December

Daily Chronology of Coast Guard History


1 December


2 December


3 December

  • 1852-The merchant ship Georgia grounded in a gale off Bonds, New Jersey with 290 persons on board. The life car was used to effect their rescue and all survived.
  • 1883-The schooner Pallas with a crew of three men encountered strong head winds and heavy seas off Cape Cod, MA. About half past 5 in the morning, abreast of Nausett lights, she sprung a leak and became unmanageable. Being close to the breakers, the crew was fearful they would be washed overboard as soon as she struck and took to their boat. Fortunately, they were discovered by the Nausett Station keeper, pulling vigorously to keep away from the surf. The surfboat was launched and the three men rescued. They were brought ashore by the life-saving crew, though not without a thorough drenching because the station boat was nearly swamped on the bar. The schooner meanwhile drifted into the surf, three quarters of a mile north of the station and soon broke up.
  • 1982-MSO St. Louis took charge of the response when the Mississippi, Missouri, and Illinois rivers flooded their banks.  In all over 100 Coast Guardsmen took part in the relief efforts that covered an eight-state area.
  • 2001- Coast Guard forces, including the cutters Chandeleur and Farallon as well as aircraft from Air Station Miami and boat crews from Station Miami Beach rescued 185 Haitian migrants from the grossly overloaded 31-foot sailboat Simapvivsetz off Old Rhodes Key, Florida.

4 December

  • 1989: CGC Mesquite ran aground near Keweenaw Point in Lake Superior. She was deemed damaged beyond repair and was sunk as an artificial reef. There was no loss of life.

5 December

  • 1933-Prohibition came to an end on this date when the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified.
  • 1968-FN Heriberto S. Hernandez, a CGC Point Cypress (WPB 82326) crewman, was killed in action in Vietnam.

6 December

  • 1917- The French freighter Mont Blanc, loaded with 5,000 tons of high explosives, collided with the Norwegian steamer Imo in the harbor of Halifax, Nova Scotia.  The resulting fire detonated the munitions, killing 1,635 people and leveling much of Halifax and its environs.  Coast Guardsmen from CGC Morrill landed to provide assistance.  This disaster led to the creation of captains of the ports for the major U.S. ports.  The Coast Guard was tasked with the new duty.
  • 1918-Surfman L. E. Ashton of Station No. 305 in Nome, Alaska, departed his station with a dog sled and team loaded with medical supplies along with one other surfman on an expedition to assist natives who were suffering from influenza at Cape Prince of Wales, 160 miles from Nome and at villages between the two settlements.  He arrived at Cape Prince of Wales on 13 December, where he found 122 natives sick and 157 dead of the illness.  He converted the schoolhouse into a hospital, and the post office into a dispensary and "otherwise perfected an organization by means of which he was able to care for all the sick."  He began burying the dead on 11 January and by 20 February when "the epidemic had spent its force" he returned to his station in Nome, arriving there on 1 March 1919.
  • 1944-Coast Guardsmen participated in the landings at Ormoc, Philippine Islands.
  • 1946-The number of Coast Guardsmen on active duty had been dropped to 22,156 in order to meet budgetary requirements. Many lifeboat stations had to be placed in a limited caretaker or inactive status and some vessels tied up because they lacked complements .
  • 1953- Coast Guard search and rescue facilities at the Naval Base in Bermuda were instrumental in rescuing four survivors and recovering 17 bodies from the Cuban aircraft Cubana 471, which crashed on take-off from the airport at Kindley Field, Bermuda.
  • 1999- CGC Munro intercepted the vessel Wing Fung Lung loaded with more than 250 Chinese migrants headed for the Guatemala/El Salvador border.  After refusing permission to board, Munro tracked the vessel for three days when lookouts spotted flares over the ship.  When the Munro's small boat approached, panicked migrants began jumping into the water.  They were pulled to safety and returned to the Wing Fun Lung while boarding parties finally went aboard the crowded vessel.  Someone apparently tried to scuttle the vessel and the boarding teams were able to stop the flooding and dewater the engine room.  The threat to the Munro crewmen on the vessel was made worse because the migrants had not been fed or had water for more than a day.  They were at the point of total rebellion, according to the Munro's boarding team members.  Other boarding teams from CGC Hamilton then arrived and helped to control the situation.  The vessel was finally taken into Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala, where the migrants were taken into custody by INS agents.  The master of the vessel was arrested.

7 December


8 December


9 December


10 December


11 December


12 December


13 December


14 December


15 December


16 December


17 December

  • 1903-Life-Saving Service personnel from Kill Devil Hills Life-Saving Station helped carry materials to the launch site for the first successful heavier-than-air aircraft flight by the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina and then assisted the brothers in their flights that day. The life-savers were John T. Daniels, W.S. Dough and A.D. Etheridge.
  • 1942-CGC Natsek, part of the Greenland Patrol, disappeared in Belle Isle Strait while on patrol. There were no survivors among her 24-man crew.  It was thought that she capsized due to severe icing.  
  • 1942-The Navy credited CGC Ingham with attacking and sinking the submerged U-626 south of Greenland.
  • 1951-President Harry Truman presented the Collier Trophy to the Coast Guard, the Department of Defense and the "helicopter industry" in a joint award, citing "outstanding development and use of rotary-winged aircraft for air rescue operations."  Coast Guard Commandant VADM Merlin O'Neill accepted the trophy for the Coast Guard.

18 December

  • 1912-The Lighthouse Service suffered its first gas-powered buoy accident when one exploded during maintenance.  The explosion killed a machinist, John A. Dunbar, who was a member of the crew of the Lighthouse Tender Amaranth.


19 December

  • 1881-While the head keeper and six men of his crew were conducting drills away from their Gurnet Point, Massachusetts, Life-Saving Station, the surfman who remained in charge at the station saw a schooner standing inside of Brown’s Island Shoals.  He realized that unless the vessel was warned she would go aground.  So he rowed out to the schooner in a small boat and piloted her clear.  She proved to be the schooner Milton and had mistaken the channel entrance to Plymouth Harbor.

20 December

  • 1934-Coast Guard pilot CDR Elmer F. Stone set the world record for amphibian airplane speed.  Over a measured three-kilometer course at Langley Field CDR Stone attained a maximum speed of 196.89 miles an hour and an average speed of 191.17 while flying a Grumman JF-2 "Duck" amphibian, besting the previous record set by Alexander P. De Severesky the previous year.
  • 1943-CGC Bodega grounded off the Canal Zone. No lives were lost.
  • 1991- On 20 December 1991, the United Nations adopted General Assembly Resolutions (UNGAs) 44-225, 45-197, and 46-215, thereby establishing a worldwide moratorium on all high seas drift net fishing that was to be in effect by 31 December 1992.  

21 December

  • 1907-The Commandant, Captain Worth G. Ross, USRCS, by letter, advised the Chamber of Commerce of Baltimore, Boston and Philadelphia, the New York Maritime Exchange and the Navy's Chief Bureau of Equipment that wireless telegraph sets had been installed on the following Revenue cutters operating on the Atlantic coast and would use the following call letters: USRC Algonquin: RCA; USRC Gresham: RCG; USRC Mohawk: RCM; USRC Onondaga: RCO & USRC Seminole: RCS.
  • 1936-Executive Order No. 7521 authorized ice breaking operations by the Coast Guard.
  • 1960- The tanker Pine Ridge, with 37 crewmen on board, reported it was breaking in two about 120 miles off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.  Immediately, the Coast Guard dispatched aircraft and vessels to the scene and alerted nearby US Navy and merchant vessels.  After the arrival of a Coast Guard UF-2G amphibian aircraft, the bow section of the Pine Ridge capsized, throwing some members of the crew overboard; the stern section, however, remained afloat and upright.  Mountainous seas rebuffed every attempt of the tanker Artemis to rescue the seamen in the water.  Life rafts and emergency equipment, meanwhile, were airdropped, and the helicopters from the aircraft carrier Valley Forge successfully removed the 28 survivors from the still floating stern section.  Of the bow section and the 9 missing crewmen, only debris and lifejackets were found, despite a widespread air and surface search.
  • 1971-The last two cutters of Coast Guard Squadron Three (RONTHREE), CGC Cook Inlet (WHEC 384) and CGC Castle Rock (WHEC 383) were decommissioned and transferred to the South Vietnamese Navy.

22 December

  • 1819-The Revenue cutter Dallas seized a vessel laden with lumber that had been unlawfully cut from public land in what was one of the first, if not the very first, recorded instances of a revenue cutter enforcing an environmental law.
  • 1837-Congress authorized President "to cause any suitable number of public vessels, adapted to the purpose, to cruise upon the coast, in the severe portion of the season, and to afford aid to distressed navigators." This was the first statute authorizing activities in the field of maritime safety, thus interjecting the national government into the field of lifesaving for the first time. Although revenue cutters were specifically mentioned, the performance of this duty was imposed primarily upon the Revenue Marine Service and quickly became one of its major activities.

23 December

  • 1904-Near Oak Island and Fire Island, New York the American schooner Frank W. McCullough ran aground on Fire Island Bar, 2 miles from the former station and 4 from the latter, at about 9 am. The Oak Island crew reached the vessel at 10:30 am and the Fire Island crew a half hour later. They found her pounding heavily and leaking badly. They manned the pumps and assisted the crew in throwing overboard the cargo of lumber; but on the flood tide the sea began to break over the wreck and the were obliged to give up for fear of being washed overboard. The Fire Island surfboat filled in the seaway and foundered. At midnight the sea moderated and all hands, 14 surfmen and 5 of schooner crew, abandoned the wreck in the Oak Island surfboat and at 2 a.m. reached the shore. The vessel was lost.

24 December

  • 1955- A Coast Guard helicopter was the first rescue unit to reach a flood disaster scene in northern California.  Its crew hoisted 138 persons to safety within 12 hours. The first 58 were made possible because of the light from a small handheld searchlight from positions of peril among chimneys, television antennas, and trees. In all, the Coast Guard assisted Federal, state, and local agencies in saving over 500 persons by helicopters and boats.

25 December

  • 1944- Allied forces liberated and occupied Palompon and Leyte in the Philippines.
  • 1998- Coast Guard helicopters from Air Station Barbers Point rescued balloonists Richard Branson, a British billionaire, American millionaire Steve Fossett, and Per Lindstrand when bad weather forced them to ditch their balloon off Hawaii during their attempt to be the first balloonists to circle the globe.

26 December

  • 1943-Landings at Cape Gloucester were conducted by Coast Guard-manned LSTs 18, 22, 66, 67, 68, 168, 202, 204, and 206.  The LST-22 shot down a Japanese "Val" dive bomber while LST-66 was officially credited with downing three enemy aircraft.  Two of her crew were killed by near misses.  LST-67 brought down one Japanese dive bomber while LST-204 shot down two and the gunners aboard LST-68 claimed another.  The LST-202 claimed three enemy planes shot down.
  • 2004-Following a 9.0 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Sumatra, a massive tsunami and tremors struck Indonesia and southern Thailand, killing over 104,000 people in Indonesia and over 5,000 in Thailand.  CGC Munro, deployed as part of Expeditionary Strike Group 5 (ESG-5), along with the other units in the Group, responded.  The cutter shuttled more than 80 tons of humanitarian relief supplies from Singapore to USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6), also part of ESG-5, for distribution to the victims of the tsunami.

27 December

  • 1968-In October 1968, the United States Air Force requested additional LORAN-C coverage in Southeast Asia and by 27 December 1968 the Coast Guard had received authorization to proceed with the project.  This led to the construction a LORAN station at Tan My, South Vietnam, that supplemented the other LORAN stations in Southeast Asia first established in 1966 under an operation code-named Tight Reign.  

28 December

  • 1835-The "Dade Battle" occurred when Seminole Indians ambushed and killed Major Francis Langhorne Dade and his Army command while they were on the march on Fort King Road from Fort Brooke to reinforce the troops at Fort King (Ocala).  This battle was the immediate cause of the Second Seminole War, a war in which the Revenue Cutter Service played an important role.
  • 1857-The light was first illuminated in the Cape Flattery Lighthouse, located on Tatoosh Island at the entrance to the Straits of Juan de Fuca, Washington. "Because of Indian trouble it was necessary to build a blockhouse on Tatoosh Island before even commencing the construction of the lighthouse. Twenty muskets were stored in the blockhouse, and then the lighthouse work began."
  • 1903-An Executive Order extended the jurisdiction of the Lighthouse Service to the non-contiguous territory of the Hawaiian Islands.

29 December

  • 1897-Congress prohibited the killing of fur seals in the waters of the North Pacific Ocean.  The Revenue Cutter Service was tasked with enforcing the law.
  • 1903-An Executive Order extended the jurisdiction of the Lighthouse Service to Guantanamo, Cuba.
  • 1998- The 578-foot cargo vessel Violetta caught fire in the Houston ship channel.  Twenty-three of her crew were rescued.  CGC Point Spencer spent several days fighting the fire on board the vessel.

30 December

  • 1876-The British ship Circassian was destroyed off Bridgehampton, Long Island, following a successful rescue of 49 persons on December 11 by the Life-Saving Service.  During later salvage operations in a storm the ship drifted out of the sand, resulting in the loss of 28 of its salvage crew including 12 Shinnecock Indians.
  • 1944-Coast Guard-manned USS FS-367 rescued survivors from USS Maripopsa at San Jose, Mindoro, Philippine Islands.
  • 1958- The 590-foot tanker African Queen ran aground and split in two 10 miles off Ocean City, Maryland.  Within two hours 15 helicopters from the nearby Coast Guard, Navy and Marine Corps bases evacuated all 47 crewmen successfully.  The Coast Guard Rescue Coordination Center at New York coordinated the operations.
  • 1997- The 493-foot freighter Merchant Patriot began taking on water in stormy seas.  Coast Guard air assets from AIRSTA Clearwater arrived on scene and, along with Air Force units, rescued the ship's captain and her 27 crewmen.  The vessel, however, remained afloat and was later towed to Freeport, Bahamas.

31 December

  • 1881-At 4 a.m. the patrolman from Station No. 34, Fourth District, New Jersey, discovered a vessel ashore on the south bar at Townsend’s Inlet, NJ about three miles south of the station and a mile offshore. He reported at the station at once and the vessel was boarded by the life-saving crew within an hour and a half. She proved to be the schooner Joseph F. Baker with a crew of eight persons. After endeavoring to work the vessel off with her sails, the keeper made preparations to run an anchor and heave her off. By this time a wrecking vessel came alongside, and her captain arranged with the master of Baker to take his vessel off. The life-saving crew, which had meantime been joined by the keepers of Station 33 and 35, finding they could be of no further service, left the vessel, taking ashore dispatches for the captain. A steamer towed the vessel off the bar
  • 1891-The Act of 1894 that created the office of Captain Commandant of the Revenue Cutter Service also had a provision that created the office of Engineer-in-Chief. Captain Russell John W. Collins, USRCS was the first RCS Engineer-in-Chief, being appointed to that position on 31 December 1891.
  • 1952- Sinbad, the canine-mascot of the cutter Campbell during World War II, passed away at his last duty station, the Barnegat Lifeboat Station, at the ripe old age of 15.  He served on board the cutter throughout World War II and earned his way into Coast Guard legend with his shipboard and liberty antics.  To date he is the most decorated mascot to have ever served in the Coast Guard.
  • 1980- The 14 remaining LORAN-A stations closed down at midnight, ending Loran-A coverage, which began during World War II.
  • 1985-Vice President George Bush paid an official visit to the officers and crew of CGC Steadfast while the cutter was in Nassau, Bahamas.  Accompanied by RADM Richard P. Cueroni, commander, 7th District and various other U.S. and Bahamian officials, the vice president officiated at an awards and wreath-laying ceremony in honor of the National Narcotics Border Interdiction System and the joint U.S. Bahamian operations.

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Last Modified 10/27/2014