|The Treasury Class Cutter - With the passing of the Volstead Act in 1919, the Prohibition era began and with it the U.S. Coast Guard was authorized
to prevent the maritime smuggling of now illegal alcohol. While this led to an expansion in terms of size and responsibilities, the Coast Guard was not
prepared to assume this task with her fleet. It simply lacked the ships to effectively conduct this mission. As a result, the Coast Guard borrowed 31
flush-deck destroyers from the U.S. Navy and incorporated them into its fleet. This was deemed quicker and less-expensive than to build new ships to
meet the new demands. After Prohibition ended in late 1933, the Coast Guard’s law enforcement focus shifted to new contraband, illegal narcotics such
as opium. Also the growing passenger airline trade would present new search and rescue challenges. The 327-foot “Treasury” (aka “Secretary”) class
cutters were designed to meet the changing mission of the service.
The machinery plant and hull below the waterline of the Treasury class were identical that of the U.S. Navy Erie class gunboats. Cost-saving was
paramount to the Coast Guard, so some standardization would save money since the cutters would be built in Navy shipyards. A total of seven cutters
were built in this class and all were named for former Secretaries of the Treasury. They were all commissioned in the late 1930s and saw a lot of action
in World War II. Initially part of the Greenland Patrol, they conducted convoy escort duties, battling U-Boats in the treacherous waters of the North
Atlantic. It was in these waters that the Alexander Hamilton was sunk by a torpedo from U-132, with the loss of 26 men. Their escort duties later
expanded to convoys crossing the mid-Atlantic, past Gibraltar into the Mediterranean and to North Africa. After their distinguished service in the Battle
of the Atlantic, the surviving cutters were transferred to the Pacific and converted to amphibious force flagships, where they served during some of the
most intense battles of the war. After World War II, the 327s continued to serve in combat situations as search-and-rescue ships during the Korean War
and as naval gunfire support ships during Vietnam. In peace-time service, the performed weather patrol, fisheries patrol and drug interdiction duties.
This class served for over 40 years and proved to be one of the most dependable and adaptable class of ships ever constructed. To quote naval historian
John M. Waters, Jr., the Treasury class cutters were truly "maritime workhorses."
The USCGC Spencer - The John C. Spencer was launched on January 6, 1937 at the New York Navy Yard and commissioned on March 1, 1937. She
left New York on May 13, 1937 for her first homeport of Cordova, Alaska, arriving on June 30, 1937. By the time she arrived her name was shortened
to Spencer. She remained in Alaskan waters for the next two years or so, participating in the Bering Sea Patrols. Spencer was transferred to Stapleton,
Staten Island, New York, arriving on October 15, 1939, where she received orders to conduct Neutrality Patrols to enforce the newly passed Neutrality
Act. She completed two such patrols in the Grand Banks until late January 1940. Through October of 1940, Spencer was reassigned to weather station
duties. She was then ordered to the Bethlehem Steel Corporation where she was fitted with depth charge racks, a Y-gun, and sonar equipment. Once the
rearmament was completed she resumed weather station duty until she became eligible for transfer to the Navy under an Executive Order of September
11, 1941. On November 1, 1941, the Coast Guard became part of the Navy and Spencer reported for duty with the Destroyer Force, Atlantic Fleet, on
January 9, 1942 and was designated WPG-36.