Call Sign: NQNF
Motto: Constans Virtus
To get away; evade pain, difficulty or trouble.
Builder: Basalt Rock Co., Napa, California
Keel Laid: 24 August 1942
Launched: 22 November 1942
Commissioned: 20 November 1943 (USN)
12 July 1951 (USN)
14 March 1981 (USCG)
Decommissioned: 20 July 1946 (USN)
1 September 1978 (USN)
29 June 1995 (USCG)
Displacement: 1,441 tons (1943)
1,756 tons (1964)
Length: 213' 6"
Draft: 13' 11" (1964)
Powerplant: 4 Caterpillar D-399 diesels; 2 propellers
Total HP: 4,000
Fuel Capacity: 95,960 gallons
Maximum Sustained Speed: 15.5 knots
Range: 9,000 miles @ 15 knots
Cruising Speed: 10.3 knots (13,700 mile range)
Complement: 120 (USN--1943)
Radar: OS-8E (1964)
Armament: 2 x 40mm (1944)
2 x 20mm/80 (1964)
Escape was a U.S. Navy Diver-class salvage and rescue vessel. She was taken into service by the Coast Guard after the Mariel Boatlift while her sister ships, Acushnet and Yocona, had entered Coast Guard service soon after World War II. Escape continued the historic practice of the Revenue Cutter Service of stationing powerful towing vessels and tugs in service along each coast. The Diver-class vessels were fitted with a 20-ton capacity booms forward and 10-ton capacity booms aft. The were also fitted with automatic towing machines and provided with 2,100 feet of two0-inch towing wire. Other salvage equipment included two fixed fire pumps rated at 1,000 gallons per minute, four portable fire pumps, and eight sets of "beach gear," pre-rigged anchors, chains and cables for use in refloating grounded vessels. The were fitted with diver support gear as well. The latter was removed prior to Coast Guard service.
Escape was built by the Basalt Rock Company in Napa, California. She was launched on 22 November 1942 and was sponsored by Mrs. J. E. Brenner. She was commissioned on 20 November 19043 under the command of LT W. T. Williams. She set sail from San Diego on 31 December 1943 bound for Norfolk, Virginia which became her home-port of record. She was used for salvage and towing duties. She was assigned to Bermuda for such duties from 10 July and 9 September 1944. On 12 September 1944 during a hurricane she went to the assistance of the SS George Ade, bringing that vessel safely back to port through another storm, receiving damage in the process. From 31 December to 4 June 1945 she again was based in Bermuda and aided three vessels in distress. She was then assigned to duty in the Pacific but the war ended before she arrived. She was then assigned to tow scows from Coco Solo, Canal Zone, to Tampa, Florida. She then sailed for Davisville, Rhode Island to pick up a load of mooring buoys which she laid at Jacksonville, Florida, in October, 1945.
She departed Key West on 8 November 1945 to escort the Italian submarine Mameli to Taranto, Italy but enroute had to tow the submarine. She returned to Norfolk on 22 January 1946. She was decommissioned and placed in the Reserve Fleet in Orange, Texas, on 20 July 1946. She was commissioned back into active service on 12 July 1951 and was again assigned to Norfolk for towing and salvage service to the Atlantic Fleet. She spent alternate years in the Caribbean and was home-ported in San Juan, Puerto Rico, carrying out similar duties. In November 1952 Escape rendezvoused with the USSS Sea Dog (SS-401) off Jacksonville to receive and transport 11 survivors of the blimp K-119 which had crashed. The next month she assisted in the removal of the wreck of the gunboat USS Erie (PG-50) from the harbor of Willemstad, Curacao. They refloated the gunboat, towed the wreck to sea and scuttled it.
Escape had her first brush with the newly developing space program in July, 1958, when she recovered the nose cone of an Army Jupiter rocket from the sea off Antigua. She brought the nose cone to the naval base at San Juan where it was returned to the Army's Redstone Arsenal. She participated in Operation Sky Hook, a mission involving the use of high altitude research balloons to study the upper atmosphere, departing on 26 January 1960. She assisted the grounded USS Jones Ingram (DD-938). On 30 January 1960 she assisted in NASA's Project Mercury and again in November and December of that same year. Later she participated in the naval recovery fleet for Apollo-Saturn 12 (AS-12) from 14-24 November, 1969; Skylab 2 (SL-2) from 25 May-22 June 1973 and Skylab 3 from 28 July-25 September 1973. She also participated in the blockade of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis from 24 October-5 December 1962, earning the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal. She cleared wrecks from the Suez Canal between May and December 1974. She was decommissioned for a second time on 1 September 1978 and was laid up with the James River Reserve Fleet near Norfolk.
During the Mariel Boatlift the Coast Guard surged cutters and other assets to the Seventh District. With the increase in the illegal drug trade by sea during the late-1970s onward coupled with this exponential increase in seaborne migrants the shortage of hulls within the Coast Guard became readily apparent. In an effort to add ships to the fleet quickly the Coast Guard acquired Escape from the Reserve Fleet in late 1980. The Coast Guard retained her Navy name and hull number. Her designated changed however when she was refitted and prepared for activation as a medium endurance cutter (WMEC) at the Coast Guard Support Center Portsmouth. The first of her Coast Guard crew began to arrive at Portsmouth in January, 1981 to carry out her transformation. Escape was commissioned on 14 March 1981 "after weeks of feverish around the clock activity." She was then assigned the homeport of the naval base at Charleston, South Carolina.
Her "Welcome Aboard" pamphlet gives some indication as to her operating tempo during her years of service as a Coast Guard cutter. "ESCAPE'S operating schedule calls for 185 days away from homeport each year This translates into a patrol cycle of four weeks at sea followed by four weeks inport. During each patrol a two day portcall for provisioning and crewrest is normally scheduled." Her large fuel capacity proved to be a boon to long-range and long-term operations by serving as a replenishment vessel for smaller patrol boats, especially the 110-foot Island Class WPBs.
During her career she made numerous drug arrests, saved countless migrants from unsafe craft and rescued many other vessels in distress as well. On 6 December 1988 Escape seized the Colombian M/V Mr. Ted, 100 miles off Charleston with over 18 tons of marijuana on board. She also worked with U.S. Navy assets during counter-narcotics operations, including having tactical control of the USS Gemini when that Navy hydrofoil seized 515 kilograms of cocaine from the P/C Ojala. The next years of her service life though saw an increasing role in rescuing migrants. On patrol in March, 1989, she saved from unseaworthy craft and then returned 586 Haitian migrants safely back to Haiti in an operation repeated many times in the coming years.
That role came to the fore during Operation Able Manner off the coast of Haiti. In June and July, 1994, she rescued 1,193 Haitians off of 39 vessels and at one point had over 390 migrants on her decks. For her meritorious service during Able Manner she received five Special Operations Service Awards for "Haitian interdiction operations during Able Manner" from 7 May 1993 to 8 July 1994. During this time Escape also participated in Operation Support Democracy. Escape then participated in Operation Able Vigil, rescuing Cuban migrants during a mass exodus event in August through September, 1994. During this operation she rescued 844 migrants from 33 rafts and she was awarded the Coast Guard Unit Commendation.
Escape was decommissioned on 29 June 1995 and later scrapped.
PDF history pamphlet, with patrol summaries, press releases, welcome aboard pamphlets, commissioning & decommissioning pamphlets, etc.
Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation
Navy Expeditionary Service Medal: Cuba (1)
American Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Armed Forces Defense Service Medal: Cuba (1); Dominican Republic (1)
Coast Guard Unit Commendation
Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendation (3)
Humanitarian Service Medal (4)
Operational Readiness Award (2)
Special Operations Service Award (5)
CAPT W. Y. Clark; 1980-1984
CAPT R. T. Glynn; 1984-1986
CAPT J. T. Clarke; 1986-1988
CAPT W. T. Horan; 1988-1990
CDR J. V. Embler; 1990-1992
CAPT (sel) R. K. Corrigan; 1992-1994
CDR E. Marmol; 1994-1995
Cutter History File, U.S. Coast Guard Historian’s Office.
Dictionary of American Navy Fighting Vessels.
Scheina, Robert. U.S. Coast Guard Cutters & Craft, 1946-1990. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1990.