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USCGC Gresham (WAVP-387)
USCGC Gresham (WAVP-387)
USCGC Gresham (WAVP-387, WHEC-387, WAGW-387) sometime after the Coast Guard's 1967 adoption of the "racing stripe" markings on its ships.
Career (United States)
Name: USCGC Gresham
Namesake: Walter Q. Gresham (1832-1895), United States Secretary of the Treasury (1884)
Builder: Lake Washington Shipyard, Houghton, Washington
Laid down: 12 March 1943
Launched: 21 August 1943
Completed: June 1944
Acquired: 26 June 1946
Commissioned: 1 December 1947
Decommissioned: 25 April 1973
Reclassified: High endurance cutter, WHEC-387, 1 May 1966
Meteorological cutter, WAGW-387, 27 February 1970
Fate: Transferred to Maritime Administration 21 May 1973
Sold for scrapping 25 October 1973
Notes: Served as United States Navy motor torpedo boat tender USS Willoughby (AGP-9) 1944-1946
General characteristics
Class & type: Casco-class cutter
Displacement: 2,530.7 tons (full load)
Length: 309 ft 9.5 in (94.425 m) overall; 298 ft 9.375 in (91.06853 m) between perpendiculars
Beam: 41 ft 2.125 in (12.55078 m) maximum
Draft: 13 ft 0.5 in (3.975 m) aft (full load)
Installed power: 6,080 bhp (4,530 kW)
Propulsion: Fairbanks-Morse direct-reversing diesel engines, two shafts; 166,429 US gallons (630,000 L) of fuel
Speed: 18.3 knots (33.9 km/h) (maximum at full load)
11.0 knots (20.4 km/h) (economic)
Range: 20,500 nautical miles (38,000 km) at 11.0 knots (20.4 km/h)s
Complement: 151 (10 officers, 3 warrant officers, 138 enlisted personnel)
Sensors and
processing systems:
Radars in 1965 (one each): AN-SPS-29D, Mark 26 Mod 3, AN-UPX-1, AN-SPA-34, AN-SPS-23, ID-445-SPS, IP-307-SPS, AN-SPA-52, IP-306-SPS
Sonars in 1965 (one each): AN-SQS-1, 55134-B, Mk-461-UQC-1A, AN-SQA-2
Armament: In 1965: one single 5-inch (127 mm) 38-caliber Mark 30 Mod 65, 1 x Mark 52-2 Mod 3 director, 1 x Mark 26-4 fire-control radar, 1 x Mark 10-1 antisubmarine projector, 2 x Mark 32 Mod 2 torpedo tubes

USCGC Gresham (WAVP-387), later WHEC-387, later WAGW-387, was a Casco-class United States Coast Guard Cutter in service from 1947 to 1973.

Construction and U.S. Navy service[edit | edit source]

Gresham began life as the United States Navy Barnegat-class motor torpedo boat tender USS Willoughby (AGP-9). She was laid down on 15 March 1943 as a Barnegat-class small seaplane tender designated AVP-57 by Lake Washington Shipyard at Houghton, Washington. While under construction, she was converted into a motor torpedo boat tender and was launched as such on 21 August 1943. She commissioned into the U.S. Navy on 18 June 1944. She operated in support of the New Guinea campaign, the Philippines campaign, and operations in Borneo during World War II, and continued her Borneo operations after the war ended. She was decommissioned on 26 June 1946 and stricken from the Navy List on 19 July 1946.

Transferred to the United States Coast Guard[edit | edit source]

While Willoughby was at Mare Island Navy Yard at Vallejo, California, between December 1945 and June 1946, the United States Coast Guard inspected her for possible Coast Guard service. Barnegat-class ships were very reliable and seaworthy and had good habitability, and the 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.

Willoughby was transferred to the Coast Guard at Government Island, Oakland, California, simultaneously with her Navy decommissioning on 26 June 1946. After undergoing conversion for use as a weather-reporting ship, she was commissioned into Coast Guard service as USCGC Gresham (WAVP-387) on 1 December 1947.

During her Coast Guard career, Gresham's primary duty was to serve on weather stations in the Pacific 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 also served on the Bering Sea Patrol, took part in United States Coast Guard Reserve training cruises, and participated in the U.S. Navy's underway refresher training program to ensure her readiness to support military operations.

U.S. Coast Guard service in the Pacific 1947-1967[edit | edit source]

Upon commissioning in 1947, Gresham was assigned to the 12th Coast Guard District, with her home port at Alameda, California. Her first ocean station patrol was at Ocean Station Fox, and began with her departure for the patrol on 26 March 1948. For the next few months she conducted naval mine and coastal patrols and served on Ocean Station Fox and Ocean Station Able.

During July 1949, Gresham was among the ships patrolling the Transpacific Yacht Race from Los Angeles, California, to Honolulu, Hawaii. On 9 September 1949 she assisted the British merchant ship SS Pacific Enterprise, which had run aground two nautical miles (3.7 kilometers) north of the Point Arena Light Station in thick fog.

On 8 January 1950 Gresham was assigned to Ocean Station Peter in the Pacific; cutter USCGC Winnebago (WPG-40) relieved her on 29 January 1950. Later in 1950 she served on Ocean Station Nan and Ocean Station Oboe.

In 1951 Gresham served on Ocean Station Uncle and Ocean Station Sugar. On 16 June 1951 cutter USCGC Chautauqua (WPG-41) relieved her on Ocean Station Sugar, and she proceeded to Yokosuka, Japan. She repeated the cruise from Ocean Station Sugar to Yokosuka in March 1952 and February 1954.

On 22 May 1955, Gresham assisted merchant ship SS David Thompson, which was adrift in the Pacific. During July 1955 she again escorted the Transpacific Yacht Race.

After several more weather patrols, Gresham departed Alameda on 13 August 1956, for Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, via Port Angeles, Washington, on a U.S. Coast Guard Reserve training cruise. On 30 September 1956, she was relieved from Ocean Station November by cutter USCGC Pontchartrain (WPG-70). On 17 October 1956, Pontchartrain rescued passengers of the passenger ship Sovereign of the Skies; Gresham left Alameda and rendezvoused with Pontchartrain at San Francisco Light Station on 19 October 1956 as Pontchartrain brought in the rescued passengers.

Tragedy struck Gresham on 17 December 1958 while she was relieving cutter USCGC Klamath (WPG-66) on Ocean Station Romeo. The ships were in a line-ahead formation with Gresham 500 yards (457 m) ahead of Klamath and transferring mail to Klamath when a large wave engulfed Gresham's quarterdeck, injuring 11 enlisted men, inflicting a severe head injury on Ensign George T. Bergman, and washing Bergman overboard. The cutters could not recover Bergman.

During 1959 and 1960, Gresham served on Ocean Station November seven times. During this period, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Henry Cabot Lodge, arranged for Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to tour San Francisco Bay while Khrushchev was visiting San Francisco, California, during his September 1959 state visit to the United States. Gresham was in port at Alameda at the time, and was chosen to carry Khrushchev on his tour of the bay.

Gresham continued her duties on Ocean Station November throughout the next few years. On 1 May 1966, she was reclassified as a high endurance cutter and redesignated WHEC-387.

Vietnam War service 1967-1968[edit | edit source]

Gresham departed San Francisco for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on 16 April 1967 under the command of Commander Norman L. Scherer, USCG. Upon her arrival in Hawaii, Gresham became flagship of Coast Guard Squadron Three, which was designated Task Unit 70.8.6. Captain John E. Day, commander of the squadron, hoisted his pennant aboard Gresham upon activation of the squadron on 24 April 1967.

Coast Guard Squadron Three was tasked to operate in conjunction with U.S. Navy forces in Operation Market Time, the interdiction of communist coastal arms and munitions traffic along the coastline of Vietnam during the Vietnam War. The squadron's other Vietnam War duties included fire support for ground forces, resupplying Coast Guard and Navy patrol boats, and search-and-rescue operations. Serving in the squadron with Gresham were cutters USCGC Yakutat (WHEC-380), USCGC Bering Strait (WHEC-382), USCGC Barataria (WHEC-381), and USCGC Half Moon (WHEC-378); like Gresham, they all were former Navy Barnegat-class ships. They departed Pearl Harbor on 26 April 1967 and reported to Commander, United States Seventh Fleet, for Market Time duty on 4 May 1967. They were joined by Navy radar picket destroyer escorts (DERs) of Escort Squadrons 5 and 7. The ten Market Time ships arrived at Subic Bay in the Philippines on 10 May 1967. The five Coast Guard cutters and five Navy destroyer escorts continuously manned four Market Time stations off Vietnam, while only Navy warships served on two Taiwan patrol stations. One ship rotated duty as the station ship in Hong Kong. Gresham remained in the Western Pacific until 28 January 1968 and arrived home at Alameda on 10 February 1968.

U.S. Coast Guard service in the Pacific 1968-1969[edit | edit source]

Gresham made her final patrol in the Pacific when she served on Ocean Station November in September 1969. On the night of 23 September 1969 she went to the assistance of the 543-foot (166 m) containerized cargo ship SS Hawaiian Legislator, which had lost power in her main propulsion gear and was adrift approximately 70 nautical miles (130 km) south of Gresham's position. After rendezvousing first with U.S. Navy ammunition ship USS Firedrake (AE-14) to transfer a Coast Guardsman with appendicitis for transport to San Francisco, Gresham went to the aid of Hawaiian Legsilator and took her under tow towards San Pedro, California. On 26 September 1969 she turned the tow over to a commercial tug and then set course for San Francisco. She moored at Government Island, Alameda, on 30 September 1969. She was then deactivated and placed in reserve.

U.S. Coast Guard service in the Atlantic 1970-1973[edit | edit source]

In January 1970 Gresham was reactivated and transferred to the United States East Coast, assigned a new home port at Norfolk, Virginia. She was assigned the duty of establishing a new weather station, Ocean Station Hotel, approximately 250 nautical miles (460 km) northeast of Norfolk and deemed necessary to report critical weather data necessary to improve storm-warning forecasts for the northeastern United States after winter storms in 1969 shut down large areas there; the new XERB-1 weather buoy also was tested at Ocean Station November for use by Gresham at Ocean Station Hotel.

Gresham arrived at Norfolk on 7 February 1970 and established Ocean Station Hotel on 20 February 1970. On 27 February 1970 she was reclassified as a meteorological cutter and redesignated WAGW-387.

USCGC Taney (WHEC-37) replaced Gresham on Ocean Station Hotel early in 1973.

Decommissioning and disposal[edit | edit source]

Gresham was decommissioned on 25 April 1973. She was transferred to the Maritime Administration on 21 May 1973 for lay-up in the James River in Virginia. She was sold for scrapping on 25 October 1973 to B. V. Intershitra of Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

References[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]

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