Written by the Coast Guard Historian’s Office.
Roger B. Taney was commissioned Oct. 24, 1936. The 327-foot cutter was designed to meet the changing missions of the service as it emerged from the Prohibition era. Taney and crew arrived in their homeport of Honolulu, Jan. 18, 1937.
Taney arrived in the Pacific at a time when the United States, and Pan-American Airways in particular, was expanding its commercial air travel capabilities. The “Clipper” flights across the Pacific to the Far East made islands like Hawaii, Midway, Guam and Wake important way-stations.
The Coast Guard’s task over the ensuing years, leading up to the outbreak of war in the Pacific, was to supply isolated way-stations along transpacific air routes.
Air raid, Pearl Harbor
The message: “Air Raid, Pearl Harbor. This is no drill” came at 7:55 Dec. 7, 1941, as Japanese planes swept overhead in an attempt to cripple the Pacific Fleet. Taney, moored alongside Pier 6, Honolulu harbor, stood to her antiaircraft guns swiftly when word of the surprise attack reached her simultaneously.
Taney patrolled the waters off Honolulu for the remainder of 1941 and into 1942, conducting depth charge attacks on suspected submarines in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack.
Taney operated locally out of Honolulu into 1943 before sailing for Boston late that winter. After making port in Boston, Taney soon shifted south to Hampton Roads, Va. Early in April, Taney departed Norfolk as a unit of Task Force 66. The passage across the Atlantic proved uneventful, and the convoy made landfall off the Azores April 13.
Some 35 minutes after sunset on April 20, however, the convoy was spotted and tracked by the Germans, who launched a three-pronged attack with bombers. The first wave struck from dead ahead, torpedoing SS Paul Hamilton and SS Samite. The former, carrying both a load of ammunition as well as Army Air Corps personnel, blew up in a shattering explosion – killing all 504 men on board.
The second wave of German torpedo planes hit the SS Stephen F. Austin and SS Royal Star. During this melee, two torpedoes churned past Taney close aboard. The third wave mortally wounded Lansdale, which later sank. The damaged vessels – save Paul Hamilton and Lansdale – reached Bizerte, Tunisia, the next day. Taney later departed homeward bound and arrived in New York, May 21.
The war years
Taney received a new configuration before departing the east coast and sailing to Hawaii. Arriving at Pearl Harbor Feb. 22, 1945, the ship departed the Hawaiian Islands for the Marshalls on Mar. 10. Joining Task Group 51.8, the amphibious command ship proceeded to Okinawa and arrived amidst air raid alerts. During one raid, the ship’s antiaircraft gunners scored at least three hits on a bomber that crossed the ship’s bow 1,200 yards away.
By the end of May, Taney had gone to general quarters 119 times, with the crew remaining at battle stations for up to nine hours at a time. During this period off Okinawa in April and May, Taney downed four suicide planes.
Suicide air attacks by the Japanese continued throughout June, although most were intercepted by combat air patrol fighters and downed before they could reach their targets. Such raids took place 18 out of 30 days that month. During this month-long period, at least 288 enemy planes attacked the ships in Taney’s vicinity, and at least 96 of these were destroyed.
Taney returned to the United States and arrived in San Francisco Oct. 29. Moving on for the east coast, Taney transited the Panama Canal and later arrived in Charleston, S.C.
Off the coast of Vietnam
Upon shifting back to the west coast, Taney was homeported in Alameda, Calif. The ship’s primary post-war duty was serving as an ocean station weather ship. The weather patrols – later called “ocean station patrols” – consisted of sailing assigned stations in the Pacific to report meteorological information. This information was used in weather forecasts for the burgeoning trans-Pacific commercial air traffic as well as for surface vessels. The ocean station vessels also provided communications and navigation assistance and were always standing by for and search and rescue emergencies.
Taney’s crew was then ordered for duty with Coast Guard Squadron Three, supporting the Navy’s Operation “Market Time” patrols off the coast of Vietnam. There Taney served a 10-month tour of duty, providing gunfire support and preventing enemy infiltration along the coastal routes used by the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces.
During Taney’s tour of duty, the ship steamed for more than 52,000 miles and inspected more than 1,000 vessels. Taney participated in dozens of naval gunfire support missions, firing more than 3,400 five-inch shells at enemy positions. The ship’s medical staff also treated more than 6,000 Vietnamese villagers. For the crew’s service, the government of the Republic of South Vietnam awarded Taney the Vietnam Presidential Unit Citation. After departing Vietnamese waters, the crew arrived at Alameda in February 1970.
The final years
The mid-1970s was a period of transition for the Coast Guard with the passage of the Fisheries Conservation and Management Act and the nation’s shift towards increased interdiction of narcotics smugglers. From September 1976 through decommissioning, Taney was stationed at Portsmouth, Va., and performed search and rescue and law enforcement patrols.
Taney was formally decommissioned Dec. 7, 1986, and turned over to the city of Baltimore for use as a museum ship. Over her distinguished career, Taney received three battle stars for World War II service and numerous theatre ribbons for service in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.