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USCGC Dexter (WAVP-385)
USCGC Dexter (WAVP-385)
USCGC Dexter (WAGC-18, WAVP-385, WHEC-385) sometime between her commissioning in 1949 and the Coast Guard's 1967 adoption of the "racing stripe" marking on its ships.
Career (United States) Ensign of the United States Coast Guard.svg
Name: USCGC Dexter
Namesake: Samuel Dexter (1761–1816), United States Secretary of the Treasury (1801)
Builder: Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Washington
Laid down: 27 October 1939
Launched: 23 May 1941
Completed: July 1941
Acquired: By transfer from United States Navy on either 10 July 1946,[1] 19 July 1946,[2] or 29 July 1946[3]
Commissioned: 20 September 1946[4]
Decommissioned: 17 December 1952
Recommissioned: 30 June 1958
Decommissioned: 18 January 1968
Reclassified: From WAGC-18 to WAVP-385 sometime between 1946 and 1952;
High endurance cutter, WHEC-385, 1 May 1966
Fate: Transferred to U.S. Navy 9 July 1968
Sunk as target 1968
Notes: Served as United States Navy seaplane tender and amphibious force flagship USS Biscayne (AVP-11), later AGC-18, 1941–1946
General characteristics
Class & type: Casco-class cutter
Displacement: 2,442 tons in 1965
Length: 310 ft 9 in (94.72 m) overall; 300 ft 0 in (91.44 m) between perpendiculars
Beam: 41 ft 0 in (12.50 m) maximum
Draft: 12 ft 9 in (3.89 m) maximum in 1965
Installed power: 6,150 bhp (4,590 kW)
Propulsion: Fairbanks-Morse geared diesel engines, two shafts; 144,442 US gallons (546,770 L) of fuel
Speed: 17.35 knots (32.13 km/h) (maximum sustained in 1965)
10.3 knots (19.1 km/h) (economic in 1965)
Range: 8,680 nautical miles (16,080 km) at 17.35 knots (32.13 km/h) in 1965
17,900 nautical miles (33,200 km) at 10.3 knots (19.1 km/h) in 1965
Complement: 78 (10 officers, 2 warrant officers, 66 enlisted personnel) in 1965
Sensors and
processing systems:
Radars in 1965: SPS-23, SPS-29D
Sonar in 1965: AN-UQN-1D
Armament: In 1965: 1 x single 5-inch (127 mm) 38-caliber Mark 30 Mod 57 gun mount, 1 x Mark 52 Mod 2 director, 1 x Mark 26 Mod 3 fire-control radar

USCGC Dexter (WAVP-385), originally WACG-18, later WHEC-385, was a Casco-class United States Coast Guard Cutter in service from 1946 to 1952 and from 1958 to 1968. She was the fourth ship of the United States Revenue Cutter Service or United States Coast Guard to bear the name.

Construction and U.S. Navy serviceEdit

Dexter began life as the United States Navy Barnegat-class seaplane tender USS Biscayne (AVP-11). She was laid down on 27 October 1939 by Puget Sound Navy Yard at Bremerton, Washington, launched on 23 May 1941, and commissioned into the U.S. Navy on 3 July 1941. She operated as a seaplane tender in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, West Africa, and North Africa during the first half of World War II. Converted into an amphibious force flagship and redesignated AGC-18 in 1943, Biscayne served in the Mediterranean in 1943–1944, seeing action in the amphibious landings in Operation Avalanche at Salerno, Operation Shingle at Anzio, and Operation Dragoon in southern France. She then served in the Pacific in 1945, serving at Iwo Jima, in the Okinawa campaign, and in the Philippines before the war ended. Postwar, she served in Korea and China. She was decommissioned on 29 June 1946.

Transferred to the United States Coast GuardEdit

Barnegat-class ships were very reliable and seaworthy and had good habitability, and the United States Coast Guard viewed them as ideal for ocean station duty, in which they would perform weather reporting and search-and-rescue tasks, once they were modified by having a balloon shelter added aft and having oceanographic equipment, an oceanographic winch, and a hydrographic winch installed.

The Navy transferred Biscayne to the Coast Guard on either 10 July 1946,[5] 19 July 1946,[6] or 29 July 1946.[7] at the Coast Guard Yard at Curtis Bay at Baltimore, Maryland. After she underwent conversion for service as a weather reporting ship, the Coast Guard commissioned her as USCGC Dexter (WAGC-18) on 20 September 1946[8] with Commander A. G. Morrill, USCG, in command.

U.S. Coast Guard serviceEdit

Atlantic service 1946–1952Edit

Dexter was stationed at Boston, Massachusetts, which would remain her home port until December 1952, and was redesignated WAVP-385 during her time there. Her primary duty was to serve on ocean stations in the Atlantic Ocean to gather meteorological data. While on duty in one of these stations, she was required to patrol a 210-square-mile (544-square-kilometer) area for three weeks at a time, leaving the area only when physically relieved by another Coast Guard cutter or in the case of a dire emergency. While on station, she acted as an aircraft check point at the point of no return, a relay point for messages from ships and aircraft, as a source of the latest weather information for passing aircraft, as a floating oceanographic laboratory, and as a search-and-rescue ship for downed aircraft and vessels in distress, and engaged in law enforcement operations. She arrived at Boston to assume her duties on 17 October 1946. On 30 November 1946, Dexter was at Naval Station Argentia, Newfoundland, Canada, underway to her first ocean station duty at Ocean Station Charlie. By 28 December 1946 she was back in Boston. For the next few months, she was on Ocean Station Charlie and Ocean Station Alfa, taking time out in October 1947 for underway training near Berkley Station at Norfolk, Virginia.

Dexter served on Ocean Station Able from 30 October 1947 to 10 December 1947. While on that duty, she responded to a request for assistance by the merchant ship SS Louisburg, which was flooding, on 4 November 1947. Dexter transferred a life raft and damage control timbers to Louisburg and escorted her safely to St. John's, Newfoundland. Dexter then returned to Ocean Station Able.

On 4 November 1948, while underway from Ocean Station Alfa, Dexter assisted the fishing vessel Pan Pades Andros, which was disabled about 30 nautical miles (56 km) southeast of Sable Island. Following this assistance case, Dexter was put into repair status until 12 February 1949, when repairs were completed and she was in port on standby.

On 14 February 1949, Dexter relieved Coast Guard cutter USCGC Winnebago (WPG-40) from duty on Ocean Station Delta, and in turn was relieved by Coast Guard cutter USCGC Androscoggin (WPG-68). On 27 April 1949 she relieved Coast Guard cutter USCGC Ingham (WPG-35) on Ocean Station Echo and on 29 April 1949 was underway to Bermuda with an injured crew member. She resumed station on 3 May 1949. On 21 May 1949 she assisted the fishing vessel Sea Hawk and on 22 May 1949 turned Sea Hawk over to Coast Guard cutter USCGC Legare (WSC-144) for further assisatnce and returned to Boston for repairs.

On 30 July 1949, Dexter assisted the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Livermore (DD-429) while at sea. On 9 September 1949, she was forced to proceed south of Sable Island to avoid the center of a hurricane. She proceeded on to Ocean Station Bravo and relieved Coast Guard cutter USCGC Humboldt (WAVP-372) on 12 September 1949. On 30 September 1949, she was relieved on Ocean Station Bravo by the Canadian Coast Guard ship CGS St. Stephen. In October 1949, she participated in gunnery exercises in the Newport, Rhode Island, area.

For the next few months, Dexter had her regular ocean station patrols with nothing unusual happening until 7 August 1950, when she went off Ocean Station Charlie temporarily to assist the merchant ship SS Belfrey, and proceeded to escort her toward St. John's, Newfoundland, until 11 August 1950, when she was relieved of the escort duty by Coast Guard cutter USCGC Spencer (WPG-36) and returned to Ocean Station Charlie. On 26 November 1950 she assisted U.S. Navy destroyer escort USS Tweedy (DE-532), which was adrift off Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

On 2 January 1951 Dexter departed Boston en route Ocean Station Hotel. In April 1951 she was temporarily off Ocean Station Echo for two days, while investigating a reported depth charge in the area. On 11 June 1951 she temporarily departed Ocean Station Delta on a distress-response mission and reoccupied the station on 14 June 1951. During November 1951, she was forced to leave Ocean Station Alfa for a short while due to an urgent medical case. On 19 February 1952, Dexter left Ocean Station Hotel to assist the merchant ship SS Helen Stevenson, which had cracked across the main deck port and starboard at the hatch. She escorted Helen Stevenson to a point less than 10 nautical miles (18.5 kilometers) east of St. Georgesdisambiguation needed, Bermuda, and then returned to station. On 18 October 1952, she departed Ocean Station Alfa and proceeded to Boston. On 8 November 1952, she departed Boston for the Coast Guard Yard at Curtis Bay, Maryland, arriving there on 9 November 1952.

On 17 December 1952, Dexter was decommissioned at the Coast Guard Yard and placed in storage there. In 1957 she was re-engined with four new FM diesel engines.[9]

Pacific service 1958–1968Edit

Dexter was recommissioned on 30 June 1958 and assigned to a new home port, Alameda, California. She departed Curtis Bay on 14 July 1958 under the command of Commander Bainbridge Leland, USCG.

USCGC Dexter (WAVP-385) arrives San Francisco

USCGC Dexter (WAVP-385) arriving in San Francisco Bay on 11 August 1958 en route her new home port at Alameda, California.

Dexter arrived at Alameda on 11 August 1958. She assumed duty as the United States West Coast training ship for the United States Coast Guard Reserve training component. She provided training at sea for Coast Guard Reserve recruits undergoing training at Alameda Training Station. Manned by a complement of 83—eight officers, 10 chief petty officers, and 65 other enlisted men—to 85, Dexter had facilities for handling over 100 recruits at a time. Recruits spent approximately three months aboard Dexter for indoctrination and one extended cruise beyond the waters of San Francisco Bay. Dexter also made cruises to various ports on the U.S. West Coast, as well as to British Columbia, Hawaii, Alaska, and Mexico, in connection with training activities.

Dexter also participated as a search-and-rescue patrol vessel for various sailing races and regattas, including the September 1958 America's Cup Race at Newport, Rhode Island, and the Transpacific Yacht Races from Los Angeles, California, to Honolulu, Hawaii, of 1959 and 1961 and 1965.

Dexter also conducted search and rescue operations. On 18 July 1959, she towed the disabled fishing vessel Cloud Nine until relieved by Coast Guard buoy tender USCGC Blackhaw (WLB-390). On 5 February 1965, she unsuccessfully searched for an F-4B Phantom jet fighter aircraft near San Clemente Island. In early February 1966, she towed the disabled sloop Allegro from 360 nautical miles (670 km) south-southwest of San Diego, California, to Asuncion Bay.

Dexter was reclassified as a high endurance cutter and redesignated WHEC-385 on 1 May 1966.

Decommissioning and disposalEdit

On 18 January 1968, the Coast Guard decommissioned Dexter. She was transferred to the U.S. Navy on 9 July 1968 and sunk as a target later that year.


  1. Per at
  2. Per the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships at
  3. Per the United States Coast Guard Historian's Office at
  4. at claims the commissioning date ws 8 June 1949, but the almost three-year lag between acquisition and commissioning this requires would be aberrant for this class of ships and contradicts the more likely 20 September 1946 date given by the United States Coast Guard Historian's Office at
  5. Per at
  6. Per the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships at
  7. Per the United States Coast Guard Historian's Office at
  8. at claims the commissioning date ws 8 June 1949, but the almost three-year lag between acquisition and commissioning this requires would be aberrant for this class of ships and contradicts the more likely 20 September 1946 date given by the United States Coast Guard Historian's Office at
  9. Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1947-1982, p. 256.


See alsoEdit

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