USRC THETIS: Purchased 1899 ( USN ) decommissioned and sold in 1916.

USCGC THETIS ( WPC-115 ): Commissioned 29 November 1931 decommissioned 1 July 1947 Sold 1 July 1948

USCGC THETIS ( WMEC-910): Commissioned

THETIS: A sea nymph of Greek Mythology. She was the daughter of the sea god Nereus and the mother of the Trojan War hero Achilles.

Cutters of the Revenue Marine and Revenue Cutter Service: 1790-1900

The "system of cutters," the Revenue Marine, and the Revenue Cutter Service, as it was known variously throughout the nineteenth century, referred to its vessels as cutters. The term, English in origin, refers to a specific type of sailing vessel, namely, "a small, decked ship with one mast and bowsprit, with a gaff mainsail on a boom, a square yard and topsail, and two jibs or a jib and a staysail." (Peter Kemp, editor, The Oxford Companion to Ships & the Sea; London: Oxford University Press, 1976; pp. 221-222.) By general usage, however, that term came to define any vessel of Great Britain's Royal Customs Service. The U.S. Treasury Department adopted that term at the creation of its "system of cutters." Since that time, no matter what the vessel type, the Coast Guard and its illustrious predecessors have referred to their largest vessels as cutters (today a cutter is any Coast Guard vessel over 65 feet in length).

Thetis, a 189-foot, 1,250-ton barquentine-rigged sealer and whaler constructed with a reinforced hull for operations in ice, was purchased by the Navy for the Greeley relief expedition. Transferred to the Revenue Cutter Service in 1899, she served out of Seattle where she sailed on the Bering Sea Patrol along with Bear. While stationed there, she transported reindeer from the coast of Siberia to Alaska, cruised the Bering Sea for the "protection of seal fisheries," assisted vessels in distress, and carried officials from a U.S. District Court to become a "floating court."

She transferred to Hawaiian waters in 1909 where she investigated poaching by Japanese fishermen and transported officials of the Department of Agriculture who were studying bird populations. For the remainder of her career she transferred between Hawaii and Alaska, continuing duty as a floating court and investigating bird reservations throughout the Pacific, including making voyages to Midway Island.

She was decommissioned and sold in 1916.

Thetis (WPC-115), 1931

TYPE/RIG/CLASS: 165-Foot (B) Patrol Craft

BUILDER: Bath Iron Works, Inc., Bath ME

COMMISSIONED: 29 November 1931

DECOMMISSIONED: 1 July 1947; Sold 1 July 1948.


PROPULSION: 2 Winton, 6 cylinder, Model 158 diesels; 1,340 bhp

PERFORMANCE: 16.0 knots maximum; 11 knots, 3,000 mile radius cruising;

LENGTH: 165 feet

BEAM: 25 feet, 3 inches

DRAFT: 7 feet, 8 inches

COMPLEMENT: 5 officers, 39 men (1938); 7 officers, 68 men (1945)


1932-1938: One 3"/23; Two 1-pounders

1941: 1 3"23; 1 "Y" gun depth charge projector; 2 depth charge tracks

1945: Two 3"/50; Two 20mm/80 (single); 2 depth charge tracks; 2 "Y" gun depth charge projectors; 2 mousetraps (1945)




The third Thetis--a twin-screw, diesel-powered, steel-hulled Coast Guard patrol boat was laid down on 9 May 1931 at Bath, Maine, by the Bath Iron Works Corp.; launched on 9 November 1931; and delivered to the Coast Guard on 27 November 1931 ; and was accepted for service two days later.

Assigned to Division 2, Destroyer Force, on 30 November, Thetis departed Bath on 1 December for shakedown training off the eastern seaboard. During this cruise, she visited Washington, D.C. Subsequently transferred to the Special Patrol Force of the New York Division, the ship was stationed initially at Stapleton, NY.

By 1934, the vessel had apparently been transferred to Boston, Mass. She remained on duty there through July of 1940. Mid-1941 found Thetis shifted south to Key West. As one of the six ships of her class taken over by the Navy, Thetis was assigned to the East Coast Sound School, Key West, Fla., on 1 July 1941, concurrently with the establishment of the four Sea Frontiers. By late 1941, the Coast Guard patrol boat was assigned collateral duties in the Gulf Patrol, a unit of Task Force 6. Other ships in this group included Destroyer Division 66, Subchaser Division 31 (less PC-451), and three of Thetis' sister ships.

Attached to the Sound School at the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, Thetis was classified WPC-115 sometime in or around February of 1942. At about this time, early 1942, German U-boats experienced what they considered a "happy time" off the eastern seaboard, as American vessels were not yet being escorted from place to place. American antisubmarine measures were largely crude and ineffective for nearly the first four or five months of World War II.

On 9 June, while in the course of carrying out her normal training and patrol missions off the east coast of Florida, Thetis took part in an unsuccessful search for what was suspected to be a U-boat. However, the torpedoing of the American freighter Hagan on the evening of 10 June 1942 gave the American "hunter killer" forces something unquestionably real to hunt for. She was U--157, and Hagan had been her first victim, being damaged but not sunk by the U-boat.

Late on 10 June 1942 a U-boat was spotted off the northern Cuban coast moving west through the old Bahama Channel. The U-boat was U-157 commanded by Korvettenkapitan Wolf Henne. Henne acted boldly after being spotted and at twilight that same night sank an American steamship in the same area. The next day, a radar-equipped B-18 bomber was sent out to search for the sub. Finding U-157 on the surface the bomber failed on its first pass to drop its depth charges. Turning sharply, the bomber sped back toward the sub and dropped four depth charges on the rapidly diving U-157. Henne and his crew narrowly escaped.

Meanwhile all available surface craft were despatched to find the sub. Twelve Coast Guard patrol craft, including the cutters Triton and Thetis, several destroyers, and more aircraft were sent to locate the enemy. Groups from Miami and Key West made separate searches. Despite all the attention that Henne received he managed to escape the vessels. U-157, however, could not escape the aircraft which spotted his craft three times within a seven hour span and attacked once unsuccessfully.

On 13 June, Thetis picked up a definite contact and plunged ahead for the kill. With the unseen target 200 yards two points on the port bow, Thetis went to general quarters and continued ahead about 1,000 yards before turning to port and increasing to full power. Regaining contact upon steadying out on her base course--she had temporarily lost it while maneuvering --Thetis bore down on the U-boat.

The patrol craft dropped her first depth charges at 1558--5 charges set for 200 to 300 feet at five-second intervals. She also launched a further two from the ship's "Y" gun at the time of release of the third charge. After making the run and observing the explosions, Thetis turned to starboard to observe the results of her attack, and observed a "water slug" (a disturbance in the water) a short distance to the right of her own wake. As the commanding officer of Thetis observed, the "slug" did not resemble the disturbance usually associated with the explosion of depth charges.

Thetis observed pieces of freshly broken wood float to the surface at 1618, as well as articles of clothing. Thetis then maneuvered into the flotsam and jetsam and retrieved two pairs of leather submariner's pants of the type usually worn by U-boaters in the northern latitudes.

PE--27 soon made an approach and dropped a marker buoy. Thetis, meanwhile, sighted and picked up a tube of lubricant made in Dusseldorf, Germany. While Thetis returned to rearm at Key West, PE--27, PC--519, and Triton all carried out attacks--all in actuality unnecessary as Thetis had already sunk the U-boat on her first run. Thetis came back and conducted one more attack, but U--157 had already gone to the bottom, entombing her crew in her hull.

On 7 January 1944 she rescued 7 survivors from the USS St. Augustine. She was assigned to Air-Sea Rescue duty in the Third District in June, 1945. She returned to Coast Guard jurisdiction after World War II and served until 1947.

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, Vol. VII - p 135


Date of Action:

June 13, 1942

USCG Unit(s) Involved:

USS Thetis, CG



Location of event:

24.13N x 82.03W

Credit by USN?

Yes; sole credit

Enemy warship's Commanding Officer:

Kapitänleutnant Wolf Henne

Enemy casualties:

52 killed in action; no survivors

USCG casualties:




The Revenue Cutter Service provided a form of law and order in this isolated unforgiving land. They performed these duties in a region where no other law enforcement agency existed. The Revenue Service for many years acted as the only law enforcement agency and provided many civil functions. They even performed marriage ceremonies and held church services.

The cutters that sailed the Bering Sea Patrol were assigned to ports on the West Coast and Hawaii. The revenue cutter Thetis, homeported in Honolulu from 1909 to 1916, made three voyages to the north. When Thetis was not sailing in the north it performed a variety of duties in the more temperate climates of its homeport.

A cutterman recalled duty aboard Thetis during this period: "We used to make trips to Midway and visit all the islands in between. We used to inspect ships suspected of bringing opium from the Orient. If we had reason to believe some ship was trying to smuggle opium into Hawaii we would go aboard and try to find it."

The origin of icebreaking in the United States came in the 1830s, with the advent of steam propulsion. It was found that side-wheel steamers with reinforced bows were an excellent means of dealing with harbor ice, a problem common to East Coast ports as far south as the Chesapeake Bay. These seasonal tasks were common, but were strictly local efforts with no need to involve the Coast Guard (then called the Revenue Marine or Revenue Cutter Service). The service's first serious encounter with operations in ice came after the purchase of Alaska in 1867. The Revenue Cutter Lincoln became the first of many cutters to operate in Alaskan waters. Though the vessel was a conventional wooden steamer, she made three cruises in Alaskan waters before 1870. Since that time the Bering Sea patrol and other official - and unofficial - tasks made the Revenue Service a significant part of the development of that territory and state.

The true "icebreaker" was yet to come, however. The next vessels to work in Alaskan waters were Corwin, Bear, and Thetis. The first of these was also a conventional steamer, though built with slightly more substantial framing than her contemporaries. Bear and Thetis, however, were constructed for work in icy regions. Bear, which has been called the Coast Guard's equivalent of "Old Ironsides", was built in Dundee, Scotland in 1874 as a sealer and whaler. She was 198 feet in length and 1,700 tons, with auxiliary reciprocating steam engine and barkentine rig. Her suitability for ice operations was not based on ice breaking ability, but on extraordinarily strong wood construction. She was framed of English oak with substantial longitudinal teak reinforcement and had iron plating on her stem. Her hull could be subjected to considerable ice pressure, and, because of the inherent flexibility of wood, regain its shape when free.

Thetis was a similar auxiliary steamer, though barque rigged. These two vessels were assigned to Alaskan and Bering Sea duties from the 1890s to the 1920s, along with other conventional cutters. Their duties varied, and, given the harsh climate, often dangerous. For many years the Revenue Service was the sole source of Federal authority in the territory, including seven years when the Treasury Department was given charge of the rugged landmass. Duties of these vessels and men included protection of sealers and whalers, providing general police protection, and emergency operations. One of the more unusual tasks was importing Siberian reindeer to provide a food staple for starving Eskimos.

By the 1920s the Coast Guard's commitment to ice operations, including icebreaking, was entrenched, and, indeed, imperative. This, despite the fact that authorization in the form of Congressional action would not be forthcoming until the mid 1930s. Along the Atlantic seaboard, ice operations had resulted simply from the service's commitment to safety at sea, a task which was impossible in winter months without preparations for the contingency of ice.

In the Pacific, the ice breaking task had come about with the nation's acquisition of Alaska, nearly a third of which lies above the Arctic Circle. With these imperatives in mind, as well as the retirement of Thetis in 1916 and Bear in 1927, it was obvious that the service needed to rebuild their ice breaking fleet. The rebuilding of Kickapoo had been a step in this direction, but had not met the requirement for a major vessel for Alaskan and Bering Sea duties. The cutter Northland was the upshot of these factors.