USCGC Northland (WPG-49)
USCGC Northland (WPG-49) circa 1929
|Owner:||U.S. Coast Guard|
|Builder:||Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Corporation, Newport News, Virginia|
|Launched:||5 February 1927|
|Commissioned:||7 May 1927|
|Decommissioned:||27 March 1946|
|Out of service:||1938-1939|
|Fate:||Sold 3 January 1947|
|Displacement:||2,150 tons, maximum|
|Length:||216.6 ft (66.0 m)|
|Beam:||38.75 ft (11.81 m)|
|Draft:||16.75 ft (5.11 m) max|
|Propulsion:||Sail, 1 double-armature electric motor driven by 2 generators driven by 2 x 6-cylinder diesel engines.|
|Speed:||11.7 knots (1927)|
|Range:||12,000 nautical miles (22,000 km) @ 10 knots
18,800 nautical miles (34,800 km) @ 8.2 knots
|Complement:||90 men, 17 officers (1927)
102 men, 18 officers (1945)
|Detection Radar: SC-1, SF
2 x 6-pounders, 1 x 1-pounder (1941)
|Aircraft carried:||1 x SOC-4 (1941)
1 x J2F-5 (1945)
USCGC Northland (WPG-49) was a cruising class of gunboat especially designed for Arctic operations that served in World War II and later served in the Israeli Navy. She was the last cruising cutter built for the Coast Guard equipped with a sailing rig.
Northland was built at Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Corporation, Newport News, Virginia, launched 5 February 1927 and commissioned 7 May. She was 216.6 ft (66.0 m) long, had a maximum displacement of 2,150 tons, and had diesel-electric propulsion. She was originally fitted with auxiliary sails, but they were removed and her tall masts were trimmed in 1936.
Bering Sea Patrol
The cutters on Bering Sea Patrol were much more than symbols. They assisted in the performance in many governmental functions. For the Justice Department they enforced the law, apprehended criminals, and transported floating courts. They gathered military intelligence for the Navy Department, and carried mail for the Post Office Department. For the Interior Department, the cutters carried teachers to their posts, conducted sanitation inspections, and guarded timber and game. They surveyed coastlines and regional industries for the Department of Commerce and carried Public Health Service personnel to isolated villages, otherwise without medical service.
Northland departed the West Coast in 1938 on her last Arctic cruise, after which she decommissioned. In June 1939, however, she recommissioned and transferred to Boston, Massachusetts to prepare for the second Byrd Antarctic Expedition.
World War II service
With the eruption of war in Europe in September, she was withdrawn from the expedition and returned to Alameda, California.
In May 1940, Northland entered New York Navy Yard to be outfitted for special duty in Greenland. She embarked on her first Greenland Survey 20 August and visited harbors in order to determine the best location for patrol forces. The information that resulted contributed to the composition of a Greenland pilot volume as well as new charts. These were subsequently utilized in the formal organization of the Greenland Patrol, after an agreement between the United States and exiled rulers of German-held Denmark was signed 9 April 1941. By that agreement Greenland was included in the United States' system of cooperative defense of the Western Hemisphere.
Northland set out 7 April 1941 on a two month cruise to assist in the South Greenland Survey Expedition. While conducting this survey she searched for victims of ships sunk in the North Atlantic. While on one of her many mercy missions, she was involved in a near catastrophe. Only six miles from the scene of battle between Bismarck and the British ships that finally sank the giant German warship, Northland was mistaken by the British for a German ship and very nearly taken under fire.
The South Greenland Patrol was organized with the cutters Modoc, Comanche, and Raritan, and the former Coast and Geodetic survey ship Bowdoin. (The Bowdoin being commanded by her original owner and legendary arctic explorer, Commander Donald B. MacMillan). A month later, the Northeast Greenland Patrol was organized with cutter Northland, former Interior Department ship North Star, and Bear with Captain Edward H. "Iceberg" Smith, USCG, in command.
A month before the consolidation of the two patrols, Northland sighted the German-controlled Norwegian sealer Buskø 12 September and assumed to send a boarding party to investigate. Northland seized Buskø and took it to MacKenzie Bay, on the Greenland coast, where she became the first American naval capture of World War II. It was believed that she had been sending weather reports and information on British shipping to the Germans. A search of Buskø also led to the discovery of a German radio station about five hundred miles up the Greenland coast from Mackenzie Bay. A night raiding party from Northland detained three Germans at Peter Bregt, with equipment and code, as well as German plans for other radio stations in the far north.
The two Greenland Patrols were consolidated 25 October under Smith and by 1943 the force had grown to include thirty-seven vessels.
Cutter Northland sighted and attacked a submarine in Davis Strait 18 June 1942. The presence of oil and bubbles indicated possible hits from the cutter's depth charges, but German records give no indication of a submarine sinking in this area.
In July 1944 Northland discovered a German trawler believed to be Coberg, which had been fired and completely gutted by her crew. This was one of the ships suspected of carrying three separate German expeditions to Greenland. A second German craft (Kehdingen) was disposed of in September after Northland pursued her for seventy miles (113 km)) through ice floes off Great Koldewey Island, The Germans scuttled their ship and then surrendered and were taken on board Northland.
Northland received two battle stars for World War II service. Northland returned to the Treasury Department 1 January 1946 and remained on weather patrol duty until she decommissioned 27 March. Northland had a hand in the desegregation of the United States Navy. While executive officer of the ship, Carlton Skinner, who would later captain the USCGC Sea Cloud, the first integrated warship since the Civil War, witnessed a black kitchen assistant save the ship. This convinced him that black sailors were just as capable as white sailors.
Although sold for scrap 3 January 1947, Northland was renamed Jewish State, and transported Jewish refugees to Palestine. In 1948 she was renamed Eilat and became the flagship of the infant Israeli Navy. Later, the ship she became a training ship. In 1955, the ship was renamed Matzpen, serving as a barracks or depot hulk. The ship was scrapped in 1961.
- Johnson, p 113
- Canney, p 97
- Evanson, Christopher (4 April 2007). "Looking Back: A Veteran Remembers Coast Guard Desegregation". Coast Guard News. Retrieved 5 May 2009.
- This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.
- US Coast Guard history of USCGC Northland
- Canney, Donald L. (1995). U.S. Coast Guard and Revenue Cutters, 1790–1935. Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland. ISBN 978-1-55750-101-1.
- Johnson, Robert Irwin (1987). Guardians of the Sea, History of the United States Coast Guard, 1915 to the Present. Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland. ISBN 978-0-87021-720-3.