Of all the larger Coast Guard Cutters, the 327s are generally recognized as the most successful design. It is not just their success as ASW vessels in WWII. They were retained long after their younger siblings, the 255s, were decommissioned.
Photo: Spencer (WPG-36) on convoy duty.
The 327s were an anomaly, a radical break from the 240 and 250 foot cutters that preceded them, and the 255 foot cutters that followed.
Class Tampa “Lake” “Secretary” Owasco
First Delivery: 1921 1928 1936 1945
Displacement (tons, full load) : 1,955 2,075 2,350-2,750 2,010
Length (feet): 240 250 327 255
Beam: 39 42 41 43
Draft: 17’9″ 16 15 16
SHP: 2735 3350 6200 4000
Speed: 15.5 17 19.5 19.0
The 1964 Naval Review article I referred to previously, recommended modernizing the 327s, then almost 30 years old, with diesel engines and flight decks, but made no mention of modernizing the decade newer 255s, which were to be replaced. “These ships were all built of galvanized steel, and even today necessary structural restoration would be small. Modernization now would add at least another ten years to their life expectancy and would provide much better ships than are now operation.”
As built, the 327s were already more than 100 tons larger than contemporary Navy destroyers, but by 1945 they had added another 400 tons to their full load displacement. They had this margin because the design was based on the Navy’s 2,759 ton Erie class gunboats that had been conceived as miniature cruisers intended to screen the battleline from destroyer attack. Their generous size allowed them to not only function as capable open ocean escorts with more depth charges and K-guns (depth charge throwers) than were carried on destroyers, but also allowed them to serve as escort group flagships. They were then converted to amphibious force flag ships. All but the Alexander Hamilton, sunk in the 1942, had exceptionally long careers approaching 50 years or even longer in the case of Ingham, including service off Vietnam.
Photo: Ingham (WPG-35) at U.S. Navy Yard, S.C., Oct. 11, 1944
Other than the service life requirements that are being included in our ship building contracts, I don’t know how you can define, require, and justify this kind of excess capacity and quality in the ships the Coast Guard builds, but it certainly paid dividends.