USCGC Basswood (WLB-388)

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USCGC Basswood.jpg
USCGC Basswood through the Straits of Mackinac on 12 May 1944
United States
Name: Basswood
Builder: Marine and Iron Shipbuilding Corporation
Laid down: 21 March 1943
Launched: 20 May 1943
Commissioned: 12 January 1944
Decommissioned: 4 September 1998
Fate: Sold on 24 November 2000, eventually scrapped
Badge: USCGC Basswood Badge.png
General characteristics
Class and type: Iris-class buoy tender
Displacement: 935 long tons (950 t)
Length: 180 ft (55 m)
Beam: 47 ft 1 in (14.35 m)
Draft: 12 ft (3.7 m)
Propulsion: 1 × electric motor connected to 2 Westinghouse generators driven by 2 Cooper Bessemer-type GND-8, 4-cycle diesels; single screw
  • 8.3 kn (15.4 km/h; 9.6 mph) cruising
  • 13 kn (24 km/h; 15 mph) maximum
  • 6 officers
  • 74 enlisted

USCGC Basswood (WLB-388) was an Iris-class buoy tender belonging to the United States Coast Guard launched on 20 May 1943, and commissioned on 12 January 1944.[1]


The Iris-class buoy tenders were constructed after the Mesquite-class buoy tenders. Basswood cost $896,402 to construct and had an overall length of 180 feet (55 m). She had a beam of 37 feet (11 m) and a draft of up to 12 feet (3.7 m) at the time of construction, although this was increased to 14 feet 7 inches (4.45 m) in 1966. She initially had a displacement of 935 long tons (950 t; 1,047 short tons); this was increased to 1,026 long tons (1,042 t; 1,149 short tons) in 1966. She was powered by one electric motor. This was connected up to two Westinghouse generators which were driven by two CooperBessemer GND-8 four-cycle diesel engines. She had a single screw.[2]

The Iris-class buoy tenders had maximum sustained speeds of 13 knots (24 km/h; 15 mph), although this diminished to around 11.9 knots (22.0 km/h; 13.7 mph) in 1966. For economic and effective operation, they had to initially operate at 8.3 knots (15.4 km/h; 9.6 mph), although this increased to 8.5 knots (15.7 km/h; 9.8 mph) in 1966. The ship had a complement of six officers and seventy-four crew members in 1945; this decreased to two warrants, four officers, and forty-seven men in 1966. They were fitted with a SL1 radar system and QBE-3A sonar system in 1945. Their armament consisted of one 3"/50 caliber gun, two 20 mm/80 guns, two Mousetraps, two depth charge tracks, and four Y-guns in 1945; these were removed in 1966.[2]

Operational history[edit]

International radio call sign of
USCGC Basswood (WLB-388)[3]
ICS November.svg ICS Oscar.svg ICS Delta.svg ICS Golf.svg
November Oscar Delta Golf
USCGC Basswood works a buoy in Vũng Tàu harbor, 1967

Basswood was laid down in Duluth, Minnesota, and commissioned in January 1944. From March to April 1944, she performed general ATON and icebreaking on the Great Lakes after which she was transferred to Astoria, Oregon, for additional ATON duty until the end of World War II.[3]

In the 1950s the Basswood made several trips to the Marshall Islands in support of US nuclear weapons testing there, specifically for Operations Greenhouse (1951), Castle (1954), and Redwing (1956).[4][5] Forty-three nuclear weapons tests occurred at Enewetak Atoll in the Marshalls from 1948 to 1958.[6][7]

She returned to the Marshalls in 1966, carrying Dayle Husted of the Smithsonian Institution to Enewetak as part of the Pacific Ocean Biological Survey Program.[8][a] The Basswood spent two days anchored in the lagoon there while Husted conducted his survey.[8][b]

The Basswood completed three deployments to Vietnam during the Vietnam War.[12] Consequently, personnel who served aboard her during one of these deployments are "eligible for the presumption of Agent Orange herbicide exposure" by the Department of Veterans Affairs.[13]

From 1968 until her decommissioning in 1998, Basswood was stationed in Guam, and holds the distinction of being commissioned longer than any other naval ship assigned there. While based in Guam, she was the driving force behind Project Handclasp, a US Navy program to provide health care and humanitarian relief to outlying islands in the Pacific Ocean.[3]

In 1976, the eye of Typhoon Pamela passed over Guam causing widespread, major damage.[14] In Apra Harbor, the Basswood's home port, ten ships or tugs were sunk or forced aground, as were numerous smaller vessels.[14] However, the Basswood successfully rode out the storm at anchor, recording a peak wind gust of 120 knots/hour (138 mph) and a minimum barometric pressure of 933.1 mb (27.6 inHg).[14]

On July 1, 1997, the Basswood began pursuit of the fishing vessel Cao Yu No. 6025.[15] The Cao Yu was sighted by a Canadian Air Force P-3 crew on June 26 about 1,500 miles northwest of Midway Island apparently engaged in illegal driftnet fishing.[15][16][17] US Coast Guard and Navy aircraft surveilled the ship before it was intercepted by the Basswood, which followed the fishing vessel for some 1,500 miles.[15][17] Contrary to the master's claims, the People's Republic of China denied that the vessel was registered there and, therefore, the Coast Guard determined that it was flagless and subject to boarding.[15][18] The Cao Yu "aggressively" resisted but crew from the Basswood and the USCGC Chase nevertheless boarded the Cao Yu on July 10 near the Japanese island of Kyushu and seized a 120-ton catch of mostly albacore tuna along with illegal driftnets.[15][16][18] The Cao Yu's crew was taken aboard the Chase and transported to Guam.[18] The Basswood towed the Cao Yu to Guam where it was sold at auction, the ship's master was prosecuted for resisting the Coast Guard boarding.[16][17]

Awards and decorations[edit]

The Basswood was awarded the Coast Guard Unit Commendation with the Operational Distinguishing Device three times.[12][c] She earned the Meritorious Unit Commendation with the Operational Distinguishing Device four times.[12][d] She was awarded six Coast Guard "E" Ribbons for her performance during Refresher Training with U.S. Navy Fleet Training Group (FTG) Pearl Harbor (1984, 1993, & 1995) and FTG West Pac (Subic) in 1986, 1988, and 1990.[12] She also earned the Vietnam Service Medal three times and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal for deployments in 1967, 1971, and 1972.[2][12] Other distinctions received include the American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, National Defense Service Medal (3 awards), and Humanitarian Service Medal (2 awards).[2][12][19]

Operational Distinguishing Device.png Award star (gold).pngAward star (gold).png
Operational Distinguishing Device.png Award star (gold).pngAward star (gold).pngAward star (gold).png
Silver star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star

See also[edit]


Explanatory notes[edit]

  1. ^ The Pacific Ocean Biological Survey Program a.k.a. the Pacific Project was part of a secret biological weapons research program funded by the Army (see also Deseret Test Center, Project 112, and Project SHAD). [8][9][10][11]
  2. ^ Husted's original handwritten field notes from the trip can be viewed on the Biodiversity Heritage Library website
  3. ^ The award periods were Aug. 12, 1974 – Jan. 29, 1975; Jul. 1 – Dec. 31, 1986; and , Jun. 1, 1997 – May 31, 1999.[2][12]
  4. ^ The award periods were May 20 – 31, 1976; Nov. 13 – 16, 1977; Dec. 13 – 17, 1985; and, May 10, 1988 – May 10, 1990.[2][12]


  1. ^ "Basswood WLB 388". Naval Cover Museum. Retrieved 26 July 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Basswood". United States Coast Guard. Retrieved 24 August 2015.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ a b c "USCG Basswood". USCG. US Coast Guard. Retrieved 26 July 2015.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ "Radiation Dose Assessment for Personnel in USCGC BASSWOOD (WAGL 388), post-Operations GREENHOUSE (1951) and REDWING (1956)," a memorandum from D. Martinez, (Science Applications International Corp., McLean, VA) to Cdr. M. Ely, Defense Special Weapons Agency, September 20, 1996, as cited in Evaluation of Generic 3X Upper Bound Factor Used in Reconstructing External Gamma Dose to Military Participants at Atmospheric Nuclear Weapon Tests by David C. Kocher, (Fort Belvoir, VA: Defense Threat Reduction Agency, 2009). Accessed 17 Aug 2018.
  5. ^ History of Operation Castle (extracted version)] by Major General P. W. Clarkson (Washington, DC: Defense Nuclear Agency, 1983).
  6. ^ Diehl, Sarah and Moltz, James Clay. Nuclear Weapons and Nonproliferation: A Reference Book. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2002, p. 208.
  7. ^ "Enewetak Atoll – nuclear trash can of the pacific – UTAOT".
  8. ^ a b c Regis, Ed (2000). The Biology of Doom: America's Secret Germ Warfare Project. New York: Henry Holt. p. 205. ISBN 9780805057652.
  9. ^ MacLeod, Roy (Summer 2001). ""Strictly for the Birds": Science, the Military and the Smithsonian's Pacific Ocean Biological Survey Program, 1963–1970" (PDF). Journal of the History of Biology. 34 (2): 315–352. doi:10.1023/A:1010371321083. Retrieved 18 Aug 2018.
  10. ^ Rauzon, Mark J. (November 19, 2006). "Live Ammo". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 18 Aug 2018.
  11. ^ "Record Unit 245, National Museum of Natural History, Pacific Ocean Biological Survey Program, Records, circa 1961–1973, with data from 1923". Smithsonian Institution Archives. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 18 Aug 2018.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h U.S. Coast Guard, Coast Guard Medals and Awards Manual, COMDTINST M1650.25E, Aug. 15, 2016, Accessed Aug. 16, 2018.
  13. ^ "Navy and Coast Guard Ships Associated with Service in Vietnam and Exposure to Herbicide Agents" (docx). Veterans Exposed to Agent Orange - Compensation. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. 2 Jul 2018. Retrieved 18 Aug 2018. All U.S. Coast Guard Cutters with hull designation WPB [Patrol Boat], WHEC [High Endurance Cutter], WLB [Buoy Tender], and WAK [Cargo Vessel] during their Vietnam tours
  14. ^ a b c "Annual Typhoon Report 1976" (PDF). Joint Typhoon Warning Center. pp. 24–29. Retrieved 2011-08-08.
  15. ^ a b c d e "Coast Guard closing in on driftnetting vessel". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. July 9, 1997. Retrieved September 1, 2018.
  16. ^ a b c "Pelagic Fisheries of the Western Pacific Region 1997 Annual Report" (PDF). Western Pacific Fishery Council — Ecosystem-based management of fisheries in the U.S. Pacific Islands. Honolulu, HI: Western Pacific Fishery Management Council. October 1998. p. 23. Retrieved September 2, 2018.
  17. ^ a b c Stubbs, (Capt., USCG), Bruce; Truver, Ph.D., Scott C. (January 2000). America's Coast Guard: Safeguarding U.S. Maritime Safety and Security in the 21st Century. Washington, DC: US Coast Guard. p. 68.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  18. ^ a b c "Seized driftnetter arrives in Guam". Pacific Island Report. July 21, 1997. Retrieved September 2, 2018. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  19. ^ "BICENTENNIAL UNIT COMMENDATION". Retrieved 14 October 2018.