They Are Everywhere

| July 10, 2020


US Coast Guard Photo – Vigilant WMEC 617

Every now and then, I try to present something on the other branches of the US armed services, which includes the puddle pounders, a/k/a the Coasties and water dogs – or some such stuff. And occasionally, something happens that gets more than average attention. They were, in fact, part of the scene when Stingray was evading the Navy and the Coasties off the eastern shore of the USA, in a war game setup in “Down Periscope”.

Such was what happened with Vigilant and her crew, when a Soviet seaman named Simas Kudirka jumped ship from the Soviet vessel Sovetskaya Litva to the deck of Vigilant, somewhere off the coast of Massachusetts. Thanks to the US Coast Guard for the story, which is at the website link:

History of USCGC VIGILANT (WMEC-617)


USCGC VIGILANT (WMEC 617) is the third of the Coast Guard’s RELIANCE class medium endurance cutters.  She is the twelfth cutter to bear the name VIGILANT, dating back to 1790 when the original VIGILANT was built for the Revenue Cutter Service.  The present VIGILANT was commissioned on October 3, 1964 at Todd Shipyard in Houston, Texas at a cost of 2.3 million dollars.  From 1964 to 1989, VIGILANT was home ported in New Bedford, Massachusetts.  In February of 1989, after twenty-five years of active service, VIGILANT was decommissioned to undergo an 18 month Major Maintenance Availability at the Coast Guard Yard.  On November 16, 1990 she was again commissioned and proudly rejoined the active fleet at her new homeport of Port Canaveral, Florida.

VIGILANT has been involved in numerous unique operations. In 1813, under the command of John Cahoone, VIGILANT captured the armed privateer DART which was the last successful boarding by a revenue cutter in the Age of Sail. In 1965, she was a part of the primary recovery team for Project GEMINI. VIGILANT secured her place in history in 1970 as a result of the “VIGILANT Incident” where Simas Kudirka, a Lithuanian seaman attempted to defect to the United States by leaping from his Soviet ship to the deck of the VIGILANT off Massachusetts.  (See “VIGILANT Incident” below.) In 1976, VIGILANT also served as On-Scene Commander when the tanker ARGO MERCHANT grounded near Cape Cod spilling her cargo into the sea, earning the Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendation for her role in the cleanup of what was considered one of the worst spills in U.S. history prior to Exxon Valdez. In 1981, VIGILANT played a key role in operation ABLE MANNER to stop the Cuban exodus and operation SUPPORT DEMOCRACY to enforce the UN embargo on the island nation of Haiti. VIGILANT was also awarded the Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendation for the rescue and seizure of the motor vessel VIVIANA whose crew attempted to scuttle and burn their drug-laden vessel.


On November 23, 1970, Simonas “Simas” Kudirka, a Soviet seaman of Lithuanian nationality, leapt from the 400-foot (120 m) mother ship Sovetskaya Litva, anchored in American waters (near Aquinnah, Massachusetts on Martha’s Vineyard Island), aboard the VIGILANT, sailing from New Bedford. The Soviets accused Kudirka of theft of 3,000 rubles from the ship’s safe. After ten hours had passed and attempts to get the U.S. State Department to provide guidance failed, Rear Admiral William B. Ellis, commander of the First Coast Guard District, ordered Commander Ralph E. Eustis to permit a KGB detachment to board the VIGILANT to return Kudirka to the Soviet ship. This led to a change in asylum policy by the U.S. Coast Guard. Admiral Ellis and his chief of staff were given administrative punishment under Article 15 of the UCMJ. Commander Eustis was given a non-punitive letter of reprimand and assigned to shore duty.

Kudirka was tried for treason by the Soviet Union and given a ten-year sentence in the Gulag. Subsequent investigations revealed that Kudirka could claim American citizenship through his mother and was allowed to come to the United States in 1974.

An award-winning book detailing the incident, Day of Shame, by Algis Ruksenas, was published in 1973 (David McKay Publishers, New York). The book helped spur further investigations into the incident that eventually led to Kudirka’s release by the Soviets. The incident was also portrayed in a 1978 television movie, The Defection of Simas Kudirka, with Alan Arkin playing Kudirka and Donald Pleasence playing the captain of the Soviet ship. – article

They patrol the Great Lakes in all seasons. They send out rescue choppers and boats when boaters flounder on Lake Gichigamu or Mishigami. They plow through the ice ahead of ore boats from the Mesabi iron range in the winter, all the way to the seaway transit if they have to go that far. (Yes, I know: there was that Navy speedboat Little Rock that was forced to stay the winter of 2018-2019 at Montreal because of the weather. The crew suffered horribly. Imagine having to consume meals made by French-trained chefs! L’horreur!) They patrol our coastal waters, as well, rescuing over-confident fishermen who really thought that tarpon or marlin would just jump into the boat, and people who decide that they can just walk across one of the Great Lakes in the middle of winter, because there’s ice.  They help the crews of crabby boats to shore in rough weather up in the coastal waters of the Pac Northwest and Alaska, and they bust drug smugglers when they run out of other things to do.

If they weren’t here to rescue us, who else would do it?

Category: "Your Tax Dollars At Work", Coast Guard

Comments (22)

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  1. Hack Stone says:

    Trying to distract as so that the favorite sin can win First Post on the WOT again? Well, it worked.

    • 5th/77th FA says:

      Favorite sin? Well when you put it like that, you prolly correct Hack Stone.

      Favorite niece in Dakota was a Coastie in the Pacific NW. We’s proud of her past service.

      A favorite God Daughter (and her new Husband) is currently a serving Coastie, now at the Potomac Fleet. She was working Drug Interdiction in the Gulf. Very Proud of her too.

  2. IDC SARC says:

    Aye there be Puddle Pirates!

  3. ChipNASA says:

    Hey bitches.
    Just hanging out.
    Doing just fine.
    Whar WOT, whar?

    • Claw says:

      Per thebesig, the WOT’s are now going to be posted sometime later in the day near the close of business.

      Only seems fair, that way a lot more people will have a chance to be First.

      • ChipNASA says:

        Well now, that the WOT first thing, is now really a thing, thing this, one and two,
        to all of you.
        I had no idea that the first game was going to actually turn into something that we had to change the formulation of the deployment to so everybody could have a chance to be first I remember when it was just a silly bullshit thing a year or two ago.

    • Thunderstixx says:

      I just figgered that KOB tossed a hissy fit when he destroyed his keyboard and mouse looking for it through all the pRon on his display !!!
      So when he isn’t going to gain the coveted FIRST he demands that the WOT be defunded !!!

  4. Veritas Omnia Vincit says:

    I see the Coast Guard regularly these days on Long Island Sound while sailing…who knew an old ex-infantry guy would see so many of them?

    They’re always stopping the power boaters…usually because the power boaters are doing something stupid…

    When they see my sailboat they just wave and don’t bother stopping and boarding us…

    After all my get away max speed is 5.5 knots unless I have the current with me, then I might be able to hit closer to 8-10 depending on where in the sound I am at the time…

  5. Charles says:

    Underappreciated, under funded, always on duty, the butt of jokes from GI’s, Marines, Sailors and the corporation called “Air Force/Space Force” the Coast Guard just shakes it off and keeps saving lives and intercepting poisons off shore.

    I raise a glass in salute.

    • Slow Joe says:

      You are right.

      I wonder what kind of men says:

      “Hey, I want to do my duty for my country, fight America’s enemies, and make a difference, so I shall join….The Coast Guard!!!11”

    • Thunderstixx says:

      The craziest MoFo’s in any service are the Coasties !!!
      In the movie “The Perfect Storm” the bravery and derring-do of each individual Coastie was prominently on display for all of us to see.
      Seriously, they are the ones that climb in their Cutters, their Choppers and all the rest of the beat to hell equipment they have and sail, drive, fly into the eye of the most magnificent and deadly storms ever to hit the coasts of America. In the meantime, all the rest of the choppers, planes, vehicles etc are told to stand down due to the dangerous conditions.
      They drove the landing barges on D-Day and took chances with their lives that amazed even the most hardened Soldier, Sailor or Marine.
      To me, they truly are the bravest of the brave and I stand in Awe of them and their deeds.
      When everyone goes home, they send in the Coast Guard.
      I had a good friend who was a Coastie. He was one of the best guys I’ve ever known.
      Stand tall and Salute when they go by my friends, they damn sure earned
      it !!!

  6. A Proud Infidel®™️ says:

    Everyone likes to bag on Coasties until they get in trouble out on the open water!

  7. Thunderstixx says:

    Douglas Albert Munroe is the only Toasty Coastie to have ever received the Medal of Honor.
    I could copy and paste the Wikipedia description, but, I would instead be much better served to introduce many of you to one of my favorite Americans,
    “The History Guy” !!!
    I watch his short snippets of “History that deserves to be remembered” every day !!!
    He is great and I always learn something great about the world we inhabit !!!
    He has a special place in his heart for the Military and treats all of the history with the degree of respect earned by all those that served and were part of the history as it is described.
    I give him ten bucks a month, simply because I just LOVE his work !!!
    Please take a minute to watch it, you will NOT be disappointed.

    • 5th/77th FA says:

      Tanks ‘Stixx. Just gave me a chance to add to my bookmark bar. Lady Friend asked me one time when she was looking at this machine, “Do you have any bookmarks that aren’t related to History or War?” I says to her, “you didn’t see the news and weather one up there?” She ’bout slugged me.

  8. Graybeard says:

    Once, some years ago, our Venturing Crew was camping on base at Coast Guard Station Galveston, close by where the Bolivar Ferry runs.
    We were awakened to the sound of the ferry’s warning horn.
    Seems some shrimper had made a pass across the lane, then had his engine die, stalling him in the middle of the lane of traffic. The ferry rounded the point, basically a blind curve situation, coming into the landing there, and there was no way to stop in time.
    We watched the ferry run into the shrimper (I think the crew was still belowdecks trying to start the engine) and drag it with the ferry into the rocks.

    We were next to the Coasties’ launch ramp, and had a front-row seat to the rescue ops.

    I don’t remember if a particular young lady was on that trip or not, but one of our Crew later became a Coastie herself.

    That put a member of our Crew in every service branch of the U.S. of A. Kinda proud of her.

  9. bill says:

    They’re out there now saving lives. Semper Paratus.

  10. OldSoldier54 says:

    Yeah, the Coasties always seem to get the dirty end of the stick. I know it was many years before I realized there were actually five branches, and not four.

    I wonder how long it will be before the Space Force becomes a separate branch?

    • Devtun says:

      The Space Force is an independent branch under the Dept of the Air Force. It has a 4 star heading it. It’s very tiny in personnel, and uniforms & rank titles are still the same as the air force.