Dauntless, 1968 (WMEC 624)

Dec. 22, 2020

USCGC Dauntless, 1968

B-Type Reliance Class  210-Foot Cutter

Builder: American Shipbuilding Company, Lorain, OH

Keel Laid: 15 May 1965

Launched: 21 October 1967

Commissioned: 10 June 1968

Decommissioned: In commission


Cost: $3,089,429

Construction Man-hours: 283,040

Displacement: 759 t

Length: 210' 6"

Beam: 34'

Draft: 10' 6" max

Machinery:   2 x Cooper-Bessemer Corporation FVBM-12 turbocharged diesel engines (1968)

                      2 x Alco diesels (1987)

Maximum Sustained Speed: 18 knots; 2,700 mile range (1968)

Cruising Speed: 14 knots; 6,100 mile range (1968)

Complement: 12 officers, 63 enlisted (1990)


                    Radar: AN/SPS-23 (1968); 2 x SPS-64 (1987)

                    Sonar: None

Armament: 1 x Mk 22 3-inch/50; 2 x 81mm mortars; 2 x M2HB .50 caliber Browning machine guns (1968);

                    1 x Mk 38 25mm machine gun; 2 x M-2HB .50 caliber machine gun (1987)

Class History: The 210-foot cutters were added to the Coast Guard as part of an effort to upgrade the aging fleet of World War II-era cutters.  The Naval Engineering Division designed these cutters for search and rescue and law enforcement patrols of a "medium endurance"--i.e. they could conduct patrols of up to three weeks without requiring replenishment.   The outward appearance of these new cutters reflected the evolving nature of Coast Guard operations during the latter part of the 20th Century.  They had sleek lines with the most prominent feature being their flight decks.  They were originally fitted with transom exhaust ports that provided more room for a larger flight deck and kept the flight deck clear of exhaust smoke.  In practice, however, the exhaust system proved problematic.  Their high pilot house gave the bridge crew unrestricted all-around visibility, making ship-handling easier.  A number of other concerns figured into the design phase including maximum serviceability, improved habitability, long service life, and safety. 

Two shafts capped by controllable pitch propellers drove these cutters to a top speed of 18 knots.  Those shafts were powered by a number of different power plants.  The Coast Guard actually designed two types of propulsion.  Cutters 615-619 received a CODAG propulsion plant consisting of two Cooper-Bessemer Corporation FVBM-12 turbocharged diesel engines coupled with two Solar Aircraft Company gas turbines, the first U.S. vessels to receive this unique propulsion system.  The other cutters received only the diesels.  The propulsion system could be remotely controlled from the pilothouse, either bridge wing, or the engine room control booth. 

Crew comfort and convenience were also a priority.  The Coast Guard actually hired the interior design firm Raymond Loewy Associates of New York to design the cutters' interior arrangement, colors, materials, furniture and appointments.  The interior spaces were paneled and all piping and cables were hidden behind removable panels.  The entire interior of the cutter was air conditioned for crew comfort.  Additionally, "color schemes have been designed to give varied and pleasing effect."  The recreation rooms included television sets, tape recording and playback equipment, AN/URR-44 radio receivers, and commercial AM/FM high fidelity radio receivers. These cutters were also designed to incorporate additional armament in case of national emergency.  This equipment originally would have consisted of: an additional 3-inch gun; a total of six .50 caliber machine guns with mounts; an SQS-17 sonar (later suggestions included using a SQS-36); one anti-submarine projector (Hedgehog); two torpedo launchers and two depth charge tracks.  Space was included in the original design to incorporate the additional equipment although stability issues were a continual concern.  No cutter, according to the historical documents, was actually ever fitted with this wartime armament. 

Each cutter underwent a "Major Maintenance Availability process," or MMA, between 1986 and 1996 at a cost of between 19 and 21 million dollars per cutter.  The Coast Guard Yard conducted the work on all but two cutters and Colonna's Shipyard, in Norfolk, Virginia, converted the remainder.  The first five cutters traded in their unique powerplants and every cutter received the following modifications and upgrades: improved habitability, improved stability by rearranging tank locations, replacement of all asbestos paneling, increased the berthing space, upgraded the flight deck and helicopter equipment, increased the amount of helicopter fuel carried, improved the evaporator, increased and upgraded the communications and electronics capacities, installed vertical exhaust stacks and associated ballast, and installed a smoke detection system and new fire-fighting equipment.  


Dauntless is the first cutter in Coast Guard history to hold this name.  Like all ships in the "Reliance" class of 210-foot medium endurance cutters, Dauntless is named for an aspirational trait, in this case meaning to "persevere fearlessly".  This trait is further reflected in the ship's motto "Sin Miedo" which, in Spanish, means "Without Fear".

Since her commissioning in 1967, Dauntless was homeported in Miami, Florida, until 1993 when she was decommissioned and entered Major Maintenance Availability (MMA) at the Coast Guard Yard in Curtis Bay, Maryland.  Lasting 18 months and at a total cost of 21 million dollars, the ship was completely overhauled from stem to stern.  The major renovations included the addition of an engine exhaust stack aft of the pilot house, a complete powerplant overhaul, installation of new navigation and communications systems, and extensive habitability improvements.  After MMA, Dauntless was assigned to her new homeport of Galveston, Texas.

Throughout her distinguished history, Dauntless has compiled an impressive record of operational achievements, swiftly earning a reputation as one of the nation's premier "drug busters."  In fact, Dauntless became the first cutter in history to seize one million pounds of marijuana, an accomplishment signified by a large gold marijuana leaf painted on her superstructure.  During her Coast Guard career, Dauntless has over 85 illegal narcotics "busts" to her credit, more than any other cutter!

Dauntless has also played a leading role in search and rescue (SAR) operations.  During the mass Cuban exodus between April 23 and May 13 of 1980, over 25 vessels were towed to safety, eight persons adrift at sea were rescued, and an astonishing 55 SAR cases were conducted!  The ship's most publicized case occurred during January 1986, when Dauntless was first to arrive and served as On Scene Commander (until relieved by USCGC Dallas) for the response to the space shuttle Challenger disaster.  On November 24, 1995, Dauntless rescued 578 migrants from a grossly overloaded 75 foot coastal freighter, the largest number of migrants rescued from a single vessel in Coast Guard history.

Since relocation to Galveston, Dauntless has proudly performed her primary missions of Law Enforcement, Alien Migrant Interdiction Operations, protection of marine resources, SAR, and more recently Homeland Defense in the Gulf of Mexico.  Operational highlights include the November 1995 rescue of 578 migrants from a grossly overloaded 75-foot coastal freighter; 4 drug “busts” resulting in over 3,000 pounds of illegal drugs seized; and the September 2001 rescue of a young commercial mariner from Louisiana who had fallen overboard from the vessel, on which he was working, and was successfully located and returned to his ship.  Since the events of 9-11-01, Dauntless has conducted several patrols dedicated to enhancing port security in the Gulf of Mexico.

Dauntless' awards include the Coast Guard Unit Commendation (2), the Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendation (5), the Coast Guard Bicentennial Unit Commendation, the Coast Guard "E" ribbon (6), the National Defense Service Medal (2), and the Humanitarian Service Medal (3).  She relocated to Galveston, Texas, in March of 1995.

She appeared in two motion pictures during her service life: the 1984 film The Island in which she was boarded and seized by Caribbean pirates and in the James Bond film License to Kill.  President Ronald Reagan visited the cutter on 17 November 1982 and awarded her the Coast Guard Unit Commendation.  It was the first time in 19 years that a president visited a Coast Guard cutter.


210-foot Class File, Historian's Office, USCG HQ

Anderson, F. C. & R. C. Stancliff, "The Reliance Class 210-Foot WPC," The Engineer's Digest (May-June 1962), pp. 11-15.

Schiena, Robert, U.S. Coast Guard Cutters & Craft, 1946-1990 (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1990), pp. 39-47.