The Coast Guard At War
Transports and Escorts
Historical Section, Public Information Division
U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters
May 1, 1949
CGC Escanaba (WPG-77)
Commissioning and Description
The Coast Guard Cutter Escanaba (WPG-77) was built at Bay City, Michigan in 1932, and on July 1, 1941, her permanent station was Grand Haven, Michigan. She was 165 ft. long with 36 ft. beam and drew 13 ft. 7 in. of water, having a displacement of 1005 tons and a gross tonnage CH of 718 tons. With a steel hull, she made 13 knots. She was an oil burner with a 1500 HP geared turbine.
Attacks Two Subs -- SS Cherokee Sunk; 22 Survivors
On June 15, 1942, while escorting a convoy (XB-25) from Cape Cod to Halifax in position 42°47' N, 66°18' W, the Escanaba had a definite contact on her QC machine and went into the attack immediately. Eight depth charges were dropped on a contact held to within 200 yards and stern lookouts and others aft saw the submarine break water, roll over and disappear. At 800 yards, the cutter headed for a second attack. As she closed, large groups of air bubbles were noticed dead ahead and a pattern of six depth charges was dropped across the position. Contact was lost. This sinking was not confirmed by German records uncovered after the war, and is not included in the list of enemy submarines listed as sunk by the Navy in its release of June 17, 1946. A second submarine was contacted at 1820 and eight depth charges were dropped, five more being dropped on the second run. Shortly after this, a dark mass arose to the surface and a large slick area was noted with masses of brown substance floating about, but the cutter was unable to regain contact. This sinking was likewise never confirmed by German records. Ordered to rejoin the convoy at 1922, flares and rockets indicated a submarine attack (U-87) on the convoy. The Escanaba came to the position where the SS Cherokee had gone down and survivors were milling around in the water. Rescue operations began and the monomoy surfboat was put over in the dark with a volunteer rescue crew. The order was to pick up singles -- men swimming alone, but the men kept floating near to the boat, but could not hold on to the liferings attached to the sides that were thrown to them. One man finally got alongside but could not hold on to the rope and husky crew members, held by the feet, went down and, as the ship rolled, grabbed the man and brought him aboard. This method was soon discarded, however, as too dangerous. The ship was taken to the windward of the rafts and the men allowed to drift down by the rafts and, in this manner, they were brought right up under the counter, and the rafts secured alongside. All other methods of rescue failed. The monomoy surfboat returned with 11 men and 11 had been brought aboard without use of the boat, making a total of 22. As the ship's boat was preparing to go out again, an unidentified corvette and the Norlago, a small freighter designated as rescue ship, began to use lights to rescue survivors. These were just enough to attract submarines. A destroyer made a quick counterattack on a sub approaching for the attack. The corvette disappeared, as did the Norlago, and the Escanaba had to lift her ship's boat and depart despite the fact that more survivors were awaiting rescue. After a sound sweep, the Escanaba began a zigzag evasion course for Boston. She would have remained, but her depth charges had been exhausted.
The Escanaba arrived at Sidney on July 4th, escorting [/] and Bluebird from Casco Bay, Maine. For the remainder of July and until August 23, 1942, she was on weather patrol. ON the latter date she moored at Bluie West One and later transported officers to Julienhaab n August 31, 1942, returning to Kinglok Island the same day. On September 1, 1942, she stood up S[...] Fjord, and on September 4th was patrolling weather station "affirm", where she remained until the 13th. For the rest of September she was on local transportation and escort duty, visiting Kungnat Bay, Ivigtut, Resolution Island, and Frobisher Bay, Baffin island, returning to Bluie West One on October 2, 1942.
Survey Duty -- Escort Duty
On October 2, 1942, she proceeded to Fredericksdal, Greenland with Army officers aboard to survey a prospective base at the point. Until the 31st, she remained on local escort duty and on that date joined a convoy bound for Argentia, arriving on November 7, 1942; remaining until the 14th, when she departed for St. John's and thence for Kungnat Bay, arriving on the 22nd. On the 25th, she departed with another convoy for St. John's, Argentia, and Boston, arriving December 5, 1944 for repairs until the 29th, when she got underway for Argentia.
Arriving at Argentia on January 2, 1943, the Escanaba proceeded the next day to St. John's, and on the 6th began escorting a convoy to Kungnat Bay, arriving on the 11th. On the 14th she was underway again fro Argentia, where she arrived on the 14th, breaking ice in the harbor on the 25th and 26th. On the 27th she was again proceeding to Greenland, stopping at St. John's on the 28th. On February 3, 90 miles southwest of Skovfjord, Greenland, the SS Dorchester, carrying troops and civilian workers in convoy SG-19, was torpedoed and sank in 20 minutes. By 0922, 145 victims had been brought aboard the Escanaba, 12 of whom were dead and one dying, making 132 living rescued. Due to the cold weather, many had been unable to assist themselves, and Escanaba's personnel had been sent into the water to secure lines to rafts and survivors. Rubber lifesaving suits proved valuable in this work. The Escanaba moored at Bluie West One on February 4, 1943, and disembarked the survivors.
On February 9, 1943, the Escanaba> left for Kungnat Bay, where on the 22nd she began escorting a convoy to St. John's. On the 28th she detached with the USS Sandpiper and USS Nogak for St. John's. On March 1, 1943, the Escanaba was en route Argentia, and on the 2nd stood out of there with a convoy bound for Boston, where she arrived on the 7th and went into drydock. On March 17th, she was en route out of Casco Bay with the USS Arluk and USS Mango, putting into Shelbourne Harbor, N.S., as the Arluk became disabled with engine trouble. She arrived at Argentia on the 24th with the Mango and remained there until the 30th, when she departed with the Mohawk and Nanok for St. John's, thence proceeding to Narsarssuak, Greenland, escorting a convoy, which arrived on April 9, 1943. She remained moored there until April 30, effecting repairs to her main unit. (May War Diary missing...)
On June 10, 1943, the began escorting convoy GS-24 from Narsarssuak to St. John's, Newfoundland, in company with the Mojave (Flag), Tampa, Storis and Algonquin, the convoy consisting of USAT Fairfax and USS Raritan. Before joining the convoy on the 12th, the Storis and Algonquin had been ordered to conduct a search for a submarine, reported by the Army to be in Breded Fjord. proceeding northwest to skirt the ice, the convoy, early on the morning of the 13th, had passed to west and south and around the ice field to position 60°50' N, 52°00' W, when at 0510 on the 13th, dense black and yellow smoke was reported rising from the . She sank at 0513. The Storis and Raritan were ordered to investigate and rescue survivors while the rest of the convoy began zigzagging and steering evasive courses to avoid submarines. At 0715 the two cutters returned, having rescued 2 survivors and found the body of Lt. Robert H. Prause, which was on the Raritan. No explosion had been heard by the other escort vessels. The entire crew of 103 was lost with the exception of these two men. [An investigation was unable to establish a concrete explanation for the loss. German sources record not submarine attacks against the convoy at that time.]
Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Patrick Clancey