Roger Brooke Taney, born on 17 March 1777 in Calvert County, Md., graduated from Dickinson College in 1795 and soon began law studies at Annapolis, Md. Admitted to the Maryland bar in 1799, he entered politics as a Federalist in the same year and won a term in the Maryland legislature. During the War of 1812, he was among the dissenting Federalists who supported President Madison's foreign policy; and, after peace returned, he won a dominant position in Federalist circles within Maryland.
In 1823, Taney moved to Baltimore where he established a highly successful law practice and enhanced his reputation as an eminent attorney. After the demise of the Federalist Party, he chaired the committee supporting General Andrew Jackson's presidential candidacy and, during a reorganization of the cabinet in 1831, Taney was appointed United States Attorney General.
In this capacity, Taney became President Jackson's principal advisor in the attack on the United States Bank. In September 1833, Jackson gave Taney a recess appointment as Secretary of the Treasury for the special purpose of establishing depositories in state banks into which Federal funds could be transferred. After Congress reconvened, the Senate refused to approve the nomination; and Taney resumed private practice.
On 28 December 1835, President Jackson picked Taney to succeed John Marshall as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; and, despite Whig opposition, the appointment was confirmed on IB March 1836.
During his time on the bench, Taney gave opinions in many cases in which he generally upheld states rights and narrowly construed the Constitution's grant of powers to the Federal Government. In the Dred Scott decision in 1857, his most famous, Taney held that Congress had no power to abolish slavery in the territories acquired after the formation of the Federal Government. He held that slavery was a necessary evil as long as negroes remained in the United States, and he further maintained that negroes did not hold citizenship and therefore could not sue in a Federal court.
Throughout the Civil War, Taney continued to resist any infringement of state's rights and believed the Federal Government had erred in pursuing war to bring seceding states back into the Union. Justice Taney died in Washington, D.C., on 12 October 1864.
Roger B. Taney (Coast Guard Cutter No. 68) was laid down on 1 May 1935 at the Philadelphia Navy Yard; launched on 3 June 1936; sponsored by Miss Corinne F. Taney; and commissioned at Philadelphia on 24 October 1936, Comdr. W. K. Thompson, USCG, in command.
Roger B. Taney departed Philadelphia on 19 December, transited the Panama Canal from the 27th to the 29th, and arrived at her home port, Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii, on 18 January 1937. She conducted local operations out of Honolulu through the summer of 1937.
Roger B. Taney had arrived in the Pacific at a time when the United States was expanding its commercial air travel capabilities. The "Clipper" flights across the Pacific to the Far East made islands like Hawaii, Midway, Guam, and Wake important way-stations. Other islands and islets assumed greater importance when a route across the South Pacific was mapped out to Australia and Samoa. The military benefits which accrued to the United States by its expansion onto some of the more strategic bits of land in the broad Pacific were not lost upon President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who undertook, in the late 1930's, to annex territory in the Pacific.
Two such places were Canton and Enderbury Islands. Roger B. Taney played a role in their colonization by the United States. In early March 1938, the Coast Guard cutter loaded supplies and embarked colonists who would establish the claim of the United States upon the two islands that seemed, at least to the uninitiated, to be mere hunks of coral, rock, and scrub in the Central Pacific. Roger B. Taney disembarked four Hawaiians at Enderbury Island on 6 March 1938 and landed a second contingent (of seven colonists) at Canton Island on the next day. The men, assisted by the Coast Guardsmen, erected buildings and laid the foundations for future signal towers.
The Coast Guard's task over the ensuing years leading up to the outbreak of war in the Pacific was to supply these isolated way-stations along the transpacific air routes and to relieve the colonists at stated intervals. Roger B. Taney performed these supply missions into 1940. Meanwhile, tension continued to rise in the Far East as Japan cast covetous glances at the American, British, Dutch, and French colonial possessions and marched deeper into embattled China.
As the Navy and Coast Guard began gradually increasing and augmenting the armament on its vessels to prepare them for the inexorably advancing war, Roger B. Taney underwent her first major rearmament at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard in December 1940. She received her last major pre-war refit at the Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, Calif., in the spring of the following year, 1941.
On 25 July 1941, the Coast Guard cutter was transferred to the Navy and reported for duty with the local defense forces of the 14th Naval District, maintaining her base at Honolulu. By this time, the ship's name had apparently been shortened to Taney.
Outside of another "line island cruise" in the late summer, Taney operated locally out of Honolulu into the critical fall of 1941. She conducted regular harbor entrance and channel patrols, alternating often with one of the four old destroyers of Destroyer Divison 80: Allen (DD-66), Schley (DD-103), Chew (DD-106), and Ward (DD-139).
The message: "Air Raid, Pearl Harbor. This is no drill" came at 0755 on 7 December, as Japanese planes swept overhead in an attempt to cripple the Pacific Fleet's retaliatory power. Taney, moored alongside Pier 6, Honolulu harbor, stood to her antiaircraft guns swiftly when word of the surprise attack reached her simultaneously. As no Japanese attacks were directed at Honolulu harbor, the Coast Guard cutter was only given the opportunity to fire at stray aircraft which happened to venture into her vicinity. She was firing upon unidentified aircraft as late as noon, indicating that the eager Coast Guardsmen were probably shooting at American planes-not Japanese.
Taney patrolled the waters off Honolulu for the remainder of 1941 and into 1942, conducting many depth charge attacks on suspected submarines in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack. During this time, the ship received the classification WPG-37. On 22 January 1942, the cutter departed Honolulu in company with SS Barbara Olson, and arrived at Canton Island on the 28th. After sending a working party ashore to unload supplies, Taney screened Barbara Olson offshore until 7 February, when both ships got underway to evacuate the American colony on JEnder-bury Island. Embarking the four colonists at 1015 that day, Taney shelled the island and destroyed the buildings there before sailing for Jarvis Island.
Taney subsequently escorted her merchantman consort to Jarvis Island, where she evacuated the four Interior Department colonists and burned all structures to the ground before departing. Reaching Palmyra on the 12th, the ships remained there until the 15th, before Taney headed back for the Hawaiian Islands, arriving at Honolulu on 5 March.
Taney operated locally out of Honolulu into 1943 before sailing for Boston late that winter. Prior to heading for the -east coast, the ship received a re-gunning at Mare'Island, being fitted with four single-mount, 5-inch guns, making her the only ship in her class with this modification. After making port at Boston on 14 March 1944, Taney soon shifted south to Hampton Roads, where she arrived on 31 March. Early in April, she departed Norfolk as a unit of Task Force (TF) 66 as convoy guide for convoy UGS-38.
The passage across the Atlantic proved uneventful, as the convoy made landfall off the Azores on 13 April. Some 35 minutes after sunset on the 20th, the convoy was spotted and tracked by the Germans, who launched a three-pronged attack with Junkers 88's and Heinkel Ill's participating. Each flew very low, using the shoreline as a background, thus confusing the search radar of the Allied ships. The first wave struck from dead ahead, torpedoing SS Paul Hamilton and SS Samite. The former, which had been carrying ammunition, blew up in a shattering explosion-and all 504 men on board her were killed in the blast.
The second wave of German torpedo planes bagged SS Stephen F. Austin and SS Royal Star; during this melee, two torpedoes churned past Taney close aboard. The third wave mortally wounded Lansdale (DD-426), which later sank. All of the damaged vessels-save Paul Hamilton and Lansdale-reached Bizerte, Tunisia, on the 21st. Taney later departed Bizerte with homeward-bound convoy GUS-38 and arrived at New York on 21 May.
The Coast Guard cutter conducted two more round-trip convoy escort missions, with convoys UGS/GUS-45 and UGS/GUS-52. Detached as a unit of TF 66 on 9 October 1944, Taney sailed for the Boston Navy Yard soon thereafter for extensive yard work to convert her to an amphibious command ship. During this metamorphosis, Taney-classified as WAGC-37-was fitted with accommodations for an embarked flag officer and his staff, as well as with increased communications and radar facilities. Her main battery, too, underwent change: she now sported two open-mount 5-inch guns, as well as 40 and 20-millimeter antiaircraft guns. With the work completed in early January 1945, Taney departed Boston on 19 January, bound for Norfolk, Va.
She conducted shakedown and training in her new configuration before departing the east coast and sailing, via the Panama Canal and San Diego, to Hawaii. Arriving at Pearl Harbor on 22 February 1945, she soon embarked Rear Admiral Calvin H. Cobb and later underwent various minor repairs. New communications equipment was also installed before the ship departed the Hawaiian Islands for the Marshalls on 10 March.
Taney proceeded independently via Eniwetok and arrived at Ulithi on 23 March, remaining there until 7 April. Joining TG 51.8, the amphibious command ship proceeded to Okinawa and arrived off the Hagushi beaches amidst air raid alerts on the llth. During one raid, her antiaircraft gunners scored at least three hits on a "Betty" bomber which crossed the ship's bow 1,200 yards away, and later during her first day at Okinawa experienced four more "red alerts." The ship briefly shifted to Kerama Retto from the 13th to the 15th before returning to Hagushi on the latter date.
By the end of May, Taney had gone to general quarters 119 times, with the crew remaining at battle stations for up to nine hours at a stretch. During this period off Okinawa in April and May, Taney downed four suicide planes and assisted in numerous other "kills." The command ship also conducted combat information center duties, maintaining complete radar and air coverage, receiving and evaluating information on both friendly and enemy activities. On one occasion, Taney's duties took her close inshore-close enough to even receive fire close aboard from a Japanese shore battery.
Suicide air attacks by the Japanese continued throughout June, although most were intercepted by combat air patrol (CAP) fighters and downed before they could reach their targets. Such raids took place on 18 out of 30 days that month. On 25 June, at 0120, a float seaplane passed near Taney, provoking return fire from the command ship and batteries ashore which combined to splash the intruder. During this month-long period, at least 288 enemy planes attacked the ships in Taney's vicinity, and at least 96 of these were destroyed.
As if the Japanese menace alone were not enough, in mid-July a typhoon forced the ships at Hagushi to take evasive action. Taney led a convoy eastward on the 19th and returned the next day when the storm passed. She performed the same duties again on the first day of the following month when she led a convoy to sea on typhoon-evasion operations. The ship returned to its anchorage on the 3d.
The end of the war found Taney still off Okinawa. On 16 August, she got underway to support Pennsylvania (BB-38) as three Japanese planes were detected approaching from the northeast. One crashed 30 miles to the north, and two splashed into the sea shortly thereafter. On 25 August, TG 95.5 was dissolved, and Rear Admiral Cobb, who had been embarked during the Okinawa campaign, hauled down his flag and departed.
Taney soon proceeded to Japan, where she took part in the occupation of Wakayama, anchoring off the port city on 11 September and sending a working party ashore the next day. While anchored there, Taney weathered a typhoon which swirled by on the 17th. She was, in fact, one of the few ships which stayed at her berth during the storm, her ground tackle holding well in the sticky clay bottom.
Departing Wakayama on 14 October, Taney returned to the west coast of the United States, via Midway, and arrived at San Francisco on 29 October. Moving on for the east coast, Taney transited the Panama Canal and later arrived at her ultimate destination, Charleston, S.C., 9n 29 November. During the ensuing period of conversion, the Coast Guard vessel was reconfigured as a patrol cutter. She now sported a main battery of a single-mount, 5-inch gun, a hedgehog, a twin 40-millimeter mount, and two 20-millimeter guns, in addition to depth charge tracks and projectors.
Upon shifting back to the west coast, Taney was based at Alameda, Calif., into the 1970's. Although she is listed with the ships receiving engagement stars for Korean service, she has no awards listed, indicating her presence only in a support role outside the geographical vicinity of Korean waters. She served as an ocean station weather ship; a fishery patrol vessel; and a search and rescue ship. Having been reclassified back to gunboat, WPG-37, the ship was now re-classified again, this time as a high-endurance cutter, and received the designation of WHEC-37 in June of 1967.
In the spring of 1969, Taney participated in Operation "Market Time" off the coast of Vietnam. She served a 10-month tour of duty, providing gunfire support and preventing enemy infiltration along the coastal routes used by the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces.
In 1972, Taney was shifted back to the east coast and was assigned duty on the last sea-going weather station: "Hotel" off the coasts of Maryland and Virginia. Fitted with a special storm-tracking antenna housed in a distinctive bulbous dome fitted atop her pilot house, Taney deployed seven times yearly, conducting 21 deployments 200 miles off the coast. This last ocean station had been established to track storms threatening the middle states on the east coast which had often struck without warning. Eventually, the use of more sophisticated storm-tracking satellites and radars rendered this station obsolete. Hence, Ocean Station "Hotel" was closed down in 1977.
Now based out of Norfolk, Va., Taney stands ready to conduct search and rescue missions at sea to protect American fisheries and to enforce the 200-mile limit. She served into 1979 in keeping with the Coast Guard's motto: "Always Ready"Semper Paratus.
Taney received three battle stars for World War II service.