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U.S. Coast Guard Historic Documents

A letter home, by Robert Morris.  [EDITED]

To the minister of his church

Jan. 13, 1944

Dear Dr. Stewart:-

I have your letter dated Oct. 12; I want you to know that I really did appreciate it very much. We have a great assortment of persons and articles in our flotilla, but one of the things that we do not have is a Chaplain. However, since we have been in England we have had quite a bit of opportunity to attend services on Sundays. The story was definitely the opposite in Africa and even in Sicily. I suppose that there were provisions set up on the bases, but these floating units are constantly getting the meager end of everything. Not from selfish reasons do I say that the situation should be the converse, but it is and probably always will be as is. The boys on the shore bases have the first opportunity at anything desirable and by the time we get in we had pretty shallow pickings sometimes. The same was true of recreation and entertainment while in Africa. Even in the advanced bases there were movies and various sorts of shows. But the fellows on the ships just stayed on the ships. Of course, there is a reason I suppose. It would be difficult for the floating units to come in to dock, there would be no room for them anyhow, but we did envy somewhat the others. But we have our innings too.

We have got to travel and see and do a lot of things that the base personnel have not. Most of the base boys did not even get to Sicily or Italy, and I had some very interesting times in those places. One of them, of course, was getting shot at and shelled and bombed. I don't suppose those occurrences could be classified as good times, but since we came out of it all O.K., I guess we are still ahead in certain respects. Looks as I drifted a bit from my topic of Chaplains, but I guess that we do rather well even in their absence. Perhaps you would be interested if I elaborated just a little more. To me it has been an interesting form of observation to watch the attitudes toward Religion as displayed by the American Youth. I suppose that you as a minister know better than anyone the attitude the so called "younger generation" has pertaining to Church and Christ. My observation has been that the most of us understand and appreciate - and duly respect all the fundamental concepts of that which is blanketed by the term "Religion". But there is something in the composition of the young people that restrains them from openly declaring themselves dependent upon the Lord. I haven't the comprehension nor wisdom to explain why this is so, though my supposition is that youth has an almost unconquerable desire to be "big" and self-sustaining. The admittance of any weakness or the need for support just doesn't fit into the figure, which it is desired to present to others. In short, youth takes its religion in a passive sort of way for the h most part. Certainly, there are exceptions; but even the regular attendants at services are inclined to be just a bit reserved in their attitude.

But here is the point that I am attempting to make. I have been fortunate during my life, and so have never had the opportunity to see the effect that a real crisis and impending doom has upon young people; that is, I never had the opportunity before the morning of July 10, 1943 - the day of the invasion of Sicily. To me that will be a memorable day for the remainder of my life. Lots was happening on that dark and stormy morning between midnight and the wee hour at which we hit the beach and walked in the surf and upon the sands of that enemy land. Our craft is not large, and riding in and upon it was a sizeable group of America's Youth. Besides our own Coast Guard crew we had a full "cargo" of U.S. soldiers. Everywhere on board one might have observed the aspects of war. Our own crew was never out of its clothes - nor far removed from the battle stations. Everyone carried his gas mask, helmet, and life jacket. But the troop compartments filled with mines, torpedoes, etc.

I went off watch at midnight, but for obvious reasons, did not feel very sleepy. So I went below to talk with the soldiers for awhile. I recall that the compartment full of trained young men had an atmosphere of potence and strength. I imagine all the battle gear and the battle dress aided in creating that effect. Here before me was a group which appeared outwardly to be strong and indomitable - here was youth self-sustaining and self-sufficient, strong and courageous. But closer observation taught me other things. A silence prevailed in the compartment, and as I wandered about I saw interesting things. Some of them just lay in their bunks staring at the overhead or at the bunk above them - staring in apparent silence. Others sat on their bunks and stared across into nothingness. Another group scattered about in reposing or sitting position were reading - not comic books this time - but little blue or brown editions of the Bible. Others were scanning again little pictures in their wallets. All of us knew that in a few hours a shell or bullet would end some of these lives. Here was the unique situation of American Youth in a crisis - facing a doom. And here Youth came out of its shell. There was an open frank admittance of the need for strength and courage.

There was unabashed recourse to God both thru prayer and reading of the Bible. I recall one soldier telling me that he had, "prayed and prayed plenty since we left North Africa". I could not observe our own crew as closely as we are a small number comparatively, and were scattered about the ship on our various watches. Later, when we were back in North Africa, I made a casual survey, and found that we too, had "prayed and prayed plenty". None of us denied it, nor did we deny it when we went into Italy. At present we are in England, presently there will be need for much more prayer - they will not go unsaid, for I am convinced, as are the others, that they are not unheeded. Well, I guess I had better bring this to a close. I wish that I had a more capable command of words to better explain some of the things that I would like to, but since I have not, we will have to let it go as is. 

Please convey my greeting to all those back there whom I haven't seen for almost these two years. Good luck and success to you and all the seen for almost these two years. Good luck and success to you and all the improvements you are making.


Robert Morris



Last Modified 1/12/2016