The Saga of the USCGC Eagle

The US Coast Guard Barque Eagle is a ship with a unique story. Built in Germany in the 1930’s and serving in World War II, the Eagle became a war prize of the United States. After repair work and modifications were completed she was commisioned into the US Coast Guard in May 1946 as the USCGC Eagle (WIX-327). The Eagle now serves as a training vessel for Coast Guard Academy cadets and candidates from the Officer Candidate School. It is one of only two commissioned sailing vessels (along with the USS Constitution) in the US military, and the only one on active-duty. “Since 1946, every new cadet undergoing officer training has begun his or her career by learning to sail on her – the old way.”

  • The tallest mast is 150ft – roughly equivalent to a 15-storey building
  • The ship is 295ft (90m) long – roughly equivalent to a football field
  • Displaces 1,824 tons
  • Hull is 10mm-thick riveted steel
  • Raised forecastle and quarterdeck are made of quarter inch steel overlaid with 3 inches (76 mm) of teak, as are the weather decks.
  • Has 23 sails measuring more than 22,000 sq ft, and six miles of rigging
  • Speed under full sail – 17 knots
  • The Eagle has hosted Presidents Kennedy, Nixon and Truman.

[gem_quote]It may look old-fashioned but the lessons you can learn about the sea and the wind and the currents and yourself – and your fellow shipmates – you cannot learn better on any platform that floats on the lakes or oceans around the world,” says Capt Ernst Cummings, one of the ship’s former US commanders.[/gem_quote]

“…When the Allied commanders sat round the table in 1946 to divide up the spoils from the German fleet they did so by drawing names from a hat.
Three pieces of cardboard were folded up, popped in a cap, and the American, British and Russian commanders took their turns at lucky dip.
The Horst Wessel was indeed drawn by the Russian commodore. But secretly, under the table, he agreed a swap with the US officer – who was desperate to bring the tall ship back to the US.
And so in June 1946 an American crew, assisted by the original German captain and his remaining sailors, steered the newly rechristened Eagle from Bremerhaven, through an Atlantic hurricane, to New York.”

Johnson & Towers is proud to have recently taken part in an overhaul of the Eagle. Stay tuned for the next blog reporting the work that was performed.


Visit the US Coast Guard Academy official site for loads of excellent information regarding the Eagle.

Visit Youtube for several videos about the Eagle.

All quotes: James Morgan, BBC News, 29 July 2015


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