Remembrance Ceremony for Cutter Alexander Hamilton WPG 34
On January 29, 2016, the Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society participated in a special remembrance ceremony in Charleston, South Carolina aboard the US Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton (WMSL 753). The ceremony was held to honor an earlier ship named after the founder of the Coast Guard - USCG Cutter Alexander Hamilton (WPG 34) - and the twenty-six Coast Guardsmen that lost their lives aboard that ship while serving during World War II.
The USCGC Alexander Hamilton (WPG 34) had been escorting a Navy transport off the coast of Iceland when it was torpedoed by a German U-Boat on January 29, 1942. The ship had to be scuttled, and for sixty-six years, it lay at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean undetected. In 2008, the wreck of the USCGC Alexander Hamilton (WPG 34) was first detected by the Icelandic Coast Guard; in 2013, memorial plaque was affixed with magnets onto the steel hull of the cutter during a record-breaking dive undertaken by the dive team Blue Immersion.
The memorial plaque had been commissioned by the Families of Hamilton (WPG 34), a group made up of the relatives of the twenty-six men who died as a result of the torpedo attack. A replica of this 18" by 18" granite plaque was presented to the AHA Society in the summer of 2015 during the 225th anniversary year of the US Coast Guard.
An additional replica of the memorial plaque was presented during the recent remembrance ceremony aboard USCGC Hamilton (WMSL 753). Held in the ship's home port of Charleston, the ceremony took place on January 29th - exactly seventy-four years after the torpedo attack on USCG Cutter Alexander Hamilton (WPG 34).
The ceremony included remarks by Captain Scott W. Clendenin, Commanding Officer of the current USCGC Hamilton (WMSL 753), on the history and loss of the Alexander Hamilton (WPG 34). Rand Scholet, President of the AHA Society, was the ceremony's keynote speaker, talking about the history of the Coast Guard.
At 1:12 pm, the exact time of the torpedo strike in 1942, a moment of silence was held during the ceremony. A bell was rung as each name of the twenty-six men were read aloud.
"Many of our citizens are not aware that members of the Coast Guard are put in harms way and also lost their lives during wartime. This was a special moment to honor the service and sacrifice of those twenty-six men, as well as countless others who have served in the US Coast Guard during the last 225 years," comments Scholet.
Rand Scholet also spoke on the rediscovery of the cutter and the deep dive that placed the plaque on the wreck 311 feet below sea level. He then invited to the stage Aron Arngrimsson, one of the original divers from Team Blue Immersion who affixed the memorial plaque on the ship.
Aron Arngrimsson, who had flown in from Mexico for the event, spoke of the difficulties and considerations that went into this dive - the deepest ever done in Iceland. Arngrimsson joined Dave Downey, the President of the Families of Hamilton (WPG 34), in officially presenting the granite memorial plaque to Captain Clendenin so that it will have a permanent home aboard the Hamilton (WMSL 753).
The event was also attended by the crew of Cutter Hamilton (WMSL 753); Linda Kapral Papp, the ship's sponsor; Coast Guard officials; the Navy League of Charleston Council, who has adopted Cutter Hamilton (WMSL 753); the Chamber of Commerce; Douglas Hamilton, fifth great-grandson of Alexander Hamilton; Mark Walling, a historian specializing in the Cutter Alexander Hamilton (WPG 34); and various news crews.
A special moment occured during the reception, when 96-year-old Ensign Larry Bradley, the last living survivor of the torpedo attack, connected in from California via video connection. He spoke about his experiences aboard the ship, interacting with guests for almost an hour.
This January 29th ceremony had a great deal of meaning to the members of the Families of Hamilton (WPG 34); Barbara Smith, whose father, Hal C F Smith, was one of the twenty-six men who perished in the attack, expressed: "I'm very proud that they found Alexander Hamilton [WPG 34], and the Memorial plaque on the ship meant a lot to the families who remember those who died at sea."
The President of the Families of Hamilton (WPG 34), Dave Downey, who honors his cousin Michael Vas, remarked that the "memorial was very important to us. The attachment of our memorial plaque to Hamilton (WPG 34) at the bottom of the frigid North Atlantic gave us closure; the presentation of our identical memorial plaque to Capt. Clendenin and the crew of Hamilton (WMSL 753) gave us celebration. She will be honorably displayed for the future crews to remember."
Watch footage from the ceremony by ABC4 News/Associated Press:
Also see: Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton Honors Legacy from DVIDS
- Article: Honoring USCGC Alexander Hamilton WPG-34
- Coast Guard Festival
- Article: The 225th Anniversary of the Coast Guard and Its Treasury Origins
- History of the 1937 Cutter Alexander Hamilton
- Coast Guard Video - The Hamilton Letter
- Trivia on Alexander Hamilton and the Military
- Alexander Hamilton quotes on War and Foreign Policy