Steel Cut for DDG Honoring Coast Guard Hero

A graphic illustration of the future Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Quentin Walsh (DDG 132). (U.S. Navy photo illustration by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Paul L. Archer/Released)

Dmitry Shulgin reports,

The U.S. Navy and General Dynamics (GD) Bath Iron Works (BIW) marked the start of fabrication for the future USS Quentin Walsh (DDG-132) with a ceremony at BIW’s Structural Fabrication Facility in East Brunswick, Maine, November 16.

This earlier post tells the story of this Coast Guard Hero.

“Coast Guard veteran turns 100, reflects on ‘scary days’ and ‘unbelievable sights’ of D-Day invasion” –D8 Press Release

A great personal story.

Coast Guard Cutter 16, an 83-foot wooden patrol boat assigned to Coast Guard Rescue Flotilla One, sits out of the water in Poole, England, in 1944. On D-Day, the crew of CGC-16 saved the lives of 126 Allied troops, more lives than any other vessel present that day. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

 Feature Release U.S. Coast Guard 8th District Public Affairs Detachment Texas

Coast Guard veteran turns 100, reflects on ‘scary days’ and ‘unbelievable sights’ of D-Day invasion

Official headshot of Michael J. Swierc, who enlisted in the Coast Guard on Aug. 11, 1942, and trained as a motor machinist’s mate before deploying overseas for the first wave of the D-Day invasion. Swierc, who turned 100 years old on Nov. 6, 2021, received the Bronze Star Medal for helping save 126 Allied troops from drowning in the English Channel on June 6, 1944. (U.S. Coast Guard photo, courtesy Pam Manka)

Story by Petty Officer 1st Class Corinne Zilnicki

Nearly 80 years have passed since Mike Swierc vaulted over the side of a ship hundreds of yards off Utah Beach during the first wave of the D-Day invasion. But for Swierc, a 100-year-old Coast Guard veteran, the memories of those fateful days and nights have not faded from his mind.

“The night of the invasion was unbelievable,” said Swierc. “There was a continuous flash of lightning in the sky and we could hear the bombs. It was nonstop fire.”

Facing off against 28 German heavy artillery batteries and multiple 88 mm machine guns was not exactly what Swierc had expected upon enlisting in the Coast Guard. He and his younger brother had preemptively joined the service in 1942 hoping to protect domestic waterways and scour eastern U.S. coastlines for enemy submarines.

Instead, the farmer’s son found himself weaving through the frigid waters of the English Channel more than 5,000 miles from his hometown of Falls City, Texas.

A natural and seasoned mechanic, Swierc had spent the first 22 months of his Coast Guard service swept up in a whirlwind of basic training and diesel engine schools before deploying overseas for the Normandy invasion.

The 31-day journey from Bayonne, New Jersey, to Ireland was fraught with difficulty. Swierc passed the days aboard his transport ship peeling potatoes, scrubbing dishes and wincing at the sound of the wind lashing against the bulkhead.

“Somehow, I never got seasick,” Swierc marveled. “But we faced the most terrible storm when we crossed the Atlantic.”

The 500 destroyers, escort ships, battleships and aircraft carriers in Swierc’s convoy kept their bows pointed doggedly into the fierce wind and arrived overseas on schedule. Upon reaching Ireland, the Coast Guardsmen joined U.S. Navy sailors in joint training sessions, honing their skills in small-boat handling, ship-to-shore movement, beach landings and general maintenance. As D-Day loomed closer, Coast Guard, Navy, and British Royal Navy personnel prepared their ships for the channel crossing.

Swierc’s cutter, an 83-foot, wooden patrol boat called Coast Guard Cutter 16, was assigned to Rescue Flotilla One, a collection of 60 ships that had been hastily summoned only a few weeks prior. Although the wooden cutters of “the matchbox fleet” were initially designed to hunt submarines, their crews were now charged primarily with rescuing Allied soldiers during the invasion.

“The name of the game was search and rescue,” Swierc said. “I think we did our fair share.”

At around 4 a.m. on June 6, 1944, the Allied assault force departed from the rendezvous point and headed for the coast of France. Heavy seas battered the boats and soaked the men, many of whom were desperately seasick. Bullets and shellfire roared to life overhead and pummeled the water all around the convoy as it approached Utah Beach.

“We didn’t really have time to be scared,” explained Swierc. “We got in there and got after it.”

As soon as CGC-16 arrived off the beachhead, Swierc and his crew dove into action and began plucking survivors from the water around the USS PC-1261, the first ship sunk on D-Day. The submarine chaser had led the first wave of landing craft toward Utah Beach and was obliterated when an artillery shell slammed into its starboard side, instantly killing nearly half the crew.

With shellfire peppering the water around them and the explosions of nearby mines rattling the deck beneath their feet, the Coast Guard crew calmly began extracting shipwreck survivors from the oil-slicked waves.

Upon spotting two injured Allied soldiers in the water, Mike Swierc leaped off the cutter, swam 40 yards through enemy gunfire and fastened a rescue line around the men.

“The one guy said, ‘Don’t worry about me, just get my buddy,’” recalled Swierc. “But I looked at his buddy, and he was bleeding with his head in the water. He had already passed away.”

Unflinchingly, the CGC-16’s head mechanic swam back through the 54-degree water as crew members aboard the cutter reeled in the two soldiers. This was only one of many daring plunges Swierc took into the water that day.

“We were out there swimming our hearts out,” said Swierc. “That water was icy cold but you just didn’t pay attention to it, you just swam.”

With 90 rescued troops safely aboard, the CGC-16 crew sped away from the PC-1261 wreckage site and delivered the survivors to the USS Joseph T. Dickman, a nearby transport ship-turned-hospital platform.

Immediately after handing over the last survivor, the CGC-16’s skipper, Coast Guard Lt. j. g. R. V. McPhail, maneuvered the cutter back into the line of fire to recover more wounded soldiers and sailors from another damaged landing craft. The vessel had struck a mine and was listing on its side, threatening to trap more than 30 stranded crew members underwater. Swierc and his shipmates tossed lines to the men and hoisted them aboard only seconds before the landing craft completely capsized, narrowly avoiding crushing CGC-16 in its rapid descent.

Undeterred, the CGC-16 crew rushed to rescue survivors from a third landing craft decimated by artillery shells less than a mile offshore, nosing past mines and through unceasing shellfire to reach the men.

“The whole deck was completely covered with survivors, most of them traumatically injured,” Swierc said. “It was a sad situation, but we were sent there to do it, and we did it the best we knew how.”

Despite having little formal medical training, Swierc found himself administering first aid to those sprawled across the decks of his ship. Hands that had spent countless hours picking cotton and repairing tractors now steadily injected morphine into the veins of wounded Allied soldiers and marked each man’s forehead with an “X” to record the dosage. After dulling the survivors’ pain, Swierc and his shipmates secured them in baskets and passed them to personnel aboard the Dickman.

All told, the crew of CGC-16 rescued 126 men on June 6, more than any other ship present that day. Along with his shipmates, Swierc earned both the Navy and Marine Corps and Bronze Star Medals for his gallantry and lifesaving actions.

Although his award citation lauds his “cool courage” and “devotion to duty,” Swierc said he was merely doing what he was supposed to do.

The achievements of Swierc and the CGC-16 crew aligned with the overall efforts of Coast Guard Rescue Flotilla One, which saved more than 400 men on D-Day alone and rescued 1,438 Allied troops before the end of June.

Even when the D-Day invasion ended and Allied forces gained a firm foothold in France, Swierc’s commitment and loyalty did not waiver. Along with most of his fellow CGC-16 crewmen, he eagerly volunteered to deploy to the Pacific theatre.

However, the war ended before he got the chance to make the journey.

In September of 1945, the head mechanic of the CGC-16 boarded a transport ship and headed back across the Atlantic with a souvenir tucked in his bag: a set of wrenches from his cutter, which along with 58 other ships of the matchbox fleet had been sunk, burned or cut up for scrap.

Although he was proud to have served his country, Swierc was eager to return to Falls City and reunite with his family. As though flipping back to a page in a familiar book, Swierc resumed helping his father on the farm, picking cotton and shucking corn with the same hands that had pulled wounded, waterlogged soldiers out of the English Channel.

Shortly after returning home from the war, Swierc began working at his brother’s grocery store, where he soon met and inadvertently annoyed his future wife. Despite a rocky start, the two eventually went on their first date at a local cafe, got married in 1948 and had eight children. Swierc, who turned 100 years old on Nov. 6, 2021, and is now surrounded by 44 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, described his life since D-Day as “rich in love.”

“It’s my family’s love that keeps me going,” he explained with a chuckle and a smile. “This is just the first hundred years of my life. Now I’m going to start on my second hundred.”

Allied troops storm Utah Beach under heavy German artillery and machine gun fire in Normandy, France, June 6, 1944. More than 23,000 men of the U.S. 4th Infantry Division landed on Utah Beach, the westernmost of the assault beaches. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Members from Coast Guard Sector/Air Station Corpus Christi attend a birthday celebration for Michael J. Swierc, a Coast Guard veteran who turned 100 years old, Nov. 6, 2021, in Falls City, Texas. Swierc was presented with a hand written letter from the Commandant, as well as a Coast Guard ensign signed by members of Sector/Air Station Corpus Christi and a unit ball cover. (U.S. Coast Guard photo, courtesy Sector/Air Station Corpus Christi)

A socket wrench set originally kept on board Coast Guard Cutter 16, an 83-foot wooden patrol boat whose crew saved the lives of 126 Allied troops on June 6, 1944. Michael J. Swierc, 100-year-old Coast Guard veteran and head mechanic aboard the cutter, kept the set of tools as a souvenir from his service during WWII. (U.S. Coast Guard photo, courtesy Pam Manka)

 

Cat 4 Hurricane, No Problem, Bollinger Delivers USCGC John Scheuerman Ahead of Schedule

USCGC John Scheuerman in Key West, Florida.

Below is a lightly edited Bollinger news release. The battle in which John Scheuerman lost his life, was the Invasion of Solerno. If you read the link I provided, you can see that the Luftwaffe response was so intense, it caused the naval task force commander shift his flag to a less conspicuous ship, USS Biscayne, a ship that would later serve as USCGC Dexter.


BOLLINGER SHIPYARDS DELIVERS 46th FAST RESPONSE CUTTER AHEAD OF SCHEDULE DESPITE DIRECT HIT FROM HURRICANE IDA 

LOCKPORT, La., – (October 21, 2021) – Bollinger Shipyards LLC (“Bollinger”) has delivered the newest Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutter (“FRC”), the USCGC John Scheuerman, to the U.S. Coast Guard in Key West, Florida nearly one week ahead of schedule despite a three week shutdown due to the significant damage sustained to Bollinger’s facilities during Hurricane Ida. The storm made landfall in late August near Port Fourchon, Louisiana as a powerful Category 4 storm. Bollinger’s facilities in Port Fourchon, Lockport, Houma and Larose suffered significant damage as a result of Hurricane Ida, which tied with last year’s Hurricane Laura and the Last Island Hurricane of 1856 as the strongest on record in Louisiana.

“While every delivery is meaningful, being able to deliver this vessel nearly a week early despite everything our crew has faced over the past month is nothing short of remarkable,” said Bollinger President & CEO Ben Bordelon. “We had folks who lost everything in that storm. Our yard where we build the FRCs took a beating and was shuttered for three weeks while we rebuilt. This vessel and this delivery is a win our folks really needed and it reflects the resilience, commitment and tenacity of the 650 skilled men and women that built it.”

On September 24th, following an extensive multi‐week recovery and rebuilding effort, Bollinger welcomed employees back to all 11 of its facilities across Louisiana. Bollinger’s Lockport facility is home to the FRC program, which directly supports 650 jobs. The USCGC John Scheuerman departed Lockport on Monday, October 11th for Bollinger’s Fourchon facility where it performed a shakedown excercise prior to dry docking for final inspection in preparation of its delivery. The Cutter departed Fourchon for Key West, FL on Sunday, October 17th. The USCGC John Scheuerman is the 169th vessel Bollinger has delivered to the U.S. Coast Guard over a 35-year period and the 46th FRC delivered under the current program. The USCGC John Scheuerman is the fifth of six FRCs to be home-ported in Manama, Bahrain, which will replace the aging 110’ Island Class Patrol Boats, built by Bollinger Shipyards 30 years ago, supporting the Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA), the U.S. Coast Guard’s largest overseas presence outside the United States.

U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz has previously lauded the “enhanced seakeeping capabilities” of the PATFORSWA-bound FRCs, saying the ships are going to be “game changing” in their new theater of operations. Last week, at the commissioning ceremony for the USCGC Emlen Tunnell—another Bahrain-based FRC—Adm. Schultz noted that these ships will “conduct maritime security operations, theater cooperation efforts, and strengthen partner nations’ maritime capabilities to promote security and stability in the region, as well as thwart the increasingly aggressive and dangerous maritime activities of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.” He went on to say that these FRCs are “a perfect complement to the capabilities of both the Navy and Marine Corps. United, we bring a range of maritime capabilities to employ across the cooperation-competition-lethality continuum.”

PATFORSWA is composed of six cutters, shoreside support personnel, and the Maritime Engagement Team. The unit’s mission is to train, organize, equip, support and deploy combat-ready Coast Guard Forces in support of U.S. Central Command and national security objectives. PATFORSWA works with Naval Forces Central Command in furthering their goals to conduct persistent maritime operations to forward U.S. interests, deter and counter disruptive countries, defeat violent extremism and strengthen partner nations’ maritime capabilities in order to promote a secure maritime environment.

Each FRC is named for an enlisted Coast Guard hero who distinguished themselves in the line of duty. John Scheuerman, Seaman First Class, United States Coast Guard Reserve was posthumously presented the Silver Star Medal for service as set forth in the following citation:  “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving on board the U.S.S. LCI (L) 319 during the amphibious invasion of Italy, September 9, 1943.  Observing an enemy fighter plane diving in for a strafing attack as his vessel approached the assault beaches in the Gulf of Salerno, SCHEUERMAN unhesitatingly manned his battle station at an exposed antiaircraft gun and, with cool courage and aggressive determination, exerted every effort to direct accurate gunfire against the hostile aircraft.  Although mortally wounded before he could deliver effective fire, he remained steadfast at his post in the face of imminent death, thereby contributing materially to the protection of his ship against further attack.  SCHEUERMAN’s fearless action, great personal valor and selfless devotion to duty under extremely perilous conditions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.” Scheuerman also posthumously received the Purple Heart Medal.

After 79 Years, Finding a Final Resting Place at the Coast Guard Academy

Lt. Crotty

We seem to be half masting the flag a lot lately, but this one has greater than the usual significance. Please read his story using the link below. Earlier post here.

united states coast guard

R 141500Z OCT 21
FM COMDT COGARD WASHINGTON DC
TO ALCOAST
BT
UNCLAS
ALCOAST 380/21
SSIC 5060
SUBJ: HALF MASTING OF NATIONAL ENSIGN
A. U.S. Coast Guard Regulations 1992, COMDTINST M5000.3B
B. COMDT COGARD WASHINGTON DC 290809 OCT 19/ALCOAST 335/19
1. By order of the Commandant and IAW REF (A), the National
Ensign shall be flown at half mast from sunrise until sunset
on Friday, 15 October 2021, in honor of LT Thomas James Eugene
“Jimmy” Crotty, an American and Coast Guard hero.
2. The National Ensign shall be flown at half mast on all
Coast Guard buildings, grounds, and vessels not underway.
3. As announced in REF (B), LT Thomas James Eugene “Jimmy”
Crotty, USCG, died as a prisoner of war of the Japanese at
the Cabanatuan Prisoner of War Camp on 19 July 1942. He was
buried in a common grave along with all those who died that
day. On 10 September 2019, as part of an exhaustive effort
by DoD to bring every service member home, LT Crotty was
positively identified from the remains exhumed in early 2018.
LT Crotty was returned home with honors on 01 November 2019
to Buffalo, NY.
4. LT Crotty will have his final inurnment on Friday,
15 October 2021, at the United States Coast Guard Academy
Columbarium in New London, CT, at 1400.
5. LT Crotty’s biography and additional information can be
found at:
(Copy and Paste URL Below into Browser)

https://compass.coastguard.blog/2019/09/18/the-long-blue-line
-lt-crotty-and-the-battle-for-corregidor/

6. RADM Eric C. Jones, Assistant Commandant for Human Resources
(CG-1), sends.
7. Internet release is authorized.

“Coast Guard, NOAA to hold event to announce the discovery of U.S. Revenue Cutter Bear and arrival of U.S. Coast Guard Icebreaker in Boston” –D1

Appearing very different from its last Greenland visit in 1884, the USS Bear returned in 1944. Unlike in 1884, the Bear relied on a Coast Guard crew during World War II. As part of the Greenland Patrol, it cruised Greenland’s waters and, in October 1941, brought home the German trawler Buskø, the first enemy vessel captured by the U.S. in WWII. (Coast Guard photo)

An interesting news release from CCGD1 below. While looking for an appropriate photo, I found an earlier article, “Hunting for Bear, the Search for the Coast Guard’s Most Iconic Vessel,” by MARK A. SNELL, PH.D., U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, beginning on page 56 of the Spring 2019 issue of Proceedings of the Marine Safety and Security Council. This is the way it ends.

A few years ago, an aspiring author posted an ode about the loss of the Bear on a website known as “Ghost Stories for Lovers.” Her thoughts on the final moments of the iconic ship are an apt denouement both for the sinking of the Bear and the conclusion of this article:

“I imagine her exhaustion. I imagine the familiar rush of waves lapping against her parched skin, reawakening every memory of every youthful adventure with such
a flood of overwhelming intensity that the strength of the wind and the salt and the biting northern air that she once drank now aches. Her arthritic timbers swell and throb as they move through the rough ocean. The towline grows taut, too taut, as she struggles to keep pace with the smaller boat. Did she welcome the final gale that snapped it, I wonder, that final push of force that plunged her mast deep into her hull, into her heart, releasing nearly a century’s worth of man’s insatiable hope from her shattered bones and back into the sea from which he crawled?

“She didn’t take anyone down with her. The two sailors who were with her when it happened shivered and gaped from the rails of the tugboat that rescued them as she slipped further into the black water. Slowly. Silently. As if she were never there…”

united states coast guard

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard 1st District Northeast

Media Availability: Coast Guard, NOAA to hold event to announce the discovery of U.S. Revenue Cutter Bear and arrival of U.S. Coast Guard Icebreaker in Boston

Editors’ Note: Media interested in attending are requested to RSVP at 617-223-8515 or D1PublicAffairs@USCG.mil by 9:30 a.m., Oct. 13, 2021 and should arrive no later than 2:45 p.m. and must follow proper CDC guidelines for COVID-19.

BOSTON—The Coast Guard is scheduled to hold an event to discuss the discovery of the wreckage of the U.S. Revenue Cutter Bear and the arrival of the USCGC Healy (WAGB  20) following its recent transit of the Arctic’s Northwest Passage.

WHO: Vice Adm. Steven Poulin, Coast Guard Atlantic Area commander, Capt. Kenneth Boda, USCGC Healy commanding officer, Coast Guard historians and representatives from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

WHAT: The Coast Guard is announcing the findings of the wreckage of the U.S. Revenue Cutter Bear, a vessel of historical significance to the Arctic, and discussing the arrival of the USCGC Healy, one of the Service’s polar icebreakers.

WHEN: Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021, at 3:00 p.m.

WHERE: Boston Cruise Ship Terminal, 1 Black Falcon Ave. Boston, MA 02210

The USRC Bear was built in Scotland in 1874 as a steamer ship and purchased by the U.S. government in 1884 for service in the U.S. Navy as part of the rescue fleet for the Greely Expedition to the Arctic, which gave world-wide acclaim as the vessel that rescued the few survivors of that disastrous expedition. In 1885, the Bear was transferred from the Treasury Department for service in the Arctic as a Revenue Cutter and for 41 years it patrolled the Arctic performing search and rescue, law enforcement operations, conducting censuses of people and ships, recording geological and astronomical information, recording tides and escort whaling ships. Between 1886-1895, the captain of Bear was “Hell Roaring Mike” Healy. The USCGC Healy was commissioned in 1999 and named in his honor. During World War II, the Bear served during the Greenland Patrols and participated in the capture of a German spy vessel, the trawler Buskoe. It was decommissioned in 1944 and was lost at sea while being towed in 1963.

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy crew, following in the Bear’s tradition of Arctic service, recently completed a transit of the Arctic Northwest Passage. Healy is one of the Coast Guard’s polar-capable icebreakers and operates as a multi-mission vessel to protect American interests in the Arctic region.

For nearly two decades, NOAA Ocean Exploration, the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries’ Maritime Heritage Program, the U.S. Coast Guard Research and Development center, and a number of academic research partners have been engaged in a search for the final resting place of U.S. Revenue Cutter Bear.

For more information, please visit NOAA’s Ocean Exploration website.

Looking Back on the Last 30 Years

USCGC Mellon seen here launching a Harpoon anti-ship cruise missile in 1990.

The Coast Guard took full advantage of the “peace dividend” when the Soviet Union collapsed back in 1991 (the year I retired). All ASW equipment was removed. That was 30 years ago, so virtually every active duty Coast Guardsman has never been in the service when it had a defined war time mission.

The Chinese naval build up has changed the circumstance that made that shedding of capabilities logical.
The Navy decommissioned many ships. The Coast Guard retained its ships but no longer saw a need for Harpoon, sonar, torpedo tubes, etc.
For some reason they did retain Electronic Warfare capability and CIWS. I am not sure that makes sense unless there is a plan to reintroduce warfare capabilities.
The National Security Cutters are really to well equipped and more capable than their peacetime missions would require. Like the down graded post FRAM 378s, the NSCs have ESM/ECM, a first rate fire control system, helicopter support facilities that exceed our normal requirements, a  Phalanx CIWS, and a speed of over 25 knots. Those capabilities only make sense if additional upgrades are expected in time of war. We know that the NSCs were designed to accept 12 Mk56 VLS, but that alone does not make sense because that would only improve its defensive capabilities.
I sometime get the feeling we want our ships to look like warships, but we don’t really care if they are effective warships.
You don’t need to defend against cruise missile unless you are engaged in a warfare mission.
We do seem to have embraced Gray Zone missions, including Cyber. That is all to the good, but I still don’t see that we are actively engaged in “Defense Readiness,” which, to me means planning for how we can help in an existential conflict with a near peer adversary, specifically now China and/or Russia.
I also don’t see that we have fully embraced the counter-terrorism mission either, since we don’t have what it takes to deal with a terrorist attack on a US port using a medium to large size vessel. Our countermeasures are just too week. We are barely equipped to take on terrorist using personal watercraft.
Modular sensors and weapons and coordination with the Navy Reserve appear to offer a way to prepare at minimal day to day cost, but we don’t seem to be exploiting these options. Our reservist do deploy on military missions, but are we really prepared to reorder our mission priorities and assume a significant role in naval warfare? Do we have plans as to how we will upgrade our ships? How we will train operators of equipment we don’t currently have?
Shortly before I retired the US and its allies defeated the Soviet Union without going to war, because we were ready to fight. At that time we knew the Coast Guard’s missions would include escorting convoys to Europe. Since then we have had three decades without a significant naval challenge, but that has ended. It is time to embrace the fact that the Coast Guard is a military service at all times and find our place in the plans for any future struggle.

“SOVEREIGN IMMUNITY POLICY” and a Bad Example

1970 – editorial cartoon run during the Kudirka Incident. Credit New York Times

A recent ALCOAST restates the Sovereign Immunity Policy with regard to Coast Guard vessels and aircraft. This is particularly relevant for units operating in the Persian Gulf and South China Sea, but it applies everywhere.

Since we operate mostly in US waters or nearby high seas, application may seem unlikely to most, but this is not just academic. For a real world example that caused the Coast Guard great embarrassment, let’s not forget the Simonas “Simas” Kudirka incident.

united states coast guard

R 061626Z OCT 21
FM COMDT COGARD WASHINGTON DC
TO ALCOAST
BT
UNCLAS
ALCOAST 370/21
SSIC 3128
SUBJ: SOVEREIGN IMMUNITY POLICY
A. U.S. Navy Sovereign Immunity Policy, NAVADMIN 165/21
B. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
C. The Commanders Handbook on the Law of Naval Operations,
COMDTPUB P5800.7 (series)
D. United States Coast Guard Regulations 1992, COMDTINST M5000.3
(series)
E. Foreign Port Calls, COMDTINST 3128.1 (series)
1. This ALCOAST restates U.S. Coast Guard sovereign immunity
policy. The policies reflected in this document are based on
longstanding principles of international law. Accommodating
foreign State demands that undermine these policies not only erodes
protections in that particular situation but also risks establishing
precedent that may have long-term and wide-ranging negative effects.
Therefore, commanders, commanding officers, officers-in-charge, and
aircraft commanders must adhere to the policies outlined in this
message. This message echoes policies outlined in REF (A), U.S.
Navy’s sovereign immunity policy, given the sovereign immune status
shared by vessel and aircraft of both services.
2. Under customary international law, and consistent with REFs
(A)-(E), manned and unmanned vessels and aircraft owned or
operated by a State, and used, for the time being, only for
government non-commercial service, are entitled to sovereign
immunity. Accordingly, such vessels and aircraft, wherever located,
are immune from arrest, search, and inspection by foreign
authorities, including inspections by or under the supervision of a
competent authority of areas, baggage, containers, conveyances,
facilities, goods or postal parcels, and relevant data and
documentation thereof for most purposes. Moreover, such vessels and
aircraft are exempt from certain foreign taxes, duties, or fees, as
well as foreign regulations that require flying a foreign State’s
flag or setting a compulsory pilotage requirement. Customary
international law further grants to commanding officers, officers-
in-charge, aircraft commanders, and masters the right to protect the
identity of personnel, stores, weapons, and other property aboard a
sovereign immune vessel or aircraft, as well as exclusive control
over any person aboard a sovereign immune vessel or aircraft
concerning acts performed aboard.
3. Although immune from arrest by foreign authorities, U.S. Coast
Guard vessels and aircraft shall comply with host country
requirements regarding traffic control, health, customs, and
immigration, to the extent such requirements do not contravene U.S.
Coast Guard sovereign immunity policy. In many instances, this
message and its references dictate how the U.S. Coast Guard complies
with such requirements. Noncompliance with any such requirement may
be subject to diplomatic complaint or host country orders to leave
its internal waters, territorial sea, or national airspace, but does
not change this policy’s requirements. Because adhering to this
policy may result in a country’s refusal or expulsion of an aircraft
or vessel, commanders must work with their legal counsel and embassy
teams early to understand port and airfield requirements including
international agreements or other arrangements which may apply.
4. Asserting sovereign immunity is a privilege of the U.S.
Government. Thus, waiver is not within the discretion of a
officer, officer-in-charge, or aircraft commander. An officer
exercising Tactical Control (TACON) is delegated authority to
interpret sovereign immunity policy consistent with overarching U.S.
Government policies and shall be notified by lower echelons via the
chain-of-command regarding challenges to asserting sovereign
immunity that cannot be resolved in favor of the policies set forth
in this message. Where TACON can execute this policy without
conflict with this message, no waiver is required. However, except
as provided herein, any action that may constitute a waiver or
potential waiver of sovereign immunity must be coordinated with
COMDT (CG-5R) in advance.
5. It is U.S. Government policy to assert full sovereign immunity
for U.S. Coast Guard manned and unmanned vessels, including cutters
and small boats, and aircraft. In addition to the general
privileges and obligations discussed in paragraphs 2 and 3 of this
message, which apply in full, the following guidance also applies:
   a. Searches, Inspections, and Requests for Information.
Per REF (D), paragraphs 4-1-28, and 4-2-10, and REF (E), commanding
officers, officers-in-charge, and aircraft commanders must not
permit a vessel or aircraft under their command to be searched or
inspected on any pretense whatsoever by foreign authorities or
organizations, nor permit any person within their vessel or
aircraft’s confines to be removed by foreign authorities. U.S.
authorities may themselves conduct consent, command authorized, or
other lawful searches or inspections and preserve evidence without
foreign officials being present, but evidence seized must not be
turned over to foreign authorities absent specific direction by
higher authority. Commanding officers, officers-in-charge, and
aircraft commanders must not provide vessel or aircraft documents
or other vessel- or aircraft-specific information (excluding a
vessel’s public characteristics for purposes of appropriate pilotage
or berthing) to foreign authorities and organizations without the
approval of higher authority via the chain-of-command.
   b. Taxes and Fees. Payment of fines or taxes is prohibited
regardless of reasons offered for imposition. Appropriate charges
for pilots, tugboats, sewer, water, power and other required goods
or services may be paid.
     (1) Unless there is an international agreement to the
contrary, commanding officers, and officers-in-charge must refuse
to pay any tax or revenue-generating fee imposed on a U.S. Coast
Guard vessel or aircraft by a foreign sovereign. These taxes,
including port taxes, port tariffs, port tolls, port security
surcharges, port dockage fees, and other similar taxes or fees, are
impermissible. Commanding officers and officers-in-charge may pay
reasonable charges for goods and services requested and received,
less taxes and similar charges. If requested to pay an
impermissible tax or fee, commanding officers and officers-in-charge
should request an itemized list of all charges, pay reasonable
charges for goods and services requested and received, and explain
that under customary international law, sovereign immune vessels are
exempt from foreign taxes and fees.
     (2) If port authorities directly insist on payment of an
impermissible tax or fee, commanding officers and officers-in-charge
should seek assistance from higher authority and U.S. Embassy via
the chain-of-command. Whether the U.S. Coast Guard will directly
pay an impermissible tax or fee is a matter of overarching U.S.
Government policy. This decision may be based on other concerns
such as operational needs, contracting principles, and potential
fiscal liability.
     (3) If such taxes or fees are levied indirectly through a
Husbanding Service Provider (HSP) as part of a foreign fixed price
contract, such tax or fee may be paid as part of the contract price.
   c. Crew Lists
     (1) Commanding officers and officers-in-charge must not
provide a list of crew members (military and/or nonmilitary) or
passengers aboard a vessel to foreign officials under any
circumstances. In response to a crew list request, the host nation
should be informed that the United States exempts foreign sovereign
immune vessels visiting the United States from the requirement to
provide crew lists in accordance with (IAW) the same sovereign
immunity principles claimed by United States sovereign immune
vessels. When a host country maintains a demand for a crew members
list as a condition of entry into a port or to satisfy local
immigration officials upon arrival, seek guidance from higher
authority via the chain-of-command.
     (2) Absent an international agreement, a commanding officer
or officer-in-charge of a vessel may provide information about
personnel going ashore for a temporary time and for unofficial
purposes (e.g. liberty) to comply with a host country’s immigration
laws. However, if information is provided, it should include the
minimum amount of information required to comply with the host
country’s laws, and include no more than names (without rank), place
of birth, date of birth, and sex. A commanding officer should not
provide foreign officials with other sensitive or personal
information, such as social security numbers, rank, addresses, or
other specific information. Such liberty lists are not the same as
crew lists, even though they may contain the names of all
crewmembers.
   d. Quarantine and Health Information Requirements
     (1) Under REFs (D) and (E), commanding officers, officers-
in-charge, and aircraft commanders must comply with all domestic or
foreign State quarantine regulations for the port within which the
vessel is located that do not contravene this sovereign immunity
policy.
     (2) IAW REFs (C) and (D), while commanding officers,
officers-in-charge, and aircraft commanders must not permit
inspection of their vessel or aircraft, they must afford every
other assistance to health officials, U.S. or foreign, and must
give all information required, insofar as permitted by military
necessity and security requirements. To avoid restrictions imposed
by quarantine regulations, the commanding officer should request
free pratique (clearance granted a ship to proceed into a port after
compliance with health or quarantine regulations) IAW that port’s
sailing directions.
   e. Flying Foreign State Flags. While sovereign immune vessels
are exempt from foreign regulations that require flying a foreign
State flag, U.S. Coast Guard sovereign immune vessels may fly
State flags to render honors IAW REF (D). Regional practices to
display marks of respect for host nations vary, and commanding
officers and officers-in-charge must consult with the operational
chain-of-command, theater- and fleet-specific guidance, and local
embassies for further guidance if host nation officials raise the
issue.
   f. Environmental Mishaps in Foreign Waters. If, after an oil
or hazardous substance spill in foreign territorial or internal
waters, a commanding officer or officer-in-charge determines foreign
authorities need more information to properly respond to the spill
and prevent serious environmental damage, the commanding officer or
officer-in-charge may release information similar to that releasable
to U.S. authorities. Before releasing spill-related information to
foreign authorities, the commanding officer or officer-in-charge
must seek guidance from higher authority via the chain-of-command
and, if release is deemed appropriate, inform the foreign
authorities that the ship or vessel is a sovereign immune vessel of
the United States and that spill-related information is being
voluntarily provided to help minimize environmental damage.
   g. Compulsory Pilotage. Article 4-2-3 of REF (D) authorizes
commanding officers and officers-in-charge of vessels to employ
pilots when, in the commanding officer’s or officer-in-charge’s
judgement, such employment is necessary. Inherent in such
discretion is the authority to refuse use of a pilot or to disregard
such pilot’s advice regarding a vessel’s safe navigation.
Accordingly, U.S. vessels may, but are not required to, employ
pilots as prudent. Except as provided in article 4-2-4 of REF (D),
commanding officers may, but are not required to, allow a pilot
onboard. If a nation sets pilot employment as a condition for
entering port or transiting their waters contrary to REF (D),
commanding officers must inform foreign authorities that the ship
or vessel is a sovereign immune vessel of the United States and
that pilotage services are being accepted voluntarily and not as
a condition of entry.
6. Commanders, commanding officers, officers-in-charge, and
aircraft commanders must adhere to the policies outlined in this
message and seek guidance from higher authority via the chain of
command in the event of ambiguity or prior to taking any action
that might constitute a waiver of sovereign immunity.
7. POC: CDR J. R. Styron, COMDT (CG-LMI-R), phone (202) 372-3798,
or by global email.
8. RDML Scott R. Clendenin, Assistant Commandant for Response Policy
(CG-5R), sends.
9. Internet release is authorized.