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Coast Guard New Yorkers, it appears, are no different from other city dwellers. The Tamaroa, the Coast Guard cutter that rescued the downed Air National Guard chopper crew during the October 1991 storm on which the hit movie "The Perfect Storm" is based, is here in the city. Yet like most people, New Yorkers are oblivious to such amazing landmarks right where they live.

Built for the Navy as the U.S.S. Zuni in 1943, the Tamaroa earned four battle stars in the Pacific Theater. Transferred to the Coast Guard and given its current name in 1946, it performed search-and-rescue missions that spanned six decades.

The Tamaroa escorted the Stockholm back to New York City after the vessel's collision with the Andrea Doria liner in 1956. It policed the Russian fishing fleet in the '60s and '70s. The Tamaroa has 10 marijuana leaves on its bridge for each drug bust it participated in.

Yet sadly, this magnificent cutter has sat rotting away in New York Harbor's Pier 40 since it was decommissioned in 1994.

This disheartens me because 33 years ago, as a 19-year-old Coast Guard recruit from Rockland County, I set eyes on the Tamaroa, my first duty station. I grew to manhood on this ship standing watch in fierce winter storms in the North Atlantic and participating in several search-and-rescue missions. Through the years, thoughts of the Tamaroa never faded away.

Then one day in 1994, while driving home from work, there it was, moored to the starboard side of the Intrepid. It has not been maintained since its decommissioning coat of white paint six years ago. Why hasn't the city advertised that it has a hero of "The Perfect Storm" here?

I drive by the Tamaroa every morning on my way to work. It's difficult to look at its bare decks and recall all the activity that once was there.

Go to the pier and see how the city is treating the Tamaroa for yourself. It lies forgotten, decks barren, armament removed and all symbols and hull numbers painted over.

This is not how the Tamaroa should spend its final days.

Note: by William O. Doherty Jr., Friday, September 01, 2000. Doherty served with the Coast Guard's Tamaroa Deck Force from 1967-68.


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