USCGC Alexander Hamilton (WPG-34)

USCGC Alexander Hamilton (WPG-34) was a Treasury-class United States Coast Guard Cutter. She was named after the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton.[1] Sunk after an attack by a German U-boat in January 1942, the Hamilton was the U.S. Coast Guard's first loss of World War II.[2]

USCGC Alexander Hamilton in 1941
United States
Namesake: Alexander Hamilton
Operator: United States Coast Guard
Builder: New York Navy Yard
Laid down: September 11, 1935
Launched: January 6, 1937
Commissioned: March 4, 1937
Struck: January 29, 1942
Motto: Unofficially, "Call me butter, I'm on a roll".
Fate: Sunk at 64.10°N 22.56°W / 64.10; -22.56
General characteristics
Class and type: Treasury-class United States Coast Guard Cutter
Displacement: 2,350 tons
Length: 327 ft (100 m)
Beam: 41 ft (12 m)
Draft: 12 ft 6 in (3.81 m)
  • 13 knots (cruising)
  • 19.5 knots (maximum)
Range: 7,000 nautical miles (13,000 km)
  • 1937: 12 officers, 4 warrants, 107 men
  • 1941: 16 officers, 5 warrants, 200 men
Aircraft carried: 1938: JF-2 Grumman, V-143


The design of the Alexander Hamilton was based on the U.S. Navy's Erie-class of gunboats.[1] This Treasury-class of U.S. Coast Guard cutters was sometimes referred to as the Secretary-class.[3]


The Hamilton was built at the New York Navy Yard for the U.S. Coast Guard.[1] Her keel was laid on September 11, 1935 and she was launched on January 6, 1937.[4] The U.S. Coast Guard had truncated her name to Hamilton that year, but resumed using the full name in January 1942 after a request by the U.S. Navy to avoid confusion with the destroyer USS Hamilton.[2]


On January 29, 1942, the Hamilton was torpedoed on the starboard side by the German submarine U-132, which had been patrolling the Icelandic coast near Reykjavík.[1] The explosion killed twenty men instantly and the total death toll was 26. After she capsized on January 30, salvage attempts were abandoned and the American destroyer USS Ericsson fired upon the wreck three times to send her to the bottom of the sea, 28 miles (45 km) from the coast.[1][2]

Discovery of shipwreck

On August 19, 2009, the Icelandic Coast Guard discovered a shipwreck believed to be the Hamilton in Faxaflói.[4] After she was positively identified using the technology of a Gavia AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicle),[5] Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen flew to Iceland in August 2010 with an entourage to visit the wreck in a mini-submarine. His luxury yacht, the Octopus, arrived separately at Reykjavík Harbor for the trip.[6]

On the 26th of June, 2011, a team of divers including Team Blue Immersions Jonas Samuelsson, Aron Arngrimsson and Valgeir Petursson left Reykjavik at 5 am departing for Alexander Hamilton wreck. At 30 miles out and 95 meters down, the wreck lies upside down. This is the first dive team that ever dived this wreck.[7]

The dive went without any problems and the conditions were better than expected. The sea at the surface was pretty rough, and most (including Icelandic Coast Guard), warned not to take the boat out saying the dive was impossible to conduct under current conditions . Visibility at the wreck was around 4 meters. Temperature was 7 degrees Celsius at 90 meters, which was warmer than divers prepared for.

During the deep dive the divers set three Icelandic diving records: Deepest wreck dive in Iceland, deepest sea dive in Iceland, and deepest dive ever made in Iceland.

Team Blue Immersion is planning a second expedition to US Coast Guard Cutter Alexander Hamilton in August 2013. This time the team is going to produce a documentary displaying the story of the ship and the life of the brave men that fought and died during the attack and attach a memorial plaque on the ship on their final dive.[8]

Attaching memorial plaque on Alexander Hamilton

Team Blue Immersion, including divers Jonas Samuelsson, Aron Arngrimsson, Erik Brown, Chris Haslam in partnership with the diving company OceanReef returned to Alexander Hamilton in August 2013. On the assignment from the families related to the men that served on the cutter during World War II the Team dived down and attached a memorial plaque on the ship. The plaque listed all men that served and died during the attack by the German VII Submarine on the 29th of January 1942, just seven and a half weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor. This is not the only piece of recent news related to Alexander Hamilton and the Coast Guard. On August 10, just two days before the Team Blue Immersions reached the 1937 Cutter Alexander Hamilton, a new US Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton was launched in the water for the first time. This ship will be the sixth cutter named after Alexander Hamilton. According to the US Coast Guard the formal christening ceremony will be held for the ship in October, 2013.



  1. "Alexander Hamilton: WPG-34" (PDF). U.S. Coast Guard. October 20, 2009. Archived (PDF) from the original on April 30, 2017. Retrieved February 1, 2011.
  2. Browning Jr., Robert M. (September 2, 2009). "The First Loss: The Sinking of the Alexander Hamilton". U.S. Coast Guard. Archived from the original on May 27, 2012. Retrieved February 1, 2011.
  3. Helgason, Guðmundur. "USCGC Alexander Hamilton (WPG 34)". German U-boats of WWII - Archived from the original on 19 June 2010. Retrieved 1 February 2011.
  4. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2011-12-09.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. "Paul Allen the First to Dive to Wreckage of US Battleship". Iceland Review. August 6, 2010. Archived from the original on September 28, 2011. Retrieved February 1, 2011.
  6. "Kafað að flaki bandarísks herskips". RÚV. June 27, 2011. Archived from the original on March 20, 2012. Retrieved June 29, 2011.
  7. "Expedition Iceland". Archived from the original on 2012-04-23. Retrieved 2012-04-10.

Further reading

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