D-Day’s Matchbox Fleet

D-Day's Matchbox Fleet 

(Re-posted from June 6, 2009)

Sixty wood-hulled boats made in Brooklyn were carried across the North Atlantic to England on the decks of Liberty Ships sixty-six years ago. The cutters, each 83 feet long, were designed for anti-submarine patrol and coastal search and escort, but had been modifed as rescue craft.

The group of small wooden gasoline-powered cutters, vulnerable to incendiary shells, was called the ”Matchbox Fleet.”  On June 6, 1944, these boats crossed the Channel as U.S. Coast Guard Rescue Flotilla One, part of Operation Neptune/Overlord.

Inscription on the Rescue Flotilla 1 (The “Matchbox Fleet”) Memorial, harborside at Poole, Dorset, UK:

From this Quay, 60 cutters of the United States Coast Guard Rescue Flotilla 1 departed for the Normandy Invasion, 6 June 1944.  These 83 foot boats, built entirely of wood, and the 840 crewmembers were credited with saving the lives of 1437 men and 1 woman.  In remembrance of the service of Rescue Flotilla 1, and with appreciation of the kindnesses of the people of Poole to the crews, this Plaque is given by the men and women of the United States Coast Guard.


U.S. Coast Guard Rescue Flotilla One at Normandy

The Iron Sailors of the Last Wooden Patrol Boat (WPB)

The Cutters,” E. Bishop, Naval History May/June 1994 (PDF courtesy of uscg83footers.org) 

Rescue Flotilla 1, WW2Talk (good selection of photos)

 The U. S. Coast Guard at Normandy, Scott T. Price   (overview of D-Day operations by USCG)

Image adapted from a Wheeler Shipyard graphic by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

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