Written by Lt. j.g. Dion Williams.
Surrounded by turquoise waters and nestled in a corner of Key West, Fla., the 327-foot Coast Guard Cutter Ingham proudly displays the service’s colors and is a reminder of the rich history of the U.S. Coast Guard.
Commissioned Sept. 12, 1936, Ingham served 52 years throughout the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and participated in both World War II and the Vietnam War. In 1985, Ingham became the oldest active duty and most decorated naval ship serving the nation. Upon its decommissioning May 27, 1988, Ingham was donated to the Patriots Point Museum in Charleston, S.C.
Berthed alongside other notable naval vessels such as the USS Yorktown, Ingham found itself forgotten in history, slowly slipping away with time. However, in 2009, Ingham received a new lease on life and was transferred to its new home in Key West and opened as the U.S. Coast Guard Ingham Memorial Museum.
Upon departure from Patriot’s Point, the cutter completed a period in dry dock to repair, preserve and document its underbody hull condition. Despite extensive work on the ship, there is till work to be done and the Ingham is in a constant state of restoration in Key West.
During a recent mid-patrol break, the crew of Coast Guard Cutter Decisive provided much needed support for a multitude of restoration and repair projects. Decisive crewmembers overhauled the emergency diesel generator’s cooling water pump, repaired the ship’s log office air conditioner, polished and restored bridge equipment, removed trash and completed general clean-up and organization of the many spaces around the ship.
Decisive’s crewmembers were astonished to find the functionality that still exists aboard the Ingham after having been out of service for more than 25 years.
“I was actually shocked at the overall condition of the ship. For it to have been decommissioned in 1988, it still looks amazing,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Moncrief, a yeoman aboard the Decisive.
Many of Decisive’s engineers took part in the restoration of the decommissioned cutter’s antiquated systems.
“It was a pleasure to participate in the restoration of a Treasury-Class cutter,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Chase Spitzkopf, an engineer aboard the Decisive. “I hope that our volunteer work encourages fellow shipmates to do the same and I can’t wait to go back.”
With a vast network of Ingham sailors and supporters spread out across the country, the museum staff ensured the Decisive crew’s effort was documented and placed on the museum’s Facebook page.
Many of those who once called Ingham home expressed their gratitude with keeping the cutter’s legacy alive and preserving it for tomorrow.
“It was truly an honor and a privilege to have the opportunity to assist the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Ingham Memorial Museum,” said Cmdr. Mark Walsh, Decisive’s commanding officer. “Ingham’s legacy lives through today’s cutter fleet and those cuttermen and women who diligently carry out the mission every day.”