WALNUT, 1939 (WAGL-252)
First commissioned in 1939, the original Walnut was one of three 175-foot "coastwise" tenders designed by the U.S. Lighthouse Service. Constructed entirely of steel and fitted with triple-expansion steam engines by the Moore Dry Dock Company of Oakland, CA, the original Walnut cost $389,746, the equivalent of just over $5 million in 2003. Shortly after her commissioning in 1939, WALNUT was transferred from the U.S. Light House Service to the U.S. Coast Guard with the merger of those two services that same year.
In her first life as a Coast Guard Buoy Tender, she served in four different home ports. WALNUT's first home was in Detroit, Michigan, though she only stayed for 2 years before moving to Honolulu, Hawaii in 1941 where she remained until 1954. In 1954 WALNUT moved from her homeport in Honolulu to Miami, Florida where she stayed for 13 years. In 1967 she moved to San Pedro, California.
On December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese and the U.S. entered World War II shortly after. When Pearl Harbor was attacked, WALNUT was at Midway Atoll, 1,200 miles northwest of Oahu completing a routine service visit for the aids to navigation there. Upon receiving word of the attack at Pearl Harbor, WALNUT ensured that all lights were immediately extinguished. This was done to prevent the enemy from using the aids as a navigational reference. Unfortunately, Midway came under attack from enemy vessels later in the evening.
During this attack, a U.S. PBY Flying Boat crashed in Midway Lagoon within the cutter's vicinity. Walnut's crew recovered the injured crew, saving their lives. For the remainder of the war, Walnut continued to complete aids to navigation work, combat search and rescue, and convoy missions.
Today's WALNUT was built by the Marinette Marine Corporation in Marinette, Wis. Launched on the Menominee River, near Green Bay on Aug. 22, 1998 the WALNUT was delivered to the Coast Guard on Feb. 22, 1999. Two weeks later, the cutter and crew began the maiden journey that would bring them to their new home in Honolulu.
En route Cleveland, Ohio, Walnut crewmembers successfully completed a week of intense training and evaluation conducted by the Navy Afloat Training Group from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. This was followed by a Ready for Sea (RFS) Certification, during which a Coast Guard team from the Fourteenth District, located in Honolulu, exercised the crew through a variety of drills and emergency procedures. Passing the RFS allowed the crew to proceed to their homeport in Honolulu.
The cutter's maiden journey home after leaving Wisconsin took the crew through all 18 locks of the St. Lawrence Seaway, lowering the ship over 600 feet to sea level. Numerous port calls were made in Canada which included Windsor, Ontario, Montreal, and Quebec City. Once in the Atlantic Ocean, Walnut visited Boston before reporting for a post delivery availability (PDA) at the Coast Guard Yard in Curtis Bay, Maryland. During the two-week PDA, the reverse osmosis water maker and communications equipment were installed. Walnut took on supplies and fuel in Key West, Florida, before continuing their transit from the Atlantic into the Pacific Ocean by way of the Panama Canal.
A port call was made in nearby Acapulco, Mexico on May 18, 1999. To prepare for the 3,200-mile Trans-Pacific journey to Hawaii, the cutter again took on more supplies and fuel. On May 29, the cutter arrived in the calm, warm waters of Honolulu Harbor, ahead of schedule. The cutter sailed 41 days, logged 10,214 nautical miles, visited four great lakes, transited the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and passed through the Panama Canal.
Continuing WALNUT's history of maintaining aids to navigation in time of war, WALNUT was deployed to the Northern Arabian Gulf to assist with Operation Iraqi Freedom. Learning of the orders on 14 November 2002, WALNUT had a mere 2 months to prepare for an unprecedented deployment into a war zone.
On January 18th WALNUT departed from her homeport in Honolulu, HI and began her 10,000 mile transit to the Persian Gulf. This 45 day transit was completed as quickly as possible with brief stops for fuel and food along the way in Guam, Singapore, Kuwait and Bahrain. This nearly six month deployment was a new experience for a crew accustomed to much shorter patrols. WALNUT and her crew both excelled in their many missions while in the gulf earning the praise from everyone she worked with. WALNUT participated in search and rescue operations, towing and logistical assistance, UN Sanctions Enforcement boarding's and coordination, Standby for Oil Recovery operations and, of course, Aids to Navigation.
Between April 19, 2003 and May 7, 2003 WALNUT constructed, set 34 new buoys while removing some 25 older buoys that were no longer in serviceable condition.
These buoys were used to mark the Khawr 'Abd Allah (KAA) waterway allowing the influx of much needed humanitarian aid. These aids were necessary to make the channel safe for navigation so that vessels carrying the humanitarian aid would arrive safely in Umm Qasr, Iraq's only deep-draft port.
Having marked the KAA, WALNUT was finally considered mission complete and a tired yet excited crew began their transit home to Honolulu. While all were eager to return home to see their friends and families, the transit home included a couple of well deserved port calls in Singapore and Cairns Australia. In Cairns, the crew enjoyed the beach scenery and diving out on the Great Barrier Reef. Before departing Cairns on their last leg of this historic deployment and finally coming home nearly six months after they left on June 27th, 2003.
Since WALNUT's Persian Gulf deployment, she has been conducting Coast Guard Missions throughout her AOR. Some of her most recent notable accomplishments include the security zone she established during the grounding of M/V Cape Flattery off of Barber's Point, the lightering of fuel from the grounded M/V Casitas at Pearl Hermes Atoll, the joint effort with the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and USCGC KUKUI in the recovery of over 22,000 lbs of high seas drift net from the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, and the interception of the foreign fishing vessel Marshalls 201, a 210-ft Purse-Seiner illegally fishing within the Howland/Baker Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).