Escanaba, 1946 (WHEC-64)

Jan. 4, 2021

Escanaba, 1946

Photo of Escanaba

Call sign: NLUR

The Escanaba was named for Escanaba Lake, New York.

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

Commissioned:  20 March 1946 

Decommissioned:  28 June 1974 


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 (!966)
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:

Escanaba was originally named Otsego. She was homeported at Alameda, CA, from 1946 to 1954, and used for law enforcement, ocean station, and search and rescue operations in the Pacific. She was decommissioned and placed in storage from 1954 to 1957. From 1957 to 28 June 1973, she was stationed at New Bedford, MA, and used for law enforcement, ocean station, and search and rescue operations in the Atlantic. 

In late November 1965, she assisted the US M/Vs American Pilot and Maumee Sun following their collision west of Cape Cod Canal. On 10 January 1966, she rescued two survivors from M/V Monte Palomares that sank in heavy seas with a loss 31 lives. On 5 February 1967, she rescued two Cuban refugees from Elbow Cay. In January 1969, she was disabled 100 miles east of Virginia Beach, VA, when the aft bearing on the main motor burned out. She arrived at Norfolk, VA, on 20 January. From 28 December 1969 to 2 January 1970, she escorted the distressed East German M/V Ange to Bermuda. 

On 13 January 1970, she stood by the Norwegian M/V Chandeleur in the mid-Atlantic until fire damage was repaired. Two days later, she escorted the distressed Norwegian M/V Condo until she could proceed on her own. On 25 March 1970, she medevaced a crewman from the Korean M/V Kumsong in the mid-Atlantic. 


Photo of Escanaba

Escanaba, 17 February 1965.  Rel. No. 6105.  Caption reads: "The 255-ft. U.S. Coast Guard Cutter ESCANABA, based at New Bedford, Massachusetts, takes a salty shower bath in rough North Atlantic weather on ocean station "Delta," 650 miles southeast of Newfoundland and east of Nova Scotia.  This scene was photographed by Robert A. Small, Chief Quartermaster (Signalman), USCG, from the Coast Guard cutter OWASCO as he watched the ESCANABA being relieved of ocean station patrol by the Coast Guard cutter MENDOTA."

Photo of Escanaba

Escanaba, 1 September 1968, color photo.  Photo No. 090168-01.  No 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.