The Spencer History

John Canfield Spencer

 The history of Spencer started in 1843 when the original USRC Spencer was commissioned to serve in the Revenue Cutter Service. An Iron hulled steamer, hull designation "R", she was converted to a lightship after the Mexican War. She then served at Willoughby Spit off Hampton Roads, Virginia from 1847 to 1867. She was named after former Secretary of the Treasury John Canfield Spencer, who served in President Tyler's administration. On October 15, 1844, Henry Hoff was commissioned Asst. Engineer of the USRC Spencer.

 The second cutter to carry the name Spencer was hull number W-36, commissioned in 1937. At an overall length of 327 feet, she first started service as a search and rescue unit patrolling Alaska's fishing grounds. After the United States entered WWII, the Coast Guard temporarily became part of the U.S. Navy. Spencer saw significant combat action in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. In the "Battle of the Atlantic", she acted as a convoy escort and hunted German submarines, sinking the U-225 and the U-175 in 1944.

In late 1944, Spencer reported to the Navy's Seventh (Pacific) Fleet as a Communications Command Ship. There she was credited with taking part in numerous amphibious invasions including Luzon and Palawan in the Philippines. After the war, Spencer returned to her Coast Guard duties serving as an Atlantic Ocean Station. Here she provided much needed navigational assistance for the fledgling trans-Atlantic air industry and more importantly, acted as a search and rescue platform for both airplanes and ships. In January 1969, Spencer returned to combat duty off the Coast of Vietnam. For ten months, she provided surveillance to prevent troops and supplies from getting into South Vietnam. In November 1969, Spencer returned to the United States to continue her peace time mission of ocean station keeping. The second Spencer served the nation for more then 37 years and when decommissioned in 1974, she was the most decorated cutter in the Coast Guard's fleet.


WMEC-905 is the third cutter to serve the United States bearing the name "Spencer". The Spencer of today had her keel laid on 26 of June, 1982 in the Rhode Island yards of R.E. Derecktor. She was launched on 17th of April 1984 and was commissioned into service on 28th of June 1986.


During a law enforcement patrol in 1987, Spencer arrested 23 people and confiscated more then 46,000 pounds of marijuana from four smuggling vessels. While on a south patrol in 1989, Spencer rescued and repatriated 538 Haitian migrants bound for the United States, and later seized a Panamanian freighter laden with 438 kilograms of cocaine. Spencer made the headlines again in March of 1991 when she towed a disabled U.S. Navy frigate, a ship twice Spencer's size, to safety. The same year Spencer participated in the search for a missing Air National Guard paratrooper during the "Perfect Storm". In 1994, Spencer repatriated over1700 Haitian and Cuban migrants. During New York City's Annual Fleet Week of 1995, Spencer opened her brow to more then 5000 visitors. In early 1996 Spencer responded to the downed Alas Nacionales plane crash off the coastal waters of the Dominican Republic in which 188 people lost their lives on April 22, 1997 Spencer seized 3905 pounds of cocaine off the coast of Honduras. When the fishing vessel Lady of Grace became disabled during a severe storm in November 1997, Spencer was there to save the crew and tow the vessel to safety. In 1999, Spencer was the on-scene commander for the tragic Egypt Air Flight 990 crash off Nantucket, controlling both U.S. Navy and Coast Guard assets in the search and recovery efforts. Recently, Spencer worked with the French warship, Ventose, to seize 1800 kilograms of pure cocaine off the coast of Venezuela.