Burton Island, 1966 (WAGB 283)

July 1, 2020

Burton Island, 1966

AG 88 / AGB 1 / WAGB 283

Builder: Western Pipe & Steel Co., Los Angeles, CA

Cost:  $9.880,037

Length:  269' oa

Beam:  63' 6" mb

Draft:  25' 9" max

Displacement: 6,515 tons (1945)

Launched: 30 April 1946

Commissioned: 28 December 1946 (USN); 15 December 1966 (USCG)

Decommissioned: 9 May 1978

Status: Sold for scrap

Propulsion:  6 Fairbanks Morse 10-cylinder diesels driving 6 Westinghouse DC generators which in turn drove 3 electric motors; 12,000 SHP; two propellers aft; one propeller forward.

Top speed:  13.4 knots (1967)

Economic speed: 11.6 knots; 32,485 mile range.


    Radar: SPS-10B; SPS-53A; SPS-6C (1967)

Armament: None

Class History:

The "Wind" Class final design--modeled after the Swedish icebreaker Ymer--was prepared by Gibbs & Cox of New York after initial design work by LCDR Edward Thiele, USCG (later Engineer-in-Chief) who had obtained details of foreign icebreakers while vacationing in Europe.  The Wind class of icebreakers measured 269 feet in length, 63’6” in beam and displaced 6,500 tons. The Coast Guard contracted five vessels of the class in November 1941 to fulfill the need to access military based in Greenland that would be inaccessible during most of the year without the use of heavy icebreakers. Eventually, the Coast Guard operated seven Wind class icebreakers.

The design of the vessels included a bow propeller used to clear the hull from ice and dredge broken ice forward. The bow propeller was not typically used as a means for propulsion unless the vessel needed to back out of surrounding ice. The vessels also had a diesel electric powerplant, the most compact, economical, and powerful propulsion system. Additionally, while the diesels provide the power supply, there was a division between these diesels and the motors, which supply the power to the shafts. The rotating electric motors could handle the shocks and extreme power to speed ratios necessary for ice operations.

The close spaced frames and careful design of the trusses and planting, along with the thick, welded hull plating made the hulls of the Wind class unprecedented in strength and structural integrity. The hull also had compressed cork insulation, strengthened steering apparatus, and a padded notch at the stern to nestle the bow of any vessel being towed through ice. Also the design included fore, aft, and side heeling tanks with pumps to aid in water movement within the vessel to rock the ship free from ice build up. The specifications for construction were so extensive that the Western Pipe and Steel Company of Los Angeles was the only builder to submit a bid. They were originally designed to be equipped with a fixed wing amphibious aircraft.

Cutter History:

U.S.S. Burton Island was launched on 30 April, 1946 and commissioned 28 December 1946 as AG-88 for the United States Navy.  On 17 January, 1947, Burton Island, loaded with supplies, steamed from San Diego to Ross Sea, Antarctica where it met with units of TF 68 on the first Antarctic Development project.  After returning from Antarctica, Burton Island departed 25 July, 1947 for the Point Barrow expedition to Alaska.  From April of 1948 to December of 1956, Burton Island participated in 19 Arctic and Alaskan cruises.  Duties on the cruises varied including, supply activities, helicopter reconnaissance of ice flows, scientific surveys, underwater demolition surveys, and convoy exercises.  In March 1949, Burton Island was designated AGB-1.

On 15 December, 1966, the Navy transferred the vessel, along with all of its icebreakers, to the U.S. Coast Guard and it was renumbered WAGB-283.  After its transfer, Burton Island was stationed at Long Beach California and used for icebreaking operations.  Starting in 1967 through 1978, Burton Island went on eight different Deep Freeze operations to the Antarctic.  In the operations, Burton Island was responsible for creating and maintaining aids to navigation, clearing channels through the ice for supply vessels, and various other activities.  In addition to Deep Freeze operations, Burton Island served as a floating platform for scientific surveys and research around Alaska and other isolated polar areas.  Burton Island also conducted numerous SAR missions.

From October 1967 to April 1968 she participated in Operation Deep Freeze '68.  From October 1968 to April 1969 she participated in Operation Deep Freeze '69.  From November 1969 to April 1970 she participated in Operation Deep Freeze '70 and her accompanying icebreaker was disabled.  From November 1970 to April 1971 she participated in Operation Deep Freeze '71 and again the accompanying icebreaker was disabled.  From August to September 1971 she conducted an oceanographic survey along North Slope, Alaska.  From February to March 1972 she conducted a scientific survey in Cook Inlet, Alaska.  From November 1972 to April 1973 she participated in Operation Deep Freeze '73.  From June to July 1973 she conducted oceanographic research in Alaskan waters. 

In the summer of 1974 Burton Island made an Arctic cruise that included working on aids to navigation.  Former crewman Elliot Dallavalle took part and noted:

"I noticed on the sailing dates of the Burton Island there is no record of the Arctic cruise in the summer of 1974. It was that summer that myself and 2 other Coasties, led by First Class Gunner Salvatore Clarino (now passed on) from the USCGC Balsam, joined the Burton Island in Kodiak, AK. For the next 3 months, for the very first time to be tried, we serviced all the aids to navigation lights on the west coast using a helicopter. We commissioned our 3 man team 'The Red Dog Team' and stenciled all the aids with a red dog emblem. Pretty cool since I was only a Seaman striking to be a Yeoman. The Burton Island reached Point Barrow in August and deposited the 3 of us there to be returned to the Balsam.  I reached YN3 in Feb 1975 and then decommissioned the Balsam in Seattle, WA in March. Just thought this trip on the BI should be noted since it was significant that the aids to nav were done via helicopter for the very first time. Thank you for your time."

From November 1974 to April 1975 she participated in Operation Deep Freeze '75.  From 13 November 1975 to 26 February 1976 she participated in Operation Deep Freeze '76.  From July to September 1976 she deployed to the Arctic.  From 9 November 1976 to 7 April 1977 she participated in Operation Deep Freeze '77.  During that deployment in December, 1976, she carried out numerous SAR missions at Wellington, New Zealand following a torrential downpour.  From 9 July to 8 September 1977 she undertook a cruise to the Arctic.  From 20 November 1977 to 1 April 1978 she participated in Operation Deep Freeze '78.  

From mid 1977 to 9 May 1978 she was stationed at Alameda, California and used for icebreaking.  She was decommissioned on 9 May 1978.  An excerpt from a Maritime Administration letter dated 21 November 1995 indicates her ultimate fate:

The Maritime Administration sold the vessel by auction under PD-X-1033 dtd. August 17, 1980.  The vessel was awarded to Levin Metals Corporation, 1800 Monterey Highway, San Jose, California 95112 on October 7, 1980, under contract No. MA-9868 for $261,000.  The Burton Island was scrapped as of April 28, 1982.

Caption: "USCGC BURTON ISLAND (WAGB-283) at McMurdo Sound, Antarctic [sic]."

Photo is dated January, 1968.
No photo number.
Photo taken by LCDR R. H. Stracener, USCG
Note: Here she displays an early design of the Coast Guard stripe that does not include the Coast Guard shield.  Coast Guard cutters began adding the stripe to their hulls beginning in 1967.  Perhaps the shield decal was not yet available?


Caption: "USCG Burton Island (WAGB-283)."

No date listed.
No photo number.
Photographer unknown.

Caption: "B.I."

No date listed.
No photo number.
Photographer unknown.  11th Coast Guard District (dpi) photo.

Caption: "Burton Island (WAGB-283) refueling at Cape Hallett with every curious penguins parading in the foreground."

Photo is dated 11 January 1971.
No photo number.
Photo by "Walker, PH3."

No caption listed.

No date listed.
No photo number.
Photographer unknown.
Note: The Burton Island meets up with two sister Coast Guard icebreakers.  The Glacier (WAGB 4) is close aboard to starboard and the Southwind (WAGB 280) is directly astern.


Caption: "USCG [sic] Burton Island (WAGB-283)."

No date listed.
No photo number.
Photographer unknown.

Caption: "Burton Island (WAGB-283)."

No date listed.
No photo number.
Photographer unknown.


Burton Island Cutter File, Coast Guard Historian's Office.

Robert Scheina.  Coast Guard Cutters & Craft of World War II.  Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1981.

Robert Scheina.  Coast Guard Cutters & Craft, 1946-1990.  Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1990.

**Ms. Sami Seeb, an intern who served in the Historian's Office during the summer of 2005, wrote the Burton Island's history and we thank her for her efforts.