For about four decades, the top ship commands for Coast Guard captains were “the big white ones,” the high-endurance cutter Hamilton (WHEC-715) and her 11 sisters. Ships of the class were named for secretaries of the Treasury, a legacy from the long era when that department was the parent organization for the service. In March 2011, the decommissioning process for the class began when the Hamilton was transferred to the Philippine Navy.
Replacements for these sturdy, long-serving ships come in the form of new national-security cutters, a fitting description now that the Coast Guard falls under the Department of Homeland Security. The new “big white ones” make up the Legend class. Scheduled to be commissioned in March 2012 is the third ship of the type, the Stratton (WMSL-752). She was christened by the first lady, Michelle Obama, and named in honor of the Coast Guard’s first female member, Captain Dorothy C. Stratton.