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Coast Guard cutter arrives for final service

By Staff | May 18, 2012

The ex-USS Mohawk (WPG-78) departed Key West Monday afternoon for its two-day, farewell journey to Lee County. Upon arrival at San Carlos Island on Wednesday, she will be transformed for her final service as a veterans’ memorial reef in the Gulf of Mexico.

Commissioned in 1935, the U.S. Coast Guard cutter was assigned to the North Atlantic escort operations. She launched 14 attacks against submarine contacts between Aug. 27, 1942, and April 8, 1945. The Mohawk is the last remaining ship of the Battle of the Atlantic. One of her most famous deeds was being the last ship to radio Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower that the weather was clearing for the D-Day invasion.

The Mohawk rounded Bowditch Point at Fort Myers Beach about 11 a.m. Wednesday and will spend several weeks at San Carlos Island to be cleaned and prepared. A sinking is scheduled for July about 20 miles offshore. Divers and anglers will find her in 90 feet of water near Charlie’s Reef.

Commander Mark Fedor, captain of the current Mohawk, called the plan “an honorable continuation of the legacy of the Mohawk and the United States Coast Guard.”

The Miami Dade Historical Maritime Museum donated the cutter to Lee County. A grant from the West Coast Inland Navigation District will cover the $1.3 million needed to prepare and sink the vessel.

A recent study by Florida Sea Grant and University of Florida researchers estimates that anglers and divers who use Lee County artificial reefs spend nearly $60 million annually.

“By using the Mohawk as a veterans’ memorial reef, we are able to prevent a piece of our national history from being turned into scrap, all while honoring our service men and women in an economically and environmentally positive way,” said Mike Campbell, a Lee County Natural Resources senior environmental specialist, who is coordinating the project.