By 1960, the Big White Ones were showing their age. The 311s and 255s would serve through Vietnam, but would then be decommissioned. Morris, the last 125 in active service, was decommissioned in 1970. In 1978, Cuyahoga was sunk in a collision in the York River. The 83s were slowly being retired. Taking their place were 12 cutters of the 378’ Hamilton-class WHEC, the 14 cutters of the 210’ Reliance-class WMEC, and the 79 cutters of the 82′ Point-class. These were commissioned between 1964 and 1972. In 1964, Coos Bay rescued the crew of the foundering British ship Ambassador while manning Station Echo. Rockaway rescued the crew of Smith Voyager. There are several other instances of ocean station ships coming to the assistance of aircraft or ships in distress. These are the most well known. But by 1970, new jet aircraft were coming to rely less on ocean stations, and satellites were beginning to provide weather data. In 1974, the Coast Guard announced plans to terminate the U.S stations. In 1977, Taney was the last cutter to man an American station. The program ended when the last Dutch ship departed Station Mike in 1981. With the demise of ocean stations, the MECs and HECs began doing the same missions, search and rescue and enforcement of laws and treaties. The thrust of the patrols would be either fisheries enforcement or drug interdiction with weather data and marine mammal data collected on the side. Also, with the demise of oceanography as a result of the establishment of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the three research vessels were eventually reclassified as WMECs and began doing the same duties as other MECs.
By 1980, it was finally time to retire the remaining 327s. The chosen replacement design was to be the 270-foot Famous-class, named for historically well-known cutters. The first would be Bear, delivered in 1983, two years behind schedule. Because of the delay in delivering the new class, once again the Coast Guard went to the Navy and borrowed two more 205s, Ute, and Lipan, and another 213, Escape, all pushing 40. With the eventual delivery of the 270s in the late 1980s, the 327s were finally sent to pasture, along with many of the borrowed 213s and 205s. The 270s were a marvel of modernization, requiring a crew of only 96, but they could only make 19.7 knots, had limited endurance, and relied heavily on “black box” technology. The design team finally admitted that the cutters were designed only to patrol the 200-mile economic zone. Not quite sure how to classify them the Service initially called them high medium endurance cutters (HEC/MECs). So, the cutter that replaced the most multi-faceted design the Coast Guard ever had, was designed for a single mission. Nevertheless, the 270s performed all duties assigned by the Coast Guard to the apparent satisfaction of the Service.
By 1990, the last 205s and 213s were scheduled for decommissioning after 50 years of service. In 1991, Tam was involved with the “No Name Storm of Halloween, 1991”. The event, and the cutter, would be immortalized in the book and movie Perfect Storm. It is interesting that in the movie the cutter was generated by computer graphics, but the graphics artist chose to ignore the fact that she was an old tugboat and made her into a sleek, modern-looking vessel complete with flight deck. The last of the 95s, Cape Hatteras, retired in 1991.
Alex Haley was born in Ithica, NY in 1921. In 1939, he enlisted in the Coast Guard as a mess attendant. Serving as a ship’s cook in the Pacific in WWII, he began writing stories. In 1944, he was assigned to edit “Our Post” the official Coast Guard publication. In 1945, he was transferred to Headquarters where he served as assistant public relations officer until 1959. In 1952, the Coast Guard recognized his talent by creating the Journalist Rate and appointing him the first one. His trademark was his ability to turn research into informative, interesting narrative. After 20 years of service, Haley retired as Chief Journalist in 1959, having served through WWII and Korea. He continued to write. Along with numerous magazine articles, he wrote the best seller “Roots: The Saga of an American Family” which was translated into 37 languages, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1977, and was made into a TV miniseries. Commandant ADM Bender and Academy Superintendent RADM John Thompson presented him with the Distinguished Public Service Award. He worked to promote literacy, and every year eight students are supported from freshman year through graduate school on Haley Scholarships. On 18 November 1997, the Coast Guard made its final major surface fleet acquisition on the 20th Century. The former Navy salvage ship Edenton, commissioned in the Navy in 1967, was transferred to the Coast Guard as USCGC Alex Haley. She is stationed in Alaska.
In 1991, the Coast Guard began commissioning 49 Island-Class coastal patrol boats. These 110’ patrol boats carry a crew of 16, two officers and 14 enlisted personnel, cruise in excess of 26 knots and have a range of 1,800 miles. They are a Coast Guard modification of a highly successful British-designed patrol boat. The newly designed 87-foot’ Coastal Patrol Boat has several enhancements over the old 82s, including improved mission sea keeping abilities, significantly upgraded habitability, and compliance with all current and projected environmental protection laws. It also employs an innovative stern launch and recovery system using an aluminum hulled inboard diesel powered waterjet small boat. They began entering service in 1998. The last 82, Point Brower, retired in 2003.
For a complete list of white hulls that served from 1947 to 2000 go to this Link.