USS Mohawk reaches final resting place

For years, artificial reefs have been used to encourage algae and invertebrates, such as barnacles, to provide habitat for fish and other marine life. Yesterday, the USS Mohawk entered a second life as an artificial reef when it was sunk nearly 30 miles off the coast of Fort Meyers, Fla. Since a current Coast Guard cutter homeported in Key West, Fla. bears the same name, it seemed somehow fitting that Mohawk would find a new home in sub-tropical waters.

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A ceremony is held aboard Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk in honor of the USS Mohawk. U.S. Coast Guard photo.
A ceremony is held aboard Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk in honor of the USS Mohawk. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Written by Petty Officer 1st Class Judy L. Silverstein, 7th Coast Guard District.

For years, artificial reefs have been used to encourage algae and invertebrates, such as barnacles, to provide habitat for fish and other marine life.

And for more than a century, scuttled ships have been allowed a second life perched on the sea floor where they function as artificial reefs. In that role, they function as natural habitats and breeding grounds for fish looking for places to lodge in the lacy networks of coral, sponges and algae that will attach themselves to a ship’s structure.

Yesterday, the USS Mohawk entered a second life as an artificial reef when it was sunk nearly 30 miles off the coast of Fort Meyers, Fla. Since a current Coast Guard cutter homeported in Key West, Fla. bears the same name, it seemed somehow fitting that Mohawk would find a new home in sub-tropical waters.

USS Mohawk photographed March 10, 1944. U.S. Coast Guard photo.
USS Mohawk photographed March 10, 1944. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

With painstaking precision and the assistance of explosives, the 165-foot World War II vintage cutter was lowered about 90 feet into the sandy bottom. Following the elaborate evolution, Mohawk Veterans Memorial Reef was proudly dedicated to veterans of the United States, only two days before we celebrate our nation’s independence.

And while the diving community was enthusiastic about having a military ship as a reef off Florida’s west coast, the milestone held special meaning for the captain and crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk, currently on patrol. The two ships bear the same name, but held different designations. The crew of the current Mohawk, WMEC 913, looked to naval tradition to honor the occasion.

A ceremony in honor of the USS Mohawk – designation WPG 78 – included a noon formation, as eight bell were rung and a national ensign was lowered and ceremoniously folded. In characteristic military fashion, the crew also paid a somber tribute to those who served aboard the venerable cutter.

“As the commanding officer of the third ship to carry the proud name of Mohawk, it was an honor to recognize our World War II predecessor and all of the cuttermen who sailed on her decks,” said Cmdr. Mark Fedor. “I’m proud to say the current Mohawk is extending our namesake’s legacy of service to our nation.”

His words were echoed by current crewmembers recognizing their inexorable link to both American and Coast Guard military history.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Ricky Myshrall was on hand at the ceremony honoring Mohawk.

“I felt very privileged to be able to see such a piece of history while it was still floating,” he said.

And although Mohawk came to rest in much warmer waters far from the North Atlantic where she once patrolled honorably, Myshrall felt it was a good fit.

Yet it’s difficult to ignore Mohawk’s impressive history. She is the last survivor of the Greenland Patrol fleet and played a significant role in World War II efforts in the North Atlantic. Mohawk was one of six vessels of the Algonquin class of 165-foot cruising cutters built for the Coast Guard in Wilmington, Del. and Bay City, Mich. Commissioned Jan. 19, 1935, the ship was initially built for domestic ice breaking in the Great Lakes and North Atlantic. However, all that changed when war broke out.

A ceremony honoring the USS Mohawk is held with Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk's current crew in attendance. U.S. Coast Guard photo.
A ceremony honoring the USS Mohawk is held with Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk's current crew in attendance. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Mohawk soon went on to break ice at the Arctic Circle, rescue 300 sailors from icy waters and perform crucial convoy duty protecting merchant and military ships from German U-boats. At the end of the war, Mohawk remained in the North Atlantic as part of the International Ice and Weather Patrol, providing data about ice movement in and around the vital northern shipping lanes. In January 1948, Mohawk was decommissioned from active service, but for nearly 33 additional years, she served as a pilot vessel on the Delaware Bay and Delaware River.

Shortly after her time as a pilot vessel, the non-profit Mohawk Corporation was founded by passionate supporters who dedicated her as a museum and memorial to the soldiers, sailors and merchant seamen who served our nation. In 2006, the USS Mohawk was moved to Truman Annex in Key West, where alongside the Coast Guard Cutter Ingham, it served as a floating museum.

The ship’s last and final move is one that allows those curious about her history – as well as the role of artificial reefs – to undertake a watery exploration of her decks, cannons and propellers. For many, it is the ideal perch for a ship whose crews served honorably at sea.

6 comments on “USS Mohawk reaches final resting place”

  1. The story is about right,but the photo of the ceremony is not on the stern deck of the
    Mohawk.

    LTR

  2. It’s unfortunate that the only course of action was to
    scuttle and destroy such a historic ship. Where Mohawk
    was accessible and visible to all, she is now essentially gone, accessible to
    only a select few. Mohawk was last of
    her class but not the last of the Greenland Patrol, as sleeping among the ships
    of the Mothball Fleet in Suisun Bay
    is The Galloping Ghost of the Alaskan
    Coast, the venerable cutter Storis
    (WMEC-38). Storis is the last major
    Greenland Patrol vessel to retain her historic and physical integrity. One
    auxiliary, the Arctic schooner Bowdoin (IX-50), is a National Historic Landmark
    homeported in Castine, Maine.
    Three other, smaller, auxiliary vessels remain in the U.S.
    but have been altered and do not have the same high level of acquired historic
    significance as Storis. These include
    the former U.S. Coast Guard tugboats Manitou
    (WYT-60), a commercial tugboat based in Port Huron, Michigan; Arundel (WYT-90), now the commercial tug
    Erika Kobasic, based in Escanaba,
    Michigan; and the retired 180-foot
    buoy tender Sorrel (WLB-296), the
    commercial salvage ship Fearless,
    operating from Southern California. Two other modified 180s are outside the
    country: the former USCGC Citrus (WLB-300) is the active patrol unit Almirante
    Juan Alejandro Acosta for the navy of the Dominican Republic and Laurel (WLB- 291) operates as a private
    party excursion boat in Trinidad.

  3. I toured her several times, and it is very sad to see her go. I wish the USCG could and would make a true National Museum of the Coast Guard to save some of these cutters.

    1. The 180-foot WLB Seagoing Buoy Tender CGC Bramble (WLB-392) is closed, for sale and endangered in Port Huron, Michigan, because of what can only be described (by me and many others) as the incompetence of her stewards at the Port Huron Museum. This is happening even as the National Park Service is about to officially announce Bramble’s nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. (I wrote the nomination, independent of the “Museum.”) Storis is languishing in Suisun Bay, five years now, as the government drags its feet on the plan to donate her to the Storis Museum Group so she can go home to Juneau. Our country was built on the strength of our maritime heritage. Bramble and Storis are two of the most historic and accomplished cutters ever to serve the Coast Guard and Bramble is threatened, Storis, sitting on the hook with the reserve fleet when she should be home, pampered and sharing her story and the stories of the over 3,000 Coast Guard personnel who sailed her, the 25 vessels and 250 lives she saved and the estimated 100,000 people who benefitted from her humanitarian services. We, as a nation, need to recognize the history of these great vessels and preserve them for interpretation rather then let them go for scrap like some old second-hand car.

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