USCGC Comanche - WMEC-202
International Call Sign: November-India-Lima-Alpha
During WW II the U.S. Navy began to order large heavy duty ocean-going tugs, particularly for the purpose of towing naval vessels damaged and disabled in combat. Eighty-nine ATA tugs were built by end of the war. After commissioning in Texas, ATA-202 proceeded via the Panama Canal to the Pacific reporting for duty in support of the Okinawa campaign at Ulithi atoll. ATs (tugs) were almost indispensable at logistic anchorages and in support of invasions they performed noteworthy service. ATA-202 was awarded one battle star for towing battle-damaged ships out of the line of fire to U.S. Navy facilities for repair. She returned to the United States in September, 1945. ATA-202 began duty in the 11th Naval District at San Diego towing various US Navy vessels and barges as needed. She was reassigned to the Atlantic Reserve Fleet's Texas Group in March 1946 and named USS Wampanoag on July 16, 1948. She was later laid up in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet.
In February of 1959, USS Wampanoag was loaned to the U.S. Coast Guard by the U.S. Navy. They commissioned ATA-202 as the USCG Cutter Comanche WATA-202 and later changed this to WMEC-202. On 1 June 1969, the Navy permanently transferred Comanche to the Coast Guard
Comanche was first home-ported in California USCG District 11 and later USCG District 12, where she was assigned to law enforcement and search and rescue patrols as well as the re-supply of remote light stations and lightships. She became a well known Coast Guard vessel along the Pacific coast, a standard bearer of the Coast Guard's motto Semper Paratus - "always ready", rendering assistance to numerous ships, fishing boats and recreational vessels and Federal law enforcement service.
Examples of Comanche's routine multi-purpose services' included towing the 523-foot tanker SS Cottonwood Creek to safety after it became disabled with fire in the engine room. During the same year she responded to a distress call from the Japanese freighter Kokoku Maru after the freighter collided with another vessel. One Japanese seaman was killed and the other 43 crewmen abandoned their ship and were rescued by the Comanche. She gave the first U.S. "notice of a violation" ever given to a foreign fishing vessel on the Pacific Coast fisheries.
In 1967, Comanche was stationed at Corpus Christi, Texas, performing many of the same services it rendered in the Pacific. She also did piracy patrols off the coast of Cuba and South America, intercepting stolen boats. She returned to the west coast in 1969, home ported at Eureka, California until she was decommissioned on 30 January 1980.
After a decade of sitting idle on the Sacramento River in California, Comanche was acquired by Dave Howard of Toledo, Washington for private commercial tug service in the early 1990s and moved to the Puget Sound of Washington State. Comanche became one of the largest commercial tugs on the Puget Sound, towing a wide variety of commercial vessels from Mexico to Alaska.
On September 11, 2007, Comanche 202 Foundation was granted exempt status by the IRS and in October, vessel Comanche was donated to the Comanche 202 Foundation which is restoring the vessel through the work of volunteers, many of whom actively served on her in their younger days.