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USCGC Healy (WAGB 30)
Exhibit by John Young
The American icebreaker was conceived during World War II with the building of four “Wind” class icebreakers for the Coast Guard. Almost immediately three cutters was loaded to Russia under Lend-lease and three replacements were built for the Navy and the Coast Guard. The Navy icebreakers were named for islands (USS BURTON ISLAND & USS EDISTO), while the Coast Guard named her USS NORTHWIND, C.G.
All three Soviet “Wind” class icebreakers were returned to the Navy. Two were kept by the Navy and remained after islands (ATKA and STATEN ISLAND) while the Cutter WESTWIND was returned to the Coast Guard. America built two other classes of icebreakers- one GLACIER class for the Navy in 1955 and two POLAR class cutters for the Coast Guard during the late 1970s. By 1965-66, all Navy icebreakers became under control of the United States Coast Guard.
The next generation of icebreaker was named Captain Michael Healy, the 19th century Revenue Cutter Service officer (1863- 1903) that patrolled the Arctic with the Bering Sea Patrol. Known as “Hell-roaring” Mike Healy, fearless sea captain that brought reindeer to Alaska, fought seal poachers, saved Eskimos and dispensed frontier justice in Alaska. Healy commanded the Cutter BEAR (1886-95) and a court martial beached him for five years. The Nome Gold Rush returned him to sea-duty until retirement in 1903.
With a length of 420 feet, a beam of 82 feet and displacement of over 16,000 tons, the cutter HEALY is the world largest non-nuclear icebreaker. The cutter’s diesel electric propulsion with 30,000 shaft horsepower was designed to break 4.5 feet of ice at 3 knots going head and 8 feet ice with backing and ramming. It has accommodations for a crew of 75 and a scientific party of 50 living two to a stateroom.
Scope: The exhibit contains event covers that document the building of the ship, i.e. keel laying, launch or christening that are posted in the city which the yard is located. Commissioning covers signifies the beginning of naval service. Decatur Chapter #4 and the Coast Guard Study Group produced these covers.
This exhibit traces the ship’s history and movements as she was deployed in the Arctic (2001-09) and its only visited to Antarctica during Deep Freeze 2003. It shows the different cachets that were donated to the cutter during its first decade of service.
Condition: Just glad to have them, particularity since 911 as ships like to keep their movements known because of the War on Terror.
Scarcity: While event covers were produced in quantities of between 50-150 covers, the cutter probably serviced less than a hundred covers, per deployment. HEALY never had a post office aboard, but did use its official “election” postmark. This special cancel was issued to all Navy and Coast Guard vessels and was intended be used only on “Absentee Ballots” of the crew.