Brief History of Launch 5

Launch 5 USCG Auxiliary Facility #523356
"Patrolman Henry A. Walburger"


 
Launch 5 was among the first four steel hull, 52 foot, twin screw diesel launches put into service by the NYPD Harbor Unit. It was built in Matton Shipyard in Cohoes, NY and commissioned on November 18, 1966 and like all NYPD Harbor Unit Patrol Boats, Launch 5 is named for a Police Officer killed in the line of duty. Patrolman Henry Walburger was assigned to the 9th Precinct where, on July 27, 1964, he was gunned down in the line of duty, while protecting a family from an armed intruder. When Launch 5 was commissioned in 1966 she was named after Patrolman Walburger. 

 
  After serving 30 years with the NYPD and appearing in the movies "Splash" and "Crocodile Dundee" Launch 5 was retired and sold to private parties who abandoned her on the Passaic River, where it was striped and sunk.

  In 1998, Greg Porteus, a retired NYS Trooper, with his cousin Phil, a 10 year USCG veteran currently serving with the NYFD Fireboats, was in Newark, NJ looking at former NYPD Harbor Launch #13. Greg hoped to buy it and turn it into the most durable of pleasure craft. The price was way too steep. They were about to head home when Phil ran into a fellow Coast Guardsman, who said there was an abandoned NYPD Harbor Launch at the bottom of the nearby Passaic River.

  They immediately headed to the river, where Greg recognized the top of the pilot house of what was subsequently identified as NYPD Harbor Unit Launch #5, protruding from its resting place on the bottom of the Passaic.

  Greg knew the distinctive shape, his father Gerald having spent 25 of his 30 year NYPD career in the elite Harbor Unit.

  After extensive research and seemingly endless mounds of government forms and paperwork, Greg and his crew of assorted family, cops, firemen, and USCG Auxiliarists were ready to begin the dangerous task of raising Launch 5 from 27 ft of muddy water. The ordeal that started with raising the boat was just the beginning. Launch 5 went to a boat yard in Rhode Island for a new hull, then to Brooklyn for new caterpillar diesel engines and a superstructure refit. Finally, in June 2002, new Launch 5 was moved to her new home in Ossining, NY,  where the crew scrambled to finish the electrical work, install the required safety gear, paint, seal, and clean to be ready for a July 4 USCG Aux. mission in New York Harbor. Four years of hard work later, Launch 5 has passed inspection  and is now USCG Aux Operational Facility #523269.

  Since that first patrol on July 4th, 2002, Launch 5 and her crew have saved seven people from drowning, responded to two marine fires, and when President Bush came to the memorial services at Ground Zero on September 11, 2002, became the first USCG Auxiliary Facility to be assigned to a Presidential Protection Detail.

  Launch 5 is uniquely qualified for this type of work. The 52ft, 25 ton, former NYPD Marine Unit, Launch was designed by Naval Architect Philip Rhodes, famous for the sailboat class that bears his name. This design was commissioned to address the need for a stable rescue platform that would be unaffected by the changing currents and hazardous conditions of New York Harbor.

 In a fitting tribute,  Greg decided after the restoration to rededicate Launch 5 to Ptl. Walburger's memory. The original mahogany name placards were located, donated to Greg, and were affixed to the boat in honor of a fallen Police officer.

  Officer Walburger's son grew up to be NYPD Detective Henry Walburger, who recently joined the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary.  Detective Walburger is studying to become Crewman Walburger and will serve on the boat that bears his father's name.

November 1966

August 2002


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