Tag Archive | balsam class

Bad day for museum ships

A few of the last of their kind, which had been planned to be turned into floating museum ships, will now have another fate.

In Jacksonville, a group has been trying for years to obtain the USS Charles F. Adams (DDG-2) to install downtown as a museum.

(DDG-2) Underway at high speed while running trials, 31 August 1960. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command. NH 106724

The first of her extensive class of 23 ships– to include spin-offs for the West German and Royal Australian Navies– Adams was ordered in 1957 and commissioned three years later. Leaving the fleet in 1990, she has been rusting away at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard ever since.

Adams as she looked in 2008. Remember, this was a decade ago. Imagine what she looks like today! The Navy may have made the right call on this one (Via Wiki)

Now, the ship has moved from museum hold to the scrap list.

From Jax:

“Unfortunately, the United States Navy has reversed course and determined the ex USS Adams will not be donated to the Jacksonville Historic Naval Ship Association (“JHNSA”) as a museum in Jacksonville but instead will be scrapped. This decision is counter to the Navy’s recommendation in 2014 that the ex USS Adams be released to the JHNSA for donation. We wish to thank Congressman Rutherford, Senators Rubio, and Nelson, Governor Scott, and all the City officials for their efforts with the Secretary of the Navy to have the ex USS Adams brought to Jacksonville. Although disappointed by this development, the JHNSA will continue to pursue bringing a Navy warship to downtown Jacksonville.”

The group has been collecting items to display including a not-too-far-from-surplus SPA-25G radar panel and Adams’ bell, but they want a ship to put them on. Perhaps a recently retired FFG-7?

Meanwhile, on the West Coast, the final two members of the USCG’s WWII-era Balsam-class 180-foot buoy tenders have run out of time. USCGS Iris (WLB-395) and Planetree (WLB-307) were decommissioned after helping with the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1995 and 1999, respectively, and have been sitting in the rusting quiet of the SBRF, Suisun Bay, CA mothballs fleet ever since.

While efforts have been off and on over the past couple decades to save one or both, they have been sold for scrap and are headed to Texas by the same long-distance sea tow.  As such, it will end more than 75 years of service tended by these vessels to Uncle.

Photo: Mike Brook, Tradewinds Towing, via USCGC Storis – Life and Death of a CG Queen

Finally, in a bright sign, the retired U.S. Coast Guard cutter Bramble (WLB-392) could be repeating her historic 1957 voyage through the Northwest Passage. Another of the “180s,” Bramble has been a museum ship in Port Huron for years but was recently sold to a man who wants to repeat the famous five-month trek of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutters Storis, SPAR and Bramble, along with the crew of the Canadian icebreaker HMCS Labrador from May to September of 1957.

Storis, fore, SPAR, and Bramble bringing up the rear. The NWP doesn’t look like this anymore.

Things are easier up there these days, and the crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Maple, a 225-foot Juniper-class seagoing buoy tender, did the trip in just 47 days last year with no icebreaking involved, so it’s not that hard to fathom.

Either way, you have to love Bramble‘s patch.

Warship Wednesday, Sept, 26, 2018: Sideroxylon lanuginosum, everlasting

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 of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018: Sideroxylon lanuginosum, everlasting

USCG photo by MILLER, LAIMAN B. LTJG.

Here we see the Mesquite-class buoy tender USCGC Ironwood (WAGL/WLB-297) in the summer of 1996 in Alaskan waters offloading equipment for maintenance on Eldred Rock Lighthouse. A product of WWII, she would over a half-century in U.S. maritime service and is, remarkably, still ticking in the Pacific Northwest.

In 1916 the Revenue Cutter Service and Lifesaving Service were merged to form the Coast Guard, to which the Bureau of Lighthouses was added on 1 July 1939 and as such all U.S. lighthouses, tenders, and lightships became USCG installations and ships. The thing is, the lighthouse and buoy tender fleet was a hodgepodge of antiquated single-use vessels to which the Bureau had been looking to replace with a new series of 177-foot lighthouse tenders modeled after the USLHT Juniper, the last vessel designed by the Bureau.

Taking these plans, the Coast Guard made some changes and produced a 180-foot/950-ton single-screw steel-hulled ship that incorporated some new features that the USLHS never needed (an ice-strengthened bow, search and rescue equipment and mission, allowance for armament, et.al). The first of these, USCGC Cactus (WAGL-270) was appropriated for $782,381 on 20 Jan 1941 and laid down at Marine Iron & Shipbuilding Corporation, Duluth, MN on 31 March.

Almost all of these hardy ships were built either at Marine or at Zenith Dredge Company very rapidly in three subclasses: the “A” or “Cactus” class, “B” or “Mesquite” class, and “C” or “Iris” class (with all named for trees and bushes). All ships of the three subclasses have the same general characteristics, but with slight differences, (e.g. the “A/Cactus” class tenders may be differentiated from the other two classes of 180-foot tenders by their unique “A” frame main boom support forward and their large 30,000 gal fuel tanks that allowed an economical 17,000nm cruising range on their gentle diesel suite.) The last to come off the ways was USCGC Woodbrush (WAGL-407) which commissioned 22 Sept. 1944. The building process entailed an average of 192,018 hours of labor per vessel.

USCGC Basswood through the Straits of Mackinac- 12 May 1944, a good example of the “180s.” Note the 3″/50 behind her wheelhouse facing over the stern as well as her 20mm mounts. ASW weapons, firefighting gear, and buoy tending equipment were also shoehorned into these ships as well. Further, as shown above, they could break light ice, a feature that was to serve the units headed to the Pacific well!

Unlike the other 38 of the class that was built by contractors, the hero of our story, USCGC Ironwood, was laid down at the Coast Guard Yard at Curtis Bay, Maryland and commissioned 275 days later on 4 August 1943 for a cost of $1,388,227 (note the difference from Cactus, above). She was the only vessel in active U.S. service named for the Sideroxylon lanuginosum, aka gum bully or ironwood, a small tree native to the Sun Belt and Midwest. According to the USCG’s office, in service, her crew nicknamed her “Ironbush” and “Ironweed” for her small size.

The Hughes Co., Photographers, Baltimore, Maryland 4 March 1943 Ironwood under construction at the U.S. Coast Guard shipyard in Curtis Bay, Maryland. Ironwood was the only 180 built by the U.S. Coast Guard. LOC HAER AK-44-1

Ironwood sailed for the War in the Pacific, arriving in Noumea, New Caledonia via Bora Bora and Pago Pago, in March 1944.

Ironwood in all of her WWII glory

She spent the next nine months in a busy but routine operation of keeping the 3rd Fleet’s vast anchorages up to snuff. This meant tending anti-torpedo nets and mooring buoys, establishing the new-fangled LORAN network, carrying cargo, mail, and servicemembers from island to island, and towing barges as needed– all while looking out for the possibility of Japanese mines, periscopes, and floatplanes on the horizon. She even came to the assistance of the stranded Liberty Ship SS John Lind.

Coast Guard Historian’s Office:

On 26 March1944 Ironwood left Noumea to assist SS John Lind grounded on a reef at 22 28 S, 166 36 E. Ironwood’s attempts to pull the vessel off being unsuccessful, she removed 65 Navy and Marine Corps personnel from the vessel on the 28th and transported them to Noumea on the next day. She remained until 2 April 1944 when she proceeded with Navy tugs USS Sioux and YT-463 to remove the reefed ship. In tandem with the tugs they successfully re-floated John Lind on 6 April.

In January 1945, she sailed for Guadalcanal’s Cape Esperance in the Solomons. There, she moved assisted in the recovery of a Japanese midget submarine. The 78-foot, 47-ton, two-man Type A Ko-hyoteki boat, was found in 30 feet of water and the cutter spent two weeks in the recovery operation as detailed by Combined Fleets:

4 January 1945:
US Coast Guard cutter IRONWOOD (W-297) begins operations to raise an unidentified Japanese two-man midget submarine from about 30 feet of water off Cape Esperance. Divers, working from a small boat, use a water pressure hose and crowbars to clear a space under the bow and stern of the submarine. By 9 Jan, a 1.5” chain sling is rigged around the bow of the midget submarine.

19 January 1945:
After retiring to Gavutu for ten days, IRONWOOD again anchors off Cape Esperance. By now, divers have completed rigging the submarine for lifting, connecting the chain around its bow and stern with a chain bridal.

20 January 1945 :
IRONWOOD is positioned alongside the sunken midget submarine. She lowers the main hoist over the starboard side and hooks it to the chain bridal. The cutter then raises the midget submarine to the surface and secures it alongside. IRONWOOD then tows it to Hutchinson’s Creek, Florida Island, Solomons. The next day, IRONWOOD moves to a new anchorage where the midget submarine is transferred to an unidentified USN crane barge.

Ironwood’s crew works to salvage a Japanese midget submarine found off Guadalcanal in 1945 LOC HAER AK-44-2

The identity of this 1945 salvaged midget submarine is unknown but is possibly HA-22 or HA-37. I can’t find out what happened to the craft but it was likely scrapped at some point. It is not one of the five Type A midgets preserved and on display currently (HA-8: Groton, Connecticut; HA-18: JMSDF Etajima Naval Base, Etajima, Japan; HA-19: Nimitz Museum, Fredericksburg, Texas; and HA-14/HA-21 at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra).

Ironwood went on to spend a solid year, from August 1945 to July 1946, in the Philippines reestablishing buoys and lighthouses and looking for pockets of Japanese holdouts.

Following her extended wartime service, she was stationed briefly in Monterey, California then returned to the South Pacific soon enough.

Between 19 November 1951 and 2 May 1954, Ironwood made four deployments to support Korean War operations, supplying and supporting radio stations in the region. As such, she was one of just 24 Coast Guard vessels that qualified for the Korean Service Medal.

Ironwood-1962. Note she still has her 3-inch gun aft. She would pick up her racing stripe a few years later.

In 1963, by that time stationed in Honolulu, she took some of the first scientists to return to the Marshall Islands after U.S. nuclear testing. As related by Capt. LeRoy Reinburg, Jr., U.S. Coast Guard-Retired, her skipper at the time, Ironwood spent almost two weeks inspecting radioactive and poorly charted Rongelap Atoll.

“In the course of our travels, we discovered nine uncharted islands and one large reef that bared at low tide. Dr. Held and I decided to assign names to these geographic features. The reef, appropriately, was named ‘Ironwood Reef,’” he noted.

During the mid-1960s, these boats were designated WLBs (buoy tenders) and saw all fixed armament landed in 1966, leaving them only their small arms lockers. If deployed for law enforcement missions or to war zones, 180s would be equipped with up to four Browning M2 .50-caliber heavy machine guns or a similar number of M60 7.62mm GPMGs. Lacking its naval piece, the 3-inch Gun Tub served as a lookout perch and occasional storage area for small items including crew bicycles when traveling between ports. Lockers for life jackets and exposure survival suits were later located on this deck, which is encircled by a tubular steel railing.

During the Vietnam conflict, four USCG 180s were dispatched to Southeast Asia to perform aids-to-navigation support and assist with harbor defense and maintenance– Basswood (WLB-388), Blackhaw (WLB-390) Planetree (WLB-307, and, of course, Ironwood, the latter of which deployed there in July 1967.

Vietnamese lighthouse service personnel were assigned to temporary duty on board as they worked to reactivate and automate Vietnamese lighthouses and establish new U.S.-sponsored lights. While deploying work crews, machine gun teams would have to stand by in case they came under fire from passing sampans or the shore as VC constantly shot out navigational lights and sank buoys. Her crew also provided services to the local populace such as MEDCAPS.

Sometime around this period she even clocked in on NASA support duties, helping with recovering boilerplate space capsules in the rush to the moon.

She conducted a number of rescues over the years:

*8 January 1959 Ironwood assisted thegrounded sampan Bellatrix at Molokai Beach, HI.

*6 January 1962 Ironwood rescued the crew of FV Hiroshima Maru aground at 21 17 N, 157 51 W.

*23-25 May 1963 the cutter escorted the disabled MV Dianna to Honolulu, HI.

*18 February 1969 Ironwood towed the disabled FV Widgeon from Augustine Island to Homer, AK.

*April 1969 escorted the distressed tanker Yukon, which was holed by a submerged object in Cook Inlet.

*29 April 1969 the crew fought a fire on the Shell Oil drilling platform in Cook Inlet.

*26 December 1969 she hoisted the disabled FV Arctic Fox on board at MacArthur Cove and carried her to Seward, AK

Ironwood was later given a one-year major renovation (MAJREN) in 1974, envisioned at the time to keep her in service for another 15 years. This involved removing her Cooper-Bessemer inline 8-cylinder engines and rebuilding them, new electrical wiring, piping, and sewage handling systems. She picked up a bow thruster, all-new crew spaces, new cranes, ship heaters, reefers, the works.

After her refit, she was put to work on the Alaska beat, stationed at Kodiak, in all spending the last 26 years of her Coast Guard career in Alaskan waters. During this time she escorted Soviet fishing trawlers out of U.S. waters, participated in Naval exercises, towed disabled fishing vessels to port, medevac’d injured mariners, searched for missing planes– you know, typical Coast Guard stuff.

1979

Between 1979 and 1995, she earned six Coast Guard “E” ribbons. In 1981, she received the Coast Guard Unit Commendation. In both 1989 and 1999, she picked up Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendations for her duty in the frozen and dangerous Bering Sea, in particular assisting with the cleanup operations in Prince William Sound after the grounding of the Exxon Valdez.

At the time of her decommissioning, Ironwood was the second-oldest cutter in USCG service (only surpassed at the time by the medium endurance cutter Storis) and was the only remaining US vessel in service awarded the Korean Service Medal. Then, of course, there was her WWII service, nuke sniffing, assistance to the Space program and her Vietnam tour. She served 14 Commandants of the Coast Guard, 34 commanding officers and more than 1,200 crew members in the course of her half-million miles traveled.

Kodiak, Alaska (Oct. 6 2000)– The Coast Guard Cutter Ironwood sits alongside the pier in Kodiak on the morning of the ships decommissioning. USCG photo by PA1 Keith Alholm.

But her story doesn’t end there. The old girl, after 57 years of active duty, she was to be transferred to Nigeria but instead, in 2002, was presented to the Tongue Point Seamanship Academy in Oregon which uses her as a floating classroom to train new mariners in an 18-month program to find seagoing careers.

In 2014, the center threw a 70th anniversary for Ironwood.

Turning 75 years young last month, she is still sailing strong and looking good while doing it, regularly showing up in Portland for Fleet Week.

170607-N-ZP059-167 PORTLAND Ore., (June 7, 2017) – ex-USCGC Ironwood (WLB-297) arrives in Portland for Rose Festival Fleet Week. The festival and Portland Fleet Week are a celebration of the sea services with Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guard Members from the U.S. and Canada making the city a port of call. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jacob G. Sisco/Released)

As for her sisterships, many have proven to be very long in the tooth:

*Balsam (WLB-62) was decommissioned 1975 and has been used as an Alaskan crab boat ever since. She is currently the F/V Baranof.

*Cactus (WLB-270) was seized in Kings County Washington as a derelict vessel in 2013 for dismantling.

*Cowslip (WLB-277), Firebush (WLB-393) and Sassafras (WLB-401) were transferred to Nigerian Navy 2002-2003 as NNS Nwamba, NNS Olepu and Obula respectively. All remain in service. Sedge (WLB-402) was also transferred for parts.

*Woodbine (WLB-289) was donated to be a training ship in Cleveland in 1972 and went on to be a fish processing boat in Alaska before being sold for scrap in 2012.

*Gentian (WLB-290) was transferred to Colombia as ARC San Andrés (PO-45) and is still active.

*Laurel (WLB-291) was sold at a GSA auction in 1999, ultimate fate unknown.

*Clover (WLB-292) and Evergreen (WLB-295) were decommissioned 1990 and sunk by the Navy as a targets.

*Sorrel (WLB-296) was decommissioned in 1996 and is used as SS Reliance operated by Sea Scout Ship #13 of Stockton, California, showing up in an episode of Dexter.

*Conifer (WLB-301) and Papaw (WLB-308) were decommissioned 2000 and 1999 respectively and was used for a number of years as F/V Hope and F/V Mersea, part of the disaster relief fleet of Friend Ships, but have since been removed from that organization.

*Madrona (WLB-302) transferred to El Salvador who used her as General Manuel José Arce and subsequently sunk her as a reef.

*Tupelo (WAGL/WLB-303) was decommissioned in 1975 and has spent the past 30 years as a Bering Sea fishing boat, FV Courageous.

*Mesquite (WLB-305) ran aground December 4, 1989 on a reef off the Keweenaw Peninsula in Lake Superior while in Coast Guard service and was scuttled for underwater diving preserve.

*Buttonwood (WLB-306) was decommissioned 2001 and transferred to the Dominican Republic’s Navy as Almirante Didiez Burgos, still active. USCGC Citrus (WMEC-300), also endures there as Almirante Juan Alejandro Acosta (C-456/P301)

*Sweetgum (WLB-309) was transferred in 2002 to Panama as SMN Independencia (P401).

*Basswood (WLB-388), Blackhaw (WLB-390) and Mallow (WLB-396) were scrapped in 2000.

*Bittersweet (WLB-389) was decommissioned and transferred to Estonian Border Guard, 5 September 1997 who used her until 2014– she is retained as a museum ship.

*Blackthorn (WLB-391) sank in 1980 in a collision near the Tampa Bay Sunshine Skyway Bridge, resulting in 23 crewmember fatalities. Raised, she was resunk as a reef.

*Bramble (WLB-392) was decommissioned 2003, and has been retained with a mixed degree of success as a museum ship in the Great Lakes.

*Hornbeam (WLB-394) was decommissioned 1999, and lost near Panama as M/V Rum Cay Grace in 2013.

*Iris (WLB-395) and Planetree (WLB-307) were decommissioned after helping with the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1995 and 1999, repectviely, and sit in rusting quiet in the SBRF, Suisun Bay, CA mothballs fleet.

*Mariposa (WLB-397) was decommissioned in 2000 but has been retained by the Navy as a hulk until 2009 and has been spotted in the Seattle area since then.

*Redbud (WLB-398) was transferred to the Philippines as Kalinga (AG-89) in 1972.

*Sagebrush (WLB-399) was scuttled off St. Catherine’s Island, Georgia on 28 April 1988.

*Salvia (WLB-400) was decommissioned 1991 and used as a salvage operations training vessel for U.S. Navy at Little Creek.

*Spar (WLB-403) was decommed 1997 and sunk as a reef in 2004.

*Sundew (WLB-404) was decommissioned 2004, used as a museum for a while, then sold to private interests in 2010.

*Acacia (WLB-406), the last 180 in Coast Guard service, was decommissioned 2006 after 63 years of service and is now a museum in Manistee, Michigan.

*Woodrush (WLB-407) and Sweetbrier (WLB-405) were transferred to Ghana in 2001 where she still serves as GNS Anzone (P30) and GNS Bonsu (P31) respectively, which means “shark” and “whale” in the native lingo.

For interior pics, the LOC has a great series of images from the Planetree, a Mesquite subclass sister.

Specs:

Displacement: 935 fl (1944); 1,026 fl (1966); 700 light (1966)
Length: 180-feet oa
Beam: 37 feet mb
Draft: 12 ft. max (1944); 14′ 7″ (1966)
Propulsion: 1 electric motor connected to 2 Westinghouse generators driven by 2 Cooper-Bessemer-type GND-8, 4-cycle diesels; single screw
Top speed: 13.0 kts sustained (1945); 11.9 kts sustained (1966). 28,000 gals diesel
Economic speed: 8.3 kts (1945); 8.5 kts (1966)
Complement:
6 Officers, 74 men (1944);
5 Officers, 2 warrants, 41 men (1966)
Electronics:
Radar: Bk (1943); SLa-1 (1945), SPS-64(V) 1979
Sonar: WEA-2 (1945-66)
Armament:
(1944)
1-3″/50 (single), 4-20mm/80 (single), 2 depth charge tracks, 2 Mousetraps, 4 Y-guns
(1966-2000)
Small arms

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Warship Wednesday Sept. 14, 2016: An everlasting Citrus with very long roots

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 of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday Sept. 14, 2016: An everlasting Citrus with very long roots

US Coast Guard Historians Office

US Coast Guard Historians Office

Here we see the Cactus-class medium endurance cutter USCGC Citrus (WMEC-300) lean and mean in her white livery and racing stripe in 1984 off Coos Bay, Oregon. A product of WWII, she would spend a full half-century in U.S. maritime service and is still ticking in Santo Domingo as the flagship of a Caribbean navy.

In 1916 the Revenue Cutter Service and Lifesaving Service were merged to form the Coast Guard, to which the Bureau of Lighthouses was added on 1 July 1939 and as such all U.S. lighthouses, tenders and lightships became USCG installations and ships. The thing is, the lighthouse and buoy tender fleet was a hodgepodge of antiquated single-use vessels to which the Bureau had been looking to replace with a new series of 177-foot lighthouse tenders modeled after the USLHT Juniper, the last vessel designed by the Bureau.

Taking these plans, the Coast Guard made some changes and produced a 180-foot/950-ton single-screw steel-hulled ship that incorporated some new features that the USLHS never needed (an ice-strengthened bow, search and rescue equipment and mission, allowance for armament, et.al). The first of these, USCGC Cactus (WAGL-270) was appropriated for $782,381 on 20 Jan 1941 and laid down at Marine Iron & Shipbuilding Corporation, Duluth, MN on 31 March

In all, some 39 of these hardy ships were built either at Marine or at Zenith Dredge Company very rapidly in three subclasses: the “A” or “Cactus” class, “B” or “Mesquite” class, and “C” or “Iris” class.  All ships of the three subclasses have the same general characteristics, but with slight differences, (e.g. the “A/Cactus” class tenders may be differentiated from the other two classes of 180-foot tenders by their unique “A” frame main boom support forward and their large 30,000 gal fuel tanks that allowed an economical 17,000nm cruising range on their gentle diesels.) The last to come off the ways was USCGC Woodbrush (WAGL-407) which commissioned 22 Sept. 1944.

The hero of our story, USCGC Citrus, was laid down at Marine Iron 29 April 1942 and commissioned 15 weeks later on 15 August 1942 for a total cost of $853,987.

Citrus preparing to leave Duluth Aug 15 1942. Note her haze gray appearance as she was a war baby

Citrus preparing to leave Duluth Aug 15 1942. Note her haze gray appearance as she was a war baby

After some service on the Great Lakes, she was armed with a single 3″/50 behind her stack, 4 20mm guns, depth charge racks, Mousetrap ASW launchers, and Y-guns and shipped for Alaska Sector, Northwestern Sea Frontier on 15 September 1943, which was only recently liberated from the Japanese. There, she helped support the brand new and revolutionary LORAN system, establishing sites at Sitka, Amchitka, and Attu.

In the heavy seas of the Western Aleutians, she endured storms, primitive Arctic conditions, and the threat of enemy action, coming to the rescue of liberty ships, tugs and landing craft throughout 1944. Citrus spent the remainder of the war conducting ATON, logistics, and vessel escort duties in Southwestern Alaskan waters.

1954. Note her peacetime black hull, buff stack scheme

1954. Note her peacetime black hull, buff stack scheme

After the war, she was liberated of much of her AAA and ASW armament, but continued working the Alaska beat, stationed at Ketchikan until 1964 and Kodiak through 1979, in all spending 36 years in Alaskan waters. During this time she escorted Soviet fishing trawlers out of U.S. waters, participated in Naval exercises, towed disabled fishing vessels to port, medevac’d injured mariners, searched for missing planes, fought a fire on the Japanese MV Seifu Maru in Dutch Harbor, and rescued 31 from the grounded ferry Tustumena near Kodiak.

Ketchikan 1959

Ketchikan 1959

Seattle 1964, note her 3"/50 aft of her stack in canvas

Seattle 1964, note her 3″/50 aft of her stack in canvas

During this period tenders were designated WLBs (buoy tenders) and saw all fixed armament landed in 1966, leaving them only their small arms lockers. If deployed for law enforcement missions, 180s would be equipped with four Browning M2 .50-caliber heavy machine guns or a similar number of M60 7.62mm GPMGs. Lacking it’s naval piece, the 3-incher Gun Tub served as a lookout perch and occasional storage area for small items including crew bicycles when traveling between ports. Lockers for life jackets and exposure survival suits were later located on this deck, which is encircled by a tubular steel railing.

With the 3-incher and 20mms gone and no need for GMs, Citrus and her sisters also saw a decrease in crew size. As originally built, the ship was manned for wartime duties by six officers and 74 enlisted men for a crew of 80 (1945). In her final years of operation primarily as a buoy tender, Citrus, and her fellow 180s were manned by five officers, two chief warrant officers, four chief petty officers and 37 enlisted men for a total of 48 souls, or about half their original complement.

In Sept-October 1975 she made history when she “helped provide icebreaking escort for 15 tugs and barges in an heroic attempt to get vital supplies to the oil fields at Prudhoe Bay. . .[thereby averting] a delay in the development of the North Slope oil fields which are vital to the national interest of the United States.”  Citrus and her crew were awarded the Coast Guard Unit Commendation with the Operational Distinguishing Device.

1974-uscgc-citrus-robinson-67448
Then came a change of pace.

Three 180s, all over 35 years of age, were painted white, landed their buoy tending gear , picked up a SPS-64(V) surface search radar and RHIB then were used as law-enforcement/SAR platforms during the 1980s to help take the place of older cutters leaving the fleet. These ships were Citrus, Evergreen (WLB-295), and Clover (WLB-292). As such, these three picked up the designation of medium endurance cutters (WMEC).

Overhead view as WMEC, note her buoy tending gear is largely gone

Overhead view as WMEC, note her buoy tending gear is largely gone and she has added a RHIB to complement her 26 foot whale boat

Citrus with RIB deployed in calm water image via https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=o.67035902535&ref=mf WLB-300 veterans group.

Citrus with RHIB deployed in calm water image via WLB-300 veterans group.

This led to her transfer to Coos Bay, Oregon for 15 years as a floating lawman.

In perhaps her strangest encounter of her career, the Panamanian-flagged 148-foot MV Pacific Star was stopped by Citrus on 1 January 1985 about 680 mi southwest of San Diego.

From the USCG Historian’s Office:

When the boarding team attempted to board the vessel, the master set the Pacific Star on fire and commenced to scuttle the vessel.  In a final act of deterrence, the master turned his vessel and rammed Citrus on the starboard side. The boarding team did get on board and located a large quantity of Thai marijuana in the vessel’s forward hold.  As the vessel sank, more than 3,800 pound of marijuana was recovered as it floated to the surface and the seven-man crew was arrested.

Pictures or it didn’t happen:

uscg_citrus-mv_pacific_star_aflame-1jan85 citrus-pacific_star_rams-citrus-1jan85

Note the dent in Citrus's hull

Note the dent in Citrus’s hull just to the left of the “C” in Coast Guard

The rest of her U.S. service was quiet and she was decommissioned 1 September 1994 after 51 years of service, seeing 28 different skippers on her bridge over the years.

1994: Note her A Frame was removed by then

1994: Note her A Frame was removed by then

Placed on hold for transfer to Mexico, that deal fell through and she was instead sent to the Dominican Republic 16 September 1995 as Almirante Juan Alejandro Acosta (C-456/P301) after one of the founders of the Dominican Navy, where she was rearmed and made the flagship of the Armada de Republica Dominicana.

dominican-navy-flagship-almirante-didiez-burgos-pa-301-uscg-180-class-seagoing-buoy-tender-cutters-cactus-class-a-uscgc-citrus-wlb-300-2 dominican-navy-flagship-almirante-didiez-burgos-pa-301-uscg-180-class-seagoing-buoy-tender-cutters-cactus-class-a-uscgc-citrus-wlb-300-3 dominican-navy-flagship-almirante-didiez-burgos-pa-301-uscg-180-class-seagoing-buoy-tender-cutters-cactus-class-a-uscgc-citrus-wlb-300

FILE - In this June 25, 2007 file photo, a Dominican Navy soldier stands guard over bales of cocaine during a news conference in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Authorities in the Dominican Republic seized 9 tons of cocaine in 2012, the third consecutive record, according to the country's national drug control agency. In January alone, they seized another 3 tons off the country's southern coast. (AP Photo/Jorge Cruz, File)

FILE – In this June 25, 2007 file photo, a Dominican Navy soldier stands guard over bales of cocaine during a news conference in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Authorities in the Dominican Republic seized 9 tons of cocaine in 2012, the third consecutive record, according to the country’s national drug control agency. In January alone, they seized another 3 tons off the country’s southern coast. (AP Photo/Jorge Cruz, File)

She was rearmed with a British 4″/45 caliber DP gun (off a decommissioned WWII Flower-class corvette), two single Oerlikon 20 mm cannons (from a decommissioned WWII era American patrol frigate), and four 7.62 mm M60 machine guns. She is used for coastal patrol, navigational aid maintenance, midshipman cruises, humanitarian assistance, naval training exercises, troop transport, and at sea refueling.

As for her sisterships, many have proven to be very long in the tooth:

*Balsam (WLB-62) was decommissioned 1975 and has been used as an Alaskan crab boat ever since

*Cactus (WLB-270) was seized in Kings County Washington as a derelict vessel in 2013 for dismantling.

*Cowslip (WLB-277), Firebush (WLB-393) and Sassafras (WLB-401) were transferred to Nigerian Navy 2002-2003 as NNS Nwamba, NNS Olepu and Obula respectively. All remain in service. Sedge (WLB-402) was also transferred for parts.

*Woodbine (WLB-289) was donated to be a training ship in Cleveland in 1972 and went on to be a fish processing boat in Alaska before being sold for scrap in 2012.

*Gentian (WLB-290) was transferred to Colombia as ARC San Andrés (PO-45) and is still active.

*Laurel (WLB-291) was sold at GSA auction in 1999, ultimate fate unknown.

*Clover (WLB-292) and Evergreen (WLB-295) were decommissioned 1990 and sunk by the Navy as a targets.

*Sorrel (WLB-296) was decommissioned in 1996 and is used as SS Reliance operated by Sea Scout Ship #13 of Stockton, California, showing up in an episode of Dexter.

*Ironwood (WLB-297) saw quite a lot of WWII service and was transferred to the Dept. of Interior as a training vessel in 2000, later disposed of.

*Conifer (WLB-301) and Papaw (WLB-308) were decommissioned 2000 and 1999 respectively and was used for a number of years as F/V Hope and F/V Mersea, part of the disaster relief fleet of Friend Ships, but have since been removed from that organization.

*Madrona (WLB-302) transferred to El Salvador who used her as General Manuel José Arce and subsequently sunk her as a reef.

*Tupelo (WAGL/WLB-303) was decommissioned in 1975 and has spent the past 30 years as a Bering Sea fishing boat, FV Courageous.

*Mesquite (WLB-305) ran aground December 4, 1989 on a reef off the Keweenaw Peninsula in Lake Superior while in Coast Guard service and was scuttled for underwater diving preserve.

*Buttonwood (WLB-306) was decommissioned 2001 and transferred to the Dominican Republic’s Navy as Almirante Didiez Burgos, still active.

*Sweetgum (WLB-309) was transferred in 2002 to Panama as SMN Independencia (P401).

*Basswood (WLB-388), Blackhaw (WLB-390) and Mallow (WLB-396) were scrapped in 2000.

*Bittersweet (WLB-389) was decommissioned and transferred to Estonian Border Guard, 5 September 1997 who used her until 2014– she is retained as a museum ship.

*Blackthorn (WLB-391) sank in 1980 in a collision near the Tampa Bay Sunshine Skyway Bridge, resulting in 23 crewmember fatalities. Raised, she was resunk as a reef.

*Bramble (WLB-392) was decommissioned 2003, and has been retained with a mixed degree of success as a museum ship in the Great Lakes.

*Hornbeam (WLB-394) was decommissioned 1999, and lost near Panama as M/V Rum Cay Grace in 2013.

*Iris (WLB-395) and Planetree (WLB-307) were decommissioned after helping with the Exxon Valdez oil spill and sit in rusting quiet in the SBRF, Suisun Bay, CA mothballs fleet, to be disposed of by 2017.

*Mariposa (WLB-397) was decommissioned in 2000 but has been retained by the Navy as a hulk until 2009 and has been spotted in the Seattle area since then.

*Redbud (WLB-398) was transferred to the Philippines as Kalinga (AG-89) in 1972.

*Sagebrush (WLB-399) was scuttled off St. Catherine’s Island, Georgia on 28 April 1988.

*Salvia (WLB-400) was decommissioned 1991 and used as a salvage operations training vessel for U.S. Navy at Little Creek.

*Spar (WLB-403) was decommed 1997 and sunk as a reef in 2004.

*Sundew (WLB-404) was decommissioned 2004, used as a museum for a while, then sold to private interests in 2010.

*Acacia (WLB-406), the last 180 in Coast Guard service, was decommissioned 2006 after 63 years of service and is now a museum in Manistee, Michigan.

*Woodrush (WLB-407) and Sweetbrier (WLB-405) were transferred to Ghana in 2001 where she still serves as GNS Anzone (P30) and GNS Bonsu (P31) respectively, which means “shark” and “whale” in the native lingo.

A veterans’ group for the Citrus survives on Facebook with a series of great images. For more information about the 180s in general, the USCG Historian’s office has a great 73-page report on them here while the LOC has a great series of images from the Planetree, a Mesquite subclass sister.

Specs:

nps_180_haer_report_page73_image56 nps_180_haer_report_page73_image55
Length:  180′ oa
Beam: 37′ mb
Draft:  12′ max (1945); 14′ 7″ (1966)
Displacement: 935 fl (1945); 1,026 fl (1966); 700 light (1966)
Propulsion:  1 electric motor connected to 2 Westinghouse generators driven by 2 Cooper-Bessemer-type GND-8, 4-cycle diesels; single screw
Top speed: 13.0 kts sustained (1945); 11.9 kts sustained (1966)
Economic speed: 8.3 kts (1945); 8.5 kts (1966)
Complement: Design-
6 Officers, 74 men (1945);
5 Officers, 2 warrants, 41 men (1966)
Unknown in DR service, likely at least 50
Electronics:
Radar: Bk (1943); SLa-1 (1945), SPS-64(V) 1979
Sonar: WEA-2 (1945-66)
Armament:
(1945)
1-3″/50 (single), 4-20mm/80 (single), 2 depth charge tracks, 2 Mousetraps, 4 Y-guns
(1966)
Smallarms
(1996, Domincan Republic)
1x 4 inch BL Mk.IX single gun
2x 20mm/80 singles
4x M60 7.62x51mm GPMG

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