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Pamlico, 1907

A member of the Algonquian people formerly of the Pamlico river valley in North Carolina.

Radio Call Sign: NRFP

Builder: Pusey & Jones, Wilmington, Delaware

Length: 158'

Beam: 30'

Draft: 5' 8"

Displacement: 455 (fl)

Cost: $167,750

Launched: 8 March 1907

Commissioned: 11 July 1907

Decommissioned: 6 September 1946

Disposition: Sold on 7 July 1947

Machinery: Triple-expansion steam; 1 x Babcock & Wilcox main boiler; twin screw; 600 h.p.

Maximum speed: 9.8 knots

Economical speed: 6.5 knots

Fuel & capacity: coal, 50 tons.

Cruising range: 817 miles (max. speed); 1,420 miles (econ. speed)

Complement: 33

Armament: 2 x 6-pounders

A photo of the cutter Pamlico

No caption/date/photo number; photographer unknown.

A pre-World War I photo of the Pamlico.

A photo of the cutter Pamlico

"Old U.S. Coast Guard Cutter PAMLICO."; 1927; no photo number; photographer unknown.

A photo of the cutter Pamlico

"Docking Test of YFD-60."; 26 May 1944; Photo No. 6-25; photographer unknown.

Here Pamlico serves as a test-bed for the floating drydock YFD-60.  Other than her war-time gray paint, note how little her appearance has changed over the years.

A photo of the cutter Pamlico

No caption; 28 April 1990; Photo No. 05-042890-03-14; photographer unknown.

Retired Coast Guardsman and world-famous author Alex Haley helps dedicate a plaque commemorating the Pamlico's 40 years of service in North Carolina waters during the Coast Guard's Bicentennial celebrations.  Haley served aboard the Pamlico beginning in February 1940 through May of 1943.  While aboard, he was promoted to Officer's Steward, Third Class on 26 March 1942.

Cutter History:

The cutter Pamlico was designed to cruise in inland waters and therefore had an extremely shallow draft.  She was built by Pusey & Jones Company of Wilmington, Delaware.  She entered commissioned service on 11 July 1907.  Her officers and crew transferred en mass from the cutter Boutwell, after that vessel was slated to be decommissioned later in July.  The Pamlico proceeded to her permanent station at New Bern, North Carolina, arriving there on 4 November 1907.  Here she prepared to carry out her assigned duties of enforcing the custom laws of the country, conduct search and rescue operations as well as annual winter cruises, patrol regattas and other maritime events, transport federal officials as required, and participate in community activities as ordered.  

On 11 September 1908, she proceeded to Norfolk for repairs, returning to her station on 5 November 1908, and on the 24th was ordered for winter cruising in Albermarle Sound, Pamlico Sound, and their navigable tributaries.  On 12 June 1909, she overhauled the steam launch Despatch and the steamer Nanticoke to "prevent the violation of the neutrality laws."  From 1910 to 1913, she was used to convey many Congressional and press association parties to New Bern and through the New Inland Canal.  In August 1913, a new radio apparatus was installed at Baltimore, Maryland, and in November she proceeded on her annual winter cruise.  

With the declaration of war by the U.S. on 6 April 1917, Pamlico was transferred to the Navy Department.  She was then ordered to the Chesapeake Bay where she made short training cruises in the bay for the many naval reserve officer trainees being prepared for duty overseas -- a role she carried out for the remainder of the war.  The official World War I Coast Guard history noted:

"The cutter PAMLICO, whose headquarters was at New Bern, N.D., and whose cruising district covered the eastern wwaters of that state (inland waters, the sounds and tributaries), was engaged in assistance work to vessels in distress when Congress on April 6th, 1917, passed the joint resolution declaring that a state of war existed between the United States and the German empire.  Under the mobilization orders, this cutter was assigned to duty in the fifth naval district and upon her return to New Bern began to operated under the orders of the commandant of that district.

The PAMLICO was cruised [sic] in the waters of her district, and engaged in the enrollment of reserve officers and the enlistment of men for the reserve service.  These duties were performed for some time, with additional duties on the part of her commanding and senior engineer officer, who were designated to inspect the motor boats of the district with a view of purchasing for the use of the Navy of those best suited for the purpose.

First Lieutenant J. A. Alger commanded the PAMLICO at this time and continued in command until relieved by First Lieutenant John L. Maher on the 29th of May.  Lieutenant Maher continued in command until the 25th of August when he was relieved by Captain Henry Ulke, Jr., the former officer being detailed for the enrollment duty in the fifth naval district.  In the latter part of October the PAMLICO was ordered to Norfolk, Va., and leaving New Bern, N.C., on the 31st of that month arrived at the navy yard at Berkley, Va., on the 3rd of November.  She was assigned to duty in connection with the training of reserve officers of the fifth naval district, and after being docked and having some repairs made entered on that duty.  Captain Henry Ulke, Jr., was ordered before a medical board on November 24th, and detached on the same day, First Lieutenant P. H. Scott being ordered to relieve him.  Lieutenant Scott continued to command the cutter during the remainder of the war period.

She was stationed at Pinner's Point, Va., and made numerous short cruises in Hampton Roads and Chesapeake Bay during which times the naval reserve student officers were given the necessary instructions to fit them for duty overseas.  Beginning on this duty at Pinner's Point where she arrived on the 23rd of January, 1918, the PAMLICO remained there, with the exception of the short training cruises heretofore mentioned until the signing of the armistice on the 11th of November following brought actual hostilities to a close.

The work done by this cutter under the command of Lieutenant Scott was of great value to the commandant of the fifth naval district where many reserve officers were enrolled and trained for their duties in the war zone where a great many of them were afterwards ordered." (Vol. 1, p. 81).

She was returned to the Coast Guard on 28 August 1919, when the entire service returned to the Treasury Department and was again assigned to New Bern.  She then returned to her normal peace-time duties.

During World War II, after the Coast Guard had once again been transferred to the Navy, Pamlico was designated as WPR-57 and was assigned to operate under the Assistant Captain of the Port at Morehead City from March 1942 until May, when the assistant was promoted to Captain of the Port.  With the cutter were 30 reserve boats used to maintain a constant patrol of the waterfronts at Morehead City, Elizabeth City, New Bern, and Washington, North Carolina, and also a continuous patrol of Bogue, Beaufort, Drum and Ocracoke Inlets and The Drain.  At these inlets all boats entering and leaving were boarded and examined for identification cards, boat licenses, and any other necessary papers.  The boats on patrol at the cities enumerated made a similar check of boats along the waterfront, and investigated docks for possible accumulations of waste material and other hazardous conditions.

In March, 1943, when a serious explosion occurred at the Port Terminal at Morehead City under the control of the Navy, the Captain of the Port and his men were among the first on the scene of the disaster, rendering help to the wounded and posting guards and patrols in the stricken area.  When in June, 1943, a commercial tug-towed barge capsized due to a top-heavy load of logs, Pamlico and the tender Linden (WAGL-228) searched the area for the logs and the tender Hydrangea (WAGL-236) recovered a body. 

She underwent a major overhaul in May of 1944, including repairs to the main engine and boiler.  She returned to New Bern  where she continued to serve, although repairs were needed almost continually at this point in her long government career.  

During her 40 years of service in North Carolina waters, she became something of a fixture to the local population.  They were disappointed to see her retired and even had their congressman call the Commandant, Admiral Joseph F. Farley, to see if they could keep her in service for a longer period of time.  But by 1946, she was on her last legs.  ADM Farley told the congressman that the Coast Guard had to pour concrete into her bilge to plug the many holes in her lower hull.  Bowing to the inevitable, the Coast Guard decommissioned the old cutter on 6 September 1946.

She was sold on 7 July 1947.  She was converted to a diesel-powered freighter, owned at one point by the Norris Grain Company of New York, with the name C. W. Curlett.  She was sold in 1958 to the Ailsworth Transport Company of Reedsville, Virginia and was renamed to the William Dea.


"Oldie But Goodie." Commandant's Bulletin #35-81 (August 24, 1981), p. 20.

Pamlico cutter file, USCG Historian's Office

U.S. Coast Guard.  A History of the United States Coast Guard in the World War.  Volume I.  Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1922, p. 81.

Last Modified 1/12/2016