The USCGC Tamaroa (WMEC-166) was originally commissioned in 1943 as the USS Zuni, a 205-foot salvage tug. She served as a Navy tug until she was decommissioned and transfered to the Coast Guard on 29 June 1946. The Coast Guard, following the tradition of the time of naming cutters after Native American tribes, renamed her Tamaroa. The Tamaroa Indians were a fierce tribe that were members of the Illini Confederacy.

Launched and commissioned during World War II, the USS Zuni was one of 70 of her class of ocean going salvage tugs (a number of whom are still operating throughout the world).

The Zuni saw her share of action in the Pacific Theater during the war. She took part in the invasion of Tinian and the occupation of Saipan and Iwo Jima operations. She towed the light cruiser USS Houston to safety after it got hit by two torpedoes off Taiwan. Soon thereafter the Zuni towed the torpedoed cruiser USS Reno--they lashed the two vessels together to keep the Reno from capsizing.

At one point during the Iwo Jima operation, the Zuni beached herself next to a beached LST to assist offloading desperately needed munitions and cargo. For her actions during second world war, the Zuni earned four battle stars. She was decomissioned and transferred to the Coast Guard in 1946.

Designated by the Coast Guard as a Medium Endurance Cutter (WMEC), the Tamaroa homeported from her commissioning in 1946 to 1985 in New York; first on Staten Island and then on Governors Island. From there she conducted numerous missions, including search and rescue, law enforcement patrols, international ice patrols, fisheries enforcement, to name just a few. In July 1985 she moved to New Castle, New Hampshire, where she remained until she was decomissioned in 1994.

Andrea Doria Sinking Throughout her Coast Guard career the Tamaroa assisted many vessels in distress. She was first on the scene at the sinking of the Andrea Doria. Among some of the more notable rescues include: the fishing vessels Deepwater, Foam and the yacht Petrel in the 60's; in the 80's she rescued the crew of Soviet freighter SS Konsomolets Kirgizil, the crew of the fishing vessel Jimmy Squarefoot, and rescued a portion of the crew of the 254-foot container ship, the SS Lloyd Bermuda after it went down when its cargo shifted in heavy seas.

Of course, the most publicized rescues the Tamaroa was in 1991 during the "No-Name" or "Halloween Storm" that was subsequently immortalized in Sebatian Junger's best-seller The Perfect Storm. The Tamaroa assisted in the rescue of the three crewmembers of the sailboat Satori, 75 miles off Nantucket island. During the operation seas built to forty feet in height and the winds were topping 80 mph.

No sooner had the crew relaxed when the Tamaroa was battling the heavy seas again, this time in search of the crew of a downed Air National Guard Helicopter that had been forced to ditch when it ran out of fuel on a rescue mission of its own. Tamaroa was able to rescue four of the five Air National Guardsmen, an act which earned the cutter the Coast Guard Foundation Award.
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By: kjfitz



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