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USCGC North Star on 18 June 1941
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Class: NORTH STAR (IX-148)
Design Arctic supply ship, 1932
Displacement (tons): 1,435 light, 1,858 full
Dimensions (feet): 225.0' oa, 217.5' wl x 42.5' x 16.0' full
Original Armament: 2-3"/50 6-20mm (1943)
Later armaments: --
Speed (kts.): 10.5
Propulsion (HP): 1,500
Machinery: 1 screw, McIntosh Seymour diesel
||13 Jan 44
||18 Jan 32
||13 Jan 44
||15 Jun 45
||11 Jul 45
||15 Jun 45
No FY (transferred). On 14 May 1920 the Navy transferred the wooden sail training ship BOXER to the Department of the Interior for use by its Bureau of Education in Alaska. Funds for installing an engine and repairing the ship were included in the Interior Department appropriation act approved 24 May 22 and the ship began operations in May 1923. Every summer BOXER, now an auxiliary schooner, carried a heavy tonnage of supplies and equipment, teachers, doctors, and nurses from Seattle to remote settlements on the Alaskan coast and adjacent islands as far north as Point Barrow. For many settlements the annual visit of BOXER furnished their only means of communication with the rest of the world. On her southward voyages she brought out teachers and doctors whose terms of service had expired and carried for Eskimo herders reindeer meet that they wished to sell in the States. On 14 Mar 31 the Secretary of the Interior transferred these functions to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and at the same time a new larger ship was ordered from the Berg Shipyard at Seattle. The new wooden ship was designed by W. C. Nickum, had accommodations for 38 passengers as well as space for 2,600 tons of dry cargo and refrigerated space for 1,300 reindeer carcasses. Named U.S.M.S. (U.S. Motor Ship) NORTH STAR, this vessel began her first annual summer cruise in May or June 1932.
After the ship completed her 1939 Alaskan summer voyages the Interior Department loaned her to Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd to participate in his third expedition to Antarctica with BEAR (see AG-29) between November 1939 and April 1940. She returned to Seattle in time for her 1940 Alaskan summer voyages. With war clouds looming she departed Seattle in December 1940 for a second voyage to Antarctica, during which the stations established in the earlier expedition were closed down, and was then ordered to the North Atlantic for patrol duties. BOXER was reactivated to carry out Alaska supply duties during the emergency. NORTH STAR arrived at Boston, Mass on 5 May 41 and later that month was transferred from the Interior Department to the Coast Guard. On 1 Jul 41 she became part of the Northeast Greenland Patrol, which also included cutters NORTHLAND and BEAR. The South Greenland Patrol, consisting of three other Coast Guard cutters and the ex-Coast and Geodetic Survey ship BOWDOIN (IX-50), was merged with the Northeast patrol by October 1941 to form the Greenland Patrol. NORTH STAR assisted in the seizure of the German-controlled trawler BUSKOE on 12 Sep 41, repelled an attack by a German reconnaissance plane north of Jan Mayen Island on 23 Jul 43, and helped investigate the German radio and weather base at Sabine Island, East Greenland, on 31 Aug 43 after it had been bombed by planes of the Army Air Force. Her armament included four depth charge projectors and two depth charge releasing tracks, and she carried a Grummann J2F "Duck" aircraft on her quarterdeck, where she had also carried aircraft on her Arctic voyages.
The acquisition of NORTH STAR by the Navy at Boston appears to have been initially directed by VCNO on 29 Nov 43. In a letter dated 4 Dec 43 CNO reclassed the Coast Guard vessel NORTH STAR as USS NORTH STAR and assigned her the symbol IX-148 effective 15 Dec 43. On 2 Dec 43 Com-1 sent CominCh information on the capacities of NORTH STAR for carrying cargo and passengers, perhaps to help him decide how the ship should be used. She had a 9000 cubic foot refrigerated hold aft, of which 3000 cubic feet were a freeze box, and a 10,000 cu. ft. hold forward. The tween decks forward, then used for crew berthing, could be used instead for 6000 cu. ft. more cargo. She had two 5-ton cargo booms forward and one aft. Her total capacity for cargo and passengers was about 1,000 tons. As a passenger vessel she could sleep 125 steerage and 16 cabin passengers in addition to a crew of 7 officers and 54 men. Alternatively she could carry around 300 passengers without sleeping arrangements or in an emergency around 450 passengers for a short distance. As minimal alterations Com-1 recommended the removal of the airplane stowage and handling gear, aviation gasoline stowage, two depth charge projectors in the well deck aft, and some fittings in the forward hold. He also recommended installing additional lifesaving equipment to bring total facilities to 450 persons. NORTH STAR was accepted from the Coast Guard at Boston and placed in reduced commission on 13 Jan 44. On 27 Apr 44 CNO assigned her to Com-4 in connection with care and preservation of inactive vessels, to be in commission in reserve (inactive status). She departed Boston 3 May 44 and arrived at Philadelphia ca. 5 May where she supported tests being conducted on the catapult barge AVC-1 (q.v.) of equipment and procedures that would be used to lay up and preserve ships after the war. On 5 Feb 45 Com-3 asked for NORTH STAR for use as an icebreaker in New York Harbor and for dumping defective ammunition at sea, but instead CNO decided on 26 Feb 45 to send her to the west coast and return her to the Interior Department there. The ship was placed in full commission for the voyage on 6 Mar 45 and was placed back in reduced commission on 12 May 45 after arriving at Seattle. She was then repaired, decommissioned and delivered to the Interior Department on 15 Jun 45.
While undoubtedly a welcome replacement for BOXER and any other temporary vessels used during the war, NORTH STAR was quickly found to be too small and old for postwar Alaska resupply service. In 1949 she was replaced by a refrigerated C1-M-AV1 small cargo ship, COASTAL RIDER, which was renamed NORTH STAR II. (This ship in turn was replaced in 1962 by the even larger EMORY VICTORY, the only Victory ship built with diesel propulsion, which operated as NORTH STAR III until 1984.) Sold ca. 1951, the original NORTH STAR operated out of Tacoma, Washington, as the fishing vessel NORTH STAR. After lying idle for several years at Ballard (Seattle), she was sold in 1968 to Captain Edward Colberg of Long Beach, Calif., for service as a freighter in Mexican coastal waters and was transferred to Mexican registry.
||Wood hull. Ex NORTH STAR, Dept. of Interior (completed May 1932). Loaned to USCG and commissioned 14 May 41 as NORTH STAR (WPG-59), used on the Greenland Patrol. Designated IX-148 by Navy 15 Dec 43, decomm. by USCG and placed in reduced commission by the Navy 13 Jan 44. In full commission 6 Mar 45, reduced comm. 12 May 45. Returned to Interior Dept. 1945 as NORTH STAR. Merc. NORTH STAR 1951.
Compiled: 21 Dec 2010
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2010