The Chip Board
Custom Search

The Chip Board Archive 22

Re: Coast Guard & the truck ??
In Response To: Coast Guard & the truck ?? ()


The U.S. Coast Guard was the primary agency responsible for enforcement of the Volstead Act at sea. Their authority extended to pursuit of rum-runners on land if other agencies (Customs, FBI, Secret Service) were not available. It was an interesting era for the Coast Guard (See discussion below).

Prohibition in the 1920s made the United States a "dry" nation; Coast Guard cutters conducted the unpopular "Rum War at Sea." During the early days of Prohibition, the Coast Guard was seriously handicapped by the lack of vessels, particularly fast ones. By 1924, "Rum Rows" not only graced New York's doorsteps, but fleets of rum-running craft from broken-down fisherman to freighters of considerable tonnage, hovered off the coasts of the United States, more or less, permanently.

On 20 March 1929 I'm Alone, of Canadian registry, was anchored off the coast of New Orleans with 2,800 cases of liquor on board. When the cutter Wolcott came into sight, I'm Alone moved seaward. Wolcott asked the Canadian to heave to so that she could be boarded and examined. I'm Alone refused. Wolcott fired several shells from her single three-pounder across the Canadian's bow. Then the Wolcott's gun jammed and she called for assistance. The cutters Dexter and Dallas responded. That evening I'm Alone hove to. An unarmed officer from Wolcott was allowed to come on board, but the Canadian skipper refused to permit any search. The officer returned to his cutter and the pursuit continued.

Next day, Dexter and Dallas joined in the pursuit. Dexter ordered the Canadian to "Heave to or I shall fire at you." The skipper of I'm Alone refused on the grounds that he was then on the high seas 14 or 15 miles from land or well beyond the legal limit of 12 miles. I'm Alone was sunk at Latitude 25 degrees, 45 minutes West by gunfire from the cutters, interrupted by repeated demands to "heave to." All but one member of the crew was rescued. The commander of the Wolcott insisted that I'm Alone was but 10.8 miles from the coast by his calculations. The Canadian government sent a strongly worded protest to Washington and the controversy dragged through years of legal and diplomatic bickering, finally being settled by arbitration. Such unpopular actions resulted in many instances of negative press, leading one editor to write "Who's Watching the Coast Guard While the Coast Guard's Watching the Coast?"

In another celebrated case, the CG-249 overtook a motorboat off the Florida coast. The two men on board had 20 cases of whisky. A young Coast Guardsman and a member of the U.S. Secret Service were killed in a melee that ensued. One of the two rumrunners turned state's evidence and was sentenced to a year and a day in prison. The other was hanged at the Coast Guard Base at Fort Lauderdale, Florida after the Supreme Court refused to review the case.

Having taken on board no less than half a million dollars worth of liquor at St. Pierre Island, Holewood ran down the coast to a point off New York where her crew proceeded to camouflage her to look like a well known American coaster, Texas Ranger. Disguised, she steamed up the Narrows and was reported as the latter vessel by marine observers. A careful Coast Guard officer, however, detected the fraud. He consulted a shipping news bulletin that reported the Texas Ranger was in the Gulf of Mexico that day. The pseudo-Texas Ranger was overtaken near Haverstraw, her captain and crew attempting to escape in a ship's boat. A search revealed the $500,000 of choice liquors, the Coast Guard's largest single catch.

When the profit was taken from liquor running by the repeal of prohibition (5 December 1933), smuggling declined, but did not cease. Several small boats in the Gulf of Mexico continued to run guns to Central American countries and return with narcotics before World War II. It was estimated that 80 to 90 percent of the narcotics smuggled into the United States by 1937 were brought in from Asia. The dropping of narcotics in waterproof containers by incoming vessels became so widespread that Coast Guard patrol boats were assigned to meet these ships far out at sea and trail them right in to their docks.

Intercepting contraband had been the Coast Guard's prime mission prior to World War II. This responsibility had been magnified by Prohibition, (1920-1933), and later in that decade by the prelude of World War II. Following the war, the Coast Guard's prime responsibility shifted largely to safety at sea and aiding navigation.

Messages In This Thread

Illegal Of The Day Maine
Re: Illegal Of The Day Maine
Re: Thanks Lou - "Little Pieces Of Clay."
LOU when you going to be on Pawn Stars again?
Re: LOU when you going to be on Pawn Stars again?
Re: LOU when you going to be on Pawn Stars again?
Re: LOU when you going to be on Pawn Stars again?
Super Article-Thx Gene
I'm trying to do the same thing
Wow! Wow! WOW!
Re: Wow! Wow! WOW!
Thank you Gene grin
Coast Guard & the truck ??
Re: Coast Guard & Chuck Tomarchio
Re: Coast Guard & the truck ??
Interesting history -- Thanks
Re: Coast Guard & the truck ??
They have been some of their...
Another stellar piece of work! Thanks, Gene.

Copyright 2022 David Spragg