US Coast Guard Cutter Eagle

The (USCGC) US Coast Guard Cutter Eagle is a ship I have only seen in photographs. She is such a beautiful sight. I would dearly love to spend time aboard this ship. Maybe I will write a novel about steel-hulled sailing ships built in Germany before World War Two. This would get me on the Eagle since it was originally built as a sail training ship for the German Navy.

The USCGC Eagle was originally named Horst Wessel after a so-called martyr of the Nazi Party, said to have died in a street battle with Communists. This is one of those false notes of history which keeps getting repeated by the credulous. Horst Wessel was killed by a Communist, true, but the circumstances of his death are tawdry and sordid. Wessel had taken up with a whore whom he is said to have fallen in love with although he also served as her pimp. In a jealous rage, her former pimp, who happened to be a Communist, went to Wessel’s apartment and shot him in the mouth.

Wessel died several days later and the Nazi propaganda machine gave him a complete makeover and made him a hero and a martyr for their foul and murderous cause. Wessel was a pimp and a drunk, probably a thief, refused to pay his rent, and was generally a lowlife. Some historians claim he had graduated from both a gymnasium and a university but several, including Michael Burleigh, do not provide a footnote to prove this. The poem attributed to him, which was set to music by the Nazis and called the ‘Horst Wessel Lied,’ was most likely written by Nazi propaganda experts in the months prior to his murder over a whore. Wessel’s father had been a prominent and well regarded Protestant minister and glorifying his son would fit the Nazi tactic of showcasing “respectable” men who had joined the Nazi Party’s organized band of thugs known as the Sturmabteilung, usually abbreviated to SA and which translates as “storm troopers.”

At the conclusion of World War Two, the Horst Wessel was seized as a prize-of-war by the United States and given to the US Coast Guard. All seven US Coast Guard sail training ships have been named ‘Eagle.’ The renamed vessel was not seaworthy and after some weeks of refitting, a scratch crew of USCG officers and men and German navy volunteers, sailed the vessel to the United States.

I was quite fascinated by the number of wheels required to steer the ship. “The main helm station, also known as the triple helm, is connected via mechanical shaft linkage to the steering gear (manual worm type) located in the “captain’s coffin” on the fantail along with the emergency, or “trick” wheel. Three turns of the main helm station equals one degree of rudder turn. That is why six persons are used to steer during heavy weather and while operating in restricted waterways. The emergency, or “trick” wheel is a single wheel that turns at a rate of one revolution to one degree of rudder turn.”

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website:

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