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U.S. Coast Guard Oral History Program

Captain Quentin R. Walsh, USCG (Ret.)

Interviewer: PAC Peter Capelotti, USCGR
Date of Interview: 7 April 2000
Place: Captain Walsh's Residence, Eastern Shore of Maryland

A photo of Quentin Walsh, Navy Cross AwardeeSubject: Captain Walsh discusses his experiences as a whaling inspector on board the American-flagged Norwegian whaling factory ship Ulysses, from 26 May 1937 to 11 April 1938. The Ulysses cruised for 30,000 miles and killed over 3,600 whales. In the middle of his tour, Walsh was asked to enforce new whaling regulations under the 1937 International Agreement for the Regulation of Whaling. These regulations set new legal lengths of whales being killed. 

Even though the Ulysses operated under an American flag Walsh, who was then a Lieutenant (j.g.), quickly surmised that the venture was a Norwegian affair intent harvesting whales of illegal size and importing the resulting whale oil duty-free into the U.S. market. 

Born in Providence, Rhode Island, on 2 February 1910, Quentin Robert Walsh had an illustrious career in the U.S. Coast Guard. As he relates in this interview, as a boy he played on the skeleton of a whale that had been rigged as a children’s playground area by a whaling captain who lived nearby. His biography in the Coast Guard class of 1933 yearbook does not mince words. “He’s emphatic! He’s superlative! Now you may enjoy his ready wit, or yearn to crown him with a chair … but either way, you can’t ignore him…”

It was Walsh’s daring leadership of a 53-member special force that captured the French port of Cherbourg and over 700 German prisoners-of-war in June, 1944, that led to his award of the Navy Cross. It was one of only six awarded to Coast Guard personnel during the entire Second World War. 

Walsh’s war-time heroism tended to overshadow his participation in the Ulysses expedition. Yet it was this service, and Walsh’s three-volume report written from it, that, as the Department of Commerce wrote in a letter to Walsh nearly sixty years after the expedition, helped “set the stage for the current United States policy” in opposition to open-ocean or pelagic whaling. As the Captain himself put it: the Ulysses expedition was “out to make money and Walsh was out to enforce the law.”

By sending messages in code to Lieutenant-Commander Merlin O’Neill, his contact in the Office of Operations at Coast Guard Headquarters (later Vice Admiral and the tenth Commandant of the Coast Guard), Walsh was able to alert the U.S. Government to the questionable legality of the cruise. O’Neill had further tasked Walsh to write a detailed report on pelagic whaling, since the government knew little or nothing about such operations. 

Walsh also collected scientific specimens and a host of whaling data for the Museum of Natural History in Washington and other artifacts which were given to the Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, Connecticut. This service was belatedly recognized in 1993 with the award of the Coast Guard Commendation Medal. 

At the time Captain Walsh agreed to sit for this interview, he had just turned 90 years of age and had been retired from the Coast Guard for forty years. Just a month later, on 18 May 2000, Captain Walsh crossed the bar. One of his last goals was to see his three-volume report on whaling published. The report is now being digitized and edited and will appear on the Coast Guard Historians website some time in 2008. 

The interview began with Walsh explaining a series of photographs he had taken during the Ulysses cruise. 

The following is a written transcript of his interview.  Click here to watch & listen to the actual interview.

Captain Walsh: This is what they call the flensing deck back here.

Q: Right.

Captain Walsh: All the skin’s taken off you might say. Then they pull the thing forward up here on what they call the cutting deck.  Now these are the guys that actually dismember the whale.  And you see they pull it off here.  Here are the jawbones and these are all steam saws and all that stuff. They pull that thing over and they cut the thing up where the steam saws are.  It’s all explained down here.

Q: Let me ask you.

Captain Walsh: Yeah.

Q:  You pull a 90-foot Blue Whale up.

Captain Walsh: Yeah.

Q: This is an enormous animal. 

Captain Walsh: Yeah.

Q: What was your first impression when you saw a 90-foot long animal next to you?

Captain Walsh: Huge. 

Q: It must be very awe inspiring to think that this thing came out of the ocean?

Captain Walsh: A Blue Whale sitting on deck, at the shoulder, would be higher than this ceiling in the foyer.  
And here . . . let’s go back here.  This whale up here . . . well you can see how small the man is. 

Q: Sure.

Captain Walsh: Well this thing up here would be about 12 to 15 feet. Down here he’d be about three feet. 
Now whales have stern legs in them. Did you know that?

Q: No, I did not.

Captain Walsh: There are some stern legs in there and they look like hand bolts.  They’re only about so big; and we dug them out of there.  I tasted some whale milk.  I think the goddamn stuff was sour.  It’s something I never tasted again.  
But the teeth of a female whale are alongside the genital opening.  There’s a slit back there and the two teeth are beside it. 

Now a whale when he’s born is about . . . he can be 20 feet long and he weighs about a ton, and over the course of about six months he will be up to about probably 45 feet.  And there are different theories on how old they live and all that.  And if I’m not mistaken it was all explained in here (Walsh’s three-volume whaling report). 

There’s a wax that grows in their ears and there are several theories on that.  But this is where they start to cut them up. And here is . . . see where they’ve cut through.  Now there’s no odor to a freshly killed whale, but when you go beyond three days it gets strong enough, boy, to bend a rod, I’m telling you!

Q: Was there a regular routine?  I mean I would imagine so, where they would have to steam down the decks or hose them down.

Captain Walsh: No.  The thing is they would try to get a whale before he was what they called “burnt”.  After a whale is around there four or five days the body started to decompose.

Q: Right.

Captain Walsh: And the odor was terrific.  So they would try to avoid that.  They didn’t want that either because that tainted the oil. 

But this is where they pushed the stuff through, and they worked 24 hours a day; 12 hours on, 12 hours off, in different groups.  And it was a well organized outfit to feed all those men.   And this here is the State Department stuff, what I was supposed to do.

Q: Let me ask you. I assume that you ate quite a bit of whale meat on this cruise.

Captain Walsh: What we did is we didn’t eat any of the whale meat in Australia. But down in the Antarctic when the season started, before the whales got fat, we would take a Fin Whale, say about 60 feet long, and what they would do is that they would cut a strip of . . . taking the blubber off and they would cut a strip of meat about 15 feet long and say two feet wide.

Q: Yes.

Captain Walsh: And they’d cut that damn meat off and they’d hang it up in the rigging for about a week or two weeks and it would turn black because the air was pure down there.  Then they would cut it down and soak it in vinegar and pepper and cut it into steaks.  They would have it there in the refrigerator say a month or two and when you eat it, it tasted like a roast.  It was stringy, just like a beef roast. 

Q: So it wasn’t an unpleasant . . . ?

Captain Walsh: No, no taste at all to it. Just like you’re eating meat.

Q: Really?

Captain Walsh: Yeah. Now that was before the oil gets in there, see.  The idea was to get them while they were thin. When I came back from that whaling cruise - this is the other aspect of this thing - I was color blind. I hadn’t eaten any . . . you see, we ran out of carrots and that stuff about the middle of February - no onions and that damn stuff – and when I came back, well I had to take a physical exam and I had to take it up in Boston, and they said it’s color blindness. And fortunately the doctor in charge of the hospital said, hell, he’s not color blind. I examined him. He has to go down to Florida.  So they gave me three months, and Christ, I ate carrots and . . . (Laughter)  Christ, I think if I went by the rabbits would talk to me.  (Laughter)  So anyway, my eyes came back.

Q: Yes.

Captain Walsh: Yeah.  But I was actually color blind from the lack of that stuff.  And I don’t know how the hell those Norwegians went so long.  I’ll tell you another thing about the Norwegians.

Q: Did they think it was a vitamin deficiency?

Captain Walsh: That’s what it was.

Q: Right.

Captain Walsh: But the thing about those Norwegians, they would take this soup; hot soup, thick, and they would take two tablespoons of sugar and put it in there and eat it.  And I think that came from when they were children; cold climate, energy, heat, sugar, and I think this is a hangover.  But if you wanted to see guys go down as if they were shot you should have seen us when we went down to the Red Sea . It was 98 at night.  We were making about 16 knots . We had a following wind of 16 knots, and that’s the hottest I think I’ve ever been in my life.  And these Norwegians just went down; fell on the deck and stayed there.

Q: Yes.

Captain Walsh: Now here are these.

Q: Yes.

Captain Walsh: You’ve got that?

Q: Yes.

Captain Walsh: You’ve seen that, alright. And I would suggest . . .

Q: I’ve got a copy of this.

Captain Walsh: You’ve got a copy of that.  Well that gives you the background of this thing.  Now here’s the thing.  Are you going . . . you’re not going into the sordid details and all that, are you?

Q: No, sir.  What we’re interested in are the whales.  You know, all the marine biology you recounted, the history of the industry, and even more so your experience as an officer; an observer, caught up in these new regulations.

Captain Walsh: The personal relationship I had had with Mikkelson (the manager of the factory ship).  I don’t mind that.

Q: Right.

Captain Walsh: Because as I say, you can quote.  He was out to make money.  I was out to enforce the law.

Q: Right.

Captain Walsh: And there was friction.  There’s no question about it.

Q: And you thought as the cruise went on . . . you say you had a fairly warm relationship with Mikkelson personally.

Captain Walsh: It was a guarded personal relationship.

Q: Right.

Captain Walsh: Because we went ashore in [together] in Cape Town.  We went ashore someplace.  I don’t know.  He bought a great big birdcage for his wife.  And anyway, but it was a guarded relationship.

Q: The few times that you did go ashore would you go together?  Would the officers go together; the merchant officers?

Captain Walsh: No, I never went ashore with anybody except Mikkelson.

Q: But you would go, to say, out to dinner on shore with Mickelson or something like that?

Captain Walsh: Oh yeah, I went out to dinner.  You see when I got over there [to the Göteborg, Sweden, shipyard where Ulysses was being fitted out]. . . I told you the ship wasn’t ready.  And I was there, oh Christ, I was there at least six weeks, and I remember I took Mikkelson’s wife out to some big public park and I took them to dinner.  Mrs. Mikkelson was a nice person.  They stayed in the same hotel I did.  And this was before we got underway you might say.  And her sons stayed in the States.  But they lived at the same hotel I did.  But it was a continual friendly evening and we didn’t really start to have the differences until we got down on the whaling grounds and the gunners wanted 30 foot whales and we said, no, you’re only getting 35.  Those are when the first confrontations started, right there.

Q: Yes.  What kind of . . . you were one observer on a large factory ship?  You say there were all these killer boats.  What kind of communication and oversight . . . did you ever go out on one of the killer boats?

Captain Walsh: Oh yeah. I went out with a guy name Larson and we were down in the Antarctic.  In fact I went out on a killer boat in Australia and I had a camera.  Headquarters gave me a camera.  Geez, it was only about that big.  I could carry it in my pocket.

Q: Right.

Captain Walsh: And what happened was, is they overran this whale, and I was up . . . there was a platform that ran from the bridge down to the gunner’s platform.  There was a little bridge; a little pathway.  So I was standing on that damn thing and this whale comes up alongside and blew.  Well it blew and all this spray comes down on me. It was the condensation.  That’s what the hell it is.  Well Christ, I got a load of that.  Boy I’m telling you, that thing had halitosis and it took me about 45 minutes to get all the damn oil off my camera.  That’s the closest I came to a whale. 
 And then we were down in the Antarctic and I went out with a guy named Larson - I think I showed you that picture of him - and we hit this, I think it was a Fin Whale.  And hell, he must have been about 80 to 85 feet long, and he put a . . . this harpoon got in his back so it didn’t interfere with him swimming.  But boy, he took off, and boy, he towed us through the ice fields, and all I did was hang on to a stanchion along with everybody else, with the engines going full dead astern and this damn whale was towing us through the field, and we must have been making at least five knots or so.

Q: You’re kidding!

Captain Walsh: I’m not kidding.

Q: And the engines are in Full Reverse?

Captain Walsh: That killer boat was just going like this, back and forth from hitting the ice flows and that stuff.  Finally this damn whale got out in the open and this guy Larson got a killer eye on him and killed him.  But that damn thing lasted; I would say it took him an hour to kill that damn whale.  But that came from the fact that the harpoon . . . he got it in the back so it didn’t interfere with the whale . . . and those whales know when they’re being hunted.  Have you read this book about describing how they hunted the Blue Whale and passed out the line, and the whale towed one end and the killer boat the other, and all that damn stuff?  Well that’s actually what happened.  I think, if I say so, I think that this is maybe the most detailed report on the actual killing and the hunting of a whale that there is, in say the English language.

Q: Yes, sir.

Captain Walsh: Yeah.

Q: What were you feeling as you lived through the Sixties and Seventies, and the environmental movement?  I mean reading your report, there’s so much in there that it seems it would have appealed to environmentalists in terms of just the evidence of rampant over-fishing, over-hunting and so forth.

Captain Walsh: That’s right.

Q: Did you have sympathy with the environmental movement?  I mean it must have been strange for you, 30 years later, to see people seeing the kind of things that you had seen?

Captain Walsh: Well the way I felt about it is, far as the whaling was concerned, I knew that whaling would never be established again because commercially it was too expensive to get a return on their money.  They could not . . . to outfit one of those expeditions . . . and I do know that right after the war they even had planes out there and they used sonar and all that stuff.  But you see it didn’t last because they couldn’t get enough whales to offset the cost.  When it’s going to cost a couple of million dollars to put out a damn expedition and you don’t know whether you’re going to get a return on that, you get kind of careful.

Q: Do you think that’s one of the reasons why it was so elaborately organized to make this an American voyage?  If you could avoid taxation on it or avoid duty, then it might be profitable. 

Captain Walsh:
The only reason Pelagic Whaling ended is because it was not commercially profitable.  They weren’t thinking about the whales.  They’d have killed every damn whale they could have got a hold of, but the only thing that stopped them is they couldn’t get a return on their money.  That was the thing.  And of course after the war it cost more, and maybe they had trouble getting good whale gunners and good killer boat crews.  Where the hell were all the guys?  We [the Norwegians] were all occupied by the Germans.

Q: Right.

Captain Walsh: What the hell happened to all those guys that were whale experts?   And each man had his own little duty and that’s all he did, and nothing else.

Q: Do you think one of the things . . . when you talked about the Norwegians, in terms of knowing that they were over-hunting, that the view wasn’t so much that they were over-hunting, but if they didn’t hunt some other country was going to?

Captain Walsh: Their attitude was, if we don’t kill them the Japs or the English, or somebody’s going to kill them, or the Russians.  So why the hell are you telling me not to kill the whales, so they can to kill them, and why let them go?

Q: Speak a bit to this . . . you know, as a Coast Guard officer you’re in kind of a unique position as an observer, not only with this international treaty but also you had to liaison with scientists.  So you sort of . . . you’re a navigator, an observer, a recorder, but you also had this connection with the Smithsonian.

Captain Walsh: No, with the Museum of Natural History. 

Q: With the Museum of Natural History.

Captain Walsh: Yeah, Dr. Kellogg.

Q: With Dr. Kellogg. Did you meet with him before you went?  Did he sort of give you a brief as to what he was looking for?

Captain Walsh: I met with him before I went. 

Q: What was the relationship between him and the Coast Guard? For example, how did he find out that the Coast Guard was putting officers on these vessels?

Captain Walsh: Well [Merlin] O’Neill; O’Neill was in Washington you see, and there was the liaison.  But there was a book written.  There were two books written.  This book; Roy Chapman Andrews . . .

Q: Right.

Captain Walsh: Did you ever read his book?

Q: Yes.

Captain Walsh: Well that was a pretty good book on whaling. The only thing is it was sort of superficial.  But then there was another book written; Whaling in the Frozen South.  Did you ever hear of that book?  Well I met - what’s the hell is his name, you know – [Alan J.] Villiers [author of Whaling in the Frozen South, Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1925].  I met Villiers.  Now I got a copy of Villiers' book here.  He gave it to me.  The only thing is I didn’t do is I should have had him endorse it.  But anyway, the book’s in the house here somewhere.  But I like Villiers.  But now Villiers went south and he wrote that book Whaling in the Frozen South.  And subsequently, when they opened up Japan after the war they allowed the Japanese to go out and kill whales to give them meat, because they were short of meat, and the Japanese love whale meat.  And the choice delicacy of the Factory Shift Manager is to eat the whale’s eye.  (Laughter) Did you ever hear that?  It’s quite a crew when you talk about them.

Q: So you met with Kellogg in New York?

Captain Walsh: No, I worked with him in Washington.

Q: Yes.

Captain Walsh: And I talked to him before I went and I talked to him a great deal after I came home. 

Q: He must have been thrilled when he saw this White Whale coming down in a couple of crates?

Captain Walsh: Yeah, well it should be over in Washington today.  I saw the harpoon I gave him. Mikkelson gave me a harpoon and I gave it to the Museum of Natural History, and I actually saw this in Washington one day; years and years ago.  So it’s still over there to my knowledge.

Q: Yes.

Captain Walsh: And I gave him, I think I told you, I gave him the head of the Killer Whale.

Q: Right.

Captain Walsh: Now you see these damn Killer Whales in these swimming pools today and how gentle they are.  But let me tell you, those Killer Whales are a bunch of bastards.  They were down in the Antarctic and they would kill big whales by ganging up on them and they would chew their tongue out, and all that kind of stuff.  That actually happened because the Norwegians saw the damn thing.

Q: Let me ask you, you know we talked about . . . you mentioned how some of the other officers had been assigned to be observers on the [factory ship] Frango and so forth.

Captain Walsh: [Lieutenant] Craig, but not on the Frango.

Q: Right.

Captain Walsh: Yeah.

Q: Lieutenant. Craig, and that they filed their reports.  You know, if there were any violations they’d write them up; that sort of thing.  But what you submitted was sort of this almost doctoral thesis on the history of whaling and the history of this expedition in particular.  How did you approach this?  Is this something that you set for yourself?

Captain Walsh: Well I approached it that I was just going to state the facts, that’s all, come hell or high water.  If they didn’t like it in Headquarters, that was their pigeon.

Q: In terms of the actual Ulysses operations. But in terms of describing the whales, the history and the hunting of the whales?

Captain Walsh: I was told by O’Neill when I left that they wanted a detailed report on every aspect of Pelagic Whaling.

Q: So it was O’Neill who gave you that task?

Captain Walsh: And this is the guy that I wrote the report for.  They wanted a detailed report on every aspect of Pelagic Whaling because the Coast Guard was ordered to enforce the whaling laws of the United States but they knew nothing about it.

Q: Right.

Captain Walsh: And Headquarters sent an ALCOAST asking if any officers wanted to go out on a whaling cruise.  
Well where I became interested in whaling goes back to this one room schoolhouse I went to in Groton, Connecticut.  Now about from here to that house across the street was the boarded up home of an old whaling captain by the name Spyson [phonetic].  He was dead.  But in his yard he had the skeleton of about a 35 foot whale and he had it tied together with big posts and wires; strong enough so that little kids; we could walk around on the damn thing.  So I became interested in whales as a young kid.

Q: So this was actually sitting in somebody’s backyard?

Captain Walsh: This was sitting alongside his house.

Q: When you were a boy?

Captain Walsh: When I was a kid in a one-room schoolhouse down on what they called Shycosio (phonetic) Road where the Pfizer . . . have you ever been up there?  You know where the Pfizer Chemical Plant is?  You leave the Pfizer Chemical Plant on your left hand side and there was a one-room schoolhouse about three times the size of this room, and we had, I think, anywhere from about the second up to the sixth grades in there.  Drinking water was out of a bucket and if we were good kids the teacher would read Tarzan of the Apes to us every Friday afternoon.  (Laughter) But anyway, this is where I became interested in whaling. 

And of course then I got over to New London and New London was a whaling town. 

Q: Yes, sir.

Captain Walsh: And as I said, I gave the Mystic Seaport – have you been there?  When I went to the Mystic Seaport in 1938 there was one building there, nothing else.  It was a white building.  It was known as the Mystic Bull & Mill (phonetic); the old Mystic Bull & Mill (phonetic).  It was a white building on the second floor and there was an outside staircase.  I walked up there and down the end of this room, which seemed to me to be about 60 feet long and about 20 feet wide, and there was one guy at a desk.  I told him I had come back from this whaling trip and did he want these artifacts that I had?  I gave him some whale fetus in formaldehyde.  I gave him some baleen.  What the hell else did I give him?  Well I gave him the whale darts and I think maybe I gave him a whale’s eardrum, and maybe a whale’s eye at that time.  But I kept a lot of those whale’s eyes myself, and as I told you, make lampshades out of them.  My wife wouldn’t let me (laughter), so I gave the rest to Mystic Seaport. 

Q: Yes, sir.

Captain Walsh: And they’ve got the [whaling ship Charles W.] Morgan up there.

Q: Right.

Captain Walsh: Charles W. Morgan, and I’ve got a piece of the Morgan upstairs.

Q: Had you seen some of these vessels when you were a boy in that area?

Captain Walsh: No. The only thing they had there, there weren’t any whaling vessels around New London.  No, I take that back.  The Morgan was down at New Bedford and it was up on concrete.  Then Morgan was later taken out of there and brought around to Mystic.  I have been aboard the . . . now there’s only one thing wrong with that Mystic deal.  They had these college kids on there performing as the crew’s and things.  They didn’t perform the crews right; the way they put the crews on and that.  I saw one of their drills and it didn’t tie with the actual actions of the boats’ crew on the whaling grounds.

Q: Well you say at one point in your report that these Norwegians . . .

Captain Walsh: What?

Q: The Norwegians on the Antarctic grounds worked 98 days straight with one six-hour break on Christmas Eve.

Captain Walsh: That’s the only time those guys stopped working, and we worked 24 hours a day.  One gang came on at six in the morning until six at night.  Another gang came on six at night until six in the morning.  And I think half way through they shifted around.  And everybody had a duty to perform, from the mess cooks, the cooks, everybody did what they were supposed to do.

Q: Where did you make your decisions in terms of what you were going to observe on a particular day?  I mean what was a typical day like for you on the Ulysses?

Captain Walsh: Oh, I would get up about six o’clock in the morning and I’d get out on deck about eight and have breakfast.  The first thing is, I’d go back and check the tally board and then I’d be around the ship and on deck, either . . . most of the time I was up above deck to be damn sure that they weren’t throwing this damn meat and stuff overboard.  They didn’t want to try the meat because there wasn’t enough oil in the meat as there was in the blubber.  See the blubber was the stuff.  And then I went down to see how they would run . . . how the oil things were going downstairs.  It would take them eight hours to boil this stuff down, then they’d have to let it settle for about four hours and then they would drain the oil off the top, and they would blow the refuse of the whale that was left, overboard.  It looked like sawdust . That’s all that was left.  But I was out there day and night, on and off, down in the Antarctic, anywhere from eight in the morning to all hours of the day and night because it was daylight down there.

Q: Sure.

Captain Walsh: And the only fair weather we had is, if I’m not mistaken, driving on Christmas Day. It was about four hours. That’s all there was. The rest of the time it was awful. It was cold. No rain, but sleet and snow.

Q: Did you ever have any calm seas?

Captain Walsh:
Any what?

Q: What was the state of the seas most of the time? Was it pretty much rough most of the time?

Captain Walsh: Well no, when it got rough we’d go over in the ice . . .

Q: Yes.

Captain Walsh: . . . on the factory ship.

Q: Okay.

Captain Walsh: No, we didn’t meet any heavy seas. The only heavy seas we met were going through the Roaring Forties. Now you know the Roaring Forties is the only place where you can sail around in a complete circle around the earth and never see land. 

Q: Right.

Captain Walsh: And going through the Roaring Forties we had to heave to for about two days because, boy we really, we really hit it.  I don’t know how the hell those guys on the killer boats survived.  I think most of them lost all their boats, but we lost the ventilators, and we were hold to for about, if I’m not mistaken, two days.  We weren’t going to work through that stuff.  Those waves were tremendous.  Now you’ve heard of all these damn waves out in the Atlantic; they were 30/40 feet high.  Well those waves over there, I would say, came average anywhere from 20 to 30/40 feet.  That was a rough ride.  There’s no question about that.  We finally got the hell out of there.  We got the hell where it was nice and calm. 

And we started killing the whales - if I’m not mistaken, it’s in this book - about 800 miles south of Cape Town.

Q: We’re sitting here this morning some 63 years later.  What do you look back on in that whole experience and take from it?

Captain Walsh: I enjoyed it.  I felt that I did a damn good job on it and I produced, in a satisfactory manner, a report that stopped pelagic whaling under the United States flag, and all I did is stick with the facts and enforce the law. 

Q: Because you get a sense . . . it really is as if one officer, properly trained and so forth, can really make a difference, even alone in the middle of the Antarctic, in a kind of global situation like this where you’re trying to . . . there was nothing the United States or . . . even now people argue about whether they can shut this down internationally.  But at least in terms of the United States’ whaling, or whaling under U.S. flags, it was stopped by that expedition.

Captain Walsh: I would say that the report that I sent to Coast Guard Headquarters is the reason that we have no pelagic whaling under the United States flag today, and that is corroborated in this letter.  I don’t whether you have seen this.

Q: Yes, right here at the beginning. 

Captain Walsh: Alright. Here, read right there.

Q: Yeah.

Captain Walsh: Read right there. Doesn’t that corroborate what I told you?

Q: Exactly.

Captain Walsh: It says that with my report and the facts that allowed them, that there’s no pelagic whaling under the United States flag today and it comes from the result of these reports I made.   And here; this is a pretty good description of this thing here where Headquarters finally gave me this citation [to accompany a Coast Guard Commendation Medal in 1993].  Did you ever see that?

Q: A Commendation Medal, yes.  

Captain Walsh: Well yeah, you’ve seen that.

Q: Yes, to prevent the dumping of duty free whale oil.

Captain Walsh: Yeah, so anyway. But when I look back on it, geez, I got a helluva kick out of the fact that, Christ, I was lucky not to be thrown overboard. (Laughter)

Q: Yes, it seems like you were . . . the impression I got from the report is that you were tolerated. I mean you were . . .

Captain Walsh: The Norwegians were friendly with me because they took the aspect that I was doing a job and they were out to make the money.  They knew that I was trying to stop them, but when I would confer with them about this and that, and they’d say, well, if we don’t kill them somebody else is going to.

Q: Right.

Captain Walsh: You see what I mean?

Q: Right.

Captain Walsh: That was always the out of the conversation.

Q: Right.

Captain Walsh: And I know damn well when I was asleep or something that they were throwing meat overboard; bones and stuff.

Q: Yes.

Captain Walsh: Because they didn’t want it; and what the hell anybody else would.

Q: Have you had any contact with any of the people from the Ulysses in the years since, either after the war or . . . ?

Captain Walsh: No, none at all.  I told you about Mikkelson buying that place up in New Jersey.

Q: Right. Did you ever try and contact him?

Captain Walsh: No. I was tied up at the time. It was in the Sunday paper. Whether it was the Baltimore Sun, or somebody sent me the article, I’m not sure. But I know there was a picture of Mickelson sitting there and it showed this place up in New Jersey where people rented boats and canoes, and that stuff.

Q: Right. 

Captain Walsh: Where is the place where the boxers train in New Jersey? Lake Placid is way up north.

Q: That’s in New York.

Captain Walsh: What the hell is that other . . . ?

Q: I know what you mean.

Captain Walsh: There’s a place down south where the boxers train. It was in that area.

Q: Right.

Captain Walsh: Personally I like[d] Mickelson.  As I said, if I was going out to do a job I’d hire him to work for me.  But Mickelson was out to make money and Walsh was out to enforce the law.

Q: Yes, sir.  Let me ask you one last thing.

Captain Walsh: Go ahead.

Q: It seems that while there were three or four officers in the Coast Guard who did this, it seems extraordinary duty at any time, to go out for this long in these kind of circumstances and so forth.

Captain Walsh: Yeah.

Q: How did you figure this into . . . did you have an idea of what your Coast Guard career path . . . I mean today everybody talks about their career path and you’ve got to do this job if you want to get that job, and you climb the ladder. How did you see this fitting in with your development as an officer?

Captain Walsh: Well I never thought of that in that way. When I saw the ALCOAST they asked if anybody wanted to go out and study this whaling and that stuff, and I said I would.  I wasn’t thinking in terms of my future career or anything.  And I do think this.  I do think that it allowed me to come in contact with a lot of senior officers who later became admirals in the Service; such as Admiral O’Neill, and he was a commander in those days, and with Derby and Reed Hill.

Q: And the same Commander O’Neill . . .

Captain Walsh: All this was the beginning of my contact with senior officers you might say.

Q: Right. And the Commander O’Neill that you worked with is the same Commander O’Neill who later . . .

Captain Walsh: He was Lieutenant Commander O’Neilll, who was the second man in operations at that time, under Commander Derby.

Q: became Commandant.

Captain Walsh: And this whole thing was run under there by O’Neill, and my reports went to O’Neill. 

Q: Right.

Captain Walsh: And somewhere around here I’ve got a dispatch where I got New Year’s Eve greetings while I was in the Antarctic.

Q: Yes.

Captain Walsh: And as I say, I was one of the most junior officers, if the only junior officer, that ever had orders signed by [Admiral Russell R.] Waesche to bring me home from Europe [following the battle at Cherbourg].

Q: Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.  This has been very, very helpful.


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Last Modified 1/12/2016