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USCGC Westwind (WAGB-281)
Westwind 2
USCGC Westwind near Cape Atholl, Greenland.
Career (United States) Ensign of the United States Coast Guard.svg
Name: USS Westwind.
Operator: U.S. Navy.
Builder: Western Pipe and Steel Company, San Pedro, California.
Laid down: 24 August 1942.
Launched: 31 March 1943.
Sponsored by: Mrs. Stanley V. Parker.
Commissioned: 18 September 1944.
Identification: AGB-6.
Status: Lent to U.S.S.R.
Notes: Designed by Gibbs & Cox of New York.
Career (Soviet Union.) Naval Ensign of the Soviet Union (1950–1991).svg
Name: Severniy Polyus (Russian: Северный Полюс, “North Pole”).
Acquired: 21 February 1945.
Status: Returned to U.S.A.
Notes: Lend-Lease. Some Russian identification labels and plaques remained on ship's equipment after being returned to U.S. service.
Career (United States) Ensign of the United States Coast Guard.svg.
Name: USCGC Westwind.
Operator: U.S. Coast Guard.
Acquired: 19 December 1951.
Decommissioned: 29 February 1988.
Identification: WAGB-281.
Motto: We may be old, but we still run.
Nickname: Big Red of the Gulf Coast. Big Red Pig. Floating Football. Wandering Arctic Garbage Barge.
Honors and
Crew's: Antarctica Service Medal. Arctic Service Medal.
Fate: Scrapped.
Status: 19th Fleet.
Notes: Call sign NLKL.
General characteristics
Class & type: Wind-class icebreaker, heavy.
Displacement: 6,515 long tons (6,620 t) full load.
Length: 269 ft (82 m).
Beam: 63 ft 6 in (19.35 m).
Draft: 25 feet, 9 inches.
Installed power: Diesel-electric:
6 × Fairbanks-Morse model 8-1/8OP, 10-cylinder opposed piston engines at 2,000 shp (1,500 kW), each driving a Westinghouse DC electric generator. (1944)
4 × Enterprise / deLaval engines. (1975)
Propulsion: 2 × Westinghouse Electric DC electric motors driving the 2 aft propellers, 1 × 3,000 shp (2,200 kW) Westinghouse DC electric motor driving the detachable and seldom used bow propeller.
Speed: 15.5 kn (28.7 km/h; 17.8 mph).
Range: 16,000 nmi (30,000 km; 18,000 mi) at 16 kn (30 km/h; 18 mph) as designed
16,000 nmi (30,000 km; 18,000 mi) at 10–12 kn (19– 22 km/h, 12–14 mph) as built.
Capacity: Approximately 450,000 U.S. gal (1,700,000 L) diesel fuel.
Complement: World War II authorized: 316 (21 officers, 295 enlisted)
WWII 1944: 350
Postwar (USA): 175 (13 officers, 2 Warrant Officers, 160 enlisted.
Armament: Main: 4 × Mark 12 DP 5"/38 caliber guns on two twin mounts (1 forward, 1 aft)
Anti-air: 12 × Bofors 40 mm guns on three quadruple mounts, 6 × Oerlikon 20 mm cannons on single mounts.
Anti-sub: 1 × Hedgehog projector, 2 × depth charge racks.

USCGC Westwind (WAGB-281) was a Wind-class icebreaker that served in the United States Coast Guard as USCGC Westwind (WAG-281), the Soviet Navy as the Severni Polius, and again in the U.S. Coast Guard as USCGC Westwind (WAGB-281).


Westwind was one of the icebreakers designed by Lieutenant commander Edward Thiele and Gibbs & Cox of New York, who modeled them after plans for European icebreakers he obtained before the start of World War II.[1] She was the fourth of seven completed ships of the Wind-class of icebreakers operated by the United States Coast Guard. Her keel was laid on 24 March 1972 at Western Pipe and Steel Company shipyards in San Pedro. She was launched on 31 March 1943 and commissioned on 18 September 1944.[2][3][4][5][6]

Her hull was of unprecedented strength and structural integrity, with a relatively short length in proportion to the great power developed, a cut away forefoot, rounded bottom, and fore, aft and side heeling tanks. Diesel electric machinery was chosen for its controlabiity and resistance to damage.[1]

Westwind, along with the other Wind-class icebreakers, was heavily armed for an icebreaker due to her design being crafted during World War II. Her main battery consisted of two twin-mount 5 in (130 mm) deck guns. Her anti-aircraft weaponry consisted of three quad-mounted Bofors 40 mm anti-aircraft autocannons.[3] and six Oerlikon 20 mm autocannons. She also carried six K-gun depth charge projectors and a Hedgehog as anti-submarine weapons. After her return from Soviet service she received a single 5”38 cal. mount forward and a helicopter deck aft. Sometime after 1966 she had the forward mount removed.[4][6]

Ship's historyEdit

  • 1942 - 24 August: Keel laid at Western Pipe & Steel, San Pedro, CA, USA.
  • 1943 - 31 March: Launched at San Pedro, CA, USA.
  • 1944 - 18 September: Commissioned. USS Westwind AGB-6.
  • 1945 - 21 February: Transferred to Soviet Union and renamed Severni Polius (North Pole, Russian: Северный Полюс).[7][8]
  • 1951 - 19 December: Returned to the United States Coast Guard.[7][8]
  • 1952 - 22 September: Recommissioned as Westwind after refit from Soviet service.[8]
  • 1954 - 30 September: Participated in 121 day Arctic cruise, returned to New York Harbor, Brooklyn Navy Yard.
  • 1955 – "Westwind" called at Bouvetøya in the Southern Ocean at the request of the South African government.
  • 1956 - "Westwind engaged in DEWLINE support Operations in the Arctic.[8]
  • 1957 - "Westwind" engaged in DEWLINE support Operations in the Arctic.
  • 1962 - SUNEC '62 - Hull Stress Tests Conducted for design of future Icebreakers
  • 1964 - Westwind arrives in area of United States Coast Guard LORAN Station Cape Atholl, Greenland.
  • 1964 - 18 August: Returned from Arctic cruise.[8]
  • 1966 - Crossed Artic Circle 22 June 1966 at 52N 03W on SUNEC66 Supply Northeast Command, Thule Greenland
  • 1967 - Deep Freeze 67 Crossed Antarctic circle at 67S 36W 3 March 67 Assisted Navy Seabees building Scientific Station on Palmer Peninsula
  • 1974 - Began extensive refit to strengthen bow, replace engines, change propeller shafts, and received new "Icebreaker Red" paint scheme.[8]
  • 1975 - Continued extensive refit.[8]
  • 1976 - Homeport: Milwaukee, WI. - Summer North Trip - Arctic Circle, Via - St. John's Newfoundland,Thence to Thule, Greenland for summer breakouts.
  • 1977 - Homeport: Milwaukee, WI. - Winter Breakouts, Great Lakes - Ran Aground, Seven Foot Shoals, near entrance to St. Mary's River, Lake Huron.
  • 1984 - Westwind sustains major hull damage in the Weddell Sea on a Deep Freeze cruise. 6-foot (1.8 m) tall, 140-foot (43 m) long tear in the hull that was temporarily patched by the crew until repaired in South America.[9]
  • 1986 - Funding cuts reducing operating funds for icebreakers ends plans to refit Westwind.[10]
  • 1988 - 28 February: Decommissioned.[8]


The exact date that Westwind was transferred to the Soviet Union under the Lend-lease program depends on which source you choose to believe. The Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships (DANFS) lists Westwind's date of transfer as 21 February 1945,[11] while the United States Coast Guard's history site is ambiguous, stating only that Westwind was transferred in 1945.[8] A crew museum website lists the transfer date as Thanksgiving day 1945.[7] At this time it seems most prudent to use the DANFS date until other sources can be found to verify the Thanksgiving transfer date.

It is believed that the final disposition of the Westwind was sale for scrap based on a former crewman's report.[10] The crewman, transferred to the USCGC Polar Sea returning from Antarctica in 1988, saw the Westwind and the CCG Labrador moored to a pier in Honolulu. The two dead ships were en route to Far Eastern shipscrappers when the consort tugboat broke down. A request made to the United States Coast Guard yielded a response implying that Westwind has been preserved as a museum ship by the USCGC Westwind Polar Icebreaker Museum group. That response seems to conflict with the group's own information stating that they are a repository for crew messages and images preserved for the purpose of remembering the Westwind and her many crew members. Given the lack of evidence for Westwind having been preserved it is probably safe to assume that Westwind was sold for scrap.


  1. 1.0 1.1 "USCG Icebreakers". U.S. Coast Guard Cutter History. United States Coast Guard. Retrieved 2012-12-12. 
  2. Jane’s Fighting Ships of World War II. Crescent Books (Random House). 1998. p. 308. ISBN 0517-67963-9. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Silverstone, Paul H.(1965): U.S. Warships of World War II. Doubleday and Company, pg. 378
  4. 4.0 4.1 "USCG Westwind". U.S. Coast Guard Cutter History. United States CoastGuard. Retrieved 2012-12-12. 
  5. "USN Westwind". Dictionary of American Naval fighting ships. United States Navy. Retrieved 2012-12-12. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 "NavSource Westwind". Service Ship Photo Archive. NavSource Naval History. Retrieved 2012-12-12. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Westwind Polar Icebreaker Museum. "Nameplate from Engineroom, 1952
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 8.7 8.8
  10. 10.0 10.1 Westwind Polar Icebreaker Museum. "Operational history"

This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.

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