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Coast Guard History

Celebrities & other famous persons who once served in or were associated with the Coast Guard


 

Fleet Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., USN (Ret.)

A portrait photo of Fleet Admiral William Halsey, courtesy of the Naval History and Heritage Command

I was a Coast Guard SN stationed at USCG Moorings, Fort Trumble, New London, Connecticut during the summer of 1958.  That unit was then headquarters (HQ) for Coast Guard Group New London which consisted of Fisher's Island (New York) Lifeboat Station and perhaps 10 lighthouses.  My lighthouse count is uncertain because some were manned, some unmanned, some were shore stations not serviced by boat which was the only way I traveled then.

Group NLON, as it was called, consisted of the present day Station New London and the little Coast Guard fleet there consisted of three 40-foot UTBs, three 95-foot PB's (then unnamed), USCGC Yeaton (WSC-156) and USCGC Owasco (WPG-39)I believe that the three 95s, Yeaton and Owasco reported to Third District HQ in New York City and only moored at New London.

I was a member of the crew of one of the 40-foot UTBs, the CG 40516, which was not the "duty boat" the day in question.  Morning Quarters were normal and we went about our daily routine.  It was a foggy morning, no wind and the horn sounded to man the duty boat.  The duty boat was the CG 40428.  OINC was BM3 Charles "Mac" McGowan, the engineman was EN2 Reagan I (I have forgotten his first name).  I have forgotten the name of the seaman in that crew as well.  The crew manned their boat and roared off into the fog.

A photo of Coast Guard 40 foot utility boat 40428, courtesy of Kevin Brennan

Next to the Coast Guard ensign is BM3 (later BMCM) Charles "Mac" McGowan,
alongside him is EN2 Reagan, third crewman is unknown
.

Several hours later they returned with quite a tale to tell.

It seems that some time earlier in the day a Navy admiral's barge bearing the the now retired Fleet Admiral (FADM) William F. "Bull" Halsey, USN, hero of World War II, had departed the Navy Submarine Base, New London, bound for the tiny harbor at Fisher's Island, NY where the Admiral lived in retirement.  In 1958 very few boats under 80 feet had radar.  None of the USCG 40-footers in NLON or FADM Halsey's barge had radar.  The Coastie's had a radar station at the Fisher's Island LBSTA with radar coverage of Long Island Sound, Fisher's Island Sound and Block Island Sound.  Coastie's also had a 95-foot PB on station at "The Race" the eastern entrance to Long Island Sound "24-7."

The admiral's barge was skippered by a Navy chief quartermaster and had become lost in the fog, something not too hard to do, pre-radar day's.  After being unable to find their way though the fog, the Navy called on the Coastie's for help.  BM3 (later BMCM McGowan), with help from the Fisher's Island radar and the duty 95-footer's radar found FADM Halsey and his barge and led them safely through the fog to the harbor on Fisher's Island.

They then returned to Group NLON and regaled us with the story.  There was much talk about the fun we were going to have at the expense of the squid's when the news got out, but we learned otherwise at Afternoon Quarters.  Instead of our usual CWO running the show, the Group Commander himself, LCDR Leland O. Wilkie, a salty old vet of the USLHS, WWII and the Korean War, appeared for the first and only time in my two years there.  He was very business-like and warned all hands that the morning's business with FADM Halsey was not to be discussed ANYWHERE except within the Coast Guard.  He forewarned one and all that anyone caught letting the cat-out-of-the-bag would spend the rest of his time in the Coast Guard at the most remote possible stations.  Thoughts of French Frigate Shoals and the Aleutian Islands danced in our heads.

As far as I know, no one ever talked. FADM Halsey's secret remains a secret as far as I know.

Kevin O. Brennan, ex SN, USCG


Last Modified 11/17/2014