Eagle, 1946

WIX 327 (ex-Horst Wessel)

Jan. 12, 2020

Eagle: Any of various large diurnal birds of prey of the family Accipitridae, including members of the genera Aquila and Haliaeetus, characterized by a powerful hooked bill, keen vision, long broad wings, and strong soaring flight.

Builder:  Blohm & Voss Shipyards, Hamburg, Germany

Commissioned:  1936 (German Navy); 15 May 1946 (U.S. Coast Guard)

Length:  295'

Beam:  39' 1"

Draft:  17' 6" full load

Displacement:  1,784 tons full load

Powerplant:  1 x Maschinenfabrik-Augsburg-Nurnberg diesel direct reversible with reduction gear producing 750 horsepower (1965); 1 Caterpillar diesel engine (1980)

Top speed:  17 knots (under sail) maximum
                    10 knots (diesel engine only) maximum; 7.5 knots cruising with 5,450 mile range under diesel power only.

Complement (Permanent):  8 officers, 50 crew, 150 cadets or officer candidates

Radar:  1 x AN/SPS-23; AN/SPA-4 (1965)

Sonar:  1 x AN/UQN-1D

Armament:  None

Cutter History:

The Eagle is a three-masted sailing barque with 21,350 square feet of sail. It is home ported at the CG Academy, New London, Connecticut.  It is the only active commissioned sailing vessel in the U.S. maritime services.  She is one of five such training barques in world.  Remarkably, her surviving sister ships include the Mircea of Romania, Sagres II of Portugal, Gorch Fock of Germany, and Tovarich of Russia.

Today's Eagle, the seventh in a long line of proud cutters to bear the name, was built in 1936 by the Blohm & Voss Shipyard, Hamburg, Germany, as a training vessel for German Navy cadets.  It was commissioned Horst Wessel and served as a training ship for the Kriegsmarine throughout World War II.

Following World War II, the Horst Wessel, in the age-old custom of capture and seizure, was taken as a war prize by the United States.   Initially, the Soviet Union selected Horst Wessel during the division of Nazi vessels by the victorious Allies.  The four available sailing ships had been divided into three lots--two large merchant ships being grouped together.  The Soviets drew number 1, Great Britain number 2, and the U.S. number 3.  Before the results of the draw were officially announced, the U.S representative, through quiet diplomacy, convinced the Soviets to trade draws.

And so, on May 15, 1946, the German barque was commissioned into U.S. Coast Guard service as the Eagle and sailed from Bremerhaven, Germany to New London, Connecticut.  On her voyage to the United States she followed Columbus's route across the mid-Atlantic.  She rode out a hurricane during her trip and arrived in New London safely.  She weathered another hurricane in September 1954 while enroute to Bermuda.  She hosted OpSail in New York as part of the World's Fair in 1964.  She again hosted OpSail in 1976 during the United States' Bicentennial celebration.  She hosted the centennial celebration for the Statue of Liberty in 1986 as well.

One of the major controversies regarding the cutter was generated when the Coast Guard decided to add the "racing stripe" to her otherwise unadorned hull in mid-1976.  She was the last cutter so painted and many in the sailing community decried the new paint job.

Eagle serves as a seagoing classroom for approximately 175 cadets and instructors from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.  Sailing in Eagle, cadets handle more than 20,000 square feet of sail and 5 miles of rigging. Over 200 lines must be coordinated during a major ship maneuver.  The sails can provide the equivalent of several thousand through-shaft horsepower. The ship readily takes to the task for which it was designed.  Eagle's hull is built of steel, four-tenths of an inch thick.  It has two full length steel decks with a platform deck below and a raised forecastle and quarterdeck.  The weather decks are three-inch-thick teak over steel.

Commanding Officers:

Horst Wessel:

Kapitan August Thiele, 1936-1938
Korvettenkapitan Weyher, January, 1939-September, 1939
Kapitanleutnant Kretschmar, March, 1940-May, 1940
Fregattenkapitan Eiffe, March, 1941-November, 1942
Kapitanleutnant Schnibbe, November, 1942-May, 1945

USCG Barque Eagle:

CAPT Gordon P. McGowan, 1946-1947
CAPT Miles Imlay, 1947-1948
CAPT Carl B. Olsen, 1949
CAPT Carl B. Bowman, 1950-1954
CAPT Karl O. A. Zittel, 1954-1958
CAPT William B. Ellis, 1959
CAPT Chester I. Steele, 1960-1961
CAPT Robert A. Schulz, 1961-1962
CAPT William A. Earle, 1963-1965
CAPT Peter A. Morrill, 1965 (West Coast-East Coast ferry run)
CAPT Archibald B. How, 1965-1967
CAPT Stephen G. Carkeek, 1967
CAPT Harold A. Paulsen, 1968-1971
CAPT Edward D. Cassidy, 1972-1973
CAPT James C. Irwin, 1974-1975
CAPT James R. Kelly, 1975-1976
CAPT Paul A. Welling, 1976-1980
CAPT Martin J. Moynihan, 1980-1983
CAPT Ernst M. Cummings, 1983-1988
CAPT David V.V. Wood,  1988-1992
CAPT Patrick Stillman, 1992-1995
CAPT Donald R. Grosse 1995-1996
CAPT Robert J. Papp, 1996-1999
CAPT Ivan T. Luke, July 1999-2003
CAPT Eric Shaw, 2003-2006
CAPT Joseph C. Sinnett, 2006-2009
CAPT Eric Jones, 2009-2012
CAPT Raymond "Wes" Pulver, 2012-2015
CAPT Matthew Meilstrup, 2015-2019
CAPT Michael Turdo, 2019-


Eagle Cutter File, CG Historian's Office.

Robert Scheina, Coast Guard Cutters and Craft, 1946-1990 (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1990), pp. 116-117.

Other Sources:

Donovan, Frank. The Cutter. New York: Barnes and Noble 1961.

Drummond, Malwin. Tall Ships: The World of Sail Training. New York: G.P. Putnam, 1976.

Hurst, Alexander A. The Sailing School Ships. New Rochelle: Sportshelf, 1963.

McCutchan, Philip. The Tall Ships. New York: Crown, 1976.

McGowan, Gordon. The Skipper and the Eagle. New York: D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc., 1960; reprint, Peekskill, NY: National Maritime Historical Society, 1998.

Norton, William I. Eagle Seamanship: Square-Rigger Sailing. New York: Evans, 1969.

________. Eagle Ventures. New York: M. Evans and Company, Inc., 1970.

Putz, G. Eagle-America’s Sailing Square-Rigger. Chester, CT: The Globe Pequot Press, 1986.

Regan, Paul M. and Paul H. Johnson. Eagle Seamanship: A Manual for Square-Rigger Sailing. Annapolis: Naval Institute Proceedings , 1979.

Villiers, Alan. Sailing Eagle: The Story of the Coast Guard's Square-Rigger. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1955.