US seized Kriegsmarine Sail Training Ship Horst Wessel As a Prize of War
“The Coast Guard Cutter Eagle laying at a shipyard in Bremerhaven, Germany being rigged and outfitted for her voyage to the United States. The square-rigged sailing vessel was the former German Training ship ‘Horst Wessel’. The bombed buildings of Bremerhaven are in the background.” Photo dated 16 April 1946. (Official USCG photo)
USCGC Eagle under sail in 2015
derelict sail training ship which was to become USCGC Eagle in Bremerhaven immediately after World War Two.
Horst Wessel was a Nazi thug and a pimp who supposedly was killed in a street fight with Communists in Berlin prior to the Nazi seizure of power. He made his living as a pimp and there is evidence to suggest he was murdered by the brother of one of his prostitutes. The ship is has a steel hull and was outfitted as a barque which is a sailing ship with three masts in which the foremast and mainmast are square-rigged and the mizzenmast is rigged fore-and-aft.
Horst Wessel about to be launched. The original ship was built by the German shipbuilder Blohm and Voss, who also built the Bismarck. You have to give it to them: they certainly built strong ships.
Sailing barque Horst Wessel:
Laid down: 15 February 1936
Launched: 13 June 1936
Commissioned: 17 September 1936
Captured: April 1945
Horst Wessel in front of German Naval Academy Mürwik in Flensburg in 1937.
The construction of the German naval academy began in 1910. The buildings weren’t badly damaged in World War Two and became the last headquarters of the Nazi government under Admiral Doenitz. Repairs were made in the years after the war and the academy reopened in the mid-1950s when West Germany was permitted to begin rearmament.
The Naval Academy Mürwik with the Gorch Fock (sister ship of the USCG Eagle) on the Flensburg Firth, the Northernmost part of Germany.
BOSTON (June 30, 2012) The US Coast Guard cutter USCGC Eagle (WIX 327) enters Charlestown Harbor to participate in Boston Navy Week 2012. Boston Navy Week is one of 15 signature events planned across America in 2012. The eight-day long event commemorates the Bicentennial of the War of 1812, hosting service members from the US Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard and coalition ships from around the world. (US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Bryan M. Ilyankoff/Released)
[Image courtesy of the US Navy Website.]
Crewmembers aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle turn the helm Tuesday, June 21, 2011 while in London. The Eagle is underway for the 2011 Summer Training Cruise, which commemorates the 75th anniversary of the 295-foot barque. (US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class NyxoLyno Cangemi)
[Image courtesy of United States Coast Guard Website.]
I have puzzled over this question for years: The US Coast Guard calls most of its ships, ‘cutters.’ But, what is a ‘cutter’?
Thank the Lord for the internet I say, since one need only google something and shazaam – the answer appears, in this case from the official US Coast Guard History Site.
US Coast Guard History Site
“The Revenue Marine and the Revenue Cutter Service, as it was known variously throughout the late 18th and the 19th centuries, referred to its ships as cutters. The term is English in origin and refers to a specific type of vessel, namely, “a small, decked ship with one mast and bowsprit, with a gaff mainsail on a boom, a square yard and topsail, and two jibs or a jib and a staysail.” (Peter Kemp, editor, The Oxford Companion to Ships & the Sea; London: Oxford University Press, 1976; pp. 221-222.) The Royal Navy’s definition of a cutter was a small warship capable of carrying 8 to 12 cannons. By general usage, the term cutter came to define any vessel of Great Britain’s Royal Customs Service and the term was adopted by the US Treasury Department at the creation of what would become the Revenue Marine. Since that time, no matter what the vessel type, the service has referred to its largest vessels as cutters (today a cutter is any Coast Guard vessel over 65-feet in length).”
So now I know and so do you. I don’t know anyone in the Coast Guard but if I did I would tell them that I think almost every American, including me, is proud of them and in awe of some of the things they do to rescue people.
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.”