The Coast Guard At War

Transports and Escorts

Historical Section, Public Information Division
U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters
May 1, 1949

CGC North Star (WPG-53)

Commissioning and Description -- The CGC North Star (WPG-53) was built for the Department of the Interior at Seattle, Washington in 1932. On May 15, 1941, she was commissioned as a Coast Guard cutter and placed on duty with the Navy. On July 1, 1941, she became part of the Northeast Greenland Patrol, organize at Boston with Commander Ed. H. Smith in command and consisting in addition, of the CGC Northland and the USS Bear. On October 25, 1941, this patrol became part of the South Greenland Patrol along with the CGC Modoc, CGC Comanche, CGC Raritan and USS Bowdoin. Built of wood, the North Star was 225 feet long, 41 foot molded beam, and had a displacement of 2200 tons and speed of 11 knots. She was an oil burner powered with a 1500 HP diesel engine.

Seizure of Buskoe -- On September 12, 1941, the day following the President's warning to the Axis nations to stay out of American waters or take the consequences, Commander Smith, still commanding the Northeast Greenland Patrol off Eastern Greenland noticed an apparently innocent fishing vessel. The North Star had been informed earlier by some members of the Greenland Sledge Patrol that they had seen a strange steamer entering Young Sound. The North Star radioed this information to Commander Smith and proceeded to young Sound and Tyrolar Fjord in search of the reported vessel. on September 12th they discovered supplies of German origin freshly landed at Rudis Bugt. Commander Smith in the Northland, on the same day, stopped the fishing vessel and sent out a boarding party, who took her into a small bay, called McKenzie Bay, to look her over. On the 13th crew members of the North Star discovered in young Sound a Norwegian named Antonsen previously landed from the vessel and took him into custody. At first, the 27 persons aboard, mostly "Danish hunters and Norwegian trappers," claimed to be a fishing and hunting party. The leader of the expedition was a scientist. After questioning, they admitted landing two sets of "hunters", one with radio equipment, about 5 miles north. The ship was identified as the Norwegian trawler Buskoe, controlled by German interests and servicing a radio station in Greenland. A prize crew from the ,i>North Star was ordered aboard her and she was found equipped with a 50 watt main transmitter and a 40 watt portable transmitter. She was believed to be engaged in sending weather reports to Axis controlled territory, so as to supply German U-boats with weather information and also information on Allied ships due to pass. The North Star towed her from Cape Humboldt to Scoresby Sound and turned her over to the Bear for towing to Boston. The following night, men from the Northland captured the men who had been landed five miles away, and, with them, confidential instructions which were plans for German radio stations in the Far North. The seizure of the Buskoe was the first naval capture of World War II.

Aerial Survey of Twugdliarfik[?] -- The North Star returned to Boston and on March 15, 1942, arrived at Casco Bay, Maine, for exercises, departing there on the 21st, with the Northland, and escorting the SS Azra to Greenland. She anchored off the Army base at Bluie West One on April 3, 1942, but was placed in quarantine because of a case of measles on board. on the 4th she began an aerial survey of Twugdliarfik[?] Fjord and adjacent regions. on the 7th she stood down the Fjord and anchored off Hollsender Island, boating water all day and transferring supplies for Gamatron. With the ice pack moving in on the 9th, and the survey party ashore, she stood out of Hollsender Havn and continued the survey on the 10th and 11th, but was then forced by the ice to get underway, postponing the completion of the survey in that locality, but moving up to Mathoeus Havn where it was continued. on the 13th she delivered parts to the Northland's plane at Julienehaab and hoisted it aboard for overhaul, while Lt. Pritchard and crew took custody of the North Star's plane until the Northland's plane was repaired. Meanwhile the survey work was continued at Mathoeus Havn. on the 19th, she anchored off Simiutak Island, and from the 21st to 25th continued local surveys at Eleanora Havn, proceeding to Bluie West One on the 29th.

Damaged by Ice -- The North Star was damaged as she broke ice in Sondre Stromfjord on May 6, 1942. On the 7th an inspection revealed that the vessel was making water and after transferring depth charges to the Northland and Mohawk[?], an inspection of the bow showed about 74 square feet of sheathing torn off just below the waterline. Temporary repairs were completed on May 10th and she proceeded to Godthaab. Added pressure due to being underway, however, increased the size of the small remaining leak and she stood back up the fjord and resumed repairs by placing a concrete patch in the lower chain locker. On the 11th, survey flights were resumed and next day the measles quarantine was lifted. The balance of May was spent making local surveys and conducting survey flights, also making communication tests with the Army Base at Bluie West One, in preparation for an actual flight of some 20 planes which were to pass over Greenland en route Europe beginning June 8, 1942.

Searches for Lost Army Bomber -- After escorting the SS Dorchester into the fjord on June 5th, 1942, the North Star proceeded to search for a lost Army bomber, sending a searching party in a launch on the 7th as far as Sukkertoppen. On the 8th, her crew learned from natives that the missing plane was farther south, but weather conditions postponed search. On the 9th, reports indicated that the plane was down at Marrak, where the plane was found undamaged but needing gas and oil, which the North Star provided. On the 11th, the Army bomber, a B-17, took off.

Return to U.S. -- The cutter joined a three ship convoy off Ivigtut on the 15th, escorted by two destroyers and bound for Boston. She lost the convoy in dense fog on the 20th, and entered Boston channel. She remained drydocked at the Boston Navy Yard until July 11th, 1942, receiving major installations and underwater sound equipment. on her way to Casco Bay for training exercises on the 12th of June, 1942, she made a sound contact which, however, was later lost without making an attack. On the 16th, she was underway in convoy, with two Navy and two Coast Guard escorts standing into Sydney, N.S., harbor on July 19, 1942. She departed in a convoy consisting, in addition, of the Mohawk and Nanok for Bluie West One, Greenland, arriving on the 27th. On the 29th she met and escorted an incoming convoy.

To East Coast of Greenland -- The North Star remained on plane guard radio watch at Bluie West One and vicinity until August 12, 1942, when she proceeded to Julianehaab and returned with a convoy from Matheous Havn. On the 13th she joined a convoy composed of CGC Comanche, SS Dorchester and firefighter Alcoa Pilot en route Anmagssalik, East Greenland. She anchored at Bluie West Two, Army Base, in Ikatez Fjord on the 17th, unloading supplies and disembarking passengers. on the 20th she continued to Scoresby Sound, entering the ice field on the 21st, off the entrance to Scoresby Sound, and started maneuvering through it. At 1800 she reversed course and stood out of the ice field, when inspection of steering gear revealed the rudder stock bent, twisting the rudder 12° to port, with the cast iron support collar also cracked. Six feet of stern plating had also been torn off by the ice. on the 22nd she anchored off the village of Scoresby Sound, sending cargo ashore as her airplane surveyed ice conditions. She changed anchorage later to Amdrups Harbor. on the 23rd she sent supplies ashore for Gurreholm Radio Station, Scoresby Sound, departing on the 25th for Eskimonses. on August 31, 1942, she was still trying to get through the ice fields off Eskimonses, unable to advance very far. She anchored off the village on September 1st, transferring supplies and personnel to the Northland, and departed for Mackenzie Bay on the 2nd. She took on various gear from Myggbogta radio station and took on board also Johann Johansen, evacuated on SOPA, Greenland, orders getting underway for Musk Ox Fjord. She touched at Winthers Hunting Station and reached Videnskabelig Radio Station on Ella Island with supplies, taking on passengers. She headed out to sea and on the 8th was clear of ice, heading south for Scoresby Sound. En route she had an underwater contact which faded on approach. On the 11th she was ordered to Angmagssalik, which she was unable to enter until the 14th because of storms and poor visibility. Here she took on supplies and passengers and headed for Bluie West One. on the 17th, she reversed course on SOPA orders and returned to Angmagssalik awaiting the Natsek, which joined on the 19th en route the West Coast. She arrived Marsarssuak and moored at Army Dock on September 23, 1942.

Return to Boston -- Anchoring in Kungnat Bay on October 2, 1942, she awaited arrival of a convoy consisting of the Escanaba, Iris, USS Lapwing, towing the Halma and Armstrong, heading for Sydney, N.S., by way of Straits of Belle Isle. On the 8th the Armstrong broke adrift. Entering Belle Isle after making an underwater contact, supposed to be a whale, the convoy received air coverage and anchored in Sydney on the 14th. On the 15th the North Star was underway with the Lapwing for Boston, arriving on the 17th, undergoing repairs until November 9, 1942.

Operations in Greenland -- The North Star proceeded to Casco Bay for training exercises until the 17th, when she contacted a tug and tow to be escorted to Sydney, N.S. Arriving there on the 21st, she took on supplies for Greenland and departed on the 24th, entering Skov Fjord on November 30, 1942, with supplies, including Quonset huts. December 1942 war diaries for the North Star are missing, but on January 1, 1943, she was underway to Marrak Point, Greenland, with a detachment of Army equipment. She delivered mail at Godthaab on the 6th, returning to complete unloading at Marrak until the 8th. Returning to Godthaab on the 10th she brought a passenger to Narsarssuak, stopping at Kungnat Bay for other personnel. Reaching Narsarssuak on the 15th, she was quarantined, with German measles on board, until the 27th.

Rescue Mission -- Proceeding to the assistance of the SS Omaha on February 1, 1943, she was diverted to Godthaab to take on the Governor of Greenland and the American Consul, as well as a Dane and Norwegian, the latter to assist in rescue operations. of personnel of a Navy PBY forced down on the ice cap. Proceeding to Holstenborge, she took on 5 dog teams with sled and two dog drives of proceeded to Ivigtut. on the 5th a man fell overboard and was unconscious when recovered, dying at 1535. She patrolled Kungnat Bay entrance until the 16th while arrangements were being perfected for the ice cap rescue. On the 18th, she was underway for Godthaab and Holstenborge with dog teams for rescue operations. On the 23rd, delayed by winds of gale force, she proceeded through the ice fields and was stopped by 12 to 15 foot ice covering the area. it was not until the 28th that she was able to anchor off Holstenborge, when mail, dogs, drivers and equipment were put ashore. Proceeding south on March 1st, the North Star was requested to maintain lookout for two RAF planes reported lost and she drifted until the 12th southwest of the entrance to Sondre Stromfjord on the lookout for the planes, though low visibility and heavy sea ice along the coast interfered with operations. She proceeded to Narsarssuak on the 15th and on the 17th was underway escorting the CGC Amarok to Boston, where she arrived on March 31, 1943.

Assistance -- Standing out of Boston on April 2, 1943, the North Star proceeded to Curtis Bay. On the 3rd, while off Block Island Light, she changed course to search for a small craft reported in need of assistance. She located the CGC General Greene standing by the fishing craft Columbia, but unable to tow her because of engine trouble, and the North Star took the vessel in tow, transferring her to a small harbor tug two miles south of Breton Reef Lightship on the 5th. Arriving at Curtis Bay on the 8th, she underwent repairs and alterations until May 11, 1943.

Search for Escanaba -- She proceeded to Boston, arriving there May 156, 1943, and after 6 days at Casco, from May 21, 1943, proceeded escorting the U.S. Navy Tanker YO-65 and CGC Faunce to Argentia. Here, after two days, she proceeded to Gronne Dal, Greenland in company with the CGC Faunce, Nogak and Aglak and the USS Albatross, the Faunce returning to Argentia because of engine trouble. The others reached Gronne Dal June 9th. The North Star left Gronne Dal on the 12th, and on June 13, 1943, was ordered to assist the CGC Escanaba, reported sunk at 60°50' N, 52°00' W [by explosion]. She searched the area with the USS Bluebird and SC-705 but found no trace of survivors or wreckage. She returned to Narsarssuak, where she remained until June 30, 1943.

Attacked by German Plane -- The North Star departed Narsarssuak on July 1, 1943, in company with the Northland, loaded with supplies and equipment for delivery to the northeast coast of Greenland. She was drydocked at Reykjavik, Iceland, until July 20, 1943, for repairs. While proceeding north on July 23, 1943, a German reconnaissance plane was encountered. it stood in from the eastward, north of Jan Mayen Island and was picked up on the radar screen at a distance of 12 miles. As the plane stood in, crossing from starboard to port, it opened fire on the North Star with machine guns, bullets hitting the water 600 to 800 yards from the bow. The plane then reversed and stood down the starboard side, apparently searching for a soft spot in the ship's armament, meeting the fire of the North Star's No. 2 gun as it stood up the starboard side. When the plane was abreast of the pilot house, both the cutter's guns found the range, the bursting projectiles rocking the plane, which started to throw off black smoke and stood off to the northeastward, trailing heavy black exhaust smoke. It speedily dropped to a low altitude and appeared to bounce over the horizon on three occasions as though hitting the water. The plane was thought to have been hit by shrapnel at a range no nearer than 4000 to 6000 yards.

Lands Supplies -- The North Star was stopped by heavy pack ice on July 256, 1943, at 74°22' N, 16°22' W, and drifted nearly a month south to a point 20 miles east of Cape Simpson, where on the 24th of August she finally broke out of the ice to the eastward into open water. She proceeded northward, stood into Gael Hamkes Bay and arrived at Eskimones on August 31, 1943. While approaching the Bay, the rudder's stock broke and the Polar Bjorn came out of Young's Sound to assist the North Star into the Bay for emergency repairs. At Eskimones all supplies for the Greenland Sledge Patrol at Dead Man's Bay and Clavering Island were transferred -- supplies considered sufficient for one and possibly two years. Materials for a house were laid out on shore so that it could be erected by the Sledge Patrol. A landing party also investigated a German camp on Sabine Island. The cutter departed Eskimones on September 3, 1943, and assisted by the Polar Bjorn, broke out of the ice in clear water off Cape Broer Ruys on the 6th and proceeding south, contacted the Northland at 72°16' N., 15°48' W, both vessels arriving at Reykjavik on September 11, 1943.

German Camp Well Equipped -- The German camp on Sabine Island had borne every evidence of having been hastily abandoned. it had been well and completely laid out and equipped. Tobacco and candy, as well as machine gun parts, clothing, etc., had been dropped by parachute containers. the food was choice. Salvageable material was used on the spot or stocked in Danish huts, including several hundred gallons of gasoline and kerosene, which were particularly welcome. The camp had evidently been evacuated by air, probably in two trips shortly after an air attack on May 24, 1943, by Colonel Balchen of the U.S. Army Air Corps. it is possible that a small group may have gone north to the Dove Bay region by dog sled, this being a region which the expedition did not and could not search because of the ice and late season. A German plane which had come over the Northland on August 22, 1943, off Shannon Island, was apparently conducting a general reconnaissance of ice conditions with a view to sending in another expedition, either by boat or air. While only one prisoner was taken, the joint landing force from the North Star and Northland had covered considerable territory, in any part of which active opposition might reasonably be expected, The naval personnel involved were specially trained and acted in conjunction with a similar army force. The physical hazards of weather, ice and terrain were abnormal and the naval personnel were recommended for the Navy Marine Expeditionary Medal.

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