Launch 5

Launch 5

Launch 5 is a restored NYPD Patrol Launch presently in use as a US Coast Guard Auxiliary Facility as well as for volunteer non-profit environmental, public safety and educational work. Launch 5 enjoys a rich history beginning with her construction and dedication in 1966 and continuing to this day including valuable missions and enjoying substantial media exposure. Her crew is a group of dedicated volunteers who donate time and money to keep her afloat and to take her to public service.

In addition to being a working vessel, Launch 5 serves as a floating memorial to the officer she was named after - Patrolman Henry Walburger - killed in the line of duty in 1964. The vessel goes by both names - "Patrolman Walburger" and "Launch 5". All NYPD Harbor Unit Patrol Launches are given a numbered designation welded to the outside of the wheelhouse. "Patrolman Walburger" was assigned No 5. She is fifty two feet in length, powered by twin diesel engines and weighs 25 tons.


While there are many stories to tell regarding Launch No 5's voyage through time, what follows are some highlights in her history.

The Slaying of Officer Henry Walburger

At 6:45 AM on July 27, 1964, Patrolman Henry Walburger and his partner were dispatched to an apartment building in the 9th pct. of Manhattan for a possible burglary in progress. When they arrived, Walburger ascended the fire escape to discover a white male holding two black females hostage. The white male shot Patrolman Walburger through the window and he died. [ Read the actual police report of the incident.]

The Construction of Launch No 5

During the summer of 1966 the first four of a fleet of new steel patrol launches were being built to replace the aging wooden fleet. They were being built by Turecamo Tug in the Matton Shipyard on the Western bank of the Hudson River in Cohoes NY. One of them was to bear the number "No 5". Years later, [ photos of her construction] surfaced through a chance meeting with a retired shipbuilder who worked in the yard at the time.

The Commissioning of Launch No 5 - "Patrolman Walburger"

On November 18, 1966 Launch 5 was christened the "Patrolman Walburger" in a [ dedication ceremony] attended by department brass, Henry's widow and children. After a ceremonial ride with the family, Launch No 5 began an approximate 30 year career as a very active patrol launch in the Jamaica Bay area of New York City - saving lives, property and enforcing the law.

The Demise of Launch No 5

Sometime in the early nineties, as a new fleet of aluminum launches were being put into service in the NYPD's Harbor Unit, Launch No 5 was sold as surplus to a private party who eventually let it sink in the Passaic River. She lay on the bottom of that river, sinking deeper and deeper into the mud, for about a year.

The Raising of Launch No 5

In 1998, Greg Porteus, a retired New York State Trooper whose father served aboard Launch 5 as a member of the NYPD Harbor Unit in the sixties and seventies, learned about Launch 5 lying on the bottom of the river and decided to embark on the project of [ raising and restoring] the vessel. The project turned into a journey of its own taking in excess of four years and many thousands of dollars to accomplish. But many friendships and loyalties were build along the way. Launch 5 had her hull below the waterline completely replaced, was repowered with brand new Caterpillar diesels. She continues to be improved with new navigation systems, generator, etc.

The Resurrection of Patrolman Walburger's Spirit

In the summer of 2002, the restoration was completed and she was rededicated to Patrolman Henry Walburger. The original dedication and name plaques were donated and affixed to the wheelhouse where they remain today. Patrolman Walburger's son - Henry Jr. (now a retired NYPD detective) became an active crewmember and member of the US Coast Guard Auxiliary along with Greg and the rest of the loyal [ Launch 5 Crew] .

Launch No 5 Today

Since her rededication in 2002, Launch 5 has been very busy again as a volunteer vessel - saving lives, providing security and public safety and helping to keep the Hudson River clean. But counted among her most proud achievements are the dozens of people who have been brought together through her restoration, service and her role as a floating memorial to the slain patrolman. In fact, she has come to symbolize the memories of "all" officers slain in the line of duty - and she carries those spirits with her on every active mission.


As a volunteer facility for the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, Launch No 5 has participated in hundreds of "routine" safety and homeland security patrols. But she has also been called upon for more distinguished missions such as:

* Security for the Queen Mary 2 on her maiden voyage out of New York Harbor []
* NY Harbor tour for 10 wounded Army soldiers from the Iraq war []
* USCG Admiral transport for the Republican National Convention in 2004 and a [ change of command in 2006]
* Tour of the Hudson River to West Point with Congresswoman Sue Kelly [ Photos] & [ Video]
* Homeland Security Science Mission - mapping Loran in NT Harbor []
* A multi agency rescue drill []
* Helicopter Rescue Demonstration []
* As a platform for the filming of a U.S. Navy documentary during Fleet Week []


Launch 5's activities have drawn some media attention as well. [ Numerous newspaper articles] have been written about her and her crew. Two impressive internation magazine articles have been written as well. One of them was a [ seven page tribute] which was published in "Passagemaker" magazine. The other one was a centerfold photo spread in "Professional Mariner" magazine. She has appeared in numerous TV News spots and was featured in the opening scene of and episode of the "Law & Order" TV series [ (View video)] . In January 2006, Launch 5 and her crew were filmed for a pivotal scene in Steven Soderbergh's upcoming movie [ "Guerilla"] - a film about Che Guevara - which is scheduled to be released in 2008.

Other Honors

Launch No 5 has led the parade of tugs for the great [ Tugboat Roundup] in Waterford, NY, has participated in dedications and memorials for other commissioned vessels and performed Burials at Sea. In 2004 Launch 5 and her crew were honored at the annual breakfast of the [ New York Sheilds] - an organization dedicated to the memory of slain officers and the support of their families. After a [ touching speech] given by one of the Shields' leadership, a plaque was given thanking the crew for their work in keeping the spirit of Patrolman Walburger - and all slain officers - alive. Henry Walburger's family was also honored and Henry was posthumously awarded the NYPD Medal of Valor. The day was capped of with a [ boat ride with the Walburger family aboard Launch 5] .

View more at Launch 5's own website

Launch No 5 has her own berth on the Internet. Visit [ her homepage] to view even more photos, headlines and articles of her many missions and activities.

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