Skip Navigation


Security Levels

Laurel, 1942

WAGL-291; WLB-291

Call Sign: NRPJ

Builder: Zenith Dredge Corporation, Duluth, MN

Builder's Number: bn CG-92

Cost:  $902,656

Length:  180' oa

Beam: 37' mb

Draft:  12' max (1945); 14' 7" (1966)

Displacement: 935 fl (1945); 1,026 fl (1966); 700 light (1966)

Keel Laid: 17 April 1942

Launched: 4 August 1942

Commissioned: 24 November 1942

Decommissioned: 1 December 1999

Status: unknown

Propulsion:  1 electric motor connected to 2 Westinghouse generators driven by 2 Cooper-Bessemer-type GND-8, 4-cycle diesels; single screw

Top speed: 13.0 kts sustained (1945); 11.9 kts sustained (1966) 

Economic speed: 8.3 kts (1945); 8.5 kts (1966)

Complement: 6 Officers, 74 men (1945); 4 officers, 2 warrants, 47 men (1966)

    Radar: Bk (1943); SL (1945)
    Sonar: WEA-2 (1945)

Armament: 1-3"/50 (single), 2-20mm/80 (single), 2 depth charge tracks, 2 Mousetraps, 4 Y-guns (1945); None (1966)

Class History:

When the US Coast Guard absorbed the Bureau of Lighthouses on 1 July 1939, Juniper, a 177-foot all welded steel buoy tender, was under construction and plans for a successor were on the drawing board. Plans initiated by the Bureau of Lighthouses called for the construction of several identical buoy tenders to replace existing coastal buoy tenders. The preliminary designs generated by the Bureau were for a vessel similar to Juniper. When the Aids to Navigation (ATON) system transferred to Coast Guard control, USCG planners reviewed the preliminary plans for the new class of buoy tenders and modified them to meet the service’s multi-mission role. To be an effective part of the Coast Guard, the new buoy tenders needed to be multi-purpose platforms. They had to be capable of conducting Search and Rescue (SAR) and Law Enforcement (LE) missions, as well as their primary mission tending ATON. On 20 January 1941 the US Coast Guard contracted Marine Iron and Shipbuilding Company of Duluth , Minnesota to build the design based on Juniper and modified to meet the service’s requirements. On 31 March 1941 Marine Iron and Shipbuilding laid the keel for the first vessel of the new buoy tender class. The new vessel measured 180 feet overall and had a beam of 37 feet at the extreme. She had a displacement of 935 tons and drew 12 feet. The new design was similar to Juniper in appearance but did exhibit some important differences. Gone was the turtle back forecastle. A notched forefoot, ice-belt at the waterline, and reinforced bow gave the vessel icebreaking capabilities. Extending the superstructure to the ship’s sides increased interior volume above the main deck. A single propeller, turned by an electric motor powered by twin diesel generators, replaced the twin-screw arrangement. The 30,000-gallon fuel capacity gave the new design a range of 12,000 miles at a 12-knot cruising speed; at 8.3 knots the cruising range increased to 17,000 miles. Finer lines at the bow and stern increased the new tender’s sea keeping ability in rough weather; an increase in draft also promoted seaworthiness. Numerous minor alterations increased the vessel’s utility as a SAR platform while deck-mounted guns and depth charge racks supported military duties. Marine Iron and Shipbuilding launched the prototype vessel on 25 November 1941, even as three more took shape. Preparations also went forward to begin a fifth vessel. By the time they commissioned the first 180, Cactus, on 1 September 1942 twelve vessels were under construction at the Marine Iron shipyard and at the Zenith Dredge Company shipyard, also in Duluth . The initial designation for the new buoy tenders was WAGL, which was a US Navy designation denoting an auxiliary vessel, lighthouse tender. The designation changed from WAGL to WLB in 1965. A few of the 180s have been designated as other types of vessels over the years; three became WMECs (medium endurance cutters), one of those, Evergreen, was a WAGO (oceanographic research vessel) before it became a WMEC. Gentian was a WMEC for a time and was then designated a WIX (Training Cutter) in 1999. Though designations have changed over time, each vessel’s hull number has remained the same since commissioning.


Six “B” or Mesquite class tenders followed the initial production run of thirteen vessels in the “A’ or Cactus-class. The first Mesquite-class tender hit the water on 14 November 1942. Marine Iron and Shipbuilding built all except one of the Mesquite-class. The USCG built the lone exception, Ironwood, at the service’s shipyard in Curtis Bay, Maryland. Twenty Iris or “C” class vessels followed the Mesquite-class tenders. The first launch of an Iris class vessel took place on 18 June 1943, and the final addition to the class slipped off the ways on 18 May 1944. Differences among the three classes were minimal. Their basic dimensions, length and beam were the same and draft varied based on loading. All were built of welded steel along the same framing pattern and with very similar internal and external layouts. All three classes could steam 8,000 miles at 13 knots, 12,000 miles at 12 knots, and 17,000 miles at 8.3 knots; though the “B” and “C” class vessels had engines with 20 percent more power than the “A” class. The “A” class vessels could carry the most fuel with a tank capacity of 30,000 gallons. The “C” class carried 29,335 gallons and the “B” class about 700 gallons less. The layout of the Commanding Officer’s cabin and the radio room was slightly different in the “A” class vessels. The bridge wing door on the “B” and “C” vessels opened to the side while the doors on the “A” vessels opened forward. The cargo holds as originally laid out in the “C” were larger, by a nominal amount, than those in the other vessels. To hoist buoys and cargo, the “A” vessels carried an A-frame structure that straddled the superstructure and supported the cargo boom. The other two classes were fitted with power vangs that attached to the bridge wings and manipulated the cargo boom. The “A” vessels were originally fitted with manilla line as part of the cargo handling system while the second and third generation vessels used wire rope. From the outside, other than the A-frame used in the first production run, the three classes were almost indistinguishable. Over the years their internal differences and variation in equipment were minimized by successive overhauls and improvements. Moreover, it does not appear that any one of the three classes was superior to the other two in the eyes of the US Coast Guard administration or the men who manned the buoy tender fleet. Tenders from each of the three classes remained in use past the turn of the 21st century. It usually took from two to four months between the time shipyard workers laid a keel and the day the vessel slipped off the ways. Once launched, however, the tenders were far from ready for service. The practice was to build the superstructure, finish the interior, and complete the machinery installation while the vessel was floating. Hence, on launch day the tenders were little more than finished hulls. As the shipyard workers neared the end of the building process, the Coast Guard would begin assigning officers and men to the vessels. Once each vessel was complete and ready to enter active service, the US Coast Guard commissioned her as part of the fleet. Often the commissioning ceremonies took place after the tender had departed from Duluth and arrived at an initial duty station. For the 180s as a whole, it took an average period of 308 days to go from the beginning of construction to commissioning. Divided according to sub-class, the elapsed time from keel laying to commissioning averaged 360 days for the Cactus-class; 323 days for the Mesquite-class; and 269 days for the Iris-class. The building process averaged 192,018 man-hours of labor per vessel. In keeping with the Lighthouse Service practice of naming tenders after foliage, all of the 180s were named after trees, shrubs, or flowers.

Cutter History:

World War II

As of 8 October 1943 Laurel was assigned to the 4th Coast Guard District and was stationed at Philadelphia , PA. The cutter was eventually assigned as­signed to CINCLANT (DESLANT) and stationed at Boston , MA where it served as an icebreaker and an escort in Greenland waters. Laurel replaced USCGC Cactus, which had been damaged in a collision with Manasquan. In November 1943, and again in January 1944 Laurel was damaged by ice. In October 1944 the cutter rescued 83 survivors from SS Iris. Near the war’s end, in March 1945, Laurel served on an Atlantic weather station


Immediately after the war until 3 September 1946 Laurel continued to be stationed at Boston , MA and used for ATON. From 3 September to 8 December 1946 Laurel was stationed at Portland , ME and again primarily used for ATON. From 8 December 1946 through 21 May 1969 Laurel was stationed at Rockland , ME and used for ATON. On 27 October 1950 the cutter assisted FV Schoodic. In January 1952 Laurel broke ice on the Penobscot River .  On 4-5 January 1953 the cutter towed FV Estrella from 43 20 N, 66 28 W into Gloucester , MA . In February 1954 Laurel again broke ice on the Penob­scot River . On 7-8 August 1958 Laurel directed on-scene operations following the collision between the tanker Gulfoil and S.E. Graham at the entrance to Narragansett Bay during a heavy fog. On 4 July 1967 Laurel recov­ered wreckage and bodies from a private aircraft crash off Moose Point , ME. From 21 May 1969-June 1975 Laurel was stationed at Morehead City , NC and used for ATON.  From 22­-28 January 1970 Laurel helped fight a fire on board the Norwegian MV Thordis Prethus which was off North Carolina . From January 1975-September 1983 Laurel was stationed at Ketchikan , AK and used for ATON. From September 1983-28 April 1986 Laurel was stationed at San Pedro , CA and used for ATON. In May 1984 Laurel sustained a main motor casualty and was towed to Point Lorna by USCGC Confidence. From 12 July 1986-1990 Laurel underwent major renovation at the Coast Guard Yard at Cur­tis Bay, MD. Upon the completion of the renovation Laurel was homeported at Mayport, FL where she was used primarily for ATON, but did engage in LE activities especially in regard to alien migrant and drug interdiction.

Photo of Launching of USCGC Laurel

Launching of USCGC Laurel- 4 August 1942

Photo of USCGC Laurel commissioning

Commissioning of USCGC Laurel- 24 November 1942

Photo of USCGC Laurel breaking ice during World War II

USCGC Laurel breaking ice in a Greenland fjord during World War II

Photo of USCGC Laurel underway-no date

Photo of USCGC Laurel- 13 August 1965

USCGC Laurel- 13 August 1965

Photo of USCGC Laurel- 13 August 1965

Photo of USCGC Laurel from above- 25 March 1971

Photo of USCGC Laurel conducting exercises with the U.S. Navy- 15 June 1984

Photo of USCGC Laurel tied up with USCGC Clover in September 1984

Photo of USCGC Laurel on West Coast in the mid-80s

Photo of USCGC Laurel tending buoys-no date


Cutter File, Coast Guard Historian's Office.

HABS/HAER, National Park Service, US Department of the Interior. US Coast Guard 180-Foot Buoy Tenders. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2003.

Robert Scheina.  Coast Guard Cutters & Craft of World War II.  Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1981.

Robert Scheina.  Coast Guard Cutters & Craft, 1946-1990.  Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1990.

Last Modified 1/12/2016