A city in Florida.
The USRC Miami, circa 1912.
Builder: Newport News Shipbuilding, Newport News, Virginia
Beam: 32' 6"
Displacement: 1,180 tons
Commissioned: 19 August 1912
Decommissioned: N/A, lost in action on 26 September 1918
Disposition: Lost in action
Machinery: Triple-expansion steam power-plant producing 1,300 ihp
Complement: 115 (1918)
Armament: 3 x 6-pounders (1912); 4 x 3-inch 50-caliber guns; 2 machine guns (1917)
Photos (click on description to view image):
USRC Miami, no caption/date/photo number, photographer unknown; probably spring, 1914; view looking forward from the stern on the starboard side; aft sails set; probably on an ice patrol.
Crew of USRC Miami: original caption reads: "Officers and Crew, U.S. Revenue Cutter Miami on ice patrol."; no date/photo number; photographer unknown.
USRC Miami, no caption/date/photo number, photographer unknown; profile view from the port side.
USCGC Tampa crewmen, no caption/date/photo number, photographer unknown; probably 1918.
USCGC Tampa crewmen, no caption/date/photo number, photographer unknown; probably 1918.
The Coast Guard Cutter Tampa had its strongest ties with the city of Tampa, Florida. Perhaps it was significant that the vessel was launched during Tampa's festival month of February. At that time, however, there was nothing to indicate the strong bonds that were to grow between the cutter and the city.
Launched at Newport News, Virginia, on 10 February 1912, the cutter was originally named Miami, and sponsored by Miss Bernes Richardson. On 27 April 1912 she made her trial run off Hampton Roads and was accepted by the government on 8 May. Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars was paid to the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company for this vessel, which displaced 1,181 tons and was 190 feet long and had a 32-foot 6-inch beam. On 19 August 1912 the Revenue Cutter Service commissioned her at Arundel Cove, Maryland.
Less than a year after her launching the cutter's "friendship" with the city of Tampa had begun. She had been ordered to Key West on 21 October to take station, and on 4 February 1913 she and her crew participated in the Mardi Gras celebration at Tampa. Meanwhile, on 14 April 1912, shortly before Miami's trial run, the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic and sank. There arose a universal demand for a patrol of the ice zone to warn passing vessels of the limits of danger from day to day during the iceberg season. Two Navy scout cruisers performed this patrol for the remainder of the 1912 season, after which the duty was turned over to the Revenue Cutter Service. On 28 May 1913, the Miami was ordered to New York and from there to Halifax, where she and the cutter Seneca were to base while performing patrol and observation of icebergs.
On 30 July, her ice patrol completed, the Miami arrived back in Key West to resume station. The following February she was again in Tampa for the Gasparilla Carnival. May and June saw her back on ice patrol with the Seneca. This same pattern was repeated in 1915. On 28 January 1915, the Miami and the rest of the Revenue Cutter Service, along with the Life-Saving Service, were amalgamated into the present Coast Guard.
On 1 February 1916, three days before the Gasparilla Carnival and South Florida Fair in Tampa, her name was changed to Tampa. Again that year she made the ice patrol and then returned to Key West. The year 1917 was very eventful for the crew of Tampa. The South Florida Fair and Gasparilla Carnival at Tampa was the greatest yet, lasting nine days, from 2 February through the 10th. With four days to recuperate from this gala affair, they went on to patrol the Annual Motor Boat Regatta at Miami from 15 to 17 February 1916. On 27 and 28 March they patrolled the races of the St. Petersburg Yacht Club in St. Petersburg, Florida.
There was a shadow over the spring gaiety of 1917, however. On 2 February 1917, the opening day of the Fair and Carnival in Tampa, was the day the United States broke off diplomatic relations with Germany. Perhaps the men of Tampa sensed that this would be their last celebration with the citizens of their favorite city. On 6 April 1917, the United States declared war with Germany, and immediately Tampa and other Coast Guard cutters were transferred to the Navy. During the next four months, she received heavier armament by trading her three six-pounders for four 3-inch guns and a pair of machine guns. After preparations at the Boston Navy Yard, Tampa moved to the New York Navy Yard on 16 September and reported for duty to the commanding officer of USS Paducah (Gunboat No. 18). Ordered to duty overseas, the warship departed New York on 29 September in company with Paducah, Sterling, B.H.B. Hubbard (SP-416), and five French-manned, American-made submarine chasers in tow. After stops at Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Ponta Delgada in the Azores, Tampa and her sailing mates reached Gibraltar on 27 October 1917.
Based in Gibraltar, the Tampa, Seneca (her companion ship during the ice patrols), Yamacraw, Ossipee, Algonquin and Manning made up Squadron 2 of Division 6 of the Atlantic Fleet Patrol Forces. Their mission was to protect convoys from submarine attacks. In the little more than a year left to her, Tampa escorted 18 convoys, comprising a total of 350 vessels, through the U-boat infested waters from Gibraltar to Britain. Her record during this period was outstanding. She was never disabled, and her one request for repairs had been on two minor items, in spite of spending more than fifty-percent of her time at sea and steaming an average of 3,566 miles a month.
RADM Niblack, commander of the U.S. Naval Forces on Gibraltar, commended CAPT Charles Satterlee of Tampa in a letter dated 5 September 1918:
"This excellent record is an evidence of a high state of efficiency and excellent ship's spirit and an organization capable of keeping the vessel in service with a minimum of shore assistance. The squadron commander takes great pleasure in congratulating the commanding officer, officers and crew on the records which they have made."
Tampa's log reflect this high morale, in spite of rather grueling duty. There were swimming parties and baseball games at Gibraltar, and an occasional liberty in London as short diversions. But duty always called. On 26 September 1918, the day of the Franco-American attack in the Argonne, Tampa was escorting convoy HG-107 from Gibraltar to Milford Haven, Wales. During the late afternoon, Tampa parted company with the convoy, which she had just escorted into the Irish Sea. Ordered to put into Milford Haven, England, she proceeded independently toward her destination. That evening, as she transited the Bristol Channel, the warship crossed the sights of UB-91. The U-boat made a submerged attack which sank Tampa with a single torpedo.
It appears that the action took place sometime between 2030 and 2100. Ships in the convoy lost sight of her as she slipped over the horizon at about 1900, and the radio operator on board the convoy flagship reported having felt the shock of an under water explosion at about 2045. Furthermore, German records of UB-91's war cruise specifically identify a ship very closely approximating Tampa as the ship she sank "at evening twilight" on 26 September. In all probability, Tampa went down rapidly. She sank with all hands: 131 officers, crew and passengers. Search and rescue efforts over the succeeding three days turned up only a single body and some wreckage clearly identified as coming from Tampa Two other bodies in U.S. naval uniforms later washed ashore in Wales. Tampa was struck from the Navy list as of the date of her sinking.
The dead included 111 Coast Guardsmen, four U.S. Navy men, a captain of the British Army (unconfirmed) and ten seamen of the Royal Navy, and five British civilian dock workers. Admiral William S. Sims, the senior U.S. naval officer on duty in Great Britain, received the following letter from the Lords of the British Admiralty:
"Their Lordships desire me to express their deep regret at the loss of the USS Tampa. Her record since she has been employed in European waters as an ocean escort to convoys has been remarkable. She has acted in capacity of ocean escort to no less than 18 convoys from Gibraltar, comprising 350 vessels, with a loss of only two ships through enemy action. The commanders of the convoys have recognized the ability with which the TAMPA carried out the duties of ocean escort. Appreciation of the good work done by the USS TAMPA may be some consolation to those bereft and Their Lordships would be glad if this could be conveyed to those concerned."
On 13 October 1918 a British patrol boat located the body of Acting Quartermaster Alexander Louis Saldarini, USCG and buried him at sea. As for the two bodies that washed ashore in Wales the authorities were able to identify one as being Seaman James Marconnier Fleury, USCG, but the other was never identified. They were both buried with full military honors at Lamphey Churchyard (a small country churchyard in Wales). Fleury's family later brought home his body and buried him in a cemetery in Long Island, New York but the unidentified Coast Guardsman still rests in Lamphey Churchyard. Local citizens care for his grave to this day.
Two other Tampa crewmen perished before the sinking. Ordinary Seaman John Christopher Gagnier died of "actue endocarditis phelitis" on 28 November 1917 while at the U.S. Naval Dispensary on Gibraltar while Coxswain Albert Hans Hahn died in a shipboard accident at sea on 22 May 1918. Gagnier was first buried on Gibraltar and was later reburied in his family's cemetery plot in St. Michael's Cemetery in Springfield, Massachusetts after the war. Hahn was originally buried in the cemetery of the H.M. Royal Hospital Plymouth and was later brought back to the U.S. and interred at Cypress Hills National Cemetery in New York. Two Tampa crewmen, Seaman Eugene Johnson and Coxswain Ernest Theodore Green, missed the cutter's final voyage after being admitted to the U.S. Naval Dispensary on Gibraltar for medical treatment and therefore survived the war and returned to the U.S.
There have been a number of monuments and memorials established in honor of Tampa and her crew. American Legion Post No. 719 is named in honor of Tampa and the city of Tampa erected a monument listing the names of her crew. The Coast Guard's World War I monument at Arlington is known as the Tampa Memorial and honors all of the Coast Guardsmen who perished during World War I. Finally, in 1999, the Coast Guard posthumously awarded each Tampa crewman a Purple Heart.
Click here for a list of Tampa's casualties (pdf file; includes her British passengers, a list compiled with thanks to Robert M. Pendleton).
Cutter History File, U.S. Coast Guard Historian's Office.
Donald Canney. U.S. Coast Guard and Revenue Cutters, 1790-1935. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1995.
U.S. Coast Guard. Record of Movements: Vessels of the United States Coast Guard: 1790 - December 31, 1933. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1934; 1989 (reprint).
U.S. Coast Guard. United States Coast Guard Role of Honor: April 6, 1917 - November 30, 1918. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Officer, 1919.