USCGC Westwind (WAGB-281)

Last updated
Westwind 2.jpg
USCGC Westwind near Cape Atholl, Greenland.
Ensign of the United States Coast Guard.svg United States
Name:USS Westwind.
Operator: U.S. Navy.
Builder: Western Pipe and Steel Company, San Pedro, California.
Laid down: 24 August 1942.
Launched: 31 March 1943.
Sponsored by: Mrs. Stanley V. Parker.
Commissioned: 18 September 1944.
Identification: AGB-6.
Status: Lent to U.S.S.R.
Notes: Designed by Gibbs & Cox of New York.
Naval Ensign of the Soviet Union.svg Soviet Union
Name:Severniy Polyus (Russian: Северный Полюс, “North Pole”).
Acquired: 21 February 1945.
Status: Returned to U.S.A.
Notes: Lend-Lease. Some Russian identification labels and plaques remained on ship's equipment after being returned to U.S. service.
Ensign of the United States Coast Guard.svg. United States
Name:USCGC Westwind.
Operator: U.S. Coast Guard.
Acquired: 19 December 1951.
Decommissioned: 29 February 1988.
Identification: WAGB-281.
Motto:We may be old, but we still run.
Nickname(s):Big Red of the Gulf Coast. Big Red Pig. Floating Football. Wandering Arctic Garbage Barge.
Honors and
Crew's: Antarctica Service Medal. Arctic Service Medal.
Fate: Scrapped.
Status: 19th Fleet.
Notes: Call sign NLKL.
General characteristics
Class and type: Wind-class icebreaker, heavy.
Displacement: 6,515 long tons (6,620 t) full load.
Length: 269 ft (82 m).
Beam: 63 ft 6 in (19.35 m).
Draft: 25 feet, 9 inches.
Installed power:
Propulsion: 2 × Westinghouse Electric DC electric motors driving the 2 aft propellers, 1 × 3,000 shp (2,200 kW) Westinghouse DC electric motor driving the detachable and seldom used bow propeller.
Speed: 15.5  kn (28.7 km/h; 17.8 mph).
  • 16,000 nmi (30,000 km; 18,000 mi) at 16 kn (30 km/h; 18 mph) as designed
  • 16,000 nmi (30,000 km; 18,000 mi) at 10–12 kn (19– 22 km/h, 12–14 mph) as built.
Capacity: Approximately 450,000 U.S. gal (1,700,000 L) diesel fuel.
  • World War II authorized: 316 (21 officers, 295 enlisted)
  • World War II 1944: 350
  • Postwar (USA): 175 (13 officers, 2 Warrant Officers, 160 enlisted.

USCGC Westwind (WAGB-281) was a Wind-class icebreaker that served in the United States Coast Guard as USCGC Westwind (WAG-281), the Soviet Navy as the Severni Polius, and again in the U.S. Coast Guard as USCGC Westwind (WAGB-281).



Westwind was one of the icebreakers designed by Lieutenant commander Edward Thiele and Gibbs & Cox of New York, who modeled them after plans for European icebreakers he obtained before the start of World War II. [1] She was the fourth of seven completed ships of the Wind-class of icebreakers operated by the United States Coast Guard. Her keel was laid on 24 March 1942 at Western Pipe and Steel Company shipyards in San Pedro. She was launched on 31 March 1943 and commissioned on 18 September 1944. [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

Her hull was of unprecedented strength and structural integrity, with a relatively short length in proportion to the great power developed, a cut away forefoot, rounded bottom, and fore, aft and side heeling tanks. Diesel electric machinery was chosen for its controlability and resistance to damage. [1]

Westwind, along with the other Wind-class icebreakers, was heavily armed for an icebreaker due to her design being crafted during World War II. Her main battery consisted of two twin-mount 5 in (130 mm) deck guns. Her anti-aircraft weaponry consisted of three quad-mounted Bofors 40 mm anti-aircraft autocannons. [3] and six Oerlikon 20 mm autocannons. She also carried six K-gun depth charge projectors and a Hedgehog as anti-submarine weapons. After her return from Soviet service she received a single 5”38 cal. mount forward and a helicopter deck aft. Sometime after 1966 she had the forward mount removed. [4] [6]


The ship's keel was laid at Western Pipe & Steel, San Pedro, California, USA, on 24 August 1942. It was launched from San Pedro on 31 March 1943, and commissioned as the USS Westwind AGB-6 on 18 September 1944. On 21 February 1945 the ship was transferred to the Soviet Union and renamed Severni Polius (North Pole, Russian : Северный Полюс). [7] [8]

On 19 December 1951, the ship was returned to the United States Coast Guard, [7] [8] and recommissioned as the Westwind on 22 September 1952 after a refit. [8] Starting 30 September 1954, the ship participated in a 121-day Arctic cruise, returning to New York Harbor, Brooklyn Navy Yard. In 1955 the Westwind called at Bouvetøya in the Southern Ocean at the request of the South African government. Between 1956 and 1957, the ship was engaged in DEWLINE support Operations in the Arctic. [8]

In 1962, the ship was part of SUNEC '62 - hull stress tests conducted for the design of future Icebreakers. In 1964 the Westwind arrived in the area of United States Coast Guard LORAN Station Cape Atholl, Greenland, returning from this Arctic cruise on 18 August of that year. [8] On 22 June 1966 the ship crossed the Arctic Circle at 52N 03W on SUNEC66 Supply Northeast Command out of Thule, Greenland. On 3 March 1967, as part of Deep Freeze 67, the ship crossed the Antarctic Circle at 67S 36W and assisted Navy Seabees building a scientific station on Palmer Peninsula. From June to September 1970 the ship was on Arctic East Deployment.

Between 1974 and 1975 the ship underwent an extensive refit to strengthen the bow, replace engines, change propeller shafts, and received a new "Icebreaker Red" paint scheme. [8] From 1976 to 1981 the ship's homeport was Milwaukee, Wisconsin. During this period the ship embarked on Summer North Trips to the Arctic Circle via Montreal, St. John's, Newfoundland, and on to Thule, Greenland for summer breakouts. On December 13, 1977, during a preliminary test run for Winter Breakouts in the Great Lakes, it ran aground at Seven Foot Shoals, near the entrance to St. Mary's River, Lake Huron. The resulting 64-foot (20 m) by 2-foot (0.61 m) gash and bent propeller shaft was repaired at a dry dock in Montreal over a period of 4 months. The summer of 1978 saw another Arctic trip, doing mapping and marine science along the northeastern coast of Greenland. On August 29, 1979 [Coast Guard Day], again in the Arctic, the Westwind reached 79 degrees North Latitude, the farthest any U.S. surface vessel had ever penetrated.

In 1982 the ship was involved in an operation out of Mobile, Alabama, the Haitian Migration Interdiction Operation (HMIO). Following this operation, Cutter Westwind's home port changed to Mobile. In 1984, the Westwind sustained major hull damage in the Weddell Sea on a Deep Freeze cruise. A 6-foot (1.8 m) tall, 140-foot (43 m) long tear in the hull was temporarily patched by the crew until it could be repaired in South America. [9] In 1986, funding cuts reduced operating funds for icebreakers, ending plans to refit the Westwind. [10] The ship was finally decommissioned on 28 February 1988. [8]


The exact date that Westwind was transferred to the Soviet Union under the Lend-lease program depends on which source you choose to believe. The Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships (DANFS) lists Westwind's date of transfer as 21 February 1945, [11] while the United States Coast Guard's history site is ambiguous, stating only that Westwind was transferred in 1945. [8] A crew museum website lists the transfer date as Thanksgiving day 1945. [7] At this time it seems most prudent to use the DANFS date until other sources can be found to verify the Thanksgiving transfer date.

It is believed that the final disposition of the Westwind was sale for scrap based on a former crewman's report. [10] The crewman, transferred to the USCGC Polar Sea returning from Antarctica in 1988, saw the Westwind and the CCG Labrador moored to a pier in Honolulu. The two dead ships were en route to Far Eastern shipscrappers when the consort tugboat broke down.

A request made to the United States Coast Guard yielded a response implying that Westwind has been preserved as a museum ship by the USCGC Westwind Polar Icebreaker Museum group. That response seems to conflict with the group's own information stating that they are a repository for crew messages and images preserved for the purpose of remembering the Westwind and her many crew members. Given the lack of evidence for Westwind having been preserved it is probably safe to assume that Westwind was sold for scrap.

See also

Related Research Articles

USCGC <i>Healy</i> (WAGB-20) Medium icebreaker ship

USCGC Healy (WAGB-20) is the United States' largest and most technologically advanced icebreaker as well as the US Coast Guard's largest vessel. She is classified as a medium icebreaker by the U.S. Coast Guard. She is homeported in Seattle, Washington and was commissioned in 1999. On September 5, 2015, USCGC Healy became the first unaccompanied United States surface vessel to reach the North Pole.

Icebreaker Special-purpose ship or boat capable of maneuvering through ice-covered water

An icebreaker is a special-purpose ship or boat designed to move and navigate through ice-covered waters, and provide safe waterways for other boats and ships. Although the term usually refers to ice-breaking ships, it may also refer to smaller vessels, such as the icebreaking boats that were once used on the canals of the United Kingdom.

USCGC <i>Polar Star</i> (WAGB-10) heavy icebreaker ship

USCGC Polar Star (WAGB-10) is a United States Coast Guard heavy icebreaker. Commissioned in 1976, the ship was built by Lockheed Shipbuilding and Construction Company of Seattle, Washington along with sister ship, USCGC Polar Sea.

USCGC <i>Polar Sea</i> (WAGB-11) heavy icebreaker ship

USCGC Polar Sea (WAGB-11) is a United States Coast Guard heavy icebreaker. Commissioned on 23 February 1977, the ship was built by Lockheed Shipbuilding and Construction Company of Seattle along with her sister ship, Polar Star (WAGB-10). Her home port is Seattle, Washington.

Polar-class icebreaker heavy icebreaker ships

Polar-class icebreakersUSCGC Polar Star (WAGB-10), USCGC Polar Sea (WAGB-11) are heavy icebreakers operated by the United States Coast Guard (USCG). These cutters, specifically designed for icebreaking, have reinforced hulls, special icebreaking bows, and a system that allows rapid shifting of ballast to increase the effectiveness of their icebreaking. The vessels conduct Arctic and Antarctic research and are the primary icebreakers that clear the channel into McMurdo Station for supply ships. All are homeported in Seattle, Washington.

Island-class patrol boat class of cutters of the United States Coast Guard

The Island-class patrol boat is a class of cutters of the United States Coast Guard. 49 cutters of the class were built, of which 37 remain in commission. Their hull numbers are WPB-1301 through WPB-1349.

USCGC <i>Storis</i> (WMEC-38)

USCGC Storis (WAGL-38/WAG-38/WAGB-38/WMEC-38) was a light icebreaker and medium endurance cutter which served in the United States Coast Guard for 64 years and 5 months, making her the oldest vessel in commission with the Coast Guard fleet at the time of her decommissioning.

USCGC <i>Mackinaw</i> (WAGB-83)

USCGC Mackinaw (WAGB-83) is a 290-foot (88 m) vessel specifically designed for ice breaking duties on the Great Lakes. LR number: 6119534 According to the Ice Breaker Mackinaw Maritime Museum, the vessel has been known as the "Queen of the Great Lakes" and "The Largest Icebreaker on the Great Lakes"; the site states that "she was built ... during World War II to meet the heavy demands of war materials and transportation during the winter months".

USCGC <i>Edisto</i> (WAGB-284) Wind class icebreaker

USS Edisto (AGB-2) was a Wind-class icebreaker in the service of the United States Navy and was later transferred to the United States Coast Guard as USCGC Edisto (WAGB-284). She was named after Edisto Island, South Carolina. The island is named after the Native American Edisto Band who inhabited the island and the surrounding area. As of 2011 there is a namesake cutter USCGC Edisto (WPB-1313). The newer Edisto is a 110-foot Island-class patrol boat and is stationed in San Diego County, California.

USS <i>Glacier</i> (AGB-4) United States Navy/Coast Guard Glacier-class icebreaker

USS Glacier (AGB-4) was a U.S. Navy, then U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker which served in the first through fifteenth Operation Deep Freeze expeditions. Glacier was first icebreaker to make her way through the frozen Bellingshausen Sea, and most of the topography in the area is named for her crew members. When built, Glacier had the largest capacity single armature DC motors ever installed on a ship. Glacier was capable of breaking ice up to 20 feet (6.1 m) thick, and of continuous breaking of 4-foot (1.2 m) thick ice at 3 knots.

USS <i>Bear</i> dual steam-powered and sailing ship

SS Bear was a dual steam-powered and sailing ship built with six-inch (15.2 cm)-thick sides which had a long life in various cold-water and ice-filled environs. She was a forerunner of modern icebreakers and had a diverse service life. According to the United States Coast Guard official website, Bear is described as "probably the most famous ship in the history of the Coast Guard."

USCGC <i>Northwind</i> (WAGB-282) Wind class icebreaker

USCGC Northwind (WAG/WAGB-282) was a Wind-class icebreaker, the second United States Coast Guard Cutter of her class to bear the name. She was built to replace USCGC Staten Island which was in Soviet lend-lease service.

USCGC <i>Burton Island</i> (WAGB-283) United States Navy Wind-class icebreaker

USS Burton Island (AG-88) was a United States Navy Wind-class icebreaker that was later recommissioned in the United States Coast Guard as the USCGC Burton Island (WAGB-283). She was named after an island near the coast of Delaware.

Wind-class icebreaker class of United States icebreakers

The Wind-class icebreakers were a line of diesel electric-powered icebreakers in service with the United States Navy, United States Coast Guard, Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Coast Guard and Soviet Navy from 1944 through the late 1970s. They were very effective ships: all except Eastwind served at least thirty years, and Northwind served in the USCG continuously for forty-four years. Considered the most technologically advanced icebreakers in the world when first built, the Wind-class icebreakers were also heavily armed; the first operator of the class was the United States Coast Guard, which used the vessels for much-needed coastal patrol off Greenland during World War II. Three of the vessels of the class, Westwind, Southwind, and the first Northwind all went on to serve temporarily for the Soviet Union under the Lend-Lease program, while two others were built for the United States Navy and another was built for the Royal Canadian Navy; all eight vessels were eventually transferred to the United States Coast Guard and the Canadian Coast Guard.

United States Coast Guard Cutter Commissioned vessel of the U.S. Coast Guard

United States Coast Guard Cutter is the term used by the U.S. Coast Guard for its commissioned vessels. They are 65 feet (19.8 m) or greater in length and have a permanently assigned crew with accommodations aboard. They carry the ship prefix USCGC.

USCGC <i>Eastwind</i> (WAGB-279) Wind class icebreaker

USCGC Eastwind (WAGB-279) was a Wind-class icebreaker that was built for the United States Coast Guard. Completed in time to see action in World War II, she continued in USCG service under the same name until decommissioned in 1968.

USCGC <i>Staten Island</i> (WAGB-278) Wind class icebreaker

USCGC Staten Island (WAGB-278) was a United States Coast Guard Wind-class icebreaker. Laid down on 9 June 1942 and launched on 28 December 1942, the ship was commissioned on 26 February 1944, and almost immediately afterward transferred to the Soviet Union, under the Lend Lease program, under the name Severny Veter, which loosely translates as Northwind, until 19 December 1951. When returned to the United States Navy, she was designated USS Northwind until 15 April 1952, when she was renamed Staten Island to distinguish her from her successor USCGC Northwind (WAGB-282) which had been laid down shortly after she was lent to the Soviet Union. The ship was transferred to the U.S. Coast Guard as USCGC Staten Island in February 1965, and served until November 1974, before being scrapped.

Bollinger Shipyards is an American constructor of ships, workboats and patrol vessels. Its thirteen shipyards and forty drydocks are located in Louisiana and Texas. Its drydocks range in capacity from vessels of 100 tons displacement to 22,000 tons displacement. The firm was founded in 1946.

USCGC <i>Southwind</i> Wind-class icebreaker ship

USCGC Southwind (WAGB-280) was a Wind-class icebreaker that served in the United States Coast Guard as USCGC Southwind (WAG-280), the Soviet Navy as the Admiral Makarov, the United States Navy as USS Atka (AGB-3) and again in the U.S. Coast Guard as USCGC Southwind (WAGB-280).


  1. 1 2 "USCG Icebreakers". U.S. Coast Guard Cutter History. United States Coast Guard. Archived from the original on 2015-07-01. Retrieved 2012-12-12.
  2. Jane’s Fighting Ships of World War II . Crescent Books (Random House). 1998. p.  308. ISBN   0517-67963-9.
  3. 1 2 Silverstone, Paul H.(1965): U.S. Warships of World War II. Doubleday and Company, pg. 378
  4. 1 2 "USCG Westwind" (PDF). U.S. Coast Guard Cutter History. United States CoastGuard. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2012-10-19. Retrieved 2012-12-12.
  5. "USS Westwind". Dictionary of American Naval fighting ships. United States Navy. Archived from the original on 2012-10-23. Retrieved 2012-12-12.
  6. 1 2 "NavSource Westwind". Service Ship Photo Archive. NavSource Naval History. Archived from the original on 2013-09-10. Retrieved 2012-12-12.
  7. 1 2 3 "Westwind Polar Icebreaker Museum. "Nameplate from Engineroom, 1952". Archived from the original on 2007-07-04. Retrieved 2007-11-15.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-11-23. Retrieved 2010-11-16.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-01-19. Retrieved 2010-11-16.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. 1 2 Westwind Polar Icebreaker Museum. "Operational history"
  11. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-10-23. Retrieved 2007-11-19.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships .