By Gus Swenson
Depicting the retrieval of the Grumman J2F-5 “Duck” aircraft carried on the stern of the U.S.S. NORTHSTAR while this ship was operating as part of the US Coast Guard’s Greenland Patrol. The ship is pictured off the coast of Greenland during the summer of 1942. The painting was done in acrylic medium, May 1945. In May 1941, in order to meet urgent needs of the Coast Guard for suitable ice breaking ships, the U.S.S. NORTHSTAR was transferred to the USCG Greenland Patrol from the U.S. Department of the Interior. The NORTHSTAR was rated at 2200 tons and was driven by a single screw. The vessel had seen previous Arctic duty in Alaska and had accompanied the venerable USCGC BEAR to Antarctica with Admiral Byrd. Her hull was wooden which was thought would add flexibility under ice pressure. She had a semi-icebreaker bow. To accomplish the assigned mission during WWII in northeast Greenland waters, her capabilities were increased to handle scout aircraft launch and armament was placed including 3 inch naval rifles. Smaller automatic weapons and antisubmarine depth charge racks were added. In company with CG Cutters Northland and Bear, the NORTHSTAR formed the primary group of the Greenland Patrol during the early part of WWII. This painting was done in honor of CAPTAIN Maynard Young, USCG (Ret) who served on the NORTHSTAR of the Greenland Patrol.
COAST GUARD CUTTER NORTHSTAR HISTORY
The Coast Guard Cutter North Star was originally built as a wooden cruising cutter for the Department of the Interior at Seattle, Wash. in 1932. She commissionedas a Coast Guard cutter 15 May 1941 and steamed to the East Coast, where she was placed on duty with the Navy. She became part of the Northeast Greenland Patrol 1 July 1941. This patrol was formed against the violent background of the Battle of the Atlantic, during which the Royal Navy was valiantly attempting to guard the huge volume of shipping in the North Atlantic.
The Northeast Greenland Patrol, Comdr. Edward H. (“Iceberg”) Smith, USCG, in command was organized at Boston and consisted of cutters Northland and Bear, in addition to North Star. The South Greenland Patrol, consisting of cutters Modoc, Comanche, and Raritan, together with ex-Coast and Geodetic Survey ship Bowdotn was consolidated with the Northeast Patrol by October 1941 and the whole was designated the Greenland Patrol.
The assignment of the Greenland Patrol consisted of “a little bit of everything—the Coast Guard is used to that.” Thus convoy routes were kept open; ice was broken and leads were found through it for the Greenland convoys; ships were escorted; survivors of submarine attacks were rescued; aids to navigation were constructed and maintained, weather and ice conditions were reported; and air and surface patrols were maintained. Additionally, the patrol craft were directed to seek out and destroy Nazi weather and radio stations, to conduct regional oceanographic surveys, to maintain communications, to supply Settlements, and to perform rescue missions. “These duties, ‘ writes Morison, “the Coast Guard preformed with exemplary fortitude and faithfulness throughout the war.”
A highlight of cutter North Star’s work with the Greenland Patrol was the assistance she rendered in the 12 September 1941 seizure of the Norwegian trawler Bilskoe, which was controlled by German interests for the purpose of servicing Nazi radio and weather stations in Greenland. The captured trawler and her crew and passengers were taken to Boston, Mass. for internment.
With the official declaration of war 8 December 1941, North Star remained on station with the Greenland Patrol. She was especially useful in providing services to east Greenland stations between 13 August and 23 September 1942. She was attacked by a Nazi reconnaissance plane north of Jan Mayen Island 23 July 1943. The plane withdrew from the engagement and trailed heavy black smoke as it disappeared over the horizon. North Star also investigated the German camp at Sabine Island, East Greenland 31 August.
Effective 15 December 1943, classification of North Star was changed to IX 148. She was officially transferred from the Coast Guard to the Navy, assigned to the First Naval District at Boston 13 January 1944, and placed in reduced commission. Next assigned to the Fourth Naval District, she departed Boston 3 May to assume new duties in connection with the care and preservation of inactive vessels.
She returned to the Thirteenth Naval District in February 1945 for temporary duty pending return to the Department of the Interior. North Star decommissioned at Seattle, Wash. 15 June and was turned over to the Department of the Interior 18 June. She was struck from the Navy List 11 July.