Today in Coast Guard History – March 20th

  • 1929- The most notable incident from which international complications resulted during the Prohibition era was that of the schooner I’m Alone of Nova Scotia, a vessel built for the rum trade. She had successfully plied this trade for over four years when she appeared off the Texas coast and was picketed by the cutter Wolcott in the spring of 1929. Boatswain Frank Paul marked her at 10.8 miles from shore and signaled her to heave to. Several blanks were fired and this brought the vessel to a stop. Captain Randall of the schooner allowed the Boatswain on board, there was a discussion, but when he returned, I’m Alone continued on her way. The chase resumed and shots were fired into her rigging. On the second morning, some two hundred miles south of the U.S., the cutter Dexter came up to assist and proceeded to fire into the runner, sinking the vessel. One of her crew was drowned. Repercussions were heard immediately from Canada, Britain, and France, as the drowned seaman was French. The initial complaint was that of the position of the schooner at the point of contact. Her captain maintained she was only a 7-knot vessel and she was anchored about 15 miles out in safe waters. The second infraction was that the pursuit was not a continuous one, the intervention of Dexter muddied this question. Since the speed of the suspect vessel is a consideration in determining how far out it might be seized, it should be noted that I’m Alone managed to stay ahead of Wolcott, a nearly new cutter capable of at least 11 knots, for over 24 hours. As I’m Alone was sunk, the captain’s statement that her engines were in need of repair also could not be proven. In any case, the international round of diplomatic niceties did not cease until 1935 when the United States backed off and compensation was paid to the crew of the schooner.
  • 1941- Sabotage was discovered on an Italian vessel at Wilmington, North Carolina. The Coast Guard investigated all Italian and German vessels in American ports and took into “protective custody” 28 Italian vessels, two German and 35 Danish vessels. Coast Guard boarding teams discovered that their crews had damaged 27 of the Italian ships and one of the German ships. The Coast Guard also took into custody a total of 850 Italian and 63 German officers and crew. Two months later these vessels were requisitioned for service with the United States by order of Congress for the Latin American trade.

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