Case of the USS Searcher (YAGR-4)
Chronological list of events from the records of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Ingham (WPG-35) concerning assistance rendered to the USS Searcher, a Navy radar guard vessel, on fire at sea in position about 120 miles east of Cape May, NJ., on Sunday, 13 November, 1955.  All times plus 5 (EST).



INGHAM enroute to ocean station DELTA via Argentia, Nfld.  One day out

Of Norfolk, VA., in 3rd CG District (New York) area.


COMEASTAREA asked for our position


COMEASTAREA directed INGHAM to proceed to assist USS SEARCHER which had reported explosion in engine room.


Changed course and increased to full speed proceeding towards position of SEARCHER, some 25 miles distant.


CG Aircraft advised COMEASTAREA that SEARCHER was abandoning ship.  This information was passed to Navy commands and CGC TAMARORA, a seagoing tug type vessel, was directed to proceed.


Arrived on the scene.  Heavy black smoke and flames billowing from amidships of the SEARCHER.  Much debris in the water—a lifeboat overturned, empty foam cans which looked like men in lifejackets.  Small boats along side the SEARCHER with portable fire pumps playing water on the sides of the ship.  A small merchant vessel was standing by and at least two aircraft circling.  INGHAM had maintained direct radio communications with the SEARCHER up to this time when they were forced to abandon the station due to heat and smoke.  The situation was known to be critical.  Vessel not under command with oil fires in the engineroom and fireroom area and danger of diesel oil tanks exploding.  Abandoning ship was contemplated but not as yet ordered.  Three known serious casualties and two others trapped in fireroom.  INGHAM assumed ON SCENE command.


INGHAM dispatches two motor boats with fire and rescue parties.  At this time a motor launch from the SEARCHER came close aboard with the three serious casualties.  Boat and all were hoisted aboard.  On examination of casualties by Hospital Corpsman, all cases were classified as critical, one with 80% of body burned.  The CG Aircraft, circling overhead, had a doctor on board and volunteered to land.  The INGHAM stood clear of the debris in the vicinity and began running in a circle at full speed to assist plane in landing.  Weather was nearly perfect; only light wind and slight sea.


Plane landed after dumping extra fuel.  Time seemed to drag waiting for the plane to land and knowing that the ship needed more assistance in fighting the fire.  A Coast Guard Helicopter arrived on the scene at this time which proved to be of great value.


Commander 3rd CG District designated OPCON.




A situation report sent by INGHAM to COMEASTAREA summarized the situation at this time.

“Helicopter on scene X CGC TAMARORA reporting to assist at 0930 X SEARCHER reports secondary explosion in engineroom X Expect fire to spread to diesel tanks X CG Aircraft landed successfully X Transferring doctor aboard this vessel”


Helicopter completed transfer of doctor from plane to INGHAM.  Ship hen proceeded to SEARCHER.


INGHAM tied up bow to stern of SEARCHER.  Passed fire hoses—4 separate fire hoses which seemed hundreds of feet long to reach the fires---and began pumping water.  Passed all foam supplies available.  Supply of gasoline to run portable fire pump began running short.  INGHAM’s supply exhausted.


CGC TAMARORA arrived on the scene and prepared to go alongside the SEARCHER.  The USS JOYCE (DER-317) reported she was 4 miles to south and was preparing to furnish damage control parties and equipment.  She was informed of the need for gasoline and foam fire fighting equipment.  The USS CAPRICORNUS (AKA-57) reported her estimated arrival as 1100.


Situation report to C3CGD indicates the situation was improving, “Fire under control on 01 and 02 decks X 8 ft. of water in engineroom X Two hours fuel remain for emergency pumps X Relying mainly on all portable fire pumps available”.

Helicopter was released because of low fuel supply.


Commenced transfer of the three casualties to the CG Aircraft which had remained on the water in the vicinity.  First boat trip to plane carried two casualties.  The third was in bad shape and required more treatment by the doctor.  He was transferred separately.  Again time seemed to drag getting the patients to the plane.  It is no easy job and the boat’s crew deserves credit.  The CGC TAMAHORA was assigned to assist the plane in take off.


USS JOYCE on the scene.


USS CAPRICORNUS on the scene.


The CG Aircraft took off with the patients.  A beautiful JATO take off.  The TAMAROHA was now able to return alongside the SEARCHER and run hoses and pumps.  The situation report to C3CGD at this time sounds encouraging.  “USS CAPRCORNUS arrived  X  SEARCHER reports fire out  X  Investigating damage and possible flare ups  X  SEARCHER main propulsion totally crippled  X  CG Aircraft departed with injured personnel  X  One casualty very critical.”  The INGHAM continues to maintain fire main pressure to the SEARCHER.  More men and equipment is passed directly over the bow.  The galley forces comes up with boxes of ham sandwiches and pots of coffee.  Much of this is passed over to the crew of the SEARCHER.  Food and drink were mighty welcome items as the situation began to improve.


The situation report to C3CGD indicates the job is still touch and go.  “Flare up in SEARCHER starboard diesel tank  X  TAMAHORA and INGHAM alonfside SEARCHER fighting fire  X  DER 317 and AKA 57 standing by assisting with fire parties  X  Situation under control  X  No additional assistance required at present.”


Navy UF919 aircraft reported.  Several other aircraft in the area.


CG aircraft arrived at CGAS Brooklyn at 1230 with the three patients which were transferred by helicopter to St. Albans Naval Hospital.


COMEASTSEAFRON assigned the USS CAPRICORNUS duty as Scene of Action Commander.  HAILEY (DD 556) expected to arrive at 1400.  NIPMUC (ATF 157) expected to arrive at 1430 to assist tow SEARCHER to New York.


Situation report to C3CGD.

“SEARCHER fire out  X  Continuing investigation of damage and dewatering”.


INGHAM informed C3CGD of relief of Scene of Action command by USS CAPRICORNUS.  Both INGHAM and TAMARORA continued to assist SEARCHER.


Transferred the doctor to the SEARCHER.  The USS CAPRICORNUS came alongside the SEARCHER and took charge of the situation.


Stop pumping.  Disconnected and took aboard fire hoses from the SEARCHER.  Cast off mooring lines and drifted close aboard.  INGHAM’s fire and rescue parties remaining on board the SEARCHER.


INGHAM’s fire and rescue parties returned on board.  CGC TAMARORA departed the scene.


USS CAPRICORNUS requested concurrence of COMEASTSEAFRON to release INGHAM.


Released and proceeded on duty assigned. INGHAM sustained no personnel casualties.  The uniforms—dungarees, shoes, shirts, etc. – of a few men in the fire and rescue parties were a total loss.  Damage to the vessel was minor.  Some bent plates at the bow.  Boat #4, the motor self-bailer, broke her rudder.  The clutch in boat #3, motor Launch, was slipping badly and will have to be replaced.  Renewed our supply of gasoline from the CAPRICORNUS but completely out of foam.  Very few canisters for oxygen breathing apparatus remain.  The cleaning up and stowage of fire fighting equipment is a job yet to be done.


In spite of the hectic day many attended the movie “Moulin Rouge” in the Wardroom.

Monday, 14 November, 1955
At 1333 INGHAM received this message from Commander, 3rd Coast Guard District:
”From D  X  District Commander notes with pleasure the efficient performance of duty
of each unit participating in the recent incident involving USS SEARCHER and extends
a very well done to all hands.”

The Coast Guard came through with the goods again.


Data on this page submitted by Jim Bruder Ltjg – USS Searcher Plankowner