U.S. Coast Guard Oral History Program
Good Luck Abounds........
Alpha to Omega
or The Beginning and Almost End of My Coast Guard Reserve Career
C. William Bailey
Dear Mr. Herbert:
That interesting article "USS Wakefield In Singapore" in the Spring Issue of Quarterdeck Log certainly awoke slumbering memories in this old sea dog and I was hoping to find Mr. Reynolds’ E-mail address listed so I could write him a postscript to the history of that venerable ship. Failing that, I would ask if you would forward this to him.
In September of 1942 I was a brand new Ensign, directly commissioned from the Merchant Marine, and hoping to get assigned to just such a type of ship. On my very first day in the United States Coast Guard I received orders to report to the CO of USS Wakefield, then arriving under tow to the Navy Shipyard Annex in South Boston. She had burned at sea and was almost a total wreck. The interior of the vessel had been completely burned out except for the engine spaces which had escaped damage. Due to the urgent need for shipping she was to be rebuilt. Her skipper had stayed aboard with the towing crew until she reached safe harbor.
With my twenty-man security watch crew, we went aboard, appalled at the sight of a beautiful ship brought to such a state. Not yet thoroughly indoctrinated in naval courtesy, I approached the Three Striper Skipper and reported. I forgot to salute. I guess he was anxious to get ashore as he said, "She’s yours, son" and departed, taking no notice of my lack of Naval courtesy. I never saw this officer again until ---- my very last day in the Coast Guard as I was being discharged at the end of WW II.
Well, this duty was not quite what I had anticipated when I had heard about the Coast Guard’s special recruiting program to get licensed merchant marine officers in to help man the many transports that the Navy intended to have the Coast Guard operate. My first command lasted only a week or so when I was sent down to Florida to a one month training indoctrination with a number of other merchant mariners. The war went on and I was assigned to one buoy tender after another for the next four years, eventually commanding two of them.
On my last day of active duty I again reported to the same officer, who now was a Rear Admiral in Honolulu. Fortunately he did not remember our first meeting ..... thank God. As I left his office after our farewells, his yeoman stopped me in the corridor and told me he had just seen a letter from the Admiral to HQ recommending me for a possible permanent commission in the Regular Coast Guard.
I went home for three months of terminal leave with high hopes.
Before the leave expired I had the letter asking if I wanted to return to active duty. (it just happened that in that same week my fiancÚ had changed her mind.)
You can guess my answer to HQ. I was on the next available train.
I never ever did get the transport duty I had wanted but instead had a wonderful thirty year career that encompassed nine real seagoing commands ---- five buoy tenders, a lightship and three major cutters.
So I guess you can understand how I could be interested in seeing Mr. Reynolds’ vibrant article.