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From Gasparilla fun, to the front lines of war.

We finish a month-long Military May for our "Why do they call it that?" series with the heroic story of a ship named Tampa.

Why do they call it the Coast Guard Cutter Tampa?

The guys on the Coast Guard Cutter Miami got the toughest assignments.

One hundred years ago, they steamed into Downtown Tampa as part of the fleet of fun-loving folks celebrating a relatively new festival called Gasparilla.

Rough, right?

That tradition carried on year after year, with the Miami returning for the annual festival. Finally, at Gasparilla in 1916, the Coast Guard renamed the shipfrom Miami to Tampa.

"And also there were a number of young men from Tampa who, when the ship was here, enlisted in the Coast Guard, boarded that ship, and joined the crew of that ship," said Rodney Kite-Powell, curator of history at the Tampa Bay History Center.

"There were several sets of brothers and twenty-something men overall, all from Tampa."

Kite-Powell says a year and a half after that name change, everything changed.

The Tampa went from pirate party to perilous patrol as America joined World War I.

Workers armed the Tampa with major weapons and transferred control of the ship and her crew from the Coast Guard to the Navy.

"The Tampa became an escort for ships in the North Atlantic," Kite-Powell said.

"And so it would escort troop ships, supply ships, all kinds of different ships, really all around the North Atlantic and going into the U.K."

The Tampa's success rate was extraordinary. In more than a year, the crew kept 18 convoys with 350 ships safe from German submarines.

The Tampa covered more than 100 miles of ocean each day but never went out of service for mechanical problems.

That crew -- with plenty from our hometown among them-- wasspecifically recognized by the British for its outstanding skill. The men were a shining example for the entire fleet.

Then, on September 26, 1918, after another successful run to Great Britain --a German submarine saw the Tampa in its sights.

One torpedo was all they needed.

"The Tampa blew up and sank, taking all 131 sailors on board down with it," Kite-Powell said.

Among the dead were a stunning 22 men from the Tampa Bay area, including three pairs of brothers.

"It was the largest loss of life for the Coast Guard in World War I," Kite-Powell said.

The Coast Guard still remembers this catastrophe today. A modern cutter, based in Virginia, carries on the name Tampa.

Why do they call it that? Now you know.

The American Legion post at Kennedy Blvd. and Dale Mabry Hwy. in Tampa is dedicated to the crew of the ship.

The U.S.S. Tampa Post uses the official name that was given to the cutter while it was assigned to the Navy during the war.

We feature new "Why do they call it that?" stories each Wednesday on 10 News starting at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Check out previous editions of the Emmy-nominated series at our "Why do they call it that?" website: wtsp.com/callitthat.

Follow 10 News reporterGrayson Kamm on Twitter at @graysonkamm as he travels Tampa Bay telling your stories.

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