USCGC Unimak (WHEC-379)


USCGC Unimak (WHEC-379)

USCGC "Unimak" (AVP-31, WAVP/WHEC/WTR-379) was a United States Coast Guard ship of the "Casco" class. Her radio callsign was NBVG. She was built by Associated Shipbuilders, Inc., Seattle, Washington, and commissioned into the United States Navy on 31 December 1943 then loaned to Coast Guard on 14 September 1948. On 3 January 1949 she was commissioned into service for the Coast Guard and was permanently transferred on 26 September 1966. She was decommissioned on 29 April 1988.

Navy service

"Unimak" (AVP-31) was laid down on 15 February 1942 at Harbor Island, near Seattle, by the Associated Shipbuilders, Inc.; launched on 27 May 1942; sponsored by Mrs. H. B. Berry, the wife of Capt. H. B. Berry, the personnel officer of the 13th Naval District; and commissioned on 31 December 1943, Commander Hilfort C. Owen in command.

Following shakedown and fitting-out into late January 1944, the small seaplane tender departed San Diego, California on 20 March, bound for the Canal Zone. Arriving at Balboa, Panama eight days later, "Unimak" operated on the Pacific coast of Central America into April, providing logistics support to advanced seaplane bases at Santa Elena Bay, Ecuador, and at Aeolian Bay, Battra Island, in the Galápagos group. She soon shifted to Coco Solo on the Caribbean side of the Canal and transported men and materiel to Barranquillas, Colombia, arriving there on 25 April.

After escorting SS "Genevieve Lykes" back to Coco Solo on 23 June and 24 June, "Unimak" conducted routine exercises with patrol planes into July. On 4 July she received reports that a tanker near her position had been torpedoed, and headed for the damaged ship. When she arrived on the scene late that day, "Unimak" found the tanker still underway, making for the Panama coast. She immediately commenced screening the disabled ship and, aided by an escort of Army and Navy planes, shepherded the tanker safely to Colon late on the following afternoon.

Soon thereafter, "Unimak" shaped her course towards the last reported position of Navy blimp "K-53". At 15:32 on 9 July, the seaplane tender sighted two yellow rubber rafts and the wreckage of the crashed blimp floating on the water. At 15:58, "Unimak" took on board nine survivors and sank the unsalvageable blimp by collapsing the bag with 40 millimeter gunfire; the ship then landed the survivors at Portland Bight, Jamaica.

A few days later, on 12 July, "Unimak" joined with USS|John D. Edwards|DD-216|6 in hunting for a submarine reported to be lurking nearby. Within a few days, word of a crashed plane sent the two ships speeding for the last reported position of an aircraft. "Unimak" located only wreckage and one body, which was buried at sea on 16 July.

"Unimak" remained in the Caribbean through the autumn, tending patrol planes, conducting logistics support missions for advanced seaplane bases, and occasionally towing targets for the patrol planes training in the area. On 15 December, USS|Rockaway|AVP-29|6 relieved "Unimak", releasing her to steam north via Norfolk to Boston, Massachusetts.

Arriving there at the end of December 1944, "Unimak" underwent availability at the Boston Navy Yard for the entire month of January 1945. She got underway for England on 14 February, but an engineering casualty forced the ship to return to Boston for a major propeller shaft alignment which lasted into March.

On 7 April, "Unimak" got underway for the British Isles and proceeded, via Bahia Praia in the Azores, to Bristol, on the first of two voyages to England to bring back supplies and men from decommissioned Navy patrol plane squadrons in the British Isles. On the second voyage, from 5 June to 15 June, "Unimak" transported the men and materiel of Patrol Bomber Squadrons 103 and 105 from Bristol to Norfolk.

Departing Hampton Roads on 20 July, bound for the West Coast, the ship transited the Panama Canal on the 26th and arrived at San Diego on 3 August. She got underway for Pearl Harbor on the 12th. The seaplane tender subsequently operated in the Hawaiian chain until 7 September when she headed for the Aleutians.

She operated in northern climes — calling at Adak, Kodiak, and Attu, Alaska; and once at Petropavlovsk, Siberia — into November 1945 before heading southward to prepare for inactivation. Subsequently reporting to Commander, 19th Fleet, in December, "Unimak" was decommissioned on 26 July 1946. She remained in reserve until transferred to the Coast Guard on 14 September 1948. She served the Coast Guard as USCGC "Unimak" (WAVP-379).

Coast Guard service

"Unimak" was homeported in Boston from 3 January 1949 to 1 September 1956 and used primarily for law enforcement, ocean station, and search and rescue operations. In June 1956, she patrolled the Newport, Rhode Island to Bermuda race. She was subsequently stationed at Cape May, New Jersey from 1 September 1956 to 7 August 1972 and used primarily for training reservists, including training cruises to Brazil and Nova Scotia. She took part in the cadet cruise of August 1965. On 7 March 1967 she rescued six Cuban refugees in the Yucatan Channel. On 10 March 1967 she rescued survivors from F/V "Bunkie III" in Florida waters. Five days later, she rescued 12 Cuban refugees who were stranded on an island. On 29 May 1969, "Unimak" towed to safety the F/V "Sirocco", which was disabled 35 miles east of Fort Pierce, Florida. On 3 April 1970, "Unimak" stood by the grounded M/V "Vassiliki" near Mayaguana Island until a commercial tug arrived.

From 7 August 1972 to 31 May 1975, "Unimak" was stationed at Yorktown, Virginia, and was again used to train reservists. Between 31 May 1975 and August 1977 she was placed out of commission and stored at Curtis Bay, Maryland. On 22 August 1977, "Unimak" was reactivated and was homeported at New Bedford, Massachusetts, until 1988. She was used primarily for fishing patrol.

On 6 October 1980, she seized M/V "Janeth" 340 miles southeast of Miami, Florida, carrying 500 bales of marijuana. On 14 October 1980, she seized P/C "Rescue" carrying approximately 500 bales of marijuana and P/C "Snail" with two tons of marijuana in the Gulf of Mexico. Three days later, she seized M/V "Amalaka" southwest of Key West, Florida, carrying 1,000 bales of marijuana. On 19 October 1980, "Unimak" seized F/V "Wright's Pride" southwest of Key West, carrying 30 tons of marijuana. In March 1981, while on an OCS training cruise, "Unimak" intercepted M/V "Mayo" with 40 tons of marijuana. On 9 December 1982, she towed the disabled F/V "Sacred Heart" away from Daid Banks, 45 miles east of Cape Cod, in 30-foot seas.

Between 28 January and 9 March 1983, "Unimak" was again deployed to the Caribbean for law enforcement patrol. On 27 February and 28 February 1983, she towed the dismasted "Wandering Star" to Mathew Town, Great Iguana. On 3 March 1983, she towed the disabled M/V "Yadrina" to Mathew Town. On 30 November 1984, "Unimak" seized the sailboat "Lola" 100 miles north of Barranquilla, Colombia, carrying 1.5 tons of marijuana. Another drug bust occurred on 2 November 1985, when "Unimak" seized tugboat "Zeus 3" and a barge 200 miles south of the Dominican Republic carrying 40 tons of marijuana.

After her return to the Navy in April 1988, she was expended as an artificial reef off the Virginia coast.

References

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* [http://www.uscg.mil/history/webcutters/Unimak_1949.html USCG.mil/history/: USCGC "Unimak"]
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