U.S. Coast Guard Lightships

& Those of the U.S. Lighthouse Service



BUILT AT: Camden (NJ)


BUILDER: New York Shipbuilding Co


SISTER VESSELS: LV 79, 80, 81, 83

DESIGN: Steam screw; steel hull; 2 steel masts with wood spencers; stack amidships; small wheelhouse ahead of foremast

LENGTH: 129'0" (loa); BEAM: 28'6"; DRAFT: 12'6"; TONNAGE: 668 displ

PROPULSION: Steam - one compound surface condensing engine, 16 and 31" bores x 24" stroke, 325 IHP; two fire-tube boilers 9'3"dia x 16'4"long; propeller 7'9" dia; max speed 10 knots; also rigged for sail

ILLUMINATING APPARATUS: Cluster of 3 oil lens lanterns raised to each masthead

FOG SIGNAL: 10" steam whistle; hand operated bell


-1905: Completed vessel delivered by contractor
-1906: Submarine bell signal installed
-1906: Wireless telegraph equipment supplied, installed and operated. by Navy
-1915: Equipped with 375mm acetylene lens lanterns mounted at each masthead
-1917: Radio equipment provided and installed by Lighthouse Service
-1919: Steam siren added (original 10" whistle retained)
-1922: Radio-beacon installed
-1926: Illuminating apparatus converted to electric operation
-1934/35: Repowered with 600 HP GM geared diesel, 7' dia propeller, max speed 8 knots; auxiliary systems converted from steam to diesel
-1945: Fitted with search radar
-1954: Listed with 2 500mm lens lanterns, 15,000cp; air diaphragm horn (Leslie 17" typhon) and AN/SPN-11 radar.

-Radio and visual call sign NNGT (1940-1960)


1905-1942: Relief (3d District)
1942-1945: Examination Vessel, WWII
1945-1947: Scotland (NJ)
1947-1960: Relief (3d District)
(1942-1945: Based at Staten Island; used as examination vessel in 1st and 3d Coast Guard Districts, no armament provided)


-1905: Mar 2, delivered by contractor to Staten Island Depot; fitted out and supplied.
-1905: May 4-25, relieved Cornfield Point; May 27-Jul 5, relieved Brenton Reef; Aug 1-Sep 16, relieved Fire Island; Sep 16-Oct 4, relieved Scotland; Oct 9-28, relieved Brenton Reef. 
-1906: Wireless telegraph equipment supplied, installed and operated by Navy Dept; submarine bell signal also installed same year.
-1906: Apr 16-May 23, relieved Overfalls (DE); Jun 9-Jul 25, relieved Sandy Hook; Jul 30-Aug 28, relieved Fire island; Oct 10-Nov 14, relieved Cornfield Point; Nov 21-Jan 2, 1907, relieved Nantucket Shoals.
-1907: Apr 1-Jul 11, relieved Fire Island.
-1913: Jan, while relieving Cape Lookout, parted chain and adrift; regained station using spare anchor.
-1913: Jul, while attempting to transfer mail to passing steamer CITY OF ATLANTA, the 5 lightship crewmen manning the whaleboat were drowned when run down by the steamer.
-1915: Apr, equipped with two 375mm acetylene lens lanterns, with clock and cam controller in engine room which in turn applied battery power to a solenoid gas valve in the lantern at each masthead. This arrangement allowed setting any flash characteristic on either or both lanterns; as necessary to relieve any station in the District.
-1960: Jun 24, while relieving Ambrose Channel station, was rammed and sunk by SS GREEN BAY.


1960: Jun 24, while relieving Ambrose Channel station; rammed and sunk on station by steamer GREEN BAY.


1914-1918: Sidney Ellis, Master
?-1914: Frank Tilghman, Mate
1918-?: Harry Hansen, Master
1919-1920: Hans Swensen, Mate
1920-?: Peter M Lied, Mate
1954-?: BMC Maxwell Fulcher, OIC
(?)1957-1958: CWO2 (BOSN) W.A. Wicks, CO; BMC Maxwell Fulcher, XO (to 1957)
1958-1959(?): CWO1 (BOSN) G.R. Brower; BMCM Louis C. Carter, XO (1957-1959?)
1959-1960: CWO1 (BOSN) Joseph Young; BMC Joseph E. Tamalonis, XO (was OIC on the night of the collision as Young was on leave.)

Click here to access a series of photos of LV-78/WAL-505 from 1958-1959, courtesy of Jay McCarthy.

Click here to access a first-hand account by BM3 Bobbie Pierce of the collision and sinking of LV-78/WAL-505 on 24 June 1960.

"The Little Red Lightship that brought a Big Aircraft Carrier to a Stop"

By James F. (Jay) McCarthy

A Short Story

A lightship on station faces many daily challenges. Some life threatening, some exciting and others like the following "True Story", just plain different.  The date was somewhere around April 1958.  Location: AMBROSE Channel Lightship Station, relieving AMBROSE Lightship WLV 613.  I was standing the 04:00-08:00 Watch.

Weather: Cool, calm seas and 1/2 mile visibility with early morning haze.

Vessel in Status "Alfa".

06:00 Called duty cook.

06:50 Secured Main and Anchor lights.

07:00 Reveille, called all hands.

07:35 Approaching out of the early morning haze on the port side, with a heading that would take her into New York Harbor, was the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Franklin Roosevelt (CVA-42).

Shortly after observing her, she began signaling us with her signal light.  As I couldn't read her message (too fast), I tried to reach the Roosevelt on the radio, but was unsuccessful.  I notified XO, Louis C. Carter, BMCM, as OinC, Mr. Brower, CHBOSN W-1, was on leave.

Chief Carter and the rest of the ships crew came up on deck. By now the Roosevelt had stopped all engines and was dead in the water, about 1/4 mile off our port side.  Now, there are many things we on lightships can do, however, if there was one thing on the "Old Relief 78/505" that we had difficulty with, it was reading a message from a fast and fully experienced Signalman. Chief Carter didn't have to ask if anyone could read the message, as the blank look on our faces told him we "didn't have a clue" as to it's content.

Chief Carter went below and came back up with a signal manual. He then climbed on top of the wheelhouse and using the manual and the signal light, attempted to signal the Roosevelt back.  Obviously the Navy Signalman, being used to "blinding speed" was unable to read the "slower" message Chief Carter was sending, or perhaps, not all of the dots and dashes we sent were in the proper order.

Whatever the reason, and unable to reach the Roosevelt by radio, an exasperated Chief Carter, gave the order to "lower the small boat".  In the finest tradition of a USCG Chief Boatswain Mate (I shall leave out, a large portion of the actual words used), Chief Carter ordered the small boat crew to go over to the carrier and ask them what we could do to help them.  He also gave instructions to tell them our "Signalman" had an appendicitis attack, was hospitalized ashore, and we had not received a replacement.  In reality, there are NO billets on lightships for a signalman.

"Away the small boat"! The Roosevelt had a gangway lowered; an officer and several enlisted men climbed down to greet our small boat. After a short discussion, the small boat returned.

What did the Roosevelt want, everyone was shouting at the small boat crew?  They're looking for the Pilot Boat and wanted our help to locate it, was the reply!

The Pilot Boat! We were incredulous, and couldn't believe it. All that, for the Pilot Boat!

With out any further hesitation, we contacted the Pilot Boat. A short time later, a Pilot boarded the Roosevelt; she got underway again and headed into New York Harbor.

And that, is the story of how "A Little Red Lightship brought a Big Aircraft Carrier to a Stop."

USCG RELIEF Lightship LV 78 / WAL 505

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Last Modified 2/29/2012