Florida Keys News
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Most-decorated cutter to join Mohawk

Key West City Commissioner Bill Verge has barely had time to catch his breath after the sinking of the Vandenberg, but was in South Carolina on Wednesday working to bring another historic military ship to the city -- only this one isn't supposed to sink.

Verge, who helped establish the nonprofit group that brought the historic USS Mohawk Coast Guard cutter to Key West, now is negotiating with Patriots Point Maritime Museum in Charleston, S.C., to put the Coast Guard cutter Ingham next to the Mohawk at Truman Waterfront.

The City Commission on Tuesday will be asked to approve a dock lease for the ship at Truman Waterfront's East Quay Wall, next to the Mohawk. Marilyn Wilbarger, the city's property manager, has recommended the commission approve the proposal.

The Ingham was launched in 1936 and served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and later was active in Key West during the Mariel Boatlift.

The 327-foot vessel is the most decorated American military vessel, and received two Presidential Unit Citations.

It also is credited with sinking a German U-boat in December 1942.

The Ingham served alongside the Mohawk in Greenland during World War II, and they are the last two remaining ships in the Treasury class.

The ship was fully functional until 1988, when it arrived in Charleston.

"It's a fantastic artifact," Verge said from that city on Wednesday. "It's had an unbelievable history, and could still accommodate 60 to 80 Scouts or other kids for overnight stays."

The acquisition will not cost the city any money, Verge said.

If his negotiations are successful, and they were 90 percent complete as of Wednesday, Verge wants to have the ship towed to Jacksonville for some dry-dock refurbishment. Then it would make its way to Key West, but not until after hurricane season.

A winter arrival would give Verge and others time to finalize a heavy-weather plan, which is required for all large ships in the Key West Harbor. The plan details for the Coast Guard how the ship will be stabilized and secured in a storm and who will be in charge of it.

Any costs associated with moving the ship would be borne by the nonprofit maritime group that orchestrated the arrival of the Mohawk, Verge said.

"It's out of place up at Patriots Point," he said. "It's all Navy ships up here. What a catch this will be for Key West."

The Ingham also has been designated as the official memorial ship dedicated to all Coast Guardsmen who served and died in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

"At least we don't have to sink it," Verge said, referring to the Vandenberg, sunk as an artificial reef in June.

mbolen@keysnews.com

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