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The life and times of a DC1 on a 50+ year old cutter

A look at what it takes to keep a half-century-old OPV in service on regular patrols.

“Petty Officer 1st Class, Victor Arcelay, damage controlman and crew member aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Active, a 210-foot medium endurance Reliance-class cutter homeported in Port Angeles, Wash., explains the effort required by crew members to keep a 52-year-old cutter fully mission-capable to conduct counter-narcotic patrols in the eastern Pacific Ocean, Thursday, May 17, 2018. Medium endurance cutters like the Active are scheduled for replacement by the Offshore Patrol Cutter, with construction of the first vessel slated to begin in 2018 and delivery of the first one scheduled for completion in 2021”

Warship Wednesday, June 27, 2018: The unsung turbo-electric wonder boat

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 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 27, 2018: The unsung turbo-electric wonder boat

Courtesy Commandant U.S. Coast Guard, Catalog #: NH 55224

Here we see the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Chelan (WPG-45), lead ship of the 250-foot Lake-class of patrol gunboats in 1930, likely off Alaska. Although the Lakes didn’t give a lot of service overall to their country of birth, they did yeomen work for the Allies in WWII and the humble Chelan, innovative when she was built, had the distinction of landing blows on enemy submarines (of German, Italian and Japanese origin– a hat trick) in several theaters.

The modern USCG, formed in 1916 from an amalgamation of a number of different small federal maritime services, was stuck by and large with the craft it inherited from the old Revenue Marine of the Treasury Department such as the sail-rigged steel-hulled cruising cutters Gresham, McCulloch and Seneca. By Prohibition, these ships, many slow and elderly, were phased out in favor of newer 165-foot and 240-foot (Tampa-class) cutters augmented by 31 relatively new destroyers from the Navy. However, the destroyers weren’t good sea ships and the Navy eventually wanted them back, leading to the improved Lake-class.

Designed specifically by the Coast Guard, engineering Capt. Quincy B. Newman worked up a cutting edge (for the time) turbo-electric plant that ran the whole ship from a single main turbine. As noted by Schenia, these were the first ships to use a G.E. alternating current synchronous motor for propulsion with Curtis auxiliary generators tied to the main. The ship used two small B&W boilers for light off, but after the motor was engaged the steam wasn’t needed. It should be noted that this class predated the giant use of turbo-electric drives on the carriers Lexington and Saratoga.

The whole affair was very efficient and allowed for Chelan and her sisters to pack a very large commo locker in their day– three different receivers and matching transmitters. It should be noted that the Prohibition USCG service’s intelligence branch was at the time the country’s leader in HF/DF and SIGINT, used for tracking bootleggers on Rum Row.

Caption: Biggest and costliest yet. This is the radio room on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Chelan, the newest cutter of the service now anchored at the Navy Yard, Washington D.C. This radio room houses three transmitters and three receiving sets. On the maiden trip, she picked up an SOS and towed schooner 1,500 miles, a record tow. Ensign Leslie B. Tollaksen, is shown in the photograph. Harris & Ewing, photographer. 1928 November 26. LOC LC-H2- B-3101 [P&P]

The ice-strengthened hull (built for use on the post-Titanic International Ice Patrol) was an improvement of the 240-foot Tampa-class that preceded them, with a raked stem and cruiser stern to make them handle high seas better and they could make 17.3-knots, which is decent for a 1920s gunboat not intended for fleet operations. Armament was one 5″/51cal main gun forward of the bridge house and a 3″/50 pointed over the stern with a pair of 6-pounder (57mm) guns port and starboard just after the main battery.

The 10 ships of the class, all named after lakes, were built by Bethlehem in Quincy (the first five), G. E’s Hanlon Dry Dock in Oakland (the next four) and the 10th at United Drydock on Staten Island at a cost of $900,000 a pop. Chelan, named for a 50-mile long freshwater lake in Washington State, was first with her keel laid 14 November 1927. The last to complete was Cayuga on 22 March 1932– a whole class constructed from start to finish in under five years. Go ahead and try that today!

Chelan cut her teeth on the international ice patrols and patrolled the dozens of serious club regattas up and down the East Coast that were popular in the day, besides flexing her muscles towards the end of the federal government’s war on booze. Transferred out west soon after, stationed then in Seattle in the Pacific Northwest, she left out on a regular series of Bering Sea patrols in Alaskan waters each summer that was replete with oceanography, survey and met duties (the ship’ sick bay was temporarily rebuilt to serve as a laboratory,) in addition to fisheries patrol and enforcing federal law in the wild territory.

She would also serve as a floating federal court and, in 1936, carry a Congressional Party to Unalaska for a fact-finding mission that resulted in the Alaska Indian Reorganization Act.

Off an Alaskan port, “U.S. Navy Alaskan Survey Photo.” Description: Courtesy Commandant U.S. Coast Guard, 1930. Catalog #: NH 55225

An interesting 376-page report on one of these summer cruises is here.

By 1937, Chelan was back on the East Coast, based in Boston, Massachusetts, and conducting more ice patrols. That March she answered a distress call from 1,600-ton Norwegian steamer SS Bjerkli in a fresh northwesterly gale, rescuing 16 officers and crew.

Chelan undergoing yard maintenance (USCG photo)

Her sisters throughout the 1930s were similarly engaged in conducting routine patrols, cadet cruises, rescues and serving as training ships. Sister Cayuga spent 1936 with Navy Squadron 40-T enforcing the rule of law off Spain during that country’s Civil War while Itasca served as the point ship (due to her large radio suite) for Amelia Earhart’s failed bid to reach Howland Island from Lae, Papua New Guinea on her round-the-world flight.

By 1939, Chelan, now armed with depth charges and sound gear, was keeping a weather eye out to keep the country neutral in the raging World War while keeping abreast of North Atlantic weather patterns and conducting surveys and war patrols around Greenland the following year.

Coast Guard radio meteorograph launch 1940 (Radiosonde Museum of North America photo)

Then in September came the class’s part in the infamous “Destroyers for Bases Agreement” between the U.S. and UK that saw 50 aging WWI-era Caldwell, Wickes, and Clemson class destroyers largely from mothballs followed by the 10 Lake-class cutters on Lend-Lease, the latter under a decade old, transferred to London in exchange for access to a number British overseas bases.

(For the six-page original 1940 press release, see this page at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum Collections)

By twist of fate, old Revenue Marine vessels that the Lakes replaced, such as Gresham, McCulloch and Seneca, were repurchased by MARAD for the Coast Guard to press back into service once the U.S. entered the war.

The transfers took place at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where the RN Queen Elizabeth-class battleship HMS Malaya was under repair after being torpedoed by U-106, alongside the Revenge-class HMS Resolution that was likewise having her hull patched up after she was torpedoed by the French submarine Bévéziers, with dreadnought men forming scratch crews.

Chelan was handed over 3 April 1941 and renamed HMS Lulworth (Y.60) while her class was designated as Banff-class escort sloops while flying HMs ensign. She arrived in Clyde the next month and LCDR Clive Gwinner, RN, was made her first British skipper.

For reference:

USCGC Cayuga (HMS Totland)
USCGC Champlain (HMS Sennen)
USCGC Itasca (HMS Gorleston)
USCGC Mendota (HMS Culver)
USCGC Ponchartrain (HMS Hartland)
USCGC Saranac (HMS Banff)
USCGC Shoshone (HMS Landguard)
USCGC Tahoe (HMS Fishguard)
USCGC Sebago (HMS Walney)

By July, with a British 4-inch gun installed in place of her U.S. 5-incher, her 3-inch and 6-pdrs deleted and a few 40mm and 20mm AAA guns added to a suite that now included many more racks of depth charges, Chelan/Lulworth was deployed for convoy defense on the UK-West Africa route.

Given camouflage, she would later add RN HF/DF and Type 271 Radar gear to her party favors.

Not to run through the minutiae of her daily activities, she would spend the rest of the war on an impressive series of convoys, forming a part of at least 47 of them all the way through the summer of 1945 across the North Atlantic, North African and Burma theaters. The highlights are as follows:

In August 1941 she picked up 27 survivors from the torpedoed Norwegian merchant Segundo off Ireland followed by 37 survivors from the British merchant Niceto de Larrinaga and 5 from the British merchant St. Clair II off the Canaries the next month.

While escorting convoy OS 10 on 31 October 1941, Lulworth attacked U-96 with a spread 27 depth charges during a full moon. Lothar-Günther Buchheim, a Sonderführer in a propaganda unit of the Kriegsmarine and later author of Das Boot, was aboard U-96 at the time. His record of the incident was included in his non-fiction U-Boot-Krieg book published in 1976.

Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock (white cap), commander of U-96, photographed by Lothar-Günther Buchheim during a depth charge attack

On 12 May 1942, Chelan defended convoy SL109 bound for Liverpool from the combined efforts of U-126, U-161 and U-128, depth charging until she ran out of cans. Her sister Mendota was not so lucky, hit by two torpedoes fired by U-105 and sank south-west of Ireland following a magazine explosion.

In June while off the Azores, Chelan reclaimed 20 survivors from the torpedoed British tanker Geo H. Jones from the sea.

HMS Lulworth Oiling from the Tanker, San Tirsan (Art.IWM ART LD 3815) image: A view looking down onto the wet deck at the bow of the ship. On the deck some sailors dressed in waterproof gear are adjusting a large pipe which runs off the side of the deck. Another ship sails up ahead and the silhouettes of two more ships are to be seen on the horizon. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

On 14 July 1942, while defending convoy SL 115, she was damaged sustained while ramming and sinking the Italian submarine Pietro Calvi on the surface off the Azores.

While on her eighth patrol, Calvi was rammed and sunk on 14 July 1942 by convoy SL 115 escort HMS Lulworth. Three officers and 32 sailors of her 66-member crew survived and, picked up by RN vessels, spent the rest of their war in a POW camp. She sank six Allied ships for a total of 34,000grt.

Lulworth, along with her sisters, was assigned to the invasion of North Africa, Operation Torch, where fellow Lakes Ponchartrain (sunk by the French destroyer Typhon) and Sebago (set aflame by the French sloop Surprise,) were lost at Oran while transporting Allied troops in close enough to assault the harbor.

HMS LULWORTH (FL 5525) At anchor. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

By September 1943, she was detailed to the Eastern Fleet operating in the Indian Ocean where she depth charged Japanese submarine I37. Fast forward to 1945, and Chelan was present at the Bay of Bengal for the Dracula landings by the British. Damaged in a grounding in June 1945, she finished the war in Rangoon as an element of the Zipper landings along with sisters Champlain/HMS Sennen and Tahoe/Fishguard, the latter of which were too far used up to ever make it back to the U.S after VJ-Day.

Her British equipment removed, Chelan was handed back to the U.S. at Boston on 5th January 1946 and sold for scrap the next year after being raided for her parts to keep a quartet of her sisters still alive. A sad ending to a ship that had a lot of history and was only 15 years old.

Of the four other Lake-class vessels that survived British service long enough to be returned post-war, most had a short run back with their long-lost family as they had been replaced by the newer 255-foot cutters of the Owasco-class (which, embarrassingly enough, often used recycled Lake names, which required the USCG to rename the original 250-foot Lakes save for Itasca and Champlain, when put back into service.) Cayuga/Totland became USCGC Mocoma while Saranac/Baniff became USCGC Tampa.

By 1954, all were decommissioned and headed for the scrappers.

The class is remembered in a scale model of the Baniff-class escort sloop by White Ensign.


Displacement: 2,100 full (1929), 1662 trial
Length: 250 ft (76 m)
Beam: 42 ft (13 m)
Draft: 12 ft 11 in (3.94 m)
Propulsion: 1 × General Electric turbine-driven 3,350 shp (2,500 kW) electric motor, 2 boilers, 1 4-bladed prop
Fuel Oil: 90,000 gallons (300t)
14.8 kn (27.4 km/h; 17.0 mph) cruising
17.5 kn (32.4 km/h; 20.1 mph) maximum
Complement: 97 (as built), 200 in RN service
(As built)
1 × 5″/51
1 × 3″/50
2 × 6-pounder (57 mm)
1 × 5″/51
1 × 3″/50
1 Y-gun depth charge projector, depth charge rack
(1941, British service)
1x 102/45 CP Mk II QF 4-inch Mk V naval gun
1x 76/45 Mk II QF 12-pounder 1gun
2x 40mm Bofors
4x 20mm/70 Mk III
1x 24-cell Hedgehog Mk X ASW-RL
2x depth charge throwers
2x stern depth charge racks with 8 charges on each. (100 cans carried altogether)

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The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

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Coast Guard stepping up to the plate with more cutter-borne drones

Insitu’s ScanEagle drone platform was chosen by the USCG last week for a $117 million contract after an RFP issued in February to provide small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) ISR services aboard the entire 12-ship National Security Cutter fleet.

ScanEagle has over a million hours in the air so far, and a stepped-up version, Integrator, has been adopted by the Marines as the RQ-21 Blackjack, so it is safe to say that it is a mature program.

The service deployed an interim sUAS capability on USCGC Stratton (WMSL-752) – an NSC based in Alameda, California – three times in 2017 and used the data gathered to refine the concept of operations and RFP requirements. During the tests, ScanEagle had directly assisted the ship’s crews in seizing more than $1.5 billion of cocaine and heroin.

Stratton with ScanEagle on catapult launcher/carrier to port and an MH-65 stbd. Note the CIWS above the LSO station in the twin hangar. Make no mistake, the NSC is a frigate-sized warship

The Coast Guard began infrastructure installation for more UAS use on their NSCs in April 2018, with plans to begin installing hardware on Cutters James in fall 2018, Munro in late winter 2019 and Bertholf in late spring or early summer 2019. NSC’s have a dual hangar which can permit a USCG helicopter (MH-65) to operate independently of the UAS det.

According to Janes, the drones will be used in a “contractor-owned, contractor-operated” program where Insitu personnel deploying with the cutter will operate the ScanEagle platform for 200 hours per 30 day period. They will also use a Ball Aerospace laser marker, light detection and ranging (LIDAR), and communications relay packages.

Although it is not mentioned, Insitu has been pushing ScanEagle with a ViDAR payload. Small, light and self-contained, ViDAR allows effective primary search with smaller UAVs and aircraft without radar, dramatically improving the cost-effectiveness of maritime operations such as search and rescue, maritime patrol, anti-piracy, anti-narcotics and border protection.

The Coast Guard has also been using smaller Puma hand-launched UAS from other platforms, such as icebreakers and buoy tenders.

Kevin Vollbrecht, an engineering development technician with Aerovironment Inc., launches a PUMA AE unmanned aircraft system from the flight deck of Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star during Operation Deep Freeze 2016 in the Southern Ocean Jan. 3, 2016. The UAS will play a role in selecting the optimal route through pack ice as the cutter transits to McMurdo Station, Antarctica. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Grant DeVuyst)

On the eve, 48 before Overlord

“LST in Channel Convoy June 4 1944” Drawing, Ink and Wash on Paper; by Mitchell Jamieson; 1944; Framed Dimensions 30H X 25W Accession #: 88-193-HK

“A view on board an LST, looking forward from the bridge, with the main deck below fully loaded with trucks, anti-aircraft half-tracks, jeeps, and trailers. Ahead and on both sides were other LSTs in the group, each towing its “rhino” ferry which was manned by skeleton crews of Sea Bees, the rest of the crews were on board the ships themselves. With the LSTs prevented by German artillery fire from coming to the landing beaches to unload, it was the job of the “rhinos” to unload the tank deck of each LST and go to the beach. Then, since the “rhinos” could only make a couple of knots an hour, the LSTs had to be unloaded offshore by LCTs. Later, when the beach was secured and the ships could come in closer, these “rhinos” operated a continuous shuttle service, unloading all types of ships. This LST, with its mobile anti-aircraft vehicles on deck in addition to the ship’s own anti-aircraft batteries, could put up a formidable screen of anti-aircraft fire. The anti-aircraft half-tracks were of two types: one carrying four quad-mounted 50-caliber machine guns, and the other with one 37mm anti-aircraft gun and two 50-caliber machine guns. The rear part of the half-track was where the gun turret was mounted. A soldier who sat with the gunners operated the turret electronically. Trucks carrying supplies and ammunition, with plenty of camouflage netting, are depicted on the main deck below in the foreground. There was about the same number of vehicles on the tank deck below, unseen. This was the evening of D-day minus two (June 4, 1944).”

Warship Wednesday, May 2, 2018: The 1,000-ton consular insurance policy

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 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, May 2, 2018: The 1,000-ton consular insurance policy

NHHC Catalog #: 19-N-12-19-12 (2000×1444)

Here we see the rather fetching schooner-rigged Patrol Gunboat No. 15, the Wheeling-class USS Marietta, at the New York Navy Yard, circa 1902. Note her white hull and extensive small boat arrangement that included a two-masted 28-foot gig whaleboat and two 26-foot steam cutters as well as miscellaneous smaller dinghies. Marietta was celebrated as an integral part of the new all-steel steam Navy at the turn of the new century.

Laid down at Union Iron Works, San Francisco, the two 1,000-ton unarmored steel-hulled gunboats of the Wheeling-class were ordered in 1895 and intended for use as station ships to show the flag in America’s interests overseas. Able to float in just 12-feet of seawater, they could visit small backwater ports and perform caretaker roles to far-flung consular posts across Latin America, the Pacific station and the Caribbean on their own, while their quartet of 4-inch guns gave a moment of respite against unrest. Capable of plugging along at 13-knots, they could revert to their auxiliary sail rig when coal was scarce.

The two sisters were built side by side and commissioned within three weeks of each other in the summer of 1897 and were beautifully appointed.

USS MARIETTA (PG-15) at the New York Navy Yard, circa 1902. Note Jack; figurehead; USS BROOKLYN (CA-3) in the background, left. #: 19-N-12-19-13

One of the ship’s sideboards, featuring the seal of the city of Marietta, Ohio. Catalog 19-N-12-19-9

At the New York Navy Yard, circa 1902. Note flag. Catalog #: 19-N-12-19-11

“Ships of the new Navy” Painting by F. Muller. White-hulled steel ships of the late nineteenth century which replaced the sailing ships of a bygone era and generally the types of ships which fought successfully in the Spanish-American War. Shown, left-right: USS MARIETTA (PG-15), gunboat built in 1897; USS PURITAN (BM-1), monitor built in 1896; USS ILLINOIS (BB-7), battleships built in 1898; USS IOWA (BB-4), battleship in 1896; USS STRINGHAM (TB-19), torpedo boat built in 1899. NH 76314-KN

USS Marietta (PG-15) photographed in 1897-98. Copied from the Journal of Naval Cadet C.R. Miller, 1898, page 67. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 46643

USS MARIETTA (PG-15) with her casemated battery swung out. The photograph was taken circa 1897. Catalog #: 19-N-12-19-10

Marietta was the third and (thus far) last warship to carry that name on the U.S. Navy List, following in the wake of a 28-oar 5-gun rowboat ordered by President Thomas Jefferson in 1803 and a Civil War-era monitor that was accepted but never commissioned.

Marietta soon became part of the Spanish-American War.


Marietta departed San Francisco 19 March 1898 for Callao, Peru, to arrange for the coaling of Battleship Oregon (BB‑3) which was steaming to join the North Atlantic Squadron off Cuba. Moving on to Valparaiso, Chile, 31 March, the gunboat was joined by Oregon 6 April and together the two warships proceeded through the Straits of Magellan and up the east coast of South America, separating at Bahia, Brazil 11 May. Marietta arrived Key West, Fla., 4 June, then joined the blockade of Havana Harbor.

When the war ended, she remained on the East Coast and was used to help clear mines from Cuban waters until she was needed again.

In what became known as the Bluefields Expedition, she was dispatched to the Mosquito coast of Nicaragua at the outset of unrest there that had the local consulate worried as it involved several American and European adventurers who were soon to have their necks stretched by the Nicaraguans. She arrived on 24 Feb 1899 and landed a small force of about 50 sailors and Marines that remained ashore for about a week until things cooled down, co-opting with a similar force landed by the British.

Bluefields, Nicaragua, view taken in 1899, shows personnel from the joint Anglo-American landing force put ashore there to protect their nationals. Note the Colt M1895 “potato digger” light machine gun and the straight-pull Model 1895 Lee Navy 6mm rifles. The British were under the command of Captain Burr #4, the US force was under Commander Frederick M Symonds USN #2 commanding officer of USS MARIETTA (PG-15). NH 83794

By the end of 1899, it was decided her shallow draft and heavy armament (for a ship her size) could prove useful in fighting on the other side of the globe and Marietta arrived in Manila 3 January 1900. Operating in support of American forces ending the Philippine insurrection, the busy gunboat acted as a patrol and convoy escort vessel in the islands, assisting and cooperating with the Army in military expeditions and landings until ordered home 3 June 1901 for duties with the North Atlantic Squadron until moving into ordinary in 1903 for a refit.

The next year she operated off Central America, protecting American interests in Panama during that nation’s revolution against Colombia, which led to the Canal becoming a wholly American operation for the remainder of the Century. Marietta then spent nearly a decade around the Caribbean, “calling at numerous Latin American ports and protecting American lives and property from damage.”

Marietta, June 1908 Arriving at Curacao, Venezuela, by Bain News Service via Library of Congress photo LC-B2-457-14

Lot-3305-26 U.S. Navy gunboat USS Marietta (PG 15), starboard view. Photographed by K. Loeffler, 1909. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

By 1912, pushing age 20 and outclassed by most things afloat, the hard-used gunboat which had circumnavigated the globe and mixed it up in two hemispheres was taken out of front-line service and turned over to the New Jersey Naval Militia for use as a training ship.

When the Great War erupted in Europe, she was returned to the Navy and served on Neutrality Patrol duties in the Atlantic before seeing the elephant once more in the 1916 Vera Cruz crisis in Mexican waters, again landing armed bluejackets for service ashore.

When the U.S. entered WWI for real in April 1917, Marietta was up-armed and assigned to the Atlantic Fleet patrol force for convoy duty, eventually crossing the big water to Brest, France where she served on anti-submarine patrol under the command of CPT Harry G. Hamlet, U.S. Coast Guard (a future Commandant of that service), with a mixed crew of Navy vets, Coasties, and new recruits.

USS Marietta (Patrol Gunboat #15), new fore top-mast and shrouds, at the Boston Navy Yard, Boston, Massachusetts, May 31, 1917. USS Constitution is to her right. She performed convoy duties during World War I in the Atlantic and off Europe.19-LC-14-2:

USS MARIETTA (PG-15), camouflaged and dressed with flags, while serving in European waters, 1918. Catalog #: NH 94977

USS MARIETTA (PG-15) photographed in 1918, probably in European waters. Courtesy of Paul H. Silverstone, 1983. NH 94976

She appeared to be a happy and popular little gunboat during this wartime period, with several snaps of her crew preserved to history.

Sailor imitates Charlie Chaplin on the forecastle, circa 1918-19. Description: Courtesy of Paul H. Silverstone, 1983 NH 95010

Crewmen in whites pose amidships with sea bags and her commissioning pennant, circa 1918-19. Description: Courtesy of Paul H. Silverstone, 1983 NH 94994

Crewmen in whites pose amidships with sea bags and her commissioning pennant, circa 1918-19. Description: Courtesy of Paul H. Silverstone, 1983 NH 94994

Crewmen in blues lounging on the forecastle, circa 1918-19. Note base of 4″/40 gun, at right. Description: Courtesy of Paul H. Silverstone, 1983 NH 94989

Three sailors pose by the forward 4″/40 deck gun circa 1919. Description: Courtesy of Paul H. Silverstone, 1983 NH 95013

Crewmen scrubbing hammocks or awnings, on the forecastle circa 1918-19, while in a European port. Note bell and gear of 4″/40 gun at left, anchor and 3-pounder gun at right, and mattress splinter protection around the bridge. Description: Courtesy of Paul H. Silverstone, 1983 NH 94991

A “tall and short” photo of a chief petty officer and sailor on board, circa 1918-19. The chief is equipped for shore patrol duties– note the baton. Description: Courtesy of Paul H. Silverstone, 1983 NH 94993

In 1919, on a convoy home out of the Bay of Biscay to Boston, the 150-foot converted menhaden trawler USS James (SP-429) began taking on water in heavy seas. Marietta, under her Coast Guard skipper, moved to rescue her two officers and 45 men in the maelstrom.

As noted by the Coast Guard Historian’s office on Hamlet:

With high seas threatening to crash the two vessels together, he skillfully and courageously maneuvered his ship alongside James and was instrumental in saving all on board. In recognition of his gallant conduct, the Secretary of the Treasury awarded him the Congressional Gold Lifesaving Medal and he received a Special Commendation from the Secretary of the Navy entitling him to wear the Silver Star upon his service ribbon.

On the way back to the East Coast, Marietta was involved in a fender-bender with the nominally larger Wickes-class destroyer USS Stevens (DD-86) at Ponta Delgada, in the Azores, the latter supporting the NC seaplane transatlantic flight efforts.

Marietta, worn out and unrepaired, was decommissioned 12 July 1919 at New Orleans and sold the following Spring for her value in scrap. Rumor is she was repurposed as a banana boat, plying in Central American waters in the 1920s and 30s, but I can’t confirm that from Lloyds.

As for her sister, Wheeling was used as a training ship after the Great War for a while and eventually as a berthing barge for motor torpedo boat crews during WWII. She was sold for scrap 5 October 1946. The Navy certainly got their dollars’ worth out of them.

In the National Archives, the Trial Board records of both Marietta and Wheeling are on file as is their logbooks and the court documents from the Stevens incident.


Picture postcard from the Hugh C. Leighton Co. of Portland, ME, courtesy of Tommy Trapp via Navsource

Displacement 1,000 t., 1914 – 990 t.
Length 189 ‘ 7″
Beam 34′
Draft 12’
Propulsion: Two Babcock and Wilcox boilers, two 518ihp vertical triple expansion steam engines, two shafts.
Speed 13 knots.
Complement 140 as built, 1914 – 163
(As built)
6×4″ gun mounts
1×3″ gun mount
Colt .30-caliber “potato digger” machine gun
6×4″ rapid fire mounts
2×1-pounder rapid fire mounts
Colt machine gun
6×4″/40 rapid fire mounts
4×6-pounder rapid fire mounts
2×1-pounder rapid fire mounts

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find.

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

‘Worn out’ 110s will likely live on for decades

USCG Photo

Here we see the 110-foot Costa Rican Coast Guard (Guardacostas) patrol boat Libertador Juan Rafael Mora Porras (P1101), formerly the USCGC Long Island (WPB-1342), headed to the port of Caldera on Costa Rica’s west coast after picking up an overhaul, new radar, radios and paint at the Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore, with costs paid for by the State Department’s Foreign Military Sales program.

Some 44 members of the Costa Rican Coast Guard have been in Baltimore since October training on their new vessels. The former cutters Long Island and USCGC Roanoke Island (WPB-1346) (the latter now Gen. Jose M. Canas Escamilla) were previously based in Alaska and were decommissioned in 2015 after more than 20 years’ service.

Just 22 of 49 completed Island-class cutters remain in service, with Edisto decommissioning in California last weekend, rapidly being replaced by the larger and more modern 158-foot Sentinel-class of Fast Response Cutters.

The Coast Guard Cutter Edisto sits moored at Naval Base Point Loma, San Diego, April 13, 2018. Edisto was decommissioned after 31 years of service. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Joel Guzman/released)

Even non-nation actors are using retired 110s in maritime patrol roles. I give you Sea Shepherd’s pair, currently off Baja supporting local operations to preserve Vaquitas, rare porpoises that live off the coast of Mexico:

The former USCGC Block Island (WPB-1344) and the USCGC Pea Island (WPB-1347), now renamed the MV John Paul DeJoria and the MV Farley Mowat, were purchased in Baltimore in 2015 as surplus by the group.


A fog cannon sounds like a good idea– at first

I give you an antebellum cannon, long on display in USCG’s PACAREA. This vintage 24-pounder siege gun was first used as a fog signal on Point Bonita, California, the entrance to San Francisco Bay, during the time of the Gold Rush clippers.

USCG Heritage Asset Collection 170601-G-XX000-352

Beginning on 6 August 1855, a retired Army sergeant was detailed to fire this gun every half hour whenever fog prevailed. What they didn’t take into account is that Point Bonita averages 1040 hours of fog signal operation every year, which placed a considerable burden on said sergeant.

A vintage image of the gun on its correct mount, note the Point Bonita lighthouse in the background

As noted by the U.S. Lighthouse Society:

Armed with his marching orders Sergeant Mahony set about his task. What the service didn’t know was that Point Bonita experienced over 1,000 hours of fog or “thick” weather a year.

In short order, the district office received a letter from the good sergeant stating, “I cannot find any person here to relieve me, not five minutes. I have been up three days and nights and had only two hours’ rest, and am nearly used up. All the rest I would require in the twenty-four hours is two, if I could only get it.”

During the first year, he fired 1,390 rounds, expending 5,560 pounds of black gunpowder at a cost of $1,487. The district did send him an assistant, but in the second year of operation, there were 1,582 discharges expending $2,000 of black powder, three times the sergeant’s salary.

This procedure was discontinued in March 1858 due to the high cost of powder. No mention of what happened to Mahony, who likely said “What?” a lot when spoken to.

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