A Tour On The Nourmahal

By Bernard Lehrer

I graduated Radioman School at Atlantic City 11th out of a class of 92. I guess that`s why they assigned me to the toughest radio detail in the outfit. The Nourmahal was a 264 ft yacht that was built in 1940 for William Vincent Astor and transferred to the Navy as part of the war effort. It was capable of 14 knots so it become Convoy Escort Commander  herding merchant vessels from New York City to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and back again every month. 

Nourmahal operated under the Navy but was manned by a Coast Guard crew. She also was flagship of the Commander, Eastern Sea Frontier. This made it particularly unique and burdensome for the radiomen because we had to copy every bit of war news from wherever, in code, 24 hours a day. I stood four hour watches with another hour added on to manually decode the headings so the communications officer could breeze through it like a newspaper. 

The additional hour was deducted from the eight hours off between shifts. On a night watch I could put a fresh paper in my typewriter and sleep still taking code until it was complete and put in another sheet. 

Life on the ship was rough. We got called to General Quarters about four times that I recall. Several were actual enemy submarine contacts and we responded with depth charges. A few were simply soundings from another ship already sunk on the bottom. My station was next to one of the 5 inch guns as Gun Control. 

The sailors were all rugged men. I naively asked questions of the seamen about the operation of the vessel and quickly got the title of "the Boot Petty Officer."  

The mess hall just below the main deck had two large tables, one for the Petty Officers and one for the seamen. One of the unwritten rules was a seaman could sit at the P.O. table if there was no room at the Seaman's table, but if a P.O. would start down the ladder to eat and no seat was available, the seaman would have to yield his seat. Any P.O. who demurred to this rule and elected to turn away would be soundly razzed by all INCLUDING THE SEAMEN. 

My hayfever, yes Jack, hayfever at sea, was so bad that I couldn`t complete my decoding assignment. I was sent to a Naval Hospital where the hayfever was confirmed. I was delighted that I was given leave pending a medical review for a medical discharge. To my dismay the report came back saying, "patient to remain in service, to be kept at sea in southern waters." 

It was like going to prison reporting back to the ship. Luckily I had signed a consent form some months earlier to change my rate from RM3 to RT3.  The transfer came through. It was like a message from the Almighty and I got transferred to the Radio Engineering School in Groton, Conn. 

But that`s another story.

Bernard Lehrer is an Attorney Ventura, California. His email address is belehrer@aol.com \

Nourmahal, USS, WPG-72; WPG 122 Builder: Friederich Krupp Germaniawerft, A.G., Kiel, Germany

Length: 263' 10"

Beam:  41' 6"

Draft: 18' 5"

Displacement: 3,200

Cost:    First acquisition chartered for $1.00.  Second acquisition chartered from Navy and the conversion cost $206,363.00.  Purchase by Navy for $300,000.00 from owner.

Commissioned: 21 August 1940 (USCG); was transferred to Navy on 16 June 1943 but still Coast Guard-manned; acquired back from Navy 31 December 1943.

Decommissioned: 30 May 1946

Disposition: Returned to owner (?)

Machinery: 2 x Sulzer Brothers 6-cylinder, 2 cycle diesel engines producing 3,200 h.p.


    Maximum speed/endurance: 13.7 knots with 12,700 mile range
    Economic speed/endurance: 8.0 knots with 23,500 mile range

Complement: 98 enlisted, 9 officers (1941); 101 enlisted, 1 warrant, 9 officers (1945)


        Detection Radar:  None in 1941; SF (1945)
        Sonar:  None


    1941: 2 x 4"/50 single mount; 6 x .50 caliber machine guns; 8 x .30 caliber machine guns; 2 x depth charge tracks

    1945: 2 x 4"/50 single mount; 6 x 20 mm/80 single mount; 8 x .30 caliber machine guns; 2 x depth charge tracks; 4 x depth charge projectors; 2 x mousetraps.


Nourmahal (PG-72), a yacht built in 1928 by the Krupp Iron Works, Kiel, Germany, was first received from William Vincent Astor on 21 August 1940 for service as a weather station vessel in the Coast Guard Reserve fleet.  She was reconditioned at the Coast Guard Yard from 22 September through 1 December 1941 and was then assigned to New York.  She departed the Yard and sailed for Norfolk for outfitting and supplies on 1 December 1941 and then relieved USCGC Spencer on Weather Station #2 on 29 December.  On 19 January 1942 she sailed for New York.  She was then transferred to Navy control under a bareboat charter from William Vincent Astor on 3 March 1942 but still maintained a Coast Guard crew.  She was designated Nourmahal (PG-72) 9 April 1943 and purchased by the Navy 29 June in accordance with an option in the original charter agreement.

Nourmahal transferred to the Coast Guard 29 December and was struck from the Navy List 12 January 1944.  Until the end of April 1946 she served the Coast Guard based at Boston, Massachusetts, escorting convoys from New York to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and back as well as duty as the flagship of the Commander, Eastern Sea Frontier.  After 1 April 1944 she was assigned to U.S. Atlantic Fleet sailed as a weather observation vessel through 1946.  Thereafter she provided towing services at the Coast Guard Yard, Curtis Bay, Md.

She returned to the custody of the Commandant of the 5th Naval District in May 1947 for berthing at Norfolk.   Transferred to the Maritime Administration 18 July 1948, she was assigned to the James River Maritime Reserve Fleet.  She was sold by the Maritime Administration 11 September 1964 to Hughes Brothers, Inc. for scrap.


Robert Scheina.  U.S. Coast Guard Cutters & Craft of World War II.  Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1981.

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, Vol. V, p. 117.

Cutter File, Historian's Office, Coast Guard Headquarters.

[Historians' Office] [Cutters & Craft List]

[USCG Home Page] Added: November 2001


Return To Coast Guard Stories