US Coast Guard cutter Eagle recently added a poignant chapter to its long and storied history.
On July 1, 2022, for the first time in history, the Jewish pennant flew above the American flag on CGC Eagle, also called America’s Tall Ship. The July deployment was the first time that a Jewish chaplain ever served aboard Eagle, which also meant it was the first time that a Navy Jewish pennant was flown on board.
CGC Eagle holds great historical significance. Built by the Nazis in 1933, Hitler had designated the cutter for training future German naval officers. After World War II, CGC Eagle was taken as a war prize by the United States military.
The flag cabin where Chaplain LCDR Isaac Rosenberg, USCGA, stayed still contains the original tigerwood which the Germans had installed, a permanent reminder of its Nazi origins. “Eagle does not usually have a chaplain, but I’ve always wanted to deploy with it,” Chaplain Rosenberg says. In fact, years earlier, he was scheduled to go aboard CGC Eagle for a full summer patrol, but circumstances required that he deploy elsewhere. “But all these years later, here I am aboard Eagle,” Chaplain Rosenberg says. “So it was meant to be.”
Chaplain Rosenberg was initially inspired to enlist with the USCG Auxiliary because of his family background—his grandparents had fled Germany in the leadup to World War II. “Cutter Eagle was always very special to me and I had wanted to serve aboard it for personal reasons, namely that I’m grateful to the American military for saving my grandparents during the Holocaust. When the call came to deploy with Eagle in July I was excited,” Chaplain Rosenberg said. While deployed, he led Shabbat services for the embarked crew. “The services were even more emotional than usual because of the ship’s history as a Nazi training vessel,” he said.
For Chaplain Rosenberg, the momentous occasion of the Jewish pennant flying high held a two-fold triumph—one as a global Jewish victory over the Nazis, and the other for getting a second chance to finally serve aboard the historic vessel. “I’m grateful to be able to serve my country aboard Eagle, which holds such significance for me and my family.”
Throughout this deployment and all his endeavors, Chaplain Rosenberg truly embodies the Chaplain Corps mission statement, “To inspire hope and strengthen spiritual well-being through the delivery and coordination of effective religious ministry at sea and ashore.” Chaplain Rosenberg proudly serves alongside the permanent crew and embarked cadets training aboard Eagle.
Originally published in the Chanukah 2023 issue of the Jewish American Warrior.