An Icebreaker Begins Her Long and Eventful Career

December 28, 1942

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) Northwind, which would have an eventful career under various names and in the service of different nations as well as military branches, was launched just after noontime at Western Pipe & Steel Corporation’s shipyard in the Los Angeles community of San Pedro. Mrs. R.B. Lank, the wife of a Coast Guard construction officer who helped design USCGC Northwind, used a bottle of champagne to christen the vessel.

As an icebreaker, Northwind was specially designed to move and navigate through ice-covered waters and clear the way for other vessels. In 1944, Northwind was transferred to the Soviet Union as part of the Lend-Lease program whereby the United States supplied various resources – including ships – to its allies for use in military efforts. During her time with the Soviet Navy, Northwind was renamed Kapitan Belousov in honor of a Soviet icebreaker commander.

The vessel remained in Soviet use until 1952, when she was returned to the United States and commissioned as the U.S. Navy ship USS Northwind. Later that same year, she was renamed USS Staten Island.

In her capacity as a U.S. Navy vessel for the next several years, USS Staten Island played a major role in icebreaking operations in the world’s polar regions. In 1955 and 1956, for example, she broke ice for ships resupplying the Distant Early Warning radar stations in North America’s Arctic region. The icebreaker also took part during the decade in Operation Deep Freeze, a series of scientific research missions to Antarctica that helped establish a permanent American presence in that area of the world.

After it was decided that all U.S. military icebreaking operations should be performed solely by the Coast Guard, Staten Island was returned to that military branch in 1966. As USCGC Staten Island, she continued to take part in icebreaking efforts in both the Arctic and Antarctic regions until being decommissioned in 1974 and sold for scrap.

For more information on USCGC Staten Island (originally named USCGC Northwind and, during the course of her career, also known as Soviet Navy icebreaker Kapitan Belousov and U.S. Navy vessel USS Staten Island), please check out


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