The first assignment of George M. Bibb after her commissioning was to the Fifth Coast Guard District, with Norfolk as her home port. Sometime in May or June of 1937 her named was shortened to Bibb.
In 1938 the ship made a special practice cruise with cadets from the Coast Guard Academy, and in 1939 spent about three months on temporary duty with the Navy, engaging in joint maneuvers. Later that year Bibb joined a destroyer squadron for the assistance of shipping in the North Atlantic. In the winter of 1939 she was part of the Grand Banks Patrol.
When the Grand Banks cruises were discontinued on 27 January 1940 Bibb was then assigned duty with on the weather stations. These had only recently been implemented on a suggestion by then CDR Edward H. “Iceberg” Smith, LCDR George B. Gelly, and a more influential suggestion by President Franklin Roosevelt. Since the war had stopped the flow of weather data from merchant ships, the Coast Guard drew the duty of maintaining a continuous weather patrol consisting of 327-foot cutters at two stations in the mid-Atlantic located as follows: Station No. 1, 35° 38′ N x 53° 21′ W and Station No. 2, 37° 44′ N x 41° 13′ W. Here the cutters steamed continuously within a 100 square mile area from the center of the station with each patrol lasting approximately 21 days. Each cutter embarked meteorologists from the Weather Bureau who made observations with radiosondes and balloons, and the cutters provided Pan American Airways Boeing 314 flying boats: Yankee Clipper, Dixie Clipper, and American Clipper, with weather and position reports and transmitted radio signals to allow the planes to take accurate bearings. The Bibb spent much of 1940 and 1941 on weather patrol.
Anti-submarine weaponry was added in mid-1941 and under Executive Order of 11 September 1941, Bibb became eligible for transfer to the Navy by agreement between the Chief of Naval Operations and the Commandant of the Coast Guard. The Navy then designated her as WPG-31.
The Bibb made her first attack on an enemy submarine on 3 April 1942, firing five “Y” gun charges and dropping two depth charges on what proved to be a doubtful sound contact. The Bibb was underway on zig-zag courses at five knots at the time from Norfolk to Casco Day, Maine. She had barely arrived at Casco Bay on 3 April when she was underway again searching for a Navy plane that had been forced down at sea. The search was unsuccessful but the cutter depth-charged another submarine contact. Ordered to Boston Navy Yard for repairs, she searched en route for a Coast Guard plane reported down in the vicinity of White Island.
Standing out from Boston, after repairs, the Bibb received a message from the cutter Modoc (WPG-46) on 13 April that a plane had reported a periscope in her vicinity. Proceeding to the area she searched with the Modoc without results. On 14 May Bibb was en route to Iceland as the flagship of Task Unit 24.6.2 with the USS Leary (DD-158) and USS Badger (DD-126). On the 6th two other destroyers, USS Schenk (DD-159) and USS Babbitt (DD-128) were relieved, and USS Decatur (DD-341) and cutter Duane (WPG-33) joined the escort, which had met the 13-ship convoy ONSJ-94 on a southerly course to Iceland. Two depth charges were dropped on a sound contact on the 7th and the search continued for two hours before rejoining the convoy. Again on the 13th, off Skagie Point, Iceland, a charge was dropped on a doubtful contact.
On 9 June 1942 Bibb was underway as escort commander for convoy SCL-85, consisting of 14 ships. Dropping a 600 lb. depth charge on a doubtful sound contact, a school of stunned fish appeared on the surface. While circling the area to renew contact a whale and school of porpoises was also encountered. The search was discontinued. On 6 July 1942 the Bibb was moored in Hvalfjordur, Iceland, while part of the officers and soundmen received training on the anti-submarine attack teacher aboard HMS Blenheim. The cutter assumed its duties of escort commander of convoy ONSJ-110, with 13 ships, on the 7th, in company with Babbitt. This convoy was part of an east bound trans-Atlantic convoy which had broken off and was headed for Iceland. On the 8th, with Skagie Point abeam to port, the Free French Corvette Roselys joined the task force. Two depth charges were fired on an undersea contact with no visible effects. On the 9th Roselys sank a floating mine and later dropped one charge on a doubtful contact.
On 3 August 1942, Bibb, with escort commander in the cutter Ingham (WPG-35), was again on convoy duty. The Iceland Unit, consisting of seven ships, detached from the main convoy at 1900. At 2210 Bibb received a challenge on bearing 340 degrees and answering it, the challenge was identified as the submarine HMS Seawolf on the surface below the horizon. The Bibb was again underway on 31 August 1942 screening the port bow of the eastbound trans-Atlantic convoy SC-97. At 0809, a large explosion was observed on a ship in the convoy. Shortly after this flames ware observed on a second ship, just ahead of the first one. No sounds of any kind were heard but the deduction, from visual impressions, was that both ships had been torpedoed. Five minutes later the ship on which the explosion had occurred sank, bow first. Ten minutes later the second ship sank, stern first.
Twice during the next two hours, first two and then one ship in the convoy fired into the water, and one of the escorts, HMS Burnham proceeded alongside one of the ship. that had fired and dropped three depth charges. An hour later, another ship in convoy fired at an unidentified object and soon afterwards the lookout on Bibb reported a wake crossing the bow from port to starboard at a distance of about 500 yards, which faded. That evening gunfire was sighted on the horizon, presumed to be HMS Broadway in contact with an enemy submarine. Shortly afterwards, star shells, denoting a submarine attack, appeared in the same area. On the next morning, 1 September 1942 at 1110, Bibb made a sound contact and five minutes later dropped a barrage of six small and two large depth charges. Regaining the contact ten minutes later she again attacked with a barrage of six charges. The contact was not regained after the last attack. That evening 11 ships of the convoy bound for Iceland departed the main convoy with Bibb, Ingham and Schenck as escorts. Shortly afterwards an American airplane, which had been patrolling over the main convoy reported two submarines each 24 miles distant on different bearings. On the 2nd Bibb made a sweep astern and on the 3 September dropped a large depth charge on a doubtful sound contact. By noon on the 3rd the convoy was standing up the swept channel towards Reykjavik, Iceland.
Standing out of Reykjavik harbor on 21 September 1942 Bibb awaited the assembly of a convoy of two columns of five ships each which was underway by 1600. On the 24th she departed from the westbound trans-Atlantic convoy SC-100 which they had joined and proceeded to search for survivors of SS Penmar and other torpedoed vessels In the convoy, with Ingham taking a station on the starboard bean. On the 26th at 0710, after sighting a red flare, she proceeded to investigate and three hours later came upon a freshly broken spar, while passing through an area of oil slicks and debris. An hour later there were numerous red flares and shortly afterwards a lifeboat and raft ware sighted. At noon two boats were lowered and they began bringing 61 survivors aboard, including one naval officer and 23 enlisted men.
Within two hours after being brought aboard, all survivors had been fed, showered, wrapped in blankets and placed on mattresses on the mess deck and in the engineer’s passageway. There were no seriously ill men among those brought aboard but all were weak and many required aid in going below deck. These men had been some 60 hours in rough seas in an open boat and on rafts and their condition was much better than would be expected. Many of them were suffering from exposure and edema, but after treatment almost all recovered. It is believed that the type of rubber suit worn by the survivors contributed greatly to their withstanding the exposure. Many had edema of the hands, which resulted, it is believed, from the tight fit these rubber suits have about the wrist. If a type of glove had been incorporated in the suit instead of the tight fitting wrist bands, this edema, it is believed, would not have occurred. The Penmar had been torpedoed about 2200 on 22 September 1942 and had sunk in about 10 minutes.
Two and a half hours after this rescue, Ingham sighted red flares and Bibb proceeded to cover Ingham while she picked up eight survivors from SS Tennessee. There was also an unoccupied lifeboat awash and two unoccupied rafts. On the 27th Bibb, in company with Ingham, searched for survivors of the torpedoed SS Athan Sultan, but being unable to sight anything, even though both vessels had a radar signal which was about 2 to 8 miles distant, they fired three star-shells. They rejoined the convoy on the 28th.
The Bibb closed eastbound trans-Atlantic convoy SC-101 on 30 September 1942, screening the seven ship Iceland bound sector SCL-101 which was breaking off and forming. The Iceland convoy was formed by 0900 and got underway, Bibb screening the rear. At 0730 on 1 October a plane arrived to provide air coverage. On 2 October all ships were inside Grotta Point, Iceland, maneuvering for anchorages.
The Bibb remained anchored in Reykjavik Harbor, Iceland until 19 October 1942, and then got underway escorting a convoy of five ships westward. At 0448 on the 21st she attacked a sound contact with a barrage of depth charges with undetermined results, due to darkness and haze. Three hours later smoke was sighted on the horizon and Bibb advanced speed to investigate, but friendly aircraft in the vicinity, for air coverage, identified the smoke as coming from friendly vessels. Next day she sighted a merchant ship on the horizon and challenged her by blinker. The vessel was identified as the Norwegian SS Mosdale bound for Liverpool. On the 24th Bibb changed course to effect a rendezvous with convoy SC-105, joining the convoy on the 26th. An hour later the Iceland bound section of the convoy departed the main convoy. That might at 2011 two bright red lights were sighted in the convoy and it was learned that the steering machinery on one of the vessels, the SS Orbis, had broken down. The Duane was directed to stand by while repairs were made. Four hours later Orbis was underway to rejoin. The convoy stood up the swept channel to Reykjavik Harbor, Iceland on the 29th and anchored.
On 31 October 1942 Bibb was again underway escorting SS Nova along the southern coast of Iceland. The Nova discharged and took on U. S. Army personnel at Bay dar Fjord on the 1st of November and then proceeded to Seydis Fjord where she remained overnight. On the 2nd they were en route to Raufarhofn, where Nova discharged and loaded passengers. On the 3rd they stopped at Akueyre. On the 14th they observed a plane, which was providing air coverage, crash at sea. The bodies of the navigator and observer were recovered.
The Bibb was underway on 9 November 1942 screening the right flank of a west bound convoy of eight ships. She was joined by the Ingham. On the 11th the convoy became scattered about noon by winds of gale force and heavy seas but was reformed six hours later. The Ingham and two merchant vessels were missing. Difficulty was experienced on the 12th in keeping formation due to high winds and heavy seas. At 0900 Bibb received word that Ingham had the missing ships in company. On the 15th Bibb sighted the west-bound trans-Atlantic convoy and delivered five ships, Ingham having delivered two earlier on the same date. The Bibb returned to Reykjavik Harbor, Iceland on the 10th where she remained until the 25th.
On 25 November 1942, Bibb stood out of Reykjavik Harbor to screen in the van of west bound convoy ONS-148 consisting of eight ships. On 14 December two British escort vessels departed with some of the ships of the convoy for St. John’s, Newfoundland. On the 5th a friendly plane was sighted. On the 6th Bibb, together with USS MacLeish (DD-220) was relieved of further escort duty and departed the convoy setting a course for Argentia, where she arrived on the 7th.
The Bibb stood out of Argentia Harbor on 7 December 1942 with MacLeish and USS Simpson (DD-221) and on the 11th made rendezvous with two Russian submarines, taking station on them to act as senior escort to Halifax, Nova Scotia. On the 12th she delivered the two submarines to a local Canadian escort unit off the Sambro Light vessel. She then proceeded with the two Navy destroyers to point “COLD” to rendezvous with two more Russian submarines. At 1015, Simpson was ordered to proceed to the rendezvous position at utmost speed. Seven hours later Bibb fired a barrage of depth charges on a sound contact and a few minutes later the McLeish reported a sound contact which was almost immediately lost. Being unable to re-establish the contact the vessels returned to their former course. At 0810 on the 13th they effected a rendezvous with the Simpson and the two Russian submarines and set a course for Halifax, delivering the submarines to the Canadian corvette HMCS Liscomb at noon on the 11th. The Bibb then set a course for Boston and moored at Pier 3, South Boston on the 15th. She remained in South Boston Navy Yard until 16 January 1943 undergoing repairs to her hull and machinery.
The Bibb remained at South Boston Navy Yard until 16 January 1943, and then stood out of Boston Harbor for Casco Bay, Maine, where on the 18th she went into battle practice with the cutter Comanche (WPG-76), making practice runs and simulated attacks on a U. S. submarine. On the 25th she proceeded to Argentia in company with USS SC-688 and USS SC-189. Investigating a radar contact astern on the 26th it was found to be the USS SC-689 which had separated from the company during the night. Later that afternoon Bibb dropped an eight charge barrage on a sound contact and whet appeared to be a torpedo wake. On the 28th she moored at Argentia. On the 31st she was underway escorting USS Saturn (AF-40) to St. John’s Newfoundland, where she arrived at 0900. At 0946 she set a course to rendezvous with convoy SC-118.
On 1 February 1943, Bibb was underway from St. John’s to join eastbound convoy SC-118 and reported to commander Task Unit 24.6.1 at 1005. On the 3rd information received was that there were some indications that enemy submarines were nearing the convoy. On the 14th Bibb obtained two high frequency direction finder bearings and began running them down. Eight hours later she dropped one embarrassing charge on a contact believed to be using “pillenwerfer” tactics, whereby a U-boat uses an underwater decoy to enable the submarine to escape. The 5th was spent covering the rear of the convoy. The next day, after an airplane had dropped a charge directly ahead, Bibb fired a Hedgehog barrage of depth charges on a sound contact. At 0250 on the 7th she sighted four star shells in the vicinity of the convoy and a vessel was reported torpedoed. Additional star shells were fired an hour later, indicating another torpedoing.
The star shells marked the successful attack by a U-boat. On 7 February 1943, the U-402 torpedoed SS Henry S. Mallory, a troop transport, bound for Iceland, after the Mallory straggled behind the convoy. The passengers panicked and leapt overboard into the 50° water. Those who did not make it into a life raft died from hypothermia. Lookouts aboard the Bibb sighted one of the Mallory’s lifeboats at 1000 and, disobeying an order to return to the convoy, Bibb’s commanding officer, CDR Roy Raney, ordered his cutter to begin rescuing survivors.
Many of Bibb’s crewmen leapt into the water to assist the nearly frozen survivors, and the cutter Ingham assisted. One of Ingham’s crew described the scene, a dreadfully common one along the North Atlantic that year:
“I never saw anything like it, wood all over the place and bodies in life jackets … never saw so many dead fellows in my whole life. Saw lots of mail bags, boxes, wood, wood splinters, empty life jackets, oars, upturned boats, empty life rafts, bodies, parts of bodies, clothes, cork, and a million other things that ships have in them. I hope I never see another drowned man as long as I live.”
Rescue operations continued throughout forenoon, 202 survivors being taken from three lifeboats and numerous rafts. Six hours later while returning to the convoy Bibb picked up 33 survivors from the Greek SS Kalliopi. The Mallory had been torpedoed at 0600. No lifeboats were believed to have gotten away from the starboard side of the vessel, which had 499 persons on board. The torpedo struck in a hold occupied by Marines, which probably accounted for the relatively small number of Marines rescued. The occupants of the lifeboats were in excellent condition when brought aboard.
As raft after raft were brought alongside Bibb, it became necessary to leave dead bodies on the rafts, there being no time for the dead, when the living were clamoring to be saved. The rafts were of the doughnut type and, due to the height of the sea, it was rarely possible to see more than two or three rafts at a time. The temperature of the water was 50 degrees, so that the survivors who wore winter underclothing suffered less in the water. The next day another ship was reported torpedoed. The Bibb made a full pattern attack on a sound contact at 0440 and ten hours later dropped three full patterns on three separate contacts. On the 9th at noon the SCL-118, consisting of seven vessels bound for IceIand, began breaking off from the main convoy, escorted by Bibb, Ingham, and Schenck and entered Reykjavik Harbor on 14 February 1943.
On 15 February 1943, the Bibb departed for Hvalfjordur, Iceland. On the 17th she was underway to report to the escort commander of convoy HX-226. The Bibb joined the convoy on the 19th. On the next day she departed the convoy in company with Schenck and arrived at Hvalfjordur that evening, proceeding to Reykjavik next day.
On 25 February 1943, a convoy was formed with Bibb as escort commander, escorting seven vessels, with Babbitt in company. Next day, due to high seas, only four ships remained in the convoy while three had passed from the radar range and were scattered. One ship was reported later to have returned to Reykjavik safely. At the same time one of the convoyed vessels, SS Elizabeth Massey, gradually lost position due to heavy seas and light condition and begun to fall behind. The Babbitt was directed to join and try to bring her back to convoy. By the 28th the ships were widely scattered and seldom in contact with each other. At 1340 on that date the smoke of the main body of Convoy ONS-169 was sighted and two of the escorted vessels joined that convoy. The Bibb changed course to join convoy HX-227.
On 1 March 1943, Bibb was underway to join convoy HX-227, which she did at 1625. On the 2nd Bibb received a report from a ship with call letters KFFL that she had been torpedoed. A second message followed an hour later adding that the vessel was now on fire. An hour later Bibb was ordered to detach from the convoy and return to Iceland, with SS Toltec. The Bibb left Toltec at the swept channel buoy No. 4, Reykjavik, on the 3rd and proceeded out of the channel under orders to locate SS Collis P. Huntington, which was in the vicinity of Sangerdi Light and without navigational information on Iceland. The Bibb located Collis P. Huntington and led her safely to anchorage at Reykjavik. She then proceeded to Hvalfjordur, returning to Reykjavik on the 5th.
On 7 March 1943, Bibb got underway from Reykjavik to augment the escort of convoy SC-121. Next day she intercepted a message from SS Vojvoda Putnik stating that the vessel had been torpedoed and was sinking. The Bibb joined convoy SC-121 and maneuvered to a position near the cutter Spencer (WPG-36). An hour later Spencer sighted a submarine dead ahead on the surface at about 2,000 yards and she proceeded to attack. The next day at 0411 Bibb attacked a doubtful contact which was lost a few minutes later. Ten hours later word was received from a ship in the convoy that a torpedo had crossed her bow and five hours later Bibb, while sweeping 15 miles astern of the convoy, sighted a submarine fully surfaced about 14 miles away. The Bibb proceeded to the area and heard faint propeller beats but was unable to obtain a sound contact.
At 2152 word was received that a vessel in the convoy had been torpedoed. The Bibb proceeded to the area and screened SS Melrose Abbey, the convoy’s appointed rescue ship, as she picked up survivors. Soon after midnight on the 10th two more vessels in the convoy were torpedoed. By 0305 the rescue ships had completed operations and were underway to rejoin the convoy. An hour and a half later Bibb sighted a raft close aboard with survivors, and three hours later dropped two charges on a doubtful sound contact, while HMS Dauphin screened the rescue ship. Twenty minutes later she sighted a life raft with three men on it end she directed the rescue ship to pick them up. The rescue ship failed to locate the raft and as the increasingly rough weather and impending snow squall made it imperative that the men not be lost sight of, Bibb rescued the three survivors from SS Coulmore.
A few minutes later another raft was sighted dead ahead and two survivors of SS Bonneville were taken aboard. The Bibb now maneuvered near Coulmore and found her in good condition and floating on an even keel, even with the torpedo hole in her bow. There were no persons aboard. Four hours later the Bibb proceeded to the assistance of SS Rosewood, reported sinking, but could not locate her in the darkness and storm. The next day, the 11th, Bibb sighted a ship on the horizon and proceeded toward it. It turned out to be the stern of a torpedoed tanker, with no signs of life on board, though one boat and one raft remained on board. The Bibb began searching for survivors and lookouts sighted large quantities of debris, including a swamped lifeboat. Later she returned to the wreck and left it in a sinking condition from gun fire and depth charges. The next day she sighted the bow of the tanker and left it in sinking condition also. Several hours later she again encountered the abandoned Coulmore. Soon afterwards she got underway to join Trillium and relieved her of escort of SS Empire Bunting. On the 13th the Bibb set a course for Reykjavik and anchored there on the 25th, later that day proceeding to Hvalfjordur.
The Bibb left Hvalfjordur for Reykjavik on 18 March 1943 and stood out to sea en route to join Iceland bound convoy HXL-229A. The cutter reported to the escort commander on the 20th and was assigned a station. That afternoon she had an underwater sound contact and made an embarrassing depth charge attack 5,000 yards ahead of the convoy with no visible damage. On the 22nd she broke off from convoy HXL-229A and began screening ahead of convoy HXL-229. Entering Reykjavik on the 23rd she proceeded to Hvalfjordur where she entered a floating drydock on the 27th and remained there until the 29th.
On 3 April 1943 Bibb left for Reykjavik and later got underway standing out of the harbor to form convoy ONJ-176, consisting of three vessels with USS Symbol (AM-123) in company as escort. Next day she identified convoy ON-176 and delivered the section from Iceland. Then she proceeded towards Iceland and arrived at Reykjavik on the afternoon of the 5th.
On 6 April 1943 Bibb got underway in company with USS Vulcan (AR-5) and Ingham and on the 8th moored at the naval anchorage at Moville, Ireland. She remained there only seven hours and at 1729 stood out of Loch Foyle in company with Ingham and Vulcan for a trip direct to Norfolk, Virginia. The next day she had a sound contact and carried out an embarrassing attack, dropping two depth charges. The contact was evaluated as probably non-submarine. That evening Ingham made an embarrassing attack on what was reported to be a periscope. The three vessels arrived off the entrance to Chesapeake Bay on the 17th. On the 18th Bibb dropped the escort of Vulcan and stood out of the swept channel in company with Ingham en route Boston, where she arrived on the 19th for ten days availability. On the 30th she departed Boston for Casco Bay, Maine.
On 9 May, 1943 Bibb proceeded to New York and anchored in Sandy Hook Bay on the 13th in company with Task Force 66 consisting of Bibb, as flagship, Ingham and seven Navy destroyers. On the 14th the task force got under way escorting convoy UGA-8A for Casablanca. Sound contacts were attacked that day and the next and on the 16th four more destroyers of Task Group 21.3 joined the escort group. On the 26th the escort carrier USS Card (CVE-11) reported a suspected submarine ten miles ahead. Ten other destroyers dropped charges on doubtful contacts and Bibb made an embarrassing attack on a contact at 600 yards at 1430. A submarine periscope was reported close aboard. The Bibb regained contact and slowed for a Hedgehog attack. At the same time she opened fire with her 20 mm cannons on a periscope reported ahead. Then she increased to full speed and dropped a full pattern of depth charges. Soon after, a streak of heavy oil, 30 yards long, was sighted. The Bibb was unable to regain contact and rejoined the convoy. On the 31st, the Casablanca section of the convoy, consisting of 27 ships, began breaking off. On 2 June 1943, Bibb moored in Delpit Basin, Casablanca.
The Bibb was underway again on 9 June 1943 as flagship of Task Force 66 in company with Ingham and six Navy destroyers and six French escort vessels. The Casablanca section started joining the main convoy from Mediterranean ports. On the 14th several high frequency direction finder bearings were reported and on the 19th the convoy made an emergency turn on a contact which later proved to be non-submarine. Another emergency turn was made on the 21st on a radar contact at 300 yards and at 0512 Bibb dropped one depth charge on an underwater sound contact that disappeared at 700 yards. The New York section of the convoy began breaking off on the 26th, with Ingham, as senior escort with four Navy destroyers, and the rest of the convoy stood into Chesapeake Bay entrance. On the 27th Bibb was en route to New York where she anchored in Gravesend Bay, moving over to Brooklyn on the 28th to moor.
Standing down New York Harbor on 8 July 1943, in company with Task Force 63, consisting of four Navy destroyers, Bibb reported at Buoy ‘BW’ and the force stood out to sea on the 9th, covering a section of convoy UGS-12 to Norfolk. That afternoon Bibb attacked a sound contact with a full nine-charge pattern and some heavy oil and light bits of debris resulted. A few minutes later a vessel in the convoy fired a machine gun at a reported visual contact. The Bibb picked up oil samples and ordering USS Portent (AM-106) to remain in the vicinity, rejoined the convoy. Oil was still rising in the area. The Portent made a Hedgehog attack and dropped five depth charges on a sound contact one mile north of Bibb’s attack.
Mooring at Norfolk on the 11th three more destroyers reported to the task force and they departed the same day to escort convoy UGS-12 to North Africa ports. On the 13th Task Group 21.13 joined, departing the next day. On the 15th USS Edwards (DD-619) departed for Bermuda, her sound gear inoperative. On the 21st Portent stood by to cover one of the convoy vessels that had steering trouble. On the 22nd Bibb had a sound contact and fired a pattern of nine depth charges with no apparent results. Next day she fired her port K-guns on a contact with negative results. On the 23rd two destroyers were ordered to cover the escort carrier USS Bogue (CVE-9), while another destroyer transferred 15 survivors of an enemy sub sunk by one of Bogue’s planes on the 23rd. On the 28th the main convoy was turned over to the British escort and the Casablanca section began breaking off and anchored at the breakwater at 1240. Three hours later Bibb stood into the harbor and moored, remaining there until the 31st.
The Bibb remained moored at Casablanca until 6 August 1943 and then stood out of the harbor, forming Task Force 63 consisting of Ingham and five destroyers en route to Gibraltar, where they arrived on the 7th. On the 8th she stood out of Gibraltar Harbor in command of Task Force to meet convoy GUS-11 at the straits. On the 9th the Casablanca section, escorted by two destroyers, joined the main convoy. On the 13th Bogue reported an attack by her aircraft four miles astern of the convoy and two destroyers were detached to assist the plane, who rejoined later reporting negative results. On the 16th Bibb attacked a doubtful sound contact with three starboard throwers without results. On the 18th Portent made a depth charge attack on the starboard quarter of the convoy. Next day the Bibb fired her starboard thrower in an embarrassing attack on what was probably a non-submarine. On the 24th, the New York section of 19 ships detached with four escorts. On the 25th a plane reported sighting a submarine diving 14 miles from the convoy and the Bibb increased speed to search the area. She had a sound contact at 900 yards and dropped a full pattern with negative results. On the 26th the Delaware section of the convoy departed under escort of Ingham and USS Threat (AM-124) and at 0935 the lead ships were ordered to follow Bibb to the swept channel of New York harbor. On the 27th Bibb departed for Boston and moored at the South Boston Navy Yard on the 28th.
The Bibb , with Ingham , departed Boston on 8 September 1943, for area “R” off Block Island Sound for anti-submarine warfare practice, which consisted of simulated depth charging and head throw weapon runs on a submerged U.S. submarine and also acted as target for PT boats in combined destroyer and PTB exercises. On the 11th she stood down the Block Island swept channel for Norfolk and moored at the Naval Operating Base on the 12th. On the 14th she stood out of Norfolk preparatory to acting as escort commander of convoy UGS-18 en route to North African and Mediterranean ports. Task Force 63 also included Ingham and seven destroyers. When completed on the 15th the convoy formation consisted of 12 columns of ships. On the 20th Bibb investigated a sound contact, which proved to be non-submarine and was probably due to fish. A fire which broke out on Bibb on the 21st proved to be rags burning in a bucket. On the 27th USS Chase (DE-158) departed for Gibraltar and on the 2nd the main convoy stood up the main channel through Gibraltar straits. On the same day two vessels broke off for Europe Point and the convoy was joined by the Gibraltar section. British ships took over escorting the convoy on the 3rd and Bibb with four Navy destroyers proceeded toward Casablanca where they arrived on the 14th.
On 7 October 1943, Bibb with the four Navy destroyers departed Casablanca for Gibraltar and on the 9th began escorting the Gibraltar section of convoy GUS-17. Later on the same day Ingham and a destroyer, joined with the Casablanca section and two PC escorts later departed for Casablanca with four vessels from the main convoy. The passage across the Atlantic continued without incident. On 25 October the New York and Delaware sections broke off, escorted six vessels and the others continued to Norfolk. On the 26th, the escort duty completed, Bibb proceeded to South Boston Navy Yard Annex, mooring there on the 28th and remaining through the balance of October.
The Bibb departed Boston on 8 November 1943 in company with Ingham en route San Juan, Puerto Rico, for duty with Task Group 26.4 and arrived there on the 13th. On the 17th Bibb was patrolling the southeast entrance to Vieques Sound, being relieved by submarine chasers and then escorted the French aircraft carrier Bearn departing San Juan on the 27th. She was relieved on 30 November by submarine chasers and arrived at Guantanamo Bay on 1 December 1943.
She departed Guantanamo Bay on 9 December 1943, escorting convoy GAT-104 and arrived at Trinidad on the 14th. Leaving Trinidad on 20 December, escorting convoy TAG-104, Bibb arrived at Guantanamo Bay on the 25th. The Bibb departed Guantanamo Bay on 29 December 1943, escorting convoy GAT-108 and arrived at Trinidad 3 January 1944. On January 6th she left Port of Spain, Trinidad, escorting U. S. Army Transport S-17 to San Juan. She arrived at San Juan on 7 January 1944 and departed on the 8th for Guantanamo Bay where she arrived on the 9th. Departing the same day for Trinidad, she arrived at her destination and on the 11th left Trinidad for Guantanamo Bay, arriving on the 19th. Departing Guantanamo on the 23rd she arrived at Norfolk on the 26 January 1944.
The Bibb was moored at St. Helena Navy Yard in Berkley, Virginia, until 10 February 1944 undergoing overhaul. On the 11th she was underway proceeding to Norfolk and on the 12th was standing down Hampton Roads, anchoring in Lynnhaven Roads. On the 13th she stood down Chesapeake Bay swept channel and maneuvered while awaiting the formation of the convoy. The commander of Task Force 66 was in the Bibb, while ComCortDiv 45, consisted of six Coast Guard-manned destroyer escorts and one Navy-manned destroyer escort. The Task Force was escorting convoy UGS-33, consisting of 78 merchant vessels to North African ports and also USS Brant (ARS-32) and six LCIs to the Azores. On 25 February the convoy dispersed in heavy weather with four escorts rounding up the stragglers. On the 17th a Navy seaman was transferred by pulling boat from one of the convoyed vessels to the Bibb for an appendectomy. On the 21st a doctor from Babbitt was transferred to Bibb to treat that ship’s doctor who had been stricken with pneumonia. On the 27th friendly aircraft were sighted screening the convoy. By March 1st the Azores group had departed and on the same day the Casablanca section of the convoy, consisting of seven merchant vessels and USS Cossatot (AO-77), with three escorts detached. On March 2nd four merchant vessels detached for Gibraltar and Task Force 66 was relieved of escorting the convoy by a British task force. Task Force 66 relieved course and began standing up the Straits of Gibraltar and on the 3rd entered Casablanca Harbor.
On 7 March 1944, Bibb departed Casablanca with Task Force 66 and on the 8th relieved the senior British escort in HMS Bittersweet of convoy GUS-32. On the same day eight merchant vessels with the oiler Cossatot, escorted by Coast Guard manned destroyer escorts USS Vance (DE-387) and USS Chambers (DE-391), joined the convoy. At the same time eight merchant vessels under escort of PC vessels were detached for Casablanca, making the total number of ships in the convoy 82, plus the oiler. On the 12th three more merchant vessels joined. On the 16th all electric power on Bibb failed, the rudder jammed and the main turbines stopped. The vessel fell off to northward and commenced drifting toward the convoy. Auxiliary diesel power for radio and lighting systems was cut in and the cutter shifted to hand steering. The breakdown had been caused by the tripping of circuit breakers on the main switchboard and within 35 minutes Bibb had again shifted to power steering.
On the 20th a Liberator was sighted screening the convoy. The barometer dropped and the winds rose with a number five sea. Because of the weather zigzagging was discontinued. One merchant vessel was detached for St. John’s. On the 22nd the Norfolk section of the convoy was detached, escorted by four destroyer escorts, and a little later the Delaware section left under escort of two destroyer escorts. On the 23rd the convoy entered New York Harbor and Bibb moored at Brooklyn Navy Yard with availability expiring April 2nd.
The Bibb departed Brooklyn for Casco Bay, Maine, on 3 April and on the 5th began exercises which continued through the 7th. Standing out of Casco Bay on that day, she moored at Naval Operating Base, Norfolk, on the 9th, moving to Lynnhaven Roads on the 12th. On the 13th she stood down the Norfolk swept channel and than reversed courses and stood up to the Naval Operating Bases for imperative repairs. Later in the day she took station “one” in convoy UGS-39 forming off Norfolk swept chanced as flagship of Task Force 60, with six Coast Guard-manned, and six Navy-manned destroyer escorts. One of the destroyer escorts was damaged in collision and returned to Norfolk Navy Yard for repair. The convoy consisted of 102 merchant ships. On the 14th three more destroyer escorts joined the task force. On the 16th two YMs detached for Bermuda. On the 20th a destroyer escort reported picking up Morse Code signals on their underwater sound gear, and an hour later Bibb picked up the same signals. Ten minutes later escort vessels of the inner screen dropped one depth charge each, followed at short intervals by two more sets of charges, by each escort vessel of the inner screen. Two hours later a white wake was sighted passing astern from port to starboard and Bibb maneuvered on various courses at 15 knots for a sound contact, resuming normal patrol speed an hour later.
On the 23rd the Bibb sounded the submarine alarm on receiving a sound contact and dropped one depth charge 600 yards ahead of one of the convoy columns. The contact was analyzed as doubtful. One merchant vessel detached for the Azores. On the 28th four merchant vessels and one destroyer detached, the vessels to be escorted to Oran by a British task force. An hour later three merchant vessels detached for Casablanca under escort of two USPC vessels and a French destroyer. Another merchant vessel from Casablanca joined the convoy. On the 29th a general alarm was sounded on receiving a radar contact at a range of 11 miles, thought to be a possible aircraft. Shortly afterwards the convoy was secured from general quarters as the contact proved to be negative. An hour later a Netherlands war vessel joined the task force as an anti-aircraft ship. On the 30th Cossatot and four escorts detached for Oran and two destroyer escorts joined the task force. On 1 May seven merchant vessels were detached under escort of a destroyer escort for Algiers. On the 2nd five merchant vessels joined the convoy from Algerian ports. On the 3rd the convoy commenced standing up the Tunisian War Channel and six hours later Task Force 60 was relieved of convoy UGS-39 by HMS Dart at the entrance to Bizerte swept channel. The Bibb remained moored at Bizerte until 11 May 1944, and then was underway as flagship of Task Force 60 relieving HMS Pheasant of convoy GUS-39 in the vicinity of Bizerte swept channel.
On the 12th four merchant vessels were detached for Bone, Algeria, while three merchant vessels from that port joined. On the 13th, sixteen merchant vessels detached for Algiers while 23 merchant vessels joined from that port. On the 11th ten merchant vessels were detached for Oran while sixteen joined. On the 15th a destroyer escort fired across the bow of a fishing boat to keep it clear of the convoy after the fisherman had refused to follow orders. Eight merchant vessels were detached for Gibraltar on the 15th. Next day six merchant vessels detached for Casablanca while eight joined. One convoyed vessel detached for Horta, Azores on the 20th and two joined. On the 27th two merchant vessels were detached for New York. On the 28 May 37 ships detached for Hampton Roads. The New York section, with the commander Task Force 60 in Bibb, now consisted of 148 ships in 8 columns. The convoy arrived at New York on the 30th and Bibb moored at Brooklyn Navy Yard with an availability period until 10 June 1944.
On 4 June 1944, CDR H. T. Diehl, USCG, relieved CDR C .A. Anderson, USCG, as commanding officer of Bibb. On the 10th the cutter stood out for Casco Bay, Maine, where she held exercises and drills until the 18th, when she departed for Hampton Roads. On the 24th she was underway out of the swept channel with Task Force 60, consisting of six Coast Guard-manned destroyer escorts and six Navy destroyer escorts, the escort oiler USS Mattaponi (AO-41) and two French escorts, escorting convoy UGS-46 to North African ports. The convoy consisted of 69 merchant ships, 19 LSTs and one British aircraft carrier. On the 28th one merchant vessel returned to Norfolk unescorted due to machinery failure. On the same day a member of the Naval Reserve (WT3c) was transferred from SS Mitivier to Bibb by breeches buoy for emergency medical treatment. The broken blower crankshaft of one of the merchant vessels in convoy was repaired on Bibb and transferred to it by breeches buoy.
On 4 July 1944 there were detachments from the convoy for Horta, Azores and for Casablanca on the 9th and 11th. Vessels joined the convoy at Gibraltar on the 10th. Various members of the Task Force departed as escorts for detachments and others joined for temporary duty. A warning of the presence of unidentified aircraft was received on the 12th. At 0115 Bibb, at general quarters, began making smoke to cover sector one of the convoy. At 0330 various escorts reported bandit planes closing over the convoy. All escorts were given permission to open fire at will on unidentified aircraft. At 0336 escorts on the convoy’s port side began firing and two minutes later escorts on the starboard side began to open fire. The planes drew away at 0440, the escorts ceased firing, and at 0448 the all clear was sounded and Bibb, ceasing to make smoke, was secured from general quarters. The attack took place at 36º 23′ N x 00º 26.5′ E. No planes came within range of Bibb during the entire action. Much credit was given to the smoke screen for warding off possible air torpedo attacks. The smoke hung low, never rising above 100 feet, the wind was steady and moderate and from a most favorable position dead ahead of the convoy. The night was dark throughout the action, though the moon was bright and cast a bright path. The convoy proceeded toward Bizerte, where, on the 18th, the Bibb was relieved as escort flagship by HMS Pheasant and moored until the 20th.
The Bibb departed for gunnery exercises on 20 July 1944 and, having completed these, got underway to take station one of Task Force 60, escorting convoy GUS-46. At 1521 she relieved HMS Fleetwood as Task Force Commander. Two merchant ships joined on the 21st; six detached and six joined on the 22nd; and nine detached and seven joined on the 23rd. Also on that day two British escorts detached. The convoy entered the Straits of Gibraltar on the 24th as six merchant vessels detached and seven joined the convoy. Another joined on the 29th. On August 6th Bibb expended 11 depth charges on a sound contact which was later evaluated as non-submarine. The convoy began break-off operations on the 7th. Thirteen merchant ships under escort of Bibb and ComCorDiv 45, consisting of six Coast Guard-manned destroyer escorts, proceeded to New York, while the remainder, under the Navy manned-destroyer escorts of ComCorDiv 67, detached for New York. The Bibb was relieved of escort duty on 8 August and proceeded independently to the Brooklyn Navy Yard and moored. On the 19th she proceeded to Casco Bay, Maine, where she engaged in various drills and exercises until tie 28th. Then she departed for Norfolk and moored there for the rest of August.
On 2 September 1944, Bibb stood down Chesapeake Bay channel and departed for North African ports as flagship of Task Force 60, escorting, convoy UGS-53. The USS Johnson (DE-683) detached temporarily from the task force on the same day and proceeded to Bermuda for repairs, rejoining on the 6th. Meanwhile, one merchant had joined the convoy and another had detached for Bermuda on the 5th. Between the 8th and 12th, Bibb took aboard crew members from three merchant vessels in convoy for medical treatment. On the 17th three merchant vessels detached for Casablanca and, on the 18th, one detached for Gibraltar and two merchant ships and three British submarines joined the convoy. On the 19th and 20th a number of ships were detached for Oran and Algiers, others joining from those ports. Three destroyer escorts left to escort three of these detached ships, two of the escorts returning on the 20th and 21st. The other merchant ships who detached proceeded in groups, without escorts from the task force. On the 22nd, two merchant vessels joined from Bone, Algeria. On the 22nd Task Force 60 was relieved of escort duty by British vessels and Bibb stood into Bizerte swept channel and moored.
The Bibb departed from Bizerte on 23 September 1944, and was joined by Escort Divisions 45 and 67, forming Task Force 60. She anchored in Palermo outer harbor, moving next morning to the breakwater. On the 27th she stood out of Palermo and on the 28th, following gunnery and tactical exercises, the task force relieved HMS Shield as escort for convoy GUS-53. On the 30th, two merchant ships detached and 10 joined from Algiers. On 1 October the convoy was augmented by 30 merchant ships and three Navy vessels. Four merchant ships were detached for Gibraltar and one joined just before the convoy changed course to stand through the Straits. Three merchant ships joined the convoy on the 3rd and four were detached for Casablanca; three more joined on the 7th. From time to time on the voyage Bibb rendered medical assistance to crew members and to one German prisoner of war aboard the various convoyed ships. On the 13th the commander of Task Force 60 was transferred aboard USS Merrill (DE-392) relieving the Bibb as flagship. The Bibb assumed a new patrol station until the 15th, when she departed independently for Charleston, South Carolina. She arrived on the 17th, remaining there for the rest of October.
During November 1944 through 29 January 1945, Bibb remained at the Charleston Navy Yard, undergoing conversion to an AGC [Amphibious Command & Control] vessel, her designation being then changed to WAGC-31. A training program for the personnel was in progress during this time. On 29 and 30 January 1945 she was depermed, degaussed and tested. Taking on ammunition at the Navy Yard until the 4th of February, when she departed for Hampton Roads, Virginia. On the 7th she stood up Chesapeake Bay and carried out various exercises and then proceeded to Norfolk, mooring at the Navy Yard there on 12 February 1945. Escorted by USS Barry (APD-29) Bibb departed Norfolk on the 15th of February and arrived at Panama on the 22nd. She passed through to canal and departed Balboa on the 23rd for Pearl Harbor. On the 27th she went to the assistance of USS Narragansett (ATF-88) and floating drydock ARDC-12. Sighting Narragansett 15 miles distant, Bibb came alongside and then proceeded to the floating drydock, two and one-half miles away, and took her in tow. On 1 March 1945 she released the drydock to Tug ATA-225 and proceeded to Manzanillo, Mexico. She departed Manzanillo on the 3rd and reached Pearl Harbor on the 11th. The Bibb departed Pearl Harbor on 25 March and arrived at Eniwetok on 3 April 1945. Departing for Palau on the 5th her destination was changed for Ulithi Islands on the 9th and she arrived there next day. On 14 April she departed for Guam where she arrived on the 15th and on the 19th rendezvoused with USS Aaron Ward (DD-132) which acted as her escort to Okinawa. She anchored at Kerama Retto, Okinawa on 23 April.
When an enemy aircraft was sighted coming in from the northwest on 28 April 1945 Bibb commenced firing. The plane disappeared in a smoke screen. Again on the 29th Bibb opened fire on an enemy aircraft identified as a Japanese bomber. Three ships in the area fired at the aircraft which was knocked down about 1,000 yards to the north of Bibb. Early on the 30th and again on the 6th of May Bibb fired on enemy aircraft. All these planes were suicide planes which chose medium sized and large ships at anchor as their targets, and used various tactics, some attacking at night, some at dusk and others during daylight. All came in at low altitude and seemed to approach a target from the stern, going into a steep glide shout 800 yards on the quarter of their target. On 28 April some of these planes, undetected and unreported by any unit, approached the southern anchorage, flying at high speed about 100 feet above the water. Very few ships were able to fire on it as it passed. The plane crashed into the starboard side of USS Pinkney (APH-2), a transport for the wounded. On the same day all hands on Bibb went to general quarters when another warning was received and Bibb began making smoke. Then she began firing on an apparent target on the port beam, but was stopped a minute later because the target could be neither seen nor heard. On 1 May a radar picket at 0340 reported a “bogey” coming in 45 miles from Bibb’s position. Fourteen minutes later a bogey consisting of probably two planes at low altitude, was reported as closing rapidly.
The Bibb commenced making smoke at 0354, even before SOPA ordered it 14 minutes later. A minute later at 0359 an enemy aircraft was sighted at a range of about 5,000 yards and about 1,000 feet in altitude. It was a clear night with a bright, full moon which made visibility very good. The plane had just flown over Tokashika Shima and was approaching the southern anchorage near Bibb. Various vessels near the path of the plane opened fire. The plane was in a slight glide, losing altitude, apparently picking out one of the ships in the anchorage as a suicide crash target. The Bibb’s gun fired one round at the target when it was dead astern but did not fire again because the crew had lost sight of the target. Just as the plane entered its steep glide, preparing to crash dive, two of Bibb’s guns picked up the target and began firing. A few seconds later the plane crashed in to the USS Terror (CM-5) starboard amidships.
On the morning of 6 May 1945, at 0846, SOPA warned that bogeys as well as many friendly planes were within four miles. Hellcat fighters were being vectored to intercept the raid. Two minutes later lookouts on Bibb sighted one aircraft identified as an Aichi D4A “Val” dive-bomber at a range of 8,000 yards appearing just over Hokaji Island, at an altitude of about 1,000 feet. The 5″ battery expended seven rounds. The target was taken under fire by vessels in the anchorage but apparently escaped, damaged, and disappeared flying north toward Geruma Shima. Another Val, taken under fire by naval units, westward of Geruma Shim was brought down. Ten minutes later a kawasaki Ki-61 “Tony” fighter aircraft was sighted at about 5,000 yards, and Bibb commenced firing, but the firing was checked as the bearing became foul. The Tony crash dived into the stern of the USS St. George (AV-16) causing only superficial damage. No other enemy action took place in Bibb’s vicinity during the rest of May and she remained anchored, continuing as flagship of COMINPAC.
On 14 June 1945 Bibb stood out of Kerama Retto, in company with two other Navy vessels, and escorted by three destroyers, to ride out a reported storm at sea. She returned to Kerama Retto, next morning and remained anchored there for the balance of June. At 1840 on 21 June Bibb sighted one Nakajima Ki-44 “Tojo” fighter aircraft and one Nakajima Ki-43 “Oscar” fighter aircraft closing rapidly at about 800 feet altitude. The Tojo split off, passing Bibb’s starboard beam by 250 yards, and crash dived into the starboard side of USS Curtiss (AV-4). The Oscar then took a course northward, climbed to about 1,000 feet, reversed course and began maneuvering for a crash dive, with her probable target Bibb, YMS-331, or USS Kenneth Whiting (AVP-14) all within close range of each other. The Bibb opened fire on the Oscar before it began reversing and maintained fire until it was in the last phase of the crash dive. The plane received several visible hits on the left wing, close to the fuselage at the peak of the dive and began trailing black smoke, crashing into the water near the Kenneth Whiting. The Bibb’s fire was thought to be directly responsible for causing the attack to be frustrated and the plane splashing harmlessly into the water.
The Bibb continued at anchor in Kerama Retto until 7 July 1945 when she proceeded to Buckner Bay, where she anchored remaining through the 16th. On the 17th she departed in convoy to a clear area, when a typhoon was expected to strike. The Bibb returned on the 21st and proceeded to Buckner Bay, where she remained at anchor during the balance of July. The Bibb remained at anchor in Buckner Bay, Okinawa, during August, 1945, as flagship for Commander, Mine Craft, Pacific Fleet.
On 10 September 1945, the Commander, Mine Craft, shifted his flag to Terror, and the Bibb became relief flagship for RADM Arthur D. Struble, USN, newly appointed Commander, Mine Craft. On the 16th she got underway in the van of a number of Navy craft who stood out of Buckner Bay and proceeded independently in accordance with the typhoon plan. She returned to Buckner Bay on the 18th and anchored, acting as supply and provision ship for YMS type of vessels. On 28 September Bibb again departed Buckner Bay. She remained underway except for three days, until 11 October, carrying out typhoon plan X-RAY. On the 11th she anchored in Buckner Bay and acted as flagship for Task Group 52.9 until 1 December 1945, when she departed for the United States.
The Bibb then returned to Coast Guard control after she was converted back to her cutter configuration at the Navy Yard in Charleston. Once the conversion was completed she was again classified as WPG-31. During the conversion, her wartime armament was removed, structural modifications were made, and towing equipment was installed, preparatory to resuming her peacetime Coast Guard duties. With these modifications, she was well suited to assume the additional tasks to be performed on weather patrols as well as routing search and rescue work. The weather patrols (later termed “ocean station patrols”) consisted of sailing for three weeks on one of four assigned stations in the North Atlantic, and each cutter assigned performed four or five such patrols each year. Their primary task was to report meteorological information, which was used in weather forecasts for the burgeoning trans-Atlantic commercial air traffic as well as for surface vessels. The ocean station vessels also provided communications and navigation assistance and were always standing by for and search and rescue emergencies. After the conversion was completed, she was ordered to Boston, which remained her home port through October of 1973.
Other duties besides conducting weather patrols included search and rescue standby and other patrols for the First Coast Guard District, making reserve training cruises, and occasional search and rescue details at Bermuda and Argentia. She participated in refresher training under the Fleet Training Group at Guantanamo Bay every two years to maintain her military readiness. It was a combination ocean station patrol and search and rescue operation that brought Bibb and her crew international recognition when, while operating on Ocean Station Charlie on 14 October 1947, the transoceanic airliner Bermuda Sky Queen was forced to make a landing during a gale with high winds and in rough seas when the flying boat ran low on fuel.
The Bibb, under the command of CAPT Paul D. Cronk, had picked up an aircraft on radar heading west at 0232 (GCT) on 14 October 1947. It was the Boeing 314 flying boat Bermuda Sky Queen (NC-18612), on a trans-Atlantic flight from Foynes, Ireland to Gander, Newfoundland with 62 passengers and 7 crew on board. After flying beyond Bibb, the pilot of the flying boat, Captain Charles M. Martin, decided to return to the cutter to attempt an emergency landing because unexpectedly strong head winds had caused the aircraft to consume too much fuel for them to make landfall safely. After establishing communications with Bibb, Martin made a successful landing in the 30-foot seas at 1004 (GCT) near the cutter. After maneuvering close to the Bibb to secure a mooring line, the flying boat lost control and collided with the cutter’s hull, damaging the nose of the aircraft as well as both wings and their attached floats.
With the waves cresting at 30 feet and the cutter rolling 30 to 35 degrees, getting the passengers and crew of the Bermuda Sky Queen aboard Bibb proved to be a tremendous challenge. Attempting various methods, including using a pulling boat and various rubber rafts from both the cutter and the flying boat, three passengers of the latter volunteered, only two hours before sunset, to attempt to make it to the cutter using one of the flying boat’s small rafts. The Bibb laid down an oil slick downwind of the Bermuda Sky Queen prior to crossing her bow to create a lee for the three men. They then began paddling towards the cutter, but the seas were too great. As they cleared the flying boat, Bibb drifted as close a practicable and threw lines to the men, bringing them safely aboard. This method would prove impossible for the women and children on board, so the cutter launched her motor surfboat that towed a 15-man raft to the Queen.
Using that raft as a bridge between the flying boat and the motor surf boat, the Coast Guardsmen managed to save 28 persons in three trips and get them back to Bibb. On the fourth trip, the surfboat, taking on water after being battered against the hull of Bibb, began to sink. Fortunately Bibb was able to pull all 21 survivors and Coast Guardsmen on board the surfboat and in the raft to safety, leaving 22 on board the Queen. One more attempt was made with a pulling boat that night, but again the rough seas and darkness prevented their success and captains Cronk and Martin agreed to wait until the next morning to save the remaining passengers and crew.
The following morning the seas had abated somewhat and Cronk ordered a rescue attempt with his personal gig. After one successful trip, the gig’s engine broke down and the Coast Guardsmen once again launched a pulling boat. The pulling boat successfully rescued the remaining passengers and crew and the captain’s gig finally got its engine going again and both boats were then brought back aboard Bibb. Cronk and Martin agreed that it was impossible to tow the Queen to safety and Cronk then ordered her sunk as a hazard to navigation. Obtaining permission to leave the ocean station and return to Boston with all of the souls who had been on board the Queen, the cutter arrived to a hero’s welcome. The rescue demonstrated the utility and importance of the ocean station program and historian Robert E. Johnson noted that “The Bermuda Sky Queen incident must rank with the Coast Guard’s outstanding rescue feats.”
She departed Boston on 20 December 1947, en route to Ocean Station Charlie via Argentia, relieving CGC Androscoggin (WPG-68) on 26 December 1947. She departed Charlie upon relief by Duane on 16 January 1948. She arrived Argentia on 19 January and stood by the hull of the Army transport Joseph V. Connolly and assisted in towing her to port. The tow was taken over by the commercial tug Curb and Bibb then proceeded to Boston. In September of 1948 Bibb steamed at full speed into forty foot seas to save 40 men and a dog from the sinking Portuguese fishing schooner Gaspar some 300 miles off Newfoundland.
During May-June 1949 she served on Ocean Station Able. In August, 1949 she served on Ocean Station Dog. The next year, in June-July, she served on Ocean Station How and in July of 1950 she and her sister Treasury-class cutters had Mark 10 projectors installed. In October of 1950 she served on Ocean Station Dog and in December it was duty on Ocean Station Easy.
On 27 February 1952 Bibb sustained minor damage when a Navy tug collided with her while maneuvering in Narragansett Bay. Her next ocean station assignment was during March-April 1952 when the Bibb served on Ocean Station Charlie and then in November-December 1952 she served on Ocean Station Echo. In February 1953 she served on Ocean Station Coca and in July it was duty on Ocean Station Delta. In March-April 1954 she served on Ocean Station Bravo. In March-April 1956 she served on Ocean Station Bravo again and in June 1956 she served on Ocean Station Charlie. In August 1956 Bibb was on Ocean Station Delta and served there again in December of 1956.
The Bibb ventured to the ocean stations again in August-September 1957 and once again sailed on Ocean Station Delta. In May-June 1958 she served on Ocean Station Echo and in July-August 1958 it was back to Ocean Station Delta. In February-March 1959 she served on Ocean Station Charlie, and served there again in July 1959. She sailed to Ocean Station Charlie again in April of 1960 and in June and July of 1960 she served on Ocean Station Echo. On 24 July 1960 she departed on a Reserve Cruise.
In May 1965 she served on Ocean Station Charlie. On 1 May 1965 the Treasury class vessels were re-designated as High Endurance Cutters or WHEC. This designation indicated a multi-mission ship able to operate at sea for 30-45 days without support and Bibb was then re classified as WHEC-31. On 24-25 January 1966 Bibb escorted the disabled merchant vessel SS South African Victory to Boston. In April of 1966 she served on Ocean Station Delta and on Ocean Station Charlie in August-September 1967. She was soon assigned to duty with Coast Guard Squadron Three in Vietnam which had been established to support the Navy’s Operation Market Time. She relieved Duane.
During her ten-month deployment, she cruised approximately 68,680 miles and was underway for 75 percent of the time she was deployed. Her deployment summary noted: “She met every operational commitment, never causing any delays and frequently being extended on patrols due to her high state of operational readiness. Once in South Vietnamese waters, she operated under the Cruiser-Destroyer Group of the U.S. Seventh Fleet as a part of Coast Guard Squadron Three. Her task was to prevent the infiltration of arms, ammunition, and supplies to communist forces in South Vietnam by stopping, boarding and searching vessels in her area of operation.
During her patrols she undertook 31 naval gunfire support missions in support of Vietnamese Regional Forces amphibious assaults, U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, Army and Marine Corps operations primarily into enemy controlled areas of the Mekong Delta. During these missions she fired 2,760 rounds from her 5″/38 main battery, destroying 30 structures, 11 sampans, and four bunkers, while damaging 145 structures, 11 sampans and four bunkers–killing three and wounding 30 of the enemy. She also caused 11 secondary fires and three secondary explosions.
On three patrols she participated in amphibious assaults on Phu Quoc Island. In a Coast Guard press release, Radarman Second Class Richard Nielsen of New Bedford, described the mission that took place on 24 November 1968: “South Vietnamese junks landed Regional Force troops and their U.S. Army advisors on the west side of the island while other troops came up from An Thoi. A U.S. Army liaison officer boarded Bibb and worked with a spotter aircraft in coordinating our fire in support of the troops.” First Class Hospitalman James Jones of South Portsmouth, Kentucky, added: “After the fighting we treated one of the South Vietnamese soldiers for wounds in the right arm and leg. He returned to his unit after treatment and we expect him to recover completely.”
In another significant action on 13 September 1968 Bibb fired on an enemy supply route in Khanh Lam Province. During this mission she destroyed eight structures and seven sampans and damaged 21 structures and 16 sampans. On several occasions she was praised for her gunfire support. On one such occasion the commander of U.S. Naval Forces, Vietnam, said: “The outstanding naval gunfire support provided by officers and men of USCGC BIBB (WHEC-31) to Advisory team 93, Kien Hoa Province in indicative of your devotion to duty and exemplary professionalism. Through your actions, you have significantly contributed to the United States efforts in countering communist aggression in the Republic of Vietnam.” The Bibb was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for her participation in “Operation Sea Lords” from October to December 1968.
In addition to her patrol duties this cutter also performed civic action functions in the form of medical assistance and search and rescue. On two occasions she sent a medical team ashore to the fishing village of Song Ong Doc in An Xuyen Province, approximately 150 miles southwest of Saigon. Also, on one of these occasions a working party laden with paint and brushes accompanied the medical team and assisted the villagers in painting a church. On this particular visit the village came under enemy mortar fire just as Bibb’s personnel were leaving. The nearby cutter was able to repel the attack with five-inch gunfire while coming close inshore in relatively shallow water to retrieve her Medical Civil Action Program team.
Another time a medical team was sent ashore to the Village of Phu Tho, 70 miles south southeast of Danang. During these visits, Dr. John Bulette, the on-board medical officer assigned to Bibb by the U.S. Public Health Service, treated over 220 persons. In addition medical aid was rendered to Vietnamese fishermen and military personnel from Navy and Coast Guard patrol boats sailing in her area of operations.
A distress message from the disabled SS Agenor gave the Bibb an opportunity to resume its customary peace-time job of search and rescue. Quartermaster Third Class Bill Batson, of Quincy, Massachusetts, reported: “We arrived on scene late in the afternoon of 1 November. The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Winnebago (WHEC-40) had the Agenor’s 17 crewmen on board. She transferred them to us as she had to depart to fulfill operational commitments. For three days we provided the men with food and shelter as we stood by the disabled ship. On 3 November we transferred them to the commercial tug Neptunia for further transfer to the tug Turmoil which then took them to Singapore.”
The Bibb also provided logistical support to U.S. Navy “Swift” boats and Coast Guard 82-foot patrol boats of Coast Guard Squadron One. The support included providing fuel, food, water, ammunition, maintenance repair, battle damage repair, and medical services. Frequently one, two or three boats were alongside and on one occasion there were as many as nine boats alongside at the same time. The Bibb also visited many foreign ports on her deployment, many of which she had sailed into during World War II. These included Pearl Harbor, Guam, Subic Bay, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Yokosuka. The Bibb also transited the Panama Canal and crossed the equator and the international date line, with appropriate ceremonies for her crew.
The Bibb completed her deployment in February of 1969 and was relieved by Spencer. As Bibb departed the western Pacific for her return to Boston, the commander of the Cruiser-Destroyer Group, U.S. Seventh Fleet, RADM Rudden, send her a message: “As you depart the Cruiser-Destroyer Group, Seventh Fleet, your performance is noted with pleasure. In the various areas of Coast Guard Cutter operations which included Market Time Patrol and Naval Gunfire Support, you leave behind an impressive record of operational excellence. All hands can be justifiably proud of this accomplishment and of the fact that they have contributed significantly to the mission of the Seventh Fleet and to the United States efforts in Southeast Asia. Well done.”
She returned to Boston, where she was home-ported until October of 1973. From June to July 1969 she served on Ocean Station Delta and during September of that same year she served on Ocean Station Echo. On 2 November 1969 Bibb towed to safety the disabled merchant vessel SS Caravan, which was located 150 miles southeast of Cape Fear. In January of 1970 she served on Ocean Station Charlie, where she participated in a project to test for radioactive carbon dioxide in seawater. From 14 August to 6 September of that same year she served on Ocean Station Echo. During November she served on Ocean Station Charlie.
She began the year 1971 by serving on Ocean Station Bravo, where she served from 3 to 26 of January. Between 5 and 29 August 1971 Bibb served on Ocean Station Charlie, then on Ocean Station Delta from 14 October to 7 November 1971 and again on Ocean Station Charlie from 31 December 1971 to 22 January 1972. Later that year she sailed back to Ocean Station Echo, where she steamed from 10 June to 4 July. In September 1972 she medevaced crewman from the Greek merchant vessel SS Christia midway between Bermuda and the Azores. She served again on Ocean Station Charlie from 23 October to 17 November 1972.
She served on Ocean Station Hotel from 11 to 20 January 1973 and then on Ocean Station Delta from 26 January to 15 February. From 11 April to 2 May 1973 she served on Ocean Station Echo, serving there again from 12 June to 3 July that same year. In the fall she steamed to Ocean Station Bravo, where she served from 27 September to 17 October 1973.
From October 1973 until she was decommissioned, Bibb was stationed at New Bedford. From 26 November to 16 December she served on Ocean Station Bravo. Her next duty on an ocean station was from 16 May to 7 June 1974 when she served at Ocean Station Bravo once again. From 5 to 27 December of 1975 she served on Ocean Station Hotel. With the advent of newer navigation and communication technology the Coast Guard soon discontinued ocean station patrols. The Bibb, relieved of this arduous duty, continued carrying out law enforcement and search and rescue patrols. The mid-1970s were a period of transition for the Coast Guard with the passage of the Fisheries Conservation and Management Act and the nation’s shift towards increased interdiction of narcotics smugglers. These operations called for off-shore patrols of up to three weeks.
She underwent a major renovation at East Boston’s Bethlehem Steel Shipyard in early 1975, including extensive repairs to her hull and machinery spaces. New navigation and communication systems were also added. After she returned to service, Bibb undertook a cadet cruise to Bermuda and then to Europe.
In 1981 Bibb conducted a six-week patrol that included two training stops and several rescues. She first underwent an equipment test by the Naval Underwater Systems Center in Long Island Sound. She then sailed to Mayport, Florida, for a week of training at the Navy Fleet Training Center. Then it was on to Guantanamo Bay for more intensive training with the Navy. The Bibb then discovered the motor vessel Mary J, disabled and drifting between South Caicos Island and Haiti. After providing her crew of seven with provisions, Bibb towed Mary J to Mathew Town, Great Inagua Island.
On 30 June 1981 Bibb sailed around Cape Hatteras and right into tropical storm Brett. High winds and rough seas from the unexpected storm had put several vessels in distress and Bibb was first directed to assist the motor vessel Madil. The Madil’s crew of three had been forced to abandon ship and take to the life rafts, and they were then rescued by the motor vessel Salvatore. The Bibb then proceeded to assist Nanaste which was being escorted by USS Bowditch (AGS-21).
Before Bibb could reach Nanaste, she received an “SOS ” from the 200-foot motor vessel SS Vigilant, which was taking on water rapidly. The Vigilant was first located by a Coast Guard aircraft from Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina, and this aircraft directed Bibb onto the scene. When the cutter arrived, nine of the Vigilant’s 12 crewmen had abandoned ship in the heavy seas of tropical storm Brett, with the remaining three attempting to save the vessel. The Bibb launched a motor life boat to recover the men in the raft while Bibb was rolling up to 40-degrees in the heavy seas. The three left onboard Vigilant had to abandon their efforts and they took to a second life raft and Bibb’s small boat again set out and successfully rescued them. The Vigilant capsized and sank one hour later.
The Bibb was then directed to coordinate the search efforts for the missing sailing vessel Patriot with six crewmen aboard. At first light on 1 July, a rescue aircraft from Air Station Elizabeth City was on scene and assisting in the search. Nothing was found when the airplane, low on fuel, had to head back for land. The Bibb continued searching until sunset when she was relieved by CGC Dallas (WHEC-716) which had sailed from New York. The Bibb then returned to New Bedford.
The following year brought a number of notable seizures for drug and fisheries charges. On 17 July 1982 Bibb seized the motor vessel SS Grimurkamban 270 miles southeast of Cape Cod with approximately 50 tons of marijuana on board. Later that month she seized the motor vessel SS Rio Panuco with 50 tons of marijuana on board. Later again that month and into August she seized the fishing vessel Shanti after the crew of the fishing vessel threw approximately three tons of marijuana overboard. On 23 of May 1983 Bibb seized a fishing vessel 50 miles southeast of Cape Cod for fisheries violations.
In 1984 she participated in a multifaceted law enforcement operation code-named “Operation Wagon Wheel” in the Caribbean. That operation involved several different agencies including the Coast Guard, the Navy, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and others. A Coast Guard press release noted: “Bibb once again utilized its excellent boat operation capabilities to board and search over 40 vessels in the Caribbean Theater during a two month period.” On 10 November 1984 she seized the Turkish motor vessel SS Captain Joe 100 miles east of Honduras for carrying 11.5 tons of marijuana.
Due to the prohibitive cost of maintaining the aging Bibb, she was decommissioned on 30 September 1984 after a career spanning over 48 years. She was sunk as an artificial reef off the coast of Florida in 1987.