The Long Blue Line: Fast Response Cutters – the mainstay of the Coast Guard’s coastal patrol fleet

This blog is part of a series honoring the long blue line of Coast Guard men and women who served before us. Stay tuned as we highlight the customs, traditions, history and heritage of the Coast Guard.

Written by William H. Thiesen, Ph.D.
Coast Guard Atlantic Area Historian

Fast Response Cutter Webber, first in the class of the “Sentinel”-class of Fast Response Cutters. (U.S. Coast Guard Collection)

Fast Response Cutter Webber, first in the class of the “Sentinel”-class of Fast Response Cutters. (U.S. Coast Guard Collection)

In 1830, the United States Revenue Cutter Service, predecessor to the modern Coast Guard, launched its first standardized multi-ship class of cutters. The Morris-Class, named for the first cutter in the class, Robert Morris, was designed with a topsail-schooner rig and a length of 78 feet. The class of cutters carried six 9-pound cannons and a crew of 24 officers and men.

Line drawing of the revenue cutter Hamilton, one of the Morris-class cutters built in the 1830s. This is the earliest copy of a line drawing of a U.S. revenue cutter. (National Archives)

Line drawing of the revenue cutter Hamilton, one of the Morris-class cutters built in the 1830s. This is the earliest copy of a line drawing of a U.S. revenue cutter. (National Archives)

The 13 Morris-class cutters fought pirates, interdicted smugglers, enforced federal maritime laws and operated with American naval forces in time of war. In the years leading up to the American Civil War, Cutter Morris and its sister ships formed the backbone of the revenue cutter fleet.

Today, the Coast Guard is building a class of cutters similar to the Morris-class designed to serve a multi-mission role. The “Sentinel”-class Fast Response Cutters (FRC) perform drug and migrant interdiction; ports, waterways and coastal security; fishery patrols; search and rescue; national defense; and much more.

Photograph of the Gallatin, another cutter of the Morris-class. This is the earliest photograph of a U.S. revenue cutter in existence. (U.S. Coast Guard Collection)

Photograph of the Gallatin, another cutter of the Morris-class. This is the earliest photograph of a U.S. revenue cutter in existence. (U.S. Coast Guard Collection)

In a few years, the Coast Guard will deliver 32 additional cutters bringing our service numbers up to 58 FRCs intended to replace the fleet of 1980s-era 110-foot patrol boats. The FRCs feature advanced command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance equipment; over-the-horizon cutter boats deployment to reach vessels of interest; and improved habitability and sea-keeping characteristics.

Twenty-six FRCs are already in service, with six stationed in Miami Beach, Florida; six in Key West, Florida; six in San Juan, Puerto Rico; two in Ketchikan, Alaska; two in Cape May, New Jersey; two in Pascagoula, Mississippi; and two in Honolulu. Future FRC homeports include Atlantic Beach, North Carolina; San Pedro, California; Galveston, Texas; Apra Harbor, Guam; and Astoria, Oregon.

As with their sister cutters, the next flight of 20 FRCs will bear the names of enlisted leaders, trailblazers and heroes of the Coast Guard and its predecessor services of the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service, U.S. Lighthouse Service and U.S. Lifesaving Service. Nine of these new cutters will be named for enlisted leaders and heroes, such as Master Chief Angela McShan; surfmen Pablo Valent and Frederick Hatch; Electrician Myrtle Hazard; Seaman Charles Moulthrop; Boatswain’s Mate Edgar Culbertson; Chief Petty Officer Oliver Henry; and Keepers William Chadwick and John Patterson.

Chicago Daily Tribune photograph of Fast Response Cutter namesake Electrician Myrtle Hazard, first enlisted woman to don a Coast Guard uniform. (Courtesy of “Simply Forgot Us”)

Chicago Daily Tribune photograph of Fast Response Cutter namesake Electrician Myrtle Hazard, first enlisted woman to don a Coast Guard uniform. (Courtesy of “Simply Forgot Us”)

Official photograph of Fast Response Cutter namesake Pharmacists Mate Robert Goldman. (Courtesy of the Goldman Family)

Official photograph of Fast Response Cutter namesake Pharmacists Mate Robert Goldman. (Courtesy of the Goldman Family)

Faded photograph of Fast Response Cutter namesake Chief Petty Officer Pablo Valent. (U.S. Coast Guard Collection)

Faded photograph of Fast Response Cutter namesake Chief Petty Officer Pablo Valent. (U.S. Coast Guard Collection)

Headshots of Fast Response Cutter namesakes, World War II coxswains and Silver Star Medal recipients Glenn Harris, Dan Tarr, William Sparling, and Harold Miller. (U.S. Coast Guard Collection)

Headshots of Fast Response Cutter namesakes, World War II coxswains and Silver Star Medal recipients Glenn Harris, Dan Tarr, William Sparling, and Harold Miller. (U.S. Coast Guard Collection)

Recruit photograph of Fast Response Cutter namesake and honored World War II lifesaver Warren Deyampert. (U.S. Coast Guard Collection)

Recruit photograph of Fast Response Cutter namesake and honored World War II lifesaver Warren Deyampert. (U.S. Coast Guard Collection)

Eleven FRCs will be named for Coast Guard combat heroes. These include coxswains Harold Miller, William Sparling, Daniel Tarr, Glenn Harris and Douglas Denman; Pharmacists Mate Robert Goldman; stewards mates Emlen Tunnel and Warren Deyampert; Seamen John Scheuerman; Boatswain’s Mate Clarence Sutphin; and Mustang Officer Maurice Jester. These men include recipients of the Navy Cross Medal, Silver Star Medal, Bronze Star Medal, Silver Lifesaving Medal, Navy & Marine Corps Medal and Purple Heart Medal.

The Fast Response Cutters will form the mainstay of the Coast Guard’s coastal patrol fleet, providing multi-mission capabilities and interagency interoperability.

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