Argo, 1933

WPC-100


The cutter Argo was named for the ship in Greek mythology in which Jason sailed in search of the Golden Fleece.


Builder: John H. Mathis Company, Camden, New Jersey

Launched: 12 November 1932

Commissioned: 6 January 1933

Decommissioned: 30 October 1948

Disposition: Sold, 2 November 1955; she saw service in New York Harbor as the Circle Line XII with Circle Cruise Lines.

Displacement: 1933: 337 tons full load
                      1945: 350 tons full load

Dimensions: 
                       Length: 165' oa
                       Beam: 25' 3"
                       Draft: 7' 8" (1933); 10' (1945)

Machinery: 2 x Winton Model 158 6-cylinder diesels; 1,340 bhp

Propellers: twin, 3 blades

Performance: Maximum speed: 16.0 knots
                        Maximum sustained: 14.0 knots for 1,750 statute miles
                        Cruising: 11.0 knots for 3,000 statute miles
                        Economic: 6.0 knots for 6,417 statute miles

Complement: 1933: 5 officers, 39 men
                        1945: 7 officers, 68 men

Armament: 1933: 1 x 3"/23; 1 x 1-pounders;
                    1941: 1 x 3"/23; 1 x Y-gun; 2 x depth charge tracks;
                    1945: 2 x 3"/50 (single-mounts); 2 x 20mm/80 (single mounts); 2 x depth charge tracks; 2 x Y-guns; 2 x Mousetraps.

Electronics: 1933: none
                      1945: Radar: SF; Sonar: QCO 

Cost: $258,000


Class History:

The 165-foot "B" Class cutters, sometimes referred to as the Thetis-Class, were a follow on to the 125-foot cutters.  Both types of cutters were designed for the enforcement of Prohibition, but the 165-footers primary mission was to trail the mother ships that dispensed alcohol to smaller, faster vessels well beyond the territorial waters of the U.S.  Hence these cutters had to have excellent sea-keeping qualities, good accommodations for the crew, and long range.  Although Prohibition ended soon after most entered service, their design nevertheless proved to be adaptable to the many other missions of the Coast Guard.

An article written soon after they entered service noted that: "the new cutters are low and rakish, without excessive superstructure or freeboard.  A raking stem, well flared bow and cruiser stern give the appearance of speed as well as contribute to the seaworthiness of the vessels, a quality which has been demonstrated in actual service. . .The new ships are twin-screw driven by two 670 horse power Diesel engines, furnished by the Winton Engine Co. of Cleveland, Ohio.  The shafting and propellers are arranged and supported in a novel manner.  The ship is equipped with two overhanging rudders on a line with and just aft of the propellers.  The rudders are supported by a streamline rudder post at the forward end which is bossed out for a bearing to take a stub shaft which extends through the propeller.  This method of arranging the rudders has proved remarkably successful.  At full speed, the ships turn a complete circle in two minutes and eighteen seconds, and can be docked with ease under the most difficult conditions.  On trial runs, the Atalanta averaged 16.48 knots at 468 RPM with practically no vibration and the engine under no evident strain.  Due to the arduous service for which these vessels were built, only the finest materials available were used. . .It is interesting to note that genuine wrought iron pipe was used for practically all the services where resistance to corrosion, vibration, and strain was required.  The fuel oil, lubricating oil, and water service to the main engines and auxiliaries; the fire and bilge system; and the steam heating system were all installed with genuine wrought iron pipe.  At the Lake Union plant this pipe was furnished by the Reading Iron Company through the Crane Company's Seattle office and Bowles Company of Seattle.  The new ships are a distinct contribution to modern shipbuilding and should be of great value to the Coast Guard."*

They certainly did prove to be of great value to the Coast Guard.  Most saw service as coastal convoy escorts during World War II and two, the Icarus and the Thetis, each sank a U-boat.  Many saw service well into the 1960s and some still serve as tour boats in New York City with the Circle Tour Line, testament to their sturdy and well-thought-out design.


Cutter History:

The CGC Argo was built by John H. Mathis Company at Camden, New Jersey in 1933 and entered commissioned service on 6 January 1933 under the command of LT H. C. Moore, USCG.  She was 165 feet long, 25 feet 3 inches beam, and drew 9 feet 6 inches, with a displacement of 334 tons.  She had a steel hull and could attain a speed of 16 knots.  Her twin screw, diesel engine developed 1340 horsepower.  Her peacetime complement was four commissioned officers, one warrant officer, and 40 enlisted men.  Her first homeport was Stapleton, New York until 13 March 1934 when the ship was transferred to Newport, Rhode Island.  She remained in Newport until the American entry into World War II. During this time she served as part of the Cadet Training Cruise in the North Atlantic.

With the U.S. entry into the war the vessel was attached to the Atlantic Fleet as a convoy escort.  While engaged in escort duty on 22 June 1942, the Argo made one depth charge attack when the charges failed to explode.  Later on the 27th she made another contact at 1045 but abandoned the search fifteen minutes later.  Two minutes later a ship was torpedoed on the starboard bow of the convoy and at 0149 the Argo established a contact at 1,500 yards with the target shifting slowly to the right.  The cutter closed to 650 yards but lost contact at 150 yards and immediately released a five-charge pattern, sighting a large oil bubble upon completion of the attack.  Investigating the position where the charges were released, she found a large area all bubbles and an oil slick extending to the horizon, a long oil slick presumably in the vicinity but beyond where the attack was made.  At 0210 she released a pattern of three charges and oil was still bubbling to the surface.  She then released one charge at 300 feet plus (all previous settings being 200 feet).  Assuming the target destroyed she resumed her course to rejoin the convoy.  While in convoy on 6 January 1944, the Camas Meadows and the St. Augustine collided.  Argo rescued 23 survivors and picked up six bodies.  For their actions personnel from the Argo and the Thetis were recognized for bravery for the actions following the collision.  Sometime after 24 March 1944 she was placed in reduced commission at the Chelsea Navy Base in Massachusetts.

While under the command of LTJG Eliot Winslow in May, 1945, the Argo participated in the surrender of three U-boats off the east coast: U-805, U-234 and U-873.  The cutter took aboard a number of prisoners and escorted the German submarines back to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, without incident -- see the photo gallery below.

Later in 1945 Argo was assigned to the First Coast Guard District for further assignment to Air-Sea Rescue Duty.  Rockland, Maine became her homeport.  In 1947 the Commander, First Coast Guard District requested authorization to place the Argo in "out of commission, in reserve" status due to personnel shortages.  The request was not initially approved.  The establishment of the Weather Patrol Program, however, strained Coast Guard manpower and the Argo was subsequently ordered into reserve status. USCGC Spar towed the vessel to Cape May where she was placed in storage. 

She was decommissioned 30 October 1948 and sold on 2 November 1955 to A.T. Davies, Birchfield Boiler, Inc., Tacoma, WA for $15,564.  She was eventually acquired by the Circle Cruise Lines of New York City and modified for passenger service.  She was re-engined with eight General Motors 6-71 Quad diesel engines (four per shaft) and Falk reverse/reduction gears with individual hydraulically operated clutches for each engine.  She still sails New York Harbor as the Circle Line XII.  (Our thanks to Brian Bailey of Circle Line for the information on Argo's New York City career).


More Information:

Dr. William Thiesen wrote about a number of Argo's rescues during the war while under the command of LT Winslow in his article: Lieutenant Charles Eliot Winslow and His Heroic Rescues in Command of the Coast Guard Cutter Argo (click on the article's title to access a pdf copy).


 

USCGC Argo

No caption/date/photo number; photographer unknown.

 

USCGC Argo

Argo underway, note her war-time armament.

From the collection of Argo's CO in 1945, LTJG Eliot Winslow.

Courtesy of the Winslow family.

600 dpi image of the above.

USCGC Argo

From the collection of Argo's CO in 1945, LTJG Eliot Winslow.  Photo was taken by LTJG Winslow and remained part of his personal collection.  His hand-written caption reads: "Big Shots: At the suggestion of the guard with the sub machine gun some of the lesser Nazi Big Shots fold their hands to begin their first lesson in the ARGO way of life."

Courtesy of the Winslow family.

 

USCGC Argo

From the collection of Argo's CO in 1945, LTJG Eliot Winslow.  Photo was taken by LTJG Winslow and remained part of his personal collection.  His hand-written caption reads: "Captain Herbster, U.S.N.: Captain Herbster, Senior Officer present representing the Admiral, is amazed by General Kessler's uncanny memory of World War I U.S. leaders, whom the General mentions by name and present rank."

Courtesy of the Winslow family.

 

USCGC Argo

From the collection of Argo's CO in 1945, LTJG Eliot Winslow.  Photo was taken by LTJG Winslow and remained part of his personal collection.  His hand-written caption reads: "Death Alley: Three prisoners standing in 'death alley', between two rows of depth charges, get their first glimpse of America.  The automatic shotgun in their stomachs did not add to the natural beauty of the surrounding landscape."

Courtesy of the Winslow family.

 

USCGC Argo

From the collection of Argo's CO in 1945, LTJG Eliot Winslow.  Photo was taken by LTJG Winslow and remained part of his personal collection.  His hand-written caption reads: "Lieut. General Ulric Kessler: Lieut. General Ulric Kessler of the Luftwaffe, proud and arrogant passes his time aboard the ARGO reading this timely topic.  Kessler boasted of being present at the Geneva disarmament conference after the last war and with his smooth courteous manner he is just the type to sell America the idea of brotherly love and world friendship while planning a third world war.  He was the essence of politeness, saluting me and asking in perfect English, "Permission Sir, to leave your ship."  There was no answer, merely a finger pointing to the gangway."

Courtesy of the Winslow family.

"tif" image

USCGC Argo

From the collection of Argo's CO in 1945, LTJG Eliot Winslow.  Photo was taken by LTJG Winslow and remained part of his personal collection.  His hand-written caption reads: "Heavy Seas: While awaiting the surrender of the German U-boats, the ARGO rode out a 65 m.p.h. blow.  This picture looking aft shows the life boat normally 16 feet above the water, rolling into a heavy sea, most of which broke over the side of the ship.  This roll was 41 [degrees] the maximum roll ever recorded was 62 [degrees] in a hurricane, when the life raft seen in the top of the picture was half submerged.  So much green water poured down the stack the fires in the galley range and boile[r] were extinguished.  We had more Christians aboard after the storm than when we sailed." 

Courtesy of the Winslow family.

 

USCGC Argo

From the collection of Argo's CO in 1945, LTJG Eliot Winslow.  Photo was taken by LTJG Winslow and remained part of his personal collection.  His hand-written caption reads: "Kaptain [sic] Fehler: Kaptain Fehler, turning from the interpreter, flashes his winning smile while pleading for a more hospitable reception for his crew.  The Main Clam Digger on the left, unimpressed by the deceptive Ipana glow, is about to spit back his deepest regrets for not having the Presidential Yacht available."

Courtesy of the Winslow family.

 

USCGC Argo

From the collection of Argo's CO in 1945, LTJG Eliot Winslow.  Photo was taken by LTJG Winslow and remained part of his personal collection.  His hand-written caption reads:  "The Finger: May 19, 1945, Kapitanen Leutnaut [sic] Jahann Heinrich Fehler was captain of the 1600 ton submarine U-234 bound for Japan with a $5,000,000 cargo of mercury and tons of blue prints of the latest robot bombs and jet-propelled planes.  He complained bitterly when ordered with 4 of his officers to sit on the deck with arms folded.  Informed by the interpreter of the situation I went below and ordered the guards to "shoot any prisoner who as much as scratched his head without permission.  An apology must accompany every shooting.  When Fehler was about to disembark, he was still growling.  He was informed to saving his grumbling for the captain who would be at the gangway.  When asked by the interpreter what were his troubles, he replied first in German.  Then turning to me, he said in good English, 'Ach -- my men have been treated like gangsters.'  I had been simmering for an hour but that remark brought me to a boil.  With eyes meeting head on, I barked 'that's what you are GET OFF!'  My outstretched arm pointed to the gangway.  Strange as it may seem there was no profanity for the moment, but I must confess the air was blue for 5 minutes while I muttered to myself. . ."

Courtesy of the Winslow family.

 

USCGC Argo

From the collection of Argo's CO in 1945, LTJG Eliot Winslow.  Photo was taken by LTJG Winslow and remained part of his personal collection.  His hand-written caption reads: "Gangway: Captain Fehler starts for the gangway convinced that the ARGO is no place to air his complaints.  The officer facing him in not extending the Key to the city of Portsmouth but is muttering a bed time story about the remarkable resemblance between gangsters -- Dillinger and Fehler."

Courtesy of the Winslow family.

 

USCGC Argo

From the collection of Argo's CO in 1945, LTJG Eliot Winslow.  Photo was taken by LTJG Winslow and remained part of his personal collection.  His hand-written caption reads: "Kapitanleutnaut [sic] Fritz Steinhoff, captain of the U-873, was the toughest, most arrogant of all the prisoners captured.  His only statement in response to many questions was, 'I am a Nazi, I will always be a Nazi' - Rather than reveal information that was wanted by the Navy he committed suicide the next day by slashing his wrist in his cell at Charles St. jail, Boston.  He set a good example for more of his ilk to follow." 

Courtesy of the Winslow family.

 

USCGC Argo

From the collection of Argo's CO in 1945, LTJG Eliot Winslow.  Photo was taken by LTJG Winslow and remained part of his personal collection.  His hand-written caption reads: "U-234: Aerial view of the prize catch, the U-234, en route to her moorings." 

[Please note that LTJG Winslow was incorrect in writing this caption, the U-boat in the photo was actually the U-873.]

Courtesy of the Winslow family.

 

USCGC Argo

From the collection of Argo's CO in 1945, LTJG Eliot Winslow.  Photo was taken by LTJG Winslow and remained part of his personal collection.  His caption hand-written caption reads: "U-805: The U-805, first submarine to surrender, is escorted by ARGO at 12 knots for the last 50 miles to Portsmouth, N.H.  Ten prisoners were stowed in the forward anchor chain locker, 230 aft over the screws, with 5 officers below decks, all under heavy guard.  Modern conveniences at their disposal consisted solely of a 10 quart pail.  Shower baths with smelling salts and sandwiches were omitted."  

Courtesy of the Winslow family.

 

USCGC Argo

From the collection of Argo's CO in 1945, LTJG Eliot Winslow.  Photo was taken by LTJG Winslow and remained part of his personal collection.  His hand-written caption reads: "U-873: The ARGO stands by while two tugs take the U-873, the second sub to surrender, up the last mile of the river to a safe anchorage below the Portsmouth Navy Yard.  The large crowd in the conning tower is composed of Navy inspectors and the armed guard party."

Courtesy of the Winslow family.


Sources:

Cutter files, USCG Historian's Office.

Canney, Donald L. U.S. Coast Guard and Revenue Cutters, 1790-1935. (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1995).

Donations of scanned photos from LTJG Eliot Winslow by Warren Cochrane.

*Nickum, W. C. "New 'Sisters' of the Coast Guard Patrol Go Into Service."  The Reading Puddle Ball 3, No. 11 (February 1935), pp. 6-7. 

Scheina, Robert L. U.S. Coast Guard Cutters and Craft in World War II. (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1982).

Thiesen, William. Lieutenant Charles Eliot Winslow and His Heroic Rescues in Command of the Coast Guard Cutter Argo.

U.S. Coast Guard. Public Information Division. Historical Section. The Coast Guard at War: Transports and Escorts (Vol. V). (Washington, DC: Public Information Division, U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters, 1949.


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Last Modified 11/17/2014