CWO Fred Mann, USCG (Ret.)
A Coast Guard Memoir
1. Born Atlee, Virginia – October 14, 1918
Attended Atlee School until 10th grade
2. Sent to Spartanburg, South Carolina to Textile Industrial Institute. Completed two years Junior College – then to University of Georgia for one quarter
3. Enlisted and called to duty U.S. Coast Guard August 27, 1939
4. First assignment from Atlanta Recruiting to the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Saranac [WPG]– Galveston, Texas
5. Second ship was Lighthouse Tender – USCGC Myrtle (WAGL-263)
6. Third transfer was to Galveston Coast Guard Lifeboat Station
7. Fourth was to Radio School – Groton, Connecticut
8. Fifth – Grand Isle Louisiana Lifeboat Station
9. Sabine Pass Lifeboat Station Group – Port Arthur, Texas and patrol duties – Port Arthur/ Beaumont
10. Navy Receiving Station – Norfolk, Virginia
11. USS George Fox Elliott (AP-13)– Navy Transport
12. USS Hunter Liggett (APA-14)– Coast Guard Transport
13. To Boat Pool – Guadalcanal for duty
14. San Francisco – to New Orleans
15. Panama City, Florida – Port Security
16. New York City (Ellis Island) to 83 Footer off New York Harbor – to Army FS – to Hospital - to Coast Guard Cutter Oak (WAGL-239)– all in New York
17. Miami, Florida: 80-Footer
18. Trinidad BWI: 83-Footer
19. Miami, Florida
20. Miami to California
21. Norfolk, Virginia
22. Coast Guard Cutter Bibb (WPG-31)
23. Captain of Port – Boston, Massachusetts – Lahaut/ Boston LBS/ docks in Boston
24. Light Ship out of Boston
25. Recruiting – Boston
26. Fort Gordon, Georgia
27. Coast Guard Cutter General Greene (WSC-140)– Gloucester, Massachusetts
28. Port Isabel, Texas – Cutter Boutwell (WSC-130)
29. Erie, Pennsylvania – Lifeboat Station
30. Toledo, Ohio – Coast Guard Cutter Tupelo (WAGL-303)
31. COTP – Sault Saint Marie Cot. P. (Captain of the Port)
32. Portsmouth, Virginia – Coast Guard Cutter Narcissus (WAGL-238)
33. Norfolk, Virginia – District Officer NS boat officer
34. White Pine – New Orleans, Louisiana
35. COTP – New Orleans, Louisiana
36. Portsmouth, Virginia – Coast Guard Cutter Mistletoe (WAGL-237)
37. Port Isabel, Texas – COTP
38. Bayview, Texas
I was born in Atlee, Virginia (9 miles from Richmond), October 14, 1918, one of fifteen children (never saw over twelve, so did not know the other three), on a forty-two acre truck farm. So, I learned to work very early – plowing, cultivating, and hoeing.
My Dad was physically in not too good shape – very poor eyesight, ulcerated throat. This all helped to no good understanding on my part. In other words, I was a very hot-tempered young man. On occasion, he tried to use my neighbors phone to send me to the county reform school. To top this off, my two brothers, Douglas and Eugene, being a lot younger than me, didn’t have much desire to work at all – so they too kept me in trouble. By being on them to do their chores, I wound up with the “lickings”.
Anyway, I wound up being sent to Textile Industrial Institute, a Junior College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, to finish High School and two years of college. To this day, I do not know how I lucked out for boarding school in the middle of the Depression.
This school one usually worked two weeks and went to school for two weeks. I worked on the farm, carried newspapers, worked at the cotton mill, kitchen, and other areas. Money was about non-existent, as it took it all to pay for my schooling. Hazel sent me one of her hard-earned dollars a month that she earned as a nurse. Without that, there was just no money to be had.
The one outstanding event here was I won the Declaration Contest and I had never spoken in pubic before. All the other speakers were mostly pre-ministry.
When I had completed all my studies here, Howard, my brother, who was a graduate of Clemson and was located in Soil Conservation in Spartan, South Carolina, persuaded me to go to the University of Georgia and take forestry, which I did. I went home for Christmas and worked for a fellow selling fireworks. I made the sum of $18.00 over the holidays. So back to the University of Georgia I went with my $18.00 in my pocket. I was hell-bent on entering one of the services – so I arrived in Atlanta January 1, 1939. (1)
In Atlanta, I visited all the recruiting offices and wound up on a Coast Guard waiting list. They just did not have this glad-hand for any of the services. I was lucky to find a boarding house for $5.00 a week. Men slept in double beds and nothing was thought of it. Right off, I found a demolishing job for a few days. That helped the $18.00, but that too was soon gone. The landlady let me shovel coal in the basement while I looked for a job. It would have to be until August 29th before I got in, but of course I did not know this at the time.
While making my rounds, I stopped by the Salvation Army to check on a job. At this time, no job, no eat. Just that simple. Anyway, I was on my way out when the lady said, “Wait a minute”. A lady had called wanting to know if she knew anyone who could work a few hours in her rose garden. “Would I be interested?” – Well, YOU BET!
She gave me the address and bus fare to get there. It was f or seventeen cents per hour. I was very happy as I would now eat. She laid out the work and went into the house. When she came back out a couple of hours later, she was well pleased with my work. She asked if I wanted a full-time job because she knew a nurseryman she could call, which she did.
It was hard work – hauling stone, brick, manure, and lots of digging and welding. I worked for the salesman, Charlie Jones. He treated me just like a brother. If he took leave, he took me with him. One time, he took me traveling all over Florida, even to Key West. When it was time to go into the Coast Guard, the owner called me in and said I was not ready for the Service. He said I could work there in the summer and he would send me to the University of Syracuse in New York in the winter. He would let me be a salesman. Whew! – To the Service – Thanks very much.
Beginning – U.S. Coast Guard Career
August 29, 1939, Atlanta, Georgia Recruiting Station – I was sworn into the service and supposed to be sent to boot camp in Port Lauderdale. This didn’t happen. The Chief got drunk and we did not leave. We went to the Chief’s house for the night. So an excuse had to be had and guess who the goat was? So I agreed to face the Old Man with the excuse that my sister had come down to King Mountain and we had lost track of time. Well, the Old Man worked me over for about an hour. He finally says “you are lying, but I can’t prove it. If I could I’d throw you out.” (2) Well, orders were changed and so was the Chief. This time we were put on a train to Galveston, Texas then aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Saranac. I think the Old Man knew what had happened, but didn’t wish to hang the Chief.
From the farm to a military ship is about the biggest step I ever took. I’d rather go to boot camp any day than straight aboard. Walking aboard a very quiet ship and logging in is out of this world if you have never done it before. A ship at liberty and in the middle of the night – there were several on roving watch and a few playing cards – most lights were out and you are now fast becoming a part of her.
So now we jump around a bit. This part is about the Coast Guard Cutter Saranac / Buoy Tender Myrtle / Customs Boat – Radio School, Groton, Connecticut / Grand Isle Life Boat Station / Galveston Life Boat Station / Beaumont, Texas COTP [Captain of the Port office] / Sabine Life Boat Station/ Port Arthur COTP. I was in and out of all of these places prior to Pearl Harbor.
Life for a farm boy on a Coast Guard cutter is really different. (3) Getting used to and using the terms below took awhile and were never to be forgotten:
Deck/ Dog watch / Semaphore / Dead roll / Hawser / Crows Nest / Wig Wag / Wake / Charlie Noble / Home Port / Flag Hoist / Plymusil Line / Haws Pipe / Under Way / Water Hours / Lead Line / Pipe Down / Ships Bells / Restricted / Sail Locker / Liberty / Man the Rails / Captains Mast / Winch / Hole / Rope Yarn / Head / Yope Yarn Sunday / Ladders / Sick Call / Twix Wind & Water / Colors / Pay Call / Overhead / Overboard / Draft / Quarters / Bilges / General Quarters / Pearl Diving / Wheel House / Belay / Sky Larking / Holidays/ Scuppers / Quarterdeck / Mayday / Lord Nelson Mourning / Holy Stone / Officers Call / Officers Quarters / OOD / Inspection / Sedunk / Prayer Books / Fos’cle / Uniform of the day / Mail Buoy / Soogie / Tiedown / Small Craft / Stream a line / Turn to / Clean sweep down / Alongside / Fenders / Sick Bay / Coffee time / Chow / Safety net / Galley / Lead Line / Sea Ladder / Ships Company / Man your station / Shacked up / Rope / Block gauge / Ships eyes / Hatch / Rope Yarn / Deck apes / Jackass Covers / Porthole / Gang Plank / Weigh Anchor / Wind the ship / Old Man / Gang Way / Dead in the Water / Sea Lawyer / Holy Stones / Stage.
Usually, an older seaman or third class was assigned to each of us “boots” to teach us the ropes. If we did not learn too fast or too well, they did not get Liberty. So you can bet they taught us well and fast. Most of my time on the Coast Guard Cutter Saranac was learning drills and hard work. I remember my first time over the side on a stage. When dinnertime came, you climbed topside or you didn’t eat – those days were 39/40.
Had a couple of hot-head run-ins, but luckily I was hauled before the Chief and his fatherly advice saved me many a headache in the future. After a couple months of patrols, I was transferred to the CGC Myrtle, a lighthouse buoy tender. It still had a civilian “crow”. This ship built day-beacons, changed lights, and any other hard work that came down the channel. Her range was from Galveston all the way over to St. Charles and New Orleans, Louisiana. This was just a hard-working small ship. All the work was heavy, all building materials were well-constructed. I stayed with half my skin burned off.
Usually these structures are 4 / 8 / 12 – 90 foot piles driven in and bolted together. You wind up with a cone beacon or light 50 feet above water and about 20 foot square. They are not fun to build and when you see how fast a barge can make kindling wood out of it, it makes you want to cry to have to do it all over.
The very first night the C.O. [Commanding Officer] came back on the Myrtle, he was drunk and he decided to run us two Coast Guards off the ship. In other words, he didn’t like the Coast Guard. So we ran back to our first ship the CGC Saranac. The O.O.D. [Officer of the Deck] was surprised to see us, to say the least. How it all got settled is beyond me – but we all went back and off we went to build more beacons. So, to the best of my knowledge, I managed to put in for radio school to get off. So, I was transferred to Galveston Lifeboat Station.
This was a whole new outfit for me, but I soon learned how a LBS worked. This was one clean unit – and well-organized. One could eat off the deck and feel good about it. We got 48 hours Liberty every twelve days. You stood your watches in the Lookout Tower – you had the Lookout Radio, so the eyes and experience came in handy. Lifeboat Stations, up until this time, had special men that walked the beaches and rowed the surf boats. They were great swimmers. They stayed in the same area up until WWII. All these men were great seamen and small boat handlers. They were the first to go aboard Navy transports for war in the Pacific. I didn’t stay here too long as the transfer I’d put in for radio school came through and I was on my way to Groton, Connecticut. It was a whole new world and a concept to go with it. You might say I was beginning to grow up!
So I left Galveston LBS in my 1932 Plymouth coupe, all by myself. That car could run like a scared rabbit. I think I stopped off to see the folks in Virginia. Anyway, as I was passing through New Jersey, I picked up a Navy sailor and proceeded toward New York City. I stopped in for the night at a YMCA. We both slept in the same room. He did me a favor by taking my orders and my money -all gone when I woke up. I was very lucky he didn’t take the car or the keys. I had enough gas to get me to Groton. Can you imagine a boot seaman reporting in with no orders or identification papers? I assure you, this was one for the books. Who are you? Why are you trying to check into here? Get out of the car and come in while we check out what you’re saying. They did, and I came out of it lily white. They bought my story and I am really appreciative of that.
Well school, code and all that went with school, were really something. (4) They were shoving a year of schooling into three months. I was getting the code, but was having a tough time with procedure (typing). I was called to the office and in no uncertain terms told I was to get better and to stay aboard until I did. To make a long story short, I heard a horse on a cobbled street trotting, and I was trying to figure out what he was sending! All in all, I wanted out of this school. I put in to get off a buoy tender, now I have orders to one.
Anyway, back to the office I go. And they informed me that if I did not improve that I’d never be a Petty Officer as long as I was in the Coast Guard. I didn’t know any better, and I believed them, but asked to leave anyway.
It was the middle of the winter in Connecticut, with snow and icy roads – but off I went. I assure you, I picked up no one. My orders read to Grand Isle LBS for landing craft training. I stopped in Georgia to see a Georgia girlfriend. She wanted to get married. I said “No way, kid. I only make $54.00 a month”. Then it was on down the road to New Orleans. The further I went the closer to water level I came. By the time I got to Grand Isle (90 miles), there was very little dry land on either side of the road.
I arrived at Grand Isle and learned the routine of this station- Lyle gun, surf boats, signaling, watches, drills, and study and work, of course. I was lucky enough to meet one of the only two school teachers on the island. She had no one to talk with and nowhere to go on a date. So we talked a lot, as we were the same age. She was from Algiers, right across the river from New Orleans. There was nothing romantic here, just two people who both needed someone to talk to. She wrote my mother a beautiful letter when my dad died. I was somewhere in the Pacific at the time.
I think this training lasted about six months. My orders came for Sabine Pass, Texas (right). I didn’t have the slightest idea as to what it was all about or where it even was. Well, again I call on my Plymouth to get me there.
I was about to learn what a Group Commander was and how I would be used. At least it was warm, but the “skeeters” were so bad that they had to move the cattle to higher ground as they could be killed by too many bites. At times, it was even hard to see out of the lookout screens.
Sabine Pass, Port Arthur, and Beaumont – it was not unusual to be shifted from one to the other. I learned what harbor patrol is and how to do it – especially at night. Not a whole lot happened here. War had not broken out for us Americans yet, but we were on a war footing as to our duties - boarding ships and checking small boats, checking all personal areas as well as dock areas. We broke up a strike on a foreign ship because the guy was sitting in the boat cockpit cleaning a rifle when it could be easily seen by all as we cruised up and down.
From Port Arthur, I was transferred to Beaumont and took over a private yacht of the Phalen family. (5) This was to be used for patrol duty in Beaumont harbor where they were building a couple of ships. They launched the ships by greasing the ramps with bananas. It worked well. Little did I know that one of these ships would bring us out of Guadalcanal a year and a half later.
Thank goodness nothing of importance happened while I was stationed here. I was just a seaman with the promise of third when rate opened up. They did, and I became not just third, but second as well. Somebody must have expected an awful lot from me. However, along with this came a set of orders sending me to the U.S. Navy Recruiting Station in Norfolk, Virginia.
So this would begin a whole new chapter. (6) No longer would I be helping an old Lamplighter carry batteries to keep the channel properly marked. It was nice having dinner in their homes each time I helped them out. No longer to be the guy that was responsible for all of Beaumont dock area. From now on, I’d be with the so-called deep water sailors – this shallow water sailor was a country boy growing up very fast!
I arrived in Norfolk early in December 1941. A few days later, I had an opportunity to go to Richmond to see my mother, who was in St. Lukes Hospital with appendicitis. I was crossing the street, about ready to go into the hospital when I heard the news that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. So a fast trip back to Norfolk and I was quickly transferred to the Navy transport George Fox Elliott (left). This was on of the passenger ships of the Baltimore Line. Twelve to fifteen knots maybe, if all hands got out and pushed is all she could do. She was in Portsmouth Navy Shipyard for overhaul.
Going aboard a ship in a shipyard, you think you are having a nightmare – wires, cables, pipes, hundreds of workers and sailors all over the place -welding, cutting, washing, and testing – all at once on every foot of the deck. We were still in the shipyard when New Years came, so a couple of us were looking for a church. The only one we could find was a colored, so we sat in the balcony. We enjoyed the eyes and the sermon.
I don’t remember when we left the yard, but that was quite different as to size. I had been on the Saranac which was 250-foot. This was well over 500-foot with a 450-foot Navy Crow. There were twenty-two “Coasties” and Marines. When we had troops, there was somewhere near two thousand plus men.
Our first trip was to Army Pier New York. We had no escorts going or coming. What little Navy there was went for convoy patrols – Coast Guard cutters had most of the North Atlantic – Greenland, Iceland, etc., as we had had lots of experience there.
Anyway, when I went aboard the Elliott, I asked to go in the 1st Division. That’s what we were assigned to, but most were elsewhere. I was also assigned to landing craft. During all drills, I went to that station, except during general quarters – then it was all the forward and manned 3.50 anti-aircraft. That is where I stood watches – four on – eight off, work while off or drills. Exactly what we were doing and where we were going to do it was all scuttlebutt, but that was right sometimes. Anyway, big ships are run just like small ships, but there is a lot more ship, men, and materials.
Things being the way they were, we manned the guns right in New York, tied to the docks. No one knew what to expect, when or how – just be ready with what you have. I’ve forgotten how Liberty worked in New York. No doubt, one in three or four, but we usually didn’t stay in these places, except to load and unload, which was not long.
Well, a bit down the road, the ship was diverted to New York to take on troops for England. They would take no boats, so all boat crews stayed in Sheepshead Bay, while the ships did the rough crossing. We slept in a big breezeway and never seemed to get warm. We took care of the boats daily.
Elliott returned and we took on a load of colored troops. We were to take them to Pago Pago – friendly islands – and pick up Marines at American Samoa. Now regardless of how you cut that, that is a long, long sea trip.
When she did get underway, I was very happy – although the trip to New York could be a very dangerous one. Anyway, special sea detail is set; everyone is at their assigned places. Mine was in my Higgins landing craft. I will not describe them, but when it came to surf, they either had a load of stones or thirty-six men and all their equipment. Higgins knew what he was doing when he designed his landing craft.
This part of the Atlantic was new to me. I had seen the ocean from the beach and wondered what people did all day while out there. Now that I am out here, I wonder about my family and what they are doing. So, at long last, I know both sides and places.
We left New York the twelfth of April for parts unknown. We were headed south, eventually to reach the Panama Canal. One of our escorts from Norfolk was the old battleship Texas [BB-35]. It was quite interesting to watch her lose power. She would swing around, no control, like a dead whale. And you’d better not be in the way or you would be wiped out.
We passed through the [Panama] Canal at night. So all we saw was a very few necessary lights - "Black Out." So we continued our normal work. As morning came, we were underway in the broad Pacific.
Ships of all types make up the armada. Aircraft carriers are somewhere over the horizon with cans and "Large Ones" escorting. We felt kind of safe as we steamed on.
We had our first complete inspection and believe it or not, every hatch door was wide open. We were lucky that was the only time. One fish could sink her so fast it wouldn’t be funny. The sea, for this day, was long Pacific swells and a little chop, so one enjoys this kind of weather after leaving New York.
So, here comes the real story of my life, as of now. I have told it on several occasions, and it is a true one.
Since I did not see any future in the boat division, I asked permission to go to the deck division - so to Petty Officer 1st Division – to Chief Bos'n Mate, 1st Division officer. He sent me to a Lieutenant who was Education Officer and of course his other duties as well. He treated me like I didn’t belong there, and no doubt, I was the first Coast Guardsman he had ever seen. He says we don’t rate first class in boats. I requested that since I wanted first class, that I be taken out of boats, as the book says it, I keep my nose clean and properly do my work, one should be in line for promotion. Well, he thought that all over for awhile, then came up with a block – he asked how many courses I had taken. I was so green I didn’t know what he was talking about, so I said none. “O.K.”, he said, “When you take and pass all courses, come back and see me.” He knew he would not see me again for quite some time, as the courses he was talking about are Seaman 3rd Class, 2nd Class, 1st Class, and Chief. Part of an officer’s assignment was giving the test once you had mastered each of the books and all lessons were turned in. Then you got permission all over again to take that particular exam. I almost said no right there.
Anyway, we were headed toward the Friendly Islands, then to American Samoa, and on to San Diego. This takes time, and when I had my own time, I really hit the books. I found a good spot under a boat in fair weather and with very little people traffic. I really went to work as plenty was assigned me. So back across the Pacific to California we went. We went from San Diego to San Francisco. We got rid of one troop load and picked up another before heading out again. This gave me a lot of time, even with assigned work and drills. So before we got half way to New Zealand, I had finished them ALL.
However, things were changing for me. I was moved to the Master at Arms [MA / MAA] in charge of the troops and regular mess hall (deck) – to supervise ten mess cooks and feed the crew of 400 men and the troops – about 2000 men. Me and my men would finish the mess deck about 10 p.m. and have to be up at 4 a.m. Of course you still had the drills and calls every night.
There were three Master at Arms (2nd Class, which was me, then 1st Class, and Chief). Each of us had different jobs and different parts of the ship we were in charge of. What a change and what a job. No one likes you – even from other ship s. You are the tough police of the ship. I slept in a small space, known as a MA cage. To have separate quarters with only a 1st Class, is supposed to be very good – but don’t let that fool you. My turn is about to begin all over!
Well life changes, even when you have been on the ship for quite some time. Everything in my department settled down. So I had most things done and was getting good re ports. I decided to try for 1st Class Bos'n Mate – not too easy, but so help me, here is how it worked!
We had cleared New Zealand and were on our way, but no one knows where, when, or who. The ship’s routine goes on as usual. So it was easier to see the Executive Officer and ask how and when I could get 1st. He told me, “You have done your work well, have hung on to moving ahead like a magnet, so I’ll promote you to 1st class and it will come out in the weekly scoop sheet.” Ha! It did, but it was not me that got it. This guy I relieved got it! So back I go and ask the question all over again. This time he tells me that they really don’t know how to rate a Coast Guardsman, but he would write the Coast Guard Commander and get me rated. He did, but before the letter got off the ship – the ship was sunk.
So, that was that! However, most of us were transferred to transport USS Hunter Liggett, which carried the flag and was U.S. Coast Guard manned (left). I was in the barber shop when the Engineering Officer and Chief Warrant Officer “Bos'n” from the Elliott saw me. (7) The two told me I had gotten the worst deal they had seen in the Navy. They told me to get the Coast Guard yeoman and they would get the Navy yeoman to make me 1st class. Within ten minutes, I was 1st class.
So all my work had finally paid off. It also moved me to Chief, ahead of others when we got back to the States. From then on, I had few problems moving up the line. I am not sure if it was due to work I had done on the Elliott, or for what took place while trying to save the ship after being hit by a “twin betty” [twin-engine Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" medium bomber] of the Japanese. [The following is his Silver Star citation]:
MANN, Frederick D.
B.M. 1c [Boatswain's Mate, First Class], USCG
For conspicuous gallantry while attached to the USS GEORGE F. ELLIOTT in action against Japanese forces off Guadalcanal August 8, 1942. When a hostile plane was shot down and exploded on board the ship, transforming the ship into a blazing torch, Mann carried a fire hose into the troop ammunition magazine to flood the compartment. Subsequently, despite suffocating smoke and dangerously heated bulkheads he reentered the compartment recovered the hose and continued his efforts. His action prevented the magazine from exploding.I am now on the Hunter Liggett, with just the clothes on my back. One does funny things when fear and life pop in front of you. I was half way from the beach and the ship when I stopped and observed the airplanes attacking our convoy, especially the Elliott. After the plane hit her amidship and set her on fire, I went alongside and climbed aboard. I went down to my locker and, for some reason, put my billfold in my locker. Why? I don’t know and I didn’t think of it until several days later.
That night I was picked up off the bow by a destroyer and found a place to lie down under the torpedo tubes. So when the order was given to finish off the Elliott (right), I had to make a fast get up and out of the way. I saw the “fish” on the way to the Elliott, but sorry to say, did not see them sink her – either a lousy “fish” or it was set too deep!
Well, about the Hunter Liggett – remember, if you are a MAA on any ship and then move to another, you are still the S.O.B. regardless of whether it is Coast Guard or Navy – that is the nature of the beast!
I was taken below to troops berthing for a sack. When hundreds have moved off and one poor sailor is hunting a sack it’s not such a problem. However, a troop hole with no troops is one lonesome place. All you have for company is the sound of the water swishing around in the bilges. At this hour is when we lost the cruiser battle in the Iron Bottom Slot. The [Japanese] won it all. I saw the [USS] Chicago [CA-29] and it looked like a shark with its head blown off (the bow shot to pieces). The Sullivan brothers gone. Two Australian cruisers gone. When the [Japanese] finished them off during the night – if they’d realized all the landing transports were well within their range off Tulagi and could easily be sunk as they went up the Slot at full speed. Anyway, since I am here, that was not done.
So, at daylight, we went with the Chicago and a couple others toward New Caledonia. Just where the Hunter Liggett went after that, I am not sure, but I think it was back to New Zealand to drydock. I remember crossing the brow to meet someone on the beach, when I think I was supposed to be on board! I really didn’t check the duty list too close, because at this time I had just been picked up as being alive and onboard Hunter Liggett. Anyway, we got ashore as much as possible.
Duties assigned me varied, as no one like a MAA, and especially one that had moved up as fast as I did. So, to the best of my knowledge, I was placed in the boat division with a surf man by name of Boab – a very nice and smart man. In fact, in a month or so, he was transferred with me and the others to Guadalcanal in Cub One (Boat Pool). He was also the only one that passed the OCS [Officer Candidate School] exam and was later sent off the island to become an officer. I knew he made LCDR – whether Commander, later on, I do not know. All this was in the first mail we received after months of nothing.
We could see the Marines fighting in the hills a couple of miles away. When we arrived back in December, we hauled out young Marines who had become very old, very fast – due to the battle fatigue and malaria. Seventeen, eighteen, twenty year olds looked to be forty or fifty years old.
So we settled for tents and cots. I was lucky I caught an officer’s mattress in the surf and claimed it for mine. Not too bad sleeping, except many times each night you rolled out and fell into your foxhole.
The Marines, and later the Army, did most, if not all, the close fighting. We unloaded ships day in and day out. I was very happy we did not have to go into the hills. I got half a day off and decided to go up into the hills and maybe pick up some souvenirs. That worked fine until an MP [Military Police] hollered and said I was in a mine field. Well, that kinda put a stop to hunting for souvenirs. All in all, I must say I was very lucky. I did what I was ordered to do and did alright. And I thank God each night. In fact, to show how luck was on my side, when I was running a sea mule, me and my engineer decided to go down and sleep beside the engine. For some reason, we did not – come morning there was an eight inch hole from a shell through the engine block. Again, here I am.
Whatever I may say here is not my ego, just telling a few things that did happen. The C.O. of Cub One [Commander Dwight Dexter, USCG] called me up and said he would like for me to be the MAA for all of Cub One. I asked if this was an order and he said no. So I turned him down. I had heard that the Ensign MAA had stuck his head in a tent to hold reveille and a Marine from the front put a .45 in the MAA’s face. So naturally, he backed up fast. This same MAA had an M-1 shot in his direction as he was doing his morning musters. So these are two of the reasons I did not take the job.
This same Commander, when he was relieved, called me to his tent a month later, and told me to look out and what did I see. It was a salvage tug. He said that was where he was going, but since I did not help him out as MAA, that he too was forgetting me as he left.
Well, this duty went on until July the following year. The hills were now quiet. The skies mostly clear of [Japanese] planes. No more shelling. In fact, they had started saluting, so normalcy had arrived, more or less.
Another tale of what I actually saw. An American plane got on this [Japanese] plane. The [Japanese] ran into a cloud and tried to get out and away. However, every time he stuck his head out, the America was right after him. This went on for several minutes until the [Japanese] evidently decided to come out and run for it. He did, but the American had him in nothing short. I was watching all this from my sea mule while waiting to unload the horses and mules I had on this trip. This was not unusual, but the way it happened was quite amusing to watch.
It was also quite interesting to watch our planes come back all shot up from a mission and put down on the water. The pilot would set that plane down on the water with the cockpit open – when the bow went down it would throw the pilot clear – I never saw one that didn’t work.
Again, I was on my way out one morning to unload ships. Enroute, I went astern of the Aloha which had been torpedoed and beached to keep from sinking. This day she had been patched up enough to move off the beach. As I went by, this object that looked like a whale was in front of me. It was a two-man submarine that had just fired torpedoes at the ship, and the pressure had forced him up and out of the water. He did hit the ship again, but this same ship got patched up and on her way again.
I don’t remember this getting as much attention as when we appropriated an army jeep and misdirected the last boatload of fresh meat to the army. By the time they found out, we all were picking our teeth and trying to help figure out what happened to the meat.
Another true story – the pilots needed quick energy, but had nothing for that. About this time, candy started to show up in stores in all boats. Of course, all Cox’n’s got their fair share – but when the Chaplain came by the boat pool from the airport and informed all hands what it was needed for – no more showed up missing. Also, about this time beer showed up in the Red Cross supplies. You can bet the Chaplain didn’t get in on this one. The doctor told us if by chance we could get it, it was good for us. I had a case of the same and hid it under my tent entrance. It’s very hard when searching for something, to find it if you are standing on it and don’t know it.
We had a dog called Radar. He was our alert for [Japanese] planes before we had radar. He continued to equal or better as time wore on.
The natives had little concern for money, only things to use right now. One had a [Japanese] sword that I offered a roll of money for – it didn’t interest him – but this guy with a dollar pocket watch made out like a burglar. The women known as "fuzzy wuzzies" used braziers as U.S. women would use pocket books.
We were up at around 4:30 a.m. and lined up for breakfast in the palm trees. A corpsman would make you open your mouth as he tossed an antibrine tablet into it and then check to see that you swallowed it. Then you would walk up to the window and get a hunk of spam in water flour gravy. You’d sit on a log, and gobble it up with coffee. Then off to the boat pool for assigned shifts to unload for the day. You’d hope to get one that feeds well, especially the boat crews . Those ships that got smart fed well and got underway out of there before a [Japanese] attack.
Well the day finally came and we left Guadalcanal for good. To my surprise, the ship I came out on was one I had been doing picket guard duty on in Beaumont, Texas, while she was being built. Not a lot to say about a ship load of sailors/ Marines/ dogfaces, etc. headed for home for new assignment. Except for the time it took, there was little that happened that goes into history books. You were assigned space and work and that’s what you did for fifteen or twenty days.
When we returned to San Francisco, they at last separated the Coast Guard from the Navy. So all Coast Guard were sent to the District Office, San Francisco. Just by luck, the personnel officer at the district had been the commanding officer and the first C.O. at Cub One Guadalcanal. He lined us up, ten to twelve of us, and told us he understood where we had been and what we had been doing. Down the list of us he came asking how long we had been in that rate on our sleeves. So this was the place and time that paid off for the whole story I told about getting my first class. So when Commander Dexter got to me, I had had first class for a year. Words of words, he says you are up for Chief. That’s what every man in those days looked for. This was as high as an enlisted man could go. What a feeling, and to top it off, I was placed on a troop train for New Orleans, Louisiana. Halfway there, I came down with malaria. Again I was lucky. The only other sailor on this train was sitting beside me. So between him and the train personnel, I made it to New Orleans.
By the time I got to District Office, I was in fair shape. I saw a fellow I knew and asked how he got rated Chief. He said quit hollering, your chief rating is on the way – now I felt really good.
So now I am back in the 8th District, the same one I started off in. Seems like ages, but it’s only been a couple of years. Anyway, after reporting, I was granted thirty days leave. I went to see my mother in Virginia and then up to see Francis and Charlie in Wayinsburg, Virginia. Daddy had died while I was in the Pacific. Believe it or not, I had a dream while out there and Daddy did not show up in pictures at all. We even talked about it, and then within a week, the mail came in. All my letters hinted at something amiss, but John, my oldest brother told me all about it. It was a shock, but a different type of shock - so far away, so long since I had seen Dad, that it took on an entirely different feeling. Anyway at Francis and Charlie’s home I was invited to talk about the Coast Guard and what we were doing to one of his clubs. All went fine until they brought out the fish for lunch. I don’t know whether I fell out or passed out or what, but I was placed in an army ambulance and taken to an army hospital a couple of miles out of town. They brought me around by filling me up with juices. I was there about a month. I fell in love with a 2nd Lieutenant Nurse and almost went all the way, but that went down the drain. So back to New Orleans for assignment. I was transferred to Panama City, Florida – Captain of the Port. For a Chief Bos'n Mate, one could not ask for a softer job. However, when you once have broken the home bonds and have seen what the rest of the big boys are doing, you want back, even though you hate every day of it.
Well, malaria got me here, too, as it did in Virginia. I talked myself into a transfer to New York. So when the group formed up, I was one of them. I took more or less twenty sailors to New York. Somewhere up in Georgia, someone on the railroad system decided to serve breakfast in a bag and no coffee. Being in charge, I did not go for this scheme. It took over six months to explain it all the way up the line. Whether they ever got any money, I don’t know, but at least I held my ground.
Thus, we arrive in New York and report to the First Coast Guard District for assignment. I never saw any of these men again. In other words, I moved all over the place. I was transferred to an 83-footer at Sandy Hook. One of these with twenty-five sailors in very cold, freezing weather is something to write home about. Our station was at the entrance to New York Harbor. If the nets were struck or moved too rapidly, we automatically were alert, racing to the struck area to try and determine why. I think I went to the hospital from here and from the hospital to the army FS supply ship outfitting for the islands of the Pacific – but back to the hospital and this time to buoy tender Oak out of Staten Island. (Somewhere along this line I was at Ellis Island, awaiting some of those transfers.)
The Oak [right] worked New York channels, all rivers, Long Island and up the Hudson to West Point. We also had to supply all the lighthouses with coal for winter. When we hauled coal, we boarded up the buoy deck in order to sack coal up about twenty-five feet high – black faces, black ship – dust everywhere, but the lighthouses did get their coal. Since I was aboard for recuperation, this of course was part of it. When you see New York from a buoy tender, you see it from every angle you could imagine. One gets bearings and sees things you don’t run into on the subway or see off the Empire State Building. The Harlem River makes the city of New York an island. Of course, the East River and the Hudson all add together to do the job. We work them all with buoys, etc. Ellis Island / Statue of Liberty – all are used by others for things other than history. Believe it or not, I just got tired of all this. Being a country boy, something was missing. So I put in for a transfer to Florida and got it. In fact it’s an 80-footer out of COTP Miami.
First night in Miami, I decided to stay in the YMCA before reporting the next day. So with my door locked, I proceeded to get a good nights sleep. When I woke up the next morning, I had been robbed and of all things, my pocket book had been under my pillow. It was well that I slept very good, otherwise I’d be a dead sailor. For the first day – not too good.
Anyway, I checked in and was put in charge of an 80-footer. I had not handled a twin screw before and the guy I relieved could do the job standing on his head. So when he got gone, I told my fist class bos'n mate, since you know how to do this job, either show me or cast off the lines and I’ll go teach myself. We worked together very well. She had four Vimalert [M-12 gasoline engines] – those were airplane motors. If you had someone to work on them that knew what they were doing, you had a good deal. It just so happened that I had a good deal. We went on patrol out to an island just inside of the outshoals of Miami. We remained there on 24 hour alert call a week, then back to the Coast Guard base in Miami, which was the Miami yacht club – a nice place to tie up to take care of things. Well, one of these things was paperwork, which we took [to] COTP fifty feet away. I had some typing and went to see the chief yeoman who could help me. He said “See that girl over there. Yep. Then take it to her.” This happened to be Miss Knox. She was a goody- could take shorthand, type, listen, and talk. I was using a trash basket for my chair. I asked where she was from. She said Boston. Boston Irish? No. Catholic? No. School College (business). She lived in a big house in Somerville, Massachusetts and had a brother in the Marines. “Would you like to go to church?” Yes, she would, and thus began an off and on courtship and marriage for 54 years. Our first date was the Baptist Church there in Miami. This, of course, was followed by dinner, movies, and a trip to Miami Beach. It was so nice to have someone to talk to, true down to earth talk. We went to Miami Beach quite often to eat and swim. I was beginning to like her. So stupid me, one day purposely I dunked her head underwater. I wanted to see how she looked at her worst. I almost lost that day. How I explained that, I don’t know, neither did I try to give the real reason for doing so. Nonetheless, we continued movies, plays, wrestling, swimming, walks, and meals . One was to remember – we had shrimp poured on a newspaper on a bare table with beer to go with it. I have not seen it since, but know it is still around. I just haven’t found it. Without Winnie, it does not make that much difference now. Anyway, came a day for transfer.
They flew me to an 83-footer in Trinidad British West Indies (Trinidad). Our job was patrolling the area known as the Serpent’s Mouth and the Devil’s Mouth. These two approaches led to the largest landlocked anchorage in the world. Mostly off Argentina, South America. We had depth charges and small machine guns – never had to use them, when we did get in, we tied up at the big Navy base – one of the largest in the Caribbean Sea. This, of course, was also the outreaches of the Panama Canal. Though we saw very little action here, there was a lot that did go on. It’s much better if you don’t have to see it, but then you don’t go out of the way to be a part of it either. On the beach, the roofs were made of tin and when it rained, sounded like I was back on the farm, only here the tropical rain sounded as though it was by the bucket full. All during this time, Winnie and I never corresponded – no way, in those days by phone or radio – we just did it.
So the war in Europe ended and German action ceased all over the world. And of course our area too, since we came under Miami Sector, we came back to where I had left – under a different dock and under the district. I was transferred to Coast Guard Air Station on crash boat duty, then to Key West. We did see each other as much as possible.
This didn’t last too long after I had brought two 63 footers from Norfolk to Miami. Well on my way back, I ran aground in Mud Flats off Charleston, South Carolina.
It’s a wonder I was not hung, but not this time. Not too long after this, I was transferred to San Francisco for weather patrol. By train, of course, that in itself is quite interesting the people you meet, the things you do to pass time. When I left Winnie, I also took the pains to leave a well stuffed South American Wolly dog and a dozen red roses. This parting was really sweet sorrow. Anyway, again we did not call or write.
I stayed in California a couple of weeks, then asked for a transfer to Norfolk, Virginia. It was accepted, then I was on the train again, all across the U.S. to Norfolk. I received my orders in Norfolk to go to the CGC Bibb. She was in the Navy yard in Charleston, South Carolina being reshaped from communication ship to a weather patrol ship. Well, time and work got us out of the yard on our way back to home port in Norfolk. While underway, orders for the ship were changed from Norfolk to Boston, Massachusetts. We never even went back to Norfolk, thus our next stop was weather patrol out of Boston – well, I will get to at least see Winnie.
When I got off the ship and to the nearest phone book, I looked up the last address and name. It worked. Patricia, a high scholar, was there watching her brother, Teddy. run up and down the dining room table. This was in Arlington. Winnie was at work. She did not know she had lost her father. She and Thelma were making plans to go live with Elsie and Wilfred Parker (her sister) in Newtonville, Massachusetts. So a couple of visits to Arlington, then the rest of our courtship was in Newtonville. We got along quite well with Elsie and Wilfred and their two sons.
At this time, I was slotted to go on weather patrol. We would leave Boston and steam to Newfoundland, top off and go on Station “A” (Able) for about thirty days to broadcast the weather and act as search and rescue in the ten mile square of the Atlantic assigned to us. Then, after thirty days on “A”, it was on to Newfoundland, top off, and got to Station “B”. When thirty days was complete there, we would return to Boston. If you were lucky, the ship did not catch a standby, which usually came the week before we left on patrol. No phones, no communications at all. I wrote Winnie just about every day, however, that did not matter, as it did not get off the ship until we got back to Newfoundland. Then she got twenty to twenty- five letters at one time. This went on some time, and when I left on patrol for over the Christmas holidays, I gave her a bible and a watch. Her sister, Elsa, said to her at breakfast one morning – “He must be getting serious.” I was. We were married June 7, 1947 in Newtonville Methodist Church. No one from my family could attend. It was a very small planned church wedding. Winnie even bought my clothes, as I did not get back from my weather patrol in time to pick these out. We took a bus after the wedding, to New Hampshire. We stayed a week. On the way up, in the middle of the night on a dark bus, she broke out an envelope which contained my transfer orders off the weather patrol.
I had many transfers from 1st District to COTP – to Nahaut LBS, to Floating LBS in Boston – 125 footer – my transfer did not materialize – then to the Boat Dock Base in Boston. Even here, I caught the duty every third night. Nonetheless, I was on the beach and could call Winnie.
We lived the first summer in the highest part of Boston, but that was short-lived, as it was a summer rental. From here, we moved to a third floor apartment in Summerville, where Thelma started staying with us. We lucked out as a couple of blocks away was a third floor at half the price. Howling when our number one son, Fred, was born, they offered us the downstairs at the same price. Boy, did we grab this. Incidentally, Winnie worked until the night before Fred was born. We had Gretchen before Fred came, but I passed her over the top of the crib to see if she would growl. She did not and thus she remained a big part of the family. We would put her in the pram with Fred and go shopping down at Davis Square. When the old ladies stuck their heads down to see Fred, Gretchen would come back at them like a bear.
We lived here for a couple of years. I became very friendly with Winnie’s whole family. Grace and Norman really took a liking to Fred and I guess one reason was that Grace could not have children. Anyway, it was a very good life. I even got to see my family up in Boston from Virginia.
Things got so good we decided to buy a home. We did, and as usual, came a transfer to the lightship. I don’t know of any duty I ever hated more. However I had been shipmates with a chief gunners mate on the Bibb on weather patrol. He went from there to recruiting and had reached his retirement. I was home on leave from the lightship when he called to see if I would like to replace him. I almost swallowed my tongue. However, all this said and done – the district Pen officer would not consent until ordered by the Captain. Wow! From the bottom of the bilges to the top of the mast. I lived it up for one year and one year to the day only. So all total, we lived in our new home about six months.
I transferred to Port Security Group Training Camp in Gordon, Georgia . That was OK, but we went from a new home to a log cabin. Within three months I made Warrant and shipped right back to General Greene [left] in Gloucester, Massachusetts, which was in easy reach of our new home, but then that had been sold. So we managed to find a rental on a farm in Ipswich, Massachusetts.
There were two other families there, but we had all the room in the world to walk around in the open fields. The General Greene was on immediate standby. Now working off Georges Bank in wintertime is for the birds. Furthermore, we had a continuous boarding program when we were in or when we towed one in. This work gave us a complete section in Boston Globe Rote Grove Section. All papers were devoted to us. No liberty, but publicity.
We had quite a few run-ins with fishermen, mayors, and many others in the fishing business. In fact, the head man in the union appealed to the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, and he, in turn, to the Commandant to move me. So to get out of their hair, I was transferred to the CGC Boutwell in Port Isabel, Texas. Politics can move very fast when you can’t fight back.
Anyway, to Texas we went. Winnie was pregnant with Eric, but nonetheless, she, Fred, and the dog came by train to Brownsville, Texas. Eric was born in Brownsville. Again I did not get home too much. We worked the Campecha Mexico Gulf. This was 1952 and we both coming from New England really got eyes and ears full fast. But we all adapted well as it was leaning to get along with all types. We were lucky to rent a brick bungalow and one of the best landlords anyone could ask for. We hated to leave 1-½ years later, but as we said “we will be back.”
So off to Eric, Pennsylvania we went. Most people do not know that the state has a finger into Lake Eerie. We picked up and left the Rio Grande Valley. Our landlord, Cliff and Delia Neff were outstanding people – we were good visiting friends. Her children were all about the same age as ours. Winnie and Delia and their grandchildren hit it off very well. This came in handy as I was gone most of the time. Delia and Winnie both were pregnant and had a very good life together. This makes for a good billet as it keeps both sides active and happy.
Anyway, we’re on our way to Erie, Pennsylvania. We stopped at Francis, my sister’s, and Charlie’s in Charleston, West Virginia. Francis did not like dogs, so Gretchen was put in the cellar and howled all night. She didn’t stay down there the next night. Since it was beginning to get cold and both kids were barefooted, I had to buy shoes before proceeding to Erie.
We arrived at Erie Coast Guard Station, located on Presque Isle. I learned later that Erie people lay claim to all persons, actions, etc., including the Coast Guard. An editorial in the local paper had a way of changing everything, regardless of whether regulations or not. I was lucky and unlucky to have quarters on site. In other words, you could never get away from the job except to take leave. You and your family are always watched. Good and bad.
Anyway, one interesting thing happened. The rats were very bad, so bad that I called the doctor. He told me to call the exterminator, which I did, and then from all the fur flying – I didn’t have that authority. Nonetheless, I got rid of the rats. This was followed by a phone call conversation between the District Commander, me, a priest, and a family member of a fishing boat crew that had drowned in an accident on Lake Eerie. They were really trying to tie it on the Coast Guard. They didn’t, but it added to my lousy state of character in the District. This was later followed by a shooting out on the Lake (close by). I boarded the boat when it came in, and found six or eight violations. This didn’t help matters either, as the operator was a Naval Reserve officer and he didn’t take kindly to getting caught. On top of that, he was a lawyer. He told me that I was out of uniform and that if I filed on him, that he would file on me. He did and he was wrong, but his trial went on for three years. I was called back from Sol Sault Marie, Michigan. When he found out I was to testify against him, he said no- he would take the fine. I think, all total, his fine was about $50.00. He used the whole thing for experience.
Well, with other happenings, none good for me, I was just screwed in some. And I was wrong in some, but it was time for all to come to an end. And it did! I received orders to CGC Tupelo [right], a tender out of Toledo, Ohio. So, I went from being in charge of everything to being in charge of nothing, and reported aboard.
Our working area was all of Lake Erie, to Buffalo, New York, and back to Detroit, Michigan. Patrol, buoys, rescue, ice breaking, and law enforcement were just some of our duties. We changed C.O.'s and right fast he let me know for sure who was boss. No doubt, he was mostly right, but I was fortunate to prove what I had done and why. Can’t say that I was in love with the guy, but he was the best buoy setter I had ever served under. He could take two sextants, con the ship, and give orders to the buoy deck without ever screwing up. One sextant at a time is all I could handle. This being a single-screw ship and shallow water made the job even harder. I had duty two out of three when the ship was in. When you had duty the night before you left, and then caught it when you came back – that was for the birds.
Well, so much for the buoy tender. My next set of orders were to the COTP Sault Sault Marie, Michigan. It was a very good transfer if one could stand the cold and had a well-constructed home and all that goes with it. None of these goodies were waiting for us, but we made it anyway.
Our first home was a 26-foot trailer about ten miles out of town. Winnie had asthma something terrible. With two animals, two boys, and cold as hell – none felt too good. I got a line on a house up on the hill that had a coal-fired furnace with no controls. Well, it was a pretty good house, even if I did look the black part every time I fired it up. I did get my Sunday School Lesson, though, while working the furnace in the basement. We were on the highest hill in the Sol. The boys enjoyed the attic, as they could walk out on the roof and see the town below and into Sault St. Marie, Canada. We lived across the street form our Methodist minister, so we became very good friends. Their kids were about the same age as ours, too. So were the Balfours. To us, we had great outings, even in zero weather. So it boils down to the fact that if you really know and care how to live, you can do it about anywhere, as we have done. I was very glad to get this job, instead of C.O. of two icebreakers. I was not qualified for that job. It would have been rough for a self-training me. No one to teach me. I had a few run ins with the C.O., but show me a Bos'n and one that does not and I’ll show you a real kisser. I think we stayed here a bit over a year. I remember when we arrived in September. We had 22 inches of snow, and that was just the beginning for that year. We changed the river lights by waking on the ice and using a long pole between us. Well, the day came a year and a half later and it was time to say goodbye. We will be going to – of all places – Portsmouth, Virginia. I will be C.O. of the CGC Narcissus.
I took a good bit of leave and stayed at Dot’s house. Winnie was not only pregnant with Victoria, but sick most of the time also. Nonetheless, we traveled to Portsmouth, Virginia, found our home, and made preparations for the rest of the transfer. We bought a three bedroom, one and a half bath, living, dining room, and garage on a very large lot that backed up on a one train per day railroad. Good neighbors (ducks) and kids about the same age.
We had barely gotten there when I had to take over my ship. It was quite an area of Chesapeake Bay with all the rivers entering into the bay. I would get to Richmond and bring my family doubters to see what little brother had accomplished. The James River has more buoys and day markers than you can shake a stick at. I saw and worked on them all. I think one of the hardest jobs was driving a 90 foot piling without a pile driver. And if you will look, it’s just off Ferry Landing in Jamestown Landing and it is the front Range Light. On top of all this, it gets cold – and cold enough to form an ice field. I was anchored above the James River Bridge and was awoken by ice shoving the ship – anchor and all – toward the bridge. Whether I broke out on my own or the ice broke up, I don’t know which, but I was a bit scared - you can bet I was. Every buoy in Hampton Rhodes and the James River was pulled off station. A few going down won’t bother you, but when they all are down, it puts the fear in you Flat. For me, it was a lot of travel and going. I was a normal ship ladder, could set the buoys and other related activities – but surely was not outstanding in any of it. I was fortunate to have kept good, smart men. The district looked at men as replacements and that was it. I must admit it started with me. I had to learn from the waterline up and believed you must become an old man pretty easy and in so many ways.
Along these lines, I held a few court-martials and captains masts, but did not enjoy this at all. However, when your men back you into a corner, you do what you have to to make sure all others know that you’ll do what you say you will. I guess one of my hardest trips was taking the top of a lighthouse down the intercoastal below Wilmington, North Carolina. The ship drew seven feet and the intercoastal was seven foot average. So you can guess the fun we had from side to side of the canal.
Well, in and out, headaches, laughs, and tears for two more years. From here, I went to the District Office in Portsmouth, Virginia for duty. What a change – dress uniform every day – sit behind a desk – look – listen – and hope you learn what is expected. It was fast and slow - fast coming to your desk, slow going. But I did the job for two years. I had one short run on a tender in Washington, North Carolina.
Somewhere along these transfers, Victoria, our third child, was born in Portsmouth, Virginia. So Boston for #1, Brownsville for #2, and Portsmouth for #3. During this time I learned a bit that has really not done me a world of good. Nevertheless, one picks up on all the things that he is a part of by acting or trying to ignore-----
So, after three years, I am on my way to New Orleans for the White Pine Buoy Boat – 26-foot long, beamy, very slow, and in need of many repairs. I didn’t like it the first day and even less the last day. Some of it was my fault, some the district’s fault. Men moved on and off faster than you could keep track – usually about 30 men. Would hardly push myself up the Mississippi against the tide, such was her power! I had two enucerators [sic] – two complete starting, stopping, etc. It was very dangerous. So I wrote it all down and sent it to the Commandant, but it never left the district. A to N [Aids to Navigation] office told me you sent that. We sent ours on me. I was already pretty sick and this didn’t help. So I went to the hospital where they tried to make me out to be a bit on the nutty side. This did not work. I was transferred to COTP New Orleans instead. I had a fast and furious 3-4 years of learning here and really enjoyed it.
I had a good Captain who liked and trusted me. In fact, the fireman’s hat I have came under his command. Had CO / E2 / two or three other Officers and me WY. Plenty of boarding of ships and boats, fires, sinkings – you name it – we had it. But we could and did handle it.
So again we pack up and, for the first time, I go where I had been before – Portsmouth, Virginia CGC Mistletoe. I had a very young skipper, E2, ENG, 1st Lt, and me WY Chief Warrant Bos'n. We worked in Norfolk, Chesapeake Bay, and some outside.
We were lucky to get into our same home as the Navy doctor had leased it and our time ran almost to the month of his transfer.
So when we went to Washington to work the Potomac River, we all went to headquarters to see when and where our next assignment would be. I talked my way into going south – and Texas preferably – Port Isabel. Could not get it at the time, but was ordered to 180-foot buoy tender, which I didn’t want. With 28 years in, I finally learned how to get it or get out of it. So no ship – COTP Houston, Texas. We were here more or less two years. We shipped Freddie down to A & I University Kingsville, Texas. So he and a couple of suitcases had a long bus ride down to the Rio Grande Valley. No doubt, it was an eye opener for him, but that was as good a way as I knew of getting him started. He did, and a damn good job and man as a result!
In the meantime, there were Eric and Victoria to make sure they got their chance as well. So in a few more months we all were transferred to Port Isabel, Texas. Eric and I went down to look the place over. We found a few acres on the Resaca and bought them from a realtor named Mr. Noul Ryle. I don’t remember, but I think we moved from Houston to a rental in Bayview while Mr. Keillor built our house.
We would be here twelve or fourteen years. Eric w ent off to college first. Fred and Virginia married, and Vickie was off to college. Me? I am now retired. Winnie started work at the Border Patrol. All of us interested in church, school, and Los Fresnos / Bayview and the Coast Guard.
I did spend some time in the hospital in San Antonio. I came out with heart trouble, but not enough for them to operate. So, now I am kind of in the outfield. However, now retired and as yet not fixed on degree of disability. After several visits to Galveston, it was decided by the NSB that I had sixty percent disability for my heart and back. So, in a word, I am out. Service complete.
As the old saying goes – I have run the race – have finished - and now the cooling off period. It is one end anyway one may choose to say it. So a whole new era is ahead of me. Where it leads, only time will tell.
That was 1971. It is now December 30, 2003 and much, much water has gone under the bridge. Most of it very good, some so foul, I don’t wish to talk about. The worst of all – Winnie is now over a year gone, last November. Unless you have had it happen to you, there are no amount of words I may use to let you see or feel just how long and lonely a spot she leaves. You may have close friends, go with them, and talk and act with them. You may see and talk with your children. But the vacancy she leaves remains to haunt you in your quiet moments.
The rest of my story is a wide open book that all of you are familiar with. So what you wish to know about this part of me, all you have to do is ask or start writing yourself.
1. My time spent in Atlanta was all work and to church Sunday morning. It was hard work and there was little money to spend, other than necessary expenses. It was a waiting game to see when the Service would take me.
2. When one gets sworn in, you think all your troubles are over. Well, when the Chief screwed up, it really put the fear in all of us - and me having to take the rap on top of it. But getting out of it was the second highlight of my Coast Guard career.
3. I don’t think I had ever even been close to a ship until I went aboard the CGC Saranac. Stepping aboard is like a step into the complete, complete feeling of a place and feeling you cannot describe. However, when you are handed a prayer book and a holy stone, you know what causes that complete-complete feeling.
4. I learned by doing – and that was asking to go to radio school to get off a buoy tender – you are jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. However, for the wrong reason, I made out in the long run.
5. While in Beaumont, I (a Seaman) was in charge of the patrol and all that happened on it and to all the men attached (unusual duty for a Seaman).
6. The move from Beaumont, Texas to the Navy was not without its many thoughts – Navy so big, so many, however, it boils down to each sailor doing what he is told and being where he is supposed to be – and it works. It doesn’t mean I like it, but that’s how it is. Some things one can compare with the Coast Guard, but they don’t have the close feeling. Well, anyway, all my moves on the Elliott paid off, but the HARD Way. When I asked to go on deck from the boats, my first day was a doozy. I was given two sailors (by 1st Class) to do a job. I went on deck and found them and informed them what we were to do. Their answer, “We ain’t taking no orders from a ******* hooligan.” When asked to repeat it, they did. I took them before the 1st Class – they repeated it again. He says, “You either take orders as given from him or your rate will fly like that bird you see out there.” They did – no more trouble there.
7. The incident in the barber shop on CGC (Navy) Hunter Liggett. I think these two officers had been in a meeting of the (Elliott’s) officers on the Liggett. And, no doubt, the Admiral who had observed the fire-fighting aboard yesterday – mentioned me and stated what decoration he was putting me up for. I didn’t know until a year later that I was to receive the Navy Silver Star. I didn’t stay on the Hunter Liggett very long, as no one likes a MAA. Neither do they like one who has moved up the ladder very fast, as this being early in the war and no one was promoted quickly. The fast promotions only started after war broke out. Anyway, I was transferred to Cub One – boat pool – Guadalcanal. I would be there from December until July or August – not counting the initial landing.