New Coast Guard cutter named for sailor buried in Unalaska

A white boat on a dock with a line of soldiers marching toward it
The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Charles Moulthrope was commissioned into service in Portsmouth, Virginia in late January. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Near the base of Mount Newhall in Unalaska, among several weathered Russian Orthodox crosses, a tall stone marks the grave of seaman Charles Moulthrope. 

Moulthrope was buried in Unalaska in 1896, at the age of 23, after he died during service in nearby waters. But 125 years later, his name lives on, as a recently commissioned U.S. Coast Guard cutter now carries the name Charles Moulthrope. 

This will be the first modern Coast Guard cutter named for an enlisted member of the Revenue Cutter Service. The ship is meant to bring recognition to the sacrifices made by Moulthrope and other sailors who served in this precursor of the U.S. Coast Guard, according to Senior Chief Petty Officer Sara Muir.

“The first ten revenue cutters were ten oceangoing cutters,” Muir said. “We’re talking about wooden vessels with sails that were built at the behest of the United States Congress in the early 1790s, largely to crack down on smuggling.” 

Moulthrope is recognized for heroically saving his crewmates, while they were serving off the Oregon coast.

“They encountered a storm and several shipmates went overboard,” Muir said. “And he saved them almost single-handedly, diving over the side of the ship with a rope, while his shipmates on the vessel towed them back aboard.” 

A gravestone in brown grass
Charles Moulthrope was buried in Unalaska in 1896, at the age of 23, after he died during service in nearby waters. (Maggie Nelson/KUCB)

Not long after this heroic act, Moulthrope died near Unalaska, after he fell from the rigging of the ship to the deck, while trying to unfurl a flag.

The cutter named for him is part of a group of Sentinel-class 154-foot fast response cutters, Muir said. It is the first of six of these ships that will be homeported in Bahrain to support the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, and which will replace older, smaller cutters.

“It’s designed for multi-missions, including drug and migrant interdiction ports and waterways, coastal security, fisheries patrol, search and rescue and national defense,” Muir said. “We are acquiring these to replace the 1980s-era Island-class 110-foot patrol boats.” 

According to Muir, when those vessels are decommissioned, they can be used for a variety of things.

“Some of them have been used as artificial reefs,” Muir said. “Some of them have been used as training vessels or have been transferred to other U.S. government agencies and some have been sold through the Excess Defense Articles act through the State Department to navies and coast guards of other nations.”

There are currently 40 fast response cutters, like the cutter Charles Moulthrope, in service, two of which have homeports in Alaska. 

Muir said the Cutter Charles Moulthrope will be escorted to Bahrain with its sister ship, the Robert Goldman, which will be commissioned next month in Florida.

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