Rum Patrol

Rum Patrol

Rum Patrol ships USCGD Cassin and USCGD Tucker, circa 1930.
Objective Enforce prohibition in United States waters.
Date 1920 1933
Executed by  United States

The Rum Patrol was an operation of the United States Coast Guard to interdict liquor smuggling vessels, known as "rum runners" in order to enforce prohibition in American waters. On 18 December 1917, the 18th Amendment to the Constitution was submitted to the states by Congress. On 16 January 1919, the amendment was ratified and the Liquor Prohibition Amendment, which prohibited the manufacture, sale, transportation, importation, or exportation of intoxicating liquors, came into effect on 16 January 1920.


The establishment of prohibition gave rise to smuggling of illicit liquor into the United States and, to deal with this problem, twenty-five destroyers were transferred by the United States Navy to the Treasury Department for service with the Coast Guard. Some began to show signs of wear and tear after the often arduous pace of operations on the Rum Patrol and required replacement. Accordingly, five of the newer flush deck destroyers were transferred to the Treasury Department in 19301931.

It was thought that adapting these older vessels for Coast Guard service would be less costly than building new ships. In the end, however, the rehabilitation of the vessels became a saga in itself because of the exceedingly poor condition of many of these war-weary ships. In many instances, it took nearly a year to bring the vessels up to seaworthiness. Additionally, these were by far the largest and most sophisticated vessels ever operated by the service, and trained personnel were nearly nonexistent. As a result, Congress authorized hundreds of new enlistees. These inexperienced men generally made up the destroyer crews.

Some of the destroyers were pre-World War I 742-ton "flivvers", capable of over 25 kn (29 mph; 46 km/h) — an advantage in the rum-chasing business. They were, however, easily outmaneuvered by smaller vessels. The destroyers’ mission, therefore, was to picket the larger mother ships and prevent them from off-loading their cargo onto the smaller, speedier contact boats that ran the liquor into shore.

On 20 February 1933, the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, the repeal of Amendment 18, was proposed by Congress and ratification was completed on 5 December 1933. This eliminated the need for the Rum Patrol. The remaining destroyers were returned to the Navy and sold for scrap.

Ships of the Patrol

Coast Guard designation Navy designation USCG Commissioning USCG Decommissioning
USCGD Cassin (CG-1) USS Cassin (DD-43) 30 August 1924 5 June 1933
USCGD Conyngham (CG-2) USS Conyngham (DD-58) 8 March 1925 5 June 1933
USCGD Cummings (CG-3) USS Cummings (DD-44) 15 May 1925 30 April 1932
USCGD Downes (CG-4) USS Downes (DD-45) 14 October 1924 18 November 1930
USCGD Ericsson (CG-5) USS Ericsson (DD-56) 28 May 1925 30 April 1932
USCGD Porter (CG-7) USS Porter (DD-59) 20 February 1925 5 June 1933
USCGD Ammen (CG-8) USS Ammen (DD-35) 22 January 1925 18 May 1931
USCGD Burrows (CG-10) USS Burrows (DD-29) 30 June 1925 14 February 1931
USCGD Fanning (CG-11) USS Fanning (DD-37) 30 May 1925 12 August 1930
USCG Henley (CG-12) USS Henley (DD-39) 14 November 1924 30 January 1931
USCGD McCall (CG-14) USS McCall (DD-28) 17 June 1925 12 August 1930
USCGD Monaghan (CG-15) USS Monaghan (DD-32) 30 June 1925 29 January 1931
USCGD Patterson (CG-16) USS Patterson (DD-36) 24 November 1924 1 April 1930
USCGD Paulding (CG-17) USS Paulding (DD-22) 23 January 1925 12 August 1930
USCGD Roe (CG-18) USS Roe (DD-24) 30 May 1925 4 March 1930
USCGD Hunt (CG-18) USS Hunt (DD-194) 5 February 1931 28 May 1934
USCGD Terry (CG-19) USS Terry (DD-25) 30 June 1925 12 August 1930
USCGD Wood (CG-19) USS Welborn C. Wood (DD-195) 15 April 1931 21 May 1934
USCGD Trippe (CG-20) USS Trippe (DD-33) 24 June 1924 15 April 1931
USCGD Semmes (CG-20) USS Semmes (DD-189) 25 April 1932 20 April 1934
USCGD Davis (CG-21) USS Davis (DD-65) 4 September 1926 5 June 1933
USCGD Shaw (CG-22) USS Shaw (DD-68) 13 July 1926 5 June 1933
USCGD Tucker (CG-23) USS Tucker (DD-57) 29 September 1926 5 June 1933
USCGD Wainwright (CG-24) USS Wainwright (DD-62) 30 July 1926 29 March 1934
USCGD Wilkes (CG-25) USS Wilkes (DD-67) 23 August 1926 29 March 1934


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