In early November, two Coast Guard cutters were docked in Baltimore: the former Coast Guard Cutter Taney and the newest National Security Cutter, Stratton. Though moored just a few blocks apart, they were separated by more than 75 years, each designed and built as the service’s most capable vessels of their time.
Why each was in Baltimore offers a glimpse into both the history and future of Coast Guard cutters.
Coast Guard Cutter Taney
The Taney was a 327-foot Treasury-class cutter, built in the mid-1930s at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. There were a total of six Treasury-class cutters—also known as the Secretary class—each named for a former Secretary of the Treasury. Like the NSCs, they were touted as the service’s most capable vessels.
“The 327s were the flagships of the Coast Guard fleet,” said Scott Price of the Coast Guard Historian’s office. “They were the face of the service.”
Commissioned Oct. 24, 1936, the Taney is one of the most storied cutters to have served the Coast Guard. The Taney arrived in its original homeport of Honolulu, then part of the Territory of Hawaii, in January 1937. From 1940 through 1941, the cutter received major pre-war rearmament and was then transferred to the U.S. Navy—though keeping its Coast Guard crew—to conduct local defense missions with the 14th Naval District.
The Taney was stationed in Honolulu Dec. 7, 1941, when Japanese war planes attacked Pearl Harbor, and the cutter repeatedly fired on the planes flying over the city. The ship was then assigned to anti-submarine patrols.
After World War II, the Taney was reconfigured for peacetime duties. Known as the “Queen of the Pacific,” she was moved to Alameda, Calif., in 1946 and served there until 1972. In the late 1960s, the cutter also earned the distinction of being the last U.S. military vessel still in commission that had seen action during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
In 1972, the Taney was reassigned to Virginia, where the cutter carried out ocean weather patrol, search and rescue, fisheries patrol and drug interdiction missions. In 1985, the Taney seized 160 tons of marijuana, the largest bust the nation had seen to date. The Taney’s missions in the latter part of its service life demonstrate the Coast Guard’s foresight in building flexibility into the class.
“The 327s were a modifiable platform, which could be modified based on the mission to be performed,” said Chris Havern of the Coast Guard Historian’s office. “They weren’t designed specifically for drug interdiction, but they performed that function later in their service lives.”
On Dec. 7, 1986, the Taney was decommissioned in Portsmouth, Va., after 50 years in service. The cutter was then donated to the City of Baltimore, where it now serves as a memorial and museum. The 327s were built at Navy shipyards with a design based on the Navy’s Erie-class gunboats, generating substantial cost savings. Most of the Treasury-class cutters had service lives of more than 40 years, performing virtually all of the Coast Guard’s many missions.
From Secretary to Legend Class
Today, the Coast Guard is on its way to building eight NSCs, and the linkage between these future Coast Guard cutters and their early ancestors has not gone unnoticed.
“You can see the linkage between the Secretary-class 327s and the Legend-class NSCs in that the Coast Guard has always had to function as a multi-mission maritime service,” Havern said. “It speaks to the unique nature of missions the Coast Guard performs, some of which, like law enforcement, the Navy can’t do.”
The first two NSCs, the Bertholf and the Waesche, are operational; the Stratton, the third NSC, awaits commissioning in the spring of 2012. Construction has begun on NSC 4, the Hamilton, and NSC 5, the James, is under contract.
On Sept. 2, the Coast Guard took possession of the Stratton after it successfully completed sea trials. In October, Stratton sailed away from the Huntington Ingalls Industries shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss., to make its way up the East Coast. It made stops in Pensacola, Fla., and Charleston, S.C., before arriving at Fell’s Point.
The transit to Baltimore marked the first time the crew was able to test Stratton’s features and capabilities. While en route in the Chesapeake Bay, the crew recovered one of the ship’s cutter boats via the stern ramp, as well as landed and launched an MH-60T helicopter from the flight deck. While moored in Baltimore, the crew showed Stratton off for special events, senior administration officials and lawmakers.
The Stratton’s crew also provided tours to staff from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C. On the way to see the service’s newest cutter, their tour buses drove by the Taney. The two cutters, connected by proximity for a brief port call, will soon be connected by another city: Alameda. There, the Stratton will be homeported alongside the first two NSCs—the same homeport from which the Taney carried out its missions for more than 25 years.