Rare Coast Guard Cutter Pictures Surface

It has not been that long since LIFE.com uploaded a number of rare Coast Guard pictures taken by a deceased veteran by the name of Dale Rooks. Now, a new series of pictures have surfaced that document life aboard a Treasury-class cutter. The ship in question, the Duane, was sunk several decades ago. This fact increases the rarity of the Coast Guard pictures, making their recent publication even more significant.

The pictures have surfaced due to the efforts of Dale Rooks’s family, specifically his son, Jan Rooks. Prior to the publication of these pictures, Rooks and his family had been the only ones to lay eyes on them. Some of the pictures come from the Second World War, while other pictures were taken after. After the Coast Guard veteran succumbed to cancer in 1954, his family had kept the pictures for many years. Due to the length of time that has passed since the pictures were taken, many of them are not well-documented. As a result, Jan Rooks is currently welcoming any information regarding the people and places seen in the photographs.

The Duane, upon which many of the new pictures were taken, was a Treasury-class cutter named for William John Duane, Andrew Jackson’s third Secretary of the Treasury. The ship was built in the 1930s at the Philadelphia Navy Yard and used by the Coast Guard for five decades before being decommissioned. The Duane was then sunk in the Florida Keys in 1987, for the purpose of creating an artificial reef. Over a decade later, the United States added the Duane to the National Register of Historic Places, the LIFE.com reports.

Photographer Rhinedale “Dale” Rooks was a native of Grand Rapids, Michigan. He began his career as a photographer in college, and continued to practice photography during the Second World War. He joined the United States Coast Guard in 1944, becoming a combat photographer. He also documented many aspects of life aboard the USCGC Duane. In 1945, the last year of the Second World War, he released a book entitled Everybody’s Photo Course—25 Simple Lessons in Picture Taking. He would complete a number of other works before his death in 1954, including two 1950s children’s books entitled Three Little Bunnies and Three Little Puppies.

Rooks captured many aspects of life in the Coast Guard, from pictures of sailors standing at attention to simpler photographs of men cleaning the ship. Many of the pictures he captured were of happy times, such as a picture of sailors carrying bags of Christmas mail. He also captured pictures showing the occasional tedium of working with the Coast Guard, such as a picture of a sailor peeling potatoes, as well as more foreboding pictures such as a sailor in a gas mask. Although Rooks was famous for photographing furniture for major magazines, his pictures aboard the Duane are valued for both their rarity as well as their historical significance.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE