Tag Archives: USCGC Alex Haley (WMEC-39)

Edenton/Haley Soldiers On

Following an extended $6 million seven-month dry dock maintenance period in Seattle, the one-of-a-kind 282-foot British-built Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley (WMEC-39) returned to her homeport at Coast Guard Base Kodiak, Alaska earlier this month.

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley returns to homeport at Coast Guard Base Kodiak, Alaska, on Jan. 12, 2023. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ian Gray

As noted by Coast Guard 17th District (Alaska)

The engineering department oversaw 76 work items including major overhauls on the cutter’s controllable pitch propeller system, speed reducers, rudders, and boilers, along with inspections of fuel, sewage, and water tanks. The operations department supervised a renewal of Alex Haley’s flight deck, navigation systems, and electronics while maintaining critical law enforcement currencies. The deck department expertly completed vast amounts of painting and topside preservation, while ensuring small boat operational readiness.

The Coast Guard Alex Haley sits dry-docked for repairs and maintenance in Seattle, Washington, on Dec. 13, 2022. While in the dry dock, the crew and contractors successfully completed more than $6 million worth of repairs.

In typical USCG fashion, Haley is one of the oldest ships in the U.S. maritime service, with 56 years on her hull and another decade of service looming.

Built by Brooke Marine in Lowestoft, Sussex between 1967-71 as USS Edenton (ATS-1), the 3,500-ton vessel was the lead ship of a three-hull class of salvage and rescue ship capable of worldwide operations.

USS Edenton (ATS-1) NHHC L45-82.06.01

Joining the fleet when commissioned on 23 January 1971, as part of the Second Fleet, she would go on to complete no less than nine extended Med cruises and one West Pac deployment before she was decommissioned on 29 March 1996, completing 25 years “haze gray and underway.” Of note, the builder of the class, Brooke Marine, had gone into receivership and been sold off almost a decade prior, while the class’s Paxman diesels were increasingly unsupportable.

Edenton was stricken from the Navy List on 29 December 1997.

While her sisters USS Beaufort (ATS-2) and Brunswick (ATS-3) would be retired at the same time, they would retain their extensive salvage gear fit and be sold in a hot “as-is” transfer to the South Korean Navy, where they linger in service as ROKS Pyeongtaek (ATS-27) and ROKS Gwangyang (ATS-28), respectively.

As for Edenton, over a two-year period, she would land much of her deep water salvage gear to make room for a helo deck, grab a white paint scheme with a racing stripe, trade her vintage Mk 16 20mm guns for MK38 Bushmaster 25mm mounts, swap her Paxmans for Catapillars, and ship off to Kodiak where she would take the place after WWII-era icebreaking cutter USCGC Storis (WAGL-38/WMEC-38) was retired, as the Coast Guard’s primary live-in asset in the Bering Sea. Of note, that is why Haley carries the next hull number in line (WMEC-39) after Storis.

Her missions typically involve search and rescue, fisheries law enforcement, and vessel safety inspections across Alaska.

Since her commissioning in USCG service on 10 July 1999, ex-Edenton has carried the name of the late Alexander Palmer Haley, Chief Journalist, USCG (Ret.).

Long before he drew international acclaim for Roots, Haley enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1939 as a mess attendant/steward and, serving through WWII on the cutters Mendoza and Pamlico and in the Pacific Threatre on the cargo vessel USS Murzim (AK-95), contributed articles to the Coast Guard Magazine and started a mimeographed ship’s newspaper. Switching to a Journalist rate in 1949, he would transfer to the Reserve list in 1959, completing 20 years of active duty including WWII service across three theatres and Korean War service. He would then go on to become a senior editor for Reader’s Digest and conduct a series of brilliant interviews for Playboy in the 1960s, back when folks really did buy it for the articles, before becoming a household name.

JOC Haley passed in 1992, aged 70.

ROK Navy strikes last former USN ship

USS Beaufort (ATS-2) underway off Hawaii, circa 1984-88. Brian O'Connor, MM1 (SW/DV) USN Ret, via Navsource

USS Beaufort (ATS-2) underway off Hawaii, circa 1984-88. Brian O’Connor, MM1 (SW/DV) USN Ret, via Navsource

When the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN), founded as the Korean Coast Guard 11 Nov 1945 with some captured Japanese coastal vessels, stood up in 1949, their first modern acquisition was a 600-ton submarine chaser, the former USS PC-823, which was bought with money raised by subscription and dubbed ROKS Baekdusan (PC 701).

Throughout the next several generations, the primary source of warships for the ROKN was the U.S. Navy with a host of surplus Fletcher, Sumner and Gearing-class destroyers and WWII-era amphibs and submarines.

In the late 1970’s, Park Chung-hee made it a point to start building indigenous vessels and the first major all-South Korean-made naval vessel, the frigate ROKS Ulsan (FF 951), was commissioned in 1980.

Now the fleet is all-ROK with the retirement of the last former U.S. Navy ship.

ROKN ship Pyeongtaek (ATS-27), formerly the USS Beaufort (ATS-2), an Edenton-class salvage and rescue ship, was decommissioned 28 Dec. 2016 after 44 years of combined service between the two allies.

Built at Brooke Marine, Oulton Broad, Lowestoft, United Kingdom, the 3,100-ton salvage ship was commissioned 22 January 1972 in the U.S. Navy and spent her entire career in the Pacific, notably participating as a support ship for the minesweepers engaged in Operation End Sweep, the removal of mines from Haiphong harbor in North Vietnam.

Decommissioned on 8 March 1996 and struck from the Navy List, she was disposed of through the Security Assistance Program, transfer and cash sale of the hull to the Republic of Korea Navy who recommissioned her ROKS Peyongtaek on 1 April 1997.

Now she will become razor blades.

Interestingly, Beaufort/Peyongtaek‘s class leader USS Edenton (ATS-1), struck from the Navy List 29 December 1997 after 26 years active duty, was turned over to the U.S. Coast Guard 10 July 1999 and, recommissioned as the medium endurance cutter USCGC Alex Haley (WMEC-39), is “The Bulldog of the Bering” based out of Kodiak, Alaska.

She is not expected to decommission for another decade or so.


Maybe the South Koreans will let the USCG go over Peyongtaek for spare parts before they send her to the breakers.