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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060

Vigilant

 

IV

 

(CGC: dp. 220; 1. 125'; b. 23'6"; dr. 9'; s. 11 k.; cpl. 38; a. 1 3"; cl. Active)

 

The fourth Vigilant—a 125-foot, steel-hulled, twin-screw, diesel-powered Coast Guard cutter—was completed in 1927 at Camden, N.J., by the American Brown Boveri Electric Corp. and was placed in service at Camden on 3 March 1927, Boatswain's Mate J. F. Morin, USCG, in charge.

 

After operating out of the Coast Guard base at Stapleton, N.J., into the spring of 1933, Vigilant shifted to Norfolk on 6 June, and, in 1935, to Ft. Pierce, Fla. The Navy took over Coast Guard vessels in the summer of 1941 for duty during the national emergency, but the Coast Guard cutter was still based at Ft. Pierce at the time of the Japanese attack against Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941.

 

Fitted to service navigational aids, Vigilant—classified WPC-154—patrolled out of Ft. Pierce into early 1942. At 1350 on 19 February 1942, the cutter received a radio message reporting the torpedoing (later found out to have been committed by U-128) of the tanker SS Pan Massachusetts. While the warship steamed to the area, SS Elizabeth Massey rescued the tanker's survivors and radioed that no assistance was necessary. Nonetheless, Vigilant remained in the area.

 

While off Melbourne, Fla., at 0555 on 22 February, the cutter sighted a flare and altered her course to close. She soon found the burning tanker SS Republic which had been torpedoed an hour earlier by U-504.

 

At 0800, as Vigilant drew nearer, she discovered an overturned lifeboat alongside the blazing Republic with a man swimming nearby. She quickly maneuvered to within 50 feet of the man in the water. Suddenly, Republic blew up, enveloping the unfortunate man in flames and spraying oil on the rescuers. Vigilant remained perilously close to the raging flames and picked up two survivors, whom she later transferred to Biddle (DD-151) which had arrived on the scene. Eventually, Vigilant recovered six bodies and transferred them to Biddle before turning over the search to the destroyer.

 

Vigilant subsequently pursued a submarine contact on 9 May, believing it to be a U-boat thought to have been damaged earlier and seeking to escape by heading in a northerly direction from Miami. Joined by Nike (WPC-112), Vigilant conducted a fruitless search for the enemy submersible.

 

Vigilant's extant World War II diary entries end, for some reason, in 1942. It is known, however, that the vessel continued in service with the Coast Guard after World War II and was later stationed at Corpus Christi, Tex. The ship was reclassified a medium endurance cutter in the 1960's. She was decommissioned and sold in 1966.