Argo, 1933 (WPC-100)
The cutter Argo was named for the ship in Greek mythology in which Jason sailed in search of the Golden Fleece.
Builder: John H. Mathis Company, Camden, New Jersey
Launched: 12 November 1932
Commissioned: 6 January 1933
Decommissioned: 30 October 1948
Disposition: Sold, 2 November 1955; she saw service in New York Harbor as the Circle Line XII with Circle Cruise Lines.
Displacement: 1933: 337 tons full load
1945: 350 tons full load
Length: 165' oa
Beam: 25' 3"
Draft: 7' 8" (1933); 10' (1945)
Machinery: 2 x Winton Model 158 6-cylinder diesels; 1,340 bhp
Propellers: twin, 3 blades
Performance: Maximum speed: 16.0 knots
Maximum sustained: 14.0 knots for 1,750 statute miles
Cruising: 11.0 knots for 3,000 statute miles
Economic: 6.0 knots for 6,417 statute miles
Complement: 1933: 5 officers, 39 men
1945: 7 officers, 68 men
Armament: 1933: 1 x 3"/23; 1 x 1-pounders;
1941: 1 x 3"/23; 1 x Y-gun; 2 x depth charge tracks;
1945: 2 x 3"/50 (single-mounts); 2 x 20mm/80 (single mounts); 2 x depth charge tracks; 2 x Y-guns; 2 x Mousetraps.
Electronics: 1933: none
1945: Radar: SF; Sonar: QCO
The 165-foot "B" Class cutters, sometimes referred to as the Thetis-Class, were a follow on to the 125-foot cutters. Both types of cutters were designed for the enforcement of Prohibition, but the 165-footers primary mission was to trail the mother ships that dispensed alcohol to smaller, faster vessels well beyond the territorial waters of the U.S. Hence these cutters had to have excellent sea-keeping qualities, good accommodations for the crew, and long range. Although Prohibition ended soon after most entered service, their design nevertheless proved to be adaptable to the many other missions of the Coast Guard.
An article written soon after they entered service noted that: "the new cutters are low and rakish, without excessive superstructure or freeboard. A raking stem, well flared bow and cruiser stern give the appearance of speed as well as contribute to the seaworthiness of the vessels, a quality which has been demonstrated in actual service. . .The new ships are twin-screw driven by two 670 horse power Diesel engines, furnished by the Winton Engine Co. of Cleveland, Ohio. The shafting and propellers are arranged and supported in a novel manner. The ship is equipped with two overhanging rudders on a line with and just aft of the propellers. The rudders are supported by a streamline rudder post at the forward end which is bossed out for a bearing to take a stub shaft which extends through the propeller. This method of arranging the rudders has proved remarkably successful. At full speed, the ships turn a complete circle in two minutes and eighteen seconds, and can be docked with ease under the most difficult conditions. On trial runs, the Atalanta averaged 16.48 knots at 468 RPM with practically no vibration and the engine under no evident strain. Due to the arduous service for which these vessels were built, only the finest materials available were used. . .It is interesting to note that genuine wrought iron pipe was used for practically all the services where resistance to corrosion, vibration, and strain was required. The fuel oil, lubricating oil, and water service to the main engines and auxiliaries; the fire and bilge system; and the steam heating system were all installed with genuine wrought iron pipe. At the Lake Union plant this pipe was furnished by the Reading Iron Company through the Crane Company's Seattle office and Bowles Company of Seattle. The new ships are a distinct contribution to modern shipbuilding and should be of great value to the Coast Guard."*
They certainly did prove to be of great value to the Coast Guard. Most saw service as coastal convoy escorts during World War II and two, the Icarus and the Thetis, each sank a U-boat. Many saw service well into the 1960s and some still serve as tour boats in New York City with the Circle Tour Line, testament to their sturdy and well-thought-out design.
The CGC Argo was built by John H. Mathis Company at Camden, New Jersey in 1933 and entered commissioned service on 6 January 1933 under the command of LT H. C. Moore, USCG. She was 165 feet long, 25 feet 3 inches beam, and drew 9 feet 6 inches, with a displacement of 334 tons. She had a steel hull and could attain a speed of 16 knots. Her twin screw, diesel engine developed 1340 horsepower. Her peacetime complement was four commissioned officers, one warrant officer, and 40 enlisted men. Her first homeport was Stapleton, New York until 13 March 1934 when the ship was transferred to Newport, Rhode Island. She remained in Newport until the American entry into World War II. During this time she served as part of the Cadet Training Cruise in the North Atlantic.
With the U.S. entry into the war the vessel was attached to the Atlantic Fleet as a convoy escort. While engaged in escort duty on 22 June 1942, the Argo made one depth charge attack when the charges failed to explode. Later on the 27th she made another contact at 1045 but abandoned the search fifteen minutes later. Two minutes later a ship was torpedoed on the starboard bow of the convoy and at 0149 the Argo established a contact at 1,500 yards with the target shifting slowly to the right. The cutter closed to 650 yards but lost contact at 150 yards and immediately released a five-charge pattern, sighting a large oil bubble upon completion of the attack. Investigating the position where the charges were released, she found a large area all bubbles and an oil slick extending to the horizon, a long oil slick presumably in the vicinity but beyond where the attack was made. At 0210 she released a pattern of three charges and oil was still bubbling to the surface. She then released one charge at 300 feet plus (all previous settings being 200 feet). Assuming the target destroyed she resumed her course to rejoin the convoy. While in convoy on 6 January 1944, the Camas Meadows and the St. Augustine collided. Argo rescued 23 survivors and picked up six bodies. For their actions personnel from the Argo and the Thetis were recognized for bravery for the actions following the collision. Sometime after 24 March 1944 she was placed in reduced commission at the Chelsea Navy Base in Massachusetts.
While under the command of LTJG Eliot Winslow in May, 1945, the Argo participated in the surrender of three U-boats off the east coast: U-805, U-234 and U-873. The cutter took aboard a number of prisoners and escorted the German submarines back to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, without incident -- see the photo gallery below.
Later in 1945 Argo was assigned to the First Coast Guard District for further assignment to Air-Sea Rescue Duty. Rockland, Maine became her homeport. In 1947 the Commander, First Coast Guard District requested authorization to place the Argo in "out of commission, in reserve" status due to personnel shortages. The request was not initially approved. The establishment of the Weather Patrol Program, however, strained Coast Guard manpower and the Argo was subsequently ordered into reserve status. USCGC Spar towed the vessel to Cape May where she was placed in storage.
She was decommissioned 30 October 1948 and sold on 2 November 1955 to A.T. Davies, Birchfield Boiler, Inc., Tacoma, WA for $15,564. She was eventually acquired by the Circle Cruise Lines of New York City and modified for passenger service. She was re-engined with eight General Motors 6-71 Quad diesel engines (four per shaft) and Falk reverse/reduction gears with individual hydraulically operated clutches for each engine. She still sails New York Harbor as the Circle Line XII. (Our thanks to Brian Bailey of Circle Line for the information on Argo's New York City career).
Dr. William Thiesen wrote about a number of Argo's rescues during the war while under the command of LT Winslow in his article: Lieutenant Charles Eliot Winslow and His Heroic Rescues in Command of the Coast Guard Cutter Argo.
Cutter files, USCG Historian's Office.
Canney, Donald L. U.S. Coast Guard and Revenue Cutters, 1790-1935. (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1995).
Donations of scanned photos from LTJG Eliot Winslow by Warren Cochrane.
*Nickum, W. C. "New 'Sisters' of the Coast Guard Patrol Go Into Service." The Reading Puddle Ball 3, No. 11 (February 1935), pp. 6-7.
Scheina, Robert L. U.S. Coast Guard Cutters and Craft in World War II. (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1982).
Thiesen, William. Lieutenant Charles Eliot Winslow and His Heroic Rescues in Command of the Coast Guard Cutter Argo.
U.S. Coast Guard. Public Information Division. Historical Section. The Coast Guard at War: Transports and Escorts (Vol. V). (Washington, DC: Public Information Division, U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters, 1949.