United States Coast Guard Cutter - Sea Rescue Duties
A few weeks prior to D-Day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt suggested that Operation Neptune needed a rescue flotilla; some even claim that Winston Churchill lamented that the losses in the Channel would be prohibitive and it was too bad that the Allies did not have a dedicated rescue force on hand to which the President declared “But we do—the Coast Guard!” Roosevelt then ordered the Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet and Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Ernest J. King, USN, to work out the details. ADM King in turn contacted the Commandant of the Coast Guard, Vice Admiral Russell R. Waesche, who noted that there were dozens of coastal patrol craft that might do the job. The Coast Guard had 83-foot patrol boats, nicknamed the "matchbox fleet," on anti-submarine duty along the East Coast of the United States. Sixty 83-footers were selected and each cutter was transported piggy-back on freighters to the U.K. where they were offloaded, formed into "Rescue Flotilla One" based at Poole, England, and modified for service as rescue craft. They were under the command of Commander Alexander Stewart, USCGR.
They were assigned to each of the invasion areas, with 30 serving off of the British and Canadian sectors and 30 serving off the American sectors. During Operation Neptune/Overlord these cutters and their crews carried out the Coast Guard's time-honoured task of saving lives, albeit under enemy fire on a shoreline thousands of miles from home. The cutters of Rescue Flotilla One saved more than 400 men on D-Day alone and by the time the unit was decommissioned in December, 1944, they had saved 1,438 souls.
Typical Rescue Cutter Specs:
Length: 83 ft Speed: 20 Knots Endurance: 500 miles Beam: 16 ft
Draught: 4 1/2 ft Fitted with Asdic and one or two Oerlikon, radar, four depth charge racks
Fuel: Petrol, 70-80 Octane
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