Saturday, July 14, 2012

Now Hear This: Coast Guard History

Now Hear This is provided to Around the Common by Roderick Walsh, Bridgewater Director of Veterans' Services

Coast Guard History…World War II

The U.S. Coast Guard, long one of the nation's armed forces, has seen combat in virtually every conflict fought by the United States since 1790.  World War II saw the Coast Guard come to grips with the empire of Japan as well as the armed might of Nazi Germany.  This included going into action against Adolf Hitler's vaunted submarine fleet, nicknamed "hearses" by the Coast Guardsmen who fought them to the death on the open seas.  During the war the U.S. Navy credited Coast Guard forces with sinking or assisting in the sinking of thirteen of Hitler's U-boats, although the number was probably only eleven.  In the Pacific Theatre the Navy credited Coast Guard warships with sinking one Japanese submarine but they probably sank two.  Coast Guardsmen also captured two Nazi surface vessels and they can take pride in knowing that they were the only United States' service to do so during World War II.  Additionally two U-boats surrendered to Coast Guard-manned warships at the end of hostilities, including one, U-234, that was bound for Japan transporting a cargo of uranium and the latest German rocket and jet technology.  

The campaign was not all one-sided as a number of cutters and Coast Guard-manned Navy warships were damaged or sunk by the enemy in both theatres of operation.  Some of the losses were heavy, including all hands of the weather ship U.S.S. Muskeget, all but two of the crew of U.S.S. Escanaba, C.G., and 158 out of 186 of the crew of U.S.S. Leopold.  The U.S.S. Alexander Hamilton, C.G., torpedoed and sunk in January, 1942, was the first U.S. naval vessel lost in combat after the tragic day at Pearl Harbor.  Other vessels were damaged in combat with U-boats, including the U.S.S. Campbell, C.G., and the U.S.S. Menges, but were salvaged and returned to duty.

Director, Veterans’ Services             

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