Postcard from the U.S. Coast Guard Woodrush Breaking Ice in Duluth Harbor

It was July 12, 1950 — 70 years ago today — that some dude with the initials H.E.W. sent this postcard from Duluth to Mr. Joe Rigatti of Pittsburgh, Penn.

USCGC Woodrush was built in Duluth by Zenith Dredge Company and was “a buoy tender that performed general aids-to-navigation, search and rescue and icebreaking duties for the United States Coast Guard” according to Military Wiki. It was commissioned on Sept. 22, 1944, and called Duluth its home port for 35 years. From 1980 to 2001 it home ported in Sitka, Alaska, before being decommissioned and sold to the Republic of Ghana to serve in the Ghana Navy.

“In 1980, she took part in a rescue rated in the top 10 USCG rescues when she helped to save the passengers and crew of the cruise ship Prinsendam after it caught fire and sank off Graham Island, British Columbia,” Military Wiki also states. “She was one of the first vessels to respond to the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989.”

A post on the U.S. Coast Guard Great Lakes Facebook page tells this story:

As the only available U.S. Coast Guard cutter available to respond to the Fitzgerald sinking on 10 November 1975, Woodrush was ordered from Duluth at “full speed” through a “gale and high seas” and arrived on scene within 24 hours.

The crew combed the area along with the SS William Clay Ford and the SS Arthur M. Anderson until daybreak, when debris and oil were finally located.

The following summer, Capt. Hobaugh and the crew of the Woodrush served as a support vessel for the United States Navy ROV, the CURV, that was used to survey the Fitzgerald wreck.

A few years later, Woodrush was called out to help break ice for some freighters near the Soo Locks and became trapped in the ice. The crew floated in the ice until they managed to free themselves, passing right over the Fitzgerald wreck site.

The phrase “semper paratus” is written on the front of the card. It is a Latin phrase meaning “always ready.”

The text on the back of the 1950 postcard reads:

Dear Joe –

I have just arrive from Gull Lake. Minnesota is the real vacation land. Will start on the Great Lake Cruise today. I saw the Chicago Fair one day. So far the weather has been fair[?] only one day of rain but it has been warm at times.

And finally, this video contains a collection of photos highlighting the career of the Woodrush.

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