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Coast Guard accepts 57th fast response cutter


Coast Guard Cutter Florence Finch, the service’s 57th fast response cutter, was accepted in Key West, Florida, on June 13, 2024. After the cutter is commissioned into service, it will be homeported in Astoria, Oregon. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Brandon Giles

The Coast Guard accepted delivery of the 57th fast response cutter (FRC), Florence Finch, June 13 in Key West, Florida. Florence Finch will be the second FRC to be homeported in Astoria, Oregon.

Florence Finch was one of the first Asian-American women to don a Coast Guard uniform, joining the Coast Guard’s Women’s Reserve (SPARs) in 1945. Finch was born in Santiago, Philippines, in 1915 to an American father and Filipino mother. After completing school, Finch worked at the Army/Navy YMCA and later in the office of the assistant chief of staff (Intelligence) for the U.S. Army in Manila, where she assisted Lt. Col. Edward Engelhart. Finch married U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Charles Smith in 1941, just prior to the start of World War II. Smith, a crew member on a Navy PT boat, was killed in action in 1942.

Finch was in Manila when the Japanese military invasion and subsequent occupation of the Philippines began in 1941. Though Finch’s father was a U.S. veteran of the Spanish-American War, she concealed her American connections to avoid imprisonment. Finch was eventually given a job managing fuel distribution vouchers from a Japanese-controlled fuel company. Finch used this position to secretly supply Philippine resistance forces with fuel and assist them in sabotaging Japanese military supplies. Finch also managed to remain in contact with Engelhart, her former U.S. Army supervisor who was by that time a Japanese prisoner of war. Engelhart described to Finch the dire conditions to which prisoners of the occupation were subjected. Finch became instrumental in smuggling food and medicine into the prison camps. In 1944, Finch was caught and arrested for her activities; she endured torture and received a sentence of three years of hard labor.

When Allied forces liberated the Philippines in 1945, Finch moved to New York to be closer to her American family members. Motivated by her experience in the Philippines and the wartime death of her husband, Finch enlisted as a SPAR soon after her arrival in the United States. When Finch’s Coast Guard leadership learned of her resistance activities in the Philippines, she was awarded the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Ribbon, the first woman to be so decorated. Engelhart also testified to Finch’s actions, resulting in her being awarded the Medal of Freedom in 1947. Finch passed away in 2016 at the age of 101.

FRCs 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.

The Coast Guard has ordered 67 FRCs to date. Fifty-five are in service: 13 in Florida; seven in Puerto Rico; six each in Bahrain and Massachusetts; four in California; three each in Alaska, Guam, Hawaii, Texas and New Jersey; and two each in Mississippi and North Carolina. In addition to Astoria, future FRC homeports include Kodiak and Seward, Alaska. 

For more information: Fast Response Cutter Program page