Chautauqua, 1945 (WPG/WHEC 41)

Sept. 10, 2020

Chautauqua, 1945

A photo of USCGC Chautauqua

Call sign: NRUD

Chautauqua was named for Chautauqua Lake, New York.

Builder:  Western Pipe & Steel Co., San Pedro, CA

Commissioned:  4 August 1945 

Decommissioned:  1 August 1973 

Disposition: Sold to North American Smelting Company, Wilmington, Delaware.  

Length:  254’oa; 245’bp 

Navigation Draft:  17’3” max (1966) 

Beam:  43’1” max 

Displacement:  1,978 fl (1966); 1,342 light (1966) 

Main Engines:  1 Westinghouse electric motor driven by a turbine. 

SHP:  4,000 total (1945) 

Performance, Maximum Sustained:  17.0 kts, 6,157-mi radius (1966)
Performance, Economic:10.0 kts., 10,376-mi radius (1966)

Fuel Capacity:  141,755 gal (Oil, 95%) 

Complement:  10 officers, 3 warrants, 130 men (1966) 

     Detection Radar:  SPS-23, SPS-29, Mk 26, Mk 27 (1966)
     Sonar:  SQS-1 (1966) 

Armament: 1 5”/38; Hedgehog; 2 Mk 32 ASW TT (Winnebago, 1966 – most units without TTs)

Class history: “The bow and the stern for each other yearn, and the lack of interval shows…”

Myths have long shadowed the design history of the 255-foot class. These cutters were to have been much larger ships, and two theories persist as to why they were shortened. The first is that these cutters were built to replace the ships given to Great Britain under lend lease, and Congress stipulated that the Coast Guard had to build these replacement cutters to the same size and character as those provided to the British. The second is that their length was determined by the maximum length that could pass through the locks of the Welland Canal from the Great Lakes to the St. Lawrence River. The Great Lakes shipbuilding industry brought pressure on Congress to ensure that it had the potential to bid on the contract. The first theory seems to be correct, but the second cannot be ruled out.

The Coast Guard had prepared a design for a 316-foot cutter that was to have been an austere 327. This design was cut down into the 255-foot ship. To accomplish this, everything was squeezed down and automated to a degree not before achieved in a turbo-electric-driven ship.

The machinery design of the 255s was compact and innovative, but overly complex. It had pilothouse control, variable-rate (10 to 1) burners, and automatic synchronizing between the turbo-generator and the motor. Westinghouse engineers developed a system of synchronization and a variable-frequency drive for main-propulsion auxiliary equipment, which kept the pumps and other items at about two-thirds the power required for constant-frequency operation. The combined boiler room/engine room was a break with tradition.

The turbo-alternators for ship-service power exhausted at 20 psi gauge pressure instead of into a condenser. This steam was used all over the ship before finally going to a condenser. Space, heating, galley, cooking, laundry, freshwater evaporation, fuel, and feed-water heating were all taken from the 20 psi backpressure line.

The 255-foot class was an ice-going design. Ice operations had been assigned to the Coast Guard early in the war, and almost all new construction was either ice-going or ice-breaking.

The hull was designed with constant flare at the waterline for ice-going. The structure was longitudinally framed with heavy web frames and an ice belt of heavy plating, and it had extra transverse framing above and below the design waterline. Enormous amounts of weight were removed through the use of electric welding. The 250-foot cutters’ weights were used for estimating purposes. Tapered bulkhead stiffeners cut from 12” I-beams went from the main deck (4’ depth of web) to the bottom (8” depth of web). As weight was cut out of the hull structure, electronics and ordnance were increased, but at much greater heights. This top weight required ballasting the fuel tanks with seawater to maintain stability both for wind and damaged conditions.

The superstructure of the 255s was originally divided into two islands in order to accommodate an aircraft amidships, but this requirement was dropped before any of the units became operational. Construction of this class received a low priority, and none of the cutters served in the war. Following completion of the preliminary design by the Coast Guard, the work was assigned to George G, Sharp of New York to prepare the contract design.

The number of units – 13 of them – had an interesting origin. Three were to have been replacements for over-aged cutters, the Ossipee, Tallapoosa, and Unalga; ten units were to be replacements for the 250-foot class transferred to Great Britain under lend-lease. For economy, all 13 units were built to the same design. 

Cutter History:

Chautauqua was homeported at San Francisco, California, from 4 August 1945 to October 1948 and used for law enforcement, ocean station, and search and rescue operations in the Pacific. The first commanding officer was CDR N.W. Sprow. In June 1946 Chautauqua escorted a flotilla of tenders to the Philippines and participated in ceremonies marking Philippine independence on 4 July 1946. On 4 August 1946 the cutter was in Honolulu, Hawaii.

On 30 April 1947 the ship sustained fire damage in the forward part of the mess deck. During May the cutter assisted the drifting SS Webster Victory. On 19 May 1947 she searched for a reported mine.  From October 1948 to 22 July 1954, she was stationed at Alameda, California.  Her duties remained similar to those she had at San Francisco.  On 29 and 30 October 1948, she escorted the disabled F/V Reefer King to Honolulu, Hawaii.  From 11 to 14 November 1949, she towed the disabled M/V Navigator until relieved by a commercial tug.  From 15 to 21 April 1950, she towed the disabled tug Omar to San Francisco.  On 15 May 1953, she assisted the disabled F/V Bering Strait 20 miles west of Point Reyes, California.

Chautauqua was homeported at Honolulu from 22 July 1954 to February, 1972, with duties of law enforcement, ocean station, and search and rescue.  On 21 November 1956, she medevaced a crewman from M/V Evibelle.  On 13 July 1959, she assisted the yacht Cloud Nine at 23°20’N, 143°00’W.  She patrolled the Trans-Pacific Race from 15 to 17 July 1959.  On 6 September 1959, she medevaced a crewman from M/V Pioneer at 34°25’N, 162°16’E.   While on ocean station in February 1965, the Chautauqua sustained damage and had to depart early for Yokosuka, Japan due to main motor-bearing casualty.

On 20 January 1967, she sustained a fire in the Combat Information Center while undergoing renovation in a San Francisco yard.  In late December 1971, the Chautauqua was on-scene commander following the sinking of the Danish M/V Heering Kirse off Midway Island. 31 of 36 victims were rescued.  She transferred to Norfolk in February, 1972 and was decommissioned on 1 August 1973.

Chautauqua was finally sold for scrap in October, 1980, to North American Smelting Company of Wilmington, Delaware for $73,333.


A photo of USCGC Chautauqua

Chautauqua, 8 July 1953, no official caption/photo number; photographer unknown.

A photo of USCGC Chautauqua

Chautauqua, 1968 underway off Honolulu, HI.  No official caption/photo number; photographer unknown.


Robert L. Scheina, U.S. Coast Guard Cutters & Craft of World War II (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1981), pp. 1-3.

Robert L. Scheina, U.S. Coast Guard Cutters & Craft, 1946-1990 (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1990), pp. 18-26.

255' Cutter Sailors' Page, hosted by 255' cutter historian Doak Walker, RMC, USCG (Ret.):

Cutter File, Coast Guard Historian's Office.

Ship's Characteristics Card.