The cutter Tampa distinguished herself during the war. Under the command of Captain Charles Satterlee, she sailed from New York on 16 September 1917 for service in European waters. Tampa proceeded to Gibraltar via the Azores Islands and was assigned to a division of escorts convoying between Gibraltar and England. On 5 September 1918, Rear Admiral Niblack, commanding the U.S. naval forces based at Gibraltar addressed a special letter of commendation to Captain Satterlee. He called attention to the fact that Tampa, since her arrival, had escorted 18 convoys between Gibraltar and the United Kingdom, was never disabled, and was ready whenever called upon. Admiral Albert Niblack stated,
This excellent record is an evidence of a high state of efficiency and excellent ship’s spirit and an organization capable of keeping the vessel in service with a minimum of shore assistance. The squadron commander takes great pleasure in congratulating the commanding officer, officers, and crew on the record which they have made.
On the evening of 26 September 1918, the Tampa, having completed its duty as ocean escort for a convoy from Gibraltar to the United Kingdom, proceeded toward the port of Milford Haven, Wales. At 8:45 p.m. a loud explosion was heard by the convoy. Tampa failed to arrive at its destination and U.S. destroyers and British patrol craft made a search of the area. Nothing but a small amount of wreckage identified as belonging to the Tampa and two unidentified bodies in naval uniforms were found. It is believed that Tampa was sunk by UB-91 which reported sinking an American warship fitting Tampa’s description . The entire crew of 115, 111 of whom were Coast Guard personnel, perished. With the possible exception of the collier Cyclops, whose fate and date of loss have never been ascertained, this was the largest loss of life incurred by any U.S. naval unit during the war. An additional 81 Coast Guardsmen lost their lives in World War I due to accident or illness. By war’s end 8,835 men had served in the Coast Guard.
Vice Admiral C.H. Dare of the British Navy, the commanding officer at Milford Haven, in a telegram to Admiral Sims, expressed the universal sympathy felt at Milford Haven by all ranks and rates in the loss of Tampa, Myself and staff enjoyed the personal friendship of her commanding officer, Captain Charles Satterlee and had great admiration for his intense enthusiasm and high ideals of duty…
The British Admiralty addressed the following remarks to Admiral Sims: Their Lordships desire me to express their deep regret at the loss of the U.S.S. Tampa. Her record since she has been employed in European waters as an ocean escort to convoys has been remarkable. She has acted in the capacity of ocean escort to no less than 18 convoys from Gibraltar comprising 350 vessels, with a loss of only two ships through enemy action. The commanders of the convoys have recognized the ability with which the Tampa carried out the duties of ocean escort. Appreciation of the good work done by the U.S.S. Tampa may be some consolation to those bereft and their Lordships would be glad if this could be conveyed to those concerned.