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U.S. Coast Guard Oral History Program

Interviewee: BMCM Tom McAdams, USCG (Ret.)  

A photo of BMCM Thomas McAdams

Date of Interview: 13 February 2004
Place: McAdam's residence, Newport , Oregon  

The following oral history was provided to the Coast Guard Historian's Office through the courtesy of the Foundation for Coast Guard History.  In this interview, which is more of a memoir than a question-and-answer session, Master Chief Boatswain's Mate Thomas McAdams describes his illustrious career in the Coast Guard, which began in 1950 and lasted into 1977.  The highly decorated McAdams is something of a legend in the Coast Guard's small boat community and among the fishermen of the Pacific Northwest, where one newspaper writer wrote that McAdams was "the champion lifesaver and lifeboat roller of the Pacific Coast ."  BMCM McAdams' memoir is an important addition to the Coast Guard's archives.

In his remarkable career, which spanned 27 years, BMCM McAdams participated in more than 5,000 rescues and was credited with saving more than 100 lives.  He survived nine "rolls," where his self-righting 16-ton lifeboat actually capsized due to the large swells that develop outside the river entrances along the coasts of Oregon and Washington , and then rolled upright again, sometimes holding the crew underwater for up to 40 seconds.  He wrote about one of those times: "In one operation while in charge of a 44' MLB [Motor Life Boat]. . . my two man crew and myself were pitched-pulled, that is, end-over-end, by a large breaking swell.  We were pushed down for approximately 40-some seconds.  We are strapped in, but are outside and must hold your breath while the tons of water cascades over you, and you hang precariously upside down till the MLB rights itself again."

During his Coast Guard career, BMCM McAdams was awarded the Legion of Merit, the Coast Guard Medal, the Gold Lifesaving Medal, the Coast Guard Commendation Medal, the Meritorious Achievement Medal, among others, and he was one of the few Coast Guardsmen to be awarded both the Gold Lifesaving Medal and the Coast Guard Medal.  Additionally, in 1972, the Commandant of the Coast Guard at that time, Admiral Chester R. Bender, presented him with the first Coxswain's Insignia ever issued, because, as Admiral Bender noted: "[BMCM McAdams] has a tremendous record of rescues . . . and that he truly represents all Coast Guardsmen."  BMCM McAdams commanded many of the small boat stations in the Pacific Northwest, including the Coast Guard's Motor Lifeboat School at Cape Disappointment, Ilwaco , Washington , where he wrote the textbook used to train future lifesavers.  He even appeared on national television, including the programs "To Tell The Truth" and the "Who's Who" feature of Charles Kuralt's "On the Road" program. 

The Historian's Office would like to thank BMCM McAdams for taking the time to give future generations a look into what life was like in the Coast Guard during the time he served.  Our thanks to the Foundation for Coast Guard History too for providing us with a copy of his manuscript.  It is only through efforts such as theirs that Coast Guard history is preserved for future generations.  

BMCM McAdams:  We’re at my home here in Newport , Oregon .  We’re down below deck in my den.  I do get one room out of the house, the wife gets the rest.  We’re here to talk about the Coast Guard and from the time I first came in until I retired in 1977 after 27 years in the United States Coast Guard.

I was born in Seattle , out in Ballard; Seattle , Washington .  I went to grade school there, junior high school, and graduated from Ballard High School in 1950.  In 1950 the Korean War started around in June.  I graduated in June.  I knew I was going to go in the service.  My brother was already in the United States Marines but I wanted to fly.  Jets were just coming in and I thought I could fly a jet so I went to the Air Force and I asked them, “Could I join the Air Force and become a pilot”, and they said, “Well you need two years of college but if you join now after two years you can go to Officer Candidate School and then you can apply for flight school.”  I said, “Well gee, the war will be over by the time I learn to fly.”  I said, “If you guarantee me I can go to flight school I’ll sign up”, and they said, “Well we can’t do that”, so I said, “Well then I’m going to join the Marines.”  I went down to Seattle where my mother worked and got the address of where the Marine and the Navy Recruiting Office was and it was way down in Westlake; a couple miles away, and my brother told me, he said, “If you join the Marines”, he said, “I’m in the Marines and I’m going to Korea.”  He said, “If you join the Marines and you go to Korea , you put in for your $10,000 insurance and make it out me and I’ll make mine out to you.”  He said, “One of us is bound to get killed and the other will be set for life.”  Well when I got downtown I didn’t want to walk the two miles or take the bus those two miles and the Coast Guard Recruiting Office was just two blocks away.  I walked down there and I asked about the Coast Guard and they said, “A three-year tour”, and I said, “Three years, everything else is four years”, and he said, “That’s right but the Coast Guard is three years now.”  I said, “Sign me up.”  I signed up, took the test and passed it and they said, “You’ll be going to boot camp in Cape May , New Jersey .”  Well I waited and I waited and nothing would come out, and the next month passed and I finally went down and he said, “No, they’re opening up a new boot camp and it’ll be ready here in December.”  I officially joined the Coast Guard on December 7th, 1950 and went to Alameda , California where the boot camp was and started my career there.
The boot camp had just opened up.  I was assigned to Company “C”; just plain “C”.  We just started on up.  We had 150 men in a company at that time and the boot camp was not ready.  The galley was open and everything was ready that way.  When we got there they told us, “Grab a mattress.”  They were double bunks; it was framed bunks, and they said, “Grab a mattress to throw on there. You’re going to be damn cold tonight.  There’s no heat in the barracks and there are no blankets”, and we were that way for about a week before we got our first blanket.  It took over a week before we got our issue of clothes.  And every time we went to a classroom there wouldn’t be any instructors so we’d sit on the deck mainly.  But the galley was fully operational so we did get our good three squares a day.

We were there for about 10 or 11 weeks and finally they said they’re cutting down on the companies and I got moved back two companies because they were cutting them down to 125 men.  I was very disappointed at the time to have to spend an extra couple of weeks in boot camp but all the buddies of mine that were in Company “C” that went to the 13th District all got placed aboard ships.  Two weeks later when I graduated from boot camp I went to Seattle , to the base.  They put me on gate guard for a couple weeks and then I got my first set of orders; Yaquina Bay , Newport , Oregon .  When they told me I was going to Yaquina Bay I thought I was going to Japan or someplace; Yaquina, Yokohoma, I didn’t know where it was, when somebody said, “No, I think it’s on the Oregon coast.”  I’d lived in Ballard where the Coast Guard was and I’d seen the ships come in and the small boats come in and go out but I knew very little about the Coast Guard itself.  I had no idea that there was any such thing as a life boat station and surf and breakers and things like that.

I got down here.  They sent four of us down to the station.  At that time the complement went up to 19; 19 people at the station.  They were so happy to get four new recruits and my first duty was in the lookout watchtower.  I learned it very rapidly and took over the lookout watchtower and at that time when we came in our liberty ran eight days straight.  We had eight days straight duty, 24-hours a day, and if you hadn’t missed any punches in the lookout tower or your work was up, or the Boatswain’s Mate had given you a good report, then you had 48-hours off.  So you were eight days straight on and 48-hours off providing that you met all the requirements.

At that time there was a warrant officer in charge of the station.  He was a boatswain’s mate that had switched over from radioman.  He’d never really been to sea and knew very little about the lifeboats.  When we reported in that night; the four of us, and we drove up to the station - it was about 2200 in the evening - we were a little hesitant about going into the station.  We looked at the equipment building and we said, “Gee, that must be the enlisted men quarters”, and at the main station we said, “Gee, that must be the officer’s quarters.”  We had no idea that there was just the one officer and he lived across the street; warrant officer.

We went down to the local tavern and when we walked in there the fishermen all said, “Oh, the Coast Guard’s here.  Buy those boys a drink!”  Well we all had a beer and they said, “Well you’re going up to see old Fancy Pants.”  We didn’t know quite what they meant.  We found out later.  The warrant officer in charge, the nickname from all the fisherman was “Fancy Pants.”  He wore his uniform squared away and he loved to wear the uniform around town.  When you were on liberty and you were going in town, if you didn’t salute him you lost your next liberty.  You had to salute him.  Even if he went by in a car you had to come to attention on the street and salute him.

But he never went out in the boats.  Those that did go out in the boats and got sea sick, he would call in the office and say, “I heard you got seasick on the last call.  You have to make every call until you get over being seasick”, and out they would go.  Fortunately I’d been raised around Ballard.  I was out in small boats in Puget Sound and the sea didn’t bother me.  Of course the ocean was different.  My first trip out in a lifeboat I watched those swells.  They were running across the bar at the time, oh, 15 or 20 feet high and I have never seen anything like that before.  I mean at the top of the swell when you see everything and now you’re at the bottom of this swell and there’s water, water everywhere, and I was thrilled.  I didn’t realize at the time but the boatswain’s mates were trying to roll the boat and do everything they could to roll it and rock it and pitch it, and that was to see if you would get seasick and what kind of a boat crewmen you’d make.  Well fortunately I never got seasick.  It was one of those things.  I was very, very lucky that way.

Well we went on for a year and after I’d been at the station for about three or four months I was a seaman apprentice.  I wanted to make seaman.  At that time all the officer had to do was put you up for seaman and you would make it, and I went in there to request . . . I could take out the course; the Institute course for seaman, and he told me at that time, he said, “No.”  He said, “After you’ve been here for over one year and you haven’t missed any punches in the tower, and your work is up, then you can take out the Institute course and then after six months you can make seaman.”  He said, “If you can make seaman within a year and a half you’ll be first rate.”  So I remained seaman apprentice for just about a year when he got his orders to be transferred.

When he got his orders to be transferred I happened to be on the switchboard at the time and I heard him.  He was really crying because they were going to send him to be the officer-in-charge of Tacoma River lightship and he told the personnel officer, “I’m not qualified to go to sea”, and he said, “Well if you’re not qualified to go to sea we’ll take your warrant officer’s rank away from you and put you back to chief or first class.”  He said, “Oh, I’ll take the orders.”  They put him on the lightship and in 17 days they lowered him overboard on a stretcher with chronic seasickness, and he was always clean shaven and spic and span.  He had almost two weeks growth of beard and they told me he really looked like he was just about ready to die.  They surveyed him right after that on a medical and he had had 20 some; almost 30 years in at the time.

Then we got a warrant officer in charge of the station, Mr. Lawrence; Harold Lawrence, and I think he probably influenced my first career in the Coast Guard more than anything else.  He could tell the stories and he was a boatman and he could handle boats.  He knew all about breakers and surf and drills and timing, and he started us on drills and I learned more from that man in the year that I served with him than I can describe.  He was a wonderful CO [commanding officer].  He was somebody you could look up to.  We would do anything for him.  To this day I still say Mr. Lawrence - he’s gone now; passed away - but I’ll always remember him.

I got transferred from Newport .  Everybody that was there that had been there for six months or so got put up for seaman right away.  I made seaman right away.  Within three months I made third class boatswain’s mate.
When you made boatswain’s mate in those days you’ve been going in the boats and you went down, you grabbed the boat from the dock and you started practicing.  Well I loved the boats so I would just go down to the dock and just run the boat, run the boat, run the boat, and I would practice docking and undocking.  I’d take it down to the moorages and practice with the wind - single screw boat - with the wind and everything until I could really become proficient with that lifeboat going to sea and taking breakers and timing breakers.  My first call the Chief came up one morning – I’d been boatswain’s mate for about two or three weeks - and he said, “Mack, we’ve got a boat broke down just outside the jetties.  Go get her.”  I jumped in the boat - in that day I had one crewman; my engineer - and we jumped in the 36-foot motor lifeboat, 8 knots and 10 tons, and down we went.  Well what had happened was he was broke down all right but he was messing with his commercial fishing gear going out and he ran into the can buoy off beyond the jetty and he had a hole in him and he was taking on water.  So we got him in tow and we towed him back to the dock and I called the station and I said, “We need the handy-belly pump down at the dock” – it was a cantankerous pump - and then the engineer came down and he pulled and he pulled and he pulled and it wouldn’t start, and this guy’s getting lower in the water.  I said, “I’m going to take him down to Port Dock One and tie him off to the dock”, and luckily the tide was going out.  I said, “Get the big Chrysler Hale; a big pump that could pump two and a half inches of . . . it held two of them at the time with all the pressure and a lot of water.  So we took him down to the dock, tied him off, got him all set on up and they brought the Chrysler Hale down and they cranked and they cranked until the battery went dead.  They got it started but one of the hoses had a crack in it and it was sucking air, so I said, “Call the fire department.  Get their pumper down here and we’ll draft.”  Well we called the fire department and they came down.  By the time the fire department got down there somebody said, “Hey, the water’s getting lower in the boat all the time.” Well the tide was going out and we had him hung at the dock and the water was running back out the hole. So when it got low enough they put a soft patch on him and when the tide came back in they raised him on up, and that was my first official boat call in the Coast Guard.

Like I said, with two men on the boat - there’d just be two men on the boat; the coxswain and the engineer - many times, if you had a seaman to spare, you would take him on out and go.

I made second class boatswain’s mate and answered I forget how many calls, just call after call, and times were changing.  When I first got here there were no small boats; sport boats, out across the bar except for maybe in the month of July or August, one or two days, no wind, flat calm ocean, and they would venture just out past the jetties to catch the fish.  Within two years - I don’t know what happened, a change around - and we were having hundreds of boats out across the bar and going further out to sea all the time.  After I made second class we’d have two or three hundred small boats out across the bar.

Winter time came and of course it was all commercial.  We ran around 100 calls a year at that time but it was increasing with the sport boats and that going on out.  Then along comes New Year Eve’s, 1953 going into 1954.  I was in charge of making out the Watch, Quarter and Station Bill and I wanted everybody to have three days off at Christmas and three days off at New Years.  So I split the crew down the middle and gave half of them 72-hours off for Christmas and the others 72-hours off for New Years.  Well to make that possible I had to take a couple of tower watches and so I let the guys go and I took their tower watches to make up on that.  That was New Year’s Eve and my wife was pregnant with our second child and she was waiting for me. I said, “I’ll be home probably around, oh, 1700 in the evening.  I’ve got a watch to stand; to get through, and come down and I’ll bathe back home.”  All of a sudden seven crab boats came up to the bar and the tide was in and a big swell had moved in and the bar was breaking clear across, so the other boatswain’s mate, he took the one - we had two 36-foot motor lifeboats and a 40-footer; the old fashioned steel 40-footers.  They do about 16 to 18 knots.  They could take a lot of rough water but not breakers and heavy seas - so he grabbed one lifeboat and I took the other lifeboat.  I followed him down and we were sitting on the bar and watching and all of a sudden one of the fishing boats call in and he said, “I’m disabled.  I’ve broken an oil line”, and he was all the way out to the whistle buoy, which is only a mile off from the jetties, and the wind was blowing at 35 and gusting to 50-miles an hour out of the southwest.  I said, “I’ll get him”, and I started across the bar. 

Well we had the old radios, the tube radios; AM radios, and going across the bar we shook up the radio pretty good and it was only working periodically.  If you’d beat on it, it would get the tubes set right and the radio would work.  I had just myself and the engineer; Raymond Miller.  We got out there and we took him in tow and we had our lifejackets on, the old . . . we had the blue ones in those days; the blue ones with the big collar and they have the leg straps and you were really buckled in tight.  We didn’t have any good foul weather . . . we had a good foul weather jacket but we had nothing for our legs and at that time they didn’t want us to wear rain gear.  They figured that was going to tow us down, which is of course false, but we didn’t have any of the rain gear and I wore an old like, well, like a World War I aviator’s helmet that came down - because my ears always got cold – and I had that on and a good foul weather jacket but regular dungaree pants, and we knew . . . you know we were soaking wet going across the bar because the waves would come curl over the top of us and the breakers and the foam.  We got him in tow and I started in with him across the bar and the fishing boat called me, and I could hear him on the radio, and I got the radio working and I called him back and he said, “You’re tearing my main deck winch out of the deck with these huge swells. If you take me back to sea I’ll re-fasten.”  So we turned around.  I took him back out to sea and he re-fastened the line, and the skipper; Mr. Lawrence, had called me on the radio at that time and he said, “Do not”, it’s now pitch black.   He said, “Do not attempt to tow him in across the bar in darkness with the ebb tide.  Hold him out to sea.  We’re calling the cutter Bonham” (WSC-129); a 125-foot cutter out of Coos Bay, which was up in Coos Bay in a five-hour Bravo status, which meant they had five hours to get underway, eight miles down the river to run and 86-miles up the coast to run.  He wasn’t going to be here until the next morning.  So I looked at Miller and I said, “We’re going to be damn cold, wet, hungry and miserable all night long.”, and with every other sea that had come over the top we were drenched with cold seawater.
I slowed the engine down and headed into it just enough to keep a strain on the hawser.  I called the fishing boat and told them, “Well we’ll be hanging you here most of the night.”  He said, “Roger.”  We had him in tow for, oh, 45 minutes to an hour just easing into it.  My engineer was seasick.  About 85 percent, 90 percent of your crew would always get seasick out there and he was heaving over the lifejacket and in the water.  You stood on the grate and the water would come into the scrubbers and went out through the scrubbers, so your feet were always underwater and getting wet, and about that time I heard the engine give a groan, tighten up and seize, and I knew exactly from the sound what it was . I had it happen a couple of dozen times.  The towing hawser was in the screw.  I reached over the stern and grabbed it where it came up off the bit and it was just tighter than a fiddler’s string.  I said, “Oh my God”, and I grabbed the radio and I tried to call the fishing boat, and I beat on the radio and I hit it a couple of times, and here’s the fisherman calling me saying, “Coast Guard, Coast Guard, I’ve got the oil line fixed.  I have my engine started.  Our engine is started.”  What he had done was he started up his engine and he put the boat in gear - and I’m going just at a slow pace - and he put a big slack in the hawser and I took one of those big swells and sat right down on the Hawser and got it in the screw. I told him I said, “We have the Hawser in the screw. Cast off and proceed to sea to safety. The other lifeboat will come and get us”, and he said, “I’ll tow you.” I said, “You can’t tow me. You’ll be towing me from the shaft and you’ll rip my shaft right out of the boat. We’ll be fine.” Well the lifeboat has a very low profile. We didn’t have the big mast lights on her then so you had two little running lights forward and a little stern light aft, and a bow light and a bronze fixture that you grabbed, pulled up and walked. Well we would usually leave that down because with that big glare from the sea you couldn’t see past the bow with it. 

So the fishing boat went to sea and went adrift.  She’s blowing, like I said, 35/40, steady gusting to 50, coming out of the southwest and I’m already to the southwest.  So I’m heading to the beach on Newport and I called the other lifeboat and he said, “Roger”, and they started out to get us.  Well they couldn’t find us.  We had no navigational equipment other than the fathometer and that was my depth and my position only from knowing exactly the area and where I was, and they came out and went south but they missed us and as we went across from the whistle buoy, just inside the whistle buoy, and heading towards what we called the North Reef, I said, “Well we’re going to go through the North Reef.  We’re going to have to beach and we’re going to be in dyer problems.”  But the 36-foot motor lifeboat had two anchors; a 100-pounder and a 55-pounder.  I knew I couldn’t handle the 100-pounder by myself so I grabbed the 55-pound anchor, opened up the ready box and grabbed the 300-foot of line with no chain on it. I  grabbed the 300-feet of line, threw a quick bowman around her, threw a couple other hitches around the line because I did not want it to come loose, grabbed the anchor and threw her overboard. I laid out almost a full 300-feet of line and made it fast to my bow cleats and we drug anchor for a while and pretty soon she started to catch right off the North Reef.  I called the boat and told them, “We’re anchored here. I can put up a flare and you can see where we are.”  He said, “Roger on that”, and they came up alongside of us and they threw us a heaving line and I got the heaving line, put the Hawser onboard and I said, “Take a strain but not too much because I don’t want to run over my own line.” I  pulled in 300-feet and the 55 pound anchor by myself, hand over hand, because I didn’t want to cut it loose. I said, “I might need this baby.”  But I grabbed the line and I was pulling it on in and I threw all the line in the well deck and the anchor on top of that in the forward well deck.  Then I ran out and I called the boat and said, “anchor’s onboard”, so he took us to sea. 
In the meantime a couple of the fishing boats had crossed in over the bar and they said, “Huge shark swells, no breaks.” So he said, “I’m towing you on in”, and we started in across the bar and we took a big, big swell and we started racing down it and we took a little broach; took water over the scuttles, and took probably a 70/80 degree roll.  We stopped dead. The swell hit the boat and it broke that four-inch manila hawser just like storage line, and I’m adrift. T he jetties at that time were only half as long as they are now.  They’re about a mile out now and they were about half a mile out in those days, and right off the North Jetty was a can buoy.  Well I went forward in the little cockpit - it’s called the cockpit and we call it the “Glory Hole”.  The reason it got called the “Glory Hole” in the old time was, when they took you out in the lifeboat, your first or second time going with the breaks, they put you up in the “Glory Hole” and you got your first glorious ride looking eyeball-to-eyeball to maybe a 15/20 foot breaker coming down on top of you.  You could duck down in the hole . . . well you never stand up in the hole, never stand up and face a breaker.  It will hit you and break your back over the back of the “Glory Hole” because it only came up to your waist.  If you wanted to get the wind knocked out of you, turn around and face aft and let the breaker hit you in the back and flatten you out on the deck and it would take the wind out of you.  That was the “Glory Hole.”  I’m standing up in the “Glory Hole” and I’m pulling in the line as fast as I can and by that time we took a big huge sea and it came right down on top of the can buoy.  It took a big chunk out of the port gunwale.

The lifeboat . . . I looked up and here comes the lifeboat back at me and they threw their end of the hawser and I grabbed it and he never stopped.  He’s going ahead probably at three to four/five knots, threw me the end of the hawser. I didn’t have all of mine in yet so I just put a big dip in it and made a quick becket bend down and the line came taught, and I thought, “Oh my God, have I made a becket or did I make a slip knot”, and it came tight, “boom”, and the boat jerked around and he took us to sea.  Well they sent the Depoe Bay Lifeboat about 12 miles to the north of us and the Depoe Bay lifeboat got up there and all this time we were just hanging back.  My engineer had taken his lifejacket off because he had heaved all over it and he was pretty seasick.  Depoe Bay got there and they threw us a heaving line.  They had the old heaving stick then; a piece of bamboo about this long with a big glob of lead on it, and when they threw that it came over the top of us and just missed us.  I grabbed it and pulled that hawser in, let the hawser go from the other lifeboat, made that fast and he started in.  I looked at Miller and he had his jacket off.  I said, “Here, put your lifejacket back on”.  He said, “I puked on it and I don’t want it on.”  I said, “I want you to have it on”, and I took the lifejacket and I couldn’t get the leg straps up, you know we were wet and we were cold and my hands were getting numb at the time, so I tied it around him in big square knots and made it tight and I said, “I’m going forward and break out the sea anchor.”  

I went forward to a little compartment with a hatch like this, went in there, grabbed the sea anchor; the old drogue, and played it on out behind the boat.  I put it out there probably 50/60 feet behind the boat and I just let the tripper line go slack.  I wasn’t going to use the tripping line.  I set the sea anchor up and the old drogue came taught and I called them and said, “Go ahead.”  Miller had the life jacket on.  I had mine on.  The drogue was set, and across the bar we go.  Right in the middle of it along comes another swell.  It started to break.  The sea anchor opened on up, stopped our folks down in the swell and we came to a pretty good broach.  The swell went on and hit the other lifeboat and broke his four-inch hawser just like storage line.  I ran up the catwalk . . . and the fo'c's'le in the lifeboat is round.  It has little hand holes and a claw across it.  I jumped in the cockpit and I’m waiting for the lifeboat, and of course you could hardly . . . when you get to the top of the swell you could see the running lights or the city lights ahead but that’s all and then down the swell nothing but water around you, and I waited what seemed an eternity.  I ran back and I grabbed the radio and I pounded on it and I made three calls.  I said, “This is, Man, William, Easy, over.”  That’s the call sign of the 36-footer.  I made three calls and said, “This is Man, William, Easy, over.  The tow line is broken.”

In the interim of waiting on the Depoe Bay boat the winds had died down and were now coming out of the northwest so we were being pushed to the south now and with the current the way it was coming in the pipe was now starting to flood.  I was being swept toward the South Reef and there’s a reef out at what we call Outer Station Reef and that’s where they break big, and we were headed right for it.  I made the three calls and then I ran back up and jumped in the cockpit and I’m waiting and I’m waiting, and I see two running lights coming at me.  I said, “Here they come, here they come, here they come”, and here comes the first lifeboat that had us in tow and he has a one-man crew.  Well he has all the hawser. I tied it - and manila turns into like mop hair when its wet and its not tied off - and here’s all these Iris pennants hanging out and you have the one going this way where they tied the knot and the one where it broke this here way; the main one, and he trying to find him a good bitter end to throw us. He said, “We’ll be back”, and by us he went. I’m waiting for the other boat and I don’t see it and then I heard it, and the sound the wind and the sea, you still have this absolute stillness like being in the woods and not a sound around but then you hear this “swoosh”, and I turned and Miller is standing in the stern of the boat holding our big flood light, which plugs into the bulkhead; a 12 volt light, and he’s standing back there, and I turned to Miller and I yelled, “Hang on”, and by the time it got on the curl of the breaker came down on top of us and I ducked down in the cockpit; the “Glory Hole” and over we went.  We went around twice and I held my breath - I could really hold my breath in those days.  I was a good swimmer and did a lot of swimming - upside down and around and around, and after you go upside down a time or two you don’t know which side is up and it’s pitch black and you’re underwater.  So I held my breath and I held my breath and I could hear bubbles, and I figured, “Well we’re still upside down.”  I thought, “I bet we’re sunk and I bet the boat is upside down and I’m going to stick my head right in the sand when I stick my head out of the hole.”  Of course the boat had almost a 3/10th keel and we would be . . . if we sunk we’d be right side up.  But anyhow, I’m just thinking . . . and I stuck my head slowly up and out into the darkness and took my first deep breath.  You know, boy, did I take that big deep breath, pitch black, no search light.
I yelled for Miller, no sound. I crawled across the fo'c's'le and down the catwalk to the after-compartment; the after-well deck, no Miller. I yelled out in the darkness as loud as I could, no sound.  I yelled again and I looked over my shoulder and I’m listening for the next breaker and I hear, “Mac”, this is Miller.  Mac, Miller”, and it’s getting closer.  Well it wasn’t his time to go.  When the boat went over he flew 50 feet out of that boat.  He said he hit the water and knew he was going to drown because he took the lifejacket off.  He’d forgotten I’d put it back on him.  The lifejacket brought him to the surface of the water and he reached out his hands and there was the drogue.  It landed right on top of the sea anchor and he’s pulling himself back on the sea anchor line.  Well Miller was . . . I weighed about 160 pounds at the time.  Miller must have weighted maybe 150.  I reached over the side and I grabbed him by the hair, the ears, the shoulders, the butt, the ass, and “boom”, onboard he came.  I stuck him underneath the catwalk.  That’s where we kept the towing hawser.  Then they gave us towing reels and we had it on a towing reel aft.  I stuck him underneath there and I said, “If we roll over again just brace your back against the catwalk . . . ”, because he’s underneath it and he had about this much room; maybe a foot and half/two feet, “. . . and you won’t come loose.”  I ran forward and here comes the Depoe Bay lifeboat.  Well in those days Depoe Bay only had about a six-man crew/seven-man crew and when they got a call they would call the fire department and they would blow the whistle, and one of the volunteer firemen, or two, would report to the station.  Well the volunteer fireman reported to the Coast Guard station and that was their third man.  They had three men; the coxswain, the engineer and a volunteer fireman.  Our volunteer fireman was so seasick that he was of little use to them with all this going on.  They came back and I can still see them because I’m standing in the cockpit and they go by me.  They are meticulously making up the towing hawser on the towing reel; making sure it was faked out just perfect on the towing reel rather than getting to the bitter end and throwing us a line, and they said, “We’ll be back”, and I never saw them again; they disappeared. 

All of a sudden over the next swell I see our boat coming back – Fanderhook had that boat - he spent his career in the Coast Guard and retired as a warrant officer (W-4).  He came back and I could see him coming down the next swell and I said, “Oh my God, he’s going to cut us in two.  He’s on a swell and he’s racing down.”  Here’s an 8 /9-knot boat doing 15 knots coming down this big swell.  I said, “Oh my God”.  We started on the swell running this way and he’s coming right at us, dead angle, and our drogue opened up and we came to a slow stop.  If I had been fast enough I could have jumped out of my “Glory Hole” right into his well deck. He went swishing by, took the breaker and he rolled over until I could see his keel.  He did a 90-degree to 100-degree roll because the next day you could see where the oil went up in his engine room, up to dead center and back down again, and off he went.  He had his one man; the seaman with him, and he was holding the old Navy battle lantern.  Well he dropped it when that break hit him and down he went, and I could hear the engine missing and spurring off in the darkness but I could see this eerie glow of the light disappearing in the breaker going down.  It was just, “Oh my God, he sunk.  No, the engine is still running.”  I could hear it missing and then it caught hold and I could hear him working his way out of the breakers.  I turned to Miller and I said, “They’re not coming back.  Let’s go up forward and lock ourselves in.  That way we can’t be thrown out of the boat.”  So we crawled up the catwalk looking over our shoulder every time.  I mean I knew that next breaker was coming.  The breakers push in and you come back into them again.  

The hatch up forward; two dogs, I undogged the hatch, went inside and there was a little 12-volt light in there.  We turned on the light.  There were 16 lifejackets up forward.  Now there were 14 because we had two on.  I said, “Start packing yourself in lifejackets.”  The fire exit came out of the bracket and I threw the fire rocks out and I threw some other gear out that had been torn loose when we rolled over.  I threw it out in the well deck but now I had the anchor in the well deck and I had all the line in the well deck.  Now I’ve got this ax and I kind of stuffed the ax underneath the line because I didn’t want to lose it.  I threw everything out, dogged the hatch, put a lifejacket around my legs and I’m going to put one around my head and we took another big breaker.  We rolled and over we went.  The gear went every which way, and something . . . I had felt this “thud, boom”, on my head.  I turned around and I said, “God, what did you hit me for?”  He said, “I didn’t hit but you sure are bleeding.”  Well the fire extinguisher came ripping out of the bulkhead and it was the Pyreen extinguisher so it was small, and it glanced off that little helmet I had and it took like a four bit piece off the top of my head, and of course, you know, you’re bleeding so profusely in the head and I’m soaking wet anyway, so blood and water . . . and you know, I was really a mess.  Old Miller, he said, “God, you look like hell.” [Chuckle]  Well he didn’t look much better.  He’s just been thrown out of the boat.  He’s soaking wet and we kind of laughed a little bit talking about it and I said, “You know, if we hit the jetty and that back current takes us in the jetty and we hit the jetty and those rocks start coming through this hull, we’re going to have to climb up on the jetty and get the hell out of here.” I said, “I’m going to get rid of this fire extinguisher”, because it was loose now and there was a couple of other pieces of gear around, and I undogged the hatch knowing that we’d probably be pretty good for another few minutes before the next set of breakers hit us, and I opened up the hatch and the hatch would only open up about an inch and a half.  
Unbeknownst to anybody in all the time that those 36-footers had been made back in the ‘30s -and this here was 1953 going into ‘54 - in the well deck there were two ready boxes and that’s where you kept all the gear after you’d taken the anchor out of it. I put the hatch back on but when we rolled over the last time the gear now was only half in the box so it hit the top of the box and broke the hasp, then the gear came out, and if that ready box was open the hatch would hit the corner of it.  I said, “Oh my God”, and I reached over and I broke into the flare gun and I took out the old Berry pistol and I shoved it between the . . . I could still hear old Miller yelling, “Don’t shoot, don’t shoot!” [Chuckle] I said, “I’m not going to shoot. I’m using it as a pry.”  I said, “You get up here and you hit it with your shoulder”, and it took us, I don’t know, half a dozen to a dozen times of him hitting and me pushing down and we got the right combination.  I went down and hit it and the hatch flew open. I jumped out and I reached underneath that Hawser and the ax was still there, and the Hawser now, the anchor was hanging overboard because we went over this time and it’s hanging overboard and I’ve still got 900 feet of Hawser line in my screw sitting out there someplace.  We’re a mess.  We’re like a Christmas present all wrapped up in lines and crap.  So I grabbed that axe and I started chopping that corner of that ready box off.  I almost chopped through the watertight bulkhead because I’m rolling and tossing in the middle of the night and you can’t see.  It was pitch black.  Finally I got the hasp chopped off, got back in there, dogged the hatch down and we took a few more good rolls but nothing . . . we didn’t roll over anymore, and smashed.  I said, “Okay, now we can get out of here.”  We hit the walks and all of a sudden, “boom”.  I said, “There’s sand.  We’re on the sandy beach.”  Actually we were about a mile south of the North Jetty.  We hit the beach and he said, “Let’s get out of here.”  I said, “How good can you swim?”  He said, “Oh God, I just barely got through boot camp.”  I said, “Well I’m a good swimmer.  We should be on the beach, but once in a while there are fog holes and they’re six or eight feet deep but they’re not very far across”, and I said, “So when we get ready to go, get up on the catwalk, you jump and I’ll jump right behind you, grab you and I’ll get you through.” He said, “Okay.” So pretty soon a couple of swells hit us and we weren’t moving much anymore and I said, “Let’s get out of here.” 

We opened up the hatch and I dogged the hatch back down and got the boat out, turned on the rail and I could see just the white water going up the boat and coming down and I said, “Now!”, while there were no potholes, no crab holes, no nothing, it was all just straight flat beach.  Miller went off kind of, not really in a swan dive but kind of out expecting to land in the water and he hit the water kind of on his knees and his belly.  It knocked the wind out of him and I landed right alongside him.  I said, “Are you okay?”  He said, “aah aah aah.”  Well the water was only that deep.  I said, “Let’s go”, and up the beach we walked and the sirens went off.  I said, “Happy New Year 1954”, and down the beach comes this . . . I saw these lights coming down.  I said, “Here comes a truck.”  It was Mr. Lawrence and he heard that . . . he was at the station.  He had heard the three calls and he just went for the truck and headed to us.  He said, “I know where they’re going to be”, and went up there - and in those days they had logs over the beach - and he came right over the drift logs and then came running down the beach and spotted us two little guys walking up there soaking wet.  He jumped out of the truck and he came down and he said, “You okay, you okay?”  “Yes Sir, we’re fine.”  He said, “How many?”  I said, “Just two; just Miller and I Sir.”  He said, “Okay”, and he said, “You hurt bad?”, because he could see the blood and everything.  I said, “Oh no Sir, I’m fine.”  He said, “Okay, come on.  Let’s go back to the station.”  Well when we got back to the station I was a little feisty and the other two boat crews were there and they said, you know, “When Mac comes in, you guys, you know, you left him.  You’re going to have to tell him your situation because he’s going to come in and want to kick somebody’s ass for leaving him out there.”  But the old retired chief - he actually was a first class but he was “L” rate and he wore like the chief’s uniform except he had what they called light boatman pins on but he wore khaki like the Chief - Reed retired from the Coast Guard but he lived on the hill.  He knew all this was coming around and Joanne was calling up and asking for me, you know.  I’m suppose to be home at five and now its midnight, and he told her about eleven o’clock; right after we were in tow out there that I would probably be all night long and I wouldn’t be back until morning and she didn’t have to call anymore.  She said, “Fine”, because I was going to be out to sea all night.  

We walked back up to the station, walked in the mess hall and here are the two boat crews and a whole bunch of other people standing around.  Here’s Miller and I, both long guys, soaking wet, and I’m covered with water and, you know, a lot of blood.  We really looked a mess.  The old chief, the first time I ever saw a bottle of whiskey on the mess deck table, New Year’s Eve, and he brought this bottle of whiskey down.  He grabbed two coffee cups and he said, “Don’t say a word”, and he filled the coffee cups half with coffee and half with whiskey and said, “Drink this before you say anything.”  All the time I drank it I couldn’t say anything.  He called the doctor and old Doctor Barker came down to the station, took one look at me and said, “Oh hell, he’s fine.”  He put a bandage on my head and he left.  But nobody had heard of hyperthermia in those days, and hell, we’d been out in that boat now since 4:30 in the afternoon.  It’s now after midnight.  We’re soaking wet and we were shivering cold.  So I said, “I’ve got to get a shower.  I’ve got to get warmed up.”  I went up there in the shower and of course the bandage came off my head and the guy said, “We’ll fix you on up”, and they took a four-ply and they put it here and they took a big triangular bandage . . . and by the time I got home the wife thought half my head was gone.

I went down in the morning and got a DC-7 CAT, put two big logs on it, dug a hole in the sand, put down two logs, scooted the 36-footer up on the logs, triced her down with lines and skidded the logs and the 36-footer up in the sand dunes.  Three days later I came in with a Low Boy, skidded her up on the Low Boy . . . and over here at the Point was a mill.  It had a 75-ton crane.  We picked the lifeboat and the two logs; everything, up in the air, swung over the water and dropped it in the water.  We kicked the logs out.  I jumped in the lifeboat, hit the starter and ran her back to the station.  We had the boat fixed up for less than $300.  We replaced one plank and that was from putting it up on the logs and skidding it up there.  It tore off the combings fore and aft and broke every beam on top of the engine room. I had to fix that top of the ready box and part of the bulkhead.  Then the carpenter came right there.  We pulled the boat up in the boathouse and within a week and a half/two weeks we were back full in service, ready to go.

I had my four years at Newport .  I had a lot of boats calls.  We were starting to get a lot of capsizings; pulling a lot of people out of the water.  Mr. Lawrence came to me and he said, “Mac”, he said, “I’m being transferred.  I’m going to take over the Coos Bay Lifeboat Station.  The warrant officer there is going to become group commander at Grace Harbor . I’m taking over that station”, and he said, “How would you like to serve under me for another four years?”  I said, “Oh, I’d love it Sir.”  He said, “All right, I’ll put you down.  I’ll be down there in about three or four months.  You’re going down right away.”  So I got moved down to Coos Bay Station, a 100 mile road trip down there; 86 miles by sea straight down.  I went down to the Coos Bay Lifeboat Station.  There they have the same thing; a 40-footer, a couple of 36-footers, and I worked out of there.  The same thing; summer time, gee, the folks were going to sea just by the hundreds in the summertime to catch the all mighty salmon.  They had a big port down there with a lot of calls in the wintertime going. Mr. Lawrence came on down to the station, took over and everything was going fine.  But one winter night; it was a still cold night and we had a high tide, full, full moon, so it was bright, and full moon, real high tide and a real low tide afterwards.  We get a call that there were some duck hunters lost and it was eight miles going up the river towards, actually to the town of Coos Bay – we were down in the little town of Charleston - so we went there looking for the duck hunters and this and that and found this boat off to the side and escorted him back across the river and to the dock, and that was it.  We were coming down the river with the 40-footer, a nice moonlit night.  I could see the glimmering on the water and that and I thought, “I’ll probably go in 16 knots”, and the tide’s starting to ebb now so I’m moving down the river pretty good.

I had about a mile and half/two miles to go and then you go straight out to the bar; make a little turn and straight out to the bar or you make a 90-degree turn to your port; to the left there, and a half mile running you’re in the little town of Charleston.  We’re in the little town of Charleston and I mean a post office, grocery store and a beer hall and a church, and that’s it, and there’s a bridge across there and they have a keeper on the bridge and most of the time we could get the boats under.  We had to lower the mast on the 36-footers and 40s the same way and you can underneath the bridge.  But this night was a real high tide and I’m running down the river and all of a sudden, “boom”, and this 40-footer was one of the first ones, it was plywood, and I hit this object in the water, which was a log that came off of the beach because of the high tide, and we hit it butt end just over to amidships and when I hit it I must of left it around and for some reason it missed both screws.  I opened up the hatch - we’re outside in the 40 - and I opened the hatch going in forward and the water came over the combing and we had a pretty good size hole, and I said, “Oh my God, leave the hatch open.  The water will run out.”  I said, “Check the engine room.” He picked up the cover to the engine room and he said, “Oh my God, the water’s coming up in the engine room.”  

If I went to my starboard it was just flat beach, no roads. I mean there was a flat beach over there but there was no road; no way you’re going to get into salvage the boat. I said, “I’ll try to make it to Charleston ”, because right after you went underneath the bridge that’s where we moored the boats and there was also a boatyard there; Kelly’s Boat Works, and there was about, oh, 100 feet of beach. “If I get underneath the bridge I’ll put her on the beach right there.” I’m racing down the little Charleston channel and then it hit me, “Its high tide, one of the highest of the year. I’m not going to get underneath the bridge and it’s going to take 15 to 20 minutes to get the bridge tender to up and open the bridge and I am going down”, and now we’re down to about 12/14 knots because of the water and I said, “Oh my God.” Well on the side of the bridge, the 40-footer had, oh, about a - what was it – 10/12 foot beam and on the sides of the bridge . . . I used to take the boat through there just to practice going through narrow places and there was about eight inches on each side of the boat so you could go through the sides of the bridge but you had an extra two feet of clearance on account of the pilings and the way the bridge opened on up. I said, “Lower the mast”, and I had the ET [Electronics Technician] with me that night, and we lowered the mast and I started to slow down. I said, “God, if I hit the bridge with this boat going this fast we’ll knock the bridge out.” Well as I slowed down the water shifted forward and the screws came up and I started to sashay back. I said, “Oh my God”, and I pushed both throttles. Well luckily they dug in just before we got to the bridge and we cleared with eight inches on each side of the boat; cleared through the little hole. We took off the searchlight - that’s the only thing that was stuck in the air - took off the searchlight and, “wham”, it went off, and just as soon as you past the bridge you made a 90-degree turn and I made the 90-degree turn and the port engine went underwater because the water shifted as the boat went up and the port engine died and the starboard gave one last hoorah and it went down, and the boat skidded on the beach and I’m standing at the coxswain’s flap, half way to my knees standing in the water and I said, “We made it.” [Chuckle] He looked at me and he said, “Wow”, and I said, “Well I’ve got to call Mr. Lawrence.” I said, “Oh, he’s not going to like this at all”, and I called him up and I told him. He said, “Do you have the boat secure?” I said, “Yes Sir, the tide’s going out and we’re way up on the beach.” He said, “Very well. Put a line on her anyway and come back to the station”, and so that was my second one. So that kind of ended my time at Coos Bay Station.

I was up for first class [petty officer]. I had just shipped on over.  I really enjoyed the Coast Guard.  I found my life’s work.  So I shipped over for six years and I was up for first class and I get a call from the District saying, “We’ve got some good news and we’ve got some bad news.” I said, “Well what’s the good news?” He said, “Well you made First Class today.” “Oh great.  What’s the bad news?”  “You can’t have it until you get six months onboard ship.  You need sea duty.”  He said, “You’ve only been at that station over a year.  You can stay there for another three or four years or you can go to sea.”  I said, “Well I’m a career man now so I would like to make First Class.  I have a family, and transfer me to sea.”  “Well”, he said, “We can’t transfer you to sea right now.  We don’t have anybody to replace you.”  I said, “Well get one of those guys on the ships to replace me and I’ll replace them.”  “Well”, he said, “it doesn’t work that way. Just as soon as we get an opening we’ll transfer you.”  I said, “Okay.”  So it was a few months and I got a set of orders to report to Seattle to go on a 255-foot cutter, the Calamus and fortunate for me the Calamus was making the first Bearing Sea Patrol by a weather cutter, and I reported aboard the Calamus ten days before it shoved off going north for four months. There were no first class boatswain’s mates but there were five second class boatswain’s mates and a couple of third class, and the reason they were stocked up on boatswain’s mates is they wanted boatswain’s mates because they were going to be doing a lot of surf running all the way up to Point Barrel, Alaska but I was the only boatswain’s mate onboard that had any surf experience. 

So after we got up . . . we were going up the chain and we were off Unimak Pass there at Scotch Cap and they sent the boat in to get a couple of the people off the lighthouse there that needed their teeth looked at.  We had a full fledged doctor and full fledged dentist onboard and when the boatswain’s mate came back he said, “I don’t ever want to do that again. The surf is picking on up”, and he said, “Send that lifeboat man, that Doony" - they called me Doony then because of the old Doony Hoppers, you know, one of your sand-pounders - and they said, “Send that Doony.”  So the XO [Executive Officer -- the second in command] called me down to the wardroom and he said, “I’ve looked over your record and you have lifeboat experience and have been in the surf before and landed boats in the surf”. I said, “Yes Sir.”  He said, “I’m sending you in with an ensign”, but he says, “You’re in charge of the boat and you will make the decision to go or not.  The surf is picking on up.  We’d like to get the two men back to Scotch Cap and get the supplies on the boat unloaded and we want to get out of here because a storm is coming up.  If you can’t make it come back to the ship”, and I said, “Yes Sir.”  So I took the old 26-foot Monomoy in, diesel engine, had an engineer.  He ran the controls and you ran the tiller; you had your tiller behind you. I pulled up to the surf and the surf was breaking and I took out my watch and I started timing the surf, and I timed it and I timed it and I said, “Okay people, we’ve got just over a minute to get the last break and hit the beach.  You guys jump out, throw these bags on the beach and I’ve got to turn this thing around and get her back out”. I told the engineer, I said, “Okay, put her in gear, hit it, go, take it out of gear.”  We hit the beach, the guys jumped out.  I turned it around.  I threw her in reverse and the engineer threw her in reverse and he spun the boat around and took the next two or three small breakers, enough to put the boat broadside on the beach if we’d have taken them broadside, cleared the surf and back to the ship we went and they pulled us onboard.  I went about my business and I got a call, “Lay to the wardroom.” 

So I laid to the wardroom. The old chief boatswain’s mate onboard; old Chief Wardell, nothing but a seagoing daddy; 20 some years of just weather cutters and he loved it.  In fact he called me a Doony when I came onboard and he said, “I hate Doonies”, and I said, “Gee Chief, I can’t help that”, but I said, “I’ll do my best for you and work my tail off”, but I said, “I am a Doony .  I’m a lifeboat station man and I want to go back to one.  Well he took me down to the wardroom and he stood outside the hatch and knocked on the door.  The skipper was there, the XO was there and the ensign was there and a few other officers - and the ship is now . . . we’re heading towards Nome - and he says, “I heard you timed the surf going in.”  Well the XO was Elmer Windbeck whose brother had become an admiral for the District and whose father was the captain - they called him Captain way back those days of Willapa Bay Station and he had been around lifeboats and stations all his life, and he said, “I heard you timed the surf going in.” I said, “Well, yes Sir. That’s the only way I could time the series.” He said, “I’m taking you off of all watches. You will stand no more Boatswain’s Mate of the Deck watches. You’ll be taken off of all work details. From now on you will be the Ready Boat Coxswain.  Whenever you hear the boat crew pipe you will lay to the main deck and you will pick the boat you want for the sea conditions, and you will be making all surf runs to all stations, and the Chief was outside the door and he said “Chief, you’ll take care of this.”  He said, “Yes Sir.”  He said, “Okay, very well, that’s it”, and I turned and I started walking away and the Chief said, “Follow me.”  Down in the boatswain’s locker we went.  He closed the door behind him and he said, “You’ll still stand your Boatswain’s Mate watches.  You’ll still do the deck work.”  He said, “Whenever they pipe you, you will lay, no matter what you’re doing you will lay to the main boat deck to take the boat and I’ll cover for you.  But until I tell you, you still will maintain.”  I said, “Yes Chief, no problem.”  We’re up north, you know, we’re aboard ship for four months, who cares.  I had nothing to do anyway.  So I took the Boatswain’s Mate of the Watch.  One night about . . . I had the mid to four watch and the Skipper happened to come up on the bridge and he said, “How come you’ve got the boatswain’s-mate-of-the-watch”, and I said, “Well the other boatswain’s mate that had it was not feeling well and so I said, ‘I’ll take it.  I’ve got nothing to do and there is no boat work right now’.”  He said, “Okay, very well”, and that was it.
Well we had a 125-foot tender boat hit the rocks off of one of the islands up there and was sinking, and we took two boats in; the Chief took one and I took the other on in.  We got the people off the 125-footer and he sent me back to the ship and he said, “We’re going to try and tow it off the rocks”.  I took a six-inch hawser and on that was going to be the eight-inch Hawser, and I’m towing with a 26-footer into this boat and the ship was laying there and the winds blowing probably 35 miles an hour, gusting a little bit further, and it’s really kind of uncharted waters when all of a sudden the ship noticed that there were wash rocks off of the starboard and there’s a couple off to that that had drifted in between them, and I just about had the line to this 125-footer when they called on the radio and they said, “Let her go. Let the line go”. I let the line go and the ship - single screw - started underway and got the Hawser in her screw, and they tied it off and there was still enough . . . it was around the shaft and it hadn’t bound the screw yet and they tied it off, and even though it was tight in there she still had power and she said, “We are proceeding to the sea. We are on a course of so and so and so and so. We are going to go for at least seven to ten miles”, and it was blowing and raining and they said, “This is your course”, and I had little wooden compass that you sat down on the boat so you had an idea but it really wasn’t all right there but I knew where they were going, and away they went and I almost lost radio contact with them because of the old walkie-talkies in those days. But I was on course and it took me, you know a six-knot boat, so it took me over an hour to find the ship.  Finally up over a swell and down and there was the ship.  

So they got back and the Chief, he was already onboard with the people, and we came up along the ship and they pulled us up and then we headed for Kodiak so they could have divers go down and cut the Hawser up.  The Chief took me down to the boatswain’s locker and he said, “You don’t have to stand anymore watches. You don’t have to do anymore work details. You’ll just straight run the boats.” I said, “Okay Chief.” I said, “I don’t mind working.” I said, “Well if we’ve got two or three days I just don’t want to be sitting on my butt. I’d rather be doing something.” He said, “All right, you can help me splice wire”, and he taught me how to splice cable and he started teaching me about shipboard, even how to put down the commendation ladder and how to put the pins in that, and from that time on I pretty well got along with the Chief, and we made all the runs, four months, all the way up there, a lot of surf running and a lot of great times. I was one of the few that got to hit every port in town even though it was nothing but an Eskimo village but that was real good. I put almost two years on the ship and just before I got off the ship the Chief retired. They brought in - I was First Class then. I made First Class on the ship - the day he retired he came down, he took his Chief’s crow and he put it in my hand and he said, “Sew this on when you make Chief.” I thought, “Wow!”

So I put my time on ship and within two years I had orders right back to Yaquina Bay .  I came to Yaquina Bay in 1956 and the brand new 52-footer; the only one ever built, it’s still here today.  It looks better now than it did then; a lot more electronics [chuckle], and brand new but it was different beast of vessel.  It was twin screw and a single rudder down the middle like the old – what was it – the 327s had the same thing; all new beast of vessel to handle, you know, reverse controls, what you would ordinarily do with the regular boat to get her to handle, and that was 1956 in September when I came back to Newport.  And from there, at that time, the small boats were going out, not in the hundreds but by the thousands, across the bar on a single good day, out there to catch the all mighty salmon.  Capsizes were just not common.  I mean they were common to have capsizings.  My first dead person I’ve ever seen came up and then it became common.  We got a lot of calls; lots of capsizings.  We had one, it was actually right in the bay and it shows you the difference in people.  Most people are very, very thankful at the time but then they become embarrassed that they actually needed help or that you helped them and they will find some excuse to justify what happened to them, and like the one fellow said when he capsized in the bay and he had his son and his grandson with him.  He was hanging on the boat with his son and so was his grandson, but his son thought he had his son and he had the motor and he was underwater and he actually . . . we worked on him, and in those days there was not mouth-to-mouth.  In those days it was a shape or prone method.   We worked on him with CPR and had him in at the station in the bunk, and the doctor came down and gave him a shot and said, “He’ll be around in about an hour or so”, and we kept him right there at the station.  We didn’t even send him to the hospital.  And very, very thankful when they came out of it and the family came over and picked them up, very, very thankful.  Five days later the grandfather comes back to the station and he said, “You know, we could have made it to the beach if you hadn’t picked us on up”, and he said, “By the way, have you sent the divers down to get my shoes and my watch and my wallet that I lost.”  Well I said, “Well we don’t have divers.  We don’t do that”, and he was very upset because we hadn’t found his missing gear.  But it was kind of . . . I was really upset at the time thinking, “He’s really ungrateful.”  But after more capsizings and working with people in this aspect I could see that he was really embarrassed by what happened to him and he kind of wanted to justify it in his own mind by telling us that he could have made it, and that became pretty well along the line with a lot of people, although there were a lot of them that would come back time and time again and thank you and were very, very, grateful.  But a lot of them, they had to justify it themselves.  It’s kind of human nature.  You find out a lot when you’re working with people like that.

But during that time we had the brand new 52-footer.  It was very expensive and I forget the exact cost of it now but it was the most expensive lifeboat the United States had ever built at the time and it was the only one of its kind, and it drew six-feet aft and three-feet forward and it weighed 33 tons.  It was all steel hulled with an aluminum topside.  The only electronics gear we had on the boat at that time was a DF (direction finder), which never worked, and I asked the ET and he said, “Well they were two different direction finders and they were not compatible and it would never work”, and I had the compass and a lead line and a radio; the old tube radio, and that’s all we had.  When we went 30/40 miles we went on DR; (dead reckoning), and what knowledge we had, and if we’re after a fishing boat it would have LORAN [Long Range Aids to Navigation] so you knew your set, you knew your drift and you figured it on out to his position.  Then if it was thick fog coming home you would just call him back and say, “Could you give me a LORAN reading”, and then you could go to your chart and find your position and then compensate and find your . . . come into, always if you were north always come in north of the whistle buoy by a mile or two, hit 196 feet of water and run her right straight down to the whistle buoy and then you knew your course; 040, and on in you would come.  But that’s how we navigated, and the hours that you spent out there, you spent a lot of time underway.

We had our patrols; we would get up at first light and go out with the boats and come back at dark.  There were two boatswain’s mates on duty.  You had port and starboard so one day you had from four o’clock in the morning until ten o’clock at night underway.  Pack a lunch and that would be it.  The galley was closed at night so we’d usually get in and you missed your meals and there was nobody there to fix you one and the cook would usually leave you some sandwiches or something in the icebox and hopefully the other watch-standers didn’t eat up your lunch while you were out to sea.   But that’s the way it was.   You just got used to it and you knew that was going to be it for the day and you didn’t complain.  And if you got so badly sunburned - a couple of my engineers did, that their eyes would swell up so bad from the sun and that - you try to get somebody to fill in for them and that’s why a lot of times it was a two-man crew.  The 52-footer, we always had three men.  It was supposed to be four but a lot of times you only had three men on the 52.

The 52 is probably the finest lifeboat the Coast Guard has ever built and I ran those 44s and that for years and years but the 52-footer is the old girl; the old standby.  She’ll get you through.  And it was just a year later - not even a year later because it was September - she got here and the next June I had the two 36-footers and the 40-footer out and they all had tows so . . . and I was First Class and we had a Chief in charge of the station at that time and the group was there at the time.  They had now formed a group.  We had two warrant officers in charge of the group and they had part of their station.  This, I think it was a Sunday, not a Saturday but a Sunday, yeah.  Anyway, it was thick fog.  It was going to be a sunny day but it hadn’t burned off yet and the other boats had tows, so I said, “Grab a . . .” three-men; I had three-men left and I took the three-men so we had a four-man; had a full crew, took the 52-footer and I just was pulling out from the station and I got to the bridge and it came over the radio, “Capsizing, North Reef, 100 yards north of the North Jetty”.  The tide was flooding at that time and I’m in a 10-knot boat against a couple of knot current and I pushed the throttle full ahead but, you know, you’re only doing eight knots and I’ve got a mile to a mile and a half to run to get around the jetty and people on the jetty are yelling and waving their arms, and out we go. 

I think we had the siren onboard at that time because I turned on the siren and everybody then, they just thought we were going a lot faster because . . . or at least we knew there was something.  Well by the time we got around there the jetty . . . and I came over the reef and the reef was breaking but there are holes in it, you know.  I’m looking always where they are, and I came to the reef all right and I looked up and I could see the bottom of a 16/18-foot capsized boat and then I’d seen a couple of heads by it and I thought, “Oh my God, they’re in the inter-breakers.  We’ve got to get them out.  They’ll never make it”, and there’s a circling eddy by the jetty there that goes back around and that’s what they were in.  So I headed straight for them and the last swell just before I got to them I figured, “We’re going to hit bottom.  We’re drawing six feet and when the swells go up we’re going to hit bottom”.  So I rode the swell on up and as we rode on the swell I turned her so I’d be picking the swell up and let the swell break underneath my keel and carry me as far as I could because I was only probably drawing two or three feet of water, the whole side of the ship.  When we came down we hit bottom and bounced and I wasn’t over six feet from the capsized boat.  I could see four people in the water and there was a man holding his wife and his wife was not in very good shape.  Her head was kind of going down and he’s yelling, “Help”, and I said . . . two others real close to the boat and I said, “Grab them”, and I didn’t have a lifejacket on.  I hadn’t even put one on yet.  In those days we didn’t wear them too much, only when it really got rough and it didn’t seem like it when we were going out because your adrenalin’s flowing.  But anyway, good thing I didn’t have one on.  Anyway, so I jumped off.  I went right off the main deck, right out - you’d probably call it the quarterdeck - and I jumped right on top of the small boat and then dove off of it and I swam, oh, it wasn’t too far, and I grabbed the guy - and like I said, I was a pretty good swimmer - and he held onto his wife and I made it back to the boat. 

On the 52-footer we had lifelines that hang on down, and I grabbed him and I got one arm in one and one in the other so he’s got the . . . he’s on the boat but we’re rolling and he would go underwater and come up and I did too a couple of times, and I yelled to the fellows on deck and they grabbed the woman and they pulled her on up.  But the only bad thing about the 52-footer was you had at least a three-foot pull when you’re standing dead in the water to get back up on deck so when the boat would roll you wouldn’t have as far but the other way you’d have twice as far.  Well they got the woman up and I got up myself and I heard, “Help”, off the bow and the fellow up there was with his girlfriend and they had drifted away from the boat and he’s yelling, “Help”.  I turned to one of the men and I said, “Go get them”, and the seaman is staring at me, “You get a lifejacket on”, and so he put on the old lifejacket and jumped overboard and he pulled the two back and he held them - and the guy was in pretty good shape and the woman was pretty weak - into the lifelines and then he’d hold onto the lifelines.  I turned to one of my men and we said, “Come”, and we grabbed the woman and we got her up on deck and she wasn’t breathing.  I said, “Start resuscitation”, Ogar Neil method in those days.  So he’s giving her the arm lift bullwhip and he’s on the side of the house in the lee.  I said, “Okay”, and we went back and we got the guy aft and we’re pulling him up onboard.  He was a big man so it took a whole lot of pull and everything and we got the woman up first, and I stuffed her in a towing bit and she’s conscience but very, very weak and just kind of moaning back and forth, and the towing bit has three legs on it and we got her in there; kind of stuffed in there, and got her husband and I went for the guy, to get him.  We got the guy up onboard and that took a lot of strain; 200 and some pounds.  Then I got him up onboard and I said, “Okay, we’ve got everybody”, and then I heard, “Help!” Well I said, “Who else is yelling help?”  Well it was my seaman who I had sent overboard in the lifejacket and he’s so tired now and cold from being in the water that all he could do is barely hang on the lifelines.  About this time the woman started breathing, well the guy was working on her on the side the house.  So we pulled our man onboard and I said, “Everybody down below deck”, and we sent them all down below deck.

I had an African-American onboard; “Old Schmidt”, a big, handsome, husky, six-foot man.  I said, “You stay with me.  I’m going to need you to help me get this boat off the beach”, and they took all of the four survivors down below and my other two men went down below to walk them down and blanket them and take care of them, and we were really bouncing on the beach.  Well it just started off in pretty thick fog and it had just a break now and then and the tower watch, which is a mile away up on the hill, spotted them coming through the surf before they capsized and they called down and then they capsized, and then the fog came in and then it lifted.  Well in the interim with me coming in and diving overboard; my man going overboard and the guys getting them onboard and everything, the fog lifted.  We weren’t paying any attention but all of sudden I looked around and the park, what they call “Chicken Hill”; you go up and check the bar and they called it “Chicken Hill”, and even the bridge, there were hundreds of people in cars up there and somebody from the Governor’s office was coming across the bridge as the fog lifted and they saw this boat in the surf with waves going over the top of it and spray flying in the air and all of this, and they stopped to watch the rescue.  
Everybody else gathered up in the park and of course the radios were going and everything so there was quite a crowd watching us do this unbeknownst to us because all of sudden the fog lifted and here we were.  So I’m broadside, twin screw and single rudder.  I swing her around and I get the bow headed on out to sea and even though the tide is starting to ebb now and I’m losing water the surf is picking on up and as a breaker would come I would take a breaker but it would pick that 52-footer up past the 45-degree angle and I would go ahead and the breaker would hit me and knock me back and I would land in the same hole, and I dug a tremendous big hole so I had a lot of water underneath me but I couldn’t get out of it.  So I said, “Well there’s only one thing to do to get this boat off.  I draw three-foot forward and I drop six-foot aft.  I can’t get off on the bow because I’m light in the bow and the bow rises so fast and I land in the same hole.  But if I turn around . . . if I can turn around and get my stern to the sea and get over that hump I built, I’ll probably tear the steering out of the boat but I’ve got twin screws”, and I was pretty good at handling it that way.  So I spun the boat around.  That took a while.  Well by that time we had . . . onboard we had two generators and one of the bad things about the generator system was all the lights and everything and your radios and everything all worked off the generators.  But the 52 rolls so unmercifully that it would roll up and you’d an air leak, or pocket, in you sea suction and the generator would overheat and trip off the line. 

Well this happened and the steam came out and that lit the generator off.  I didn’t have any radio or didn’t have any electronics but I didn’t need any of that but I still had my two mains and that’s all I needed.  So I turned the boat around, got her stern first and I tried, and nothing, nothing, and all of a sudden I see a big series coming and the series’ coming. I said, “Okay, hang on it.”  It was just me and Smitty.  I said, “Hang on the wheel” because it was straight cable steering; straight cable, no boosters, no nothing, just straight cable going back to a quadrant and I said, “Here she comes”, and I hit those controls and up we went and the sea hit that wheel and both of us, it was all we could do it to keep that rudder amidships, and down we came and the wheel gave a snap and the wheel went, and it was six and a quarter turns from hard over to hard over and it went one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. “Well, she’s gone.”  It tore the steering out it. I said, “I’ve got twin screws and I’m over the hump.”  The next series came and I gained six feet and the next series came I gained another 15/20 feet. I said, “We’ve got her made.”  The lifeboat tried to get to us; the 36-footer tried to get to us, just before we got off there and he took one break and did 90-degree roll and just almost rolled over in the shallow surf and out to sea he went, and they gave me, you know, “We can’t handle it. You’re on your own.”  So I got her out in the deep enough water, just inside the reef, spun her around with the twin screws, cleared the reef and we came back in with the four people. I came on in and the Group CO was really upset and they were upset because I’d taken the most expensive lifeboat the Coast Guard had and beached it and could have lost the boat on the beach, and I said, “But we saved four lives, what are they worth”, and he said, “Well”, he said, “The Coast Guard district commander is going to be very upset and we’re going to have really watch how we handle this situation.”  I said, “Well we saved four lives and we got the boat off.”  “Well you could have lost it”, and I said, “Well we didn’t”, and I had the First Class Engineer; old Pappy Rice, he came on in, went down and he said, “The only thing you did, you tore the sheaves all off the bulkhead but they went through the beams.”  He said, “You just ripped the sheaves off.”  He went down the store and got a couple more sheaves and some stainless steel bolts and within an hour and a half I had the boat back out on patrol in full command. Well the next day . . . and our Chief that was in charge of the station at that time, he had the day. 
Well he came in later and of course the Group was . . . they were really upset because they really thought we were going to get their hind end chewed out for beaching this lifeboat that there was only one of and the most expensive, and so they were really kind of padding things around and so they sent a message - they sent a message on every search call - and they really downplayed the whole works, and I’m back out on patrol, I could care less, and the Chief at the time . . . when I came in off patrol there was a note on the table saying I had to leave the station.  The Group was giving me such a bad time I was afraid I was going to say something and get in trouble and, “You’ve got it and I will be back tomorrow.”  So he took off and I went into the Group and I really sounded off.  You know I was really upset.  Here my crew had done a wonderful job, sacrificed their lives to save people and sure we beached the boat but that’s what it’s for and I put lives above that.  So anyway, I sounded off to the Group and they said they understood I was upset but this is the way it was.  Well anyway, in the interim all these hundreds of people, including a representative from the Governor’s office, had went back to their jobs and Monday morning the District Admiral started getting calls from the Governor of Oregon saying, “My personnel just witnessed the most wonderful saving of lives they’d ever seen and the boat on the beach and the breakers and people diving overboard”, and etc, etc, etc., and the Sergeant of the State Police was up there on the point and he called in and the head officer of the Salem Police; all of Oregon, he called in and the District was swamped with calls, and here they had this little message, well the Admiral had the Chief of Staff call down to the Group and say, “What is going on?  We’ve got all these calls and we can’t explain it or say anything about it. You get us the message out in the next ten minutes and you have the whole thing down in black and white.  We want to know exactly what’s going on.”  So then they jumped on the bandwagon and started things going, and out of it, the man that dove overboard and myself got the Gold Lifesaving Medal.  My other two crewmen got the Silver Lifesaving Medal.  So it was a very fine line of, if the fog had stayed down I probably would have got my ass chewed.  As the fog lifted I got a Gold Lifesaving Medal.  Now sometimes those little things just kind of pull back and forth.  But the crew did a wonderful job . The Chief, he had got very upset but he got out of there and got it done but sometimes those things just, you know you’re on a very fine line with things like that.  But I always put the lives over everything else and that’s how it went.

During my four years there and until I made chief I don’t know how many capsizings [I went through].   I started counting how many people we pulled out of the water and I say “we”; myself, my crew, and after we got up in the 20s and the 30s I said, “Gee whiz.”  When we reached a hundred I said, “I don’t need count anymore.  It’s going to continue like this”, and I felt bad.  I felt very good about pulling over a hundred people out of the water because this is a parallel but I used to feel real bad when we would lose somebody that would go out in the fog and I would say, “Why wasn’t I there?  Why didn’t I run an extra mile down the beach?”  But you can’t save them all.  You do the best you can and we saved a lot by knowing the conditions, knowing where the fish would be, knowing where the boats would be. In those days we got to fish.  When we went out on patrol and you were out there for 10, 15, 20 hours you could fish on patrol, so you got to know where the fish were. You got to know where the boats were. You got to know where everything was and you were right there to catch anybody that got into trouble.  So the fishing . . . and that was our only source of recreation.  We didn’t have television.  We didn’t have anything out in the station; a basketball and a volleyball net but most of the time we were too busy especially during the summertime, and so our fishing was our main source of recreation and it also helped the food bill around . . . we kept a lot of the families . . . my wife ate fish for years.  She won’t now.  She said, “I used to have to.  I don’t have to eat it anymore.”  [Chuckle]  But the fishing was real good and an important of the program going down the line, and in that four years I was there until I made chief, like I say, the calls that came in, I couldn’t, for every one I can remember there’s probably 40 or 50 that I can’t remember.

It took about a year, I think it was the next summer, when we got the award the Gold Lifesaving Medals and the Silver Lifesaving Medals, and so after that everybody said, “Gee, I want a medal.”  Everybody would like to get a medal, so it was going on.  So the tower called down one day and said, “capsizing”, so I took the old 52-footer again and it was south of the south jetty, and the south jetty at that time was only half as long as it is now and there was a lot of rugged rocks along the inside, and a bad eddy in there, and I came along the jetty and then two people in the water were fairly close to the jetty and I couldn’t get the boat in close enough to make a pick up, and I said, “Somebody’s got to go overboard.”  It was the wrong thing to say.  Everybody wanted a medal [chuckle].  I turned around and the only person that didn’t go overboard was my engineer.  The other two guys jumped overboard [laughter].  They wanted to get that . . . thee two men said, “I thought we’d get a medal”, and they dove overboard and they got the two guys back onboard but we had a heck of a time because I had to leave the wheel.  I’d backed her down enough and left the wheel to go down to get the guy up on deck so I could get back to the wheel so he could help get the next the person on deck because it was so hard to pull them up onboard, and the 52-footer; the only really bad thing about it was when you have somebody in your hands it was really hard to get them onboard.

One evening after that had happened the other Boatswain’s Mate; he’d been out, and he came back in and he says, “Okay”, he said, “You’ve got the duty tonight”, I said, “Right.”  He said, “There’s a 32-foot commercial fishing vessel out there with a couple of elderly gentlemen onboard.”  He says, “I think they’ve been drinking a little bit”, and he said, “but I warned them, don’t come in.  The bar is too rough and to wait about three hours and it’ll be flooding”, and he said, “but I don’t know about them.”  I said, “Okay”, and I was eating chow so we hurried up and I grabbed two men and away we went.  I had the engineer and the seaman and myself.  We got out to the end of the bar and just as I got to the end of the jetty here comes that 32-footer and he’s coming straight down the channel, and just as he got to the reef he does a 90-degree turn to the north and he’s now just outside the north reef, and he passed the jetty by a good hundred yards and all of sudden he did another 90-degree turn and came straight over the reef and here comes a series. They were breaking about 20 feet high and they were the curling type breakers, and I watched that 32-footer do a pitch roll in that breaker end over end and after it hit the first time it broke into pieces and scattered across the water.  The breaker came down over the top and it just disintegrated everything and all of sudden two heads came above the water.  We took the 52-footer and we had at that time we had the first pneumatic fenders I’d ever seen; the rubber ones and they had the air in them and it was the first ones I had ever seen, and we kept them in the ready box, and I pulled up alongside the first man - I took the first one I could see - and the other fellow was probably 50 to 75 feet off my starboard stern quarter and I ran back, opened up the ready box and I threw two of this pneumatic fenders as far as I could throw them and they had that lanyard on them, and I threw them as far as I could towards them and I watch them as I went up to help get this person onboard grab one, and about that time I looked up and here comes about a 12/15 foot breaker.

It hit that 52-footer broadside. We did not go over but we did a nice 90-degree angle, and I reached down and I just got a hold of one of the fisherman; the other fisherman alongside of us, and as we rolled over I went overboard with the fellow in my hands and my seaman - the deck of the 52-footer has, for cleats it has bollards; small little bollards about the size of my fist - and he turned my foot sideways in the bollard to keep me onboard.  It about tore my leg off but I didn’t go overboard and I had the fellow in my hands, and then I felt this huge jerk and then nothing, and when they pulled me onboard I came up and all I had in my hands was his jacket. And I looked and I’m waiting, I’m looking and I’m waiting, and all of a sudden I see his head come up.  I look down and I really think he had died of a heart attack because his false teeth were half way out of his mouth and his jaws were locked and his eyes were glassy, and we got hit with another one and we went over and he went down and I never saw him again.  I looked up, ran to the wheel, and straightened the boat around and where the fellow was holding onto the pneumatic fender, the breaker had passed over him.  He was gone and the fender popped to the surface of the water and I looked around and I had been carried from the North Reef across the bar and I was heading into the inside breakers on the South Reef, and I’m searching for this other fellow hoping that he would come on up and I looked up and a huge series of breakers are coming; big ones, and I took the boat and I turned the boat into the breakers and I straightened out the wheel to about amidships and the first one hit and up in the air we went and we came down and really slammed as we came out of the water; I mean we really slammed, and the second one, which was a huge one and it broke just ahead of us and over the top and drove us quite a ways back, and I had a hold of the wheel and I felt something snap just like when I lost the steering the year before, and it went snap.  And I turned the wheel, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, “the steering's gone but I have twin screws and I’m in deep water.” 

So I cleared the surf and called the station.  The Skipper came on out in a 36-footer and we rigged up the emergency steering.  We had a couple of boxes of tackles and I broke out the tipper to put on there and hooked up the emergency steering, and no problem.  I tell the boys, “Port”, which wouldn’t let me go starboard because of the tipper but it was not to me to know which way I could jump port and the guys in the port would pull . . . come to amidships, and they had the rudder there to watch the handling of course.  So anyway, we got back in and the two men were lost.  We picked them up and the water temperature along this coast runs on an average of 52 degrees.  Sometimes it get downs in the 40s in the winter time, sometimes in the summer maybe up to 59 or 60 degrees but only for a couple of days.  The average temperature is 51/52 degrees.  In 51/52 degrees it takes two weeks to float the average person providing you haven’t had any beer or anything like that.  If we see a six-pack of beer they’ll be up in eight to ten days but if not, two weeks; 14 days and they’ll usually pop to the surface and then they’ll float into the beach.  It takes that much time in that temperature of water to make enough gas to float the average person. So two weeks later the two bodies came up on the beach and we recovered them.  They had been drinking there and they had told the other boatswain’s mate, when he came in and they told me that these guys had said, “We’ve been running this bar when you were in diapers Sonny, we know what we’re doing.”  Well the age-old story.  You know they went down to the sea and they stayed there.  That was too bad but just another experience.

When we got back to the station we wondered why the steering had came out and so the Skipper told us, “Well there’s going to be an investigation of why the steering popped out”, and so what they did, they said, “Well there’s no reason for that steering to break”, and he said, “You must have turned the wheel hard over to either port or starboard and then through all the excitement you pulled down too hard on the wheel and you broke it”, and I said, “There’s no way I can break quarter inch stainless steel cable no matter how hard . . . it just stops.  When the rudder hit that big steel stop it can’t be . . . there’s got to be another reason why it broke”, and the Skipper said, “Well”, he said, “The District has accepted the fact that you pulled too hard on the wheel under extreme dangerous conditions and it’s over.”  He said, “So we don’t want to raise any smoke.  Let it go.”  I said, “Well I don’t want to let it go because that’s not what happened.”  Well I was convinced to leave it alone.  About three months later I’m out on the bar and I had old Pappy Rice with me - he finally made chief before he retired.  He was really a great engineer - and he was with me and all of sudden the steering locked up just like it did . . . but it was just a sloppy bar; it wasn’t really rough, no breaks, and I said, “Hey, the steering is stuck.”  He said, “Hold the wheel right there, don’t move it”, and down through the watertight hatch he went.  He went down and opened the other watertight hatch and he said, “Okay, turn a little bit to port.”  “Okay.”  “Hold it, don’t touch it, don’t touch it, okay, you’re free”, and I had my steering back, and he came up and he had a piece of aluminum.  It was about 10-inches long, about 2 inches wide and about a quarter-inch thick, and it was all chewed up on the end.  Well from the outside steering you had chain that went down to the inside steering to a sprocket and then you had steering cables that went back to the quadrant.  Well in the yard when the boat was built brand new they had cut the opening for the chain to go down through the aluminum and the piece of aluminum had fell back on the inside and had never been removed, and the reason that the steering failed is when the boat took the right roll the piece of aluminum got caught between the chain and locked the chain up, so when the breaker hit the rudder the chain was locked up and wouldn’t turn and broke the shifts of the steering.  So I grabbed that piece of aluminum and I ran up to the CO and I said, “I’ve got it.  We can write our letter.  We can tell the District what happened.  Here is the answer.”  He said, “I told you to leave it alone.  If you bring that up . . . ”, he said, “ . . . you’re just going to start opening Pandora’s box.”  He said, “Just leave it alone.”  I held that piece of aluminum for years and years and years and finally lost it in one of my moves around.  I had that piece of aluminum for years and years because there was a reason why she went but that’s how things went and I’d probably do the same these days but I figured that somebody would want to know that.  Maybe that would happen again.  Maybe somebody was going to lose their life.

After that they lost the MLB Triumph; the 52-footer out of Columbia River, which was the wooden one.  It had a single screw.  It had a big boiler up forward for heat and it was single screw and all wood, 33 tons, but when they lost it up there at Columbia River then they built another 52-footer and that was stationed at Columbia River after that, and then they built one more and gave it to Grace Harbor and then they built wonders.  There are four now; four 52-footers that were built.  Grace Harbor, Columbia River, Yaquina Bay, Newport, Oregon and Coos Bay, Charleston, and each one has a 52-footer.  That’s the only ones they ever built and the one here at Newport was from 1956 and is still in beautiful shape today, and you talk to the boatswain’s mates down there and they say the 47-footers; the new ones that replaced the 44s; are a wonderful boat but when tough times come and she’s really storming you take the 52-footer.

And just before I left here and made chief [petty officer] - I just made chief in September - it was September, October and November; it was just before Thanksgiving, about three or four days before Thanksgiving, in those days when you have a 70, 80, 100-mile an hour storm you know, you got a little local newspaper but it wasn’t a big thing.  The news stations didn’t pick up the big things.  Anyway we had one heck of a storm going on and winds were blowing, recorded above 85 miles an hour when we got a call that a vessel out of Coos Bay, a sailing vessel; on a 50-foot sailboat - some said it was 47, some said it was 50-foot depending on how you measured it - had left out of Coos Bay, headed on her maiden voyage - was built there - to San Francisco and got caught in this storm off of Blanco and was being pushed up the coast.  Her main mast was broken.  Her mizzen mast, the sails were busted loose and dragging in the water.  The radio antenna had been carried away and they made up a make shift antenna, which would only broadcast 15 to 18 miles, and Coos Bay picked her at first and then as Coos Bay lost her, Umpqua picked her up, so that told me that that boat was about 15 miles because they were having trouble off the coast and being blown in 80 mile an hour winds plus and we had the only 52 at the time. Coos Bay got out there in the 36-footer but got driven back in and they sent the Yocona (WAT-168) which was 207/214 foot - depending on who you talked too - tug out of Astoria and she took a huge break on Hungry River bar and took water down her stack and shorted out her board so she had to go back in, and we were the only boat that made it out. 

I took my crew; three-man crew and myself, we had four, and we started out here.  When I hit the jetty and she was blowing 80 some miles an hour I thought I could work it across the bar and every time I would slack up to take a breaker or time one the wind would carry me and all of a sudden I looked up; I’m looking over my left shoulder at the North Jetty when I should be looking over my right - and I was heading towards the reef.  I was being blown back into the reef.  So there’s nothing I could do but take both controls, put them full ahead and said, “Hang on.” Well we slowly made it across, just breaker after breaker.  We’d put the bow in and with that 52-footer we cleared it and I finally cleared the whistle buoy but I’m still in breakers.  They weren’t the reef type breakers but they were still huge, huge seas.  And finally my crew said, “We’re going down below”, and they went down below.  I was on the flying bridge.  They have the inside steering and the outside and I was on the outside steering.  It was really hard to see.  You know I don’t wear glasses and I didn’t have goggles are anything, and the wind and the rain; it was raining terrible, and we couldn’t tell if it was raining because the seas were blowing in your face anyway and the spray and everything blowing, and it takes 50-mile an hour winds to pick up the sea and make spray and they’re going 50 you really get and it’s blowing 80 and the wind kept picking up until it got over a hundred miles an hour, and that 52-footer was still making time getting into it and every once in a while I would turn and I’d look down to the dead light and the watertight hatch.  I looked through the dead light - dead light is the same as a porthole except the porthole would be closed and the dead light secure.  I looked to see if my inside windows were still there. Pretty soon I heard a pounding on the hatch and between seas I . . . one handle opened up the six dogs, and I opened it open it up and said, “What is it”, and the seaman looked up at me, and the third class boatswain’s mate was with me, and he said, “Can’t you get it off the reef Chief?  Can’t you get clear of the reef?”  I said, “Hell, the reef’s seven miles behind us.”  He said, “I’ve never seen seas like this before.” I said, “Well neither have I”, and I closed the hatch back down.  Well about two to three hours of that and I’m still heading out in a southwest direction - tremendous seas; it must been over 50-foot better. 

I’ve never seen anything like it before - and all of a sudden the wind just stopped and everything got still; the howling of the wind, and all you hear was these crashing of waves and they were still coming off the top of the breaking, you know, and I’m ten miles out.  An awesome, awesome feeling and sound, and I hadn’t realized at the time I’m going through the eye of this thing.  And all of a sudden - it took about, I don’t know, 10, 12, 15 minutes - from right over my right shoulder a gust of wind hit me and picked up to about 50/60 miles an hour and then within the next hour slowly diminished down to about 30 to 35 and gusting back and forth, and now the wind was coming out of the north/northwest and the top of the breakers would come off and those breakers would come down and that 50 mile an hour wind would hit that six or eight foot wall of white foam on top of these 40/50 seas and would actually blow it backwards.  It was awesome.  It’s hard to explain to see it but just something that, you know, you’ve never seen it before and it kind of kept your mind off of what could happen to you.  But we just kept plowing our way through and pretty soon I’m working my way down the coast and I’m out to my fathom line where I’m 12 miles out because I figured, “Now I’ve got 12 miles this way and I’ve got 12 miles the other way to pick up this guy and I know he’s going to be in that area”, and I’m heading down and I saw these lights ahead of me and it was a ship – about a, oh, 400-foot ship - and he’s laying just holding into it, and I called him on the radio and told him who I was; “Coast Guard to motor life boat”, and we didn’t have names for the boats in those days.  It was just the numbers, 5-2-3-1-2.  I told him who we were and I was searching for a sailboat that should be in this fathom depth of line and asked him what his intentions were.  

He said he had been held up all day long in the storm; just held into it one way and then held into it the other way, he says, and now he says, “I’m getting ready to head south.”  He’s heading down towards Frisco [San Francisco, California].  And I said, “Well are you going to maintain this depth and run a 100 fathoms?”  He said, “Yes.”  I said, “Well for the next 20 miles to 30 miles you have radar.”  I didn’t have radar.  I said, “Would you be on the lookout for . . .”, and I gave him the description of the vessel and everything, “. . . and also you can maybe hear him on the radio because you’re way up and bigger antennas and that”, and he said, “Yeah, I’d be glad to.”  I said, “Well thank you.”  I said, “I’m going to run outside you about two miles and I’m going to parallel you and we’ll go down.”  Well it’s now probably eight o’clock at night; 2000, somewhere around there.  I’ve been standing at the wheel since early morning, I’m soaking wet. I’m very, very cold.  I said, “I need a break.”  So I came inside.  My crew had been pretty seasick and was lying around and I said, “Okay guys”, and we had put on that anteroom boat; the paper one, and when you hit a 100 fathoms you clicked it and went from 100 to 200 fathoms and when you hit 200 it went from 200 to 300.  It would go up to 300 fathoms.  I said, “I purposely went outside the 100 fathoms so you’d have a line”, and I’m on the 200 fathom . . . from 100 to 200 fathoms . . . I said, “. . . and I’m 115/20 fathoms so now you’ll have a line and you can watch it.  Here’s the course to follow”, and I had a third class boatswain’s mate and a seaman, and the yeoman was with me.  “Okay, you guy’s got it.  You work together.  Call me”, and I went and I took off all my clothes and I wrung them on out and I put them in the engine room.  I wrung my skivvies on out and we had two bunks in what we called the “little mess deck” there and it had a watertight hatch to it, and we had two bunks in there and you could slap the bunks at a 45-degree angle and we had big elastic straps that you could hook across so you wouldn’t fall out of them, and I put the bunk at a 45-degree angle and put three straps across and grabbed two wool blankets and I went to sleep. 

Pretty soon I felt this hand on me and they said, “Chief, Chief”, and I said, “What’s up”, and he said, “We’re lost.”  I said, “What do you mean you’re lost?”  He said, “We don’t where we’re at.”  I said, “Oh my God”, and I jumped up, and still my skivvies dried practically on me, and I run up to the pilot house and he said, “The fathometer isn’t working.”  I said, “What course have you been on”, and he said, “Well we’ve been on this course.”  I said, “Oh my God, you’re going to sea.”  “Well the boat rode better this way.”  I said, “Oh my God.”  So what they had done is they had went over the 200 fathom and we’re just barely . . . apparently we had went a hundred fathoms out of it.  They didn’t know what they were doing and they just were steering the boat and not steering it.  I said, “Oh my God”, and I ran to inside steering and I looked at the fathometer and I said, “Oh my God, you’ve been on this course”, and we were probably five and a half/six miles outside of where I wanted to be.  So I swung the boat back.  I put her on the course to intercept and I had just got my clothes back on and the freighter called me and he said, “Coast Guard lifeboat, I think I have your target”, and he gave me his position and I said . . . I would have been right with him and now I’m five miles behind him and I’m going with the seas and swells so I said, “Okay, I’m ten knots.  If I pick it up maybe a little bit more.”  I called him and said, “Roger”, I said, “I have a little problem.” I said, “I’m just outside you.  I’ll be in there in about 30 minutes.”  So he said, “Well I have the pip on the radar but”, he says, “I’ve got him on the radio”, and I called and I could hear him because I was probably only six miles or so from him, seven miles at the most, and I got him on my DF; we had the DF in the boat then and I homed right in on him.  So I told to the freighter in about another 10 or 15 minutes.  He says, “I’m standing off.”

You know he’s quite a ways off from me but he said, “I have him in sight, one little light, and I have him on sight and I’m standing off”, and I said, “I have him dead on my DF and I have you in sight.”  I said, “You can proceed now on down the coast.”  He said, “Roger”, and I really thanked him a lot and we came up on this sailboat.  There were five POBs [Persons On Board] onboard and I had known when I left - somebody had told me from the station, they said, “Hey, there’s a retired Navy admiral onboard that sailboat”, and I said, “Okay.”  So we came up there and we passed them the bridle and our bridle was cable with a big shackle on it.  We passed them over the cable and they made it fast and put the shackle down, and we had the wire and everything on there but the college boys; there were three college boys and a retired Navy admiral, a retired Navy, either commander or captain on there with him and three college students that would help him take the boat back down.  Anyway when they put the shackle on they just tighten it down and left it.  They didn’t pin it and they didn’t really tighten it down.  They pinned it but they didn’t put the wire on there; mouse it down.  So we got them in tow and I told them, I said, “Well I’m towing you back to Coos Bay.  I’m not going to take you into Newport because I’m down off Umpqua someplace”, and I only had about . . . between Umpqua and Florence and I said, “I’ve only got 35 miles . . .” I had no way of knowing my exact position other than just time run and speed and couldn’t see anything.  It was still blowing 35/40 miles an hour and raining and huge, huge swells, and I said, “I’m going to tow you to Coos Bay because we’ll go with the seas and it will make it much easier and we’ll make it in good time and we’ll be there right after light in the morning.  So they said, “Fine.”  So I got him in tow and got everything settled down, and now I’m riding a lot better because I have him behind me and he’s acting as a drogue; a sea anchor, and so I’m riding really nice.  So I said, “Okay guys, one more time.  I’m going to lie down . You’ve got the wheel; one man watching the hawser and the light back there, on the wheel; you can be outside or inside.  Look through the dead light, I don’t care.”  So I went down. 

I put my clothes in the engine room again - they’re getting pretty dry now - and got in that rack, and boy, I’d been asleep about an hour, (a knock on the hatch). “What is it? What is it”, and they said, “We think we lost the tow.”  I said, “What do you mean you think you lost the tow”, and it was just getting daylight, and of course you know this is . . . well it was a little after seven in the morning, wintertime, and I said, “What do you mean you think you lost the tow”, and man, I’m up on the flying bridge in my skivvies again, and there was no tow.  I said, “Throw her down to neutral.” I said, “Pull in that hawser”, and I jumped down and grabbed my clothes on and they were pulling in the hawser and it had about 800 feet of four-inch on out and they’re pulling and pulling and pulling and pulling, and pretty soon up comes the eye and the bridle’s still on the sailboat with no shackle.  I turned around and I said, “Were you on course?’ “Yeah, boy we were right on course.”  I said, “You’re sure of that?”  So I took the reciprocal of that course and I pushed her full ahead and I’m coming back into it and I said, “How long has it been like this?”  He said, “Well we don’t know.  It just got light and he’s gone.”  It was about ten minutes and the sailboat called me and he said, “Coast Guard, we lost the tow.  Where are you at?  Where are you at”, and I said, “We’re just down from you.”  I said, “The towing hawser came loose.”  I said, “We hung up on the bottom and we had to break it loose and we’ll back to you in just a few minutes.”  He said, “Oh yeah, roger”, and about that time we rose on a swell and there he was, about a mile, a mile-and-a-half from us.  I said, “I’ve got you sighted.”  He said, “Okay, fine.”  He said, “We were all asleep.  It was really pretty good”, he said, “Then all of a sudden we started this broadside roll”, so they just barely lost him when they got me.  So anyway, we came back to him and I saw the Yocona; the Coast Guard tug, and it’s out to sea and they heard this and they called, “Is everything all right?”  I said, “Ah, everything’s fine.  We lost the bridle and that and he was coming down”, and they got out early in the morning; got their moor bits and got out early in the morning in the flood tide and the run down, and I said, “No, we’ve got him.  We’re getting him back in tow”, and we made it back and we didn’t have another shackle there and I had the eye of the bridle and I said, “Put a nightingale in it”, and of course they didn’t know what I meant.  

I said, “Well you put one eye through the eye and put the other eye of the cable through that eye and pull it, and now you’ve got it locked in, then put it around you.”  So they did it and I was yelling at them and they got her all hooked up.  He’s still dragging and I said, “Okay”, and I passed him a drogue.  I said, “I’m going to give you a drogue so when we cross Coos Bay bar you’ll have it even though you got sails in the waters and that.”  So we gave him the drogue and I kept the tripping line off.  I didn’t want them messing with no tripping line.  They did know what to do.  So I cut the tripping line off and gave them the drogue and said, “Just set it.”  When we got to the Coos Bay bar I said, “I’ll tell you when.  Don’t put it over now. I I’ll tell you when to put it over.”  So we got to Coos Bay bar and I’d asked for a standby but they weren’t there and I wasn’t about - after I’d been up already 24 hours - I wasn’t about to wait around, and the bar wasn’t breaking but there was a big swell on it.  So I said, “Deploy the drogue”, and they deployed the drogue, and when he fastened the drogue off and other than fasten to the boat they took the main line and they fastened it to all these sails that were dragging in the water off his mizzen, the first big swell he called me and he said, “Oh my sails, your drogue’s gone.  Are you going to go get them? [Chuckle]  No way am I turning around with you in tow and I said, “That’s bye, bye”, and we crossed the bar and their lifeboat was just underway.  We got inside and came around and docked and the three young men came running over and hugging my guys and shaking hands and everything else, and the commander, he came over and shook my hand and said, “I want to thank you a lot Chief.”  I said, “Very well”.  The admiral went down below.  He was out on deck.  So I grabbed my boarding book and pen and went over and went over to the main hatch going down below deck and knocked on the hatch.  “Permission to come below deck Sir.”  He said, “Very well.”  I walked down below and the retired admiral is sitting at the desk and I said, “I’ve got a few questions to ask you.”  Do you have your papers?”  He said, “Yes.”  I said, “Okay. I’ve got a couple of questions to ask you here on the boarding”, and I said, “. . . and then I’ll let you go.  I know you want to get some sleep and that.”  He said, “You know”, he said, “I’m a Navy man.”  I said, “Yes Sir, I understand that.”  He said, “I never had much use for the Coast Guard”, he said, “But dammit”, he said, “I’ve got to admit you get your job done.”  I said, “That’s good enough for me Sir, sign here”, and he signed the boarding slip and I left.

So that was . . . I mean I had just made chief.  That was November and I had orders because I made chief and leaving the station, and I left in December after that four years at Newport as a boot chief and my next assignment was to go to Tacoma, Washington and take over that 83-foot patrol boat out of there with myself and seven men, so I had eight of us onboard the 83-footer.  I was at Tacoma onboard the 83-footer for just over a year and they decommissioned it and I went back to Curtis Bay, Maryland where they were building the new 82-footers and I got back there just as they were building the “C” class and I took over the “C” class and we went all through the sea trials and everything, and there were three other boats and they were all down in Miami waiting for us to make the final record while secure being through the Panama, and we were delayed in getting fitted and redoing the boat so we were back there a couple extra months and then we got down to Miami and that’s when [President John F.] Kennedy dropped the Cuban Crisis and we got stuck there for about a month chasing Cubans out of Miami and running patrols out of there, and finally they released us and we went up around the Rat Islands and down past Haiti and when we got to Cuba; going past Cuba, three jet fighters came over the top and there were four boats at the times.  Three boats, excuse me, three boats.  One was going to stay in Frisco and two were going to Seattle.  I was going to Tacoma.  Anyway, the three of us went down there and first a spotter plane came over us and then all of a sudden three jets came right down over the top of us and then a destroyer came up over the horizon checking us on out, and when the destroyer pulled up alongside and we were the leading boat, I was talking to them there and they said, “Where are you heading”, and I said, “Seattle, Washington”, and they yelled up to the crew - and they were along side – and they said, “Where are you heading?”  We said, “Seattle, Washington”, and they were all like they wanted to get over the rail and get onboard [chuckle].  They didn’t care too much for Guantanamo Bay I guess.

But we passed on there and went on down to Jamaica and spent three or four days in Kingston, Jamaica.  From there we crossed over and went to South America and Columbia and then from there up to the [Panama] Canal.  We went up to the Canal . . . and you’ve got to remember we had no LORAN.  Everything we did on our navigating and plotting - I was the lead vessel - we did all our own navigation and everything going down through. We had thousands of charts. They gave us charts when we left there from Nova Scotia to the Canary Islands, all the way up through Alaska to where we might be deployed; somewhere along there, and we spent with my crew, we spent hours before we left Curtis Bay, Maryland sorting out the charts that we would need and I had them all categorized down and some of the other boats hadn’t done that so we were pretty well the lead vessel almost all the way around.  When we got to the Panama Canal we went through there and I actually told one of the boats who owned the locks, he was having problems, and the pilot informed us, he said, “This is one of two places that I have total command of your vessel.  You have no say so in the operation of this vessel.  You cannot stop, divert anything.  I have total command of your vessel”, and the other vessel; an 82-footer, was having a little trouble and he said, “If he has that much trouble . . .”, he says, “. . . I cannot take you these kind of locks.”  I said, “What if I tow him through?”  He said, “That would be great.”  I said, “Hey, I’ll tow you through”, and he was a very happy.  So we towed him through the first three sets of locks and then we ran across and then we towed him through the last three sets of locks, and he asked me, he said, “How fast will this boat go?”  I said, “Well we can maintain 25 knots but for a short period of time.”  He says, “Can you maintain it for about three-and-half, four hours”, and I looked at the chief engineer and he said, “Sure.”  I informed the other boats.  He took us through short cuts, down through the gut and to the other end.  He said, "There’s a Japanese’s ship on the other side and I’ll hold it up for an hour or so and we’ll make it.”  We set a new record for going through the Panama Canal; just over four hours.  That’s all six sets of locks and across the lake and down through the Gut.

Then from there we made it on up the coast and around and back to Tacoma. When we got to Tacoma I took my extra set of screws and I took the extra set of shafts for the boat, and I had brackets welded on the deck and they strapped them on and I just got into Base Seattle there at the lochs and the District called down and said, “We’re going to take your shafts”, and I said, “Why?”  They said, “Well the boat out of Fort Towson hit a big log up there and has bent their shafts and they’re in the yard just up from you and they’re sending a truck down to get your shafts”, and I said, “Well it won’t do them any good.  We are a new Class “C” boat and that’s a Class “A” boat.  Anyway, the other boat was a Class “A” boat and the shafts were something like 18 inches difference and they said, “Oh my God, they didn’t realize that.  They didn’t bring their shafts”, so they were going to have to wait an extra month.

So anyway we got deployed back down to Tacoma and I spent almost the next year down at Tacoma, and I was having what we called in those days, [Coast Guard] Western Area inspectors.  They came out of San Francisco and the group was ordered to be a couple of three chiefs, usually a captain, a commander, a lieutenant, and they would hit you on everything that you had onboard and I really thought I had everything going good.  They’d look into your safe and all your crypto and this and that you have.  He found, right off the bat he said, “Oh, you hadn’t folded the corner back on this page or something”, and I said, “Okay, I got you”, and then he was through.  He said, “I have to get you on something”, and I thought, “Well great.”  And they held all the drills and they left for lunch.  They said, “We’ll be back after lunch and we’ll go out sea and we’ll hold the rest of the drills”, and I said, “Okay.”  So they left for lunch.  They said, “We’ll be back at 1330 hours”, and all of a sudden - I was an E-7; chief - and all of a sudden a senior chief; E-8, comes walking onboard.  Well I asked the District in Tacoma, you know only 30 miles from Seattle, I said, “I need some wash your hand folders to go in the head that you’re suppose to have and ours have gotten messed up and probably taken down, and I need a couple of those and I need a couple of other posters that you need around”, and they said, “We’ll send them right down to you.”  

So here comes this E-8 chief onboard and he’s got his little briefcase and everything, and I said, “Hi, Chief, how are you’re doing”, and he’s talking and I said - I thought he was with the Western Areas and just one of the guys that was going to hit me on drills later – and I said, “Well we’re having chow. Are you ready to have lunch with us”, and he said, “Sure.” So we went on down in the 82-footer and I was introducing him to the crew there and had the full crew on, and I said, “Oh by the way”, I said, “Did you bring me the posters and that”, and he said, “No, no, I don’t know nothing about that.” I said, “Well why are you here?” “Oh”, he said, “I’m your relief”, and he handed me his orders, and I said, “Well gee, that’s nice of the District to let me know right during the middle of a Western Area inspection that I’ve got a relief onboard.”  So anyway this here was a Friday afternoon and so I said, “There got to be some explanation.”  The Western Areas came back and we went out to sea and we held the drills, and they left and said they’d be sending me the report and etc.  So I said, “Okay, well here’s the boat and here’s this, and, you know, you have mine when I get my orders”, and I didn’t call the District.  You know I said, “Geez”.  So I waited until Monday and Monday morning the mail comes in and there’s no orders; nothing, so I called the District up and I said, “Hey”, I said, “Personnel”, I said, “Jim McAdams here”, and he says, “Yeah Chief.”  I said, “I was having Western Area inspectors Friday afternoon and Chief so and so; E-8, senior chief, came down and said he’s my relief. I don’t know anything about it. What’s going on?” He says, “Oh my God”, he says, “Oh, we forgot to tell you.” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “You’re supposed to report in three days to take over Cape Disappointment Station.”  I said, “Oh God, I’ve got to change the command and go through everything?”  He says, “Yeah.”  I said, “Okay.”  So we ran through the change of command.  I signed off everything, went over all the inventory, all the records.  Well the Western Area inspectors had just been there so everything was laid out . So I got through it in two days and in three days I was out of there and I went on down and took over Cape Disappointment Station.

So I reported into Cape Disappointment.  I drive on down, leave the family at Tacoma and they said, “There’s quarters down there” but this the other chief, and I relieved Master Chief Porter.  He was an E-9 and I was E-7 taking over the station.  They just had the bad accident just a few months before with the motorboat; the Triumph: that’s the 52-foot wooden one that went down on the bar.  I still had most of the crew.  The Triumph came out of Point Adams across the river and we were at Cape Disappointment on the Washington side, Point Adams was on the Oregon side.  The 52-footer came out of there.  And what had happened there - just briefly because I wasn’t there - a fishing boat broke down; the Mermaid, lost her rudder on the bar just before the tide changed.  They sent the 40-footer - everybody loved the 40-footer, fast, get out and go - and they sent the 40-footer out of the Cape.  He got the Mermaid in tow but the Mermaid on the bow has a bull nose and the bull nose has an opening like this so you can put the line through it and it stays locked in, but the bull nose had been hit at the dock, it had a sharp point on it or a sharp edge, and it kept breaking the hawser, so they sent the 36-footer.  When the 36-footer got out there, there was a young third class boatswain’s mate named Larry Edwards; a great, great coxswain and a good head.  He saved a lot of lives that night.  He got out there and he took one look at the situation, got the boat and called and said, “Send the 52-footer. Send the Triumph.  The tide’s changing.  We’re real close to Peacock Spit.  The breakers are building and get the 52-footer underway.” 

Well, there was a fellow stationed at Point Adams at the time; Paul Miller was his name, a first class.  He became my XO afterwards; a very good coxswain, outstanding, but he was on ComRats and in the evenings he went home to eat.  The second class boatswain’s mate; Colt was his name, had the duty and he said, “Don’t call Paul until I get underway. I want this call”, and he runs down and jumps on the Triumph and they shove off.  The OOD called Paul and Paul raced to the boat yard and got there just as the boat was leaving.  So he’s gone.  So the 52 goes down.  It gets down close to Buoy 12 where you’re just starting to work the bar and they stop there for awhile and the presumption was that they had been working on the boiler up forward and it was probably loose and they were securing it because it started rolling around – they were going to take it out of the boat - and then they went on out, and when they got out on-scene it was just getting dark, the CO of Cape Station’s wife was having a baby and he was at the hospital in Ilwaco, three miles away.  Well by this time they called him and said, “We’ve got three boats on-scene and the conditions are worsening and it’s now getting dark”, so he came back to the station and he went up in the tower, and he was up in the tower and the 36 and the 40 are starting in. 

He says, “Forty footer, stay with the 36-footer.  Don’t leave it.”  Well in the dark of the night the 40-footer can do 16 / 18-knots, the lifeboat 36-footer 8 / 9-knots.  Vroom, he’s gone.  Edwards has the 36-footer and he’s coming in.  He gets up close to Eight and that’s right at the end of the South Jetty and you can see Eight between the swells and its getting worse.  Edwards says, “Enough, I am going to the lightship. I ’m going to be cold.  I’m going to hungry.  I’m going to be miserable but I’m going to be and my crew is going to be alive”, and he made the turn and somebody said, “What’s that, what’s that in the water”, and he broke out the searchlight and there’s the 40-footer upside down and three people just popping to the surface.  They swing off to the 40-footer and they get all three men onboard.  No fault of his own in those seas.  You can imagine the swells rolling around 15 to 18 feet and capping off and that, and they hit the 40-footer and hold the 36-footer.  They got the three people onboard and they’ve got one guy down in the engine room and in the engine room you had a hand crank and you just, that was your bilge pump, and he’s . . . one at a time as fast as they can go they’re pumping water but the water’s gaining on them, and he called the lightship and told them he’s heading for the lightship.  The lightship can’t do nothing but standby to take lines when they get there.  They called the pilot boat and they said, “We’re heading in.”  He said, “Can you cut us off”, and the pilot boat said, “Yeah, I’m two-and-a-half, three miles southwest.  I’ll head in that direction”, while the 36-footer made it to the lightship.  They pulled alongside.  They got a bow painter and a stern painter onboard.  Down comes the Jacobs Ladder and of course he had to get his three wet guys off and then him and his crew off, and the bow painter broke and the 36-footer went this way and then “boom”, then the stern painter broke just as the last man got on and down went the 36-footer.  It was never seen it again.  But he saved those three guys and he saved his three people, and they’re all on the lightship now so they’re fine.

The 52-footer had the Mermaid in tow and they’re going into Peacock, and he’s starting to broad side tow out and the 52-footer took a break and went upside down.  One of the young men in the 52-footer, just a young seaman, had a nose bleed on the way out.  He bumped it, something happened, and so the coxswain told him, he said, “Go down below and lay in the bunk.”  So he went down below and he’s in the bunk, rag over his nose, when the boat went over.  Everybody else was out topside.  Well when the 52 came upright everybody’s off of it.  Some of them had their heads bashed in and they’re gone.  The engineer got washed off when the boat was in the breaker and he swam to the fishing boat and gets on the fishing boat, gets on the radio and he’s yelling to Porter, “Come and get us.  Come and get us.  They’re all dead on the 52-footer.  They’re all dead.  I’m the only one left.  Come and get us.  Come and get us.”  Porter came back.  He didn’t have another boat.  He didn’t have anything.  He had another 40-footer there but he couldn’t even begin to get out the dock with it, and you could imagine the frustration.  You’re standing there listening to one of your crewman yelling for help and in the middle of it a big roar and total silence.  The Mermaid went over and the poor engineer got capsized twice in the same night.  It took two capsizings to kill him.  And he was lost and the two fishermen were lost and four more Coast Guard, so they lost five Coast Guardsmen, the Mermaid, a 36-footer, a 40-footer and a 52-footer all in the same night.  Paul Miller took the 30 . . . when he heard this going on he jumped in the 36-footer out of the Cape and went there and he searched in the breakers all night long, picked up a couple of the bodies and searched in those breakers all night long, and one heck of a job.  But that’s one of the tragedies that you run into.

So I took over the station with these crews and I got the story from actually the crew; the new members, and were really good.  This young third class coxswain; Larry Edwards, I put him up for second [class] soon afterwards.  He had a radio at home and many times he picked up distress calls and would be at the station, and he lived the three-miles in Ilwaco and be at the station or calling me and say, “I’m coming in.  We got a call from so and so”, and I’d have the boat ready and we would go together or whatever, and I had 21 men at the station at that time; a full complement of 21 men.  We ran one summer . . . it got in the paper there.  The reason I remember the numbers, 302 calls through July, August and September that we ran with 21 men and that includes the cook and the ET and the watch standers.  You can imagine the time; we towed boats for over 1,400 miles during that time.  That year we saved 27 lives, actually saved 27 lives in positions of peril and assisted over 1,200 others, and so it was just go, go, go.

And what a crew I had.  I didn’t hear any real complaining.  They were always willing and able to go.  The Group commander out of Westport, Washington, actually out of Oak William there; Aberdeen, would come down to the station on the weekends.  His second weekend down to the station we ran something like 18 calls that day and that night.  When I came into the station at 0600 in the morning he was up having coffee and he said, “I’ve never seen such, not really a mad house but a hustle and a bustle with crews coming and going all night long but the same crews coming in and going out, coming in and going out.”  He said, “And I’m supposed to be down here to assist.”  He said, “I’m going back to the station, Chief”, he says, “You’ve got it.”  He said, “I don’t know just what’s going on but keep up the good work”, and we never saw him again.  He said, “I don’t need to come down on the weekends.”  But that’s the type of station it was.

We lost the Sea Trader.  That was a 340-foot ship.  It would come out of Willapa Bay, hit bottom, split her bottom open.  We went on up there.  The cutter, I think it was one of the buoy tenders; 180-foot buoy tender, at the time and we went out there.  He got her in tow and he was towing her back to the Columbia River and crossing the bar she started taking on water and sinking.  She had three million board feet of lumber onboard.  I took the crew off.  I took the 12-man, it had a 12-man crew, I took the 12-man crew off.  I had the 52-footer.  I took the 12-man crew off of her with 52-footer.  We were just inside the bar.  It was sloppy but, you know, there were no big breaks or nothing, and I got the crew off and the Captain steps onboard, and I believe the last man off, he stepped onboard and hands me this bag.  He said, “Here you go. You’re in charge?”  I said, “Yes Sir.”  He hands me this bag.  I said, “What’s in there”, and he said, “It’s all the ship’s papers and money.”  I said, “How much?”  He said, “I don’t know, I just cleaned out the safe.”  I looked at my first class engineman and I said . . . I turned to the third class boatswain and I said, “Take the wheel, hold it right off here.”  We were inside the river. I said, “Just hold her off here”, and I told the engineman, I said, “Follow me.  Don’t take your eyes off this bag.”  I went down to the engine room and I said, “Open the toolbox.”  I took out the tray, took out the tools, put it in there, I said, “Lock it”, and he locked it and I put the key in my pocket and I said, “Now you keep your eye on this pocket all the time”, and I went back to the wheel and we did all our things around and pretty soon the buoy tender called - now they’ve got the tugs that pushed the Sea Trader up by 14.  We’re well inside the river and pushed her off in there and she’s well aground - and the buoy tender called and he said, “We’ll take the crew off and we’ll take them up to Tongue Point for you”.  I said, “Okay, fine”, and I pulled over and we waited alongside and the people got off and I took the engineer.  We went down and got the key and unlocked the thing and then grabbed the bag and I took it on up, and this young [lieutenant] "Jay Gee" on deck, I said, “Here you go Sir.”  He said, “What’s that?” I said, “Its all ship’s money and papers.”  He said, “Where’s your receipt?”  I said, “You got the same thing I got Sir.”  [Laughter] He said, “Oh my God.”  You didn’t know if there was one dollar or ten thousand dollars in it.  I said, “Well you got the same thing but it hasn’t been out my sight or my engineer’s.”  He said, “Okay.”  I never heard anything more about it.

After that we lost the George Olson.  That was 340-foot and it had been made into a barge.  Then they took the crew off and took the engine room out and it had three million board feet of lumber on it.  The tug was towing is out of the Columbia River and the bridle broke and it went over in to Clatsop Spit, and we got the call from the tug about one o’clock in the morning or so.  We rushed over there and she’s in the breaks but aground, and I know that most of these barges have emergency cables that run down the side of them and they’re the length of the vessel plus a little bit and they run down from the bow to the stern and there’s a big eye and you hook onto the eye and then the small stuff so as you pull away the small stuff breaks loose and you got it in tow.  So I got down there and got alongside . . . it was pretty bouncy but I was kind in the lee.  My crew did a heck of job, got that line around there and got it through the eye and said, “We’ve got her made”, and I slammed her in gear and I socked it to her and I come to a screeching halt.  I took that, I said, “Put the search light on there.”  The kid puts the search light on there.  Well when the longshoremen put the chains over the vessel to hold the lumber, they put it on the outside of the ridge so I had I don’t know how many chains and cables going across.  There’s no way. I said, “Oh my God.”  

So I go up to the bow and here again my crew up and down and they got the line through one of the links of the bridle chain and I took off with that 52-footer and she’s still bouncing, and she’d bounce and come and bounce and come, and I called Point Adams and I had my station and Point Adams sent their 36-footer and our 36-footer came out.  Point Adams sent a 40-footer.  My 40-footer came on out and I had her in the bow tow with the 52-footer.  I had two 36-footers amidships towing off this way and I had two 40-footers on the stern and everybody’s towing there and I’m honed in the middle of the river and she’s starting to ebb, and slowly but surely we get up the river halfway to 14 and we start down the river just slowly.  And I drop back. I had a Jacobs Ladder overboard and I put my engineer onboard and I said, “Go up and drop the anchors.” He went up onboard and the anchors hadn’t been probably dropped since it was a ship going to sea and all this rusty gear and everything, and he said, “I don’t know what to do and there’s no big pelican hook to undo. Everything is locked up tight.” I said, “Okay”, so I dropped back and I got him off, and I’m towing it and I said, “Okay, I’m going to tow it across the river and we’ll lay it against Jetty “A”. You’ve got the North Jetty and the South Jetty. In the Columbia River they’re two miles apart. Jetty “A” sticks out at a 90-degree angle from them and comes out to almost a mile and so that’s the narrowest part of the channel, but she sticks out, and if I can get her over towards what they call Sand Island, which is right next to Ilwaco and lay the ship, the ebb tide will carry it up against the inside of Jetty “A”. The ship will be there and they can salvage the lumber and maybe the barge. Well the current’s running too strong and pretty soon I called all of the boats and I said, “If you see the jetty coming or you get in any danger cut your line, go free”, and pretty soon the lifeboat goes by me and then another lifeboat goes by me, and I heard the roar of those 671 Jimmie diesels from the 40-footers and they rolled by me and somebody yelled, “Chief, the jetty, the jetty”, and now the other boats are let loose and I got the 52 and I got her balls to the wall; boy, both handles were right up there and I’m smoking full ahead and I’m going back at five knots, and that current took that ship and as it got to Jetty “A” I said, “We’re going to make it. We’re going to make it”, and just as we got to the jetty that current went right around the jetty and there’s a can buoy off it, wiped the can buoy off and they said, “The rocks!” I said, “Cut her”, and they had the axe ready over the Taft Rail, wham, wham, two whams, we’re free and I didn’t miss that jetty by over probably a couple of fathoms. There were the rocks right there and the 52 moved out. That 340-foot ship wiped out the can buoy, went on the inside of Peacock Spit and the breakers were big enough that it picked that ship up, tore it in two and threw it back on the jetty, and I have the pictures of three million board feet of lumber scattered all over that jetty and all over the water, and completely gone [chuckle]. We lost two barges and the Sea Trader. All I needed was another ship or barge to wreck with hammers and nails and we could have built a brand new station out of all the equipment we had [chuckle].

Columbia River was an exciting place. We would get 3,000 or more small boats out across the bar on a Saturday or a Sunday during July and August and into September. I usually take the 40-footer if the weather was pretty good. We didn’t have 44s in those days. It was either 36s or the 52. Bad weather I’d take the 52, otherwise I’d take the 40. And we had . . . I’d actually turned my equipment boat into a morgue one Sunday; a little funeral parlor. The fellow was gone Sunday and we were pulling in bodies and put them in the equipment building. One call that I will never forget, it always stuck with me, you talk about human nature in people, we had all these capsizings going on and there was one bad one. I had the 40-footer. It was off the jetty and I watched it capsize, pitch-rolled through the air, three people onboard, two lost their lives, one made it. I worked the 40-footer around Peacock Spit and came up the inside trying to get to the people off the jetty. I was slamming the steel 40-footer up and down so hard that I split the bottom open in seven places. We were leaking like a sprinkler system in there, bilge pumps were working hard. When I got through with that call I ran it right straight up, called the boat yard up there, and what a wonderful person he was. No matter what we called him he was always ready. He had that weighed down in the water. We put her up there. He welded up that bottom that night and said, “That’s the best I can do you for.” I said, “Well that ought to get me through tomorrow until we can get her up Monday and finish the job.” I had that thing out the next day, full again going, all welded up and sealed and going good. But the one particular case we had three bodies left in the equipment building. This voice calls me on the telephone and she said, “My husband was supposed to be back at noon. He’s not back yet. He’s on the such a such boat”, and so on and so on. Well I had three bodies in there and a couple of them didn’t have IDs on them but the vessel she described was one that had capsized off the jetty and I did get the bodies but that was it. And I said, “Well Ma’am, if you care to come out to the Station I would be more than happy to let you try to identify if you’re up to it” - in those days we didn’t call the police. We did everything ourselves that way - and she said, “Yes, I’ll be out”, and this lady comes out and she’s got a 10-year old daughter and a 12-year old daughter with her, and I talked to her in the office to try and get the feeling of her reaction and I explained to her that, “I believe I have your husband. I believe he is deceased if you’d care to identify him.” She said, “Yes”, and she seemed very strong and I said, “Okay.” So I went out and she was sitting at the desk with the two girls and I said, “Ma’am, I’ll be right back”, and I walked out and I told my Boatswain’s Mate, I said, “Go out and clean him on up”, because the bodies after they lay in salt water, the foam and they all foam up at the mouth. I said, “Go up and clean him on up.” I said, “This lady looks about 35 years old.” I said, “There’s one older fellow”, I said, “Put him first and then the other two because I’ll let her see a dead person first and then it won’t be such of a shock.” That was my thinking. Well when we got to the equipment building the two girls were outside. “I said, “Girls, can you wait outside”, and my crew was kind of around. We opened the door and we went in and I had them laying on the deck there in blankets over them, and I take back the blanket and of course the older fellow was her husband, and a couple of tears came to her eyes but she held it very fine. She went down. She said, “Oh my God”, and she put her hand on his chest and she looked at him and she said, “My God, what am I going to do? We have nothing. You were everything I had and it’s all lost. What am I going to do?” And I could see she was handling it very well and I said, “Ma’am, would you like to have a few moments alone and I’ll step outside.” She stood up and she said, “No, I’ll be all right”, and she said, “That’s enough”, and I covered him back up with the blanket. The two little girls heard their mother inside and the two little girls are crying outside and everybody’s got a big lump in their throat. The woman looks me and she said, “I feel so sorry for you”, and it just hit me like a ton of bricks. Here she just lost her husband. She had lost everything and she looks at me and she said, “I feel so sorry for you”, and I said, “I don’t understand. What do you mean”, and she said, “I only have to go through this once.” She said, “You must have to go through it every week.” I thought, “Well what a helluva lady.” So those are some of the things that stick with you. You’ll never forget but they’re part of life and they’re part of the search and rescue, and you go on and just hope you can save the next one. You don’t have to have this again.

We had a capsizing off the jetty there, three people in a boat. One of them had a life jacket on. He must have been scared and didn’t like it and the other two didn’t. When the boat went over he went panicky and according to the one fellow he was floating face down in the water for sometime, and he said, “I’m sinking.” He said, “I was holding onto the boat but I was having trouble hanging on.” He said, and a poor buddy of his, whatever his name was, was floating near by him but he was still face down and he said, “He had been face down for quite sometime, so I reached over and I took his lifejacket off and he sank, and I put his lifejacket on and he drifted out past the South Jetty and finally the boat sank.” He said, “I had the lifejacket on and the other fellow didn’t”, and he said, “What do we do?” He said, “Oh God, I can’t last much longer, it’s so cold.” They were out of the breaks and it was just the ebb chop that capsized her. You know when you get pretty good breaks; eight foot or so, capsized the boat, but now they were out of that so they were just floating in the waves, and he said, “I’m going to swim this way and you swim that way. Maybe somebody will see us.” But there was about 10 or 12 . . . and what those fishing boats would do, they’d come up when it was like that; in a bad ebb tide, they would come up and they’d south of the South Jetty and there’s a nice lee in there and they would wait until the tide turned and then come around the jetty and go on in. And they took off, and by God, a fishing boat was coming up and headed for that area and the fisherman on deck, he comes into the skipper and he said, “Hey, look at that crazy seal over there”, and a lot of times the seal would come up with their flippers, and he said, “Look at that one, it keep waving at us”, and the Skipper said, “Yeah, God.” He said, “That’s not a seal.” He got his glasses and he said, “That’s a man”, and he picked him up and the guy said, “My buddy was right over here”, and they went over and they picked up his buddy. So I took the 40-footer and went out and took them off the boat and brought them on in because we hadn’t heard of hypothermia yet, but we knew they were damn cold. We took their clothes off, got blankets around them, took them to the Station, threw their clothes in the dryer and dried them on out. And we got to the Station, so now we got a call and there were two people. There were two people; the fellow that went and he got his lifejacket off and another one, there was four onboard because two of them had drowned or were missing and presumed drowned. So I said, “Okay.” So I get on the phone and I call up Portland and I get one of these ladies on the phone and I said, “Is this Mrs. Smith?” “Yes it is.” I said, “Was your husband down fishing?” “Yes he was.” I explained to her who I was. “This is Chief McAdams. I’m in charge of the Cape Disappointment Point Lifeboat Station. Your husband is missing and presumed drowned”, and of course this lady just busted up on the phone; started just crying and screaming and another lady answered the phone, she said “Yes, Yes”, and I explained who I was. I said, “Who is this?” She said, “Well this is Mrs. Jones.” “Oh my God, that’s the other guy.” So I told her, I said, “Your husband is missing and presumed drowned.” Well there was a big silence and then, “Oh my God”, she said, “We’ll be right down.” I said, “There’s no use trying to get down”, and at that time there was one helicopter at Astoria. It’s already dark. They’re not going to come out to search so we already pretty well knew what the story was, and I still had a boat out searching and she said, “Well, you’ve got planes up, you’ve got divers down, you’ve got . . .”, I said, “We’re doing all we can and I do have a boat underway”, and etc. Within three or four hours they were at the station and I kept sending the boat crew out even though we were tired, knowing we were going to be busy the next day, but more or less comfort for them and we knew the two people were gone, and in the morning they finally realized that and then the chopper came up with negative search and they were gone.

But that’s the thing we used to do. We have to tell the people. We don’t do that anymore. I guess they don’t do it. They leave it to the State Police or the Medical Examiner or what, but we did the whole thing ourselves right down the line and those were the stories that came out of the Cape, and there’s so many of them. I just kind of twist them through my mind; the different ones and what happened and like I say, for every one that was lost we probably saved a hundred or better and so that part is comforting. But still you wish, “Gee, why wasn’t I there with the boat at the time”, and you just can’t save them all. And I was at the Cape until after Kennedy was assassinated. He said, “Well you’ve never had isolated duty and the fellow that was supposed to go to the isolated duty got out on a hardship and you’ve got to go, but since you have a family and we’re supposed to give you 60 days, you’ve only got 20 days to report, so if you turn it down you won’t have to go but you will get the next duty station because you’re on the list.” But he said, “If you take this isolated duty station and get me off the hook, I promise you if you want a lifeboat station you’ve got one when you come back.” I said, “I’d hold you to it. I’ll take it.” So I was packed up and out there within 10/12 days and took my family to Santa Barbara and then I was down there and gone for 13 months from the time I saw my family and I went to Hokkaido Japan and put a year isolated duty up in Hokkaido, Japan. Thirteen months later I was back and while I was overseas within six months I had orders to take over Officer in Charge, Umpqua River Lifeboat Station, and when I came back from overseas he filled his promise, I filled mine. I was at the Umpqua River Lifeboat station for four years there.
I had some terrific crews throughout my career and that crew at Cape Disappointment, those young guys and the time they put, was just terrific. The crew at Umpqua was just outstanding and the cause that we run . . . the capsizings; we had capsizing after capsizing at Umpqua because it’s a bad bar, and there was one particular one called the Yum Yum. It was about a 20 some foot boat capsized. I got the Coast Guard Medal out of it and my crew all got Coast Guard Medals and Commendation Medals out of it. We had one fellow that we saved and a couple we picked up deceased. The one we saved, actually as we got to him as the 44-footer went underneath the boat and I was dead in the water. I had it in neutral and he went underneath the boat and it was just a matter of waiting and pretty soon his yellow rain gear came up and my Seaman reached over the side and the grabbed the yellow rain gear and they jerked him onboard and put him in the survivor’s compartment and he was still breathing, and went into the surf and picked up his buddy.
At Umpqua we had learned with the 44-footer, if they’re alive we put them in the steering compartment, we had two bunks back there and you could strap them on down and put them in there, and then you have to leave them because you only have one or two people with you and you had to pull people onboard. And the dead ones; the deceased ones, that we pretty well knew were dead, they went down the main hatch to the mess deck and it was rough getting them down there but they didn’t mind the trip down because they had no feelings, and I’d have them lashed to the mess deck table. The one young man, his name was, Friday; old Bob Friday; a big 235 pound young man from Sweeny, Texas. He would lash them to the mess deck table one day we were picking up people and I leaned down to the hatch and just about that time he got sick, and dead bodies and lashed them to the table and he got sick and kind of heaved up a little bit, and I looked down and I said, “Don’t do that on those people.” You know Friday looked on up and he said, “Golly Moe Chief, this is really something.” [Chuckle] I’ll never forget it. He came on out there and I said, “It’s time to get another one”, and he’d pull them onboard, and that’s the type of people you had. They were just with you all the time.
At Umpqua we also did the Life Magazine shots there with George Schultz and then we did the "Lassie" film there, and there are probably a hundred stories out of that shooting that Lassie film; are humorous and so funny.  And the one that sticks in my mind, we caught a sea gull that was supposed to be on the stern of the boat and when they were going to . . . the boat was going into the breakers and the fishermen had got hurt and Lassie, he came out on the deck and he looks up in the air and the Ranger’s flying back from being over in Salem in a helicopter and spots Lassie in the boat, and what they’re going to do is, Lassie comes out, looks at the sea gull and barks at the sea gull sitting on the stern of the boat and the seagull flies away and then they pan to the helicopter.  Well we caught the seagull and the director of the thing had worked with animals and birds and things so he knew that.  So he catches the seagull and it took him a long time because he had just snare and he finally snared one leg and got it and then he puts it in box, keeps it in box overnight.  He said, “Tomorrow when I open up the box and we handle the seagull he’ll handle really nicely”, which he did.  He said, “Now we’ll put the seagull on the stern of the boat. We’ll put a little line around his leg with a toggle”, and then he says, “When your men walk up the seagull will try to fly and he’ll bump his butt a couple of times on the stern of the boat”, and then he said, “I can do all my shooting, your man can move around and he won’t do it, and then you’ll undo the toggle and then really like this, the seagull will fly away.”  Well we did this and he made the shots and finally he pulled the toggle line after the seagull had bumped his butt a couple of times going up in the air and the line would come tight, pulled the toggle and the line came through and then the seaman went like this back out of camera range and the seagull would just squat on the deck, and the old guy running the fishing boat - it was his fishing boat - he said, “I’ll get him off there”, and he guns the boat ahead and the seagull falls off the stern of the boat and comes flying out of the wake, and even in the Lassie film all you could see is the seagull in the boat and the next thing he’s coming flying right out of the wake on the stern going in the air [laughter].  But it took us a day and a half catching the seagull, putting him onboard, and they used the shot for probably five seconds.

So we had a lot of fun doing those shots.

While we were doing the Lassie filming and also while we were doing the Life Magazine shooting, when we were doing the Life Magazine, old George Silk – man, what a wonderful man he was - he came from New Zealand.  He had that Australian/British accent with him and he had been with kings and queens; been with Kennedy, been with Queen Elizabeth, what a wonderful person.  He’d been all around the world doing his shots and things and he came there and he wanted to do this one shot with the tripod on the boat, which we did and got, and when he looked at the bar when he came there – he’d been up the Columbia River over a week and a half waiting for rough conditions and he couldn’t get them and when they finally got them the gear went out on the 44-footer.  They said, “We’ll go down to Umpqua.  Mac will get you some breakers.”  So they called down.  I said, “Yeah, the bar is breaking is 15 feet high.”  So they come down one . . . there are 700 yards between the jetties at Umpqua so the main channel was open but the middle ground’s breaking big and he got there that afternoon and he looked at and he said, “The damn thing, I just can’t get it rough enough.”  I said, “Well wait a minute, we’re a mile away”, looking out the mess deck window – we were up on the hill at the time.  I said, “Now you take a six-foot man and you put him on the end of the jetty.  You’ve got him.  Now move along with the breakers, and the breakers were that tall.  That’s 18 feet.”  He said, “By God, I think you’ve got something”, and I had a young boatswain’s mate; Barrier was his name, and he was a cameraman.  He had his only little darkroom up topside for taking pictures . I sent Barrier with George Silk and they had to make a seven-mile run with the jeep to get to the North Jetty, and they got there and he got all the pictures that first day that he put in Life Magazine except one where we had the tripod on the stern taking the breaker doing a 90-degree.  But he got all the pictures that one day but he spent a week with us, and what a neat person to talk to and a lot of experiences from him.  But we rolled the boat over and he was in the 36-footer.  We rolled her upside down and he was shooting it with his camera and just as he was . . . the boat was upside down and ready to come back up, the engineering says, “Look at that”, and stuck his arm right in front of the camera and he lost the shot that was coming back up again.  But I told him, “I’m not going to do it again, not for a while anyway” [Chuckle]

So at Umpqua, four years, I don’t know how many lives we saved out of there, the different tows, the capsizings, the different things. If I can go back through like the stories I’ve been telling you, there’s probably just as many interesting ones out of there. And the real hero is like . . . the young man, he was with him and his younger brother, his mother and his father and the dog and they went out and got lost in the fog, tied to a crab pot buoy and then instead of staying with the crab pot buoy and waiting until morning the dad had a little gas left and started up the motor and started trying to find his way back and capsized in the breakers.  He made it.  The young brother made it.  The mother made it and his father drowned.  He walked across the sand dunes that morning and hailed a boat that was going down the channel and they came to the station and we went back and got the bodies and everything, and came back and I never heard from the mother for awhile and then I got a long letter from her and she said, “I’m very sorry it took so long to write you back and thank you, but on the way to the funeral my son, who had walked the sand dunes and saved us and kept us warm was killed in a car accident.”  And you know, it was those tragedy stories that happened down the line.

So I put the four years at Umpqua, a wonderful, wonderful, experience, great crew, and after my four years I got orders to . . . while I was there I got orders to go back to Washington, DC and help design the 41-footer, and when I was back in Washington, DC there I was the only enlisted man in the room with all officers. There were two Captains there; Captain Richmond and Captain Haines who later became the Commandant of the Coast Guard, and Chester Richmond who became Admiral of the 13th District here; great, great officers back there. Most of all the officers I ran into the Coast Guard were really, really great. Every once in awhile, just like any enlisted man or anything else, you find somebody who . . . well to say you clash in personalities, but most of the officers and the men I’ve known in the Coast Guard have just been outstanding and here are two Captains that became Admirals that I just admired greatly.
Back there designing that 41-footer I could tell you all kind of stories about going through that and the different things we ran into designing that boat, and then when I left Umpqua I was to be assigned to Seattle to safe boating - and I’d done a lot of public speaking. I had the film, the Lassie films; all the rough water film from that and there were 26 minutes of terrific rough water film in there and I had that, and I’d go around to boating clubs and I spoke to people from San Juan, Puerto to Juneau, Alaska; thousands of people giving talks on safe boating and different aspects. So they were going to put me into the safe boating up in Seattle and while I was there - I hadn’t been there more than a week - I got orders to go up at the testing of the 41-footers and there were three boats; a 36, a 40, a 41 and a 42-foot boat and that was my next phase of seamanship was going back east, picking up them boats and spending seven months and 7,000 miles running from Curtis Bay, Maryland to Canada and down to Miami and back up again. And every Station we went to we took over their total search and rescue and all their calls, and another whole new phase of seamanship.
But the 41-footers, we ran, like I say, 7,000 miles up and down. We went to every lifeboat station we could along the way, took over the total search and rescue. New York; we were there two or three weeks. Some of the Chiefs were from back East. There were four of us, one for each boat. We would change boats every week or two so we could evaluate each boat differently and they would take off on the weekends and I would take their duty. I had no place to go and I would have rather ran search and rescue anyway. So I got the majority of the search and rescue calls that we were on. Out of New York people jumping off of bridges, bodies floating and all the surprising things that go on all along. There was one kind of humorous one out of there when we were going up the East River on patrol one morning and I had a New York crew with me, and we spot this body floating down the river and it was an African American floating down the river and arms out. We could just barely spot it going down and I said, “Oh god”, and the First Class Boatswain’s Mate said, “Oh, what are you going to do?” I said, “We’re going to go around and pick him up. Break out the Stokes Litter.” I said, “Get a plastic”, because I had handled quite a few bodies by this time and after they’ve been in the water for a while the skin and all the flesh turns to jello and it’s just a wire basket, it sticks too it and it really makes a mess, so cover it up with a piece of plastic and lay them in there and you’re better. So I told them what to do and he said, “Well let him go, let him go. He’ll go down in the Battery and they’ll get him down there and the crews will come out”, and I said, “Well we spotted him. That’s our job. We’ll do it”, and he said, “Oh.” I said, “That’s the way it is”, and he said, “Okay.” So I turned the boat around and went downstream and blended around the current and I’m coming back up there and as I get there I started to laugh. It was a great big giant Panda bear floating face down in there [chuckle]. I said, “You can let him go down the Battery now”, and it wasn’t a half hour later they got a call off the Battery that there was a body floating in there. They sent the 40-footer out and picked up the Panda bear [chuckle]. So there were a lot of humorous ones along the line.

But anyway, when we finished that phase and that was quite . . . we were in Miami for a whole month. I got to learn . . . because I was there every weekend and the Captain - I can’t think of his name now - in charge of the base had asked me if I would train his crews and give them some info in towing and things, which I was more than happy to do because I had nothing else to do but test boats and run and do the classes, and while we were out of there, there was a 255-foot Coast Guard vessel that broke down going out the Miami entrance and I had the 41-footer at the time that the Coast Guard now has and I was out there that evening, and they called and I said, “Give me a line and I’ll tow you”, and they said, “You’re not big enough”, and I virtually said, “I’m all you got right now. Give me your towing hawser”, and finally, “You’re right. We drifting out to the jetties and you’re the only one here”, and so down comes that towing hawser and they gave me a short towing hawser, and I called back and I said, “I’ve got to have another 200, at least, feet of line. If I’m towing you down I can’t tow you. I’ve got to get out in front where I can stretch”, and the boatswain’s mate on deck, they married another hawser on there and in no time at all I was way out in front and I towed that 255-foot ship; my crew and myself, out the Miami entrance out to the sea buoy and they finally got the other engine on the line, or the one engine they had, got it back on the line and we cast them on off.

So there’s a lot of experience in towing. And my crews, I tried to emphasize and teach them everything I did, and people back . . . I talked about Mr. Lawrence at first. He taught me a lot about towing and things and sitting around and telling sea stories that I learned about towing, and a lot of things I would pick on up from doing it. Like you take the case where I’ve got a large fishing vessel in tow and the old 36-footer and the four inch manila hawser, and of course after I fray out all the slack and I got out 5/600 feet of line it had mildewed. It hadn’t been off the reel, and I was new at this station and they hadn’t had that much line out and the line broke. It broke three or four times on me. So I’m marrying the line together and doing different things and I finally figured, “Well I’ve got to have a wake in the middle of the line right where the catentary [phonetic] comes I’ve got to have a lee. So we had big rope finders and they were heavy. So I tie one on and I tie the loop around the line and I let her slide down to about the middle of the line and my expectations were that it would slide down the line and then get about the middle of it and it would hang there because it would go this way and then it would get up and come back down the line. I put the first finder over and I went down the line. It went right to the bow of that fishing boat. I put another finder on there. It went right down the line and right up, right up the line, right to the bow of the fishing boat. So I employed that idea on passing a pump. If I got a boat in tow and he wants needs a pump all of a sudden or we didn’t get him one out there, I’d take the floatable pump, say, “How far is it from your bow to where you can you reach over”, and the guy would say, “Well I’m a 40-foot boat, 35-feet back.” So I’d put 35-feet of line on the pump, tie it to the hawser, throw it overboard and it floats on the hawser. The eye of the line goes above, 35-feet back, the pump comes alongside and they reach over and pull it in. It worked perfect. They’ve even employed that now in some of the passing pumps. So you learn from doing these different things over time.
The same way with . . . we developed a way to right a boat that was capsized. You put the bow end on it and you throw a grappling hook over the side of the boat and you have the bow line with just a few feet of slack made fast, and then you have your grappling hook line made fast; taught. As you take off, the grappling line pulls it. The minute it’s over you slack off the grappling line, this line becomes taught and the boat is upright and you have him back squeeze on your second wake back at a 45-degree angle and all the water pours out and you slow down and then you skip the boat on in. We righted many, many boats like that up to 20 some foot. And its different things you learn so you pass them along to your crews and the crews would do it.

So I get through doing these 41-footers and we picked the best one, which ended up to be the 41-footer, and then I go back to Seattle to be in Safe Boating and I get called to the District, and from that, and being gone testing boats and everything, from that suddenly a call from the sailboat, I received the Commendation Medal and I got called to the District office and the Admiral - and that was Admiral McClellan I think at the time - gave me the Commendation Medal and then he said, “I want to talk to you”, and I said, “Yes Sir”, and he says, “The Motor Lifeboat School in Cape Disappointment has kind of went downhill the last year. They haven’t had anybody with surf experience in there and I want you to take over the school this coming winter. You have three months to write up lesson plans, get them approved. The Commander here will be working with you and you have this Yeoman over here full time and you’ll come in this office everyday and you will write full lesson plans and the Commander will fill you in”, and I said, “Yes Sir”, and the Commander said, “This is what we want. We’re going to be running Boatswain’s Mate classes and Engineer classes. Boatswain’s Mate class will be three weeks. Engineer class is two weeks. You will write a lesson plan for them all and you will have help from Engineering on the engineering plant.” So I put it together and I wrote it out in longhand, the Commander shortened it on up and the Yeoman typed it on up, and we had a book that was, oh, a good half to three quarter’s inch thick of all our lesson plans and everything we’d teach for that time and three months later I reported into Cape Disappointment. I had Larry Allen; First Class Engineer, who later went on to OCS and became a lieutenant in the Coast Guard. I had Larry Hicks, who’s now deceased; First Class, made Chief. Larry was one hell of a boat handler. He didn’t have much finesse about different things but when the chips were down Larry was there. And there was the Engineer Kabul and the four of us, and they gave me a Yeoman from the station there to help out. And it was a District school. It wasn’t a National Motor Lifeboat School then, it was a District school, and Admiral Chester took over and Richmond, yeah, and was really pushing the school and we pushed it hard, and we said, “We’re going to be 50 percent underway”; 50 percent of the time underway in three weeks. We put the people through the classrooms and then we took them out in the boats and we did everything we could try to teach them out in the boats, rough water. And we had wet suits at that time, no dry suits or nothing. You had wet suits and you could jump overboard and sometimes you only had the Mustangs and we’d tried them jumping overboard and you can last quite a while in a Mustang, not near as long as you could in a wet suit.

But the crew I had there was really something.  Day in and day out, class after class after class and you were going to get your ass wet 50 percent of the time. Out of an eight hour day four hours are going to be spent getting them so wet, and you know it gets to you after a while. But my crew was there all the time and we had some close calls. We rolled boats. We had people in the water that we resuscitated afterwards. We never lost anybody but came close, but we pulled them through. And at that time when we put the dummy over – we called him Sam or Oscar or whatever you want to call him - we put the dummy over and I put the crews . . . teaching these young men how to pick him up, and we’d give them all the pickup and then they’d do it, but it became a time thing to them. Who can do it the fastest is the best. So we’d throw over Oscar. Now, and they would make their approach, starboard, port, calling out, having their lookout folks for the body reach out with the boat hook and “vroom!” Fifty-three seconds, wow, what a pickup! So I said, “Okay, pair yourselves off”, and they paired themselves off. I said, “Okay, you, jump overboard. You pick him on up.” Five minutes later I said, “How come you can’t get him onboard?” “I don’t want to hit him. I don’t want to chop him up.” I said, “Exactly, you’re not working with Oscar now. You’re working with a real person and I’m glad you’re thinking. Well let’s start picking him up before he dies of hypothermia”, and then they started picking people on up and doing it right, and they weren’t picking up a dummy and reaching out with a boat hook or running up on him. They were picking up a live person in the water and I said, “Not only that, he gets to pick you up just as soon as you’re through”, and pretty soon they started coming around. And my crew, great guys, wonderful Coast Guard people, all dedicated people, but I would pass on to them what I had learned but I was willing to listen to what they had learned so I could get it. And between . . . you take the guys like Larry Hicks picking up people and working . . . I could learn a lot from him and he learned a lot from me, so we just doubled our knowledge right off the bat. So we were both winners and that’s what made it, and I think of the one time we were off the Columbia River and we were having a man overboard drill, but we were working, we’re right off the North Jetty and I was back a ways and we had the 52-footer and two 44-footers and old Larry Hicks, he had the 44-footer. I had a 44-footer and I had another Boatswain’s Mate there and he had the 52-footer and he was working with Larry, and all of a sudden we had just picked up the dummy - we were still in the dummy stage – and we just picked up the dummy and Larry called me and I could tell from the sound of voice and the way he called on the radio. He said, “Mac, I’ve got a towline in the screw going into Peacock”, right off the North Jetty, and just the way he called me - there were no call letters or nothing – just, “Mac, I need help now”, and I saw the 52-footer right there. I said “Well the 52 will get him. I’ll come up in the backup position”, and I said, “Break out the towing hawser, do this, do that”, and we’re underway. I had a couple of hundred yards to run to get to him and I get there. The 52-footer at this time is still twin screw and twin rudder but it’s still a bear and he was right off the jetty going into the breakers and the 52-footer couldn’t quite get in. I took one look at the situation and I said, “Oh my God, get the hawser”, and I pulled in alongside of him and they threw that and it went right across the . . . and he had two guys up in the bow pulpit and we threw it and the hawser went right across the deck and man they made it fast and I straightened her into Peacock and I saw a series of breaks coming and I said, “Two turns around the towing bit and let her go.” By turning two turns around the towing bit that’s going to keep the line taught but it’s still going to be able to play out. If they made it fast I’d break the line and we’d would be dead and so would Larry. Two turns around the towing bit and I stand clear, and man, I poured the coal to it and we stretched around, and Larry’s lying at about a 45-degree angle and here comes this series of breaks. There’s enough strain on the line that it’s starting to bring him around but the line is burning. It’s just burning out over that towing bit and I’ve got 600 feet, and we’re laying her up and I said, “Hang on”, and that breaker came over the top of us and hit and it tore the towing reel right out of its brackets and the towing reel went up in the air about 10/12 feet right in the air and since the line is around the towing bit, “bang”, it came down and hit the deck and bounced back up in the air and “bang”, hit the deck and it just banged up and down through the water and the surf and the lines went up. When I saw there was only about 50-feet of line left and I had just went through breaker, I said, “Make her fast”, and “boom”, they went around that hitch two or three more times and locked her off, and then I took a slight strain on it and Larry was just coming around with his boat when that breaker hit him and he went over 90 - he probably would have rolled completely over - he went over 90-degrees and I drug him through that breaker and he had seven students and him and his engineer. There was nine people onboard and that boat went through the breaker broadside, tore his radar off, tore his towing reel off. It was gone, everything was gone, and he came right side up and now I’m in the middle of Peacock and it took us a half of mile working out to get back in the channel so I could turn around and tow him back on in. We got back in and he says, “I owe you one.” I said, “Well next time it will probably be me and you can come and get me because I don’t have to worry. I know you’ll be there”, and he said, “I always will be.” Larry was, like I say, he didn’t have much finesse but he was a great coxswain. I left the Motor Lifeboat School to come down here to take over this station here at Newport and Larry remained at the station and that’s when they lost the 41-footer there. And there was a double tragedy. They lost the 41-footer and three people. One person was on the bow and so when it went over in Peacock, and it was a nighttime drill and they were supposed to take the 44-footer. Well they said something happened to the 41-footer and everybody liked the 41-footer because it was fast, and we had planned the nighttime drills and you’d come out the Ilwaco Channel and you meet the Columbia River, and if there were two boats, and usually there’d be two boats, we’d send one boat to the Washington side into Chinook, which was three or four miles up the river and a real winding channel going in, the other boat would go into Hammond and then the boat from Chinook would go to Hammond and the one from Hammond would go up to the Skipanon, which is right to Astoria and down that channel and then he would come back and go to Chinook. That way they would just crisscross and do all their navigation and all these new people from all over the United States and some from foreign countries had the chart and they had already been through navigation and everything and they would have to plot their courses. Well in the 41-footer, when he went back and got the 41 – and Larry was in charge of the school but he didn’t know they changed boats. It was his night off and the First Class had the night drill - and they were heading across and somebody yelled to the First Class, “We need your help down here in the chart room down in the 41-footer - just down one ladder there - and he went down there and he had somebody on the wheel who knew nothing about the Columbia River, who didn’t know anything where he was, and he said, “Put her on course, so and so.” Well the kid cranks that boat on up, you’ve got less than a mile across there and you’re in Clatsop Spit, and he ran right straight across the river right into Clatsop Spit and the kid then took a breaker and dumped over. Well the kid on the bow was lost. The boat was upside down and everybody’s inside down in the mess deck. So now they’re upside down. One fellow says, “I’m a diver. I can swim out”, and the First Class says, “Okay.” He dove . . . and if you picture the 41-footer upside down and there’s a ladder with about five, no more than six, aluminum steps and then you’re in the pilothouse and then you just . . . three to four feet and there’s a hatch and you’re outside, and the hatch was open. So all he had to do was . . . so really you’re not going over 15-feet. The kid dives down and pretty soon bangs on the hull and they tell . . . “I’m out, I’m out, I’m out.” Well the First Class told everybody, “Well it’s every man for himself”, and he said, “I’m going out next”, and one of the young men said, “Well I can’t do it” and he went back in the corner, and his friend said, “Well I stay with him.” He says, “That’s up to you”, and he went down and out. I talked to one of the survivors that was inside there - he’s now out of the Coast Guard and he lives in Coos Bay and has a sailboat – and he said, “I grabbed the flares and I put all these flares into my little jacket” he had on and he talked to the guys, and another guy went out and then he said, “I went out”, and he said, “I got up there”, and they had drifted out of Clatsop at this time and going down the channel now so they were in rough water but they weren’t in any big breakers, and they were all coming on out and the two fellows stayed in the boat. They would not come out, and I said, “My God, why didn’t you take a line and tie it down below? You have this air pocket and then take the line up above.” He says, “We didn’t have it. We looked for it.” I said, “Everybody had their shirt on. It’s only 15-feet. You rip two or three shirts in two.” He said, “Well nobody thought of that.” I said, “Oh my God.” I said, “What I would have done being there, I would have been the last one out but I would have taken that kid that says I’m staying with him and said no, you’re going next.” And I always had it that I would treat you fairly but you better do what I say. You had to have that respect and I would put the fear of hell in that kid that you are going to go out or you’re going to have to deal with me. So you’d be more scared of me then you would be of dying. If you could instill that man and still have the respect, that’s what you needed, and then I would have taken the other fellow and said, “You’re going with me”, and out we would have went. And even if I would have had to drag him out I would have brought him on out and then I could have worked on him on the boat or whatever, but there’s only 12-feet and it’s only going to take you a few seconds. I had that same thing happen to me with a young man and he was more scared of my position, you might say, then he was of dying and he did exactly what I told him although he could not swim a stroke and I didn’t know that, and he jumped over eight-foot breakers. But I’ll tell that story here when I get back to Newport. But here they were and then when they all got outside the fellow with the flares, he said, “Oh, my hands are pretty good”. He said, “Give me flare”, and they shot off a flare and the chopper just on evening patrol was going by and spotted the flare and that’s how they got spotted. Then he came back and he picked them up, and who was first up in the chopper was the First Class and he says, “I’ve got to tell the story” in that he was first up there and then his crew came up and he said, “There are still two men inside”, and they were inside for quite sometime and the boat drifted around outside the South Jetty and to the south there and then it sank and they had divers and everybody come look. It was too late. They recovered the boat a few weeks later and the bodies were still there. But you’ve got to instill in your men a sense of pride, a sense of respect, but also a sense of, I don’t know if you want to call it fear or just devotion. I would say devotion more than anything else. You’re devoted and they know that you are going to do your best to save them because if you save them I’m saving me. If I can do the best and they know that, they’ll do anything for you and you will do anything for them, and a good crew, you know, its just there. So that’s what happened at the Cape Station right after I left. And Larry was there and when they had the investigating party come down to investigate this, Larry had the duty but he didn’t know this was going on until after the chopper was on-scene and picking people on up. But one of the officers, and it was a tragedy here, but sometimes we say things in the heat of battle or in the heat of rescue or whatever it might be, or your emotions get to a point that you’re not thinking. You’ve got tunnel vision and you’re only thinking down one side, and this officer who was a captain at the time told him, he said, “You’re in charge, it’s your fault.” Well Larry was the type of the person that he was a rugged individual but he took this to heart, and Larry liked to booze; he liked to drink, but he was good. But this was the turning point and he retired from the Coast Guard after 20 some years right after this happened, a Chief Boatswain’s Mate. He was a very smart man. He had got his ticket and he was a skipper for cruise ships and he ran boats out of Louisiana to the oil rigs out there and then he was the skipper and he had all his licenses and everything and he would call me up and it would be like morning there; back there, he would call me up like three or four o’clock in the morning and I could tell he had been drinking. And he would say, “Mac, it wasn’t my fault those guys died. Why did they blame me for it?” I said, “Larry, it wasn’t your fault. You didn’t even have the thing. You taught everything.” I said, “You were a victim of circumstances and you were the last person on the rung and somebody said it was your fault and it’s not”, and time after time I told Larry this but he just kept drinking and drinking and going on. He finally came back to Westport – that’s where he was raised and he had been there at the Lifeboat Station for years and years. He had a tour at Motor Lifeboat School before I got there as an instructor - and he literally drank himself to death. His daughter came over to his house one day because he hadn’t been around for a couple of days and found him in there and he died of alcohol poisoning. He literally drank, and I said what a tragedy to loose such a good man in the Coast Guard and such a rugged, tough individual, but that one thing got him and like I say, I always felt bad about that but it happens and that’s the story of life. But I try to instill in my people the training, the best I could give them, and they would do anything that I asked. When we had surf drills and when we got ready for doing things; picking the people out of water; they don’t let them pick people out of the water now - people that are being trained, you know, they got to do it on the dummy - and like I say, after a while you’re picking up a dummy. You’ve got to get trained to pick the people out of the water. You loose sight of them underneath the sheer of the bow. When do you stop? When do you pull her down? When you give them the ladder? You’ve only got one chance to get them alongside and you’ve got to make it good, and yes there’s a danger. If it was nice it would be simple. It’s not simple. And when I came back down here and took over this Station for my last four years we had all kinds of calls; capsizings again, things going, humorous calls where we picked up a . . . a capsized boat, man and a woman, came around and just so happened the woman was first on-scene and reached down and she was hanging on the boat and the husband, he must have been 50-feet away from the boat, and we picked the woman on up, back to the steering compartment, she’s alive and she’s well, she’s cold and shook up but everything . . . put her in there, strap her on down, rush back, pull up alongside and it’s between breaks and the boat here and the bow of the boat was floating up like this, and we grabbed the guy and we pulled him and we said, “Are you okay?” He said, “Yeah, yeah, I’m fine.” I said, “Get the hook. Get the line in her”, and we took a boat hook and we carved a notch in the back of the boat hook and then we had the small nylon line and the hook and the line just fit in the notch. It gave you an eight-foot handle was what it did and you could reach out and snap it into the bow eye. I said, “Get the hook. We’ll get the boat. I think we can save it”, and the guy said, “Do you think you can save the boat”, and I said, “Yeah”, and he hooked into that and we were going ahead and he said, “Thank God”, he said, “I’ve got two beautiful salmon right up in the bow. Do you think you can save them?” I said, “Well we’re going to right the boat and if they stay in the bow we’ll get them.” I said, “You were alone on the boat weren’t you?” He said, “Oh God, my wife, my wife!” I said, “That alright, she’s in the steering compartment”, and he said, “Oh God, don’t tell her I thought of the fish first.” [Laughter] But those are the humorous ones and you came out good on them, and we had all kinds of calls like that out of here.

And then one of the ones that was very interesting and I hadn’t been here too long.  It was the 13th of December 1973 and I got here in ‘73.  I remember the date and the 13th, it happened to be the wife’s birthday so I just kind correlated them and that’s how I remember the date.  But on the 12th of December we got a call, 20 miles out to sea, a fishing boat and it was wintertime . He was going up the coast, had been overhauled by sea break and now was scared to turn around and he had taken on some water.  So we ran 20 and took the 52-footer and I ran 20 miles to sea and we got him.  We escorted him back and now the tide’s ebbing and the bar is breaking so we waited four hours outside the whistle buoy.  The tide changed.  I came in and looked at it and said, “Fine”, and went back and we got the fishing boat and we brought him in.  He was under his own power.  We were just escorting and misery loves company.  So we got him back in and so it’s around two o’clock in the morning and we get him in, and we all had been out there now since ten o’clock in the morning so we’re tired and that, and I go home and just get in bed and it’s just breaking daylight and the phone rings and the Watch Center says, “Chief, we’ve got a sailboat going through the surf at Waldport, which is 15 miles down.  I said, “Get the vehicle.  Get the wet suits, go.”  Four guys jump in the vehicle and that and I said, “I’ll take the 44-footer”, and I lived across the street from the station and I could beat the boat crew to the dock.  I could run down there and over the fence and I was down there at the dock, and the engineer is on the line and we’re gone with the 44-footer because it’s faster than the 52.

The water was rough but we got across the bar all right.  I got about a mile down south and they called me on the radio and said, “We have the people out of the surf and the boat is in the surf.  You can’t to it.  It’s way inside the surf and well aground.”  So, “Fine.”  So I come back to the station with the boat and the crew was down there, and there was a man; he was 56 and the woman was 53 or 54.  She had extreme hypothermia and he had mild hypothermia and they were sailing the boat from San Diego and coming up to spend Christmas with his sister in Port Orford, and one storm after the other hit and they were drifting with the storm and finally the engine went out and then they were sick and then they got hypothermia, and they just literally laid down in the boat and let it go adrift, and if you just put up a jib and cocked her sideway he could have sailed up the coast.  But anyway, they came through the surf there and it was 50-foot sailboat, double mast, and they hit the beach, and when my crew got there they were just launching - he had a 15-man rubber raft onboard - and they pulled the cord and the 15-man rubber raft, “vroom’, well out it went and the wind caught it and “vroom”, up in the air it up and it was gone.  We picked it up about three or four miles down the beach because it went out and after it got in the water and got water in it, it came to the surf and we picked it back up down the beach.  Then the woman jumped over and my crew in their wet suits ran out and grabbed the crew and brought them on in, and the woman spent two days in the hospital with hypothermia and they let him out that night, and my crew was around the boat that day but it was in the breakers.  It then . . . right after they got them off a big surge came in and rolled that boat completely over in the surf and broke off both masts and it ran right side up again.  It was an all-steel sailboat.  
So about eight o’clock that night I get a call from the husband.  He’s now out of the hospital and everything.  He said, “Could you help me”, and I said, “Well what do you need?”  He said, “Well I don’t want to talk over a regular phone.  Could you come to the station?”  I said, “Certainly.”  So I went down to the station.  He said, “My life savings are in that boat.”  He said, “I’ve got a bag of gold and it’s hidden in the air duct vent in the main salon.”  I said, “Okay”, and I had a crew down there at the time and they got a couple of bicycles off of it and they got a coin collection in the cabinet off of it, and I asked them about that coin . . . “No, no, that’s different.  This is a bag of gold and it’s hidden in the air duct vent in the main salon.”  I asked the crew down there, “Can you get in the main salon?”  They said, “Negative, the waves are breaking over and it’s filling up full of sand.”  “Okay” he said, “we can’t get down. You’ve got to go through the cabin and down the hatch.  We can’t get in there.  Its too dangerous.”  “Fine.”  So that’s the 13th . The 14th; another storm.  The 15th; in between storms, and in two or three days the boat, the starboard side is maybe two feet, maybe three in places, out of the sand.  The port side is a couple of feet under the sand.  The boat is totally engulfed in sand and in the surf, and his son came on up from San Diego, he was a diver and tried to get in there and they couldn’t do it.  So we waited and we waited and I didn’t tell anybody, you know, this guy’s got his life savings onboard in gold and a local newspaper had to pick up on the story and things were down; there wasn’t much news going, so they called me up and said, “Well how come your crew is down there almost every night on that boat?  What’s going on?”  I said, “Well the fellow’s got a restaurant in San Diego and a home there and all his papers; his insurance papers and his mortgages are all onboard the boat.  They’re no good to anybody but him but it would speed things up if we could get them for him, and I have a volunteer crew just trying to help out somebody who’s lost everything.”  They said, “Well that’s nice”, because I know they would have people down there with bulldozers and dynamic and everything else and shooting everybody on up, and I didn’t know how much gold was there but he said his life savings.  

Well on the 23rd of December the weather switched.  They had a low tide.  It was cold, an east wind, and we could work on the boat. I’m now in the fire department – I’d been on the fire department 26 years since I got out of the Coast Guard but then I wasn’t but I still knew the people in the fire department and I went to them and I got their metal cutting saw, and I went to the city and I got their dredging pump that can pump 90 percent soap, 10 percent water.  We went down.  We cut a four-by-four hole in the main deck, right about above the main salon, with the saw and it was plum full of sand.  We built a little bridge across from the boat with some timbers and that to hook the pump up, and I’m thinking, “God, there’s water here now, but just as the tide goes down if we don’t have all this pumped out we’re going to have to dig it out by hand and I might not have time enough until the tide comes in.”  So I got the idea; I used the dredging pump and I built a cofferdam around it. That way the water keeps running back into the boat and we’ll pump the sand out, and it worked.  Finally we got five feet deep into the main salon and it’s getting late now and the tide’s starting to turn but still a little ways from us.  The third class boatswain’s mate jumps down in the hole and takes a little pry bar and rips off the metal to the air duct vent.  He reaches up there.  He says, “Here you go Chief”, and he throws me up this bag and I catch it.  I said, “This is his life savings.  There’s got to be more than this.  Look around”, and he reached up there and he said, “No, that’s it.”  We searched all overboard.  My boy at the time was about 14 years old and he was diver.  He dove out there under sea gardens and . . . so I had him go into the cabin with a little shovel because he was small and he dug out the guy’s silver inlaid sextant and got it out for him. 

So we come back to the station and I open up this bag and everybody’s waiting to see this, and I didn’t know what it was, nobody knew, and I opened it up and we took pictures of it.  We dumped it on the mess deck table; 944 British uncirculated sovereign coins.  If you took the . . . and it weighed 18 pounds.  If you took the 18 pounds of gold at that time and sold it as just gold it was worth almost a million dollars.  I think it was around six/seven hundred thousand dollars if you just melted the gold down.  It was worth well over a million dollars in gold value.  Today’s value, well over three million dollars in value of these coins.  There were four denominations.  There were two kings and two queens in these denominations.  So we all ran our fingers through it and then I collected it all back up and I put it in the bag and I locked it up in my safe.  Well I had to send a message to the District and I told the newspaper and that because now we had the gold and this and that, and then the newspapers started to call me because the owner had since, in this ten days, went to Port Orford with his sisters, and I called him that night and said, “I’ve got your gold.”  Now if somebody told me the gold and I have a million/two million dollars worth gold, man, I would hire somebody.  I’d buy a new car.  I’d come up and get my gold.  He said, “Well I’ll be up in a few days and get it.”  “Okay.”  So I sent the message saying to the District and saying what I had and etc.  The next day I get a message from the State Department. “Do not give gold back.”  At that time it was against the law to have gold at any amount that has a certain value in your possession without a license.  It said, “Do not give gold back until release.”  “Fine.”  Luckily the fellow didn’t come up.  If he came up that night I would have gave it to him.  But anyway, I had the gold and then the District called and said, “Where’s the gold”, because the papers were all coming out with how much I had said it was and the owner now was denying it.  He said, “Oh no, it was just over a thousand dollars worth of coins I had.”  When I talked to him later he told me.  Why I didn’t want everybody to know I had over a million dollars in gold.  They would have been coming after me.  Its better they go after you while you had it.  So the District had me put it in a safe deposit vault and I said, “Well that’s kind of silly because the papers all say I have the gold and if anybody wanted to come and get it would probably come to the Coast Guard station.”  But nobody came around. 

About four days later I get a message from the State Department saying, “You may return gold to owner.”  So I logged the messages.  I logged the time and I did all this and I took all the gold out and I counted it, and that’s when I knew there were 944.  I marked down all the different denominations and how many there were in each denomination and what Queen Elizabeth was on them and what King Edward and etc.  I marked them all down, had it all there, and put everything back in my safe and the gold was in the safe deposit box in the bank, and I think it was just after New Year’s I get a message from the State Department saying, “My such and such message is cancelled.  You may give gold back.” “Okay”, and by God the next day the owner showed up.  We went to the bank.  He paid for the deposit box that we had there.  We broke it out.  “Here’s all your coins” I said, “How many were there”, because I thought he was going to say they were 500.  He said, “I don’t how many there were”, and he says, “Just that bag full.”  I said, “Well there are 944.”  “Well that sounds about right.” I said, “Well here”, and I had all this made on up and he signed off everything and cleared us of all responsibility and etc., and he turns around and I wanted a coin, I wanted a coin so bad but I wasn’t about to ask him for one.  You know you help somebody out and you don’t say, “Hey, can I have something.”  But if he gave me one I would have liked to have had one, but he didn’t.  But he did turn around and he went to the bank and he sold some of them through a broker someplace and he got a check back through the bank and cashed that, and he had a bunch of cash and he gave me $200.  He said, “Here, this is for you and crew for recovering this.”  I said, “Thank you”, and I took the $200 and I went down to the little local tavern; restaurant, down on the bay front and I gave them the $200 and I said, “We’ve got port and starboard.  Tomorrow night the port section will come in.  Saturday night the starboard section will come and all the hamburger and beers and stuff they want, and pool, here’s the money”, and they said, “Fine.”  So that’s how my crew spent it.  And the people that didn’t help in it, they had the duty anyway so everybody got to enjoy and that took care of that part.  The fellow left the station and was gone.  His name was Mr. Brown, so like a Smith, you know, it’s going to be hard to trace.  

The next day I get a message from the State Department saying, “My message so and so cancelled.  Do not, do not give gold back”, and I sent this big long message saying, “Owner has came.  We gave him the gold.  Your message said, etc.”, and about an hour later the FBI called me up and I knew them, I had worked with them, and he said, “Mac, what do you got”, and I said, “I’ve got all the receipts and everything.”  “I’ll be down in an hour.”  He came all the way from Salem down here in just over an hour, picked up all the receipts and all the things I had on that and he said, “Okay, I’m taking these and I’m leaving.”  I said, “No you’re not”, and he said, “What?”  I said, “Not until you sign this paper.  I need a receipt.” [Chuckle]  He said, “Very well”, and he took off and I never did hear of it afterwards.

But we took that 15-man rubber raft and we used it for surf drills and then I got together with the FBI and they brought in I don’t know how many FBI agents from Portland, Salem, Medford and all around Oregon, and they brought them down and we gave them a half day of classroom instructions in survival in surf and how to float and how to handle yourself and then we took them out in the boat and we launched - and I’ve got all kinds of pictures of it - we launched the 15-man raft with about 12 FBI agents in it and they went through the surf and ended up on the beach and made their landing, and that’s how we worked together with them.  The FBI came out in their FBI publication and did quite an article on the Coast Guard and how they helped them with their troops coming to the surf and etc.  So we worked out real well with the other agencies and got them going.

And my time went by here; four years here.  It was that call.  There was another great call that came in.  I was bringing a fish boat up, there were four of them onboard; him and his wife and two other people, they got down off of Yachats it’s 30 some miles down, broke down.  Their reduction gear was leaking oil and broke down.  He tried to call on all his radios.  He couldn’t get out and he had a CB and he started calling on the radio and a truck driver going down I-5 picked up his call and called the State Police in Salem who in turn called us and we got the 52 underway and went down and picked him on up, towed him up here.  The bar was too rough.  We kept him out all night long, brought him in the next day and he was saved by making a CB call to a truck driver on I-5.

So there are all kinds of different stories and things you can do.  But like I say, the four years here I had gone on 27 years, and I guess it was Headquarters; the detailer back in Headquarters called me up and said, “Chief, you’ve been there almost four years now”, and I had the 82-footer so I could run the 82-footers, and he said, “The Master Chief on the Everett boat had a heart attack and I’m going to transfer you there immediately and your family can stay in the quarters for awhile until you get set up. I’ll transfer you out in three days”, and the District called me right up and said, “Do you want this transfer”, and I said, “No Sir, my boy is in high school and I’d like to get through the winter and get him out of high school - it’s his last year - and the 82-footer is a nice job and Everett would be a really nice job but I’m a lifeboat man and I’d rather stay in a station.”  So they said, “Just send us a message saying you do not desire to transfer at this time.”  So I did and the detailer called me up and he said, “If you don’t take this transfer, come the end of the summer I’m transferring you.”  He said, “You don’t have much time onboard ship and I’m transferring you to sea.  You’ll be out of Boston on a 378 or out of New York on a 378.  You can assure yourself of that.”  I said, “I’ve got 10 percent for lifesaving medals.  I’ve got 10 percent for good conduct.  I realize you can only get one 10 percent but you can’t take the good conduct away . . . you can take that away but you can’t take my medals, so I’ve got 10 percent.  So that’s 30 years of service.  I’m working for one-quarter of my pay because I can get three-quarters if I retire.  I’m going to sea all right.  I’m going to go see if I can’t find me a civilian job”, and I wrote my letter for retirement.
So I wrote my letter for retirement and as things worked out I got my property here, which I wouldn’t have gotten because property was low and everything at the time, and this place became available.  I wouldn’t have had it.  I wouldn’t have had a lot of things, so everything kind of worked out.

And through my career one thing . . . we kind of forget sometimes, but my better half; Joanne, my wife, married now over 51 years, has really been the backbone of my career; helping me all along the way, the encouragement, the time away from home, the isolated duty, never really complaining, all the time behind me 100 percent, and anybody in the service needs that behind them, knowing that they’ve got somebody there that cares and is backing them up a 100 percent, just like a good crew, and she’s more than a good crew.  She’s part of my life.

Joanne: Now I came to Newport to visit my brother actually and help him with his wife - she was having some problems - and saw Tom at the station in his cute little uniform, which I really fell for was that cute little uniform, and he asked my brother to ask me if I wanted to date with him and my brother told him, you know, "Do your own asking”, and such, so he did.  He called and asked if I wanted to go to a movie and I said, “Oohh, sure”.  And he always wore his uniform when he was out.  He didn’t have civilian clothes or anything like that.  So of course he came and picked me up and we went to see a double feature movie, which they did show in those days, which they don’t do anymore, and we went to the movie and saw, "Wake of the Red Witch" and "The Redball Express."  After the movie he took me out to . . . the golf course had kind of a night-clubby type of thing out there and asked me if I wanted a cup of . . . well first of all the lady there asked him if I was of age and he said, “Oh yes, of course, I was older than him”, which of course I was not.  I mean I actually was not of age.  But anyway, she served us and we had chocolate cake and coffee, and then he was going to take me home and he drove up to the park and parked and told me the ghost story about the Yaquina Bay lighthouse, and I said, “Okay”, you know, and then he sits down, “Will you marry me”, and I thought for about two seconds and said, “Yes.” [Laughter]  So then we went together for about 13 days and got married and after 51 years I still like him, and he still wears a cute little uniform once a month when he goes to the fire drill.  He influenced me by being such a strong willed person, of knowing what he wanted in life.  He said, “This is how much money I’m going to make for the next 20 years and if you want to live on that, fine.  If you don’t you’ll have to go out and get a job so you can bring in more money”, and I said, “I’m sure I can live on that fine”, and so it was very secure feeling to be married to him because he is a very strong person but then again he can be soft too.

I remember a couple of times when the children were growing up that they said . . . we were both very strict with the children.  We had three; two girls and a boy and they all three very much take after him with the strong will and very successful people in their own right because of the way he showed them that this is the right way and this is the wrong way.  Sometimes he couldn’t get a gray area in between there, which didn’t set too well with them.  It either right or it’s wrong and you’re going to do it my way and such, so . . .

BMCM McAdams: My children; the two daughters and the son . . . and my son helped me along the line.  He was training with me.  The helicopters were picking him up out of the surf at 14 years old.  He was a diver but he went in the Navy because he said I was too well known in the Coast Guard and he wanted to go in the Navy.  He wanted to be at that time what they call it a BUD; Underway Demolition, now called the SEAL teams. He went in.  Out of 101 men he graduated with seven and he put 20 years in SEAL teams, a hell of a career and he retired from there after they put him back together after he fell out of the choppers in 90 feet in the air and had been all around the world.  He retired as a Chief Boatswain’s Mate, United States Navy Seal Team.  I’m very proud of him.

My daughter is the same way.  A great, great family and it takes that to help you along the line and make things.
Joanne: Bill, through the years they had their trials and tribulations but it was always a fair punishment at the end.  So they appreciated that and I think it has shown that in their lives.  We didn’t have the problems with drugs and that type of thing, and they’re all successful in their own lives because of how they were raised with him and everything.  And like I said, it’s just been . . . I’ve never felt like I was quite as competent as he feels that I am [chuckle], but he’s always left the money in my hands so that’s helpful, and through the years, like I said, it was an experience.  I really expected to join the service and get married into it and see the world, and I got to see Washington and Oregon.  He got to travel a bit more.  But it was a very good life.  I enjoyed it and I believe our children enjoyed it also.  And each time we moved you had to learn to be in the community and give back to the community that you were living for that while.  So I did a lot of volunteer work in that.  But when he decided that he was going to retire . . . actually he decided that four years before he actually did it, and I said, “Good, okay, I’m ready”, and then one of our very good friends who was in charge of the Group Office down in Coos Bay called and literally begged me to stay another four years.  “Please dear, I’ll do whatever for you.  I’ll remodel the house.”  We moved into the Coast Guard house here in Newport, which was fine.  It gave our son the last four years of high school here in Newport so it was a very stable time.  So then when he did sign the papers to retire, he said, “Okay, you have your choice now.  I’ll go live anywhere that you want to go live.  You’ve followed me around for all these years so it’s your turn now and you can go.”  I thought about.  I was born and raised in Arizona and I really, really thought about, “Oh, that warm weather”, but really can I take it after living up here for 30 years, and I decided I couldn’t and I decided that I really liked the people of Newport and I still don’t care for the weather but it’s better than some of the other places in the country that I see, and I figured, “Well, he’ll still be near the water so that will help.”  So we looked for our house and found it and for the last 26 years I’ve been very happy with it and glad that we made this decision, and I know it’s been a good decision for him.  Now that he has his boat and it gets him out of my hair and that type of thing, so it’s been a very, very nice life.  I’ve really enjoyed it.

BMCM McAdams: But when I got ready to ready to retire I got thinking.  You know your last words, what do you say after 27 years in a service that you love.  Oh yes, you had your ups and downs but there were a lot more ups than there ever were downs and you learned to handle the downers.  And some of the stories I’ve been telling you, if I went back I could probably tell just as many remembering more along the line, and I got thinking about that and you meet a lot of good men in the service, but you meet a few that you just as soon have not and you have your cry babies along the line and you have your sick, your lame and lazy but the majority are always there.  So I sat down - and I like to kind of do a little poetry now and then.  In fact I’ve got a whole book full – but I sat down and I took my career and I said, “Here it is”, and this is it.  It’s pretty good and I haven’t memorized it.  In fact I read it the first time in years, here a year ago, at the chief’s initiation dinner up in Astoria.  But these were my closing words on my retirement day.

“The Challenge.  I, Thomas D. McAdams, do solemnly swear to uphold the Constitution no matter where.  These words I spoke in the Coast Guard I was in and I worked very hard to live up to them.  I arrived at my first station and it was a lonely night and my heart was pounding as I passed the entrance light.  My first duty and lookout watch in a tower so high, looking out over the ocean and I wondered why.  A lonely watch and a windward shout and the rain blurred the windows as I strained to see out.  The entrance to the Bay was between the breakers below with reefs on each side breaking whiter than snow.  It didn’t take long in that tower watch to know what it meant when those waves broke row on row, that the ocean was rough and the waves increased in height.  Over 30-feet they could be when they broke with their might.  A challenge was waiting, the sea to understand. Could I learn and accept she was stronger than man?  For if I could, and a boatman to be in the saving life and property, so a coxswain I became with a lifeboat and crew and I’ve worked very hard, there was so much to do.  The years started passing and I’ve known many a men and have been proud to have served with most of them.  But to the hypochondriacs and the cry babies and to all the lazy, I’ve heard your story until it about drives me crazy but if in hell we should happen to meet, I can hear you all now complaining of the heat.  But to the men who have done their jobs true, it’s been more than a pleasure to have served with you. I can remember a call with winds close to 100 and we headed towards the bar and we all kind of wondered.  The seas were running as high as I’ve seen and the bar was breaking and it really looked mean. For 23 hours through the furry and might but we found our quarry in the middle of the night.  A sailing vessel with masts broken and torn, her sail was dragging in the water from the bulk of the storm.  So we towed them in to the Port of Coos Bay, the retired Navy admiral had these words to say. 'I’ve never had much use for the Coast Guard my son, but I have to admit, damn-it, you get your job done.'  The sea is a wonder, a beautiful sight, that calmer were swells of a mountainous height.  A challenge to man but with respect you must tread, for all too often you could end up dead.  There once were two men in a boat so small, only 30-feet it was and waves so tall. They challenged the sea and laughed at our warning and crossed over the reef when the waves were storming. They were down in the trough and their eyes were wide when over the stern they saw the angry sea toppling down, and they beneath its paw. Tried it was but tried in vain to save those two that day, but down to the sea they went and forever they will stay. But there have been many of others who are blessed with good grace, who walked away from our assist with smiles on their face. Then came the night our faith was in motion. We would be capsized by the power of the ocean. A 36-footer; a lifeboat we’re in, when down came that breaker up driven by the wind. My shouts to hang on were lost in the roar as that wave had engulfed us like never before. I held on with stoutness as the water swirled around and my lungs were strained for a breath to be found.  And where was my crewman or where would he be?  He was torn from his hand grips and thrown into the sea.  And oh how I wanted just one breath of air when the boat came upright with me standing there.  Then I took that breath and shouted in the night to my crewmen, 'Where are you?  Are you all right,' and across the forecastle to the stern I did crawl, when out in the darkness I heard him call, and over the stern I reached in the dark, hand grabbing hands so not to come apart, and once onboard we went down below and we rode her out to the rest of the blow, and the waves, they tossed us about so grand, when finally we felt the keel in the sand. I can remember that night like it was yesterday as we walked up the beach to the ocean spray, and the years did pass and the calls increased, over 5,000 I’ve been involved in and they have not ceased.  But with the calls and the passing of time I’ve learned a new word that engulfs my mind; a word whose meaning infuriates me and that word is called, 'Your rocker sea.'  If I train a crew and they know what to do, then why must I commit with pen in a hand to fill out the forms that I don’t understand so someone can check them and say with a grin, 'I don’t understand what you mean. Will you do them again?'  And the years have passed and here I be, flipping through the pages of memory, and the life has been good and I’ve taken all bets and I leave it now with no regrets. And through the bureaucracy and the call so wild, the isolated duty and the assignments that were mild, there has been someone important no matter the place that has always been there with a smiling face.  She’s weathered the storms and the calms of my life.  Her name is Joanne and she is my wife.  So gather this chapter with a closing we bring and we thank you Lord for everything.”

Those were my last words in the United States Coast Guard.  They told me I had a few more minutes here so I might as well finish off as we talked and I got thinking of different things.

But has the Coast Guard changed much?  Of course the Coast Guard has a changed a lot over the last 50 years.  But I see . . . I work with . . . in the fire department now we work with the Coast Guard and I was out the other day on a call where they picked a couple a surfers up and I was on the . . .  let me talk to the boat and tell them where the man was in the surf and everything, and I see the same dedication.  I go down and I talk to them and some of those coxswains and engineers and the seamen onboard, and the women now.  I see the same dedication in a lot of those people that I’ve seen in my time.  So it’s still there.  It’s just different people and different times, and I watch these young men going out there and I’m kind of envious, wow!  They’re doing all this, but I got to do it so I look them over and I think of . . . I mentioned earlier about teaching your crew and having respect for that crew but yet for them to have a certain, you could call a fear or a whatever, of when you tell them to do something they do it, and maybe it’s not because of fear.  Maybe it’s because they respect you so much that they know you’re not going to put them in harm’s way, or if you do you will take care of them if they get in harm’s way.

And I had one young man - we were having drills - and the chopper came up and all my people had been in the surf; all my people had floated out to sea for 20/30 minutes, go off and leave them off the boat and keep six or seven together all floating out at the whistle buoy in 10/12 foot swells so they’d get use to it.  And we’re having a drill where the chopper’s going to come and pick people out of eight to ten foot breakers.  I put a man on the chopper.  I put a man on the jetty, a man on the boat, all with cameras taking pictures, and two at a time they’re jumping off the stern of the boat, and I take the 44-footer and I had one boat and the other coxswain had another boat and the 52-footer is standing by.  But when you go through the surf there’s a place there called “No Man’s Land.”  You can’t get out to the shore and you can’t get in from out to sea.  There’s “No Man’s Land” in there and that’s the danger point if something happens to somebody because I can’t get in with the boat to pull them on out.  So we’re doing this and the people are jumping off the boat and not going to a breaker, take an eight/ten foot breaker, go on through it, blow the whistle, they’d jump off the stern and the breaker carries them away.  The chopper comes over and drops the basket down.  One man rolls in the basket and goes up.  The next man takes a series of breakers.  He’s in a wetsuit with a crash helmet.  He turns his back to the breaker, doubles on up, tumbles and comes up on the backside of the breaker.  We trained with it.  We’d do it.  My crew even asked me . . . everybody that went through it, my crew says, “When you’re all through Chief can we swim all the way to the beach?”  I said, “Yes, but you stay together.  Nobody by themselves, everybody with somebody.”  They said, “All right.”  I had two men left to go.  They had sent me some people from other stations because they said, “Gee, this is a great training and they need this.”  

So who does the station send you?  Do they send you their best men for the training?  Not always.  Sometimes their best men are doing something so who do they send you?  They send their new man because they said, “Well he needs the training”, but he hasn’t had any experience.  So they send me a young man who did not know how to swim. He’s standing on the deck.  He’s the last man to go and I take the engineer and I said, “Take him, go to the stern and jump”, and the young man looks at me, and I’m on the wheel, and he looked at me and he goes . . . I said, “Have you got something to say?”  He goes to the stern . I blow the whistle, they’re in hands, they both jump off the stern.  The man didn’t know how to swim a stroke let alone be in ocean breakers.  He grabbed my man and went right to the top of him crawling up on him.  My man in a wet suit, it’s hard to do, but he dove down, broke himself free, the basket comes down, he rolls in the basket and up in the chopper he goes.  The young man turns around, opens his mouth right into the next breaker, takes it full force in his mouth, down, rolls over.  For all practical purposes suffocation, drowning.  I saw the other 44 come around.  I saw two men jump off it.  I knew I had problems.  I make my circle, go inside the breakers and come back out.  We’re in the edge of the breakers now.  I have the picture and you see my two men had jumped off the other two boats in the water and you cannot see the third person, and when you look and if I showed you on the film you’d see a little kind of red haze; orangey red haze, about this far underneath the water and all it is is the buttocks; the butt of the guy floating face down in the water.  We pull alongside and pull him up onboard.  He’s not breathing, I tell my engineer, I said, “Give him mouth to mouth resuscitation.”  I start to clear the surf.  I said, “Hang on”, the next series of breaks comes through, hits my engineer right in the ass, drives his head into the steel gowns and splits him open from the top of the head to the bridge of the nose, bleeding profusely. 

I turned the wheel over to my third class coxswain.  I said, “If this man’s going to die he’s going to die in my arms.”  I get the engineer, I take one look at him.  “You’re bleeding pretty profusely.  You’re in pretty good shape. G et into the towing bit”, and he gets into the tripod.  I grab the man on deck and I start giving him mouth to mouth resuscitation.  I tell my coxswain, I said, “Call the station, get an ambulance, clear the surf and expect hundred mile an hour winds.”  Where are hundred miles an hour winds coming from?  I knew they were coming.  That chopper comes right over the top of us, sits on top and said, “Do you want us to Medevac?”  He’s blowing 120-mile-an-hour winds right down on top of us.  When we finally got rid of the chopper and we cleared the jetty, we’re coming down the jetty.  I worked on that man for 18 minutes; mouth to mouth resuscitation, then the seaman took over doing compressions and I’m doing the mouth to mouth.  After 18 minutes the man came out of it screaming and yelling but he came out it.  A lot less paperwork when he’s alive and got to go the hospital, and after 18 minutes and I look down at him and I said, “I’d kiss you, you SOB but I’ve already been doing that for 20 minutes" [chuckle].

I was asked what drove me to my position or what made me what I am.  Well probably the greatest influence of my life was my mother.  What a smart lady she was.  She could discuss, talk, give me more information.  Learning was always there and my dad was good but my mother was really the principal one that really set me going.  In school I had a tough time spelling and reading, and I was always kind of feisty, so I could take the guys outside and whip their butt.  By the time I was in the 5th grade I could whip everybody in the 6th grade and the only ones I had trouble with was the girls because I couldn’t whip them.  I’d never hit a woman.  But the guys, you know, they learned respect for you . . . and in football; I played football, the line average over 200 pounds, I weighed a 150 and I was a right guard and those things kind of built you along.  When I came in the Coast Guard everybody wants to get a rate and get ahead and I could cook, and our cook left the station here and they had nobody to cook and they said, “Who can cook?.  They said, “The cook gets every weekend off.”  Well gee, after eight days straight duty and 48 hours, and the cook didn’t have to stand tower watches or switchboard watches, so I said, “I can cook”, and I started cooking and I could bake pies and cakes and cook everything.  Finally the other CO; old fancy pants Barnett, he says, “How would you like to go to cook school?”  “Oh gee, I’ll be a cook”, you know, “third class, that’s great.”  So he puts me up for cook school.  In the interim Mr. Lawrence came in and said, “No, no, you’re going up for boatswain’s mate”, and gave me the test for third class boatswain’s mate after I was seaman and both my cook’s orders to go to school and boatswain’s mate third class came in the same day.  He walked in he said, “Do you want to be cook or a boatswain’s mate?”  I said, “boatswain’s mate, Sir.”  He said, “Okay.”  It went in the basket and that was it.

Fate: fate has a . . . you know so close sometimes how things come about.  I always had a great admiration for our country, history, the Coast Guard itself going back into the times when Hamilton first established the Coast Guard, the ten cutters, and what they have.  If you look at what they had to eat on those cutters and they put supplies on for a year and there were so many pounds of rice and so many pounds of bread, and you knew it was going to go bad what they had to eat, so they had eat off the sea and make their own, and the history of the Coast Guard all the way through has such a dramatic and interesting . . . and all those things put together I just loved it, and now I’m a part of it.  I was in the Coast Guard and do the best.  Don’t be afraid to turn a job down.  Do what you can, and I was always quite a patriot of the United States and the United States Coast Guard.

And so I, one time heard Red Skelton on a tape give the meaning of each word of the Pledge of Allegiance and I loved that so much, and I had an old 8-track tape in my truck and I played it over and over and over and this is what I learned and the meaning - and this kind of set it up.  “When I was a small boy in school we just finished reciting the Pledge of Allegiance when the teacher called us all together and said, ‘Boys and girls, I have been listening to you recite the Pledge of Allegiance all semester and it seems it has become monotonous to you or could it be you do not understand the meaning of if each word.  If I may I would like to recite the Pledge for you and give you a definition for each word.

I/me - an individual; a committee of one.

Pledge - dedicate all my worldly goods to give without self-pity.

Allegiance – my love and my devotion

To the flag - our standard, Old glory; a symbol of courage, and whenever she waves there is respect because your loyalty has given her a dignity that shouts freedom, is everybody’s job.

Of the United – that means we have all come together.

States - individual communities united into 48 great states.  Forty eight individual communities with pride, dignity and purpose, all divided by an imaginary boundary yet united to a common cause and that’s love the country.

Of America.

And to the Republic – a republic a sovereign state in which power is invested into the representatives chosen by the people to govern, and it’s from the people to the leaders, not from the leaders to the people.

For which is stands, One Nation - meaning it’s all blessed by God.

Indivisible – incapable of being divided

With liberty - which is freedom; the right of power for one to live his own life without fears, threats or any sort of retaliation.

And Justice - the principles and qualities of dealing fairly with others.

For all - For all; that means boys and girls, it is as much your country as it is mine.

Since I was a small boy in school two states have been added to our country and two words have been added to the Pledge of Allegiance - "Under God."  Wouldn’t it be a pity if someone said that is a prayer and that be eliminated from our schools too?


Last Modified 1/12/2016