Dedication of USCGC/USS Tampa Memorial

Military veterans and community dignitaries join local residents and history buffs on Saturday, Feb. 3, at the Tampa Bay History Center for the dedication of the USCGC/USS Tampa Memorial.

Below is an explanation of the importance of the USS Tampa in World War I and our nation’s history as printed in the event’s program: 

Admiral Karl Schultz, Commander of the U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic, greets veterans.Today we proudly dedicate the memorial to the USCGC/USS Tampa and her crew, which were torpedoed and sunk on September 26, 1918 in Bristol Channel, England.

All on board were lost, including 24 boys from Tampa, among them three sets of brothers and two cousins. Their story was also lost over the last 100 years, but, thanks to this beautiful mural created by Sandra and Carl Bryant, their story will never be forgotten.

The Tampa came to our city from 1913 to 1917 to enliven our Gasparilla festival and patrol the Gulf waters. The ship was originally called the Miami; however, because of the deep bond that developed between the city of Tampa and the ship, the Miami changed her name to the Tampa just before the 1916 Gasparilla. The mural begins on the left with the Gasparilla invasion and our citizens waving to the Tampa and the Gasparilla ship. There’s the Tampa Bay Hotel, now The University of Tampa, where the Rotary Club of Tampa hosted a grand party for the ship and crew during the early years. Capt. Charles Satterlee, captain of the Tampa, visited the hotel in 1896 and wrote a letter home on Tampa Bay Hotel stationery while seated in the hotel’s Reading and Writing Room. Satterlee told his parents the hotel was one of the most beautiful places he had ever visited.

Lt. Cmdr. Laura Holt of the British Royal Navy lays a wreath honoring the USS Tampa.The Tampa split her time between Florida and the frigid waters off the Grand Banks. She and her sister ship, the Seneca, shared ice patrol duties beginning right after the Titanic sank and the Tampa was launched in 1912. She reported the locations of icebergs to nearby ships so that the tragedy of the sinking of the Titanic would not happen again.

When the United States entered WWI on April 4, 1917, life changed for the Tampa. She was transferred to the U.S. Navy, but continued to be manned by the Coast Guard. She was painted gray, armed with larger guns and sent to Gibraltar to escort ships from Gibraltar to Great Britain, bringing much needed supplies to that island nation surrounded by German U-boats. The Tampa’s record of service was applauded by all. She was considered the hardest working ship in the fleet -- and the happiest. She was also referred to as the “shepherd of the sea.’’

A veteran's jacket honors military service.It was while she was escorting a convoy that she pulled ahead of the rest and, around 8:30 p.m., was struck broadside by a German torpedo. She sank within minutes, and all on board were lost. The Coast Guard Memorial at Arlington Cemetery (below the Rock of Gibraltar in the mural) is dedicated to the Tampa. Brookwood American Cemetery in Surrey, England, also remembers the Tampa.

The story of the Tampa is the story of a ship of which we can all be very proud. It is our boys, like the two Bevins brothers on the far right of the mural, of whom we will always be proudest.

The mural, “A Memorial to the U.S.C.G.C. Tampa and her Crew,’’ was purchased in 2018 by the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners through the county’s Public Art Program.

Additional photographs taken at the ceremony can be viewed on the 83 Degrees Facebook page.

This story was made possible by funding from the Tampa Bay History Center and Arts Council of Hillsborough County

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Read more articles by Diane Egner.

Diane Egner is an award-winning journalist with more than three decades of experience writing about the Tampa Bay region. She is a member of Leadership Florida and the Athena Society, and serves on the board of The Institute for Research in Art (Graphicstudio, the Contemporary Art Museum, and USF’s Public Art Program) Community Advisory Council and the StageWorks Theatre Advisory Council. A graduate of the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism, she won the top statewide award for editorial writing from the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors while at The Tampa Tribune and received special recognition by the Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists for creative work as Content Director at WUSF Public Broadcasting. Past accomplishments and community service include leadership positions with Awesome Tampa Bay, Arts Council of Hillsborough County, Alpha House of Tampa Bay, Florida Kinship Center, AIA Tampa Bay, Powerstories, and the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. She lives in South Tampa, is the mother of two adult daughters and grandmother to two amazing grandchildren, and travels whenever possible with laptop in tow.
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