Rum Patrol
Rum Patrol ships USCGD Tucker and USCGD Cassin, circa 1930
ObjectiveEnforce prohibition in United States waters
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 overland from Canada and from ships moored just outside the three-mile limit along the Atlantic seaboard. By 1921, "Rum Row" existed off New York City and the New Jersey shore as well as near Boston, and the Chesapeake and Delaware bays. The Florida coast and New Orleans were also points of entry used by rum runners. Smaller boats were used to transfer the cargos from the mother ships on Rum Row under cover of darkness to the shore. In February 1922, the Commandant of the Coast Guard, Rear Admiral William E. Reynolds, informed the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, Roy Asa Haynes that although the Coast Guard was tasked with the enforcement of prohibition, Congress had not included any funding for the additional maintenance and operation of vessels. Since there was no funding, enforcement by Coast Guard vessels was in connection with other enforcement duties. The first important seizure was the British-registered schooner Henry L. Marshall by USCGC Seneca in 1921.[1]

Funding problems

Since the Coast Guard was tasked with prohibiting the importation of liquor through U.S. waters and it didn't have the resources to do so, Commandant Reynolds submitted a plan to Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon that called for 20 new cutters, 200 coastal patrol cutters and 90 fast picket boats. He also asked for 20 million dollars to fund new construction and an additional 3,500 personnel to man the new vessels.[2]

Congress acts

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, six of the newer flush deck destroyers were transferred to the Treasury Department in 1930–1932.

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 was costly 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.[3]

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.[3]

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 prohibition, and therefore 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 Ship Class USCG Acquired USCG Commissioning USCG Decommissioning
CG-01USCGD Cassin (CG-1)[4] DD-043USS Cassin (DD-43) Cassin class 28 April 1924 30 August 1924 5 June 1933
CG-02USCGD Conyngham (CG-2)[4] DD-058USS Conyngham (DD-58) Tucker class 7 June 1924 8 March 1925 5 June 1933
CG-03USCGD Cummings (CG-3)[4] DD-044USS Cummings (DD-44) Cassin class 7 June 1924 15 May 1925 30 April 1932
CG-04USCGD Downes (CG-4)[4] DD-045USS Downes (DD-45) Cassin class 28 April 1924 14 October 1924 18 November 1930
CG-05USCGD Ericsson (CG-5)[4] DD-056USS Ericsson (DD-56) O'Brien class 7 June 1924 28 May 1925 30 April 1932
CG-06USCGD McDougal (CG-6)[4] DD-054USS McDougal (DD-54) O'Brien class 7 June 1924 13 May 1925 26 May 1933
CG-07USCGD Porter (CG-7)[4] DD-059USS Porter (DD-59) Tucker class 7 June 1924 20 February 1925 5 June 1933
CG-08USCGD Ammen (CG-8)[3] DD-035USS Ammen (DD-35) Paulding class 28 April 1924 22 January 1925 18 May 1931
CG-09USCGD Beale (CG-9)[3] DD-040USS Beale (DD-40) Paulding class 28 April 1924 26 October 1924 1 June 1930
CG-10USCGD Burrows (CG-10)[3] DD-029USS Burrows (DD-29) Paulding class 7 June 1924 30 June 1925 14 February 1931
CG-11USCGD Fanning (CG-11)[3] DD-037USS Fanning (DD-37) Paulding class 7 June 1924 30 May 1925 12 August 1930
CG-12USCGD Henley (CG-12)[3] DD-039USS Henley (DD-39) Paulding class 16 May 1924 14 November 1924 30 January 1931
CG-13USCGD Jouett (CG-13)[3] DD-041USS Jouett (DD-41) Paulding class 28 April 1924 23 August 1924 16 May 1931
CG-14USCGD McCall (CG-14)[3] DD-028USS McCall (DD-28) Paulding class 7 June 1924 17 June 1925 12 August 1930
CG-15USCGD Monaghan (CG-15)[3] DD-032USS Monaghan (DD-32) Paulding class 7 June 1924 30 June 1925 29 January 1931
CG-15USCGD Upshur (CG-15)[5] DD-193USS Abel P. Upshur (DD-193) Clemson class 5 November 1930 12 January 1931 21 May 1934
CG-16USCGD Patterson (CG-16)[3] DD-036USS Patterson (DD-36) Paulding class 28 April 1924 24 November 1924 1 April 1930
CG-16USCGD Badger (CG-16)[5] DD-196USS George E. Badger (DD-196) Clemson class 1 October 1930 20 March 1931 21 May 1934
CG-17USCGD Paulding (CG-17)[3] DD-022USS Paulding (DD-22) Paulding class 28 April 1924 23 January 1925 12 August 1930
CG-17USCGD Herndon (CG-17)(CG-16)[5] DD-198USS Herndon (DD-198) Clemson class 13 September 1930 7 March 1931 28 May 1934
CG-18USCGD Roe (CG-18)[3] DD-024USS Roe (DD-24) Paulding class 7 June 1924 30 May 1925 4 March 1930
CG-18USCGD Hunt (CG-18)(CG-16)[5] DD-194USS Hunt (DD-194) Clemson class 13 September 1930 5 February 1931 28 May 1934
CG-19USCGD Terry (CG-19)[3] DD-025USS Terry (DD-25) Paulding class 7 June 1924 30 June 1925 12 August 1930
CG-19USCGD Wood (CG-19)(CG-16)[5] DD-195USS Welborn C. Wood (DD-195) Clemson class 1 October 1930 15 April 1931 21 May 1934
CG-20USCGD Trippe (CG-20)[3] DD-033USS Trippe (DD-33) Paulding class 7 June 1924 24 June 1924 15 April 1931
CG-20USCGD Semmes (CG-20)(CG-16)[5] DD-189USS Semmes (DD-189) Clemson class 25 April 1932 25 April 1932 20 April 1934
CG-21USCGD Davis (CG-21)[4] DD-065USS Davis (DD-65) Sampson class 25 March 1926 4 September 1926 5 June 1933
CG-22USCGD Shaw (CG-22)[4] DD-068USS Shaw (DD-68) Sampson class 25 March 1926 13 July 1926 5 June 1933
CG-23USCGD Tucker (CG-23)[4] DD-057USS Tucker (DD-57) Tucker class 25 March 1926 29 September 1926 5 June 1933
CG-24USCGD Wainwright (CG-24)[4] DD-062USS Wainwright (DD-62) Tucker class 2 April 1926 30 July 1926 29 March 1934
CG-25USCGD Wilkes (CG-25)[4] DD-067USS Wilkes (DD-67) Sampson class 25 March 1926 23 August 1926 29 March 1934



  1. ^ Johnson, p 80
  2. ^ Thiessen, p 44
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Canney, p 92
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Canney, p 93
  5. ^ a b c d e f Canney, p 106


  • Canney, Donald L. (1995). U.S. Coast Guard and Revenue Cutters, 1790–1935. Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland. ISBN 978-1-55750-101-1.
  • Johnson, Robert Irwin (1987). Guardians of the Sea, History of the United States Coast Guard, 1915 to the Present. Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland. ISBN 978-0-87021-720-3.
  • Thiessen, William H. (February 2020). "Busting Smugglers & Breaking Codes". Naval History. 34 (1).