The American Queen

The American Queen

Written by: LTJG Galen A. Varon, USCG

Immediate Call for STORIS Supporters



Attention STORIS supporters:
The time to rally for STORIS' National Register Nomination has come. Here are the special instructions we have been waiting for from Jim Loback of the Storis Museum.
11 September 2012
Our nomination of STORIS to the National Register of Historic Places is at Coast Guard Headquarters and the 45-day period for comments supporting this nomination will start on 15 September 2012. We need as many letters sent in supporting this nomination as possible. Please share your personal connection to STORIS, why you feel she should be listed on the National Register and why she should be preserved. To make it easier we ask that you write one letter that can not only support STORIS' nomination for the National Register, but also can be used as a letter of support in the Senate. The letter can be addressed as follows:
Admiral Robert J. Papp,
Commandant United States Coast Guard
2100 Second Street – Stop 7901
Washington, DC 20593-7901
Because of security measures and other steps necessary to send mail to U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters, postal mail can often be delayed. Because of the urgent nature of our task, instead please mail your letter to:
Storis Museum
c/o Jim Loback
10436 Teal Circle
Fountain Valley, CA 92708
You can email the letter to storismuseum@ve if you prefer. We have a special email address for a contact at the Coast Guard to whom we can directly send letters of support to expedite the process.
The letter will be copied, formatted to .pdf and distributed to:
1. United States Coast Guard
2. Senator Mark Begich’s Office in Alaska
3. Storis Museum Records
Hopefully you have read the Statement of Significance (Section 8) of the nomination and this should help with your comments. Please do not delay with this, as we want all the letters turned over to the above offices by the first part of October.
Thanks for your help,

The USCGC DECISIVE's 44th Anniversary




After the end of WWII in 1945, the United States Coast Guard began to remove the heavy wartime arsenal from its Cutters as it looked to shift to more domestic missions such as maritime law enforcement and search and rescue.  By 1956 the United States Coast Guard only had an inventory of 128 aircraft of which 50 were dated from WWII.  Although these aircraft were used for search and rescue missions, the Coast Guard simply didn’t have enough to sustain its new post-war mission.  Due to existing budget limitations, the Coast Guard didn’t fully receive funding to improve the air capabilities for search and rescue missions until 1960.  By this time the Coast Guard was also seeking to replace its aging WWII-era Cutter fleet.  


The first Cutters to meet both the needs of the aviation community and the needs of aging Cutter fleet were the 210’ Reliance-Class Medium Endurance Cutters.  These ships would feature a prominent flight deck capable of landing the very successful HH-52 Sikorsky Helicopters .  The original design of the 210’ Cutters were to have the exhaust ports on the stern instead of through typical stacks in order to create a larger flight deck and to improve visibility for pilots.  The first of the 210-foot Cutters was the RELIANCE commission in June of 1964.  The Coast Guard Cutter DECISIVE was the fifteenth of sixteen 210’ Cutters and was commissioned on August 23, 1968.  The success of the 210’ Cutter fleet which supports air missions has indeed been impressive.  During the ten year period 1965 -1975 the number of Coast Guard search and rescue cases increased by 62% and the number of lives saved increased by 54%!


Initially stationed in New Castle, New Hampshire the DECISIVE contributed to numerous law enforcement and search and rescue missions.  In 1971, President Richard Nixon first declared the War on Drugs which again shifted U.S. Coast Guard mission objectives.  The DECISIVE was ordered to St. Petersburg, Florida in support of this drug initiative in 1982.  In the first fourteen years in Florida, the DECISIVE seized more than 125 tons of cocaine and marijuana.  Additionally, she played an important role in the Haitian migrant interdiction efforts in the mid-1990’s including a rescue of 516 Haitians on an overloaded ship—the second largest immigrant interdiction in Coast Guard history.  


In 1996 she was the last 210’ foot Cutter to undergo Major Maintenance Availability (MMA)—a mid-life refurbishment and improvement effort in order to increase longevity and improve inefficiencies such as the exhaust system on the fantail.  With the Sikorsky Helicopter replaced with a much smaller HH65 Dolphin Helicopter, there wasn’t a need to have such a large flight deck on 210’s anymore.  Additionally, it was said that if the exhaust were moved to traditional stacks it would help improved stability to the 210’ underway platform.  I had been stationed on the DECISIVE for a total of nine months before it had this major overhaul.  I can say with absolute certainty that even in the worst sea conditions I experienced onboard the DECISIVE it was nothing compared to the STORIS’s normal ride!


After the MMA period she changed her homeport to Pascagoula, Mississippi.  In 2007 the DECISIVE played an integral part in the Coast Guard recovery efforts in response to Hurricane Katrina—one of the most deadliest and costliest hurricanes in American history.  Additionally in 2010 she responded to worst ecological disaster in history—the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  Today she continues to play an important role in law enforcement and search and rescue in the Gulf of Mexico.


The Coast Guard Cutter DECISIVE was the first Cutter I was assigned to after initial Basic Training.  Like any member of the Deck Department onboard DECISIVE (or on any Cutter for that matter) in early 1995, I routinely performed deck maintenance such as deck grinding, sanding, and painting.  I had even painted the hull numbers black on occasion.  Upon my departure of the DECISIVE I received a ship’s plaque inscribed with the words ‘Queen of the Fleet’.  I never thought to ask how the ship could have possibly used that title.




                    "QUEEN OF THE FLEET"                                                         "DEDICATED TO DUTY"


In the years that followed my departure, the crew also had an emblem made from the US Army’s Institute of Heraldry which has the words ‘Queen of the Fleet’ depicted on it and the hull numbers are even in shown in gold!    This emblem was used used on the Cutter's website for roughly five years until January 2012 when the webmaster place the current emblem entitled "DEDICATED TO DUTY".  I find her use of the term ‘Queen of the Fleet’ in her history both upsetting and disturbing, especially since she is not formally recognized by anybody is being the Queen besides her own self.  As a former DECISIVE sailor I am especially sympathetic for her desire to be in the Royal court.  However as a researcher, a Cutterman and an officer I cannot rightfully validate this usage.




Second "Official" Queen of the Fleet Came and Went Today


USCGC DUANE (WPG/WHEC-33).  Second "Official" Queen of the Fleet.


The Coast Guard Cutter DUANE was the third Cutter to be named after William John Duane—the third Secretary of the Treasury to serve under President Andrew Jackson.  She was the second Cutter build (after the CAMPBELL) as part of the highly-successful 327’ Treasury-Class High Endurance Cutters.   Commissioned on August 1, 1936, her initial assignment was to assist in the U.S. colonization efforts of the Line Islands in the Pacific.  She then spent time conducting Bering Sea patrols and was moved to the East Coast where she conducted Grand Banks neutrality patrols as ordered by President Franklin Roosevelt.  
On February 22, 1942 while convoy duty DUANE was subject to the merciless waves of the North Atlantic.  Winds were near 60mph which caused 25-30 foot swells.  While conducting an inspection of depth charge tracks the unit’s Gunnery Officer (LTJG Robert W. Goehring), was washed overboard!  The lookout watchstander saw him over 100 yards away and notified the bridge.  With poor visibility over crests of waves, sea conditions creating poor maneuverability and hypothermia concerns, the crew had to act quickly.  Immediately assembling man overboard stations, DUANE approached LTJG Goehring and prepared for a shipboard pickup.  The massive waves actually lifted LTJG Goehring in a position where deck hands managed to grab him—practically being washed back onboard.  This story would be known as the ‘Miracle at Sea’.
The DUANE spent the greater part of WWII on convoy duty in the area around Iceland and Greenland engaging in several skirmishes with enemy vessels.  After the war she routinely conducted weather station duty in the Atlantic.  Prior to her tasking in support of the Vietnam War, she conducted several high-profile search and rescue cases in the Atlantic.  In December of 1967 she was assigned to the third Coast Guard Squadron and was the flag for the entire Coast Guard Squadron.  Her mission was to interdict supplies and arms being smuggled to the Viet Cong.  She fired 1,778 rounds during 17 naval gunfire support missions and conducted boardings and inspections to 5,631 vessels.  Additionally, she acted as a replenishment vessel to US Navy Swift Boats and Coast Guard 82’ Patrol Boats and provided medical attention to over 300 Vietnamese villagers.  In 1968 she earned the title of ‘Queen of the Squadron’ when she hosted a Squadron Change of Command Ceremony onboard.  
After the Vietnam War ended, she continued to conducted weather station, search and rescue, drug interdiction and law enforcement up and down the eastern seaboard.  On April 1, 1982 the CAMPBELL was decommissioned which conveyed the title and gold hull numbers to the DUANE.  She continued to conduct search and rescue and drug interdiction cases until she too was decommissioned on August 1, 1985.  A yearbook with official Cutter history was printed for the occasion which was titled, 33: Coast Guard Cutter Duane: Queen of the Seas: 1 August 1936 - 1 August 1985.  On November 27, 1987 she was sunk as an artificial reef one mile off Molasses Reef, Florida.

Four Years Since Mt. Ballyhoo Bunker Refurbishment


The USCGC STORIS Mt. Ballyhoo Bunker in Dutch Harbor, AK. 
For centuries the Island of Unalaska (Alaska) has been a strategic location along the northern Pacific shipping route. In 1759, Russian fur traders settled and established their presence there. Plagues and insurrections by natives Aleuts to try and deter Russian presence were never successful. Spain had even staked claim to the island in 1788 because of its lucrative position between the Americas and the East Indies—although they didn’t turn out to be much of a threat to the existing Russian occupancy. In 1867 Russia sold Alaska to the United States and in 1940 the US began to fortify Dutch Harbor. During the pre‐WWII fortification of Dutch Harbor, scores of artillery bunkers were constructed within the sides of Mount Ballyhoo which overlooks Iliuliuk Bay in Dutch Harbor.
During WWII Japan believed that the occupation of Unalaska would extend their defensive perimeter in the north Pacific to make it more difficult for the U.S. to attack Japan from that area. Dubbed the Aleutian Campaign, the Japanese attacked Dutch Harbor on June 3, 1942 (only 119 days prior to STORIS’s commissioning) in order to gain occupation of the Aleutians18. On the very next day (June 4, 1942) the Battle of Midway was launched 1859 miles to the southwest in the middle of the Pacific. Historians believe that Midway was perhaps the most pivotal battle of the entire Pacific during WWII because the Imperial Japanese Navy suffered substantial losses by the U.S., which included four carriers. As the news came in of the devastating losses to their otherwise superior naval forces, Japan stood down from further attacks on Alaska and regrouped in the Pacific from their losses at Midway. 

The STORIS crew in 2000 painting the bunker.


Although heavily used during the war, after the Japanese surrender in 1945 these bunkers were abandoned by the US government. Years later, crews of visiting Coast Guard Cutters throughout the entire Pacific fleet would take some fresh paint, brushes, rollers and trays and ascend over 300 feet up Mount Ballyhoo to paint the name of their Cutter on one of these WWII‐era bunkers which measured 20’ high and 50’ wide. While one may consider this act of permanent name affixture as vandalism, consider this—in July 2011 the city of Dutch Harbor invited the Cutter RUSH to paint their name on a bunker because of their ‘contributions to the communities of the Aleutian Islands and their presence in the Bering Sea on patrol’. 


The STORIS bunker before the restoration (on July 27, 2008).

On July 27, 2008 eleven crewmen of the Coast Guard Cutter JARVIS (homeported in Honolulu, HI) revered the titled of ‘Queen of the Fleet’ responsibly—they completely refurbished a weather‐eroded bunker with the STORIS’s name on it. I find their work to be both comforting and deserving. I believe these eleven crewmen define what it is to be a true shipmate—by doing something for somebody who couldn’t do it for themselves. The STORIS was decommissioned at the time and couldn’t have refurbished the sign for themselves.

55-year Anniversary of NW Passage Expedition start

Northwest Passage Commemorative Stamp. See below how you can order a roll of 20 of these stamps.


In the early 1950's in America anti-Communism had been on the rise, as evidenced by claims from Sen. Joseph McCarthy that Communist had infiltrated the US government in 1950.  By 1952, then-candidate and former military-hero Dwight Eisenhower ran on a campaign against “Communism, Korea and corruption”.  By a landslide he won the Presidency and in 1954 he signed a bill into law approving the construction of the Distance Early Warning (DEW) Line.  This line of 58 radar sites, approximately 100 miles apart, across the northern shores of the Alaska, Canadian and Greenland were to detect and relay information on Soviet aircraft traveling over the North Pole to attack America.  The early warning would give cities in the U.S. hours of lead time to possibly evacuate and avoid certain death.  In 1955 the STORIS was tasked to work with the U.S. Navy to supply materials for the construction of DEW sites in Alaska.

While conducting DEW Line operations with the Navy in 1955, rumors were floating amongst the STORIS crew (like the many ice floats she avoided for her first 13 years) that she was going to circle North America.  This feat, almost remarkably had never been accomplished by an American vessel before.  The route over Canada, called the Northwest Passage, had been the holy grail of sailing for all navigators, sailors, seaman and seafarers for nearly 450 years.  Since the age of the earliest explorers, it had long been a desire to find a faster way to the East.  Sailing all the way around the southern point of Africa (Cape Horn) adds nearly 2500 extra miles onto the voyage to the East rather than going over Canada.  Over the centuries many noble efforts had been made to conquer the Northwest Passage only to result in shipwreck, mutiny or even disappearance.  The weather conditions alone make the journey next to impossible.  Only certain times of the year there are even channels along the route that aren’t completely iced in.  Additionally, the average annual temperature of Resolute, Canada (the northernmost occupied settlement of Canada and located at the banks of the Northwest Passage) is just 2.5°F, as opposed to the annual temperature of Cape Horn which is 62.2°F!  Without central heat onboard a ship, sailors could not even function without bulky protective clothing.  Along with many other treacherous conditions (i.e. ice drifts, navigation charts without depth readings and the fluctuations in the magnetic North Pole) it was considered too risky to transit.
Prior to 1957, history only records two expeditions to ever successfully transit the Northwest Passage.  The first was a Norwegian by the name of Roald Amundsen.  In 1903 he took his shallow-draft herring sloop, called the GJØA, through the Northwest Passage.  But it took him nearly two years to accomplish this feat as the GJØA had frozen in place. The second was another Norwegian by the name of Henry Larsen.  In 1940 he took the ST. ROCH (a Royal Canadian Mounted Police supply vessel) through the Northwest Passage.  Only this time he took three years (1940-1942) to do it, after being frozen in place twice and his boat nearly crushed by ice twice.  Larsen went on to be the first person to ever circumnavigate North America, but not continuously.  In early 1957, the Coast Guard Cutter STORIS received orders to accomplish what had long been deemed nearly impossible—to transit the Northwest Passage, continue on to circumnavigate the North American continent and to return to homeport.  The purpose of this mission was to resupply the newly-finished DEW Line stations, capture depth sounds through the arctic waters, establish a safe deep-water route through the Northwest Passage and to establish navigational aids in order to promote commerce.  The U.S. Coast Guard selected two Cutters to accompany the STORIS on this historic journey.  They were both 180-foot Buoy Tenders (just like the ones moored behind her on the day I arrived in Kodiak in 1996) called the SPAR and BRAMBLE.  
With the STORIS as the flagship vessel, the voyage would get underway on July 1, 1957 from Seattle, Washington.  In order to prepare of the task in front of them, the two Buoy Tenders were sent to drydock and equipped with steel reinforcement ice belts in order to strengthen their hulls for the undoubtedly solid ice they would encounter along the way.  The STORIS would not make any structural changes for the journey; rather load thousands of extra pounds of additional cargo for the mission at hand.  Since the SPAR and BRAMBLE were both stationed on the east coast at the time (Bristol, RI and Miami Beach, FL respectively) they would have to start early, transit through the Panama Canal and meet the STORIS in Seattle.  Under the command of CAPT Harold Wood, Commanding Officer of the STORIS, the ‘three stubby little ships’ as Newsweek Magazine put them, assembled Task Unit 5.1.5 and departed with little fanfare.  For the next 67 days the three ships successfully found, charted and recorded depth soundings in the Northwest Passage while resupplying DEW Line stations in record time.  The mission covered over 22,000 miles of water and when the STORIS returned to the Greenland waters she patrolled 15 years earlier, she officially became the first US flag vessel to transit the Northwest Passage on a single journey.  Because she had already went through the Panama Canal after the war, she was technically the first US vessel to ever successfully circumnavigate North America.  
Northwest Passage Commemrative Plaque


After the completion, each ship was presented a brozen plaque by the US Secretary of Treasury Robert Anderson to represent the occasion.  This plaque was permanently mounted on each ship until the day of each ship was decommissioned.  The historic transit through the Northwest Passage made headlines and even prompted President Dwight Eisenhower to send the following telegraph to the Secretary of Treasury, Robert B. Anderson, on September 22, 1957: 

Marking the 55th Anniversary of the Historic Northwest Passage Journey in 2012, in cooperation with, a US Postal Inspection has approved of the Northwest Passage Commemorative Stamp to be used as official US Postage. You can purchase the stamp from the's ship store  for only $24.95 for a sheet of 20 stamps.

First USCG "Queen of the Fleet" Came and Went Today


     In the early 1900s, ocean liner companies competed to provide the most space, the most amenities and the most comfort during the transatlantic crossings.  Consider the RMS TITANIC, which when she made her fateful maiden voyage on April 10, 1912 was the largest ocean liner in the world at 882 feet long.  Due to the failure of the United States Mail Steamship Company in 1920, a group of investors which included Kermit Roosevelt, son of President Theodore Roosevelt, took the three remaining ships from the United States Mail Steamship Company and formed the United States Lines.  The United States Lines would routinely carry cargo and passengers from New York to England and Germany.  
     The success of the United States Lines prompted the company to construct the SS MANHATTAN in 1930.  She would be the first ship exclusively built for the United States Lines and she would be a giant!  The first ocean liner build by an American shipyard since 1907, she would not only be the fastest cabin ship in the world but the highest powered and largest merchant ship ever built up to that point in American history.  Christened on December 5, 1931 by Mrs. Edith Kermit Roosevelt, widow of President Theodore Roosevelt, the 705-feet ship was called the ‘Queen of the Seas’.  This ship was filled with lavishness and opulence for those who could afford such luxury.  The country was in fact in the middle of the Great Depression at the time.  Interestingly enough, it is suggested that she was named after the alcoholic beverage which she served onboard in her lounges when she was 12 miles off the American shore because Prohibition wasn’t repealed until December of 1933.
     For the decade that followed, she made trips to Germany which included carrying the U.S. Olympic team to the Berlin in 1936.  By 1939 however, due the Neutrality Agreements signed by the United States her route was shifted to the Italian port of Genoa, and eventually to San Francisco because of European port activity due to the war.  On January 1, 1941 on a voyage to California she ran hard aground 300 yards off of West Palm Beach, Florida causing $1.2 million dollars worth of damage.  After numerous unsuccessful attempts by the U.S. Coast Guard to free the 25,000 ton ship, passengers were eventually disembarked and the SS MANHATTAN was freed from the sandbar three weeks later.   After six months of repairs the ship was chartered for government service.


     She was commissioned for U.S. Coast Guard service on June 15, 1941 and was assigned a Coast Guard crew, painted gray and equipped with heavy armaments.  She renamed the WAKEFIELD, which was the city in the state of Virginia where President George Washington was born.  She participated in war games and by the time the United States entered WWII in late 1941, she was well-prepared for her mission as a troop transport vessel.  In August of 1942 the WAKEFIELD left port with 6000 men, the largest number of troops ever ferried across the Atlantic in a single operation until that time.  On September 3, 1942 an onboard fire nearly consumed the entire ship!  It took four tugs to tow her back to port.  The United States government bought the ship outright from the United States Lines and made extensive repairs required to get the WAKEFIELD back underway as a military transport vessel.  It was a strategic move because between April 13, 1944 and February 1, 1946, WAKEFIELD transported 110,563 troops to Europe and the Pacific and brought some 106,674 men back to America—a total of 217,237 passengers.  
     On one of her final missions on Operation Magic Carpet (used for repatriating US troops from overseas from post-WWII Europe and Far East), the WAKEFIELD was scheduled to rendezvous with USS SAVAGE (DE-386), a US Navy Edsell-Class Destroyed under Coast Guard Command on January 1, 1946.  Similar to the STORIS’s traditional nautical observances of ringing in the New Year using the ship’s bell and writing the first log entry of the New Year in verse, the following are Deck Logs from the SAVAGE indicating the WAKEFIELD was the ‘Queen of the Fleet’:
December 31, 1945 - The oldest man rang out the old year and the youngest boy ran in the New Year.
January 1, 1946: Poem by Ensign A. W. Wofford, USCG
We’ve seen the last of ‘45.
On true course one three five.
We sail upon the China Sea.
At 13 knots steams our DE.
Four engines are on the line.
For we may sight a mine.
A Sea upon our stern.
To helping us along our run.
For not far off from land.
According to our plan.
We meet a queen of the fleet.
AP twenty-one.
January 2, 1946 - At rendezvous with USS WAKEFIELD (AP-2l)
     The WAKEFIELD would be decommissioned on June 15, 1946 exactly five years after entering service.  To this day, the USS WAKEFIELD (AP-21) would be the largest vessel ever manned by the U.S. Coast Guard.  She would briefly spend time in the National Defense Reserve Fleet, but was eventually sold for scrap in 1965.

94-year Anniversary of the USS NEW MEXICO Commissioning



As the distant cousin of the Revenue Cutter Service, the Continental Navy was established on October 13, 1775 with the creation of two warships.  As the two agencies and their missions matured over time, they shared similar customs and traditions and eventually became the United States Coast Guard and United States Navy, respectively.  Unlike the Coast Guard, the Navy does not have an award for the oldest commissioned ship or paint gold numbers on any their hulls.  This is because they already have the oldest commissioned ship in the world—the USS CONSTITUTION.  Commissioned on October 21, 1797, the CONSTITUTION is still active thus making her over 214 years old.  Research however has concluded that although there have been some US Navy ships with royal titles such as ‘Queen of the Flat-Tops’ (USS LEXINGTON), ‘Queen of the Jeeps’ (USS ENTERPRISE), ‘Queen of the Sea’ (USS SALT LAKE CITY & USS SARATOGA) and even ‘King of the Fleet’ (USS KING), but there has only been one ‘Queen of the Fleet’ (USS NEW MEXICO).  While a thorough examination of these vessels would exceed the scope of this work, we will briefly examine the USS NEW MEXICO as she was the only ship to bear the title of ‘Queen of the Fleet’—the same title which the STORIS also had.  Oddly enough, research has also concluded that the USS NEW MEXICO was the first US military vessel to bear the title of ‘Queen of the Fleet’.  The first documented Coast Guard use of the term came at least 26 years later when on January 1, 1946 the USS WAKEFIELD was called a Queen of the Fleet in a New Years Day mid-watch deck log.


Many historians consider the June 28, 1914 assignation of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria the start of World War I.  Two days later on June 30, 1914, the United States Congress passed the Naval Appropriation Bill which authorized over $500 million dollars funds for construction of new submarines, battleships and destroyers, among which was the USS NEW MEXICO.  The USS NEW MEXICO was to be a first-line battleship, and (at time) the largest ship in the entire US Navy .   She was originally to be called the CALIFORNIA and was to be built at the New York Navy Yard in Brooklyn, New York.  However a delegation from California appealed because they wanted a ship which was named after their state to be built in their state.  California did in fact have the Mare Island Navy Yard in the city Vallejo which was only 53 miles from the state capital of Sacramento.  The delegation was successful because the Navy renamed the CALIFORNIA to the NEW MEXICO and had another battleship to be called the CALIFORNIA ordered for construction in Vallejo the following year.
 Commissioned on May 20, 1918 the USS NEW MEXICO was 624-feet of sheer military strength and engineering genius.  Sixteen feet longer than other battleship the Navy had previously had on inventory, she was the lead ship for the Navy’s three 32,000 ton battleships.  Her armament was impressive with scores of turrets, guns and torpedo tubes.  If there was one ship that brought fear into the eyes of the enemy, it was the NEW MEXICO!  The NEW MEXICO was also the very first all-electric driven battleship.  This innovative feature was a marvel of engineering because it modernized propulsion which had previously been generated by steam boilers.  This allowed the NEW MEXICO to sustain a top speed of 21-knots until fuel was exhausted—an impressive feature for 1918!  The generator-driven propulsion has had profound effect on the Navy and Coast Guard alike because both now only use generator-driven propulsion in all of their ships.
Just six months after the NEW MEXICO was commissioned World War I ended.  After initial training, the USS NEW MEXICO departed New York for Brest, France in order to escort the transport ship USS GEORGE WASHINGTON home across the Atlantic.  President Woodrow Wilson was a passenger onboard the GEORGE WASHINGTON as he had been returning from the Versailles Peace Conference.   Many believe that the Treaty of Versailles planted seeds of bitterness with Germany which eventually lead a second world war.  

US Navy Battle Efficiency 'E' Pennant 


From the heights of the Roaring 20’s to the lows of the Great Depression of the 1930’s, things were rather quiet for the USS NEW MEXICO.  During this time she routinely conducted patrols of both the Pacific and the Atlantic.  She often received ambassadors, participated in centennials and displayed goodwill to numerous foreign nations.  During the 1920’s she participated in exercises and competitions with other first-line battleships.  In 1920-21, 1927-28 and 1929-30 the ship earned the coveted Battle Efficiency ‘E’ pennant for superior gunnery, engineering and battle efficiency.  A widely held belief was that because of her highly decorated awards of the 1920’s she was known Navy-wide as the ‘Queen of the Fleet’ or simply as ‘The Queen’.  However, a lesser held belief was that she was called ‘Queen’ from the onset due to her splendor as was the case with the REVENUE CUTTER MCCALLUGH when she was commissioned.
In the summer of 1941 the NEW MEXICO was sent to the Atlantic to enforce Neutrality Agreements and patrol shipping lanes to Great Britain.  After the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese on December 7, 1941 the NEW MEXICO was ordered to the Pacific to reinforce the badly damaged US fleet.  She served in numerous conflicts from as far north as the Aleutian Islands to the Fiji Islands of the South Pacific.  In January of 1945 she was preparing for the invasion of the Luzon—the biggest and most prized island of the Philippines.  Meeting heavy Japanese resistance, she was struck by a kamikaze suicide plane on the port Bridge Wing killing 30 sailors, including her Commanding Officer CAPT Robert W. Fleming and injuring 187 others.   However, she continued to fight and expended nearly 1.4 million pounds of ammunition in the battle which was eventually won by Allied forces.
After repairs, the NEW MEXICO participated in the most difficult and most ambitious operation in the entire Pacific—the April-June 1945 Battle of Okinawa.  During the 64 days spent at Okinawa, the NEW MEXICO went to General Quarters 82 times and to Air Defense 86 times—shooting down 21 enemy aircraft, destroying eight suicide boats, and being struck by two kamikazes (resulting 235 dead or wounded crewmen) all while outmaneuvering torpedoes for enemy submarines!  Truly an outstanding feat that she was still floating, she expended over 4.7 million pounds of ammunition during this battle which also lead to Allied success.  
After the Battle of Okinawa she was sent for extensive repairs.  On August 6, 1945, just two days before repairs were complete, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima effectively ending the war.  The USS NEW MEXICO was then present in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945 when the Japanese unconditionally signed the instrument of surrender onboard the USS MISSOURI.   The ‘Queen’ left the Pacific one last time on her way home back to Boston.  She earned six battlestars for her work during WWII which added to an already distinguished career of excellence.  Having been outdated by newer ships and exhausted by her service to the nation, she was decommissioned on July 19, 1946 and eventually sold for scrap in October of 1947.   There has never been a ‘Queen of the Fleet’ in the United States Navy since.
Historical reference:

Finalist of 2012 Milbloggie of the Year


I wanted to thank you for your participation in the 2012 Milbloggie of the Year Awards presented by  The American Queen was a finalist in the U.S. Coast Guard catergory.  




I am extremely honored to display this badge on this blog and will set is as a "Featured" blog on the right navigation pane indefinately.  


Thanks again to all of my readers who voted in the competition and to for the badge.


Fair Winds,



Potential STORIS Museum soon???

Upon the decommissioning on the USCGC STORIS in March 2007, a group of ex-STORIS sailors, retired military officers, history enthusiast, private donors and highly-respectable shipmates formed a non-profit group called the STORIS MUSEUM.  Their purpose was to “ secure the former United States Coast Guard Cutter STORIS, W-38, as a museum, a historical display and an education center to be located in Juneau, Alaska.”  Indeed a noble endeavor as this Cutter has proven itself more than eligable to be permanently preserved as a historical centerpiece for Alaska’s rich maritime heritage.

One of the members on the Board of Directors of the STORIS MUSEUM is Mr. Jim Lobak, a retired Chief Warrant and former STORIS sailor.  Yesterday in the STORIS MUSEUM Facebook page, Mr. Lobak posted:
"16 Apr 2012 –We have been in touch with DC and feel we are getting close to seeing the CG Authorization Bill for 2012-2013 passed over the next few weeks. Please contact everyone you know who is interested in our project and have then join our Facebook page keep up with our efforts .”  
The CG Authorization Bill for 2012-2013 that Mr. Lobak refers to are two separate bills in front of Congress (H.R.2838 and S.1665) which both include the a section entitled “CONVEYANCE OF THE DECOMMISSIONED COAST GUARD CUTTER STORIS”.  If these bills passed and are signed into law by the President, the STORIS would effectively become property of the STORIS MUSEUM group and will become Alaska’s first Maritime Museum.
It’s exciting to think that over five years of effort may finally be coming to a head for this group.  The work of my[forthcoming] book, website ( and this blog have only shed light on the many wonderful things that STORIS has achieved in her lifetime such as serving in WWII, becoming the first US flagship to transit the Northwest Passage and providing humanitarian aid to over 100,000 Alaskan located in the most remote corners of the Last Frontier.
While I cannot officially solicit your support of S.1665, I would have you to know that Mr. Lobak and many STORIS enthusiast are anxiously awaiting passage of these bills in order to see the STORIS made into a museum once and for all.
The former United States Coast Guard Cutter STORIS.  Currently, the STORIS  is located in the National Defense Reserve Fleet in Suisun Bay, CA


It should also be known that after her decommissioning, the STORIS was placed in the temporary custody of the Maritime Administration and is currently anchored in the National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF) in Suisun Bay, CA.  Commonly known as the “Mothball Fleet”, decommissioned naval ships are stored here until a final disposition can be determined.  Many are used for gunnery exercises, some are sold to foreign Navies and others are made into floating museums.  What better way to join four other members of the Coast Guard’s Royal Court whom are permanent museums (USCGC TANEY – “Queen of the Pacific”, USCGC MACKINAW – “Queen of the Great Lakes”, USCGC INGHAM – “Queen of the Fleet” and USCGC FIR – “Queen of the Fleet”) that the STORIS “Queen of the Fleet” to become a floating museum as well.
Progress of a [potential] STORIS Maritime Museum can be found on any of these pages:
and using and following bills H.R.2838 and S.1665


Kodiak shooting takes the life of a former STORIS sailor

Coast Guard Communications Station (COMMSTA) Kodiak, Alaska (April 13, 2012)

International news was made this past week when two Coast Guard members were found shot to death in their workspaces at the Kodiak Communications Station (COMMSTA).  After the customary 24-hour withholding period, the Coast Guard released the names of the two victims; they were Electronics Technician First Class James Hopkins and BMC Richard Belisle (Ret.) who had been working as a civilian employee.  
As local, state, federal and Coast Guard law enforcement agencies are still investigating the incident, I wanted to bring attention to the fact that BMC Richard Belisle was a former STORIS sailor who retired in 2000--quite possible having the STORIS as his last Coast Guard unit before settling down for life after the Coast Guard in Kodiak.
As a Food Service Specialist assigned to the STORIS from 1996-1998, I was stationed onboard the STORIS the same time a Chief Belisle was.  While I cannot say he was in my division or even my department, you can be certain that many of the meals that I prepared while onboard STORIS where ones he partook in.  Having roughly 70 crewmembers, you can also be certain that everybody onboard knew who everybody else onboard was.  Although I did not know Chief Belisle personally, I can say we sailed together and he, like I, experienced the same torrential power of the Bering Sea.  As an earlier Coast Guard Bering Sea sailor once penned, “ What though you’ve weathered fiercest gales and every ocean you have sailed; You cannot salty sailor be until you’ve sailed the Bering Sea.”  Chief indeed was a salty sailor.
In a group dedicated to the STORIS on the social media site Facebook, I posted the fact that I was stationed with Chief Belisle for one year onboard STORIS.  A few other shipmates commented on the fact that they too were stationed with Chief and worked with him closer than I did in their respective lines of work.  They said such things as “He was a great Chief” and “I liked working with him.”  One of his duties onboard STORIS underway was to stand the Deck Watch Officer.  Undoubtedly there were many late night and early mornings where over 60 STORIS crewmen were asleep two and three decks below the Bridge and Chief kept them out of harm’s way.

Enlisted Cutterman's Insignia


Besides being a STORIS crewman and wearing the same Coast Guard-blue uniform as Chief, we share one other thing in common.  Chief had earned a permanent Enlisted Cutterman Qualification Insignia.  This meant that we had both dedicated over 5 years of our lives protecting American citizens and earning qualifications in our respective occupational fields while attached to seagoing Cutters.  As I still do today and when Chief did when he was on active duty, this insignia is worn above the heart on the right breast of the uniform.  Meaning that being a Cutterman is right near the heart.  It should also be known that the Cutterman’s Insignia is also worn above all ribbons.  To me this is meant to showcase that above all else, we are sailors.

Chief--thanks for looking out for me, the rest of the crew, and looking out for the American Queen.  You are certainly missed already.  Many of your shipmates (including myself) have expressed their deepest sympathies to your family and to many others within the greater Coast Guard community.  Thank you for your service and love of country.  Fair winds and following seas, shipmate!

100th Anniversary of the Titanic sinking


"Titanic Sinking" by: Willy Stöwer


April 15th, 2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Royal Mail Ship (RMS) Titanic in the North Atlantic Ocean.  This ill-fated ship and it passengers have had a significant impact in history and the United States Coast Guard.  Although the theme of this blog is of the (Cutter) STORIS, the Coast Guard’s Royal Court and other Legendary [Coast Guard] Cutters, I will offer for your consideration ten ways of which recognizing this ship is deserving of this blog.  
1) We can begin with recognizing that the ship was of British registration.  While it would be stretch to associate the US Coast Guard with the White Star Lines of the United Kingdom, we as Americans can and must say we were a country formed from British Colonists.
2) A folk musical calls the Titanic the “Queen of the Ocean”.  The Coast Guard’s “Royal Court” is a list of every ship to ever be called a “Queen” since the origins of the Revenue Cutter Service in 1790.
3) A recent article has announced that the Coast Guard Cutter JUNIPER (Boston, MA) will drop 1.5M rose petals on site of the Titanic sinking on the 100th anniversary of the sinking (URL:
4) The Titanic sinking made world headlines.  People were angry and leaders demanded change and preventative measures.  As a result, the International Ice Patrol was formed.  The US Coast Guard was, and still is tasked with the administration of the patrol.  The organization, still around today can be found here:
5) Ice floes like the one that brought the Titanic down are likely assumed to originate from Greenland.  The natives of Greenland (Danish) have a word for these massive formations, “sirorssuit”.  The anglicized version of this word is “STORIS”—the same name of the Cutter this blog focuses on.
 6) The Titanic was transatlantic passenger liner that was chartered to carry mail, hence being a Royal Mail Ship.  The SS Manhattan was also a transatlantic passenger liner that shipped goods overseas.  The SS Manhattan was chartered by the US government as a troop transport carrier during WWII, assigned a Coast Guard crew and was called the Cutter Wakefield.  The Wakefield was the first Cutter to be called “Queen of the Fleet”.
7) The ship that was the “Queen of the Revenue Marine” at time of the Titanic sinking was the Cutter McCulloch.  Oddly enough, the McCulloch at the Titanic met the same fate—sinking.  The McCulloch sunk on June 13, 1917.  Two other Cutters in the Royal Court lay on the bottom of the ocean floor as well—the Cutters CAMPBELL (W-32) and DUANE (W-33).
8) During WWII, the Cutter CAMPBELL (Modern “Queen of the Fleet”) was engaged in combat with U-606.  The enemy sub breached CAMPBELL’s hull, allowing seawater to flood the Engine Room and shorting out electricity to the entire ship.  The Titanic’s hull was also breached, allowing seawater into her engine room and shorting out electricity to the entire ship.
9) Movie goers have been treated with blockbuster films depicting the Titanic and the Coast Guard (James Cameron’s “TITANIC” and Andrew Davis’s “The Guardian”).  Although both were fictitious storylines, both won the interest of the general public yielding $1.9B and $95M respectively.  
10)  Exactly 46 years to the day of Titanic’s sinking (April 15, 1958), the United States Coast Guard and commercial shipping representatives began discussions which led to the creation of the Atlantic Merchant Vessel Emergency Reporting (AMVER) System.  Still in operation today, the premise of the AMVER system is a vehicle for mariner to help mariner without regard to nationality.  It originally was confined to waters of the North Atlantic Ocean--notorious for icebergs, fog and winter storms. Vice Admiral Alfred C. Richmond, Coast Guard Commandant at the time, called on all commercial vessels of U.S. and foreign registry, over 1,000 gross tons and making a voyage of more than 24 hours, to voluntarily become Amver participants. The website for the AMVER system can be found at:
As you consider these points, I would offer that the Titanic sinking is indeed deserving of observance and eligible for entry into the American Queen blog.
"Titanic Sinking" is in the public domain in the United States. This applies to U.S. works where the copyright has expired, often because its first publication occurred prior to January 1, 1923.

April 4, 1942 - Launching Day

It was a cold spring day in Toledo, Ohio.  Located on the edge of Lake Erie, historic weather data tells us that the average temperate for April 4th in Toldeo, Ohio is only 44*.  On April 4, 1942, it was no different.  Gentlemen wore overcoats and tophats while ladies wore thick furs and stockings.  But something special was happening in Toldeo that day.  A new Coast Guard Cutter was going to be christened and launched.  The Cutter was called the STORIS, built in support of the war America was thrust in just four months earlier.  Built in support of the US-Danish Agreement, the STORIS was to patrol off the coast of Greenland.  From her very start the STORIS was accustomed to the cold.



Heavy in nautical tradition, a female was assigned as the STORIS’s sponsor.  She would have the privilege of breaking a bottle of champagne across her bow.  In all of my research, I have been unable to determine who this woman was.  Nevertheless, what an honor it is.  Recently, the First Lady Michelle Obama christened the newest Coast Guard Cutter in the Fleet.  Here’s what says about the tradition:

“The ceremony of christening new ships began in the distant past, and we know that Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians all held ceremonies to ask the gods to protect sailors.  By the 1800s the christenings of ships began to follow a familiar pattern. A “christening fluid” would be poured against the bow of the ship, though it was not necessarily wine or champagne. There are accounts in the US Navy records of 19th century warships being christened with water from significant American rivers. The christening of ships became great public events, with large crowds assembled to witness the ceremony. And it became standard for champagne, as the most elite of wines, to be used for the christening. The tradition developed that a female would do the honors and be named the sponsor of the ship.  And maritime superstition held that a ship that wasn’t properly christened would be considered unlucky. A champagne bottle that didn't break was a particularly bad omen.”
From the photographs, we can tell that the STORIS was properly commissioned and the bottle exploded upon impact.
Shortly after the christening at the Toledo Shipbuilding Company shipyard facility, workers released slide and let the STORIS touch the water for the very first time.  Indeed it was a jubilant moment for the scores of spectators.  Photographs indicate gentlemen waving their hats and perhaps even clapping “for she is seaworthy!” must have been the common cheer.  Although not fully completed, the shipyard workers would continue to build the Cutter for another six months prior to commissioning on September 30, 1942.


The STORIS would spend over 64 years of service to the country and the United States Coast Guard.  Along with her many accomplishments, pictures and her other Queens of the Fleet are highlighted at


Rescue of the Alaskan Monarch


Twenty-two years ago  the USCGC STORIS was called to one of the most daring rescues in Coast Guard history.  
On March 15, 1990, the F/V Alaskan Monarch was enroute to the St. Paul harbor to deliver 100,000 pounds of crab to Pribilof Island Processors (PIP). The Alaskan Monarch continued toward the harbor; it encountered an ice floe about one and one-half miles from the harbor entrance.  The Alaskan Monarch ran hard aground due to the dangerous rock bottom surrounding St. Paul Island.  The Monarch was in peril, so the US Coast Guard was called. 
Due to large amounts of heavy ice on the ocean surface, there was only one Cutter in all of Alaska at the time which able to take on such a challenge—the USCGC STORIS!  Due to her 7/8”-thick hull and the proud history of cold weather service, the STORIS was dispatched to help.  After all, she had served the US Coast Guard proudly off the coast of Greenland during WWII, she transited across the top of Canada in 1957 and had not slowed down for over 33 years in the brutal Alaskan waters for 33 years up to that point.
Showing exceptional bravery by her crew, the STORIS made several attempts to inch closer and closer to the vessel in despair in order to pass a heaving line over and begin towing operations.  The 48-year old STORIS valiantly maneuvered the dangerous freezing waters and was on the cusp of running aground herself in order to save the small crew of the Monarch. 
Luckily, a Coast Guard helicopter was on scene and recorded the most terrifying rescue videos ever that day.  In the video we see the Monarch swaying mercilessly like a pendulum in the frozen waters.  As the sea conditions worsen, the Monarch’s captain gets swept overboard into the frigid Bering Sea.  You can audibly hear the camera crew gasp as they know that it could mean certain death for this man.  It is my understanding that this video is often played on the hit TV series “The Deadliest Catch”.
 The crew of the Coast Guard helo eventually picks everybody up and hauls them to safety as the Monarch sinks and deemed a complete loss.  While it’s important to recognize the ability of team Coast Guard working together to rescue lives, what’s more important is to recognize the dangerous conditions of which the Coast Guard operates.
While many people understand that the Army sends soldiers into combat in war, the Navy engages in seaborne battles, the Air Force has rocket-bearing dog fighters and the Marines engage in deadly combat constantly, where are the Coast Guard’s frightful missions?  Ladies and Gentlemen, after watching this video and observing the conditions in which the Coast Guard OFTEN conducts their business you will be convinced that is it on the same par was a combat solider, a sailor on a destroyer in a war zone, a Airman engaged in air-assaults or a Marine kicking ass and taking names.
I would encourage you to watch this video and take a moment to appreciate the Cutter STORIS’s service in the frigid arctic as well as her 64+ years of service to the country, Coast Guard and maritime history.


Loss of Life While in the Line of Duty

     This past week tragedy struck the Coast Guard community as four of its members were killed in the line of duty.  While conducting a routine training mission off the coast of Alabama, the four members of the aircrew attached to CG Helo-6535 perished while wearing the Coast Guard uniform.  Undoubtedly, a thorough investigation will ensue to find the cause of the crash.

     For being the smallest armed service in the United States, it is rather easy to either personally know or know somebody who knows the people who sacrificed their life for the country they love.  I, for example, have a Facebook friend who personally worked with CPO Fernando Jorge—one of the members who lost their life this past week.  
     In order to memorialize the sacrifice of the LCDR Dale Taylor, LTJG Thomas Cameron CPO Fernando Jorge and PO3 Andrew Knight, the Coast Guard Compass (the official blog of the US Coast Guard) made the following graphic to be used freely for those who chose to remember their sacrifice.

I wanted to take this opportunity to observe their sacrifice and provide the date and names of the Cutterman who have lost their lives in the line of duty while attached to one of the Cutters in the Coast Guard’s Royal Court.


June 16, 1917

Acting WT

 John A. Johansson


September 2, 1940


Karl O Leavestrom


December 19, 1943


Robert W. Burke


November 16, 1947


Jospeh E. Stroup Jr.


January 30, 1942


Daniel N. Turner Jr.


January 30, 1942


John Goose


January 30, 1942


Paul R. Coonce


January 30, 1942


Wilfred A. Coady


February 15, 1942


Joe Padilla


September 4, 1942


Francisco Silado


March 21, 1950


Wallis S. Windley


June 9, 1983


Timothy B. Geck


September 12, 1945


Leonard T. Cockerum


August 26, 1992


Johnny S. Tarr


These names, along with the names of all the other Cutterman who have lost their lives while in the line of duty can be downloaded (courtesy of the Coast Guard Historian) using this link:
May we always remember those who give their lives in support of the United States Coast Guard, it’s missions and the United States of America.

2012 State of the Coast Guard Address



This past week Coast Guard Commandant ADM Robert Papp delivered his second State of the Coast Guard Address (SOCGA).  Breaking the mold from previous addresses, he actually left the beltway and delivered his speech from the field—what a concept!
It was no coincidence that he chose Coast Guard Island in Alameda to address the mixed crowd of Coast Guard, civilian and elected officials and members of the press.  Alameda is in fact here the first three 418-ft National Security Cutters are homeported.  Using these mighty ships as backdrops to pitch the need for more Coast Guard surface resources he stated, “ 95% of our foreign trade arrives - or is shipped by sea - the Maritime Transportation System accounts for nearly 700 Billion dollars of the U.S. gross domestic product and 51 Million U.S. jobs. Our Nation's economy and its security depend upon maritime commerce. And our Coast Guard provides for its safe and secure approach to our shores.”
While his speech focused on the need to beef up the fleet and the need to keep working with aging resources until new ones arrive, I was encouraged when he mentioned a class of Cutter of which half ended up as part of the Coast Guard’s Royal Court.  Here’s his words:
“ In even more difficult circumstances, in the midst of the Great Depression of the 1930s, the President and the Congress chose to invest in America's Coast Guard. They built a class of 7 new major Coast Guard cutters - the 327-foot Treasury class. Why? 
Because leaders foresaw that America in the future required capable multi-mission ships to meet its challenges - the challenges that were known - but more importantly, future challenges that could not be known - but were certain to come. 
These seven major cutters carried out missions never imagined in their original concept of operations. Most of these cutters served for more than 40 years -- The last was decommissioned at over 50 years of age. 
They were able to do this because national leaders with vision foresaw that capable ships with . . . speed . . . endurance . . . and versatility were a sound investment against an uncertain, and what proved to be menacing, half century to come.”
The 327-foot Treasury Class Cutters where largest, most expensive Cutters ever built at the time.  Although ten where planned only seven were actually delivered.  These Cutters displayed Herculean strength and saw action in three US wars (WWII, Korea and Vietnam).  They also served as weather stations to provide mariners accurate weather data and enforced drug interdiction before being decommissioned—on one occasion alone the TANEY found 160 tons of marijuana on a barge!
The 327-foot Treasury Class Cutters that comprise the Coast Guard’s Royal Court are the:
TANEY – “Queen of the Pacific”
CAMPBELL – “Queen of the Fleet”
DUANE – “Queen of the Fleet”
INGHAM – “Queen of the Fleet”
It should be further noted that two of these ships (the TANEY and INGHAM) are now floating Maritime Museums open for the public to appreciate their service to the Coast Guard and to the nation.
Admiral Papp’s State of the Coast Guard address can be downloaded from:

STORIS Ship Store

          Please be advised of a a dozen new STORIS products available at*.  In conjuction with, is pleased to announce it's Ship's Store.  The store has a dozen items including coffee mugs, keychains, stickers and retro items.  Please check it out.




          Please be reminded of this blogs disclaimer: The views expressed herein are those of the blogger and are not to be construed as official or reflecting the views of the Commandant or of the U. S. Coast Guard.


STORIS decommissioned 5 years ago


          On February 8, 2007 the Coast Guard Cutter STORIS was decommissioned in Kodiak, Alaska.  She had served for over 64 years and at the time of decommissioning was considered the “Queen of the Fleet” as she was the oldest commissioned Cutter in US Coast Guard service.
The USCGC STORIS in Dress Ship on last last day of active service: February 8, 2007.
          Built as a prototype cold-weather operations boat in support of the US-Danish Agreement, she was the only ship in her class.  Her keel was laid only four months after the attack on Pearl Harbor and by September of 1942, she was commissioned as ready for service in the frigid waters of Greenland.  Shortly after the war, she was transferred to Alaska where she would call “home” for nearly six decades.  
          Because she was designed with icebreaking capabilities, she was a prime candidate to escort two other smaller Coast Guard Cutters through the Northwest Passage in 1957.  It would be the first successful nautical voyage over the top over the top of Canada (and eventually around the North American continent) in a single season in the history of mankind!  
          Exemplifying the Coast Guard Core Values, she often re-enacted the legendary Bering Sea Patrols of the early 20th century by providing medical, dental and legal services to over 100,000 Alaskans residing in remote seaside locations across Alaska’s 33,904 miles of shoreline.  During one of these visits in 1954, a baby boy was even born in STORIS’ sickbay.
          The STORIS not only helped break ice in Purdhoe Bay to clear way for the construction of the Trans-Alaskan pipeline, but she also the On Scene Commander (OSC) for the largest oil spill in American history (at the time) when the Exxon Valdez ran aground at in Prince William Sound on March 24,1989.
          By 1991, at the age of 49 years she received her coronation as “The Queen of the Fleet” denoting her as the Oldest Commissioned Cutter in service.  With that distinction comes the right to be the only Cutter in the US Coast Guard to have gold hull numbers.  She would have the title as “Queen of the Fleet” for over 15 years, one of the longest in the Coast Guard’s Royal Court.  
          Before being decommissioned on February 8, 2007 she had amassed 47 unit awards…one every 16 months for 64 years.  Her impressive resume also includes:
          • 25 vessels saved,
          • 250 lives saved,
          • 7,500 vessels boarded,
          • 1.5 million miles traveled, and
          • The current record of longest service in the Bering Sea: 58 years 4 months.
          Since her decommissioning, a group of individuals in Juneau have been attempting to make the STORIS Alaska’s first Maritime Museum and to preserve the legacy of this fine ship.  Up to this point, efforts have been unsuccessful but they are still very optimistic that one day our Lady can receive the retirement she deserves. 
Two websites where you can learn more about this ship and the efforts to return her to Juneau are: and

STORIS NW Passage sailor passes away

          It’s not often enough when we recognize the lives of Coast Guard veterans and their contributions to our beloved service.  On January 31, Gerald J. Boerner, Sr. passed away at the age of 73 years in Hampstead, Maryland.  Gerald was fortunate enough to a crewmember of the Coast Guard Cutter STORIS as it made the historic journey through the Northwest Passage in the summer of 1957.

Gerald J. Boerner, Sr. of Hampstead, MD (1938-2012)

          At the young age of 17, Gerald J. Boerner Sr., graduated High School and had an infinite amount of career options to pursue.  Instead of going to college like many of his contemporaries, Gerald chose to enlist in the United States Coast Guard.  He was assigned to the Cutter STORIS in Kodiak. On July 1, 1957 he was onboard the STORIS as it departed Seattle, Washington on her way to becoming the first US-vessel to  transit the Northwest Passage—the holy grail for seafarers for the previous 450 years!
          It should be known that every individual assigned to a ship has a specific purpose.  The Coast Guard doesn’t staff their ships with non-essential personnel.  From Cooks to Gunners and from Seaman to Department Heads everybody contributes something to the overall success of the ship.  Obviously, a ship without a crew is merely lifeless steel rusting away along a pier somewhere.  Undoubtedly Mr. Boerner had a specific job on the STORIS during that historic mission.  It is with certainty that I can say that Mr. Boerner contributed to one of the most important nautical journeys in history, something very college graduates can claim.
          His obituary (located here) does not provide additional details about the remainder of his Coast Guard career.  We do read however that his family seemed to value his “many interesting stories…traveling over 28,000 miles on the ice”.  So much so that his online memorial (located here) is over an American flag and has a large Coast Guard-theme banner which invokes Coast Guard service.  Without a doubt, his post-Coast Guard career as a carpenter didn’t have the same effect on his family as his military service did.
          While my thoughts and prayers are extended to his eight family members mentioned and his “numerous nieces and nephews” during this difficult time, I,  as a former STORIS sailor and an active duty Coastguardsman, thank him for his service, his sacrifice to country and his contributions to Coast Guard history.

Royal Court Honorable Mention helps the community


          This past week, the 10 members of the Coast Guard Cutter DECISIVE spend time handing out lunches at a food bank in Pascagoula, Mississippi—their homeport.  Similar to the crew of the RUSH’s good works in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, these fine examples of Coast Guardsmen have carried out one of truest meanings of the Coast Guard: we are a humanitarian service.  Their story can be found on
Crew of the DECISIVE serving chow at Our Daily Bread in Pascagula, MS.


          While you can (near-daily) read of accounts of Coast Guard crews across the United States saving people’s lives (literally or figuratively), helping the community or just being good stewards of the American taxpayer dollar, this story has significance to the Coast Guard’s Royal Court.  You see, the Coast Guard Cutter Decisive is an honorable mention in the Royal Court due to her (self-given) title as “Queen of the Fleet”.
          While this story highlights the DECISIVE crew’s noteworthy endeavors and portrays the Coast Guard as a humanitarian service, I will provide an examination of the DECISIVE’s qualification in the Royal Court on another occasion this year.  For now, let’s agree to maintain the warm and fuzzy feeling in our hearts about the DECISIVE crew, shall we?

Current Queen to get a new crane and continue her Reign; at least for now


          Yesterday, (21JAN12) the US Coast Guard put out a Request For Information (RFI) for interested vendors to replace the main deck crane onboard the Cutter SMILAX.  Since March of 2011, the SMILAX has been the reigning Coast Guard “Queen of the Fleet”, which makes her the only Cutter in the Coast Guard with gold hull numbers.  The SMILAX was commissioned in 1944, which makes her 68 years old this year.


          What is interesting about this RFI is that is shows the Coast Guard’s intention of keeping the SMILAX servicable for, at least, the immediate future.  This comes in light of the fact that she is the oldest Cutter to ever be in the Coast Guard’s “Royal Court” as well as the fact that the longer she remains a active Cutter, her record becomes even more difficult to achieve by future Cutters who may want that distinction one day.
          Although one must acknowledge that the SMILAX does NOT sail on the open ocean (she is an INland Tender), she does have an advange of not be exposed to extreme weather conditions such as the ones the STORIS was exposed to in the Bering Sea for over 50 years.
          As we read from the RFI, “The current crane for this cutter has been removed and is unserviceable.”  From my observation, it would indicate:
• The crane has been used so many times servicing aids that it eventually wore down.
• The crew attempted to fix it before giving up, and
• There is an immediate impact to the SMILAX’s mission capacity as an active tender.
          To me, this demonstrates the third Core Value of the Coast Guard (Devotion to Duty) from the crew of the SMILAX--a most commendable attribute, regardless of their inland-related mission.
          We also read that the RFI expires next month and at least one interested vendor is interested in performing the work.  More information on the RFI can be found here.

The Bering Sea


    The Bering Sea is the body which connects the Pacific Ocean to the Arctic Ocean.  It is located north of Alaska's Aleutian Island chain and south of the Arctic Ocean’s Beaufort Sea.  It covers over 878,000 sq miles and is known for its extremely rough waters, yet bountiful resources.  The hit TV-show “The Deadliest Catch” highlights these two facts.  
     For many years, the STORIS patrolled the Bering Sea to ensure precious Alaskan resources such as Crab, Halibut and Salmon could remain a steady source of economic revenue to the commercial fishing industry, the State of Alaska, the United States.  Commercial fisheries alone catch approximately $1 billion worth of seafood annually in the Bering Sea.
     Delicatessens have a cost though.  Just as it takes massive amounts of cubic feet of earth to be excavated to find ounces of gold in mining operations, the sailors of the Bering Sea must experience the roughest riding sea on earth.  This isn’t just for the weak-hearted, either.  Many sailors have lost their lives while sailing the Bering Sea.  From accidents to being violently thrown out of their bunks, it’s a very dangerous place.  Below is a picture from the bridge of the STORIS during a patrol in the Bering Sea.


     It should be noted that during winter months, the Bering Sea becomes even more of dangerous place.  With cold temperatures the norm and moisture everywhere, ice quickly cakes decks, deck fittings, communications antennas, and equipment.  Additionally, the water itself can freeze which makes sailing impossible without the use of an icebreaker, such as the case of the Coast Guard Cutter HEALY this past week.
     In the early years of the Bering Sea patrols, a Revenue Cutter sailor wrote his thoughts in the form of a poetry, such as I did when I was there.  His song, simply called “Bering Sea” was included in a book called “Below Zero” which was produced by the US Coast Guard Alumni Associated in 1939.  A .pdf copy of the book can be found here.  I have never seen or heard anything similar written on another body of water.
Bering Sea
We’ve reached the land of Arctic fame,
Where we are sure to make a name;
We love the seals, the fog, the rain,
And great renown we’ll surely gain.
O, Bering Sea!  Bleak Bering Sea!
So long we’ve sought to sail o’er thee;
For ne’er can sailor salty be
Until he’s sailed the Bering Sea,
And viewed Alaska’s dreary shore,
And filled himself with Arctic lore.
Full many a sailor points with pride
To cruises o’er the ocean wide;
But they cannot compare with me,
For I have sailed the Bering Sea.
Columbus and Balboa too,
And Nelson formed a salty crew;
But they are fresh to you and me,
They never sailed the Bering Sea.
Old Noah has our deep respect,
And yet he was not quite correct;
Instead of Ararat, you know,
He should have touched Bogoslov.
Though years you’ve sailed on the fishing bank,
Trod slaver’s deck and pirates plank,
Seen Spanish Main and Crusoe’s Isle,
At you we Arctic heroes smile.
What though you’ve weathered fiercest gales,
And every ocean you have sailed;
You cannot salty sailor be
Until you’ve sailed the Bering Sea.
We breakfast, dine, and sup on fat,
Eat walrus blubber and all of that,
Bull seals and whales are our delight,
And polar bears we love to fight.
Just thing of all our dreary tracks,
To guard the jaunty sealskin saques,
And have old England laugh with glee,
While Yankees guard the Bering Sea.
And when they sound our funeral knell;
They’ll say we’ve had our share of hell;
Our welcome sure in Heaven will be,
Because we’ve sailed the Bering Sea.

The Cutter RUSH continues the Queen's work




          Recently, Coast Guard Alaska (official blog of the 17th Coast Guard District) posted an article about the Cutter RUSH’s assistance to the town of Dutch Harbor, Alaska.
          In their article we read of seventeen RUSH crewmen who on January 7th, only equipped with shovels and warm clothes spent several hours clearing paths for:
  • Fire exits that were covered in nearly four feet of snow around the Unalaska Senior Center
  • Numerous vehicles that had been buried in snow
  • Three local school bus stops, and
  • Four houses where senior citizens reside.
         This has not been the first time the Honolulu-based 378’ High Endurance Cutter (HEC) has been noted for its help to this Alaskan town.  Nearly six months ago, Coast Guard Alaska featured the same crew because they performed much-needed electrical repairs to the town’s historic Russian Orthodox Church, the oldest one in North America.  
          Service and goodwill towards the people and towns of Alaska is what the Coast Guard has been doing since Russia sold Alaska to the United States in 1859.    Soon after the Alaskan purchase, the Revenue Cutter Service (RCS) was tasked with conduct “Bering Sea Patrols” to enforce the proper harvesting of the Northern Fur Seal—a prized animal for its thick fur pelt.  By sending a federal agency to protect this marine life, it became apparent the RCS was the only government agents seen by those who resided in the remote Alaskan frontier.  
          Along with enforcing sealing regulations, the RCS began a “Court Cruise” where a Cutter would transport a judge, a public defender, court clerk and a Deputy United States Marshall to hear criminal cases in the isolated region.  Within the logbooks and reports of the officers of the Bering Sea Patrol there runs a genuine concern for the plight of both natives and settlers in this remote region. Many officers would visit villages and leave food supplies for the destitute, while the ship’s doctor would help with medical assistance.
          The practice of protecting living marine resources as well as legal and medical services to Alaskans continued for the next 100 years, a practice which the STORIS performed regularly.  During one of these patrols in 1954 a baby boy was born in STORIS’ sickbay when his mother was onboard for a dental visit.  In honor of the STORIS, the boy’s mother named him Playton “Storis” Milligrock, his story can be found in “People” tab in the “Influence” page of  It is estimated that in her lifetime the STORIS provided aid to over 100,000 Alaskans in remote locations.  
          By 1964, the US Coast Guard officially ended the traditional “Bering Sea Patrols” due to advancements in technology and because it did “not sufficiently descriptive of the modern Patrol’s many law enforcement and conservation tasks”.  The Coast Guard eventually renamed these patrols as “Alaska Patrols” and these patrols are still conducted to this day.  The Cutter RUSH’s works in Dutch Harbor on January 7th carry on the Coast Guard’s service and traditions of over the past 150 years to the people and resources of Alaska.
          After the shoveling of snow was complete the Unalaska Senior Center provided the crew of the RUSH with doughnuts and coffee. Perhaps the reward for the STORIS' 50 years of helping 100,000 Alaskans could be a permanent museum?


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The Coast Guard rescues the City of Nome

US Coast Guard Photograph from the Coast Guard Compass Blog


     For the past two weeks, the Coast Guard Cutter HEALY has been making international headlines as it has slowing been breaking over 300 miles of solid ice escorting the Russian tanker RENDA to Nome, Alaska.  The RENDA is loaded with over 1.3 million gallons of petroleum products in order to resupply the city of 3,900 residents with enough oil to get through the harsh Alaskan winter.  A winter storm this past November prevented the last barge of the season to deliver enough supplies to this historic seaside town until spring.  The next scheduled barge delivery to Nome was when the ice clears—in May or June.


     This dramatic rescue reminds me of one that took place in that city 87 years ago.  The date was January 22, 1925 and the town’s only doctor (Dr. Curtis Welch) sent the following telegram to all major towns in Alaska as well as the U.S. Public Health Service in Washington, DC:








     Dr. Welch’s call for help prompted one of the most dramatic and historic races in history for a vaccine that would prevent Nome from being completely eradicated.  It would be called ‘The Great Race of Mercy’ and would include 20 men and 150 sled dogs in order to save the small city of Nome. 


     Starting from Nenana, Alaska it only took 127 hours to mush a diphtheria vaccine across 674 miles in high winds and temperatures reaching -23°F across the frozen Alaskan tundra.  A Norwegian by the name of Gunnar Kaasen with his lead dog Balto (a Siberian Husky), had to mush in the dark and in near-whiteout conditions nearly twice as far as the other teams because they missed the team of dogs on the final leg of the relay.  Without breaking a single vile of serum, Kaasen, Balto and their team arrived on Front Street into Nome at 5:30AM on February 2, 1925. Balto instantly became a national hero.  His efforts were even recognized by President Calvin Coolidge. 


     Although another lead dog on the relay, Togo, lead by another Norwegian—Leonhard Seppala had to run further over more hazardous conditions, the press and the American people liked Balto’s story more.  Balto (and his driver Gunnar Kaasen) were later not invited to New York to receive awards from the famous Norwegian explorer Roland Amundsen.  Amundsen was the very first man in history to navigate through the Northwest Passage in 1903 with his shallow-draft herring sloop, called the GJØA.  However, it took Amundsen two years to accomplish this feat as the GJØA had frozen in place during the first year.  The STORIS would be the first US-vessel to transit the Northwest Passage 54 years later.  Not only did the STORIS do it in record time, but during her expedition she plotted a deep-draft channel which would allow  future mariners transit the Northwest Passage--which was the Holy Grail for seafarers for over 450 years.


     In the 1970’s Joe Redington Sr. established a 1,049-mile Anchorage to Nome annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race to encourage the designation of the Iditarod Trail as a National Historic Trail, bring the dying tradition of dogsledding back into Alaska’s history and promote the sport of competitive dogsled racing.  Although the modern day race is commonly mistaken as a commemoration of 1925’s ‘Great Race of Mercy’, the race ends on Front Street in Nome—where Balto actually ran on decades earlier.  In 2011, for the first time ever the United States Coast Guard officially sponsored an Iditarod dog sled team.  According to an all-personnel message (ALCGPSC 021/11), this was to:


‘…pay respect to both this challenging race and proud Coast Guard history.  Dating back to the 19th century, dog sleds were used by the Coast Guard to perform pivotal rescues of trapped whaling ship crews, enforcement of fur seal trading laws, as well as humanitarian delivery of medical supplies and assistance.  With our renewed commitment to the arctic in the 21st century, it is fitting that we honor our profession and our history.’


     While the HEALY’s efforts are indeed worthy of international attention, it reminds us all of the harsh operating conditions in which the Coast Guard works as well as the American Queen which served the people of Alaska in similar situations for more than 50 years—the Coast Guard Cutter STORIS.  A bit later this year I will describe my account of the STORIS's mid-patrol break to Nome which occured from July 11-13, 1997.  This will include journal entries, a prize-winning poem I wrote while there and a few pictures as well.




Welcome, shipmates!

          'The Coast Guard encourages its personnel to be published authors. Our story needs to be told — and those who are part of the story or helped make it happen are best qualified to tell it.'    Coast Guard Public Affairs Manual (Ch.10.D.1)

          Hello and welcome to "The American Queen" blog.  I am especially pleased to be starting this very exciting endeavor and I’m glad you’re joining me.   Allow me to introduce myself-- my name is LTJG Galen Varon and I am an active duty Coast Guardsman with 16 years of service.

         I enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1995 and shortly thereafter I went to Food Service Specialist ‘A’ School.  My first assignment out of ‘A’ School was to the Coast Guard Cutter STORIS, which was homeported in Kodiak, Alaska.  As a 22-year-old young man, I didn’t care too much for Kodiak.  1996 was a time way before Facebook, Twitter, iPods, or even cell phones.  The best technology could offer were one-way pagers and America Online chat rooms--so I kept a journal.  Over my two-year assignment (1996-1998), I accumulated several hundred pages of thoughts, experiences, poems, photographs, letters and historical artifacts.  Luckily enough for me, I kept all those things!  


Off the coast of Nome, Alaska in the summer of 1997.  It was 0200hrs and the sun was just rising.


          Fast forward fifteen years.  By 2010, I had been assigned to two other Coast Guard Cutters, five shore units, completed a Master’s Degree, and was commissioned under the Direct Commission Engineer (DCE) program as a Lieutenant Junior Grade.  During my first assignment as an officer my supervisor (LCDR John R. Cole) recognized my writing skills and said, “You know, the natural progression for you is to write a book.”  After thinking about it, I realized I had enough source material from one of my previous Coast Guard units to write a book about…and that was the STORIS.

          I spent eleven months of 2011 writing a 120,500-word manuscript about my tour of duty onboard the STORIS.  In this book I provide extensive research about the Coast Guard’s “Royal Court”—a term I came up which is comprised of every Coast Guard vessel since 1894 which had ever been called a “Queen”, including the exclusive group of which the STORIS was a part of called the “Queens of the Fleet”.  I submitted my manuscript to a major publisher in November 2011 and as of January 16th, 2012 it is still under technical review.  You can track the progress of the book with the Twitter account: @TheCutterStoris.
          In the meantime, I developed the website which is the first website which takes an extensive examination of “The Royal Court” as well as provide an extensive look at the STORIS and her impact in Coast Guard, national and maritime history.  This blog complements the Facebook page (The Cutter Storis), the Twitter feed (@TheCutterStoris) as well as the website.  I am pleased to announce that the website has already received two website awards for excellence.  I’m optimistic that the book will have enough caliber to receive similar accolades.
          It is my desire to use this platform to pay tribute to this wonderful and historic ship as well as others in the Royal Court.  I would like to share some of the poems, pictures and journal entries that I recorded on my tour of duty as well.  Finally, if all else fails I would like to use this platform as a commentary on current affairs which relate to some degree to the STORIS and the work she performed for over 50 years in the Alaskan waters.
Thanks for reading and we’ll see you next time.


Official disclaimer:

The views expressed herein are those of the blogger and are not to be construed as official or reflecting the views of the Commandant or of the U. S. Coast Guard


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