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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
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Tampa

 

A city in Hillsborough County, Fla.


I

 

(Coast Guard Cutter: displacement 1,181 tons; length 190'; beam 32'6" (waterline); draft 14'1" (aft); speed 13 knots (trial); complement 70; armament: 3 six-pounder guns.; class Unalga)

 

Miamia cutter built for the Revenue Cutter Service by the Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co.—was authorized 21 April 1910; launched on 10 February 1912; sponsored by Miss Bernes Richardson; and placed in commission by the Revenue Cutter Service at its depot at Arundel Cove, Md., on 19 August 1912.

 

During the following five years, Miami performed duties typical for cutters. She served several times on the winter ice patrol, operating out of New York and Halifax, Newfoundland, to locate icebergs which might be hazardous to navigation. Her first patrol began on 13 May 1913 out of Halifax, and her last ended on 11 June 1915 when she was relieved by cutter Seneca.


On other occasions, she operated out of various stations along the eastern seaboard enforcing navigation and fishing laws. Her most frequent bases of operation during that period were Key West and Tampa, Fla.; Arundel Cove, Md.; and New York City. On 28 January 1915, the Revenue Cutter Service and the Lifesaving Service were merged and named the United States Coast Guard. A year later, on 1 February 1916, Miami was renamed Tampa.

 

On 6 April 1917, when the United States entered World War I, Tampa was transferred to Navy jurisdiction for the duration of hostilities. During the next four months, she received heavier armament by trading her three six-pounders for two three-inch and two four-inch guns, a pair of machine guns and depth charge throwers and racks. After preparations at the Boston Navy Yard, Tampa moved to the New York Navy Yard on 16 September and reported for duty to the commanding officer of Paducah (Gunboat No. 18). Ordered to duty overseas, the warship departed New York on 29 September in company with Paducah, Sterling, B.H.B. Hubbard (SP-416), and five French-manned, American-made submarine chasers in tow. After stops at Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Ponta Delgada in the Azores, Tampa and her sailing mates reached Gibraltar on 27 October 1917.

 

Tampa's war service lasted just eleven months. During that time, she was assigned ocean escort duty protecting convoys from German submarines on the route between Gibraltar and the southern coast of England. On the average, she spent more than half of her time at sea and steamed more than 3,500 nautical miles per month. Between 27 October 1917 and 31 July 1918, she escorted eighteen convoys between Gibraltar and Great Britain, losing only two ships out of all those escorted. Though she brought her 4-inch guns into action several times against suspected U-boat positions, Tampa's only verifiable run-in with a German undersea raider proved fatal to the Coast Guard cutter.


During the late afternoon of 26 September 1918, Tampa parted company with convoy HG-107, which she had just escorted into the Irish Sea from Gibraltar. Ordered to put into Milford Haven, Wales, she proceeded independently toward her destination. At 7:30 that evening, as she transited the Bristol Channel, the warship was spotted by UB-91. According to the submarine war diary entry, the U-boat dived and maneuvered into an attack position, firing one torpedo out of the stern tube at 8:15 from a range of about 550 meters. Minutes later, the torpedo hit Tampa and exploded portside amidships, throwing up a huge, luminous colum of water. The water was shocked by a second detonation two minutes later, most likely caused by Tampa's depth charges reaching pressure fuse depth, as the cutter sank with all hands—115 officers and men as well as 16 passengers at roughly 50 degrees, 40 minutes north and 6 degrees, 19 minutes west.


Alerted by the convoy flagship, whose radio operator reported having felt the shock of an underwater explosion at about 2045, search and rescue efforts over the succeeding three days turned up only some wreckage, clearly identified as coming from Tampa, and a single unidentified body. Three bodies were later recovered, two from a beach near Lamphey, Wales, and the other at sea by a British patrol boat.


Tampa was struck from the Navy list as of the date of her sinking.


04 January 2006