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USS Atka (AGB 3) on 12 June 1957 at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.
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Class: ATKA (AGB 3)
Design: USCG 269' cutter (WAG)
Displacement (tons): 3,575 light, 6,000 full
Dimensions (feet): 269' oa, 250' wl x 64' e, 62' wl x 29' max nav
Armament: (3: 1952) 1-5"38S, 2-40mmT, 4-20mmT; (3, 5: 1955) 1-5"38S, 2-40mmT, 2-20mmT; (3, 5: 1957) 1-5"38S, 2-40mmT, (5: 1963 and 3: 1965) 1-5"38S, (5: 1965) none
Accommodations: (AGB 3) 52 officers, 304 enlisted
Speed (kts.): 16
Propulsion (HP): 10,000
Machinery: Diesel electric, 2 screws aft plus 1 in bow
|3||ATKA||13 Apr 1950||Western Pipe, San Pedro||20 Jul 1942||8 Mar 1943||1 Oct 1950|
|5||STATEN ISLAND||19 Dec 1951||Western Pipe, San Pedro||9 Jun 1942||28 Dec 1942||31 Jan 1952|
|6||WESTWIND||19 Dec 1951||Western Pipe, San Pedro||24 Aug 1942||31 Mar 1943||1 Feb 1952|
|3||ATKA||DECOM||1 Nov 1966||31 Oct 1966||Trf.||--|
|5||STATEN ISLAND||DECOM||1 Mar 1966||1 Feb 1966||Trf.||--|
|6||WESTWIND||DECOM||8 Sep 1952||19 Mar 1952||Trf.||25 Sep 1988|
On 21 December 1936, addressing America's lack of even modest icebreaking capability, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order requiring the Coast Guard to develop sufficient icebreaking ability to assist in keeping navigation open in channels and harbors for commercial activities. Just before US entry into World War II Coast Guard LCDR Edmond Thiele while vacationing in Europe obtained information on the Swedish YMER (which had a diesel electric power plant, two propellers aft and one forward, and a sloping bow) and the older but larger Soviet KRASIN (ex Tsarist SVYATOGOR). The Coast Guard prepared preliminary designs based on this information and Gibbs and Cox produced the final designs. (The same design process produced the single icebreaker MACKINAW, essentially a shallow draft WIND, for the Great Lakes.) The first four ships of the WIND class, NORTHWIND, EASTWIND, SOUTHWIND, and WESTWIND (program numbers CR 96-99, hull designators WAG 278-281), were ordered from Western Pipe & Steel Co. of Los Angeles on 15 November 1941. In September 1943 the US agreed to transfer the first of these, NORTHWIND, to the Soviet Union under Lend Lease, and a second NORTHWIND (CR 184, WAG 282) was ordered from Western Steel on 9 October 1943 to replace her. In 1943 the US came to appreciate the strategic importance of operations off Greenland, and the two icebreakers then in US hands, EASTWIND and SOUTHWIND, spent most of their underway careers there, countering German efforts to establish weather and communications stations and providing weather patrol and plane guard services. In late 1944 SOUTHWIND and WESTWIND were also assigned to the Soviet Union, and on 1 December 1944 CNO directed construction of two Navy units, BURTON ISLAND (AG 88) and EDISTO (AG 89), to replace them. They would be manned by the Coast Guard personnel then on SOUTHWIND and WESTWIND. The bow propeller in the WIND class was removable because although it helped break ice forward and then clear it from the hull in areas like the Baltic with ice of uniform thickness it was a liability in polar ice. It was not used as a means of propulsion in either case. The bow propellers were removed from the WIND class during the 1950s. The original design also included a Grumman J2F Duck aircraft. The 5"/38 armaments of the units transferred to the Soviets were removed and replaced with four single Army 3"/50s. In AG 88-89 as completed the aircraft and the after twin 5"/38 gun mount were replaced by a helicopter deck while the forward twin 5" mount was replaced by a single mount.
On 28 Jan 1949 the Navy's AG 88-89 became AGB 1-2 and the Coast Guard ships became WAGB instead of WAG. SOUTHWIND was returned by the Soviet Union on 27 Dec 1949 at Yokosuka, Japan, and transferred to the Navy by the Treasury Department on 13 April 1950. On 28 April 1950 the Navy approved the name ATKA and the designation AGB 3 for this large icebreaker. During 1951 the Navy added GLACIER (AGB 4) to its FY 1952 building program. The first NORTHWIND and WESTWIND were returned by the Soviets on 19 Dec 1951 at Bremerhaven, Germany, were tentatively listed in Navy records as AGB 5 and 6 respectively, were placed temporarily in commission on 31 January 1952 for the voyage to Boston, and arrived at Boston on 25 February 1952. At Boston one was to be decommissioned and returned to the Coast Guard and the other was to be overhauled for naval service. WESTWIND decommissioned at Boston on 13 March 1952 and transferred to the Coast Guard on 19 March 1952. On 15 April 1952 the name STATEN ISLAND and classification AGB 5 were permanently assigned to the ex-Coast Guard icebreaker NORTHWIND to avoid confusion with the second NORTHWIND. From 1952 to 1966 the Coast Guard had three of the ships, EASTWIND, the second NORTHWIND, and WESTWIND. In May 1965 SECDEF approved transferring all Navy icebreakers to the Coast Guard, an action completed in November 1966. The Coast Guard then had STATEN ISLAND (WAGB 278, transferred February 1966), EASTWIND (WAGB 279), SOUTHWIND ex ATKA (WAGB 280, October 1966), WESTWIND (WAGB 281), NORTHWIND (WAGB 282), BURTON ISLAND (WAGB 283, November 1966), EDISTO (WAGB 284, October 1965), along with the newer GLACIER (WAGB 4, June 1966). Of the two Coast Guard ships that were never in the Navy, EASTWIND was decommissioned on 13 December 1968 and sold on 31 Jul[Jun] 1972 and the second NORTHWIND, after receiving a major refit in 1974-75 (re-engined with Enterprise diesels) with WESTWIND, was decomm. on 20 Jan 1989, transferred to MARAD on 16 Sep 1991 (title) and delivered to the buyer on 16 Oct 1998.
Source note: Some of this material is from "Wind-class Icebreakers, Red, White, and Gray," by Captain Terry Tilton, USN, Ret., in PowerShips
(the journal of the Steamship Historical Society of America) No. 307 (Fall 2018) pp. 24-33 and No. 309 (Spring 2019) pp. 40-51. See also the two books by Robert L. Scheina.
|3||ATKA||(ex USCG SOUTHWIND, WAG 280, comm. 15 Jul 1944). Lend-Leased to the USSR 24 Mar 1945 as ADMIRAL MAKAROV. Returned to Navy custody at Yokosuka 27 Dec 1949. Transferred to the Navy by the Coast Guard and commissioned on 13 Apr 1950 and named and designated ATKA (AGB 3) on 28 Apr 1950. Trf. to the Coast Guard 31 Oct 1966, renamed SOUTHWIND (WAGB 280) by them 18 Jan 1967, decomm. 31 May 1974, stricken in 1974, and sold on 17 Mar 1976.|
|5||STATEN ISLAND||(ex USCG NORTHWIND, WAG 278), comm. 26 Feb 1944 and immediately Lend-Leased to the USSR as SEVERNYY VETER (North Wind), renamed KAPITAN BELUSOV 21 May 1945. Returned to Navy custody 19 Dec 1951, listed 1 Jan 1952 as NORTHWIND (AGB 5), and comm. 26 Jan 1952. On 15 Apr 1952 the ex-Coast Guard icebreaker NORTHWIND was renamed STATEN ISLAND. Trf. to the Coast Guard as STATEN ISLAND (WAGB 278) and comm. 1 Feb 1966. Decomm. 15 Nov 1974, sold 14 May 1975.|
|6||WESTWIND||(ex USCG WESTWIND, WAG 281, comm. 18 Sep 1944). Lend-Leased to the USSR 21 Feb 1945 as SEVERNYY POLYUS (North Pole). Returned 19 Dec 1951 and listed 1 Jan 1952 as WESTWIND (AGB 6). Assigned to the Coast Guard on 19 Mar 1952 and comm. by them on 22 Sep 1952 as WESTWIND (WAGB 281). Major refit 1973-74 (re-engined with Enterprise diesels) with NORTHWIND. Decomm. 29 Feb 1988, sold by MA 28 Sep 1988, delivered to a Dutch buyer 29 Oct 1988, completed BU in Taiwan 25 Nov 1989.|
Compiled: 18 Oct 2021
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2021
Sources: DB, Maroon