USS Tampa

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Tampa

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Tampa
(Coast Guard Cutter: dp. 1,181 (n.), Ibp. 190'- b. 32'6" (wl.); dr. 14'1" (aft); s. 13 k. (tl.); cpl. 70; a. 3 6-pdrs.; cl. Unalga)

Miami-a cutter built for the Revenue Cutter Service

by the Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co.—was launched on 10 February 1912, sponsored by Miss Bernes Richardson; and placed in commission by the Revenue Cutter Service at its depot at Arundel Cove, Md., on 19 August 1912.

During the following five years, Miami performed duties typical for cutters. She served several times on the ice patrol off the North American coast between New York and Newfoundland to locate icebergs which might be hazardous to navigation. On other occasions, she operated out of various stations along the eastern seaboard enforcing navigation and fishing laws. Her most frequent bases of operation during that period were Key West and Tampa, Fla., Arundel Cove, Md., and New York City. The cutter served overseas once during that half decade, in late June and early July 1914, when she served with the International Derelict Patrol out of Ponta Delgada in the Azores. On 28 January 1915 the Revenue Cutter Service and the Lifesaving Service were merged and named the United States Coast Guard. A year later, on 1 February 1916, Miami was renamed Tampa.

On 6 April 1917, when the United States entered World War I, Tampa was transferred to Navy jurisdiction for the duration of hostilities. During the next four months, she received heavier armament by trading her three six-pounders for four 3-inch guns and a pair of machine guns. After preparations at the Boston Navy Yard, Tampa moved to the New York Navy Yard on 16 September and reported for duty to the commanding officer of Paducah (Gunboat No. 18). Ordered to duty overseas, the warship departed New York on 29 September in company with Paducah, Sterling, B.H.B. Hubbard (SP-416), and five French manned, American made submarine chasers in tow. After stops at Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Ponta Delgada in the Azores, Tampa and her sailing mates reached Gibraltar on 27 October 1917.

Tampa's Navy career and war service lasted just 11 months. During that time, she was assigned ocean escort duty protecting convoys from German submarines on the route between Gibraltar and the southern coast of England. On the average, she spent more than half of her time at sea and steamed more than 3,500 nautical miles per month. Between 27 October 1917 and 31 July 1918, she escorted 18 convoys between Gibraltar and Great Britain, losing only two ships out of all those escorted. Though she brought her 4-inch guns into action several times against U boats, Tampa's only verifiable run-in with a German undersea raider proved fatal to the Coast Guard cutter. During the late afternoon of 26 September 1918, Tampa parted company with convoy HG-107, which she had just escorted into the Irish Sea from Gibraltar. Ordered to put into Milford Haven, Wales, she proceeded independently toward her destination. That evening, as she transited the Bristol Channel, the warship crossed the sights of UB 91. The U-boat made a submerged attack which sank Tampa with a single torpedo.

Little further information on the sinking is available. It appears that the action took place sometime between 2030 and 2100. She disappeared over the horizon at about 1900, and the radio operator on board the convoy flagship reported having felt the shock of an underwater explosion at about 2045. Furthermore, German records of UB-8I's war cruise specifically identify Tampa as the ship she sank "at evening twilight" on 26 September. In all probability, Tampa went down rapidly without ever seeing her adversary or bringing her defenses into action. She sank with all hands—115 officers and men as well as 16 passengers. Search and rescue efforts over the succeeding three days turned up only some wreckage, clearly identified as coming from Tampa, and a single unidentified body. Her name was struck from the Navy list as of the date of her sinking.
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