Ships In Class
|Bibb (WPG-31)||15 Aug. 1935||14 Jan. 1937||10 Mar. 1937||30 Sept. 1985||Sunk as artificial reef on 28 Nov. 1987|
|Campbell (WPG-32)||1 May 1935||3 Jun. 1936||16 Jun. 1936||1 Apr. 1982||Sunk as target ship|
|Duane (WPG-33)||1 May 1935||3 Jun. 1936||1 Aug. 1936||1 Aug. 1985||Sunk as artificial reef on 27 Nov. 1987|
|Alexander Hamilton (WPG-34)||11 Sept. 1935||6 Jan. 1937||4 Mar. 1937||N/A||Sunk by U-132 on 30 Jan. 1942|
|Ingham (WPG-35)||1 May 1935||3 Jun. 1936||17 Sept. 1936||27 May 1988||Museum ship|
|Spencer (WPG-36)||11 Sept. 1935||6 Jan. 1937||1 Mar. 1937||23 Jan. 1974||Sold for scrap 8 Oct. 1981|
|Taney (WPG-37)||1 May 1935||3 Jun. 1936||24 Oct. 1936||7 Dec. 1986||Museum ship|
- Displacement: 2,350 tons (trial), 2,750 (full load)
- Dimensions: Length 327 feet, beam 41 feet, draft 13 feet 6 inches
- Speed: 19.5 knots
- Propulsion: 2x Westinghouse double-reduction geared turbines (2 shafts), 2x Babcock & Wilcox sectional express, air-encased boilers, 5, 250 shp (1936) 6,200 shp (1945)
- Range: 9,500 nm at 11 knots
- Crew: 24 officers, 2 warrants, 226 enlisted (1945)
*The armament on these ships changed significantly over time, especially post-WWII.
- (1936) All ships: 2x 5″/51 (single mounts), 2x 6-pounders, 1x 1-pounder
- (1940) Campbell & Taney: 2x 5″/51 (single mounts), 4x 3″/50 (single mounts)
- (1941) Duane: 3x 5″/51 (single mounts), 3x 3″/50 (single mounts), depth charge tracks, 1x Y-gun
- (1942) Hamilton: 3x 5″/51 (single mounts), 3x 3″/50 (single mounts), depth charge tracks, 1x Y-gun
- (1943) Taney: 4x 5″/38 (single mounts)
- (1945) Bibb, Campbell, Taney: 2x 5″/38 (single mounts), 6x 40mm (twin mounts), 4x 20mm (single mounts). Ingham, Spencer: same as above, except 8x 20mm (twin mounts). Duane: 14x 40mm (2 quad, 3 twin mounts), 8x 20mm (single mounts)
Also known as the Secretary-class, or colloquially as 327s (after their length), the Treasury-class cutters were designed to fulfill the changing missions of the U.S. Coast Guard in the post-Prohibition era. These were also the first cutters that carried aircraft for search-and-rescue cases on the high seas due to the growing air travel industry. Furthermore, the mid-1930s saw a growth in opium smuggling and long-range, fast cutters were needed to police the waters (Scheina, 1982, p. 13 – 14). All of the 327s were named after former Secretaries of the Treasury (Thiesen, 2018).
Initial designs came up with a 316′ x 46’6″ x 16′ vessel with a displacement of 2,350 tons. This single screwed design was estimated at $1,500,000 or a little over half the cost of the actual vessels. In the end, however, the Coast Guard decided to base the Treasury-class off of a modified U.S. Navy Erie-class gunboat. This is to say that the propulsion plant and hull below the waterline were identical. The modified Erie-class underwent 22 designs before the Coast Guard made a final selection. Commander (constructor) F.G. Hunnewell (USCG) created a design with high forward sheer and high slope in the deck in the wardrooms, known as the “Hunnewell Hump” (Scheina, 1982, p. 14). Upon commissioning, these vessels were given the designation of gunboats (WPG) (Scheina, 1982, p. 1).
For short periods of time all of these cutters carried float planes such as the JF-1, JF-2, J2F-1, and SOC-4. All ships carried their full names until May-June of 1937. However, on 11 January 1942, the Navy asked that the Hamilton resume being called by her full name so as to not be confused with the USS Hamilton (DMS 18) (Scheina, 1982, p. 14).
Initially assigned to Greenland patrols, these cutters were not well-suited to the environment since the propeller blades protruded past the sides of the hull near the surface and were thus sometimes “trimmed off” by ice. Apart from their weaponry and sensors, these cutters were roomy, could accommodate large numbers of survivors, and were considered excellent convoy escorts. Better at sea keeping than destroyers, their handling characteristics made them ideal for small boat operations, and their superior hospital facilities (when compared to destroyers) were also useful when it came to rescues on the Atlantic. With the U-boat threat declining, several of the cutters were later converted to Amphibious Force Flagships (AGC) which included 35 radio receivers and 25 transmitters for improved command and control capabilities (Scheina, 1982, p. 14).
Converted to AGC
- Bibb (17 Oct 1944 – 29 Jan 1945)
- Campbell (4 Jan – 28 Mar 1945)
- Duane (16 Jan – 6 Mar 1944)
- Ingham (1 Aug – 21 Oct 1944)
- Spencer (26 Jun – 11 Sept 1944)
- Taney (10 Oct 1944 – 29 Jan 1945)
*As usual, I’ll only be covering some of the main highlights in the service histories of these cutters. Finding reliable information on the post-WWII service of some of these vessels has been problematic. Hence why some of their histories are sparse.
The Alexander Hamilton was the only Treasury-class cutter lost during WWII. Following the war, the 327s returned to the U.S. and were reconverted back to their peacetime configuration by eliminating their wartime armament. These cutters would continue to have distinguished careers and see service in Korea and Vietnam. Stateside they were normally assigned to duties on weather ocean stations.
With the post-war boom in trans-Atlantic air traffic, the Coast Guard’s operation of these weather stations became even more important and a number of newer stations were added further out to sea. Here cutters, serving on these stations, carried personnel from the U.S. Weather Bureau, who would make daily meteorological observations and report their findings to the U.S. Weather Bureau. They also served as a mid-ocean navigation aids, communications relay stations and as search and rescue platforms when needed. The ocean station program was permanently established by multi-national agreement soon after the end of World War II. The Coast Guard was then assigned the duty of manning those stations for which the U.S. accepted responsibility. As the 327s completed conversion to ocean station vessels, each immediately deployed to their new stations.(U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Ingham Maritime Museum, 2019)
On 1 May 1965, the Treasury-class was redesignated as High Endurance Cutters or WHEC. This designation indicated multi-mission capable vessels able to operate for 30-45 days at sea without support. As the Coast Guard’s High Endurance Cutters, they proved highly versatile in fisheries patrol and drug interdiction roles. They were decommissioned after 40 years of service with Ingham and Taney being preserved as museum ships (Thiesen, 2018).
Alexander Hamilton (WPG-34)
Alexander Hamilton made 4 cruises as part of Destroyer Division 18 from 12 October 1939 – 27 January 1940 on the Grand Banks Patrol. Weather ocean station duty from 28 February 1940 – 4 May 1941. On 11 September 1941 she was transferred to the U.S. Navy. On 27 December 1941 she was assigned to Commander TF 24.6.2. On 29 January 1942, Alexander Hamilton was torpedoed by U-132 approximately 17 miles off Reykjavik, Iceland. 1 officer and 19 men killed. 6 later died of burns (Scheina, 1982, p. 14). Capsized while under tow and sunk by destroyer gunfire from USS Ericsson the next day (Browning, n.d.).
Bibb conducted maneuvers with the Navy for 3 months on the Grand Banks Patrol in 1939. February 1940-1941, first weather patrol on station 600 miles east of Bermuda. Transferred to the Navy on 11 September 1941, assigned to CINCLANT (DESLANT), and operated in the North Atlantic until 1943. On 26 September 1942, Bibb rescued 61 survivors of Penmar. On 7 February 1943, she rescued 202 survivors from the SS Henry S. Mallory and 33 from the Kalliopi. On 9 March 1943, rescued 3 survivors from the SS Coulmore and 2 from the SS Bonneville and SS Melrose. From 9 May 1943-October 1944, Bibb escorted convoys to the Mediterranean. In 1945, she transferred to the Pacific as an AGC. In August of 1945, she operated off Okinawa as the flagship for Commander Mine Craft, Pacific Fleet (Scheina, 1982, p. 14).
Following the war, Bibb returned to the U.S. and resumed her peacetime duties of search and rescue and weather station patrols. On 14 February 1947, Bibb rescued all the passengers from the Boeing 314 flying boat Bermuda Sky Queen that had encountered strong head winds and was forced to land in the ocean after having run low on fuel. Bibb would continue to operate in her peacetime capacity throughout the 1950s and into the 60s.
In 1968, Bibb was assigned to Coast Guard Squadron Three for a 10-month long deployment to Vietnam in support of Operation Market Time. She undertook 31 naval gunfire support missions and also participated in the amphibious assault on the island of Phuc Quoc. From October to December of 1968, Bibb participated in Operation Sea Lords for which she would receive the Presidential Unit Citation. In February of 1969, Bibb was relieved by the Spencer and returned to Boston.
By the mid-1970s, improvements in technology had rendered weather patrols obsolete. In late June of 1980, Bibb assisted several vessels in distress during tropical storm Brett. By this time, there was increased emphasis on fisheries and counter-narcotics patrols. On 18 July 1982, Bibb seized 50 tons of marijuana from SS Rio Panuco, later she also seized marijuana from the fishing vessel Shanti. In 1984, Bibb participated in Operation Wagon Wheel with the Navy, Drug Enforcement Administration, and other partners in the Caribbean. On 10 November 1984 she seized 11.5 tons of marijuana from the SS Captain Joe 100 miles east of Honduras.
After a 48 year career, the prohibitive cost of maintaining her forced Bibb to be decommissioned on 30 September 1985. She was sunk as an artificial reef off the coast of Florida in 1987 (United States Coast Guard Cutter Bibb Shipmates Association, 2019).
Assigned to Destroyer Division 18 as part of the Grand Banks Patrol in September 1939. On 1 July 1941 was transferred to the U.S. Navy. From 1941-1943 was assigned to CINCLANT (DESLANT) to serve as an escort in the North Atlantic (Scheina, 1982, p. 14). On 21 February 1943, Campbell rescued 50 survivors from the SS Neilson Alonzo that had been torpedoed by a U-boat wolfpack. Campbell attacked and drove off U-753. The following day, she was involved in a battle with U-606 which was forced to the surface. Campbell rammed the U-boat but gashed her hull below the waterline at the engine room. She continued to fight until she lost power. Campbell lowered boats to rescue the crew of the U-boat as they abandoned ship. Returning to port, Campbell had her bow reconstructed which actually resulted in her length being reduced to 326 feet; the only Coast Guard cutter with that length. After being repaired, Campbell continued escort duties in the Atlantic before being transferred to the Pacific as an amphibious flagship (U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area, n.d.).
Campbell served in both Korea and Vietnam where she would sink or damage 105 Vietcong structures during Operation Market Time. She would return to the U.S. and continue her peacetime duties before being decommissioned in 1982 and sunk as a target ship (U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area, n.d.).
In September 1939, Duane operated as part of the Grand Banks Patrol with Destroyer Division 18. From February 1940-1941, she operated on weather station 1,200 miles east of Bermuda. In August of 1940, aircraft from Duane surveyed Greenland’s west coast. On 14 June 1941, Duane rescued 46 survivors from the SS Tresillian. 11 September 1941 assigned to U.S. Navy CINCLANT (DESLANT) for escort duty in the North Atlantic until 1943. 3-6 February 1942, Duane assisted in the rescue of the USAT Dorchester. 17 April 1943, assisted the Spencer in sinking U-175 and rescued 22 of the crew. In 1943, Duane was assigned to CINCLANT (8th Fleet) to escort convoys to the Mediterranean. From 1944-1945, Duane operated as an AGC in the Mediterranean. In August of 1944, she served as flagship for Commander 8th Amphibious Force for the invasion of South France (Scheina, 1982, p. 14).
February 1940-1941, Ingham operated on weather station 1,200 miles east of Bermuda. 1 July 1941, she was transferred to the U.S. Navy. 1942-1943 assigned to CINCLANT (DESLANT) for escort duty in the North Atlantic. 26 September 1942, she rescued 8 survivors from the SS Tennessee. 15 December 1942, sank U-626. 7 February 1943, along with USCGC Bibb, rescued 33 survivors from the SS Henry R. Mallory, SS Robert E. Hopkins, and SS West Portal. Ingham later rescued survivors from the SS Jeremiah Van Rensseler. 18 March 1943, rescued all hands from the SS Matthew Luckenbach. From mid 1943-mid 1944, Ingham escorted convoys to the Mediterranean. From late 1944-1945, she operated as an AGC in the Pacific. 13-18 February 1945, Ingham served as flagship for the Tigbauan landings, Panay, Philippines. In July 1945, she served as flagship for the Balut Island landings in the Philippines (Scheina, 1982, p. 14).
Immediately following her duties in the Philippines, Ingham escorted convoys to Shanghai and Hong Kong. She would later perform liason work in Indochina. Returning to the United States in early 1946, she was converted back for her peacetime duties which included operating on various ocean weather stations. She continued these duties throughout the 1950s and into the 60s.
On 16 July 1968, Ingham arrived off the coast of Vietnam to join Coast Guard Squadron Three as a part of Operation Market Time. As with other Coast Guard vessels operating in Vietnam, Ingham interdicted vessels in her area of operations to prevent the flow of weapons and supplies to Communist forces in South Vietnam. Additionally, she provided naval gunfire support, medical support for local villages, and logistical support for Navy and Coast Guard patrol boats in the area.
JOC Worth described arriving “on line” aboard the Ingham in a 28 February 1968 press release:
As soon as INGHAM had been eased away from her berth at the Subic Bay Naval Base in the Philippines by two Navy tugs, her Executive Officer, Lieutenant Commander Joseph Wubbold of San Gabriel, Calif., nudged his ship’s two steam-powered turbine engines forward and moved the cutter slowly toward the fueling pier a short distance away. INGHAM had just ended a drydocking period and while she was out of the water her crew repainted her hull until it was gleaming white. That, along with her distinctive red slash and Coast Guard seal painted at a rakish angle across the port and starboard sides of her bow put her in sharp contrast with the gray of Navy ships which surrounded her. . .Fueling completed, Captain Neale O. Westfall of Portsmouth, Va., INGHAM’s skipper, directed that his ship be headed for her ‘on line’ assignment in the waters off South Vietnam, this time in an area about halfway up the coast. . .Arrival [two days later] on station always means a flurry of activities and no exception in made for the men of INGHAM. ‘On station’ came for them at 5 a.m. In the light of a just-rising sun, Coast Guardsmen in a small powerboat were lowered over the side for the short ride to another Coast Guard high endurance cutter, the Winnebago. The Winnebago is the ship being relieved, and once aboard her, officers and key personnel quickly exchanged information and equipment. Within a half hour INGHAM men were riding back to their ship. Within a few hours after officially assuming the ‘watch,’ Coastal Surveillance Force headquarters for the area in which INGHAM was to patrol called the cutter to arrange a briefing conference. As this was to take place ashore in South Vietnam, INGHAM moved off the line toward the country.(U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Ingham Maritime Museum, 2019)
Worth goes on to describe a naval gunfire support mission, operating with smaller vessels, and an UNREP evolution:
No sooner had the briefing ended and the cutter on her way back to the line that she was called on for naval gunfire support. Gunfire support consists of shelling selected enemy targets ashore, as identified by a command point somewhere in South Vietnam. INGHAM had a variety of targets to hit and would be firing with the aid of a ‘spotter.’ . . .For the next two days, Coast Guardsmen manning the cutter’s five-inch, 38-caliber naval gun under the direction of Chief Petty Officer Leon R. Scarborough of Hatteras, N.C., dropped charge after charge on the beach and mountainous coastal terrain. Her targets? Primarily a site used as a regrouping area by the enemy and a cache of enemy supplies. While shooting, Captain Westfall dropped his ship’s anchor to provide greater stability for INGHAM. However, at one point, INGHAM’s guncrew was firing ‘from the hip’ so to speak. As the cutter steamed along slowly off the coast, her shooters raked the beaches with heavy projectiles. In between gunshoots and regular surveillance, INGHAM had a few visitors. Nearby Navy ‘Swift’ boats, powerful 50-foot long but heavily armed patrol boats came alongside for water and other provisions which they cannot carry for long periods of time. Also, a few of the familiar Coast Guard 82-foot patrol boats dropped in for the same reason. These smaller craft are also part of Market Time operations and carry out close inshore river patrols while the larger ships conduct the ‘outer barrier’ patrols some 20 miles offshore. . .Later on that day, INGHAM had an ‘unrep’ (underway replenishment). This consists of the transfer of fuel and material to INGHAM from another vessel designed for this by the use of hoses and lines as the two ships steam beside each other 80 to 120 feet apart at about 18 to 20 miles per hour.(U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Ingham Maritime Museum, 2019)
Ingham returned to Norfolk on 2 May 1969. During her 12 months in Vietnam she steamed over 60,000 miles, conducted dozens of naval gunfire support missions, participated in Operation Sea Lords and Operation Swift Raiders which earned her an unprecedented 2 Presidential Unit Citations (the only cutter to receive 2), and carried out numerous humanitarian support missions (U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Ingham Maritime Museum, 2019).
Ingham would spend the rest of her career homeported in Portsmouth, VA. She resumed her ocean station duties until 6 February 1976. On 4 July 1979, while on a cadet cruise, Ingham interdicted the Honduran fishing trawler Mary Ann which was smuggling 15 tons of marijuana. After attempting to flee, the Mary Ann rammed the Ingham causing damage, but Ingham stopped the vessel after firing shots across her bow and then into the vessel herself. Later on during the cruise, Ingham responded to several search and rescue cases.
In 1982, Ingham stopped the Misfit and seized 35 tons of marijuana. She would continue to perform cadet cruises into the 80s, but her aging condition caused her to be decommissioned on 27 May 1988. At the end of her service, she was the last Treasury-class cutter in the fleet, the oldest cutter in commission, and the only ship to be awarded 2 Presidential Unit Citations.
Ingham is preserved as a museum ship in Key West, FL.
Spencer spent 1940 on weather patrol. 11 September 1941, transferred to the Navy and assigned to CINCLANT (DESLANT). 1941-mid 1943, escort duty in the North Atlantic. 12 May 1942, rescued 52 survivors from the SS Cristales and SS Mont Parnes. 21 February 1943, sank U-225. 8 March 1943, rescued 35 people from the SS Guido. 17 April 1943, sank U-175 and rescued 19 of the crew, however, 1 crew member was killed from gunfire. Mid 1943-late 1943, convoy escort duty to the Mediterranean. Afterwards operated in the Caribbean until early 1944. Early to mid 1944, operated in the Mediterranean again. Transferred to the Pacific as an AGC from late 1944-1945. 7 December 1944, ran aground in San Pedro Bay, Leyte sustaining moderate damage. 31 January 1945, served as the flagship for the 8th Amphibious Group landing at Nasugbu, Luzon. 26-28 February 1945, flagship for Task Group 78.2 for the Puerto Princessa landings at Palawan, Philippines. April-May 1945, flagship for the Parang and Malabang landings at Mindanao. In June 1945, Spencer served as a fighter direction ship for the Brunei, North Borneo landings. The following month, she served as the flagship for Task Group 78.2 for the Balikpapan landings in Borneo (Scheina, 1982, p. 15).
Along with her sister ships, the Spencer would also serve in Vietnam as part of Operation Market Time.
From 1936-1941, Taney was stationed in Honolulu, HI. In March 1940, she cruised to Howland, Jarvis, and Baker Islands. 1 July 1941, assigned to the Navy. During the Japanese attack on 7 December 1941, Taney was moored at Pier 6 in Honolulu Harbor. From 1941-early 1944, Taney was assigned to the HAWAIIANSEAFRON and operated as an escort in the Pacific. In the fall of 1943, Taney‘s 5″/51s and 3″/50s were replaced with four 5″/38s (USCGC Taney, 2012). From early 1944-late 1944, she escorted convoys to the Mediterranean. She was the flagship for six convoys between the U.S. and North Africa (USCGC Taney, 2012). She returned to the Pacific in 1945 as an AGC. In April 1945, Taney served as the combat information center for operations on Okinawa (Scheina, 1982, p. 15).
Returning to the U.S. on 29 October, Taney would spend most of her post-war career on ocean weather stations. During the Korean War, Taney was refitted with additional anti-submarine weapons and frequently served on plane guard duty at Midway and Adak (USCGC Taney, 2012). During the Vietnam War, Taney joined Coast Guard Squadron Three and participated in Operation Market Time. In her 10 month long deployment, she steamed 52,000 miles and inspected over 1,000 vessels. She fired more than 3,400 5″ shells on enemy positions in naval gunfire support missions and the medical staff treated more than 6,000 Vietnamese villagers. Taney returned to the U.S. in February of 1970. Like her sister ships, Taney was busy through the mid-1970s to the end of her career with search-and-rescue and drug interdiction duties. She was decommissioned on 7 December 1986 (United States Coast Guard Historian’s Office, 2011).
Taney is the last surviving warship from the attack on Pearl Harbor and is currently preserved as a museum ship in Baltimore, MD.
As can be seen, the Treasury-class cutters were highly adaptable to the changing missions and times that they found themselves in. From their service in WWII as convoy escorts and amphibious flagships to ocean station duties and law enforcement patrols, the 327s had very long and distinguished careers.
Referring to the Treasury-class cutters, Capt. John M. Waters noted that “Built for only $2.5 million each, in terms of cost effectiveness we may never see the likes of these cutters again” (Thiesen, 2018).
Indeed, the Treasury-class may go down in history as some of the greatest cutters ever operated by the U.S. Coast Guard.
Browning, R.M. (n.d.). History of USCGC Hamilton (WMSL 753). Retrieved from https://www.atlanticarea.uscg.mil/Our-Organization/Area-Cutters/CGCHAMILTON/History/.
Scheina, R.L. (1982). U.S. Coast Guard Cutters & Craft of World War II. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press.
Thiesen, W. (2018, August 2). The Long Blue Line: 327-foot Secretary Class Cutters “the ships that wouldn’t die”. Retrieved from https://coastguard.dodlive.mil/2018/08/tlbl-327-foot-secretary-class-cutters/.
U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Ingham Maritime Museum (2019). Ingham’s History. Retrieved from https://www.uscgcingham.org/history.html.
United States Coast Guard Atlantic Area. (n.d.). CGC Campbell History. Retrieved from https://www.atlanticarea.uscg.mil/Area-Cutters/CGCCAMPBELL/History/.
United States Coast Guard Cutter Bibb Shipmates Association. (2019). Deployments. Retrieved from https://uscgcbibb.com/index.php/sample-page/class-history/.
United States Coast Guard Historian’s Office. (2011, December 4). History: Coast Guard Cutter Taney. Retrieved from https://coastguard.dodlive.mil/2011/12/history-coast-guard-cutter-taney/.
USCGC Taney. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.historicships.org/taney.html.