June 16, 1936
The vessel George W. Campbell was placed in active service as a cutter of the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG). This vessel was one of the first of the USCG’s Treasury-class cutters to be commissioned.
Those cutters were each named after former U.S. secretaries of the treasury. USCG’s affiliation with the U.S. Department of the Treasury can be traced to the 1790s, when that executive department began maintaining a fleet of vessels to collect customs duties at American seaports. Over time, that seagoing unit became known as the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service. The present-day USCG was established in 1915 when the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service was combined with the U.S. Life-Saving Service. (USCG remained a part of the U.S. Department of Treasury until 1967, when it was moved over to the newly formed U.S. Department of Transportation; this military service has been under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security since 2003.)
George Washington Campbell (1769-1848) was a Tennessee resident who served as U.S. treasury secretary during the administration of President James Monroe. During his extensive public career, Campbell also served as a U.S. senator, congressman, Tennessee Supreme Court justice, and ambassador to Russia. Just 10 days before being commissioned, the USCG vessel named after Campbell was launched with three other Treasury-class cutters at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. As part of that ceremony, USCGC Campbell was given a formal sendoff by her namesake’s great-great-granddaughter Lucia C. Brown of Harriman, Tennessee. “Smash! Tennessee Girl Wields Bottle to Christen New Coast Guard Cutter,” announced a headline in the next day’s edition of the Nashville Banner.
USCGC George W. Campbell (her name was officially shortened to Campbell in 1937) and her fellow Treasury-class cutters were the first USCG vessels capable of carrying airplanes. Since each of the Treasury-class cutters measured 327 feet (100 meters) in length, they became collectively known as the 327s. These cutters ultimately earned renown as reliable, adaptable, and versatile military ships. Naval historian John M. Waters, Jr., as a matter of fact, called those cutters their country’s “maritime warhorses.”
After the outbreak of World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed American neutrality in the conflict at that time and ordered the formation of patrols to monitor the waters off the Eastern Seaboard and in the West Indies for any possible belligerent military activity. Campbell took part in the first of the USCG’s so-called “neutrality patrols.” She would perform a total of five such cruises, with each lasting about two weeks. Starting in the summer of 1941, Campbell took on new responsibilities when she became the first Treasury-class cutter to transfer for duty with the U.S. Navy. Another milestone occurred that fall when she became the first of those cutters to sail as an escort for ship convoys making their way across the Atlantic.
By the time of the United States’ entry into World War II on the side of the Allies, Campbell played an even larger role in helping to protect convoys from German U-boats in the Atlantic. She became one of the first U.S. warships, for example to be equipped with the pioneering high-frequency direction finding (HF/DF) technology for tracking down at-sea radio communications to and from U-boats. By mid-1943, Campbell assumed a new tour of duty as an escort for Allied convoys in the Mediterranean. The cutter saw considerable action against U-boats and enemy aircraft during that high-risk assignment.
Throughout World War II, the best-known member of Campbell’s crew was arguably a mixed-breed dog named Sinbad. He had first reported aboard Campbell in 1937 and served as the cutter’s mascot for the next 11 years. Sinbad was popular not only on the ship but throughout the world for his role in boosting morale, most especially during times of combat in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. Sinbad was promoted to the rank of K9C Chief Dog by the end of the war and, following his death in 1951, he became one of the first Coast Guardsmen to have a published biography exclusively written about him.
During her post-World War II existence, Campbell continued to carry out a broad range of missions across the globe. These missions included a tour of duty in Vietnam in the late 1960s. After returning to the United States from Vietnam, Campbell took part in various search-and-rescue assignments and maritime law enforcement activities. Campbell was decommissioned in 1982. At that time, she was the USCG’s oldest active continually commissioned vessel and had even become widely known as the “Queen of the Seas.”
In 1984, this cutter was sunk as a target during military exercises in an area northwest of Hawaii. At the time of that sinking, Campbell’s crew sent out a final radio transmission on her behalf. This message read in part: “I served with honor for almost forty-six years, in war and peace, in the Atlantic and Pacific. With duty as diverse as saving lives to sinking U-boats, ocean stations to fisheries enforcement, and from training cadets to being your flagship. I have been always ready to serve.”
For more information on USCGC George W. Campbell, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USCGC_Campbell_(WPG-32)
Additional information on the vessel’s longtime mascot Sinbad is available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinbad_(dog)