,” says Schneider, pointing out that it is a semi-autonomous nuclear-powered UUV drone.

The crux:

The role of Poseidon appears to be to terrorize the U.S. and NATO into not responding to the initial Russian low-yield nuclear attack after the seizure of bordering NATO territory. Under its “escalate to de-escalate” or “escalate to win” nuclear doctrine, Russia is going to use nuclear weapons first. Deterrence and defense are necessary. A new generation of weapons is probably necessary to destroy the Poseidon. At a minimum, deterring genocidal nuclear attacks against our major port cities is a critical equity. There is no nice way of deterring genocide.

More here

From the Gulf of Alaska to the Gulf of Tonkin, 52 years of service

The Seattle-based Coast Guard Cutter Mellon (WHEC 717) moors at U.S. Coast Guard Base Kodiak’s fuel pier in Kodiak, Alaska, July 10, 2020. Photo by Chief Petty Officer Matthew/USCG

The 378-foot Hamilton-class Coast Guard Cutter Mellon (WHEC 717) just completed her final patrol.

As noted by the USCG, Mellon and her “150-person crew left Seattle April 17 to conduct missions throughout the Aleutian Islands and the Bering Sea. During the patrol, the crew conducted 38 law enforcement boardings, four search-and-rescue cases, and enforced federal regulations governing Alaska’s $13.9 billion commercial fishing industry.”

She returned to her longtime homeport at Seattle earlier this month and is scheduled for decommissioning August 20, 2020, bringing an epic 52-year career to a close.

Laid down in 1966 at Avondale in New Orleans, she commissioned on January 9, 1968.

A modern ship with her helm controlled via a joystick, she carried a 5″/38 DP mount forward, a half-dozen ASW torpedo tubes, sonar, an 80-foot helicopter deck, and used a then-innovative CODAG engineering suite. Contemporary accounts held that she was able to reach a speed of “20 knots in less than 20 seconds and go from full ahead to full astern in less than one minute.”

The Hamilton-class cutters were one of the first naval vessels built with a combined diesel and gas turbine propulsion plant. At the time: “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.”

Mellon served regular weather station duty on Ocean Station November in the Northern Pacific– and even had a balloon shelter for such work, in addition to SAR, maritime fisheries patrol, and counter-smuggling duties.

Once, she even got involved in responding to a mutiny on the high seas.

She also went to a real-live shooting war.

As noted by the Coast Guard Historian’s Office:

Mellon saw extensive service during the conflict in Vietnam. She was twice awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation as part of Task Force 115 (U.S. Navy Coastal Surveillance Force) which maintained close surveillance over 1,200 miles of Vietnamese coastline and 64,000 licensed watercraft.

The task force seized large quantities of war material, preventing it from reaching enemy hands. During her service in the waters adjacent to Vietnam, Mellon also conducted numerous naval gunfire support missions, rescue operations, medical civic action programs, and training programs for Vietnamese military personnel.

She saved lives.

Mellon rescued passengers from the burning Holland-America luxury liner MS Prinsendam off the Alaskan coast in 1980 in conjunction with another cutter, pulling 510 passengers and crew members from lifeboats after they abandoned ship. Remarkably, and in vast contrast to the Titanic, this occurred with no deaths or serious injuries, and all passengers and crew from the Prindsendam accounted for.

Added to this tally over the years were mariners from the doomed Italian supertanker Giovanna Lollighetti, the MV Carnelian, and the downed crew of a C-130 surviving among the frozen scrub of Attu Island.

She held the line

A regular on the Bearing Sea Patrol, Mellon’s sonarmen counted more sonar contacts with Soviet subs in the 1980s than many active-duty tin cans.

Updated for the Cold War, she was given frigate-level armament, trading her 5″ gun for a more modern 76mm OTO Melera Mk.75, picking up more modern air search radars, a “Slick-32” EW suite, and improved AN/SQS-26 bow-mounted sonar. She also got a modicum of anti-air protection from a CIWS and an anti-ship armament of 8 Harpoon cans. The idea was that if the balloon went up, the Hamiltons could easily chop over to add a few more hulls to the “600 Ship Navy” and help out with ASW and convoy duty.

Speaking of which, she was the only cutter in USCG history to fire a live Harpoon, during tests off Oxnard in January 1990.

PAC Ken Freeze, USCG

The Coast Guard certainly got their $14.5 million FY65 original costs out of her, and, as with most of her class, will surely go on to serve an overseas ally for another generation or two.

Her motto is Primus Inter Pares (First Among Equals).

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mellon (WHEC 717) crew and an Air Station Barbers Point MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew conduct searches just before sunset 24 miles south of Oahu, March 18, 2019. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. j.g. Joshua Martin/Released)

Warship Wednesday, June 17, 2020: Mohican Motorboat

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, June 17, 2020: Mohican Motorboat

Courtesy of Commander Donald J. Robinson, USN (Medical Service Corps), 1974. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 78973

Here we see the future section patrol craft, USS Chingachgook (SP-35), described in the 1916 photo as a “Submarine Chaser,” flying a Yachting Ensign but with a pair of deck guns installed, presumably as part of the popular civilian preparedness movement, in preparation for service with the new Naval Coast Defense Reserve.

The tradition of the Navy quickly acquiring commercial or consumer vessels in times of war and, after a quick retrofit with a few guns and, perhaps, a coat of paint, placing them back into service as a patrol craft or armed dispatch boat, dates back to the Revolutionary War. The tactic remained through the Civil War and saw a huge resurgence in the brief conflict with Spain in 1898. During the latter fashionable little war, whole squadrons of yachts, readily made available by scions of Wall Street, became plucky auxiliary patrol boats sent willingly into harms’ way.

Fast forward to the Great War and the terrifyingly incremental lead up to America’s involvement in that terrible conflict, and the Navy Department took steps in that period of armed neutrality to expand their reach.

Under provisions of the “Big Navy” Act of August 29, 1916, which established the Naval Reserve Force to be composed of six classes:

First. The Fleet Naval Reserve.
Second. The Naval Reserve
Third. The Naval Auxiliary Reserve
Fourth. The Naval Coast Defense Reserve
Fifth. The Volunteer Naval Reserve
Sixth. Naval Reserve Flying Corps.

The Naval Coast Defense Reserve was to be composed of:

“Members of the Naval Reserve Force who may be capable of performing special useful service in the Navy or in connection with the Navy in defense of the coast shall be eligible for membership in the Naval Coast Defense Reserve.”

The NCDRF, seen today as opening the door for women to serve in the Navy, also started cataloging in at first hundreds and then later thousands of craft like the Chingachgook for future inclusion in the fleet.

Dubbed “Section Patrol” craft, these boats were given SP hull numbers that they typically did not carry while they retained their pre-war civilian names. Reporting to the Naval Districts they were mobilized in, they would be responsible for keeping an eye peeled for spies, saboteurs, submarines, and assorted other strange goings-on. Keep in mind the Black Tom Island explosion had occurred on July 30, just under a month before the Act was put into effect and German cells were active along both coasts to one degree or another. 

As for Chingachgook, she was built by the Greenport Basin & Construction Co. of Long Island— best known for fishing craft, tugs, and yachts– in 1916, not as a civilian craft, but in hopes of offering her as a prototype sub-buster along motor yacht lines to the U.S. Government. Some 60-feet long, she could make a reported 40 knots on her two 300hp Sterling gasoline engines.

The below 23 January 1917 image shows Chingachgook, not yet in Navy service, lifted out of the waters of New York’s East River and placed on a truck for transport to the Motor Boat Show at Grand Central Palace. Note her stern gun, “10” pennant number on her pilothouse, and twin screws/rudders. Keep in mind that Bannerman’s military surplus, located in Manhattan, would sell both vintage and modern artillery pieces of all kinds, cash and carry, as the NFA of 1934 was still decades away.

War Department image 165-WW-338A-19, LOC ARC Identifier: 45513537

Our hearty little craft, of course, borrows her name from the supporting character of Chingachgook, the fictional Native American warrior featured in four of James Fenimore Cooper’s five Leatherstocking Tales, including his 1826 novel, The Last of the Mohicans.

Chingachgook was purchased by the Navy 25 May 1917 from Theodore W. Brigham of Greenport– six weeks after the U.S. entered the war– and placed in service on 6 June 1917, assigned to the 3rd Naval District (New York) for patrol duty. At least nine other dissimilar Greenport-built motorboats went on to become SP craft including USS Ardent (SP-680), USS Atlantis (SP-40), USS Beluga (SP-536), USS Perfecto (SP-86), USS Quest (SP-171), USS Sea Gull (SP-544), USS Uncas (SP-689), USS Vitesse (SP-1192), and USS Whippet (SP-89).

Chingachgook underway at high speed, October 1916. Like the first image in the post, she is flying yachting flags but is armed with a Colt M1895 “potato digger” machine gun forward and a small (1-pounder) cannon aft, probably for service with the pre-World War I Coast Defense Reserve. Note, while the mate up front is in naval-style crackerjacks, the two men in her wheelhouse are wearing boaters and bespoke suits. Photographed by Edwin Levick, of New York City. NH 101040

Chingachgook’s wartime service ended just two months later.

As noted by DANFS: “On 31 July 1917 her gasoline tank exploded, injuring members of the crew and igniting the ship. A survey of 13 October found her hull worthless and beyond repair, and she was subsequently disposed of by burning.”

She was struck from the Navy Register 19 February 1918.

A one-off design, the Navy went much bigger on their 110-foot sub chaser designs which, like the smaller Chingachgook that preceded them, were wooden-hulled gasoline-engined vessels developed by yacht makers that were intended to be mass-produced in small boatyards. The subsequent “splinter fleet” of SCs grew into the hundreds by 1919.

Later, in WWII, the Navy also used hundreds of small trawlers, yachts, drifters, former Coast Guard Cutters and the like in the same role as the Great War’s myriad Section Patrol craft, but typically designated them as Patrol Yachts (PYc), Patrol Craft (PC), Civilian Vessels (ID), or Yard Patrol Craft (YP) which were, perhaps, more descriptive terms, some of which continue to this day.

As for the Greenport Yacht & Shipbuilding Company, which is still in business, they went on to build coastal minesweepers, subchasers, and LCM landing craft in WWII.

Specs:
Displacement: 13 tons
Length: 60 feet
Beam: 10 feet
Draft: 3 feet
Propulsion: Two 300hp Sterling gasoline engine, two shafts.
Speed: 40 knots (although listed as “22 mph” by some sources)
Armament: One 1-pounder (37mm) and one Colt 30.06 machine gun

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East Bank buzzing again

As a kid, I grew up in South Pascagoula, in a house, appropriately enough, on Pascagoula Street just south of Ingalls Avenue. This was in the 1970s and 80s, at a time when Ingalls Shipbuilding (then part of Litton) was cranking out the occasional submarine, squadrons of Spruance/Kidd-class destroyers, Ticonderoga-class frigates, early Burke-class DDGs, and Tarawa-class LHAs. Also passing through at about the same time was the old mothballed battlewagons Iowa and Wisconsin.

Six Spruance class destroyers fitting out, circa May 1975. Ships are, from left Paul F. Foster (DD-964); Spruance (DD-963), then running trials; Arthur W. Radford (DD-968); Elliot (DD-967); Hewitt (DD-966) and Kinkaid (DD-965). Ingalls East Bank, Pascagoula

A lot of this work was done on the yard’s historic East Bank, which was only a few blocks from my home, and at about 3:30 p.m. it was a mad dash akin to the start of the Indianapolis 500 as the workers rushed to get out of there. Sometimes, you could even see the pace car.

The last large ship I remember being at the East Bank was the 1960s-vintage USS Inchon (LPH-12/MCS-12) when she came back from the Gulf War in 1991 to get patched up after catching an Iraqi mine with her hull. After that, things slowed down as more work shifted to the West Bank which is several miles outside of town in the swamps of Mary Walker Bayou near Gautier.

There I would venture out to work when I was in my 20s, tasked with helping to bend raw steel to form warships as many Goula boys had done before. To be sure, today there are several Burkes and a couple LHDs on active duty with my initials– alongside many others– burned into out of the way inner bottom bulkheads.

Over the past couple of decades the East Bank became deserted although not completely abandoned by now-Huntington Ingalls Industries, and the old graving docks, deep enough to float a battleship, were great places to catch flounder and redfish.

Now, it seems the historic old yard is being dusted off and put back to work with the facility being repurposed to perform maintenance on DDGs. Of note, the damaged USS FitzGerald (DDG-62) has been at Ingalls for some time getting a rebuild after her collision off Japan.

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