We are all aware that in any Op-Sail pageant held within the borders of the United States, generally the first ship in line will be our own USCG Eagle, the full rigged sailing ship of the Coast Guard stationed at the Coast Guard Academy. All the others will be scheduled as the committee in charge wishes with the exception of the second place ship which if available ALWAYS is number 2 in the lineup and rarely is absent from its place of honor. It is the Danish Training Ship DANMARK, a training ship for the Danish Merchant Marine. Why this ship is so honored is another of our notes.
The Danmark is a three masted, steel, full rigger of 737 gross tons. The owner is The Danish Maritime Authority with its homeport in Copenhagen, Denmark. Its total sail area consists of 26 sails of 1636 square meters with a mainmast of 39.6 meters in height (about 120feet) above water. It carries 80 cadets, a captain and a crew of 16 when she sails.
This would seem to be an ordinary story since the Danes have had training ships for their merchant Marine for many, many years. In fact, the Danmark is only the latest of this long line of training ships. It was built in Denmark in 1933 and has spent the last 66 years doing just that, with the exception of a four-year stretch. That four years is what makes it important to us and gives its favored position in any rendezvous held in the United States.
In 1939 at the beginning of the German Blitzkrieg through the Low Countries, France Denmark and Norway, The Danmark was caught in one of the southern ports of the United States with a full complement of trainees, officers and crew. It could not leave port for fear of capture by the Allies or torpedoing by German submarines since its home country was overrun by the Germans. It was a very rough deal for the Captain, officers and crew concerned about their families in Denmark and with the 80 boy trainees aboard who became quickly tired of learning the same old lessons without being able to practice them. One by one, the boys were given permission to sign on to the American Merchant Marine. Then came Pearl Harbor and we were in the war with the Allies.
Captain Hansen then went to Washington to see if there was anything he, his crew, and his ship could do to further the war effort. Not too long after that, a Coast Guard officer came aboard to look the ship over and shortly orders came that they should prepare the ship for transit to New London. With it was a cartel giving them permission to fly the Danish flag and the necessary papers, which would prevent capture by allied ships.
However, at the Academy, those charged with the task of what to do with the Danmark, scratched their heads trying to figure out how it could be useful. A number of plans were formulated and just as promptly discarded. Then someone came up with the brilliant idea, why donít we use it doing what it was doing before, TRAINING CADETS! Accepted without a dissenting voice Captain Hansen, his officers and crew started training USCG cadets in all kinds of weather, 24 hours per day on Long Island Sound. At the Warís end, some 5000 American cadets had been trained for the sea by these Danish seaman in their Danish registered ship.
At warís end, when the German training ship the Horst Wessel became a prize of war and was given to the United States, the Chief Officer of the Danmark assisted the Coast Guard Academy in acquiring, restoring and sailing it to the United States. It was promptly renamed the USCG Eagle and took over from the Danmark. It has continued to do that to the present day. All USCG cadets are given a training cruise in it. The Coast Guard is now a firm believer that such training is not only desirable but also necessary for the development of its officers.
After the war, the Danmark sailed for its homeport and almost immediately sailed for the eastern and western coasts of the United States to say THANK YOU to the American public for its kindness to the ship. At that time, a Bronze plate was secured to the ship bearing the text:
Presented to the Danish training ship Danmark
In appreciation of
Service rendered in training
Officer Candidates for
The United States
Coast Guard Academy
January 1942 to September 1945
That, my Dear Readers is why the Danish ship Danmark is always honored by being placed second behind the USCG Eagle in any Op-Sail held in the United States. She was here for Operation Sail 2000 and was of course in her accustomed place: number two behind the Eagle.
We had heard about one ship, which always sails second to the Eagle in Op Sail but had thought nothing of it until we read an article in Sea History Autumn 99 by Suzanne McMurray Ko. We then checked with our own USCG Public Relations staff who confirmed the facts about the Danmark. Ms Ko translated this story from the Danish for the magazine.
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Ye Olde Editor
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