USS Sea Cloud, 1942
WPG 284; IX-99; ex-Hussar
Builder: Krupp, Kiel, Germany
Beam: 49' 2"
Displacement: 3,077 tons (1942)
Cost: $318,101 for conversion (1942)
Commissioned: Chartered by USN on a bareboat charter for $1.00 from Joseph E. Davis on 2 January 1942; commissioned USCG on 4 April 1942; 9 April 1943 (USN)
Decommissioned: 4 November 1944
Disposition: Returned to her owner
Machinery: Diesel-electric, twin shafts
Top speed: 14 knots
Complement: 21 officers, 1 warrant, 13 chief petty officers, 160 enlisted men
Radar: 1 x ET 80198-2-22MC
1 x ET 8010C 375-500 KC
1 x ET 8012B 2100 - 3000 KC
Other: Sonar, echo ranging equipment, range recorder, Sub-Sig Fathometer
Armament: 2 x 3"/50; 8 x 20mm/80; 4 x K-guns; 1 x "Mark X" Hedgehog; 2 x depth charge tracks; 44 total depth charges carried on board.
The Coast Guard-manned USS Sea Cloud was originally built in Kiel, Germany as the four-masted bark Hussar for E. F. Hutton. She was launched in 1931. The U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union, Joseph E. Davis, acquired her in 1935 and renamed her Sea Cloud. Mr. Davies first offered her to the Navy Department in 1941, but the Navy initially declined his offer. With the onset of war, however, the Navy reconsidered and announced on 7 January 1942 that the "four-masted brigantine clipper. . .had been chartered for one dollar per year by the Navy for use of the Coast Guard." She sailed from Georgetown, South Carolina on 8 January 1942 for Curtis Bay, Maryland, arriving there on 11 January 1942. Here she underwent a conversion to a "weather observation station vessel," at the Coast Guard Yard. She was commissioned a Coast Guard cutter on 4 April 1942, given the designation WPG-284, and assigned to the Eastern Sea Frontier. Her permanent homeport was Boston.
For the next year, she served on Atlantic weather patrol stations, initially at Weather Patrol Station No. 2, located at 52° N x 42° 30'W. During the rest of the year, she alternated on the weather stations with the CGC Monomoy (WAG-275), CGC Manasquan (WAG-273), and CGC Manahassett (WAG-276) among others, with each vessel serving on station for up to three weeks. She rescued eight survivors from the schooner Maria da Gloria on 6 June 1942. From 3 to 24 August 1942 Sea Cloud was assigned to Weather Station No. 1 while the Manahassett completed her conversion to a weather observation station vessel.
The Navy requested that the Coast Guard relinquish administrative control of Sea Cloud (along with the Nourmahal, WPG-122, another former yacht taken over for weather patrol duties), and she was commissioned on 9 April 1943, in the Navy, although she retained her Coast Guard crew. Later that year, her new commanding officer LT Carlton Skinner, who first reported aboard as executive officer in November, 1944 and took over command after his first weather patrol, oversaw an experiment in racial integration aboard a warship. He had sent a memorandum up the chain of command recommending an attempt to begin training African-American seamen in ratings other than the stewardsmate rating, at the time the only rating open to minorities. The Commandant approved Skinner's request and starting sending seamen apprentices aboard the Sea Cloud. Within a few month, there were over 50 African-Americans assigned to the Sea Cloud, including two officers. Skinner had requested no special treatment or publicity and the Sea Cloud simply carried out her weather patrols like the other warships assigned to Task Force 24. Skinner reported no significant problems and the Sea Cloud passed two Atlantic Fleet inspections with no deficiencies. For a first-person account written by Skinner of the project, click here.
In the beginning of February, 1944, she was proceeding to Weather Station No. 2. She relieved the CGC Conifer (WAGL-301) on the 5th of February and patrolled the 100 square miles at 52° North x 44° 30' West until February 26th, sending daily weather reports as per schedule to the District Coast Guard Officer, First Naval District. She was relieved of this duty on 27 February and proceeded to Boston, arriving there on 4 March 1944. After overhauling at Atlantic Yard, East Boston, she proceeded to Weather Station No. 1 on the 11th of March, patrolling the 100 square miles at 34° North x 55° West from the 14th of March until the 4th of April, 1944. On the 23rd of March all Atlantic Weather Patrol vessels were placed under Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet, with Commander, Task Force 24, having control of operations and Commander, Destroyers, Atlantic Fleet having charge of administration. On 31 March, C.T.F. 24 issued orders to the Sea Cloud to continue to base at Boston, and adhere to the existing patrol schedule prepared by the District Coast Guard Officer of the First Naval District.
Relieved on the 4th of April by the CGC Sorrel (WAGL-296) the Sea Cloud set course for Boston. On the 5th at 2141 she had a radar contact on a small surface target at 39° 27' North x 62° 30' West, bearing 350 degrees true at a range of 3,000 yards. General Quarters was sounded; all battle stations were manned and ready. The vessel lost the contact 10 minutes later. The target was plotted on course 015 degrees at 10 knots and evaluated and reported as a submarine. After carrying out standard anti-submarine warfare plan to regain contact, without success, the Sea Cloud continued towards Boston, arriving on the 7th of April. From the 7th to the 20th of April, she underwent minor repairs and prepared for sea, receiving a new schedule of weather observations as well as orders to base at Argentia, Newfoundland, except for the 30-day overhaul period when she was to base at Boston. On the 20th of April she departed for Weather Station No. 2, relieving the USS Zircon (PY-16) on the 25th and patrolled the station until the 16th of May when the Sorrel relieved her. She set course for Argentia and moored there on the 20th of May, where she received a new schedule.
On 20 May 1944, she departed for Weather Station No. 3 and relieved the Zircon on the 2nd of June, patrolling the 100 square miles at 43° North x 37° West until June 11th, when a Navy Grumman TBF Avenger was sighted and recognition signals exchanged. The Sea Cloud received orders from the plane to steer course 035°T. She changed course and proceeded at full speed. At 1655 the aircraft carrier USS Croatan (CVE-25) and five escort vessels under command of C.T.G. 22.5 were sighted. At 1748 the Sea Cloud was ordered to report to the Croatan and at 1752 to take position astern of that vessel. At 2001 the Sea Cloud was ordered to proceed to 40° 12' West to investigate a reported life raft. She arrived at the point at 0318 on the 12th of June and began to search for the raft but abandoned search at 0919 on the 13th and resumed patrol of Weather Station No. 3. She was relieved by the Sorrel on the 21st of June and arrived at Argentia on the 24th.
On the 8th of July, 1944, after undergoing voyage repairs, the Sea Cloud departed and relieved the Zircon on Weather Station No. 4, patrolling the 100 square miles at 55° North x 44° 30' West until August 2nd, when she was relieved. Following a search on that date for survivors of an aircraft reported lost in the area, the Sea Cloud set course at 1940 for Boston and remained at the Atlantic Ship Yard undergoing repairs and conversion for the rest of the month.
She was decommissioned on 4 November 1944 at the Bethlehem Steel Atlantic Yard, East Boston, and returned to her owner, along with $175,000 to convert her back to her pre-war appearance. The Sea Cloud was stricken from the Navy Vessel Register on 13 November 1944.
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.