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Coast Guard commissions 55th fast response cutter in New London, Connecticut


Coast Guard Cutter Melvin Bell was commissioned on March 28, 2024, at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, and will be homeported in Boston. Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew Thieme, Coast Guard Academy.

The Coast Guard commissioned the 55th fast response cutter (FRC), Coast Guard Cutter Melvin Bell, on March 28 at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut. Melvin Bell, which was delivered to the Coast Guard in November 2023, is the sixth and final FRC to be homeported in Boston. Rear Adm. John W. Mauger, commander of the Coast Guard’s First District; Lt. Patrick Kelly, Melvin Bell commanding officer; and Rita Mayer, the cutter’s sponsor, were present at the ceremony, as well as additional Bell family members. 

The cutter’s namesake, Melvin Kealoha Bell, was born in Hilo, Hawaii, in 1920 and first served as a mess steward in the Coast Guard before advancing to radioman third class before the outbreak of World War II. Bell was stationed at Pearl Harbor during the Dec. 7, 1941, attack and that morning transmitted the message from the 14th Naval District to commercial ships and stations in the area that Pearl Harbor was under attack. He served alongside Navy cryptological units in the Pacific region, intercepting and relaying enemy coded messages to Navy codebreakers. He later transferred to electronics technician and was the first person to achieve the rank of master chief electronics technician. Bell retired from the Coast Guard in 1958 and worked for another 45 years in civil service positions for the Department of the Navy before retiring again in 2004. 

The Sentinel-class FRCs are replacing the 1980s Island-class 110-foot patrol boats. A total of 65 FRCs have been ordered to date to perform a multitude of missions that include drug and immigrant interdictions, joint international operations and national defense of ports, waterways and coastal areas. These cutters possess 21st century command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance equipment, with improved habitability and seakeeping. Each FRC is named after an enlisted Coast Guard hero who performed extraordinary service in the line of duty. 

Melvin Bell will join FRCs William Chadwick, Warren Deyampert, William Sparling, Maurice Jester and John Patterson in Boston. 

For more information: Fast Response Cutter Program page.