Book Review: U.S. Coast Guard Cutters & Craft 1946 – 1990 by Robert Scheina

Advertisements

Topic & Content

The follow-up book to Scheina’s U.S. Coast Guard Cutters & Craft of WWII, this companion volume covers USCG cutters and boats in the post-WWII years up to 1990. The book is laid out as follows:

  • High-Endurance Cutters and their Equivalents
  • Medium-Endurance Cutters and their Equivalents
  • Patrol Boats
  • Icebreakers
  • Tugs (WYT, WYTM, and WTGB)
  • Miscellaneous Large Cutters
  • Tenders
  • Lightships (WLV and WAL)
  • Search-and-Rescue Craft
  • Harbor Craft
  • Aids-to-Navigation Boats
  • General-Purpose Craft
  • Map of Coast Guard Districts

Entries in the book are organized by type and then classes in reverse chronological order (newest to oldest). It’s worth noting that some of the vessels in this volume are the same as in the WWII volume because they continued their service post-war. Whereas their operational histories abruptly ended in 1945 in the previous book, they’re simply continued in this volume.

Thesis

Like the first book of the series, the intention of this volume is to provide the reader with a catalog of the Coast Guard’s fleet, but it specifically focuses on Coast Guard vessels and activities since WWII.

Author’s Background

Robert Scheina received a Ph.D. from the Catholic University of America in 1976. Prior to that, he was a historian with the U.S. Naval History Division from 1967 to 1973 and then a senior ships analyst with naval intelligence from 1973 to 1977. He has worked as a historian for the U.S. Coast Guard since 1977.

Critical Observations

Positives

The overall format and layout of this book are the same as the previous volume on WWII cutters and craft, so that makes it much easier to read if you’re familiar with that book. This volume is also noticeably shorter than the previous one because the Coast Guard had less of a need to acquire vessels on an emergency basis in the post-war period. In short, the Coast Guard assets are far less of an odd hodge-podge collection of ships and boats than in WWII.

Scheina makes it clear that the Coast Guard’s fleet went through a number of changes in the years since WWII. This is reflected in the more standardized acquisition of its vessels. Furthermore, in 1965, the Coast Guard changed its designation system which grouped several different types of vessels into different classes. For example, the post-1965 designation WHEC stands for High-Endurance Cutter which encompasses cutters that were previously designated as gunboats (WPG) and small seaplane tenders (WAVP). Overall, the Coast Guard went through a significant amount of cultural and structural change to resemble more of what it looks like today; a much more standardized and recognizable sea service that’s distinct from the U.S. Navy. (One of the reasons for the adoption of the racing stripe was to increase brand recognition for the Coast Guard.)

Negatives

The biggest drawback of this book is that it’s now more than 30 years old. Many Coast Guard assets since the publication of this book, in 1990, have been decommissioned or refitted, and new ones acquired. Not to mention that vessels still in service since then now have an even longer operational history.

Generally speaking, this book suffers from the same drawbacks as the previous volume. It covers the material in a fairly basic manner and isn’t terribly detailed. It’s just the basic data on the class and then some simplified operational histories of the ships/boats. Even then, some entries just contain the data and present no operational history. Simply put, some information can seem inaccurate and sparse when it comes to certain vessels.

Evaluation (Does the content support the thesis?)

All in all, this book has the same strengths and weaknesses as the previous title. While more contemporaneous, it’s now out of date and could really use a follow-up. Still, since the Coast Guard isn’t the best at documenting its history, this book serves as an excellent starting point for naval and maritime historians with an interest in U.S. Coast Guard cutters and boats.

Rating: 4 out of 5 (Very good/worth your time).

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s