Sycamore, 1941 (WAGL-268)

Nov. 23, 2021

Sycamore, 1941


Any of various deciduous trees of the genus Platanus, especially P. occidentalis of eastern North America, having palmately lobed leaves, ball-like, nodding, hairy fruit clusters, and bark that flakes off in large colorful patches.  Also called buttonball, buttonwood.

Builder: Dubuque Boat & Boiler Works, Dubuque, Iowa

Length: 113' 9"

Beam: 26'

Draft: 5' 6"

Displacement: 280 tons

Cost: $159,000

Commissioned: 9 September 1941

Decommissioned: 30 June 1977


Machinery: 2 General Motors diesel engines; 800 BHP; twin propellers

Performance & Endurance:

        Max: 11.0 knots; 1,325 mile range
        Cruising: 8.0 knots; 1,766 mile range

Deck Gear: Boom; electrically powered winch

Complement: 1 warrant, 19 enlisted

Armament: Small arms

Electronics: None (1964)

Tender History:

The United States tender Sycamore was one of three 114-foot river tenders built for the Coast Guard that were launched in 1941 and 1942: Dogwood (WAGL-259) , Forsythia (WAGL-63), and Sycamore (WAGL-268).  They were designed to replace the aging stern-wheel steamers such as the Cottonwood and Wakerobin that were in service on the Mississippi River.  The 114-footers were designed to be more versatile and less expensive to maintain, the latter being a Coast Guard priority.  Their engines were replaced in the 1960s.  They were designed to push a work barge that held buoys, other aids to navigation equipment, and a crane.  Each was tasked with maintaining aids to navigation but also conducted flood relief, search and rescue, and law enforcement operations as well as pleasure boat safety boardings when needed. 

Sycamore was launched by the Dubuque Boat & Boiler Works in Dubuque, Iowa, on 16 June 1941 and was commissioned on 9 September 1941.  She was assigned to the 9th District and was initially stationed at Dubuque, Iowa where she was responsible for maintaining aids to navigation on the upper Mississippi River with short runs on the Minnesota and St. Croix Rivers.  While on the upper Mississippi River she was involved in a search for a B-25 Mitchell bomber that had crashed in Lake Pippin.  There, after 24 hours, she located the bomber during dragging operations.  The aircraft was successfully salvaged.  She was transferred to La Crosse, Wisconsin beginning on 1 April 1942 and was iced in that port during the winter.  She returned to Dubuque on 1 March 1944.

On 26 February 1952 she transferred to Cincinnati, Ohio, where she remained based out of until 7 January 1958.  Here she was responsible for maintaining aids to navigation on the Ohio River from Ravenswood, West Virginia at the upper end, to Louisville, Kentucky at the lower end.  On 8 January 1958 she she transferred to New Richmond, Ohio.  Here she was responsible for maintaining more than 277 aids to navigation over 325 miles of the Ohio River.  On 8 February 1964 she returned to Cincinatti until January of 1966 when she transferred to Memphis, Tennessee where she was responsible for tending aids to navigation along 130 miles of river, from Curruthersville, Missouri to the Memphis Highway Bridge.  On 25 October, 1968, while assisting two vessels that collided, the M/V Pat Chotin and the M/V Hugh Blaske, Sycamore encountered two burning barges floating downstream, one loaded with 29,000 barrels of gasoline and diesel fuel and the other filled with grain.  With raging fires blazine from the fuel barge and fuel spilling overboard, Sycamore's crew fought the fires, forced the barge aground and skillfully maneuvered it asway from the smoldering grain.  These actions prevented a major disaster on a heavily traveled waterway.  She and her crew were awarded the Coast Guard Unit Commendation Ribbon.

During 1970, she placed more than 4,400 buoys on station and moved or established her 95 shore towers 137 times.  During a single trip during the summer of 1969 her crew set 400 buoys, built eight towers, and cut brush from around 12 others.  While stationed in Memphis, she assisted in fighting a fire on board the M/V Ouachita 24 miles south of Memphis.  On 19 June 1973 she transferred to Sewickley, Pennsylvania.  Here she tended 225 buoy stations over 447 miles of waterway, including the Ohio, Monogahela, and Allegheny Rivers between Point Pleasant, West Virginia to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh to Fairmont, West Virginia, and Pittsburgh to Greensboro, Pennsylvania.  

During her Coast Guard career, Sycamore was awarded two Coast Guard Unit Commendation Ribbons.  She was decommissioned on 30 June 1977.


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.