General Greene, 1927 (WMEC-140)

Jan. 18, 2021

General Greene, 1927

WSC / WMEC-140

General Nathanael Greene, born in Warwick, R.I., 7 August 1742, was elected to the colonial assembly in 1770 and became a strong champion of colonial liberty and an early advocate of independence. He commanded the militia during the siege of Boston; and served with Washington at Trenton, Brandywine, Germantown, and Valley Forge. He rendered outstanding service as Quartermaster General (1778-80), then took command of southern forces in the Carolinas campaign. By cunning strategy, he divided the forces under Cornwallis and turned the tide in the Carolinas. In this feat he was aided by his lieutenants, notably Daniel Morgan, Light-Horse Harry Lee, and partisan bands under Francis Marion, Thomas Sumter and Andrew Pickens. When he sold his estates to honor personal notes given to secure supplies for the Continental Army, the grateful people of Georgia voted to give him a plantation.

CLASS: Active Class Patrol Boat

BUILDER: American Brown Boveri Electric Corp., Camden, New Jersey

COMMISSIONED: 7 April 1927

LAUNCHED: 14 February 1927

DECOMMISSIONED: was transported to Newburyport, Massachusetts


PROPULSION: 2 x 6-cylinder, 300 hp engines

LENGTH: 125 feet

BEAM: 23 feet, 6 inches

DRAFT: 7 feet, 6 inches

COMPLEMENT: 20 (1927); 28 (1968)

ARMAMENT: 1 x 3"/27 (1927); in WWII two dc racks were added

Class History:

This class of vessels was one of the most useful and long- lasting in Coast Guard service with 16 cutters still in use in the 1960’s. The last to be decommissioned from active service was the Morris in 1970; the last in actual service was the Cuyahoga, which sank after an accidental collision in 1978. They were designed for trailing the "mother ships" along the outer line of patrol during Prohibition.  They were constructed at a cost of $63,173 each. They gained a reputation for durability that was only enhanced by their re-engining in the late 1930’s; their original 6-cylinder diesels were replaced by significantly more powerful 8-cylinder units that used the original engine beds and gave the vessels 3 additional knots.  All served in World War II, but two, the Jackson and Bedloe, were lost in a storm in 1944.  Ten were refitted as buoy tenders during the war and reverted to patrol work afterward.

Cutter History:

The General Greene was built at a cost of $90,000 in 1927 by the American Brown Boveri Corporation of Camden, New Jersey.  She was launched on 14 February 1927 and was commissioned on 18 March 1927.  She was stationed at Boston, Massachusetts where she patrolled for rum runners and other law enforcement and search and rescue duties.

The General Greene was assigned to the International Ice Patrol from 1931 to 1933.  She was at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, in the late 1930s and conducted an oceanographic survey off Newfoundland in 1941.  While on this survey she was ordered to search for the survivors of two torpedoed British freighters off the coast of Greenland in May, 1941.  She located and rescued 39 survivors of the torpedoed freighter SS Marconi.  While on that search and rescue mission, she observed part of the Royal Navy task force engaging the German battleship Bismarck.  

In early 1942 the Navy assigned her the designation and hull number WSC-140.  She was assigned to SAR and escort-of-convoy operations during the war.  On 25 May 1942 she responded to a call for assistance from the torpedoed British freighter SS Peisander in a dense fog off Nantucket Shoals.  As the cutter approached a lifeboat with the freighter's survivors aboard, a lookout sighted a U-boat crash diving across the cutter's bow.  The cutter first tried to ram the submarine but did not arrive before the submarine slipped beneath the waves.  The General Greene then acquired the U-boat on sonar and closed.  She dropped three depth charges on the contact which produced an oil slick some 400 feet in diameter.  The cutter was unable to regain sonar contact and returned to rescue the 18 survivors.   

In 1946 she was assigned to Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

From 1947 until her decommissioning, she served out of Gloucester, Massachusetts.  On 7 March 1960, she grounded at East Sandwich, Massachusetts while on a rescue mission during the height of New England's worst storm of the year.  Her tow line became entangled in her propellers, rendering her engines useless.  Though both her anchors were quickly dropped, only the port anchor kept the cutter from grounding immediately.  The cutter Acushnet responded but was unable to secure a towline to the disabled General Greene due to the heavy winds and 40-foot seas.  After the General Greene lost her starboard anchor and chain, she could not withstand the power of the winds and seas that finally drove her ashore on the beach.  It then took four days for the cutter Acushnet, with the assistance of the Massachusetts National Guard working from the beachside to refloat the General GreeneOn 6 December 1967 she fought a fire aboard the F/V Agda W ten miles south of Nantucket. 

During her final years in Coast Guard service, she added to her duties the surveillance of foreign fishing fleets off the coast.  She was decommissioned on 15 November 1968.  She was transferred to Newburyport, Massachusetts, for use as a museum ship but the City could not afford her upkeep.  She was reacquired by the Coast Guard in 1976 and turned over to the General Services Administration for final disposal.  She was sold and, in 1979, was seized by the Coast Guard for drug smuggling.  At that time she was named Belmont and her 14-member crew, all arrested, claimed Guatemalan registry.


Cutter History File.  USCG Historian's Office, USCG HQ, Washington, D.C.

Robert Scheina.  U.S. Coast Guard Cutters & Craft of World War II.  Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1982.

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