Radio Call Sign: NRGD
The cutter Daphne was named for the nymph in Greek mythology with whom Apollo fell in unrequited love. Running away from the god Daphne cried for her father, the river god Peneus, who turned her into a laurel tree to save her from the ravages of Apollo. Apollo then made it his sacred tree, and winners at the games of his sanctuary Delphi were crowned with laurel wreaths.
Builder: Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine
Launched: 27 January 1932
Commissioned: 5 October 1934
Decommissioned: 29 November 1946 (In reserve)
Disposition: Sold on 7 December 1954
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-bladed
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; Y-gun; 2 x Mousetraps.
Electronics: 1933: none
1945: Radar: SF-1, BN
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 service as tour boats in New York City with the Circle Tour Line, testament to their sturdy and well-thought out design.
The CGC Daphne was built by the Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine. She was to be assigned originally to the Coast Guard Destroyer Force. She was launched and accepted from the builder on 27 January 1932 and was commissioned on 12 February 1932. She arrived at Stapleton, New York after a ten-day shakedown cruise on 26 February 1932 and was assigned to the New York Division as part of the Special Patrol Force based out of Stapleton. During her time there the cutter and her crew were involved in one of the more unique incidents of the Prohibition-era:
The Long Blue Line: Cutter Daphne and the “North Atlantic Vegetable War”
Commander William A. McKinstry
United States Coast Guard
As the crew of the Ganeff [sic] told it, they were anchored on Rum Row Sunday night when the Daphne swung alongside. Suddenly a storm of paint pots, vegetables and other missiles came flying at them from the Coast Guard cutter . . . .
The Baltimore Sun, June 16, 1932
As the years of Prohibition came to a close, Coast Guard Cutter Daphne engaged in one of the most unique battles in the annals of the United States Coast Guard. Reported in the Baltimore Sun and many other newspapers, the “North Atlantic Vegetable War” proved the most unique tactic used to combat the rum runners during Prohibition.
While on patrol in the North Atlantic on Wednesday, June 15, 1932, the newly-commissioned 165-foot “B”-Class cutter Daphne, came upon the Newfoundland registered vessel Gonniff 81 miles east of New York. Suspecting the Gonniff of smuggling contraband liquor, Daphne performed the usual tactic of calling the vessel to heave to so the cutter could conduct an inspection. However, this is where the story took a unique turn.
According to the men on board the Gonniff, Daphne’s gun crews and food service personnel mustered on the cutter’s deck. The Coast Guardsmen proceeded to shower the Gonniff with a smattering of paint, eggs, potatoes and produce before finishing off their first salvo by spraying down the rum runner with its high-pressure fire hose. The crew of the Gonniff responded in kind, firing jars of molasses onto Daphne’s wooden teak decks assuring a lot of work requiring the cutter’s crew to remove sticky mess from the decks.
With the latest barrage from the Gonniff, the crew of the Daphne continued their onslaught by throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the men of the rum runner But the battle was far from one-sided, with the Chicago Tribune reporting “One coast guard officer was knocked out when he was hit on the head with a turnip.” After the flying turnip incapacitate Daphne’s officer, things got dicey. According to the Gonniff’s crew, that’s when the Daphne’s cuttermen began inserting nuts and bolts into their potato projectiles. This enraged the crew of the Gonniff, which had had enough of the vegetable battle, broke off the engagement and tried to escape the cutter.
Daphne got underway, chased the Gonniff and rammed it in the stern ensuring the vessel had to abort its rum-running mission. The damaged Gonniff had to shift its cargo of liquor in order to assure its stability. It was assisted by sistership Mary F. Ruth, which, a few days previous, had a similar encounter with the Daphne, save the vegetable barrage. Both mother ships worked together aligning their cargoes for the return trip to Canada as Daphne stood by and prevented them from calling at a U.S. port. After a day or so, both ships limped into Halifax and the story of their encounter hit the Associated Press wires to worldwide amusement and outrage.
The Canadian Government was displeased that the Coast Guard treated two of its ships in such a manner. The Canadian Secretary of State sent a formal protest to the Coast Guard regarding the molestation of its shipping more than 50 miles at sea. The fact that the vessels were liquor carriers was well known by the Canadian Government, and that they were on their normal rum run when they were accosted. However, the fact that they were interdicted unnecessarily in the Canadians’ opinion created an international incident.
There are always two sides a story. Captain Randolph Ridgley, a senior officer at Coast Guard District One who read the report from Daphne’s commander, stated that the ramming of the rum runner was due to its laying down a smoke screen, dousing lights and zig-zagging to elude interdiction. Had it not used these suspicious tactics, the Coast Guard Cutter would likely not been alerted to its presence and not interceded in such a fashion. Furthermore, Ridgely opined that good seamanship by the Daphne prevented more serious consequences to all involved.
With Prohibition ending within a year, this was one of the last incidents in what had been a wild time for the Coast Guard. This interdiction, like many others of the era, would showcase the innovativeness of Coast Guard crews, relying on skill, creativity and quick decision making, despite the lack of information at hand. In the end, the crew of the Daphne fulfilled its mission to ensure that illegal liquor did not reach U.S. soil.
In 1933, at the end of Prohibition, Daphne transferred to the West Coast, where the cutter served the remainder of its career. Before then, the cutter played a prominent role in the response to the crash of the Navy dirigible USS Akron, retrieving the remains of naval aviation pioneer, Rear Admiral William Moffett, from the waters of the Atlantic. In the mid-1930s, the cutter deployed on Bering Sea patrols and interdicted illegal narcotics in the San Francisco Bay Area. Daphne also secured of the Port of San Francisco during World War II before decommissioning in 1946.
Coast Guard cutter Daphne was involved in many important missions over its service career. However, none of those missions compare to the uniqueness of the 1932 North Atlantic Vegetable War.
She was then transferred to Oakland, California, as of 2 February 1934 where she served out the decade. Her service included assignment to the Bering Sea Patrol in 1936. She was assigned temporarily to Cordova Alaska from 1 January 1940 to 28 February 1940. Her armament was increased at the Puget Sound Navy Yard beginning on 11 March 1941. She was then assigned to Alameda and the WESTSEAFRON, and she first arrived on station there on 15 April 1941. As of 7 December 1941, her assignment was to patrol the entrance to San Francisco Bay, a duty she carried out until the end of the war, alternating at times with the CGC Ariadne. She was rearmed from 1 October to 1 November 1942 at the Mare Navy Yard.
She was placed out of commission in reserve on 29 November 1946 and placed in storage at the Coast Guard Moorings in Kennydale, Washington. She was sold to Birchfield Boiler, Inc., of Tacoma on 7 December 1954 for $9,156.00.
Cutter files, USCG Historian's Office.
Canney, Donald L. U.S. Coast Guard and Revenue Cutters, 1790-1935. (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1995).
*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).
U.S. Coast Guard. Public Information Division. Historical Section. The Coast Guard at War: Transports and Escorts. (Vol. V, No. I). (Washington, DC: Public Information Division, U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters, 1949.