Assets: Cutters & Craft - A Complete List
The "Wind" Class final design--modeled after the Swedish icebreaker Ymer--was prepared by Gibbs & Cox of New York after initial design work by LCDR Edward Thiele, USCG (later the Coast Guard's Engineer-in-Chief) who had obtained details of foreign icebreakers while vacationing in Europe before the war. The Wind- class of icebreakers measured 269 feet in length, 63’6” in beam and displaced 6,500 tons. The Coast Guard contracted for five vessels of the class in November 1941 to fulfill the need to access military bases in Greenland that would be inaccessible during most of the year without the use of heavy icebreakers. Eventually, the Coast Guard operated seven Wind- class icebreakers.
The design of the vessels included a bow propeller used to clear the hull from ice and dredge broken ice forward. The bow propeller was not typically used as a means for propulsion unless the vessel needed to back out of surrounding ice. The vessels also had a diesel electric power-plant, the most compact, economical, and powerful propulsion system available at the time. Additionally, while the diesels provide the power supply, there was a division between these diesels and the motors, which supplied power to the shafts. The rotating electric motors could handle the shocks and extreme power- to- speed ratios necessary for ice operations.
The close spaced frames and careful design of the trusses and planting, along with the thick, welded hull plating made the hulls of the Wind- class unprecedented in strength and structural integrity. The hull also had compressed cork insulation, strengthened steering apparatus, and a padded notch at the stern to nestle the bow of any vessel being towed through ice. Also the design included fore, aft, and side heeling tanks with pumps to aid in water movement within the vessel to rock the ship free from ice build up. The specifications for construction were so extensive that the Western Pipe and Steel Company of Los Angeles was the only builder to submit a bid. They were originally designed to be equipped with a fixed wing amphibious aircraft.
USS Southwind, CG, was laid down on 20 July 1942 at San Pedro, California, by the Western Pipe & Steel Company. She was launched on 8 March 1943 and was sponsored by Mrs. Ona Jones. Southwind was commissioned by the Coast Guard on 15 July 1944 under the command of CDR R. M. Hoyle, USCG. She was initially assigned to CINCLANT and was home-ported in Boston, Massachusetts. After a brief period of service along the coast of Greenland where she assisted her sister-ship Eastwind in capturing German weather teams, including the German supply trawler Externsteine, the icebreaker was transferred to the Soviet Union under the terms of lend-lease on 25 March 1945 at Tacoma, Washington. On that date, the Southwind's commanding officer, CAPT Richard M. Hoyle, USCG, turned over control of the vessel over to CDR A. M. Khokhlov, USSRN, who was the designated Soviet representative. Renamed Admiral Makarov (a famous Russian mariner and naval architect who is recognized as the father of the modern icebreaker) by the Soviets, the ship operated in the Russian merchant marine for four-and-one-half years before the Soviet Union returned her to the United States at Yokosuka, Japan, on 28 December 1949.
The vessel was repaired at Yokosuka and, on 28 April 1950, renamed USS Atka (AGB-3). She was commissioned at Yokosuka by the United States Navy on 1 October 1950 and got underway four days later for the New England coast. Upon her arrival at Boston, Atka entered the naval shipyard there for a thorough overhaul and modernization. The work was completed late in May 1951, and Atka began operations from Boston in July.
Throughout her career in the U.S. Navy, the icebreaker followed a routine established by the changing seasons. In the late spring, she would set sail for either the northern or southern polar regions to resupply American and Canadian air bases and weather and radar stations. In early fall, she would return to Boston for upkeep and repairs. In the winter, the ship would sail various routes in the North Atlantic to gather weather data before returning to Boston in early spring for repairs and preparation for her annual polar expedition. The ship often carried civilian scientists who plotted data on ocean currents and ocean water characteristics. They also assembled hydrographic data on the poorly charted polar regions. Atka was also involved in numerous tests of cold weather equipment and survival techniques.
She was placed out of commission on 31 October 1966 and transferred back to the Coast Guard, where she was redesignated WAGB-280. Her name was struck from the Navy list on 1 November 1966. During her years as the Atka, she made a total of 19 trips into Arctic waters and nine extensive voyages to Antarctica.
USCGC Atka was commissioned in the Coast Guard at Boston on 31 October 1966. She then departed Boston for her new home port of Baltimore, Maryland. On behalf of her crew, and at their unanimous request, the cutter's new commanding officer, CAPT Sumner R. Dolber asked the Commandant if they could rename the ship Southwind. The request was granted early in 1967. In the Northern Hemisphere summer of 1967, Southwind participated in Arctic East 1967 during which she served as an escort and supply vessel along both coasts of Greenland. On 30 July she helped locate and repair submarine cables 600 miles above the Arctic Circle.
She departed Baltimore on 16 November 1967 for a five-and-a-half month deployment in support of Operation Deep Freeze 1968. For this trip she carried quite a few Navy personnel. She embarked 33 personnel of CBU-201 (Navy Construction Battalion--Seabees) at Punta Arenos, Chile. Already aboard were two Navy HC-4 helicopters and their crews which embarked the icebreaker at Norfolk, Virginia . The Seabee personnel were transported to Anvers Island where they were scheduled to construct a scientific station that was to be named Palmer Station II. The new station was completed and dedicated on 20 March 1968. While heading home the following day, as she departed Arthur Harbor, she impaled her hull on an uncharted granite "spike" which breeched her hull and caused flooding. Divers went overboard to check the hull, according to a report, and although the gash was "severe" it was determined that she could still safely sail home. It was a three-day passage to Punta Arenos which she made safely. Her hull was checked again and she was determined to be safe to sail to Baltimore where she underwent repairs.
She again participated in a Deep Freeze (DF 69) operation the following year in which she sailed around the world during a cruise that lasted seven months. She departed Baltimore on 13 October 1968 with a crew of 190 men. Also aboard were two Navy HC-4 helicopters and 15 Navy personnel from Naval Air Station Lake Hurst. During that voyage, on 19 December 1968, she lost a blade off her starboard propeller while "battering the fast ice in McMurdo Sound" and had to return to Wellington, New Zealand for drydocking and repairs. During her long trip, she visited ports not normally seen by a Coast Guard cutter, including Tanzania, Mozambique, Heard Island, and Pt. Louis in Mauritius. She also assisted the Danish vessel Thala Dan, which was caught in the ice off Wilkes Station. She returned to Baltimore on 7 May 1969. She was awarded a Coast Guard Unit Commendation for "exceptionally meritorious service during the period Nov. 14, 1968 to April 3, 1969 while engaged in Operation Deep Freeze '69 and subsequent operations in support of U.S. military programs and scientific research projects." Another highlight of her voyage was when the cutter rendezvoused with the super-tanker Manhattan while anchored at Thule. The Southwind's helicopters were used to transfer passengers between Thule and the tanker.
CAPT Edward D. Cassidy relieved CAPT Dolber on 6 June 1969. She then departed for Arctic East 1969. In July and August 1969 she served as an escort and conducted oceanographic research along the west coast of Greenland. On 15 August 1969 she ran aground 130 miles ESE of Thule and sustained minor damage. With the assistance of the CGC Northwind she was freed on 17 August. She entered drydock at Curtis Bay at the Bethlehem Steel shipyard for repairs.
She departed for a unique voyage from Baltimore on 15 June 1970. She was scheduled to conduct oceanographic and logistics operations in Baffin bay and the Barents and Kara Seas north of Europe as well as escort cargo ships on for the annual resupply of Thule, Greenland. While on that cruise, on 15 August 1970, she reached 83° 01' North, the northernmost penetration into the Arctic Basin by a U.S. icebreaker to date. She also visited the port cities of Tromso, Norway, Portsmouth, England, Copenhagen, Denmark and in another historic first, she became the first U.S. naval vessel to call at the port of Murmansk, USSR, since World War II. While in Murmansk, from 4 to 7 September 1970, over 700 local citizens visited the ship. CAPT Cassidy paid homage to Soviet and American dead at a local cemetery where American and other Allied sailors killed near Murmansk were buried. Also, the Soviets returned an Apollo training capsule (BP-1227) that they had recovered at sea. Apparently the U.S. Air Force Aerospace Rescue and Recovery personnel who were using the 9,500 pound capsule for training but lost it at sea near the Azores in February, 1969. It was recovered by a Soviet fishing trawler. Southwind, after first sustaining a "bump" by a Soviet icebreaker while departing Murmansk for home, carried the capsule back to the U.S. and deposited it at Norfolk before ending her cruise at Baltimore on 17 November 1970.
At some point during this period CAPT William S. Schwob relieved CAPT Cassidy as Commanding Officer of Southwind. 1971 was again a busy year for the icebreaker and her crew. In March she departed for Buffalo to assist in opening up that port for the summer shipping season on the Great Lakes. A press release noted that she was scheduled to remain in Buffalo for about 20 days. She departed for Greenland waters on 1 July for a three-month oceanographic and scientific cruise in the Arctic. While on the cruise she made port calls at Oslo, Norway, and Reykjavik, Iceland. From 6 December 1971 through 26 February 1972 she took part in Operation Deep Freeze 1972. On board she carried Coast Guard HH-52As 1461 and 1369 (call signs Pumpkin 1 & 2) to carry out necessary air operations during the mission. She debarked scientific personnel at Palmer Station and later conducted a survey of the seal population.
Sometime in June or July, 1972, CAPT R. J. Knapp relieved CAPT Schwob as Commanding Officer. She was awarded a Coast Guard Unit Commendation for services she carried out during October and November of 1972 while operating in the Greenland Sea as part of Operation Arctic East (1972). The commendation read:
“For exceptionally meritorious service from 6 October to 10 November 1972 while engaged in operations in the Greenland Sea within 800 miles of the North Pole and later in the North Atlantic Ocean. During the initial phases of the operations in the Greeland Sea, CGC SOUTHWIND’s helicopters provided successful ice reconnaissance and logistic support in marginal flight conditions for the USCGC EDISTO and the USNS MIZAR who were both beset in the ice pack. SOUTHWIND subsequently broke out and escorted both ships from the Arctic ice pack in a task requiring an unusually high degree of tenacity and coordination between her command and control personnel, the helicopter detachment and the ships being assisted. Despite head winds which exceeded 50 knots and seas which reached over 20 feet, SOUTHWIND assumed the tow of the EDISTO, which was damaged and unable to proceed independently, and escorted her from the pack edge over 1,000 miles to Reykjavik, Iceland where temporary repairs could be made to EDISTO in preparation for the long tow to a repair port in the United States. After successfully reaching Reykjavik and following repairs to EDISTO, SOUTHWIND towed EDISTO an additional 500 miles in the face of storm force winds and extremely high seas until the tow could be transferred to USCGC MORGENThAU. In executing over 17 days of towing operations under extremely adverse conditions, SOUTHWIND’s personnel overcame serious difficulties with EDISTO’s rudder and the towline. The initiative, diligence, efficiency and unwavering devotion to duty of personnel of CGC SOUTHWIND during the entire operation are in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Coast Guard. The Operational Distinguishing Device is authorized."
Later that month the Southwind was transferred to the Great Lakes to replace the damaged CGC Edisto and the crews of both icebreakers were cross-decked. Southwind arrived at Milwaukee on 27 November 1972. The following year she again participated in an Arctic East cruise commencing on 2 July 1973 via the St. Lawrence Seaway. Her aviation detachment for this cruise was IBSEC Detachment 42, consisting of two HH-52A helicopters. She arrived at Thule Air Force Base on 21 July 1973, being the first ship of the "summer 1973 season" to arrive. She conducted a number of "Thule Harbor Circle Cruises" for Danish and Greenlandic nationals and Air Force personnel while there. She returned to Milwaukee on 17 September 1973.
Southwind was decommissioned the following year on 31 May 1974. She was sold for scrap on 17 March 1976 for the sum of $231,079.00 to Union Mineral & Alloy Corporation of New York.
Sumner R. Dolber & Robert T. Getman. "A Round-the-World Cruise by Southwind." Antarctic Journal of the United States IV, No. 6 (November-December 1969), pp. 294-300.
Southwind Cutter File, Coast Guard Historian's Office.
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.