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[7. S. Coast Guard Flioto
WAVES OF MEN AND WAVES OF WATER
Waves of men as well as waves of water head for the beach as U. S. Coast
Guardsmen drive their landing barges toward a South Pacific island during an
intensive invasion drill. Many of the Coast Guardsmen participating in the
early-morning drill are veterans of the original Guadalcanal invasion.
r^ T TI o 'nr 1
The Story of the
U. S. Coast Guard at War-
SECRETARY OF THE NAVY FRANK KNOX
THE BOBBS-MERRILL COMPANY
INDIANAPOLIS NEW YORK
'.B*2: THE BOBBS-MERJULL COMPANY
PRINTED NTHE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
THE CORNWALL PRESS, INC., CORNWALL, N. Y.
1 3 1844
THE STORY of the Coast Guard's role in this war is well
known to those of us who have followed the course of the
war at sea closely. But those who associate the Coast Guard
mainly with its peacetime functions of safeguarding Ameri-
can lives and property at sea and protecting legitimate ship-
ping along our coasts and inland waterways might wonder
what the activities of the service are in time of war. For
those people this book will supply the answer.
An operating part of the Navy since the President's decla-
ration of a national emergency in November, 1941, the Coast
Guard fought hard and effectively in the Battle of the At-
lantic. The loss of ships and men suffered in this battle is
sad, mute evidence of the force of its fight. More heartening
evidence lies at the bottom of the sea in the battered hulls of
Again the Coast Guard has been highly valuable in land-
ing operations. With their traditional knowledge of the
handling of small boats in all kinds of surf and under all
sorts of conditions. Coast Guardsmen were with the first
Marines that landed in the Solomons; and they were an
equally essential factor in the success of the Navy task forces
that have since effected landings in North Africa, in Sicily,
in Italy and in the islands of the Pacific. The story of their
work in these operations is one that deserves to be told in the
permanent form of a book.
But there are other things than these things for which
the nation at war has been dependent upon the Coast Guard.
The security of our all-important ports, the protection of our
thousands of miles of coast line, the manning of many of
our troop transports, the rescue of mariners at sea, the test-
ing and regulation of lifesaving equipment aboard our mer-
chant ships and the maintenance of necessary aids to navi-
gation all these are functions and responsibilities of the
Coast Guard. They are jobs that have to be done and done
well, and they are eminently worth reading about.
So many of the commissioned, enlisted and ci-
vilian personnel at Coast Guard Headquarters
assisted in providing material for this boo^ that it
would not be possible to list them here, but I wish
particularly to express my thanks to Captain Ellis
Reed-Hill and his staff, notably Warrant Officer
Arthur Bernon Tourtellot f without whose friendly
and expert co-operation the boo\ would not have
been undertaken. The opportunity to tal^ with the
Coast Guard's quiet, capable Commandant, Vice
Admiral Russell R. Waesche, and such outstanding
cutter captains as Commander James Hirshfield
was of inestimable help. I also wish to than\ Mr.
Archibald Ogden for his interest from the start.
I. THE FIRST BLOW 17
II. THE FIRST FLEET 28
III. THE TURNING POINT 53
IV. COMBAT CUTTERS 90
V. THE INVADERS 119
VI. BLUIE WEST ONE 154
VII. PORT SECURITY 190
VIII. SAND-POUNDERS 215
IX. THE PICKET FENCE 234
X. SEARCH FOR SAFETY 257
XL COAST GUARD ALOFT 282
XII. SEAGOING SURGEONS 301
XIII. EIGHT BELLS . 3 10
List of Illustrations
Waves of Men and Waves of Water Frontispiece
Coast Guardsmen Battle Weather 20
Coast Guard in Greenland 21
"The Coast Guard 1791" 38
The Harriet Lane 38
Antisubmarine Patrol 39
Sub-Sinking Skipper of the Coast Guard's Campbell 58
Repair of Sub-Ramming Campbell 58
The Icy Atlantic Lapping at Their Feet 59
Coast Guard Cutter Sinks Sub 92
Coast Guardsmen Watch Explosion of Depth Charge 93
K-Gun Goes into Action on the Spencer 93
Ramps Down 124
"Here Come the 125
End of the Bridge 125
War Clouds Oil Sicily ' 160
From the Deck of a Coast Guard-Manned Transport 160
Underneath Dropping Bombs 161
Moving up at Salerno 161
Helmsman on Antisubmarine Patrol 194
General Quarters! I 95
Coast Guard Cutter's Gun Blasts at U-Boat 216
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Nazi Captive from Submarine 217
Guarding the Nation's Shoreline 238
Coming Home in the Dawn 238
Coast Guard Dog Patrol 239
Eternal Vigilance 268
No Smoking Definitely 269
Coast Guard Rescue in Greenland 292
The Take-Ofi 293
Spectacular Landing on Icecap by Lieutenant Pritchard 293
THE FIRST BLOW
TT WAS snowing hard that mid-September day in 1941
I when the Coast Guard cutter Northland shoved her
JL sturdy snout carefully through the placid waters of the
"Finger" fjord section on the northeast coast of Greenland.
War had not yet come to the United States and the cutter
still was wearing her peacetime coat of cream and white
paint. Not a man aboard, however, failed to realize the
grim potentialities of their mission for they were hunting
Just what they would encounter was indefinite. Maybe
carefully hidden radio or weather-reporting stations or even
a small task force. Up to that time, though, the search had
been fruitless, and about all that varied the monotony of the
calm weather inside the ice pack were the visits they paid to
isolated little hunting posts on the intricate system of fjords
in the area to evacuate settlers or hunters who wished to get
back to the larger communities for the winter.
While on one of those missions, the Northland received a
message from another cutter in a distant fjord saying that
two Danish hunters had reported sighting a strange vessel
farther up the coast. The second cutter was patrolling the
area but requested aid because of the snowstorm's drastic
curtailment of visibility. As events proved, this precaution-
ary step was well taken.
The report was exciting news for the Northland, and her
skipper, Commander Carl Christian von Paulsen he's a
four-striper now at once set a course for the spot named by
the two hunters. It was several hundred miles distant and
the cutter already was farther north than any other United
States Navy ship had ever gone on routine operations. All
hands were tense. In addition to the navigational dangers
involved, there was also the possibility that the ship they
were seeking would turn out to be a German warship, in
which case the lightly armed Northland might run into
These fears proved groundless, however, for when their
quarry was sighted the next afternoon steaming slowly along
the coast, she proved to be the former Norwegian sealing
Square-jawed Lieutenant Commander Leroy McCluskey,
then only a jaygee serving as assistant navigator of the cut-
ter, studied the newcomer but there was nothing to show
that he felt any sense of personal historical importance.
Likewise, it's a cinch he had no idea of starting a war. Nev-
ertheless, before many hours had elapsed he was up to his
wind-whipped ears in an incident which history may record
as the actual opening of hostilities between the United
States and the Third Reich.
THE FIRST BLOW
When the Northland sighted the Bus%p, both vessels
were well outside Greenland's territorial limits and, had the
Bus^o's skipper so desired, he could legally have thumbed
his nose at the Americans and continued on Ms way. Possi-
bly the sight of the cutter's readied deck guns may have had
something to do with it, but at any rate the Norwegian com-
plied willingly when die Northland ran alongside and it
was suggested that he accompany her into Greenland wa-
ters. Once there, von Paulsen sent McCluskey aboard to
make an investigation.
The Eu$\p's expedition was headed by Hallvard Devoid,
a well-known Norwegian Arctic explorer^ and at first he and
the rest of his party maintained that they were simply on a
hunting expedition. McCluskey was a veteran of the Coast
Guard's hectic days on Rum Row and reluctant witnesses
were no novelty to him, so it wasn't long before he had
elicited the information from one of the younger members
of the party that they had put complete equipment for a
radio and weather-reporting station ashore still farther up
the east coast in charge of a man who had been put aboard
their ship in the Lofoten Islands by the German Gestapo!
That settled it. Under an agreement the United States had
with the Danish minister in Washington for the protection
of Greenland after the Nazis had occupied Denmark, von
Paulsen seized the Bus\p, put a prize crew aboard and
started her for Boston. Then he set the Northland's course
for the site of the Nazi radio station. That night they an-
chored in a fjord about five miles from their objective.
Again von Paulsen called on McCluskey. This time he
was to head the landing party with orders to seize and de-
stroy the radio station and capture its operators.
"Well put a couple of reserves in charge of this job," said
von Paulsen, with heavy sarcasm. "We can spare them bet-
ter. McCluskey, you and Skinner take a landing party and
knock off this station,"
Skinner was Lieutenant (j.g.) Carleton Skinner, a tall
blond stripling who used to be a Washington newspaper-
Oblivious of their skipper's jibes, the two officers were con-
siderably thrilled by the assignment.
"There was a lump in my throat as big as an egg, though,
when I went over the side into the motor surfboat that
night," Skinner recalled. "We had been told there were only
three men at the radio station, but we couldn't be sure just
what kind of a reception we'd get."
Also in the party was the skipper's cabin boy who had
clamored to be taken along.
"Make him lug something heavy, then," growled von
Paulsen when he finally had acquiesced. "Give him a
The weird Arctic dawn was just breaking when the little
group sighted the old hunters' shack in which the radio sta-
tion was housed. McCluskey surrounded the hut with part
THE FIRST BLOW
of his men and then, after a brief reconnaissance, hammered
boldly on the door.
Presently a sleepy-looking individual in long woolen un-
derwear but minus his pants appeared. It was the radio op-
erator, but he was so completely surprised that he couldn't
even talk. With him in the cabin were a couple of hunters
but they remained stolidly in their bunks, taking no part in
the little drama being enacted before them.
It may come as something of a surprise to the Marines, but
McCluskey's party was first identified to the astonished oc-
cupants of the hut as United States Marines! This was due
to the fact that McCluskey's interpreter, a naturalized Dane
named Petersen who was one of the Northland's radiomen,
did not know the word for Coast Guard in Danish. Marines
was as close as he could get to it.
Interrogation at the shack and later aboard the Northland
developed the fact that the radio operator put ashore by the
Busf^o was a Norwegian quisling named Jacob Bradley. He
had been third mate on a freighter but had gone back to
Norway a couple of years earlier and had become the leader
of a Bergen water-front unit of Quisling's party. Soon after
the occupation of Norway, however, the Gestapo had de-
posed him for "incompetency." This was tantamount to
black-listing and for months he was out of work.
When his fortunes were at their lowest ebb, he was told
that if he wanted a job, he could get it by applying to a cer-
tain address in Oslo. That turned out to be Gestapo head-
quarters and when he arrived there, he was offered the
radio-weather-reporting job in Greenland and was told the
Nazis would train him for it. The Nazis had so thoroughly
preconditioned him, by ousting him from his political job
and preventing him from obtaining any other work, that he
was ready to agree to almost anything.
Following the capture of the station, McCluskey and Skin-
ner seized or destroyed all the German equipment and sup-
plies on the scene but were careful to leave the shack and all
that had been in it prior to Bradley's arrival. Such things as
the radio masts they dismantled and took aboard the North-
land which had moved close inshore in the interim.
Americans of the mind-our-own-international-business
school of thought doubtless find it hard even now to stomach
the idea of the Coast Guard, a law-enforcement agency of
the United States, barging into one foreign country and cap-
turing the agent of still another nation with which we still
were at least technically at peace. In ordinary circumstances,
or let us say in an earlier day, such action would have been
ample provocation for a declaration of war. On this oc-
casion, however, the United States' legal basis for the action
was the agreement she had made to guarantee Greenland's
Whatever the effect upon that security, the immediate
practical effect of the station's seizure was that it prevented
the Nazis from obtaining weather reports from Greenland
Europe's weather factory which would have been ex~
THE FIRST BLOW
tremely valuable., nay almost indispensable, to the planning
of their air attacks on Britain. No doubt the Nazis also had
realized that Greenland was on the direct route which
bombers and other planes would use in flying from the
United States to Britain. A radio station on that route,
therefore, would be valuable for reporting aerial traffic to in-
terceptor planes of the Luftwaffe waiting at Norwegian
Since the Nazis failed to conquer Russia after their initial
tremendous drive into that country, it has been suggested
that the lack of long-range weather data from Greenland de-
prived the Germans of advance information as to the un-
usual severity of the first winter their armies were to spend
in the land of the Soviets. Cautious meteorological experts
won't subscribe unequivocally to that theory, pointing out
that the weather in April or May in the Greenland area
seems to have no bearing on what the following winter will
be like in Russia. On the other hand, they concede it cannot
be said that the Greenland data would have been of no help
to the Germans in planning their Russian campaign. Cer-
tainly, had they known how terrible that first winter was go-
ing to be, they would either have invaded Russia earlier or
made better preparations for the winter fighting.
Viewed in that light, therefore, perhaps McCluskey's ex-
pedition had much more far-reaching effects than simply
denying the Germans data for planning raids on Britain. At
any rate, one thing sure: While history may record that
America was dragged into the global war when the Japs
struck at Pearl Harbor, the Coast Guard had dealt the Nazis
a damaging blow many weeks earlier and in a totally differ-
ent part of the globe. It was the first instance in which the
United States went on the offensive against the Germans,
and no matter how the diplomats slice it, the blow dealt at
that time can never be regarded as a friendly act
Before leaving the scene of this initial "victory" over the
Axis, McCluskey and his men set fire to the German stores.
The last thing they could see as the Northland headed out of
the fjord was a tall straight column of black smoke climbing
into the still Arctic air. It was a signal, a signal of hope to
the Old World and a sign to freedom lovers everywhere of
blows which would be struck in the months to come, not
only by the Coast Guard but by all the armed forces of the
United States, against international banditry.
Seizure of that tiny radio station, an incident which soon
was forgotten in the terrible rush of events which followed,
demonstrated that no matter how unready the rest of the na-
tion was for war, the Coast Guard was living up to its an-
cient motto, ''Semper Paratus" in traditional fashion. In the
ensuing months the nation's oldest sea service furnished even
more convincing proof of its readiness to meet all emergen-
For example, when war did come at Pearl Harbor, the
i6"5-foot Coast Guard cutter Taney was one of the few ships
there which managed to get guns into action against the at-
THE FIRST BLOW
tackers. Since that dire day, other men and ships of the
service have fought in every major American campaign of
the war from the Solomons to Sicily.
They handled the invasion barges which took the Marines
ashore at Tulagi and the doughboys into North Africa. They
manned the far-ranging combat cutters which have hung up
one of the finest records of the war in their ceaseless battle
against the U-boats in the North Atlantic and they sailed
many of the transports which carried the nation's fighting
men to battle fronts all over the world.
Through all its operations, a dominant theme of the Coast
Guard has been the promotion of safety at sea the organi-
zation's primary mission in peace or war. When a Coast
Guard cutter sinks a submarine, for example, it is not so
much for the purpose of killing Germans although that is
a popular by-product as to prevent that submarine from
sinking American ships and men.
Making war comes naturally to the Coast Guard, never-
theless, because even while the nation is at peace, the Coast
Guard is battling enemies of one kind or another. If not
smugglers in Florida, then it is salmon poachers or fur
thieves in Alaska. So the transition from its peacetime ac-
tivities to international warfare is not a long one for the
Despite the glamour of its exploits and the magnitude of
the contributions it has made on the fighting fronts, the gen-
eral public has all too scant an idea of just what this service
has done in the war. It still is associated in the public mind
with the somewhat prosaic job of patrolling a lonely stretch
of beach. Naturally, the Coast Guard still has its "sand-
pounders," as the beach patrolmen are called, but like the
rest of the service, you're likely to find them anywhere in
It's a standing joke, in fact, that some of the lads who en-
listed in the Coast Guard in the early days of the war did so
either with the idea of sticking close to their best girl, or be-
cause their mothers thought a home-defense outfit like the
Coast Guard was the safest place for Junior to be in wartime.
"Sure, we still guard the coast," grinned one veteran of
the Battle of the Atlantic, "but they don't tell you what coast
any more when you sign on. It might be in the Aleutians or
somewhere on the edge of Festung Europa"
Navy's early policy of tight-lipped silence about the war
against the U-boats was responsible to a considerable degree
for the lack of wider public understanding of the Coast
Guard's part in that battle, but back of that was the devotion
of most old-line Coast Guard officers to the maxim that "in
our obscurity lies our security." They operated on the theory
that the more you stick your neck out, the more likely you
are to get shot at.
Something of that attitude prevailed in the service with
regard to the awarding of medals, and for months after the
war began you could count on your fingers the numbers of
decorations given to Coast Guard men.
THE FIRST BLOW
"Why should we get medals?" demanded one crusty old
skipper. "We're only doing our job."
Running this fabulous organization, which already has ex-
panded to ten times Its peacetime size, is salty, savvy Vice-
Admiral Russell R. Waesche, the first man to be held over
in the post of commandant of the organization for more
than one four-year term.
A mild-mannered man, devoted to the idea that the Coast
Guard's principal concern in peace or war is safety at sea,
Waesche has gone ahead quietly making it the deadliest life-
saving organization in the United States military history.
Yet despite the global scope of its operations, it conforms to
the pattern and traditions maintained by the service through-
out the 153 years since its establishment.
THE FIRST FLEET
IT IS no Idle boasting when Coast Guardsmen claim to be-
long to the United States' oldest naval service, for it can
trace its unbroken history back to August 4, 1790, when
Congress authorized the establishment of a Revenue Cutter
Service for the collection of the young republic's urgently
In those early days, smuggling was rife along the coasts of
the original colonies. In fact, it had a degree of respectability
dating from the pre-Independence days when it had been
considered quite proper, even patriotic, to avoid paying taxes
to the British Crown.
Whatever might have been his sentiments toward making
such contributions to the King of England, Alexander Ham-
ilton, this country's first Secretary of the Treasury, knew full
well that America could not get along without revenues. It
needed every penny. He knew, too, that the only way to get
all of the revenue due was to put a stop to smuggling, plug
the leaks in the revenue dike. That meant government-
Accordingly, after considerable discussion and letter-
writing to the various Collectors of Customs, Hamilton
THE FIRST FLEET
recommended to Congress on April 22, 1790, that ten reve-
nue cutters and crews be provided for this important work.
Little more than three months later Congress acquiesced
and, in due course, the first of the cutters,, the Massachusetts,
was launched. She was a 48-foot, 3i-ton craft which carried
a master, first, second and third mate, four mariners and two
boys. Displacing about as much as our modern Navy's PT
boats, she was nevertheless a speedy, seaworthy little ship.
Because smugglers always used to take advantage of high
winds and shoal water, the Massachusetts 9 diminutive size
and maneuverability made her an excellent vessel for her job.
For the first nine years of its existence, the Coast Guard
was the only navy of which the United States could boast,
and even after the creation of the Navy Department in 1798
one-third of the new United States Fleet at sea was made up
of revenue cutters transferred to the Navy the Pickering,
the Governor Jay, the Eagle, the Scammel, the South Caro-
lina, the Governor Greene and the Diligence, all found
themselves under naval orders for the war with France.
They were strange little craft, armed with swivel guns,
blunderbusses and cutlasses, when compared with the mod-
ern combat cutter of the Coast Guard, with its Diesel power,
antiaircraft guns and underwater soundgear, but they estab-
lished a memorable record, one which set a pattern for the
traditions which are the pride of the service today.
Even as at present, the principal mission of the cutters in
the initial months of the naval war with France was patrol
from the George's banks to Hatteras, It was their task to
provide a defense against hostilities near the seacoast. This
was in strict accord with the will of Congress, but it was not
long before the cutters were doing much more than that.
For in the first winter of the war, they were ordered into the
Caribbean to clear the French out of the West Indies waters.
In another interesting parallel with the service performed
by the Coast Guard cutters in World War II, those original
cutters did a lot of convoy duty on the Spanish Main, escort-
ing American merchantmen to safety with their cargoes of
sugar, molasses and rum. One historian of the Coast Guard
records, however, that their service was not entirely defen-
sive perhaps passive is a better word f or of the eighty-four
ships captured between 1798 and 1800, the cutters were cred-
ited with taking eighteen either singlehanded or in company
with some of the heavier naval ships. For example, the Picfa
ering forced the surrender of Le Conquise d'Egypt, a ship
carrying two hundred men and armed with eight p-pound-
ers and six 6-pounders, after a nine-hour fight off Guada-
loupe. Returning to the scene of her triumph on the Guad-
aloupe station, however, the Pickering was lost without trace
in August 1800.
Log books and other records of the early Treasury Fleet
are practically nonexistent, but we know that despite the
duties imposed by their service with the Navy, the cutters by
no means abandoned their primary task of protecting the
revenues of the Republic. Congress recognized the impor-
THE FIRST FLEET
tance of that task and authorized the construction of ten ad-
ditional cutters in 1799 and, at the same time, directed that
the cutters of the service should be distinguished by an en-
sign and pennant. Thus was born the Coast Guard ensign
which, with little change in the ensuing 144 years, still flies
at the masthead of every Coast Guard vessel. Its familiar
sixteen red and white stripes represent the sixteen states in
the Union in 1799, while the union of the ensign is the Arms
of the United States with the thirteen stars, arrows and
leaves on the olive branch symbolizing the original thirteen
In spite of its brilliant achievements in the war with
France the nation's First Fleet fell upon dark days in the ad-
ministration of President Thomas Jefferson. Retrenchment
became the order of the day for the Cutter Service, some of
the larger craft which had served with the Navy were auc-
tioned off, to be replaced by smaller cutters, the number of
officers and crews of others were reduced and every effort
made to bring the service back to its original limits.
Paradoxically, however, it was a slump in shipping which
brought about a rebirth of the Revenue Cutter Service.
Rather than fight the strangling restrictions which Britain
and Napoleon imposed upon shipping with their opposing
blockades, President Jefferson presented the world with the
sorry spectacle of the United States surrendering the freedom
of the se % as in 1807. By Act of Congress, at Jefferson's re-
quest, no American ship larger than five tons could leave
port except to proceed to another United States port and
even trips of that restricted nature required a heavy bond.
The effect of that law upon the American merchant ma-
rine, of course, is obvious. Ships rotted at their wharves and
seamen walked the streets.
On the other hand, the doldrums in trade provided a shot
in the arm for the Cutter Service, for intent upon enforcing
the Embargo Act, the Secretary of the Treasury called upon
Congress for bigger and better cutters. In contrast to the
40-tonners of the original fleet, the new ones were to range
from 70 to 130 tons and be swift enough to overhaul any
quarry. And instead of $1,000 apiece which the Massachu-
setts and her contemporaries cost, the estimates for the new
ones ranged from $8,000 to $12,000.
The decision to build speed into the cutters to enable them
to catch smugglers was a fortuitous circumstance because it
proved to be their greatest weapon when they once more
were called upon to side with the Navy in war this time
against the British fleet, for public condemnation of the Em-
bargo Act and the demand for Free Trade and Sailors'
Rights culminated in war with Britain in 1812.
Immediately, nine of the sixteen revenue cutters were
transferred to the Navy and, as in a later day the cutter
Icarus was to make the first capture of enemy prisoners off
the east coast, the cutter Jefferson took the British brig Pa-
triot, the first prize of the war.
In the years which followed the war of 1812, the revenue
THE FIRST FLEET
cutters inherited more and more varied duties for the gov-
ernment. Where it originally was directed only to collect
and protect the Federal revenues and to enforce the quaran-
tine regulations, the service successively became involved in
the suppression of the slave trade, in enforcement of the
United States' first Neutrality Law, in fighting the pirates
and pseudo-privateers who made the Caribbean and the Gulf
of Mexico places to be feared.
It was in 1831, however, that the cutters received the as-
signment which soon developed into the major peacetime
concern of the service the protection of life at sea. There is
no clear record of what brought it about, but Secretary of
the Treasury Louis McLane issued the order which put the
Revenue Cutter Service and all its successors in the life-
saving business. On December 16, 1831, he wrote to the Col-
lector of Customs at Wilmington, Delaware, to prepare the
cutter Gallatin for immediate duty at sea, explaining it
was deemed desirable to have the government-owned ships
render assistance to any vessels in distress along the coast.
Several years later Congress formalized the policy of having
public vessels render that sort of assistance and, except for
periods of national emergency, such as the two World Wars,
the Coast Guard has engaged in winter cruising during the
period when merchant ships are most frequently in trouble
all the way from Maine to Florida.
This was a long step forward, marking, as it did, the first
governmental move to do something constructive toward the
prevention of loss of life at sea. Up to that time, anything
like salvage work had been on a strictly mercenary basis and,
indeed, lawless gangs flourished on many a coast whose busi-
ness in life was to lure ships to destruction by exhibiting false
beacons and then plundering their cargoes once they were
From its inception, the Coast Guard has contributed ac-
tively to the defense and growth of the United States. When-
ever the young nation was involved in foreign wars, its
revenue cutters have been among the earliest participants.
The same is true where the country's domestic difficulties
The Mexican War witnessed the first use of a group of the
revenue cutters as a unit under the command of one of their
own officers who, incidentally, were known from the earliest
days of the service as Officers of the Customs. Captain John
A. Webster, who commanded the cutter Jackson, was se-
lected to establish a patrol along the coast of the Gulf of
Mexico from the Mississippi to the Rio Grande soon after the
war broke out.
With the steam cutters Legare, Spencer and McLane and
the sailing cutters Ewing, Woodbury, Van Buren and For-
ward at his disposal, Captain Webster was instructed not
only to keep a vigilant eye over the revenue, but to place
himself under the direction of the general commanding the
Army of Occupation "for the purpose of conveying men,
supplies or intelligence to and from such points as he may
THE FIRST FLEET
direct; and should necessity require, of aiding with the forces
employed on board in prosecuting the war."
The Spencer, whose namesake was to have such a brilliant
part in the war against Nazi U-boats in World War II, had
her war career brought to an inglorious end. Beset by me-
chanical trouble of one kind or another ever since her
launching, she broke down three days out of New York on
her way to rendezvous with the rest of the squadron and
had to put into Charleston where she remained.
General Zachary Taylor, preparing for his march on
Monterey, employed the cutters almost exclusively to trans-
port his arms and ammunition from New Orleans to the
Army Depot which he had established at Brazos Santiago
and to carry his reports back to New Orleans. As the cam-
paign progressed, however, the cutters saw a little more
For instance, the Forward and McLane were in the ex-
pedition which Taylor sent against the defenses of Alvarado.
Commodore Matthew Perry in die Mississippi commanded
that force but his ship found it impossible to get in close
enough to bring the Mexican shore defenses within range
of her guns and the McLane went aground on the bar at the
river's mouth. Considerably discomfited, Perry had to with-
Down the coast at Frontera they had better luck, for the
garrison of Fort Acceahappa abandoned their guns when the
flotilla crossed the bar and it was able to sail up the Tobasco
River to Tobasco where Taylor believed the enemy was
bringing in munitions from Yucatan. They encountered
stiff opposition at Tobasco but the combined effect of round
shot and grape and the landing of a detachment of Marines
proved too much for the Mexican defenders. After terms of
surrender had been reached, the Forward and McLane were
left on blockade duty off Frontera a long voyage from their
Atlantic coast stations.
When civil war engulfed the nation, the cutters once more
were called into military service. Some of them fell into the
hands of the Confederates but the majority were available to
the Union and soon were engaged in prosecuting the block-
ade of Southern ports from the Chesapeake to the Rio
At the outset of the struggle, five of the cutters had been
taken over by the Confederacy while eighteen others re-
mained on duty in the Atlantic under the Stars and Stripes.
Before the war was over, however, a total of forty-six cutters
had seen service at one time or another on the Union side.
Even with their added combat and blockade duties, though,
the cutters did not unduly neglect their peacetime tasks of
protecting the revenue, doing hydrographic survey work and
aiding vessels in distress.
Amphibious warfare has had a prominent place in World
War II. It has even come to be regarded by many as a
modern development. Actually, it is almost as old as human
conflict, certainly dating from the days when men learned to
THE FIRST FLEET
fight on the water. One of the Union fleet's first operations
in the Civil War was of that type and it bears mention here
because of the part played by one of the cutters, the Harriet
Lane, when plans went awry.
The cutter had been ordered to join Commodore String-
ham's squadron for an assault on the twin Confederate forts
guarding Hatteras Inlet. Many blockade runners had been
using this passage to get their contraband cargoes through
to the Secessionists and, likewise. Confederate raiders had
used it to get from their bases to the northern shipping lanes.
On August 26 the expedition lay off the Inlet. It in-
cluded three transports with 800 troops aboard. Landing
operations were begun the next morning, but when only 300
of the soldiers had been put ashore, the bane of amphibious
operations high winds struck. Landing barges and small
boats were caught in the mounting seas and disaster was im-
minent. While the larger ships in the force stood out to sea
for safety, it devolved upon the cutter to undertake the res-
cue work. Jettisoning her 32-pounders, which her skipper
had wanted to replace anyway, she maneuvered through the
shoreward-rushing waves and gathered up the struggling
The wind abated by daylight and the squadron steamed
back and opened fire on the shore batteries and in two days
the last of the opposition ceased. The Union had won its
first victory of the war.
Because of the commonplace saying among Coast Guards-
men that their service is always at war, it was no surprise
to those on duty at the time when they were ordered to
undertake the now-famous Bering Sea Patrol.
After Secretary of State Seward had negotiated the pur-
chase of Alaska from Russia for some $7,200,000 a transac-
tion which some shortsighted critics denounced as "Seward's
Folly" new and arduous duties were added to the Revenue
Cutter Service. Year after year the ships of the service were
assigned to transport various exploratory expeditions, both
governmental and private, to Alaska. And year after year
they had the duty of protecting American whalers and seal-
hunters operating in the area, of policing the region against
Japanese poachers and rendering assistance to the settle-
There's a story which Navy and Coast Guard men today
delight in telling to illustrate the long-range cunning of the
Japs. One of our cutters was probing its way carefully
through a fog-bound channel in Alaskan waters one day
some years ago. Running at greatly reduced speed, and tak-
ing soundings with the lead line at frequent intervals, the
cutter was barely making headway. Everybody aboard was
jittery, fearful of tearing the bottom out of the ship on some
uncharted volcanic ledge.
Suddenly astern of them a ship loomed up through the
fog. It bore down on the cutter rapidly and, as the latter's
crew lined the rail with their mouths open, the newcomer
flashed past and disappeared in the fog ahead. It was a
THE COAST GUARD
The Massachusetts, the start of the present Coast Guard fleet, is depicted in
this oil painting by Chief Boatswain's Mate Hunter Wood, Coast Guard artist.
U. S. Coast Guard Photo
THE "HARRIET LANE"
The Harriet Lane, first steam cutter in the U. S. Coast Guard, is shown as
painted by Chief Boatswain's Mate Wood.
Somewhere on the North Atlantic. . . . Picturesque Coast Guard schooners
nanned by adventurous members of the Coast Guard Corsair Fleet sail along
ever watchful for enemy submarine activity.
THE FIRST FLEET
Japanese destroyer and it churned through that hazardous
passage as though it were operating in its own anchorage!
In the early days of the Bering Sea Patrol the cutters were
the only symbol of law and order in the Alaskan territory.
Their skippers, in f act, served as United States Commission-
ers and performed a great many legal tasks. They had a
number of headaches, too, for their ships were not always
maintained in the top-notch condition which is the standard
of modern Coast Guard cutters. Penny-pinching policies on
the part of the Treasury or of Congress often led to situations
in which the cutters had to undertake their duties with in-
adequate equipment or insufficient personnel. It was many
years, for example, before they were allowed to take sur-
geons along as part of their regular complement.
One of the most famous of the cutters engaged in the Ber-
ing Sea Patrol, of course, is the old Bear. Built in Scotland
for service in the sealing industry, she was acquired by the
United States Navy ten years later for the Greeley Relief Ex-
pedition. In 1886 she was transferred to the Revenue Marine,
as the Treasury Fleet was then known. Year after year she
crossed the Arctic Circle on her errands of mercy and justice,
making a total of forty-two trips north and spending ap-
proximately seventy-five percent of her life in northern wa-
In 1926, after forty years in the service, it looked as though
her career was finished, for she was condemned and decom-
missioned. In fact she served the city of Oakland as a marine
museum for a time. However she was rescued from that
ignominious fate to take Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd's ex-
pedition to the Antarctic, and just before the United States
got into World War II she turned up in the public prints
again as a member of the Coast Guard's Greenland Patrol
when she escorted the captured Norwegian hunting ship
&us\o into Boston, the first naval prize resulting from the
war in Europe.
One of the most thrilling exploits of the old Revenue
Cutter Service was the expedition which the cutter Bear sent
while on the Bering Sea Patrol to rescue some 500 American
whalemen whose ships had been trapped in the ice near
Point Barrow, Alaska.
The Bear already had gone back to the United States for
the winter when word reached San Francisco in November,
1897, ^ iat the whaling ships were icebound and their crews
faced starvation unless food supplies reached them before
their own limited stocks were exhausted.
There were no airplanes to hop over and parachute sup-
plies to the distressed group in those days and with the Arctic
and Bering Sea approaches already closed to navigation, the
difficulties confronting a relief expedition were regarded as
almost insuperable by experienced Arctic explorers. How-
ever, it was thought that if anyone could reach the marooned
whalers, Captain Francis Tuttle, commander of the Bear,
could do it. He had had long experience in maneuvering the
ship in Arctic ice which well qualified him for the task.
THE FIRST FLEET
It took them three weeks to outfit the ship and sign up a
volunteer crew, but Captain Tuttle sailed from Port Town-
send, Washington, on November 30, 1897, headed for Cape
Nome, on the Bering Sea, a point about 800 miles from
where the whaling ships were fast in the ice.
When the Bear got within eighty-five miles of her goal,
the ice pack was found to be impassable, so Tuttle returned
to Cape Vancouver where he put a detachment ashore with
instructions to undertake one of the most difficult overland
journeys imaginable. The group was headed by two of the
cutter's ablest officers, First Lieutenant D. H. Jarvis, com-
manding, and Second Lieutenant E. P. Bertholf. Surgeon
S. J. Call, a Russian guide named Koltchoff and four Eski-
mos completed the party. They had thirteen hundred pounds
of food and equipment loaded on four sleds which were
hauled by forty-one half-wild huskies. Meanwhile, the Bear
sailed southward to Unalaska in the Aleutians where Cap-
tain Tuttle planned to wait until the following summer
when he would be able to get through to Point Barrow and
pick up his relief expedition as well as any of the whalemen
who might have lost their ships by that time.
On December 16 Jarvis and his party set out from the vil-
lage of Tannak for a trip across 1,500 miles of incredibly
difficult territory. How to take sufficient food along for
themselves and the 500 whalemen, enough to last for eight
months, was a problem that had only one solution. They
could not expect their dogs to haul any such load so the only
answer was to drive sufficient reindeer ahead of diem and
slaughter them for food when they reached Point Barrow.
The reindeer, recently imported to Alaska from Siberia, was
the only food animal that could survive the Arctic winter.
It took them some time to assemble the herds of reindeer
and to recruit experienced natives who could handle both
the reindeer and the dog teams, but finally it was done and
the cuttermen, who had been seamen all their lives, set out
on a strange adventure, one in which they had to serve as
sled drivers, reindeer herders and Arctic explorers. It was a
three-month job to travel the 1,500 miles overland to Point
Barrow in the dead of winter, and every hardship and danger
usually to be encountered under such conditions was theirs.
Lunches beside the trail were grim affairs in which they
ate cold ham and hard bread, washed down with ice water.
Soft deep snow and frequent blinding blizzards slowed them
down a great deal When the men weren't breaking trail
for the dogs in the deep snowdrifts, the animals were being
tortured by sharp ice which cut their paws to ribbons.
Early in the game the expedition divided because of the
difficulty of obtaining relief dogs. Jarvis and Surgeon Call
took half the party and the best dogs and mushed on around
the Seward Peninsula for the purpose of obtaining additional
reindeer. Bertholf and Koltchoff took the worn-out dogs
and took a short cut to Cape Blossom on Kotxebue Sound.
Bertholf had about a thousand pounds of provisions in his
party so it was vital to Jarvis and the others that he be able
THE FIRST FLEET
to negotiate the desolate mountain area and reach Cape
Blossom, where Jarvis was to rejoin him.
"Lieutenant Jarvis on the first lap of the journey around
Seward Peninsula arrived at Golovin Bay on January n,
where the dog teams were dismissed/' a Coast Guard ac-
count of the expedition said. "From here on, Lapland freight
sleds, pulled by reindeer, were used for transportation. The
rescuers, not yet halfway to Point Barrow, faced further trials
and tribulations. It was difficult to drive hundreds of jittery
reindeer in a lashing gale at 40 degrees below zero. The men
were forced to go native; to eat and sleep with the Eskimos
who were not a cleanly lot.
"Wolf packs began to attack them, necessitating a constant
watch. Gales and blinding snowstorms hampered their prog-
ress. On one occasion, Jarvis, who brought up the rear of
his party, was lost in the darkness when his reindeer ran the
sled against a stump, broke their harness and ran away. The
expedition's commander, left on the trail with only his sled
and his sleeping bag, turned in, hoping that his absence
would be discovered by the others before he was overcome by
the cold. His reindeer caught up with the rest of the party
and trotted behind in the darkness, with Jarvis' absence un-
noticed until the natives stopped to consult with the chief,
only to find him missing. They backtracked and eventually
Much to Jarvis' relief, he found Bertholf already waiting
for him at Cape Blossom when he arrived on February 12.
They still had a week's journey ahead of them before they
could get to Point Hope, where they expected to find some
word from the whalemen at Barrow.
"We left Cape Blossom in Ideal weather 42 degrees be-
low zero/' Jams noted. He probably meant that at least it
On February 20 they reached Point Hope where they
found a man, Ned Arey, who had arrived from Point Bar-
row only twenty-four hours ahead of them with word that
the whalemen's condition would become serious within a
month unless food reached them. Jarvis and his men spent
the next two weeks preparing for the final 400-mile stage of
"The rescuers set out from Point Hope on March 6th,"
the account said. "At Cape Lisburne, about 35 miles further
on, it was black as night and the weather was thick. A howl-
ing blizzard came down from the north, filling the air with
quantities of fine, hard snow that cut like a knife and hid
everything from sight, even a few feet away. Dog food was
running short, and the half-famished huskies began to eat
everything that was not metal or wood. Boots and shoes had
to be put out of reach lest the dogs add them to their limited
menu. Point Belcher was reached on March 25, leaving
about one hundred miles to Point Barrow. The next day
Jarvis was rewarded by finding the first marooned whale-
ship, the Eelmdere^ near Sea Horse Island. On board were
a number of the survivors of die crushed Oraz and the lost
THE FIRST FLEET
Freeman. However, Jarvis did not linger long. His indomit-
able courage and driving sense of duty started him on the
trail again the following morning."
It was March 29, almost three and one-half months after
leaving the Bear, that Jarvis, Bertholf and Call drove the
reindeer herd into Point Barrow, successfully completing
one of the greatest arctic journeys ever attempted.
"On his arrival. Lieutenant Jarvis sent messages to all the
masters of the whale ships/' the Coast Guard report said,
"acquainting them with the arrival of the expedition and
asking their co-operation. He found the whalemen in a low,
demoralized state from the cramped quarters, idleness and
inadequate food. Filth and vermin covered everything. Dr.
Call found four cases of scurvy. New quarters were found
or constructed for the men. Sanitary rules and general dis-
cipline were instituted, with daily inspections."
Jarvis had instructions from Captain Tuttle to take charge
of the colony in the name of the government If he found
conditions serious enough to warrant such a step. He was to
"organize the community for mutual support and good
order. The provisions must be apportioned and as many
reindeer slaughtered for food as necessary to make all hold
out until August, 1898, when the Bear should arrive."
Jarvis followed that plan and all hands settled down to
await the summer "breakup" when the whaling ships would
be released from their imprisonment and could head toward
the open sea.
Surgeon Call was kept busy throughout the winter attend-
ing to the needs of both the whites and the natives and his
practice ranged from treatment of frostbite to major ampu-
tations. He treated 1,557 cases ^ various types between the
time of his arrival at Point Barrow and the appearance of the
Bear on July 28. Nine and one-half months after she set out
upon the expedition, the Bear was back at Seattle with
ninety-seven whalemen whose ships had been wrecked or
It was a successful finale to one of the strangest assign-
ments ever carried out by the Revenue Cutter Service.
In peacetime the cutters used to base at Dutch Harbor in
the Aleutians and often covered as much as 75,000 miles in
their cruising from April to November.
From the earliest days of the Republic, it has been the
Coast Guard's function to serve with the Navy in wartime,
and the Spanish-American War was no exception. Twenty
revenue cutters saw service against the Spaniards, one of
them the McCulloch was with Dewey at the Battle of
Manila. Others had even more exciting assignments in the
Atlantic, engaging in cable-cutting expeditions, piloting traf-
fic through the mine fields with which the Army protected
the nation's major ports from Boston to New Orleans against
the possibility of surprise attacks by Cervera's fleet.
Between the close of the war with Spain and the night of
April 14-15, 1912, the Revenue Gutter Service seems to have
pursued a more or less routine existence, carrying out its ap-
THE FIRST FLEET
pointed peacetime duties and not creating much of a stir one
way or another. There were, doubtless, the usual arduous
patrols in weather which no other vessels willingly would
operate in and the stirring rescues which somehow the
general public seemed to take for granted.
On that April night, however, something happened which
was to focus international attention on the United States
Coast Guard. The proud White Star liner Titanic struck an
iceberg on her maiden voyage four hundred miles southeast
of Cape Race and sank with a loss of more than 1,500 per-
Icebergs had long been the dread of transatlantic naviga-
tors, for they had spelled the doom of many a ship. But the
loss of the Titanic, which still ranks as one of the worst
peacetime maritime disasters, precipitated a demand for pre-
ventive measures which could not be denied.
Clearly, some means of warning vessels operating in the
danger zone of the location and course of the bergs must be
found and, quite as obviously, that would entail a patrol.
While the ponderous machinery for getting some inter-
national action in the matter was slowly beginning to move,
two United States Navy scout cruisers took on the job for the
remainder of the year. In the following spring the Treasury
Department undertook the patrol, assigning the cutters
Seneca and Miami to the task. In the same year, the British
government chartered a steam trawler, the Scotia, for ice and
Finally, on November 12, 1913, the International Confer-
ence on the Safety of Life at Sea got down to work on the
problem* at London and thoroughly discussed the subject
of patrolling the ice regions. The upshot was that a con-
vention., providing for the inauguration of an international
derelict-destruction, ice observation and ice patrol, was signed
on January 20, 1914, by the representatives of the various
The plan called for the assignment of two vessels to the
duty each season and the United States was asked to manage
the triple service, the expense of which would be borne by
the thirteen countries most interested in transatlantic navi-
The contracting governments agreed to contribute to the
maintenance and operation of the service in the following
Great Britain and Northern Ireland 40%
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics i%
United States of America 18%
THE FIRST FLEET
Although the convention did not go into effect until July
i, 1915, the United States agreed to undertake the work im-
mediately under the terms agreed upon in the convention.
Consequently, in February of 1914 the service was initi-
ated, and except for wartime interruptions has been main-
tained ever since. How effective it has been is witnessed by
the fact that not a single life has been lost as a result of a
ship's collision with an iceberg since that time.
The iceberg menace starts up in Greenland on the glacial
icecap of that Arctic island. As this river of ice moves to-
ward the coast, huge masses of it, frequently as long as a
city block and half as high as the Washington Monument,
break off and go thundering into the sea to be swept south-
ward by the ocean currents. Some of them reach the so-
called Labrador current and it is those which constitute the
gravest menace to mariners, for that current frequently
sweeps them steadily into the heavily traveled North At-
lantic steamer lanes.
Experience and experiment have shown that it is beyond
human power to divert or destroy them. The best that can
be done is to watch and chronicle their movements.
The Coast Guard found out, both through its own experi-
ments and through those of other experts, that it was useless
to try to destroy large bergs with explosives and that the
action of the sea would accomplish the objective in amaz-
ingly short order if given a chance. The thing to do, then,
was simply to locate the icebergs, note their courses and
speeds and warn shipping to be on tie lookout accordingly.
And that is what the International Ice Patrol seeks to
do. Each year, about March 15 except in wartime, when
they have other duties two of the Coast Guard's big, 327-
foot cutters slip their moorings at their Staten Island pier
and glide down the bay toward the grim, gray Atlantic and
set a course for the danger zone.
Their patrol area is in the general vicinity of the famous
Grand Banks of? Newfoundland, an area approximately the
size of the state of Pennsylvania.
The cutters alternate on the patrol, staying out fifteen days
at a time. When one is out, the other bases either at St.
John's or some other near-by port. Because the ice area is
close to where the Gulf Stream meets the cold Labrador cur-
rent, it is usually shrouded in dense fog for much of the ice
season April to July and this makes the cutters' task
doubly difficult and dangerous.
While on the ice patrol, the cutters render many other
services so long as they don't interfere with the primary mis-
sion. For example, they often give medical aid to the crews
of the numerous small fishing vessels which operate in that
area, or assist vessels which get into difficulties in bad
weather. Scientific observations of many kinds also are
made, either by the cutters' own personnel or by experts who
Among these extracurricular activities, as it were, are the
studies of conditions in the upper atmosphere, made for the
THE FIRST FLEET
purpose of obtaining more accurate data on flying weather
conditions. Since the advent of transoceanic passenger-plane
flights, this has become a vitally important activity, and be-
fore the war engulfed the United States, cutters other than
those engaged on the ice patrol were stationed in mid-ocean
to make the observations on a daily basis.
The data is obtained by means of the radiosonde, a minia-
ture broadcasting station which weighs less than two pounds
and which is sent into the upper air by means of a carrier
balloon. Its signals, recorded by receiving apparatus aboard
the cutter, give temperature, barometric pressure and humid-
ity at various levels. Some of the balloons ascend ten miles
or more before they burst; in 1939 the Ice Patrol cutters
made observations recorded as much as fifteen miles above
the earth's surface. Temperatures as low as -60 degrees (cen-
tigrade) were recorded.
Details concerning the whereabouts and movements of
icebergs and ice fields are communicated by the cutters to
the Hydrographic Office of the Navy Department for dis-
semination to shipping interests. In 1940 the cutter North-
land made an oceanographic cruise of 3,300 miles which
threw considerable light on the origin of icebergs, the con-
ditions surrounding and influencing their drift into southern
waters. On this cruise, which took the Northland to Baffin
Bay and Davis Straits, a total of 3,289 icebergs were sighted
and plotted and the five principal producing glaciers in
Greenland were visited for the purpose of making oceano-
Strangely enough, there was an almost total absence of ice-
bergs in the North Atlantic steamer lanes that year a
condition which had prevailed in only four other years since
the patrol began whereas in 1939 the menace of icebergs in
those lanes persisted as late as August.
THE TURNING POINT
IT LOOKS now as though the Coast Guard were here to
stay but this was by no means always the case. Despite
its long record of meritorious service, both in peace and
war, the service has repeatedly been the target of attempts
either to abolish it or merge it with the Navy. This was par-
ticularly true of the old Revenue Cutter Service, but even
today we see indications of the same tendency.
Shortly after the training of merchant sea cadets was
assigned to the Coast Guard as a means of providing com-
petent crews for the growing war-born fleet of American
cargo vessels, surprised officials learned one day that legisla-
tion had been passed by Congress transferring the training
program to the War Shipping Administration.
The training of large numbers of merchant seamen might
properly be described as an emergency measure and one
which the government would not be warranted in financing
in normal times; therefore the assignment of the task to a
patently emergency organization such as the War Shipping
Administration can be easily understood. It is not so easy to
explain, however, the attempt which is being made in Con-
gress as this is written to give the WSA the Coast Guard's
Marine Inspection duties also.
Marine Inspection, whether carried on by the Coast Guard
or, as formerly was the case, by a division of the Commerce
Department, is something that the government will have to
do as long as the United States has a merchant marine. It
is not something that will end with the war. This fact led
some friends of the Coast Guard to express the belief that
the effort to transfer more and more duties of a permanent
nature to the temporary War Shipping Administration was
designed to give the latter reasons for continuing its exis-
tence after the war.
Economy usually has been the argument used by advocates
of the Coast Guard's abolition, and even of those who
wanted to merge it with the Navy. The last major attempt
of that nature occurred toward the close of 1911 as a result
of the recommendations of a Commission on Economy and
Efficiency appointed by President Taft, overriding the Treas-
ury's contention that it needed a coastal patrol for the same
reason that Alexander Hamilton urged Congress to give him
ten cutters back in 1790 namely, to protect the nation's
revenue by preventing smuggling.
"The commission is convinced," said the 120-page report
with unflattering finality, "that the Service has not a single
duty or function that cannot be performed by some other
existing service, and be performed by the latter at much
THE TURNING POINT
While conceding that smuggling did constitute something
of a problem at certain points on the coast line, the Com-
mission said it felt sure the Navy could easily handle it.
Like so many other economy advocates, the Commission
probably had visions of the Navy's ships lying around vir-
tually idle in peacetime when they might well be doing the
chores assigned to the Revenue Cutters. It is perfectly true
that a destroyer can perform just about any of the patrol or
similar duties of the cutters. But the reverse is not true.
Cutters can't take the place of destroyers. They are not fast
enough to travel with or ahead of the fleet, for example, and
they are not equipped with torpedo tubes or with the com-
plex fire-control equipment which the modern destroyer
must have. Since the Navy must be ready for war at all
times, it follows that a much larger complement of men
would be required to operate a destroyer, even on cutter
duty, than the cutters themselves would require. So, actually
it would be inefficient and certainly uneconomical to put a
destroyer on cutter duty. A much more economical pro-
cedure would be to decommission such destroyers as the
Navy did not require in peacetime, and leave the Coast
Guard and revenue-protection duties to cutters.
However, several Secretaries of the Navy have recom-
mended from time to time that the Coast Guard's duties be
turned over to the Navy, contending that the execution of
those duties would provide admirable peacetime training for
Not only did the Commission side with that viewpoint,
but President Taft gave the Commission's report his approval
and sent it to Congress with a request for authority to carry
out its recommendations. These proposed not only that the
Cutter Service be transferred to the Department of Com-
merce and Labor, but that the Lifesaving Service be taken
from the Treasury Department and merged with the Com-
merce Department's Lighthouse Bureau.
The Lifesaving Service, which by that time had earned
the reputation of being the finest of its kind in the world,
had been a separate bureau in the Treasury Department since
1878. It was only after a hectic existence of some thirty years
that it attained that dignified status.
In the early days of the Republic, the government had not
evolved to the place where it accepted any responsibility for
the rescue of mariners in distress on our shores, although
they existed in numbers which increased almost in direct
proportion to the growth of overseas and coastwise trade.
We have seen that the first step in the direction of aid for
mariners in distress was taken in 1837 when Congress estab-
lished the Winter Cruising assignments for the Revenue
Cutters with instructions to render such assistance to ships in
distress as lay within their power. While this was a long
step in the right direction, it was not of much benefit to the
men on ships which happened to run aground before the
cutters could help them out of their plights. The Massa-
chusetts Humane Society, organized in 1785, demonstrated
THE TURNING POINT
that at least certain segments of the public were conscious
of the problem, but the demonstration consisted only of the
construction of huts which were little more than shacks
along the coastline of the Bay State to which survivors of
shipwrecks could repair for shelter.
It was not until 1847 that Congress took any action In the
matter and then it limited Itself to appropriating $5,000 to
the Treasury Department for the purpose of "furnishing the
lighthouses on the Atlantic Coast with means of rendering
assistance to shipwrecked mariners."
In the following year, however. Congress was stirred Into
the acquisition of surfboats and other equipment after it was
told that in the preceding nine years, more than 300 ships
had been wrecked on the coasts of Long Island and New
Jersey. No figures as to the loss of life in those ships were
provided, but It can be presumed that it was heavy.
An appropriation of $10,000 was made to the Treasury
this time for the purchase of the boats, rockets and other
equipment and Captain Douglas Ottinger of the Revenue
Marine Service, inventor of a "life-car," a torpedolike con-
veyance in which several persons could be hauled through
the surf from wrecked vessels rather than through the air
as In the breeches buoy, was assigned to use the money for
the construction and equipment of eight lifesaving stations
the first of their type in the country's history.
They were simple affairs and contained only a minimum
of equipment. After all, not a great deal could be expected,
even in those days, for $1,250. At any rate, they did not solve
In the first place, Congress made no provision for the
maintenance of the boathouses after they were built and
equipped. Captain Ottinger turned the keys of the structures
over to persons in each community whom he regarded as
responsible, and there the government stepped out of the
picture. Consequently, it is not surprising that what was not
stolen outright from the boathouses soon fell into such a
state of disrepair as to be worthless.
Congress next tried to alleviate that situation by authoriz-
ing the Treasury to rehabilitate the stations and put keepers
in charge of each at a salary of $200 annually! Another halt
It was not until 1871 that the Lifesaving Service began to
amount to something, started out on the course which was
to win it international recognition for efficiency and courage.
That was when Sumner I. Kimball, newly appointed chief
of the Revenue Marine Division of the Treasury, took charge
of the boathouses. He found the system in deplorable shape.
Many of the boathouses themselves had again become dilapi-
dated, nothing that could be carried away was left at some
of them, a number of the keepers were either too old or un-
qualified for their jobs.
Kimball was up against a tough proposition but it was a
challenge he accepted with gusto, for the tremendous poten-
tial importance of the system was clear to him. Some idea
U. S. Coast Guard Photo
SUB-SINKING SKIPPER OF THE COAST GUARD'S "CAMPBELL"
Commander James A. Hirshfield on the bridge of his ship as he scrutinizes
the sea. He has since been made a Caotain.
U. S. Coast Guard Photo
REPAIR OF SUB-RAMMING "CAMPBELL"
In an effort to close the hole in the Coast Guard cutter's side caused when she
rammed the Nazi sub Coast Guardsmen dive over the side into icy Atlantic
- ; *
THE ICY ATLANTIC LAPPING AT THEIR FEET . . ,
, . . Coast Guardsmen work with calculated haste to repair the hole in the
side of the Coast Guard cutter Campbell caused by ramming a Nazi U-boat.
All the men over the side wore life lines, but none of them fell into the water,
A tug towed the Campbell 800 miles to an unnamed eastern-coast port.
THE TURNING POINT
of the conviction he felt in the matter may be gleaned from
the fact that he talked Congress into appropriating f 200,000
to put the Lifesaving Service on a workmanlike basis.
Among other things, he used the money to replace the vol-
unteers with surfmen paid a maximum of forty dollars
So successful were his efforts, so well did the revamped
system work, that not a single life was lost during the first
year in the patrolled areas. The fact that this splendid show-
ing was no mere flash in the pan, not just a case of a new
broom sweeping clean, is borne out by the action of the In-
ternational Lifesaving Congress at Toulon in 1890 in declar-
ing the United States' Lifesaving Service "the best and most
complete" in existence.
Doubtless Congress was cognizant of this fine record and
of the fact that Revenue Cutter Service officers had a part in
its establishment when they were considering President
Taft's request for abolition of the Cutter Service and merger
of the Lifesaving and Lighthouse services. At any rate,
Senator Townsend of Michigan proposed instead that the
Revenue Cutter Service and the Lifesaving Service be com-
bined in a new organization to be known as the United
States Coast Guard and he introduced legislation to carry
out his proposal.
Although the operating heads of both services seized on
the idea as a happy solution to the problem and testified
jointly in favor of it before Congressional committees, it took
almost two years for Congress to make up Its mind finally
on the matter. However, in the end the decision was made
in favor of Senator Townsend's bill and on January 28, 1915,
President Woodrow Wilson signed the measure into law.
Little more than two years of operation under the new
arrangement was vouchsafed the Coast Guard, however,
before It once more was a part of the Navy in keeping with
Its traditional function in time of war. On the morning of
April 6 y 1917 just a few hours after the dramatic scene in
the House of Representatives when the war resolution pitted
the United States on the side of the Allies in the battle to
"make the world safe for democracy" a three-word mes-
sage was flashed to every ship and shore station of the Coast
Guard. The message said cryptically: "Plan One. Acknowl-
In brief, "Plan One" put the ships and men of the Coast
Guard, until the moment of the message's dispatch operating
as a unit of the Treasury, into the United States Navy for
the "duration." It had happened before, and as we know, it
happened again a quarter of a century later. In 1917 it
meant an immediate addition to the fleet of 47 vessels of all
classes and in readiness for sea, plus 223 experienced and
highly trained commissioned officers and 4,500 men.
As in every other prior war in which the United States
was involved, the Coast Guard served with distinction in
World War L In fact, its losses in officers and men were
greater by percentage than those of any other branch of this
country's armed forces. Six of its cutters constituted a squad-
ron of the Atlantic Fleet's patrol forces on duty in European
waters, escorting hundreds of ships between Gibraltar and
the British Isles and also doing antisubmarine duty in the
Mediterranean. An impressive number of Coast Guard of-
ficers were assigned to command posts with the Navy.
Although the war at sea in 1917-1918 did not compare in
scope or violence with that of World War II, the Coast
Guard had many notable exploits to its credit.
"No single instance that occurred afloat during the war,"
said an official report, "is more indicative of the devotion to
duty and the earnest desire to get together and win the~war
that inspired our naval forces than the gallant attempt to
salvage the torpedoed steamer Wellington"
The Wellington was a British collier. On September 16,
19183 she was en route from Milford Haven, Wales, to Gi-
braltar in a convoy when a torpedo struck on her starboard
bow, tearing away her forefoot and flooding No. i hold.
The submarine came up for a quick look at her handiwork
and then disappeared.
The Wellington's crew refused to stay aboard, although
it appeared to her officers that she probably would float for
some time, and took to the boats immediately. The Coast
Guard cutter Seneca, meanwhile, was standing by trying to
protect the rest of the convoy from another possible attack
by the U-boat and to look out for the survivors.
When the Seneca received a message from one of the Wei-
lington's boats, telling of the condition of the ship and the
prospects that it might stay afloat, Lieutenant F. W. Brown.,
the cutter's navigating officer, asked permission to take a
volunteer crew aboard the collier and try to work her into
port. There was no scarcity of volunteers and just as soon
as some of the Wellington's crew scrambled out of one of
their boats to the cutter's deck, the Coast Guardsmen
dropped into the same boat and pulled away for the crippled
ship. They had just got aboard the Wellington when the
master, the first and second officers and eleven members of
the crew came back on board.
Because protection of the rest of the convoy came first,
the Seneca was forced to shove off and leave the Wellington
to her uncertain fate. The fact that the Seneca appears to
have been that convoy's sole escort is not the only striking
contrast the incident offers between the convoy duty of that
day and the present time, for the official report shows that
the Seneca, on leaving the scene, "sent out radio calls for
urgent assistance for the Wellington"
With the cutter's departure, there began a heroic effort by
Brown and his men to save the large and valuable cargo
Little more than an hour after the torpedo struck, they
had steam up and had effected slight repairs to the air pump.
A course was laid for Brest, France, and the damaged vessel
got under way. With her No. i hold flooded, the Wellington
was badly down by the head and consequently difficult to
THE TURNING POINT
manage. While the sea remained calm, all went well. The
greatest problem was keeping the water from rising in No. 2
hold; the ship had to be stopped several times during the
afternoon of the first day to permit the pumps to work
under a full head of steam.
About sundown, however, the wind and sea increased,
gradually making it impossible to keep the Wellington on
her course. She persisted in swinging head on into the seas
which, in her damaged condition forward, was the last thing
Lieutenant Brown wanted to happen. Using every available
trick in the Coast Guard's rather complete repertoire, he
tried to maneuver her stern to the sea but failed. He lacked
the one device which might have made such a maneuver
possible a sea anchor and there was nothing aboard that
could be used to make one. A sea anchor is simply a drag
which, attached to one end of a ship and thrown overboard,
tends to pull that end in the direction in which the seas are
running, or in other words, away from the sea. The Wei-
lington was equipped with steel spars, unfortunately, or
Brown would have been able to use a wooden mast for the
When the ship refused to answer the rudder, Brown was
forced to stop; it quickly became apparent that instead of
the problem of getting the Wellington into port, they now
were faced with the task of saving their own lives. Early in
the day, construction of a large life raft had been started on
the No. 3 hatch and there was one lifeboat available. It had
been rigged outboard for speedy lowering but the davits,
of a type peculiar to ships of turret construction, were in a
horizontal position and, because of the heavy list and exces-
sive rolling, threatened to force the lifeboat under on the
If they were to make use of that boat, Brown knew they
had to act promptly. All hands except the radioman and
three men operating the pumps were ordered abreast of the
lifeboat and told to get it into the water, but to try to hold
onto the ship by means of a long sea painter. Seven men
belonging to the Wellingtons crew got into the boat along
with one of the Seneca's men who was ordered to unhook
the forward fall The rest of the Coast Guardsmen Brown
had eighteen and one petty officer all told in his volunteer
party stood by to clear away and lower the boat.
"Can there be any greater proof of the splendid spirit of
discipline that animated the men of the Senecctt" asked the
They got the boat launched all right, but Brown's plan to
hold it fairly close to the ship so that all hands might ulti-
mately reach it went askew because one of the ship's crew
cut the painter, apparently fearing the high seas would fling
the boat against the ship's hull and swamp them. The Wel-
lington's first officer was in charge in the lifeboat and he
made an effort to work it back to the ship, but his men
didn't know how to row in such seas and they drifted away,
THE TURNING POINT
leaving those on the ship with nothing but their makeshift
raft to rely upon.
Meanwhile, a U. S. destroyer, the Warrington, was com-
ing to the rescue at full speed; about 2.30 A.M., rockets an-
swering those being sent up from the Wellington at fifteen-
minute intervals were seen. Brown previously had notified
the destroyer that his only lifeboat was adrift and requested
that its occupants be picked up. This was done, but the life-
boat was crushed against the destroyer's side. Lieutenant
Commander Van der Veer, the destroyer's skipper, tried to
get one of his own boats into the water to attempt to take
Brown and the others off the Wellington, but gave up the
idea after two of his men had narrow escapes from serious
injury. He figured it would be only so many more men in
Aboard the Wellington, Brown had searched the deck
with the aid of a flashlight and located several long planks
from which they fashioned three rafts. These they lowered
over the port quarter and secured by lines which the men
could use to reach them in the darkness.
Using the flashlight, Brown signaled the destroyer that he
had to abandon ship immediately and asked the "tin can"
to work in close so as to pick up his men as quickly as pos-
sible. The wind had reached gale strength by this time.
Suddenly the ship started settling rapidly by the head and
turning on one side at the same time.
Brown crawled out over the railing at her stern and
flashed a last message to the Warrington:
"My men are in the water."
Scarcely had he finished signaling when the stricken ship
seemed to rise as if in a final effort to avert her fate appar-
ently her boilers exploded beneath the surface then lurched
into her death plunge. Brown sprang into the angry sea.
Even while struggling for life itself, he remained the ex-
emplary officer, thinking always of his men. He swam
around in the inky darkness for a time, hoping to find some
piece of wreckage or a raft. A cry for help near by attracted
him and he swam toward the man. Finding him already
clinging to a plank. Brown advised the seaman to keep his
mouth closed so as not to fill it with sea water. Then he
saw two calcium lights burning in their metal containers.
Thinking they marked a raft, he swam toward them but
found nothing but the lights. Rather than use them to mark
his own position, he extinguished them so that others would
not waste their strength trying to reach them in the belief
that they were on a raft.
In the darkness the destroyer loomed up near. Still think-
ing of his crew and obviously realizing that his own strength
was waning, Brown kept calling out:
"I had eighteen men. I had eighteen men."
He was hauled to safety but promptly lost consciousness
and was not identified for some time.
A fact about this disaster which highlights the value of the
THE TURNING POINT
little red lights which are now affixed to all life jackets is
that the Warrington had to wait for dawn before she could
find the survivors of Brown's party and the Wellington's
crew. They finally picked up eight, including Brown, from
rafts, buoys and floating wreckage. Three of the destroyer's
crew were recommended for lifesaving medals for having
jumped into the turbulent seas with life lines around their
waists trying to rescue some of the victims.
The heroism of one of the Coast Guardsmen in the water
also won high praise. Seaman James O. Osborne, supporting
a shipmate, Coxswain Peterson, swam to a small raft and
placed the semiconscious Peterson aboard. Then he climbed
on and tried to hold Peterson between his feet. Several times
both were hurled off the raft, but each time Osborne went
to Peterson's assistance and replaced him on the raft.
Finally, when he could see the destroyer, he semaphored
this message from his wobbly perch:
"I am all right, but he is gone unless you come right
The destroyer saved them both.
Although this episode ended tragically and unsuccessfully,
costing the lives of one petty officer and ten enlisted men of
the Coast Guard as well as five of the Wellington's crew, it
was in the best tradition of the Coast Guard, a sterling ex-
ample of high courage and good discipline.
The cutter Seneca figured in a couple of other exploits
which reflected credit on her commander and crew and
helped to focus the attention of the proud British navy upon
the good job the Coast Guard was doing in the war at sea.
On April 16, 19185 the Seneca left Milford Haven with a
convoy for Gibraltar. After dark one night a week later, the
danger-zone escort from Gibraltar, including the British
patrol sloop Cowslip, joined the Seneca to help shepherd the
merchant ships past the submarine-infested approaches to
the Mediterranean. Nothing untoward happened for several
days and then, about 2:45 A.M. on April 28, those aboard the
Seneca heard a loud explosion. Immediately the Cowslip
displayed distress signals.
The established procedure in such circumstances was for
vessels in the vicinity of torpedoed ships to do nothing that
would jeopardize themselves; rescue of survivors should be
considered as a secondary duty. However, the United States
Coast Guard is so thoroughly indoctrinated in the protection
of life at sea that Captain William J. Wheeler, skipper of
the Seneca, could not stand by without making some effort
to rescue the personnel of the Cowslip despite the fact that
the latter's commander repeatedly flashed the signal "Stay
away. Submarine in sight port quarter."
The Seneca circled the Cowslip in search of the submarine,
and the destroyer Dale also joined in the hunt. Instead of
limiting himself to trying to find the U-boat and to protect-
ing the rest of the convoy, Captain Wheeler approached the
Cowslip three times and stopped dead in the water while
taking off survivors, Each time he stopped, of course, his
THE TURNING POINT
ship was in grave danger of being made another target by
the sub, but in spite of that. Wheeler managed to rescue the
sloop's skipper and one other commissioned officer and
seventy-nine enlisted men. Many of them might have fol-
lowed their shipmates to watery graves had they been forced
to spend the rest of the night in the water.
Although Wheeler's action was a rather flagrant violation
of the accepted doctrine, he was commended not only by
his squadron commander but by Admiral Sims, commander
in chief of U. S. naval forces in European waters, and by
the British admiral at Gibraltar.
The following June, Wheeler gave a somewhat similar
repetition of that performance when the British steamer
Queen, in a convoy bound from England to Gibraltar, was
torpedoed and sunk in about five minutes. Again disregard-
ing the usual procedure, but using depth charges and shell-
fire to keep the U-boat from surfacing, Wheeler boldly
approached the Queen and picked up her survivors.
One of the most conspicuous accomplishments of the
Coast Guard in World War I was its management of the
handling and loading of explosives bound for the war zones.
Virtually all such cargoes moved through the ports of New
York, Philadelphia and Norfolk, and the efficiency with
which the Coast Guard did its part is attested by the fact that
not a single disastrous explosion occurred afloat in connec-
tion with any of that work and not a life was lost. Some idea
of the magnitude &s well as the danger of the job may be
gleaned from the fact that from December 13, 1917, to June
30, 1919, officers and men of the Coast Guard supervised
the handling of various types of high explosives aggregating
345,602 tons in the port of New York alone. This huge
quantity of sudden death was loaded into 1,698 vessels with-
out the loss of a single life.
On shore, however, a serious blast occurred on the even-
ing of October 4, 1918, in the loading plant of the T. A.
Gillespie Company at Morgan, New Jersey, in which the
Coast Guard figured. The service had no connection with
the plant, but after the explosion a company of Coast Guards-
men stationed at Perth Amboy, New Jersey, was rushed to
the scene to render whatever assistance was possible.
Blast followed blast while the men were on the scene, sub-
jecting them to veritable barrages of flying metal and killing
several employees. One was beheaded while talking to a
Coast Guard warrant officer.
Besides rendering aid in getting injured people out of the
plant, the Coast Guard probably prevented the disaster from
being much more serious. A detachment commanded by
Lieutenant J. E. Stika braved almost certain destruction
when they moved a nine-car train loaded with TNT out of
the Gillespie yards to a safe position. To do so, they had to
straighten and lay sections of track which had been up-
rooted by the initial explosions.
The Coast Guard's most serious loss in World War I in
fact, the Navy's most serious loss involving combat vessels
THE TURNING POINT
was the sinking of the cutter Tampa. After she had been on
duty in European waters for almost a year. Rear Admiral
Niblack, commanding the U. S. naval forces based on Gibral-
tar, sent a letter of commendation to Captain Charles Sat-
terlee, the Tampa $ skipper, calling attention to the fact that
the cutter had escorted eighteen convoys between the United
Kingdom and Gibraltar,, had never been disabled and had
made only two requests for repairs, both minor, in that time.
"This excellent record is an evidence of a high state of ef-
ficiency and excellent ship's spirit and an organization capa-
ble of keeping the vessel in service with a minimum of shore
assistance. The squadron commander takes great pleasure
in congratulating the commanding officer, officers and crew
on the record which they have made."
Three weeks later all hands of the Tampa had gone to
their deaths and Admiral Niblack's glowing commendation
served to illustrate the enormity of the loss.
The Tampa was on her way back to Milford Haven after
escorting a convoy to Gibraltar. On the evening of Septem-
ber 26, 1918, a loud explosion was heard by persons on other
ships in the convoy but the cause of it was undetermined at
the time. When the Tampa failed to arrive at her destina-
tion, search was made for her by U. S. destroyers and British
patrol craft. Beyond small bits of wreckage identified as be-
longing to the Tampa and two unidentified bodies in naval
uniforms, no trace of the cutter was found.
It is believed the Tampa was sunk by a German subma-
rine. In fact, the U-53 reportedly claimed to have sunk a
United States ship of the cutter's description. A total of 115
persons perished with the Tampa, in of them Coast Guards-
In a letter of regret at her loss, the British Admiralty told
Admiral Sims that the various convoy commanders recog-
nized the service rendered by the cutter as an ocean escort
and noted the fact that of 350 ships she guarded from Gi-
braltar, only two were lost by enemy action.
"Appreciation of the good work done by the U.S.S. Tampa
may be some consolation to those bereft and Their Lord-
ships would be glad if this could be conveyed to those con-
cerned/ 5 the letter said.
One other anecdote from the Coast Guard's exploits in
World War I is noteworthy. It might be called a tale of
mass disaster to ships, although only one man lost his life.
The U.S.S. Marietta, with Captain H. G. Hamlet, USCG,
in command sailed from Brest for Hampton Roads early on
the morning of April 27, 1919, together with the U.S.S. Te-
resa, the U.SJx MacDonough and nine small vessels, all but
one of which were former fishing boats which had been used
as mine sweepers. Captain Hamlet commanded the entire
convoy. When they left Brest, the weather was favorable but,
as frequently happens in the Bay of Biscay area, the sea was
kicking up considerably by noon, and an hour later the
U.S.S. Rambler, a converted yacht was flying the "man over-
board" signal. The entire convoy reduced speed, and as the
Rambler had dropped life buoys and life rafts which acted
as markers, all ships began to search for the man.
By this time a strong wind was blowing with accompany-
ing rain squalls. When the search had been in progress less
than an hour, the Courtney, one of the mine sweepers, re-
ported that she was leaking badly, so she was ordered to re-
turn to Brest with the McNeil, another mine sweeper, as
escort. The weather continued to get worse and Captain
Hamlet ordered all the fishing boats back to Brest and the
MacDonough and Rambler were detailed to escort them.
That left the Teresa and the Marietta to carry on the search
for the Rambler's missing crew member.
It was not long, however, until word was received that the
McNeil was in trouble, and one of the fishing boats, then on
the way into Brest, was ordered to assist her. Next came
word that the Courtney was sinking, so the Marietta and
Teresa were forced to abandon their hunt for the missing
sailor and go to the Courtney's aid.
Hamlet directed the Teresa to get to windward of the
Courtney, make an oil slick, drift down on her and take off
the crew, then take the derelict in tow for Brest. All this was
done, but the Courtney was rapidly filling and when the
Douglas asked for a tow, the Teresa dropped the Courtney
and took a line from the Douglas. The Marietta stood by
until the Courtney sank about 7:00 P.M., and then set out to
catch up with the Teresa. She arrived in time to see the
Douglas being abandoned and her crew being taken off by
Once more the Marietta stood by the derelict until a heavy
rain squall obscured it about 10:30 P.M., and it was never
The Marietta cruised the vicinity without success until
about midnight, then set out in the direction of the James to
whose assistance the Teresa had previously been directed.
The wind had reached almost hurricane force by this time,
creating a heavy sea. On arriving in the vicinity of the
James, Hamlet found that the MacDonough, together with
a tug and two destroyers sent out from Brest, were standing
by. Soon after daylight, the tug got a line aboard the James
and started towing her toward Brest, but the line quickly
It was obvious that the James could not live long in such a
sea. Her fires had been extinguished the evening before by
water rising in the boiler room. Her men were exhausted
from bailing and were suffering from exposure.
Captain Hamlet resolved to take the crew off the James,
but it posed a difficult problem for him. The Marietta was
only a small gunboat to begin with, and her two low-pow-
ered engines were none too reliable on account of the condi-
tion of the ship's boilers. Nevertheless, they got a line to the
James by means of which they hauled one of her life rafts
back and forth between the two ships. With that device and
by making liberal use of oil to smooth the sea as much as
THE TURNING POINT
possible, all forty-seven of the James's complement were res-
cued without even an injury, although it required three
hours' work and taxed Captain Hamlet's seamanship to the
limit to keep his ship in that precarious position in such
Even on the American side of the Atlantic, the Coast
Guard had its share of excitement and danger, including
action under enemy fire. For example, a U-boat began shell-
ing the tug Perth Amboy and her tow of four barges within
sight of the Coast Guard station at East Orleans, Massachu-
setts, one summer morning in 1918. In spite of the fact that
it was unarmed, the keeper and crew of the station launched
a boat and went to the aid of the tug. The shelling still was
in progress as they drew near the tug but it ceased abruptly
and the U-boat disappeared. Meanwhile the crews of the tug
and barges had taken to their boats and were met by the
Coast Guardsmen who administered first aid to a man seri-
Less than a month later, at Chicamacomico, North Caro-
lina, a lookout at Coast Guard Station No. 179 was startled
by a great column of smoke billowing up from the stern of
a steamer about seven miles offshore. Fire and heavy explo-
sions followed. Without knowing for sure what had hap-
pened, Keeper John A. Midgett got the station's powerboat
under way for the scene of the disaster but about five miles
offshore they met one of the ship's boats with the captain
and six men in it. The captain informed them the ship, a
British tanker, had been torpedoed. Two other boats had
been launched but one of them capsized in the midst of
flaming oil which covered the sea around the ship and it was
feared that all in that boat had perished.
After warning the Britisher not to attempt a landing
through the surf until they returned, Midgett headed the
powerboat toward the wreck. Reaching the scene, they
found two great masses of flame about a hundred yards
"In between the two great flames/' a Coast Guard report
of the incident related, "when the smoke would clear away
a little, a life boat could be seen, bottom up, with six men
clinging to it Heavy seas washed over the boat."
Cautiously, Midgett steered his boat through the smoke
and blazing oil to the overturned craft.
"Lifting the six men on board as quickly as possible," the
account continued, "the Coast Guard boat sought the safety
of clear water. The six survivors, all that were left of the
sixteen men who tried to launch the first boat to leave die
ship, told their rescuers something of their harrowing experi-
ence in the water. It appears that all hands found places to
cling to their boat and that they were able to maintain their
positions until the vessel blew up.
"After that moment, with the deluge of blazing oil and
flame-crested waves bearing down upon them, to escape an
agonizing death they were compelled to submerge as die
blazing walls of water and flame swept over them. Their
THE TURNING POINT
efforts to protect themselves from the two elements fire and
water quickly told upon their strength, and when they
could no longer keep up the straggle, there was no alterna-
tive but to let go and drift away to the merciful unconscious-
ness of death by drowning."
Subsequently, the tanker's third boat, containing twenty
men, was located and taken in tow and, in due course,
Midgett and his men landed thirty-six survivors in all.
The years immediately following the First World War
were not particularly peaceful for the Coast Guard, for Pro-
hibition had come to the United States in the interim, thrust-
ing upon the successors of the old Revenue Cutter Service
one of their biggest peacetime jobs. It was one that ac-
quainted the general public with the Coast Guard as nothing
had done before, although the picture thus painted of its ac-
tivities was unfortunately limited.
Mention of the .Coast Guard in the twenties immediately
conjured up visions of running gun battles with the "Rum-
mies" and, unquestionably, the Coast Guard had plenty of
them in the course of carrying out its mandate to enforce
the law. Even as in wartime, however, the service did not
relax a bit in the execution of its manifold other duties de-
spite the terrific burden imposed upon it by the necessity of
preventing liquor smuggling.
It still continued to render assistance to vessels in distress,
to maintain the International Ice Patrol, the Bering Sea
Patrol and even found time to go inland several times to
lend a hand to communities devastated by floods in the Mis-
sissippi, Ohio and Illinois valleys. It went on destroying
derelicts that might become menaces to navigation, carrying
medical aid to deep-sea fishermen, determining the qualifica-
tions of the crews of passenger liners as lifeboatmen and
regulating the movement and anchorage of vessels on the
nation's navigable waters.
Naturally, it was the war against the rumrunners that kept
the Coast Guard most in the headlines.
By a strange reversal of precedent, too, it was this same
war that brought the service a substantial increase in size.
Whenever the United States gets into an international war,
as we have seen, the Coast Guard automatically becomes a
part of the Navy. During Prohibition, however, part of the
Navy joined the Coast Guard. Congress transferred twenty
destroyers from the Navy to the Coast Guard in 1924, be-
sides appropriating approximately $13,000,000 for the ac-
quisition of a large number of fast motorboats and patrol
craft all in response to President Coolidge's recommenda-
tion for a major expansion of, the Revenue fleet.
Although its operations against the rumrunners brought
bitter criticism on its head from the "Wets" who berated the
service for excessive zeal, for violation of international law
and an imposing array of other high crimes and misde-
meanors, the Commandant was able to report in the follow-
ing year that the so-called "Rum-Row" lying off the New
York and New Jersey coasts had been "effectively scattered,"
THE TURNING POINT
High adventure was frequently the lot of the men fighting
the "Rummies 55 and sometimes it was death. The smugglers,
many of them possessed of almost unlimited cash, often
were equipped with high-powered speedboats which could
outrun the Coast Guard craft, especially close inshore where
the destroyers dared not operate.
A big Scandinavian chief petty officer recounted how one
of those speedboats made life miserable for him off the Jer-
sey coast. Even when he did manage to catch its owner with
the goods, the owner had the money or the influence, per-
haps both, to get out of the clutches of the law, and in no
time he and his boat would be back on the job.
"One night ve coom across im hove to," the CPO said.
"He was broke down and hailed us for a tow. Ve couldn't
refuse although it galled me plenty.
"I told him to get aboard the cutter and I put a line aboard
his boat. Instead of making it fast on his foredeck, though,
I passed it in through his wheelhouse window and made it
fast low down in the cabin. And you know what? The
strain on dat line seemed to pull the bow of his boat right
under. She swamped and I yoost had to cut the towline and
let her sink."
Now it almost goes without saying that the sterling and
stirring record built up by the cutter service throughout the
long years of its existence was not something that came about
by chance. Steadfast devotion to splendid ideals undoubtedly
played a major part in the establishment of that record, but
there was another factor. In the performance of any military
organization, much depends upon command. The type of
leadership military men get is all important. Good soldiers
often fail miserably when their officers are poor, whereas
good officers just as often have wrought what seemed to have
been miracles with only indifferent troops.
In the case of the Coast Guard, therefore, a great deal of
responsibility for the showing of the rank and file of the
service rests with the officers. What manner of men are those
officers, whose men have done so well, and where do they
When Congress acceded to Alexander Hamilton's request
in 1790 for ten sailing cutters to secure the young Republic's
revenues, the officers for those ships they only needed one
or two for each were chiefly men who had had experience
in the Continental Navy. The oldest known commission is-
sued to an officer afloat by the United States was one signed
by George Washington in which the first President said
"that reposing special trust and confidence in the integrity,
diligence and good conduct of Hopley Yeaton of New
Hampshire. ... I do appoint him Master of a cutter in the
Service of the United States, for the protection of the reve-
In later years officers for the cutters were obtained from
both the Navy and the Merchant Marine but it became evi-
dent that this method was not entirely satisfactory. As more
and more diverse duties were imposed upon the cutters, the
THE TURNING POINT
work of their officers began to take on a specialized charac-
ter for which the average Navy or Merchant Marine officer
had neither the training nor experience. Many times there
was trouble, too, because the Navy men did not relish the
idea of being made subordinate to civilian officials, for the
cutters were under the jurisdiction of the Collector of the
Customs in whose district they were based. Undoubtedly
discrepancies in pay and the fact that their erstwhile col-
leagues had a great deal more leisure in peacetime had much
to do with the dissatisfaction of the Navy men.
There were numerous attempts to solve the problem.
Treasury Secretary Louis McLane tried by eliminating trans-
fers from the Navy. Congress tried by demanding that offi-
cers appointed to the Revenue Cutter Service first prove their
The first real progress toward a solution was made, how-
ever, when Congress voted to establish a Revenue Cadet sys-
tem in 1876. A special school for their training was opened
at New Bedford, Massachusetts. In 1900 the school was
moved to Baltimore, Maryland, and ten years later, to the
present site of the Coast Guard Academy at New London,
Because of the emphasis on competency in seamanship
which the Coast Guard has always maintained, the training
of its officers was conducted for many years in sailing ships.
Gradually, however, the increased use of steam for motive
power in ships brought the study of engineering to the fore,
especially after the service began replacing its sailing cut-
ters with steam-powered craft because they were better able
to go to the aid of distressed sailing ships.
The curriculum for the cadets was further broadened as
the duties of the service expanded. Scientific training is nec-
essary, for example, in connection with the work of the
Weather Patrol and the International Ice Patrol The knowl-
edge of maritime law required of a present-day Coast Guard
officer makes him truly eligible for designation as a "sea law-
yer/' but use of that appellation probably still will get you a
black eye from the old-timers.
Admission to the Coast Guard Academy is on a more
thoroughly democratic basis than that to either West Point
or Annapolis. In the case of those two schools, candidates
must have a Congressional or other official appointment be-
fore they can take the entrance examinations, although
many Congressmen bestow their appointments on the basis
of competitive examinations. Admission to the Coast Guard
Academy, however, is based on a nationwide competitive ex-
amination held in May of each year and which is open to all
young men who meet the required scholastic and physical
First-year cadets at the Academy are known as "swabs,"
and they report in July of their freshman year for a prelimi-
nary six-weeks course in algebra and trigonometry prior to
the start of the academic term in September. That prelimi-
nary term is known as "swab" summer. Throughout "swab"
THE TURNING POINT
year, the cadet moves at the double whenever he moves. Is
thoroughly regimented by the upperclassmen and often
wonders how he ever got himself Into such a lash-up. Gradu-
ally, however, the spirit and traditions of the service get in
their work and when his four-year course is completed, he
has as fine a scientific and engineering background as he
could obtain anywhere, plus a knowledge of maritime law
that would make the old-time "sea lawyer" popeyed.
But It takes more than education to make a Coast Guards-
man. Down off the coast of North Carolina, for example,
where a sliver of sand known as Cape Hatteras Bank shelters
the mainland from the full fury of the storms that sweep the
Wimble and Diamond Shoals, they don't exactly have a
word for it, as the saying goes, but they have a family whose
history closely parallels that of the Coast Guard. The story
of this family the MIdgetts has in It the essence of what
makes a Coast Guardsman, for It is typical of the devotion
to duty which is so characteristic of the men of the service.
It was one of those Midgetts who commanded the lifeboat
from the Chicamacomico Station which rescued members of
the crew of the torpedoed British tanker Mirlo in 1918.
Nobody, not even the Midgetts, knows the exact origin
of the family or when it got into the lifesaving business off
the Carolinas, but the popular theory is that early in the his-
tory of this country, three MIdgett brothers were ship-
wrecked off Hatteras Bank, made their way to the sandspit
and settled down. Long before the Coast Guard took over
the lighthouse and lifesaving services, Midgetts were con-
nected with both; as far back as written records down in that
country go, the family has been in the forefront of efforts to
protect the seagoing community from disaster on the beach.
When the Coast Guard finally did take over the lifesaving
stations, the Midgett family joined up wholesale. Fathers
enlisted and, for generations since, their sons have followed
in their footsteps. Today it's almost heresy for a youth of the
Midgett family even to suggest doing anything but enlist in
the Coast Guard.
Although Keeper John Allen Midgett is the one most fre-
quently mentioned in connection with the Mirlo rescue, the
fact is that his boat was manned by five members of his fam-
ily Arthur V., Clarence E., Zion S. and Leroy S. Midgett
and Lee O'Neil. The latter 's mother was a Midgett.
Keeper John, known familiarly throughout the region as
Cap'n John, began his lifesaving career at the age of fourteen
when he participated in the rescue of members of the crew
of the Steamship Strathairly, which ran aground in a gale
near the Chicamacomico Station. In the forty years which
followed his enlistment, he took part in approximately thirty
major rescues and many minor ones. After cheating death
innumerable times, ironically he lost his life in an automo-
bile accident in North Carolina in 1938.
History repeated itself in a curious fashion for some of
John Midgett's descendants in the early days of World War
II. As in the case of the Mirlo, a U-boat sent a torpedo into
THE TURNING POINT
the belly of another tanker within sight of the Chicama-
comico Lifesaving Station in January, 1942. Palmer Midgett,
son of Zion, was Officer-in-Charge at the time and his
brother, Dewey, was on duty with him. Like the Midgetts
of 1918, they were in the crew of the lifeboat which rowed
eight miles to the aid of the blazing tanker.
There, however, the parallel ends, for the tanker was not
mortally hurt Her crew had the fire pretty well under con-
trol and were able to stay with the ship. Two men had been
injured and one killed, so the Coast Guardsmen removed
the injured seamen and sent them ahead to hospital, while
the others remained to fight the fire and finally brought the
ship to port.
Other members of the family are making Coast Guard his-
tory on many of the world's far-flung battlefronts. One of
the first Coast Guard landing barges to scrape its keel on the
sands of Guadalcanal on the day of the initial Marine in-
vasion had William Vance Midgett, twenty-five, a machin-
ist's mate, as one of its crew. He was one of a detachment
of twenty-five Coast Guardsmen manning small landing
craft based aboard a Navy transport. Another member of
the group was Elmer Midgett, chief boatswain's mate, who
was coxswain of a landing barge.
Go aboard almost any floating unit of the Coast Guard
these stirring days and you're liable to run into a Midgett.
They are commissioned officers, petty officers and seamen
but first and foremost, they are Coast Guardsmen and proud
Their spirit Is best typified by the words of old Cap'n
John Midgctt as he drove his boat through the hell of blaz-
ing oil to the Mirlo's survivors, clinging to their overturned
"You'll have time to say your prayers afterwards, lads!
Now let's get on with It!"
Since 1939 the old United States Lighthouse Service it
was established a year before Alexander Hamilton got his
Revenue Cutter Service approved by Congress has been an
important division of the Coast Guard. Employing the pow-
ers under the Reorganization Act, President Roosevelt united
the two services by an Executive Order. Inasmuch as the
Coast Guard then had the Lifesaving Service under its juris-
diction, It seemed a logical move to give it the other major
agency concerned with safety of life at sea.
The long history of the nation's lighthouses and then-
keepers is replete with exciting stories, despite the fact that
there's a great deal of dullness about it, for this Service has a
tradition of heroic devotion to duty that is fully as lustrous
An extraordinary illustration of how one lightkeeper
lived up to that tradition was given the year before the trans-
fer of the service to the Coast Guard.
During a terrific storm off the New England coast, all the
buildings except the light tower at the Palmer Island station
THE TURNING POINT
in New Bedford, Massachusetts,, harbor, were swept away.
Shortly beforehand, however. Keeper Arthur A. Small got
his wife into the tower for safety. Throughout most of the
day he went about his duties. The island was getting the full
force of the gale, with seas breaching clear across it, and one
of them swept him overboard.
By swimming under water, Small managed to get back to
the tower, but in the meantime his wife had seen him swept
away and the intrepid woman made a supreme effort to
launch the station's boat to go to her husband's aid. She
could not know, of course, that he was swimming under wa-
ter. The gallant attempt cost her her life, for she was swept
into the sea and drowned.
Small recovered his wife's body and then, despite that
tragic experience and his own suffering from exposure and
exhaustion, he remained at his post in the lighthouse
throughout the night, keeping the light and the fog signal
in proper operation until relief was furnished him in the
morning. His own report of the tragedy, dictated from his
hospital bed in the third person, is a model of self-efface-
"Mrs. Small, the keeper's wife, was seen by the keeper
while he was overboard," the report said. "She left the oil
house where he had told her to stay in the upper part and
evidently she tried to launch a boat to save the keeper. But
she was swept away and drowned.
"The station is in need of 35-mm. lamp equipment and
kerosene. All records are gone and stationery and log books
needed. There is no shelter to be had at the station except in
the top of the tower.
"Keeper remained on doty until properly relieved. The
light and fog signal were in good order. Keeper removed
to St. Luke's Hospital suffering from exhaustion and ex-
The men of the lightships have the tedium of their lives
relieved occasionally, too. The Diamond Shoal lightship, off
Cape Hatteras, for instance, seems to have almost more than
its share. Back in 1918 the men on that station were watch-
ing an unidentified merchantman proceeding along the coast
about a mile and a half distant when a U-boat surfaced sud-
denly and began pumping shells into the vessel. The sub
fired about forty rounds not a very good sample of marks-
manship, incidentally and soon had the ship afire.
While this was going on, the lightship's first mate, Walter
L. Barnett, ignoring the obvious consequences of such action,
sent out a wireless message warning other ships in the heav-
ily traveled area of the presence of the U-boat. Naturally,
once the sub had disposed of its original target, it turned its
gun on the lightship, firing six rounds from a range of about
two miles. The first mate ordered all hands into the star-
board boat and the lightship was , abandoned. She had not
been badly damaged at that time, however.
The U-boat turned its attention briefly to another passing
merchant ship, firing fourteen rounds at it without visible
THE TURNING POINT
effect. It then abandoned that chase and returned to the
lightship and fired seven more shots into it. From a distance
of about five or six miles, the crew watched her sink a short
In the fall of 1933 another lightship on the same station
was caught in the center of a tropical hurricane and despite
its 6 ? ooo-pound anchor and twelve tons of anchor chain, it
drifted onto the very shoals from which it was intended to
guide other ships.
By skillful seamanship, however, the crew managed to get
the ship out of the breakers and away to sea. During the
storm the captain was injured when a particularly heavy sea
battered in one of the ports in the pilot house. The mate had
several ribs broken while trying to lash down a ventilator
which had carried away.
Then, with water inches deep in the fireroom, a safety
plug in one of the boilers blew, making it impossible to keep
steam up. The fires had to be extinguished hastily during
the worst of the storm and, with a 120-mile gale blowing
them back onto the shoals, men crawled into the boiler,
which had cooled only slightly, and replaced the plug. They
weathered the storm, and after a relief ship had arrived,
made their way to port with lifeboats gone and the upper
deck of the ship a mass of wreckage.
IN THOSE gloomy, early days of the war when the Navy
fought with Its back to the wall in the Pacific and strove
with pitifully few ships in the Atlantic to keep open the
absolutely vital supply lines to Britain, the Coast Guard's
little fleet of patrol cutters was the backbone of the escort
force. At times, in fact, the Hamilton class of so-called com-
bat cutters and a lone Navy destroyer were the only United
States escort craft making the transatlantic run to Britain.
It was soul-searing work in those days to run a convoy to
the United Kingdom and no one who has not lived for days
on end in salt-water-sodden clothing with the thermometer
below freezing, on tiny ships that bounce like demented jit-
terbugs, can have any appreciation of the ordeal of the men
of the escort vessels. Death rode the gunwales of their ships
on every crossing and there was little glory and small re-
ward for them when a trip was over. Unlike the men of
the merchant navy, who draw comparatively fat bonuses for
each trip they make into a combat zone as well as overtime
pay and similar benefits, the men of the Coast Guard draw
Navy pay with a meager ten-percent increase over their basic
scale for sea duty.
You seldom hear an enlisted seaman complain about that
discrepancy, however. They seem to feel that the fact that
they have a chance to fight back compensates for whatever
advantage the merchant sailor may enjoy in the matter of
pay. One thing that does gripe both Coast Guard and Navy
men, however, is to read of strikes on the home front for
such things as portal-to-portal pay. The seamen not only
are risking their lives when they go to sea, but they are put-
ting in hours which would drive the National Labor Rela-
tions Board or the Wage Hour Administration into tizzies
if they had any say in the matter.
Take an average day in the life of an average gob:
With all hands, he turns out before dawn every day the
ship is at sea and goes to his battle station where he stays un-
til after the sun is up, because that is one of the danger hours
in submarine zones. When the order is given to "secure"
from General Quarters, it usually is followed by a call for
"a cleee-an sweep-down, all weather decks and ladders," and
the sailor boy starts his broom or mop. That little chore
must be done before he "chows down." After breakfast, he
usually has loading drill or some other form of military in-
struction, a couple of more sweep-downs, a little paint-chip-
ping or similar uninteresting toil. He must stand at least
one watch in four at his post if he's a lookout, helmsman or
member of a gun crew, for instance. If he's lucky and
doesn't have to attend aircraft recognition lectures or fire-
fighting drills, he may get to do a little "sack duty," as turn-
ing into one's bunk is called. After evening chow, there usu-
ally is at least one sweep-down before sunset "G.Q." is
sounded, when he goes again to his battle station to remain
until the likelihood of a twilight sub attack has passed.
Frequently sailors don't average four hours of sleep a
night and, if the weather is rough as it is most of the time
along the northern convoy routes they don't sleep at all.
They just "dope off" occasionally, with one hand clutching
the side of the bunk.
It takes long-legged ships for convoy duty and that's
where the 327-footers of the Hamilton class shone. They had
plenty of range not only for the ocean crossing, but for all
the running around they had to do in the course of a trip
dashes to rescue the crew of torpedoed ships or to attack a
sub lying in wait for the convoy some distance ahead.
"We never had to worry about refueling," said Com-
mander James A. "Jimmy" Hirshfield of the Campbell.
'T3ut that's about the only thing we didn't have to worry
Hirshfield is a veteran of some of the toughest U-boat
fighting of the war. He had the Campbell when Grand
Admiral Karl Doenitz sprang his Rudehystem (the wolf
pack) on the hard-pressed Allies. The Campbell made
countless depth-charge attacks on the U-boats during the
year Hirshfield was her skipper, but he was on the home-
ward leg of his third round trip to Britain before he ever
saw a German submarine on the surface.
r . S. Coast Guard Photo
COAST GUARD CUTTER SINKS SUB
Effect of the U. S. Coast Guard cutter Spencer's fire are visible in this close-
up shot of the U-boat, taken as the battle raged. The Nazi standing by the
stanchion amidships disappeared a moment after this picture was taken by a
Coast Guard photographer. The U-boat had been trying to sneak into the
center of the convoy.
V. S. Coast Guard P/n
COAST GUARDSMEN WATCH EXPLOSION OF DEPTH CHARGE
Coast Guardsmen on the deck of the U. S. Coast Guard cutter Spencer watch
the explosion of a depth charge
vhich blasted a Nazi U-boat.
U. -V. CtHIJtt (,'U
K-GTJNT GOES INTO ACTION ON THE "SPENCER."
Sailors aboard the cutter Spencer watch a K-gun go into action.
It happened on Washington's Birthday, Jimmy recalled,,
and it was the high point of the Campbell's career up to that
They were in convoy and headed west. The weather was
foul with the wind at hurricane force part of the time.
"The anemometer was up over 89 and that's the highest
it registers," Hirshfield said with a grin*
"We were all dead tired/' Hirshfield went on, "for, in
addition to the bad weather, we had been sent off the day
before to pick up survivors from a torpedoed freighter,"
Rescue work of that nature is one of the most difficult and
dangerous tasks the cutters have to perform because the
Nazis have no regard for humanitarianism. A cutter hove
to while dragging exhausted seamen from icy waters of the
North Atlantic is just a sitting target to them, that much
easier to hit.
Hirshfield had convincing proof of this soon after he
reached the spot where the freighter had been hit. All hands
were engrossed in the rescue work when a terrific explosion
astern of them sent a geyser of water into the air.
"Get the hell away from that rack!" roared Hirshfield,
jarred rudely out of his customary calm. He thought one of
his men accidentally had tripped the depth-charge rack at
one side of the fantail and that one of the "ash cans" had let
go when it reached the explosive depth for which it was set.
A quick check on the battle-phone circuit proved, how-
ever, that Ms first surmise was wrong because all the depth
charges were in their proper places!
There was only one other explanation possible. The
U-boat which had torpedoed the freighter had hung around
in the hope of getting a crack at a rescue ship. She had
fired a torpedo at the Campbell from extreme range and
missed, but when the "tin fish" had ran its limit, it deto-
"We didn't stop any more after that on rescue jobs/'
Between the time of that attack and their return to the
convoy, the men of the Campbell had a hectic time. Twelve
times they had scrambled topsides to their battle stations in
a twenty-four-hour period at the insistent, raucous clangor
of the General Quarters alarm. Pattern after pattern of
depth charges had thundered under water with a violence
that knocked paint off the cutter's bulkheads as they carried
out five separate attacks on lurking U-boats. Twice the wily
marauders had been spotted on the surface, but they man-
aged to submerge before the Campbell got within gun range
and, although she peppered each area with depth charges, she
couldn't stick around looking for wreckage to determine if
any of her attacks were successful. It was apparent that
twenty or thirty subs were in the area looking for her con-
Darkness was closing in again as she neared her plodding
charges and everyone felt sure they were in for a real work-
Ing-over from die wolf pack. They didn't have long to wait.
A sub on the surface about thirty degrees off the starboard
bow! Scarcely had that Information reached the bridge,
however, when another sound contact was reported. A sec-
ond sub at about the same bearing to port!
Hirshfield set a course for the second target located on
the sound gear.
"We lost it quickly, though/' he said, "and were about to
turn toward the other contact when we spotted this baby on
In the darkness it was difficult to make out many details
despite the fact that the dully glistening U-boat was only a
few yards' distant. She was trying desperately to get away.
"Right rudder!" roared Hkshfield. "Ram her!"
It takes courage of the chilled-steel variety to ram a ship at
sea at any time, particularly when you know she's laden with
TNT, such as a submarine carries in her torpedoes. But
Hkshfield was acting under specific orders and, as he
explains, he didn't have much time to dwell on possible
consequences. In telling the story, however, he laughingly
recalls the British destroyer skipper who angered the Ad-
miralty by ramming a submarine four times.
"They thought that twice should have been ample,"
As the Campbell heeled on her new course, the silvery
beam of her searchlight probing for the sub, her forward
guns opened fire. Figures of some of the U-boat's crew were
glimpsed momentarily on her gleaming wet deck. They
seemed transfixed as they realized their plight.
Soon the Campbell was so close that her bow guns would
not bear and they ceased firing. There was a thud, then a
rending sound of tearing metal as the cutter struck the
U-boat a glancing blow.
"That was the first time I saw a submarine on the surface
although I was homeward bound on my third round trip of
the war across the Atlantic/' Hirshfield said.
As the stricken U-boat slid past in the darkness, the
Campbell's crew were yelling like Comanches. One of them
raked the sub's deck and conning tower with a Lewis gun
as she went by, endeavoring to make sure that none of the
Germans would be able to man their guns.
The machine-gunner accomplished his objective,, for not
a shot was fired from the sub, but he also made Commander
Hirshfield the Campbell's only casualty. Slugs from the
Lewis gun tore through part of the superstructure just below
the bridge and literally sprayed the skipper with fragments
which inflicted relatively minor cuts on the side of his face
In less time than it takes to tell the entire action lasted
only about two minutes the rear guns of the cutter bore on
the receding submarine and opened fire. They pumped sev-
eral rounds into the already crippled U-boat at point-blank
range and the cutter's officers could see the sub shudder un-
der the impact. After the frustration of the preceding
twelve hoars, when they fought five submarines without the
satisfaction of knowing whether they had got a single one,
the sight of their tracer fire flaming into the sixth Nazi's
vitals produced a savage elation In the Campbell's crew and
as the raider began to go down by the tail, their victorious
shouts were her only requiem.
The joy of conquest was tempered somewhat by the dis-
covery that the Campbell herself had been cruelly hurt In
the encounter. The collision with the sub, glancing though
It was, had torn a twelve-foot gash In the cutter's hull which
quickly flooded the engine room and left the ship helpless
In one of the most dangerous ocean areas In the world.
She was not left long alone, though, for a Polish destroyer,
the Burza, which had been racing up to join the escort
group, hove In sight and stood by throughout the night.
Despite his wounds, Texas Jimmy Hirshfield remained
in active command of his stricken ship, supervising efforts
to effect emergency repairs. As a sample of the sort of thing
the men who are fighting the Battle of the Atlantic are called
upon to do, four of the Campbell's crew stripped off their
clothes, tied lines about their bodies and went over the side
to examine the underwater damage. The water was icy but
It didn't deter those lads. While trying to rig a collision mat
over the hole, they attached light lines to corks and then,
with the corks in their mouths, dived down to the hole. The
idea was to shove the corks through the hole and let them
come up inside die ship where others would haul the lines
in and thus get the collision mat into place.
When one of the divers was being praised for the part he
played, he grinned and said:
"Aw, hell. It was the only way I knew to get a slug of
brandy without waiting till we got to port."
The effort to rig the collision mat in place was unsuccess-
ful, so Hirshfield then tried to lighten the ship in the hope
that the hole would rise above the water line and permit the
engine room to be pumped out. He ordered all possible top
hamper jettisoned. Searchlights and all sorts of other equip-
ment went over the side.
Daylight found Hirshfield still on the bridge,, his head
and clothing blood-soaked. The Burza still was standing by,
screening the crippled cutter from possible additional at-
tacks. Incidentally, the destroyer wasn't in any too good
shape herself. Already she was crowded with refugees, sur-
vivors of other torpedoings, and due to fuel shortage, only
one of her boilers was in operation.
This didn't seem to faze the hardy Poles, though, for as
the grateful men of the Campbell put it, the Burza was "the
fightingest ship we ever saw."
After Hirshfield had had a chance to survey his situation
in daylight, he decided to transfer as many of his crew as
possible to the Burza. There was no point in all hands being
jeopardized further, so he sent four officers and 100 non-
rated men of the crew over the side. One of the most re-
luctant to leave was Anton Otto Fischer, the Illustrator. Now
a lieutenant commander in the Coast Guard Reserve, Fischer
had been assigned to the Campbell to get material for paint-
ings depicting the Coast Guard in action. He got it that trip,
Meanwhile Hirshfield had been persuaded to go below
and let the ship's doctor dress his wounds. They weren't
serious, fortunately, but the doctor wanted to give him a
booster shot of antitetanus serum, just in case.
"Let's skip the shot, doc/' said Hirshfield. "I don't want
any more bother than I've got just at this point. And if we
don't get back, it won't matter whether I get tetanus or not."
The doctor appeared to acquiesce, but while a pharma-
cist's mate was swabbing the skipper's face, the doctor moved
around to the other side and jabbed the needle in without
"I could have shot that doctor cheerfully a little later,"
Hirshfield said, because, although I never had had any re-
action from my previous inoculations, that one made me
sick as a dog. I couldn't keep even a glass of water down
On the day after the ramming of the sub, the Eurza was
relieved by a British corvette and the Polish ship shoved off
for the nearest port. At one point during the day, it had been
discovered that one of her holds was flooded. In her over-
crowded, fuel-shy condition this was serious, but it didn't
seem to bother Lieutenant Commander Franciszek Pitulko,
her skipper. He merely ordered the hold pumped out and
the ship continued her patrol After all, the Burza had come
through much worse situations. At Dunkirk, for example,
she had had her bow blown off but had managed to get back
The Burza, incidentally, furnished the men of the Camp-
bell with a striking example of how much the Nazis know
about the affairs of their enemies. The Burza originally be-
longed to the French navy and had the high forecastle and
other distinguishing characteristics of French destroyers.
Nevertheless, when prisoners from the sub rammed by the
Campbell they picked up fourteen survivors, all told spot-
ted the Burza, they pointed at her and said:
"Ah, Polish ship, Polish ship!"
One of the most welcome sights he had ever beheld,
Hirshfield said, was that of a sturdy little Navy seagoing
tug which came churning up over the horizon on the third
day after the ramming. Life aboard the Campbell by that
time had become what Navy men call "pretty rugged" and,
despite the protection of the destroyer hovering near by, the
strain of waiting for another submarine attack and knowing
they no longer would be able to meet it on equal terms or
better was beginning to tell on all hands. When the tug
showed up, all that was changed. The towing hawser soon
was snubbed into place and the long, slow journey back to
Ten uneventful days later they arrived at a North Atlan-
tic harbor and there Hirshfield and his men got a fresh,
grim reminder of the ordeal through which they had passed
In the form of survivors from ships lost from their convoy.
The Battle of the Atlantic was far from won at that time.
In the excitement attendant upon the release of the Camp-
bell's story for publication, a noteworthy feature of the affair
which was given scant attention was that the little tug
which finally brought the cutter back to where she could be
saved to fight again had made the 8oo-mlle trip through
those sub-infested waters entirely without escort. Compared
to the average fighting ship of the Navy, such tugs don't
have sufficient armament to fight their way out of a wet pa-
per bag and yet they undertake missions like that as all part
of a day's work. To the men of the Campbell, however, the
tug's performance was nothing short of heroic and Hirsh-
field's dark brown eyes shine with emotion when he relates
that he discovered on arrival In the British port that Admiral
Royal E. Ingersoli, commander in chief of the Atlantic Fleet,
had started not one, but two, tugs to his rescue. The second
put out from a North African port when word of the cut-
ter's plight was received, but it quickly became obvious that
she would not be needed.
That sort of consideration probably would be contempu-
ously branded as silly softness by the dictatorships, but our
military leaders know that It pays handsome dividends in
morale. In the case of naval aviators, for instance, no car-
rier task-force commander would think of failing to make
the most diligent search for even a single scout plane which
did not return to the ship on schedule. Knowing that, the
fliers are much more willing to undertake their hazardous
missions. They know they will not be callously abandoned
as is so often the fate of their Japanese enemies.
Another member of the cutter's complement who, like the
skipper, insisted on staying topside throughout the emer-
gency was Skibad, the Campbell's internationally known
canine mascot, or "Stinky," as he was called when he was
All during the action with the U-boat which finally was
sunk, SInbad remained on the cutter's deck with the men,
bracing his chunky body against the ship's roll and seem-
ingly enjoying the excitement.
From. Boston's Scollay Square to the pubs of Londonderry,
die brown, black and white mongrel is known as a true
sailorman. Lurid tales are told of his drinking accomplish-
ments he visits one saloon after another when the ship is
in port, drinking a jigger of whisky and a short beer chaser
in each until he can scarcely navigate and his love life ap-
parently is something out of this world. His shipmates relate
with something akin to admiration in their voices how Sin-
bad turns up at the ship with a different girl friend every
day some of them are even waiting on the dock for him
when the ship returns from a cruise but he manages these
affairs so smoothly that none of the "ladies" ever catches
him with another.
Since the day in Iceland when the cutter started for sea
without him and he plunged into the icy water in an effort
to overtake her by swimming, Sinbad has never missed a
sailing. On that occasion, the skipper reluctantly put the
ship about when he saw the gallant effort the dog was mak-
ing to avoid being A.W.O.L., and had him picked up.
The dog, who has a marked distaste for officers and toler-
ates their company only when he needs someone to bring
him back to the ship after a drinking spree, has been through
so much with the Campbell's crew that the men feel nothing
can happen to them so long as he's aboard. Up to this writ-
ing, they have been absolutely right.
Although the spotlight of public attention has been fo-
cused chiefly on the Coast Guard's bigger combat cutters, it
was a little i65-footer which got credit for sinking the
first U-boat after Grand Admiral Doenitz launched his sub-
marine blitz along America's east coast.
Late in the spring of 1942, when sinkings of coastal ship-
ping were at their peak, when American ships were going
down within sight of Atlantic City's Steel Pier and of the
many beaches from Sandy Hook to Hatteras, the cutter
Icarus was patrolling ojff the Carolina coast.
The sea was placid and a scorching sun hung in the sky's
cloudless vault. No more unlikely submarine weather could
The cutter's fifty-three-year-old skipper, a veteran of
twenty-eight years' life-saving service with the Coast Guard,
was Lieutenant Commander Maurice D. Jester of Staten
Island, New York. Then just a two-striper, he was below
with his "Exec" checking recent reports of U-boat positions
when the clamorous call to General Quarters sounded.
In the tedious months which had passed. Jester and his
second in command. Lieutenant (j.g.) Gabriel E. Pehaim,
twenty-nine, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, often had dis-
cussed just what they would do in event of coming in con-
tact with an enemy submarine. So when they rushed to the
bridge that day, they functioned smoothly as a team.
Pehaim, who had been a quartermaster before getting his
commission and, therefore, had had years of training as a
helmsman, at once took the wheel, obviating the need for
relaying steering instructions to another individual.
It was well that they used that system, for dead ahead and
less than 100 yards distant was a U-boat below the surface.
Clapping binoculars to his eyes with one hand and steering
with the other, Pehaim directed the cutter toward the spot
at which the sound gear indicated the sub to be. As the
Icarus swept over the location, a pattern of depth charges
rolled off the racks on her f antail. As she turned for another
run, a terrific explosion occurred in the open sea about 200
yards off the port side. Whether it was the sub, or not, Jester
couldn't be sure, so he kept the Icarus on her course. Cross-
ing the spot where the underseas marauder had submerged,
he dropped another pattern of "ash cans" off the fantail
racks and followed that with a couple of single charges from
the "K" guns.
Then, as the cutter's officers and men watched tensely for
some indication of the effect of their attack, the placid sur-
face of die sea was broken by great air bubbles. Sometimes
that's deadly proof that a U-boat has just fired a spread of
torpedoes. This time, however, it had a different meaning,
for suddenly the bow of the crippled submarine shot from
the depths and pointed skyward at a forty-five-degree angle.
Conning tower and deck hatches popped open and members
of the crew scrambled topsides and made a dash for the
The men of the Icarus were waiting for just such a move,
though, and their weapons immediately poured a withering
fire the length of the sub's deck, sweeping the Germans to-
ward the conning tower for its scanty shelter. The Germans
knew then that the jig was up, for their craft already had
begun to sink. One after another they commenced jumping
into the sea. Almost immediately the sub slid back into the
ocean's fastness, to raid no more.
In typical Coast Guard fashion, then, the Icarus turned to
the task of rescuing the struggling Germans, plucking thirty-
three of them out of the water including Kapitan-Leutnant
Helmutt Rathke, the U-boat skipper, a young-looking,
bearded Nazi. One of the group died of wounds received
during the brief but futile attempt of the Germans to strike
back at their attackers and his body was brought ashore for
burial. The living prisoners were landed at Charleston,
South Carolina, Navy Yard for transfer to prison camps.
Jester was awarded the Navy Cross for the exploit, the
first Coast Guard officer so honored in this war, but almost
a year elapsed before the general public was permitted to
learn of the action. When the Navy did permit disclosure
of the details, however, it added new luster to the Coast
Guard's record for it was the first announcement of the cap-
ture of prisoners from a German U-boat.
Frequently, prisoners taken from the subs are surly and un-
co-operative when they first come aboard American ships.
Their officers are haughty, even insolent. Sometimes the
men refuse food, but it has been found, however, that this
usually is because they are afraid they will be poisoned. When
they are seated at the regular mess tables with the ship's
crew and are served from the same sources, their attitude
usually undergoes a magic change. The quality, rather than
the quantity, of the Americans' "chow" amazes them and,
more often than not, loosens their tongues.
Commander Hirshfield of the Campbell enjoys telling the
story of what happened to one completely Nazified U-boat
skipper captured by the Canadian corvette, HJMC.S. Assme-
boinc. After a terrific running fight with a wolf pack for
several danger-filled days and nights, the Assineboine finally
was victorious. She did not come through unscathed, how-
ever, for shells from U-boat guns had raked her superstruc-
ture. One of them had entered the cabin of the young skip-
per, whose name was Stubbs, and set It afire.
When the prisoners from a sunken sub were being brought
aboard, the bulkheads in the captain's cabin still were hot.
The quarters were a shambles.
The senior surviving officer from the submarine clambered
up the sea ladder and the minute he hit the corvette's deck,
he began strutting his Nazi stuff, clicking his heels and
barking "Heil Hitler."
Then he demanded that he be given quarters commen-
surate with his rank. In due course, this demand was con-
veyed to Stubbs who had been watching his prisoner's
performance from the bridge.
Still irate over the damage done to his quarters and equip-
ment and fully cognizant of the mess in his cabin, Stubbs
rubbed his bearded chin for a moment.
"Quarters commensurate with his rank, eh?" he mur-
mured. "All right, he can have 'em. Put him in my quar-
Even before the submarine menace was brought under
control in the North Atlantic, convoy duty was at many
times the most monotonous form of duty to which a combat
ship could be assigned. There would be days on end when
there would not be the faintest sign of a sub and, while the
men on the slow-moving, defenseless cargo ships never com-
plain about that, the crews of the escort vessels live in hopes
of a chance to match wits with the enemy. In spite of the
numbers of subs which the Nazis kept at sea in the early,
desperate months of the war, however, the chances of en-
gaging one of them actually were small
Day in, day out, the sound gear on the cutters would keep
up Its ceaseless pinging without producing the staccato echo-
ing ping-ping which indicates a possible contact. Contrary
to the widespread general belief, nobody aboard our escort
ships spends any time these days listening for the sound of
submarine propellers or engines. The detection gear just
doesn't work that way. But we won't go into that. The
point is that the escort crews suffered more from boredom
and bad weather than they did at the hands of the subma-
After the U-boats took to operating extensively on die sur-
face at night, using gunfire instead of torpedoes as much as
possible, the situation was even worse for the escort crews.
For, while the detection gear frequently would disclose the
presence of a surfaced U-boat, the latter almost always had
sufficient speed simply to run away from the combat cutters.
Often they didn't even bother to submerge; they just figur-
atively made an insulting five-fingered gesture and ran out
of range of the cutters' guns.
That's the way it had been with the Spencer, a sister ship
of the Campbell, on a trip to the United Kingdom in the
spring of 1943. For three days the weather had been foul,
giving neither officers nor men much chance to rest. Time
after time, they had picked up submarines only to have the
quarry give them the slip. The resultant sense of frustration
put all the men on edge. Tempers were shortened.
Then, In one of a number of parallels with the Campbell's
exploit the preceding February,, the Spencer was sent off
from the convoy to rescue survivors from a torpedoed British
freighter. The latter had been loaded with lumber and
stayed afloat for hours after being hit by the torpedo. She
was unsalvageable, however, and the Spencer had to sink
her with gunfire to prevent her becoming a menace to navi-
Shortly after rejoining her convoy, the Spencer made a
contact with a U-boat. "G.Q." sounded about 3:00 A.M.,
bringing the sleepy-eyed officers and men of the off-watch
thudding along darkened "passageways and up ladders to
their battle stations,, cursing in their inimitable fashion as
they wrestled into their foul-weather clothing and life jack-
"When I get out of this man's service/ 5 cracked a little
gun-pointer, "I'm going to have one of these alarm buzzers
right in my bedroom. Fin going to let it go off in the middle
of the night just once and then I'm going to smash the
hell out of it and go back to sleep!"
The U-boat was some distance ahead, obviously lying in
wait for the rich prize which the Spencer was helping to
shepherd across the ocean. Responding to the demand from
the bridge for full speed ahead, the 327-footer settled her
stern a bit deeper in the water and surged forward. Never-
theless, she was no speedboat and suddenly word readied
the gun crews that the sub was diving. Apparently she didn't
want to run this time for fear of getting too far away from
the oncoming convoy.
"Son-of-a-bitch," growled a gunner's mate. "We won't get
He was right, for when the Spencer swept across the sup-
posed location of the enemy, Commander Harold S. Berdine
confined himself to lobbing a pair of depth charges off the
Hunching down into the collars of their sheepskin jackets,
officers on the bridge peered into the murky night for some
sign of the effect of the explosions. They were not opti-
mistic, however., for they had been through this sort of thing
before. So they were not disappointed when the skipper
gave up the attack and ordered them to "secure from general
quarters." Those who did not have the watch on deck
promptly headed for wardroom and galley for a shot of hot
coffee and then "hit the sack" for some more sleep. Only
the old-timers slept, however.
They were routed out again in about two hours for an-
other inconclusive attack. Again results could not be deter-
mined and the Spencer resumed position on the flank of the
convoy. Everyone was on the alert, straining to catch a
glimpse of the feathery wake that would mean the periscope
of the lurking U-boat
Suddenly, about 10:00 AJVL, those magical mechanical de-
tectors scored again. This time there was no doubt. A sub
was dangerously close to the on-plodding convoy.
Again the Spencer s twin screws began thrusting her for-
ward at her best speed. Depth charges rained down on the
spot at which the sub was last detected and the Spencer
wheeled for another attack. The sound gear disclosed the
U-boat going ever deeper and deeper.
Aboard the submarine. It was learned from prisoners later,
the situation was desperate.
"The Wasserbombes, the Wasserbombes y they were ter-
rible/' a Nazi crew member related shortly after his capture.
He and his mates had been told by the U-boat skipper that
they were going to attack a small convoy, one which had
very little protection in the way of escort ships. It would be
good hunting and easy.
"Either he was lying to sustain the morale of his crew/'
said one of the Spencers men, "or else he just didn't take a
good look at us, for our convoy was the biggest we ever had
taken across and, in addition to another combat cutter, we
had a flock of Canadian corvettes to help out."
All the lights went out in the submarine after the first pat-
tern of depth charges in the ten-o'clock attack let go. Slowly
the sub began to settle and her crew thought they were going
to the bottom, there to die a horrible, slow death. Feverishly
they worked to restore buoyancy and thus regain control. It
was an hour and a half, however, before they had any suc-
cess. Meanwhile the Spencer waited.
At one point it seemed as though the sub's skipper was
brazenly going to try to come up between the lanes of the
convoy where he would be almost sure to score hits if he
could get Ms torpedoes fired. Berdine kept the Spencer hot
on the trail, dodging in and out between the lumbering mer-
chantmen,, determined to give the U-boat no chance to get
set for Its devilish work.
Ultimately the convoy dropped astern and both the Duane
and the Spencer closed in for the kill. They no longer had
to fear that their depth charges would explode too close to
some of the ships they were trying to protect.
Suddenly one of the Spencers lookouts shouted:
"Conning tower on the port quarter!"
The teamwork of the two cutters, methods of co-operation
they had practiced for months, came into play then. Guns
of both ships trained swiftly on the tiny target and hurled
salvo after salvo into it. Despite that hail of steel, some
members of the sub's crew gained the deck and tried to
make for their own guns. There was a lot of fight in them
still, in spite of their harrowing experience undersea.
The Spencer's crew were yelling like the cheering section
at a college football game using, possibly, more short ugly
words than the collegians would employ in mixed company.
"Throw some more lead at 'em," they urged the gunners.
"Get the dirty bastards."
No urging was necessary, though, while the Germans
showed any sign of fight and they kept right on pumping
shells at the conning tower, now almost severed from the
hull, as Commander Berdine swung the Spencer to a col-
lision course and set out to apply the ramming technique
which the Campbell had used so effectively a few months
That settled the German's hash, robbed them of all in-
terest in the war or any further fighting. One after another
they began dropping into the sea which soon was dotted
with their bobbing heads. Some of them were wearing the
submariner's escape lung, others bright yellow life jackets.
A few had managed to get life rafts into the water and
clambered onto them.
The "supermen" were a sad-looking lot about that time.
Many of them were hysterical, completely unnerved by their
ordeal, and pleading for help and mercy.
Like her sister ships, the Spencer swiftly became a rescue
vessel and set about fishing the survivors out of the water.
There were forty all told.
At first they refused to eat anything but bread and jelly,
but the Spencer's men were being served good corned beef
and aromatic cabbage that day and the combination was too
much for even a Nazi's will power. Soon the majority of the
prisoners were hard at work on steaming plates of the
One of the busiest men aboard the Spencer that day didn't
do any of the fighting but he made one of the finest pic-
torial records of the destruction of a U-boat that has ever
been filmed. He is Chief Boatswain's Mate Jess W. "J
January, for fifteen years one of the ablest newspaper pho-
tographers in St. Louis, Missouri.
The light wasn't too good during the action but, by using
a telephoto lens for almost every shot and four-by-five film,
he recorded practically every phase of the engagement from
the firing of the first a K" gun until the sub's tail hovered
exactly vertical for a moment before the final plunge.
"I wasn't always polite in getting into vantage spots that
day/ 5 January recalled with a grin. "I just shouldered of-
ficers and men alike aside all the way from the flying bridge
to the fantail. But when the prints were passed around, no-
body minded much."
Another good journalistic break occurred on that trip, too,
for one of the Spencers passengers was Time Magazine's
war correspondent, William Walton, who was being given
transportation to England. Needless to say, he got a color-
ful story for his editors.
Not all the excitement aboard a combat cutter is directly
involved in fighting the U-boats. For example, take the
story of one of the greatest sea rescues in history. Two com-
bat cutters, the Escanaba and one whose name has not yet
been released by the Navy Department, participated in the
On a wintry night early in 1943 in the North Atlantic, a
medium-sized American passenger ship was plowing
through icy seas. All on board were jittery, for it was their
thirteenth, night out Several times during die preceding
two days they had spotted enemy planes circling the convoy
high overhead. That meant only one thing. The wolf packs
would be waiting for them.
Although not identified by the Navy as a troopship in the
ordinary sense of the word, the vessel was crowded with
service personnel and civilians en route to and from outposts.
Sometime after midnight the blow fell* A torpedo struck
the vessel amidships and she began to go down. The ex-
plosion, said Ship's Cook George Dunningham, was "like
the slamming of a bulkhead door." Most of the lighting
circuit was knocked out and attempts to launch boats were
well-nigh fruitless. Soon literally hundreds of men were in
the icy water, the temperature of which was two degrees
below freezing. In the wake of three days of bad weather,
high seas still were running.
Little red rescue lights attached to the men's life jackets,
a wartime development of the Coast Guard, showed where
each man was.
"It looked like a weird, strange dream," Dunningham said
of the scene.
Just after dawn, one of the 327-foot cutters hove in sight
and Dunningham said her symmetrically terraced super-
structure brought shouts of delight from the men with
strength enough to yell.
"She was the most beautiful ship in the world," he added.
Her crew threw ropes to the exhausted, half-frozen men
and hauled them aboard. Some, of course, were too far gone
to help themselves and, in such cases, the Coast Guardsmen
tied lines about their own bodies and plunged into the freez-
ing water to bring them alongside.
The first cutter was joined by a second later in the day
and, although both were interrupted in their rescue work
several times by the necessity of making swift dashes away
to attack U-boats seeking still other victims, they managed
to pull a total of 222 survivors aboard from one ship and
thirteen from another.
More than 850 United States soldiers, sailors and civilians
died as a result of that night's work by the Nazis, but the
disaster would have been even worse except for the work of
the Coast Guard's combat cutters.
In contrast to World War I, when the Coast Guard lost
only the cutter Tampa which, incidentally, was the severest
United States naval loss of that conflict it had lost five ships
in the current war up to the time this was being written.
The Hamilton, one of the 327-footers, was torpedoed off
the entrance to Reykjavik harbor just after it had turned
over to a Navy tug a damaged freighter which it had towed
at slow speed for the preceding six days, an easy mark for
any U-boat that might have happened along. She did not
sink immediately, however, and a determined effort was
made to get her to safety. That phase of the disaster, by the
way, has become the subject of a controversy among Coast
Guard officers which probably never will be settled.
Briefly, the argument centers on the question of whether
the crippled cutter should have been towed stern first or
bow first. She had been hit slightly aft of 'midships and had
begun to settle by the stern when the salvage operation was
started. A towing hawser was passed from her bow to the
rescue vessel and the precarious trip to port got under way.
It was futile, however, for the stern soon was too deep in
the water to permit the 2,ooo-ton craft to be moved and she
soon slipped beneath the waves.
Proponents of the reverse tactics contend that had the tow
line been affixed to the stern at the outset, It would have
taken much of the strain and given the damaged vessel a
better chance of survival. The experts disagree . . .
The other cutters lost were the Escanaba, Mus^cgci and
NatscJ^ in the North Atlantic and the Acacia in the Carib-
Complete mystery surrounds the fate of the Natse^ which
just disappeared one night while on convoy escort duty. The
thermometer was well below freezing and all the ships were
having difficulty with ice forming topsides. One skipper re-
ported that he had had his entire crew on deck and in the
rigging chopping ice for thirty-six hours with virtually no
letup. They used axes, hammers, spanners and any other
sort of weapon they could find.
It is surmised that the NatseJ^s crew proved unable to cope
with the task, too much ice formed on her top hamper and
she just rolled over and sank with all hands.
Just a few weeks after her heroic rescue exploit., the E$-
canaba was gone following an explosion of "undetermined
nature." All hands but two enlisted men were lost with her.
Months later Admiral Royal E. Ingersoll, commander-In-
chief of the Atlantic Fleet, awarded posthumous decorations
and commendations to six of her officers and men for their
gallantry in the rescue incident.
Imperishable naval history has been written by the men
of the Coast Guard's combat cutters in the course of getting
American fighting men and their weapons safely through
the submarine zones, but the service's job did not stop there
for, from the beginning of the war, the Navy looked to the
Coast Guard for help in the actual landing of troops on
nFG before an American soldier or marine set foot on
a hostile shore In World War II, the amphibious na-
ture of the conflict was clear to the Navy. It was
obvious that before the United States could strike deci-
sively at her enemies,, troops would have to be transported
overseas to do it. The enemy would not make docks or other
port facilities available to us for the purpose, naturally, so
that meant the troops would have to land on the enemy's
beaches, regardless of the surf or of the opposition offered.
Our Navy Is traditionally a blue-water navy, trained to
meet and defeat our enemies on the high seas and to keep
the conflict thousands of miles from United States shores.
Except for the Marine Corps, it did not have large numbers
of "white-water sailors/' men skilled in the handling of
small boats and landing them through surf.
Consequently, one of the first things the Navy did after
Pearl Harbor was to call on the Coast Guard for hundreds
of men to handle so-called invasion barges landing craft
ranging all the way from the now-famous thirty-six-foot
Higgins boats to 370-foot tank-lighters known as LST's
and to train thousands more to handle them. At once the
Coast Guard brought 1,000 of its ace surf men, lifeboat crews
from its lifesaving stations up and down the nation's
beaches, to Washington. From there they were sent to train-
ing centers where they familiarized themselves with the new
type of craft and later trained with the amphibious forces
of the Army and Navy.
When the Marines went ashore at Tulagi and Guadal-
canal that August morning in 1942, it was Coast Guard surf-
men or invaders, as they now are known who put them
there. A couple of months later they also put the Army
ashore at Casablanca, Fedala and Safi despite surf conditions
that threatened for a time to prevent the invasion. And in
the following July, I saw them repeat the performances on
the beaches of Sicily.
In any discussion of amphibious landings, the crews of the
landing barges, particularly the little thirty-six-foot jobs, are
frequently overlooked rather, they are overshadowed in the
mind of the layman who thinks chiefly of the ordeal faced
by the soldier passengers of those boats when they have to
wade ashore under enemy fire. It often is the case, however,
that the first man to face that fire is the coxswain of the land-
ing craft, the man whose job it is to steer the boat safely
through the surf and beach it in a position from which the
infantrymen will be able to get ashore and dig themselves
in with the least possible delay.
Although some of the later types of landing barges have
had armored shelters known as "cheese boxes" provided for
the helmsman, more often than not he Is standing in full
view of the enemy, handling the tiller and throttle from his
position on the craft's fantail. Stories of the stark heroism
of those men, of their calm, determined handling of the
boats despite the worst the enemy could do, are legion. Of
course not even a tenth of them will ever be recorded, for
usually such deeds are performed when tension is at its
height and every individual aboard has room for little else
in his mind but the burning question of what the next few
minutes hold for him. The atmosphere is, to say the least,
not conducive to deliberate, objective historical writing.
On the other hand, it is fairly safe to assume that many of
the exploits of the invaders which have been preserved are
fairly typical insofar as they illustrate the extreme hazards
under which these Coast Guardsmen operate. Personally, I
am ready to maintain that every member of an invasion-
barge crew who leaves the comparative security of a big
troopship in the dead of night and heads for a strange and
hostile beach five or ten miles distant, qualifies for a hero's
reward before he ever hears a shot fired in anger against him.
At Sicily, for example, the boat crews had a bad sea con-
dition to contend with first of all. All the afternoon prior
to "D" day, as the invasion day was known, our huge ar-
mada had plowed through rising seas whipped into fury by
a forty-knot wind. At times we thought it might be neces-
sary for the high command to postpone the assault because
it looked as though the Higgins boats and their like just
could not live in such rough, water and, even if they did,
would be bound to capsize in the surf.
Miraculously, after our convoy had steamed past the proud
little island of Malta, whose inimitable defense had made
the invasion of Sicily a possibility at that time, the wind
began to moderate and the heavy seas to subside into some-
thing more like the Mediterannean placidity to which we
had become accustomed in the preceding three weeks. So
the invasion went ahead almost as scheduled, but that does
not mean it was then all beer and skittles for the landing
boats. They still had plenty of trouble.
Adding to the mental hazard for all concerned, just about
the time we were able to quit worrying about the weather,
the antiaircraft defenses ashore behind Scoglitti and up
around the Comiso airfield opened up with a terrific display.
Red and green tracer fire laced the sky with weird yet grimly
"That tears it," growled a grizzled signalman on the
bridge of the destroyer I was aboard. "No chance of surpris-
ing those birds. They're up and ready for business."
All hands felt sure that any moment the shore batteries
would discover the presence of the invasion armada and
open up on us.
Seeing that display of activity ashore we learned later it
was directed against United States paratroops and air-borne
infantry that had been flown in and landed a couple of hours
before the shore landing was scheduled to begin the crews
of the landing boats must have had butterflies in their stom-
achs while they waited for the signal that would send them
roaring toward the beach. The initial landing would be bad
enough, but the veterans knew that the second or third
waves of assault troops probably would encounter even heav-
ier opposition than the first, because the enemy would know
definitely then where the landing was being effected.
Yet no one faltered. And when dawn broke, I could see
the orderly little lines of landing barges churning toward
the various beaches in the area with their cargoes of men or
materiel, and then scuttling back to their ships for more.
Scattered along the beaches or piled in among forbidding
rocks was a grimly substantial number of other landing craft
which had failed to get off for a second trip. Men had died
in some of those boats in the darkness while we w T atched,
unseeing. But the others kept going.
In addition to running many of the smaller invasion craft,
Coast Guard officers and men operated the larger types such
as LCI's (Landing Craft, Infantry) and LST's (Landing
Ship, Tanks) which also were run right onto the beaches
wherever possible, their ramps lowered and their cargoes
Other Coast Guardsmen served as beach masters, organiz-
ing the unloading operations and directing traffic to and
from the beach.
At Gela, where some of the heaviest fighting of the first
two days of the Sicilian invasion occurred, big, easygoing,
cigar-loving Bill Forsythc, who is now a Coast Guard petty
officer but who used to photograph Washington's great and
near-great for the AP in the days before the war, went ashore
to film the Coast Guard's activities. He was with a group of
combat engineers and their LCI hit a sandbar about fifty
yards from the beach, sticking fast.
"So we bailed out/' Bill wrote later. "Luckily, I had had
enough foresight to waterproof my equipment. With a .45
in one hand and a camera in the other, I started for the
beach. Our Coast Guard gunners opened fire with two .30-
caliber machine guns to give us a covering fire in order that
we might have a chance to make it. The surf was so heavy
that I was knocked under; when I came up the .45 was full
of sand and couldn't be fired.
"I was completely soaked and cold as hell but I ran up on
the beach. I never ran so fast in all my life, but it seemed
very slow water-soaked clothing certainly drags one down.
"The enemy fire was intense. To my right about 300 yards
an LCI was on the beach and unable to get off; and to my
left, at a distance of about 500 yards, was an Italian fort that
kept firing on the LCI and shelling the landing boats and
keeping the beach under fire, with me in the middle. The
beach was mined, but this was unknown to us at the time
and there we were digging for dear life and I do mean
Throughout the three days his ship was anchored off the
Sicilian beach, it and the other transports were under re-
i is 3-5
i< rt C ri _ g
U. S. Coast Guard Photo
"HERE COME THE AMERICANS ! "
U. S. Coast Guard landing barges off a South Pacific island.
U. S. Coast Guard Photo
END OF THE BRIDGE
LST (Landing Ship, Tanks) during unloading operations.
peated attack by German planes which dive-bombed and
strafed them viciously. It was the sort of thing that rasps
men's nerves raw, for despite the attacks the work of unload-
ing the hundreds of tons of ammunition, thousands of
gallons of gasoline and other explosive knicknacks went
doggedly ahead. Any minute, the men knew, they might
be engulfed In a flaming hell.
Bill Forsythe thought that was tough, and It was, but a
scant two months later It was to seem a "pink tea" by com-
parison with what he and other American and British fight-
Ing men encountered when they landed around Salerno.
"When the first few assault waves went In at Salerno it
was comparatively quiet," he wrote, "but when they landed
and the ramps went down, the bottom dropped out. The
Germans had concealed machine-gun nests that did a lot
of damage to our first few waves. After daylight the Ger-
mans were pushed back from the beach about a mile and
started laying it in with mortars and 88V*
Enemy air activity was light during the day because our
own planes were providing a wonderful "umbrella" for the
landing, but that night, Forsythe said, he thought "every-
body In the German air force, even Goering himself, must
have been flying over us."
The story of the Coast Guard invaders can't be dissociated
from that of the crews of the assault transports, or "combat
loaders" as they are known in the amphibious forces. Coast
Guard officers and enlisted men manned a growing number
of those ships as the war progressed. They are 'known as
"combat loaders" because they must carry not only the troops
but all the equipment and supplies that those troops will
need to enable them to operate ashore until such time as re-
inforcements can be brought in. What is most important,
the materiel and supplies must be put aboard the ship in
such a priority that the troops can hit the beach fighting,
knowing that the things they need first will be unloaded
Amphibious invasions usually are launched at night, so
the initial unloading of assault transports must be done in
complete blackout and often under enemy attack. Months
of training are required to give the crews proficiency in the
difficult, dangerous work. Night after night before they left
the United States, the crews would go through "dry runs"
in some peaceful American bay, lowering the invasion boats
into the water, getting the troops over the side and down
the cargo nets and following with jeeps, trucks and field
The constant training drove them frantic at times, but
when "H" hour finally arrived they were always thankful
that they could work swiftly and surely in the dark. It ex-
plains the orderliness of the confusion that always obtains
when the debarkation begins.
Nevertheless, no matter how well trained the crews may
be, there's always something that goes wrong, something
which cannot be guarded against. A lean, hard-bitten licu-
tenant who had been a warrant officer in the years before the
war told me of some of those things on the way back from
"We had a ton-and-a-quarter truck boomed out over the
side, just ready to lower it into the boat/' he related, an
amused grin flickering across his features as he recalled the
scene. "The kid on the hoisting engine must have got a little
rattled or misunderstood the signals, because he two-blocked
the damn thing with only a few feet of cable between the
truck and the tip of the boom. Of course the cable snapped
"I thought. There goes one truck which won't see much
fighting/ but, believe it or not 3 it just dropped into the barge
on all four wheels, bounced a couple of times and settled
down right where it belonged."
This wasn't the only lucky break his ship had that night.
Sometime after daybreak, when the enemy bombers had
departed, someone noticed that the cable on one of the cargo
booms had been struck by a bullet and all but a couple of
strands severed! How long they had worked with it like
that, with all sorts of mechanized swords of Damocles swing-
ing over their heads, no one knew.
Feverishly they began clearing the well deck in case the
jeep then in the air should fall. Steel beams, lumber and an
assortment of soldiers' gear were pitched into the scuppers.
A little later the lieutenant made the horrifying discovery
that in the soldiers' gear was a bagful of hand grenades, a
couple of which had been wedged under one of the beams
when they were hurled aside! It was impossible to tell
whether the safety pins had been knocked out o them in
the rough handling, and of course, nobody dared move the
beams to find out. Finally the lieutenant got down on his
belly, reached in gingerly and felt along the detonating
levers of the bombs. All but one of them still had the safety
pins in place.
The other one was wedged in such a position that it could
not be grasped firmly. The lieutenant could get only the
tips of his fingers on the detonating lever. Nevertheless he
ordered the beam hoisted up, praying that the grenade would
not roll It didn't and he got a good grip.
"Then I pitched it toward shore," he said, "almost hoping
it would hit the damn soldier that left it on the deck."
Aboard another transport, they had two vehicles in the air
at once over the forward well deck a truck and a bulldozer.
The ship was rolling heavily and almost simultaneously the
guide lines attached to each vehicle carried away. Then the
fun began. First the truck and then the bulldozer would
swing far out over the water and come crashing back against
various items of the vessel's superstructure, tearing out huge
chunks of metal and scattering them about the deck like
shrapnel. Before the crew could get the plunging, surging
vehicles under control again, they felt that nothing the
enemy could do to them would matter thereafter.
At the time this is written, the landings around Salerno
were the most heavily opposed of the war for American
troops. It was obvious that the Germans had had advance
Information as to what was planned, doubtless because Lieu-
tenant General Mark Wayne Clark didn't have much of a
choice geographically. At any rate, the Germans were on
hand in force and the fight they put up left our men with no
Illusions about the magnitude of their task. The transports
were under heavy fire not only during the approach to Italy
and while they were unloading but even after they had be-
gun to withdraw.
Facing death almost hourly has more than a hardening,,
sobering effect on fighting men. In the words of another
Coast Guard Chief Photographer's Mate, John Folk, we can
see that at such times men turn instinctively to religion.
"We were given a 'going away' present by the Jerries that
will burn forever in my memory and everyone's on board/ 5
Folk wrote to a superior.
"But God rode the bridge with us again on this trip, and
after my cruise to date, I am certainly humble in His pres-
ence. Please inform Headquarters that there are no atheists
on board this ship."
In the gripping record of the Coast Guard's part in this
war, the emphasis almost always is on the dramatic high-
lights. Current historians or, as John Mason Brown de-
scribed war correspondents, the "forward echelon of history"
seem to have little room in their columns for comedy.
And yet even war has many lighter moments.
For example, in the initial hours of the North African in-
vasion, a comic incident occurred which had at once its
dramatic and potentially disastrous sides. As the story goes,
the first Americans to enter Casablanca were a couple of
Coast Guard enlisted men who, in some manner, had be-
come separated from their unit on the beach and set out for
Blissfully unaware apparently, that Casablanca had not
been taken up to that point, the pair are said to have strode
boldly down one of the principal streets, shooting out street
lamps with their 45'$. Fortunately for them, and possibly
for the outcome of the operations at that point, some friendly
French souls whisked the Coast Guardsmen off the street
and harbored them until the town was safely in American
control. If true, the incident may go down in history as one
of the few cases in which one or more war correspondents,
having unwittingly got ahead of their troops, did not enter
the town first and receive the plaudits of the citizenry.
It was on the other side of the world that the invaders got
their first taste of amphibious warfare when they took the
Marines into Tulagi and Guadalcanal. In its initial phases,
the Solomons campaign was different from subsequent sea-
borne invasions because Jap sea power in the area was very
great. They sank four Allied cruisers the first night of the
landing, which seriously weakened the American position
and forced the transports to withdraw before they had com-
This left the Marines in a precarious position. Food and
medical supplies were almost nonexistent and even ammuni-
tion was scarce. When the going was toughest, the Coast
Guardsmen pitched right in with the troops. Some of the
Invaders dug machine-gun emplacements; others joined ar-
tillerymen manning guns and still others went with the in-
fantry. At the same time they kept a number of the small
boats operating a "sneak" daylight shuttle service across the
eighteen-mile stretch of water between Guadalcanal and
Tulagi, dodging not only Jap planes but fire from enemy
shore batteries, in the vital business of bringing supplies to
the defenders of Henderson Field.
As the battle for the island and Its crucial airfield de-
veloped more and more Into an aerial straggle, one of the
functions performed by the Coast Guard landing boats was
to patrol offshore whenever an air fight was going on over-
head, so as to be on hand to pick up any American pilots
who happened to have to ball out. On one occasion a land-
ing boat, commanded by a Coast Guard coxswain, started
for a Jap flier who had "hit the silk" after his Zero had burst
Into flames. Just then the American pilot who had shot him
down was hit by another Jap plane and he, too, was forced
to bail out. The landing boat went first to the rescue of the
American and picked him up. Then it headed for the Jap
but, as they drew near, that Son of Heaven whipped out his
pistol and fired at the American pilot. Nothing happened,
so the Nip put the pistol to his own head and pulled the
trigger twice. Again the gun failed to fire, so rather than be
picked up, he dived for the propellers apparently hoping to
put an end to himself that way.
One of the boat's crew was too quick for him, however,
and hooked him under the chin with a boat hook and pulled
him aboard. He still continued to fight his rescuers until
one of the crew walloped him in the stomach with a five-
gallon gasoline can and another clipped him on the chin,
knocking him cold.
Some of the Coast Guardsmen were on Guadalcanal for
ninety days, during the height of the Jap's savage attempts
to retake that bastion. Typical of their experiences was that
of James D. Fox, twenty-nine, of Uniontown, Pennsylvania,
who underwent 112 bombings and was under shellfire thirty
times during his three-month stay there. When he left to
recuperate from malaria, he had lost thirty-five pounds.
After spending the first two days and nights of the in-
vasion in transporting Marines and supplies to the beach,
Fox and his fellow invaders were told to take their boats
offshore, anchor and get some sleep.
"We didn't get much sleep, though," Fox related ruefully.
"It was raining as hard as I've ever seen it come down., which
made it mighty uncomfortable to begin with. Then, just
as we were getting accustomed to the elements, the Jap fleet
let go with all it had at our ships offshore. The battle lasted
all night the most terrific naval fight I've ever seen, and
while It was spectacular as a fireworks display, it wasn't very
Sleep was out of the question not only that night, but for
many nights to follow. It got so bad the men dubbed the
place "Sleepless Lagoon."
A name that will live in invader legend wherever Coast
Guardsmen gather is that of Douglas A. Munro, a twenty-
three-year-old signalman from South Cle Eluin, Washing-
ton. A lot of Marines will remember him, too, for they owe
him their lives.
Munro was in command of a detachment of ten landing
boats assigned to take the Marines to a point on Guadalcanal
where an attack was to be launched on a Jap position. The
Marines landed all right, but this was one occasion where
they did not immediately get the situation well in hand. The
Jap opposition was much heavier than had been anticipated
and it at once became apparent that the Marines would
have to be evacuated or face annihilation.
Munro at once volunteered for the task and took his boats
back under heavy enemy fire. When most of the 500 Ma-
rines had boarded the boats, the rear guard was taking ter-
rific punishment. Munro saw that and maneuvered his
boat into a position where it would serve as at least partial
cover for the remaining Marines while they embarked. The
majority of the Marines gained the comparative safety of
the landing boats, but Munro was riddled by gunfire before
he could get out of range.
He regained consciousness later, but although he must
have been suffering greatly, he had no thought of himself.
The outcome of his mission was uppermost in his mind, for
while he lived only long enough to utter four words, they
"Did they get off?"
Upon being answered in the affirmative, a smile lighted
his face and he closed his eyes.
For his "conspicuous gallantry" during the evacuation and
for the skill with which he planned it, Munro was awarded
posthumously the coveted Congressional Medal of Honor,
the only Coast Guardsman up to that point so honored. His
citation said that he and his courageous comrades of the
boat crew, two of whom were wounded, "undoubtedly
saved the lives of many who otherwise would have per-
ished. 5 '
One of the most publicized of the Coast Guard-manned
transports is the U.S.S. Wa%efidd, the former palatial liner
Manhattan. When the Japs w^re advancing on their relent-
less drive toward Singapore, the Wafy field was ordered to
the beleaguered city to evacuate women and children refu-
It was a tough assignment because of the almost complete
control of the air exercised by the Nipponese, Even before
she reached the city, the mercy ship was attacked by a lone
Jap bomber. That proved to be a mistake on his part, for
he was shot down by concentrated antiaircraft fire and the
Wa^eficld proceeded on her mission.
The enemy was scarcely twenty-five miles from the city
when the ship entered the harbor and was subjecting the en-
tire area to heavy bombardment and sending over flights of
from eighteen to thirty bombers at intervals of fifteen min-
For two days the WaJ(e field endured that sort of punish-
ment and seemed to bear a charmed existence. During that
time she lay tied up to the dock and managed to embark
some 300 women and children and their belongings. As she
was attempting to slip out of the harbor, however, a bomb
pierced the deck and exploded In the sick bay killing five
members of the crew. A short time later the docks which
the Wa^e field left were bombed Into a smoking ruin.
Months after that narrow squeak, the Waf^e field figured
in another dramatic rescue at sea. This time, however, it
was in the chill North Atlantic and It was the Wafa field
that needed help. The once proud queen of the United
States merchant fleet was being swept by fire. Fortunately
help was not far off. A United States light cruiser, which
later was to play a brilliant part in the invasion of North
Africa, came speeding to the scene.
Disregarding the danger to his own craft and thinking
only of the helpless passengers and crew aboard the burning
ship, the captain of the cruiser ran her alongside the Wafy?-
field "just like he was docking a ferryboat/' one of the
cruiser's gunners told me later and by the use of ropes and
cargo nets managed to take off the entire company of about
900 passengers and crew. In point of view of the numbers
saved, as well as for other reasons, it stands out as one of the
greatest sea rescues of all time.
The Wakcfidd did not perish ignominously on that oc-
casion. She was towed to port and, judging by other salvage
miracles wrought by American shipbuilders, it would not be
surprising If she resumed her career in better shape than
In the Intense fighting which characterized the first cou-
ple of days of the North African invasion, the assault trans-
port Chase, manned by Coast Guardsmen, gave such a good
account of herself that the enemy began warning their pilots
to "keep away from the ship with the windows in her
stacks." On one occasion, while anchored off the beach
near Algiers, a submarine fired a spread of torpedoes at the
Chase. One of the "tin fish" went between her bow and the
anchor chain and another slipped harmlessly under her fan-
As part of the training for the North African show, the
Chase and other American transports participated in a mock
invasion of the Scottish coast up near Inverness. It was an
occasion which opened the eyes of many an American sol-
dier and sailor, for taking the part of the "defenders" of the
area were troops of the famous Scottish Black Watch Regi-
ment, veterans of Dunkirk and other bloody struggles.
"We couldn't see a thing," Wood, "but I there ?
just gripping that splinter shield and waiting for it. 1 felt
sure we were going to get a torpedo in our belly."
Instead, there was a dull boom immediately astern of them
and then the Avengers flight deck buckled like a shingle
broken in the middle. A terrific flash reddened the inky
sky and planes tossed into the air by the blast could be seen
through the flames.
Wood, a thirty-four-year-old New Yorker, is a talented
artist who has transferred many of his impressions of am-
phibious warfare to canvas since being stationed at Coast
Guard headquarters in Washington on temporary duty.
After the tragic death of the late Lieutenant Commander
McClelland Barclay, Wood took over many of the former's
assignments for illustrations depicting various phases of
naval warfare. By a coincidence, his place on the Chase was
taken by another Coast Guard artist, Godeby Lawrence.
From the Pacific war zone came the story of one of the
outstanding exhibitions of personal endurance and courage
of the war. It is the story of a Coast Guard coxswain who
maintained that he "didn't have the guts" to commit suicide!
After a night patrol near Savo Island in the Solomons,
Coxswain Robert J. Canavan headed his thirty-six-foot Hig-
gins boat back toward Guadalcanal. The night had been un-
eventful but the little boat and its crew were not destined to
finish their cruise in peace, for a light cruiser rounded the
western end of Guadalcanal while they still were some dis-
tance from their base. Although she flew no ensign, she did
not leave the boys long in doubt as to her nationality, for as
soon as her light guns were within range she opened fire.
At first Canavan tried to escape by making a run for
Tulagi but his boat was hopelessly outmatched in both speed
and firepower, and after the first few bursts from the cruiser
everyone but Canavan abandoned his boat.
"Ill see you in Hell, Bob!" shouted Charles Stickney,
Boatswain's Mate, first class, as he dived over the side.
Canavan said he had some faint hope of beaching the boat,
so he remained at the wheel in a crouching position. How-
ever, when the Japs riddled the instrument panel and dam-
aged the wheel, he figured the time had come for him, -too,
to abandon the scene. He went over the side, leaving the
engine running so the Japs kept up their pursuit of the little
boat which by that time was beginning to resemble a sieve.
Finally they knocked the engine out of commission, pulled
alongside and stripped some of the equipment from the
craft and then sank it.
Still not satisfied, the cruiser swung off to where the other
members of the boat's crew were struggling in the water.
She had passed within fifty feet of Canavan but, having dis-
carded his life jacket before he left the boat, he feigned death
and the Jap gunners apparently were fooled.
When the cruiser reached the others from Canavan's boat,
she halted for several minutes and Canavan could hear the
rattle of her machine guns.
"When she moved on/* he said, "none of the boys was
Realizing that the current would sweep Mm ashore at Jap
positions if li? f ied to reach Guadalcanal, Canavan set out
to swim to T "ai which was thirteen miles distant,
"I kept hu: ling all the songs I knew in an effort to keep
my spirits up/" he related. "Twice it rained heavily. Each
time the sky darkened and the sea got choppy. I did more
praying in those hours I spent in the water than I had done
in the previous twenty years of my life. Three times I gat/e
up and tried to drown myself, but I didn't have the guts! 9
Nineteen hours later, after a swimming feat which few
professional marathoners could equal. Bob reached Florida
Island and dragged himself ashore. He slept until dawn and
then set out in search of help. There still were some heart-
breaking experiences ahead of him, however.
Several times during the day he passed through deserted
native villages but it was twilight before he found a popu-
lated place and then the villagers couldn't understand
English or his needs. Again he spent the night in the com-
parative safety of the bush, resuming his quest for a Marine
encampment as soon as it was daylight. He saw a boatload
of marines passing the island at one point, but all his efforts
to attract their attention failed.
Finally he reached a spot where Florida Island was sepa-
rated from Tulagi by only 400 yards of water. On the other
side Canavan could see a Marine encampment. Despite his
weakness from hunger and exertion, he realized that his
only hope of reaching the camp before he collapsed was to
swim that 400 yards! He did it, but again came perilously
close to death, for the marines spotted him and were all for
shooting before he could get across. They thought he must
be a Jap up to some devilish trick.
The lieutenant in charge decided to take a chance, though,
and not only saved his life then, but again when he hauled
the exhausted youth ashore after he had collapsed in the
The climax to Canavan's story had not been reached, how-
ever, for after recuperating at a base hospital, he was ordered
to another South Pacific base. In the normal course of
events he probably would have been sent back to the States
to get over his harrowing experiences. But he was not satis-
fied to let events take their normal course and instead of
following orders, he stowed away on a transport plane bound
for Guadalcanal and reported to his commanding officer for
duty immediately upon his arrival!
Retribution for the butchery on the part of the Jap cruiser
was exacted a short time later for, after the cruiser had
shelled Tulagi, she was attacked by a Fying Fortress, one of
the first seen in the area, which dropped a bomb squarely on
her stern. For a time the cruiser ran in circles apparently as
a result of damage to her rudder, but then managed to get
under way. The plane came back at that point, however,
and reported sinking the Jap in Sealark Channel
Teamwork has been responsible for much of the success
of American fighting men in this war, and that applies in
the Coast Guard fully as much as in any other branch of the
services. Yet every once in a while a rugged individualist, a
maverick, turns up who just doesn't conform to the pattern.
Take C. L. Jacobson, seaman first, from Mobile, Alabama,
for example. He was one of the landing-boat coxswains on
Guadalcanal. Normally he would be in command of two
other men the engineer and a deck hand. Jacobson was dif-
ferent, however. He felt that other people cramped his style,
were always getting in his way. So he got permission to run
his boat by himself.
Going in to a beach for a landing, he'd leave the wheel,
dash forward and lower the ramp, race back to the wheel
and throttle the engine down for the landing. With no
great originality on their part, his shipmates dubbed him the
This chronicling of the exploits of the Coast Guardsmen
is not intended as an effort to portray the men of the service
as all heroes or supermen. Most of them will admit frankly
that they were scared to death when under fire. And in al-
most any gathering of those who have been in action, you
can hear stories of the hardened old chiefs who became so
jittery over the prospect of being torpedoed that they would
sleep at the base of the stacks, on the top decks, or even in
the incinerators, rather than go below to their bunks. Some
of them wouldn't even go to the galley to eat while In a war
Such cases, of course, were in the minority, but even those
men, scared as they were, did not fail to carry out their jobs.
And when you get right down to cases, that's the stuff real
heroes are made of, because after all it's not much of a trick
to do something when you are not frightened.
With Coast Guardsmen fighting for freedom all over the
globe, from Tulagi to Salerno, only the uninformed would
refer to the servicemen as "five-fathom sailors," a term which
used to rouse the ire of the blue-water Guardsmen.
But if you really want to let yourself in for something,
just make a crack about the "Hooligan Navy" where a Coast
Guardsman can hear you! In the old days, that used to be a
favorite appellation for the Navy to hurl at the senior serv-
ice. About the same thing as the marines who call all sol-
diers "dog face."
However, since the Coast Guard has expanded and, more
especially, because of its brilliant war record, wise men are
careful as to where and when they talk about the "Hooligan
Navy." Nevertheless, slips do occur. . . .
In Casablanca one day, a group of Coast Guardsmen had
been touring the town buying souvenirs Arab slippers,
hand-tooled leather bags for their best girls, goatskins, etc.
Loaded down with their purchases, they were walking down
to the dock "minding our own business" when some incau-
tious Navy man sang out:
The biggest of the Coast Guardsmen stopped in his tracks
as though he had walked into a brick wall.
"Take these a minute/' he said to a companion holding
out his bundles.
Well, by the time the Shore Patrol had restored order, an
indeterminate number of Navy men were stretched out on
the dock in need of attention. And the Coast Guardsmen ?
Report has it that one of them got his pants a little dirty.
As a war correspondent who travels with the Navy and
thinks it's one of the world's finest outfits, I must say in ex-
tenuation of the foregoing story that I didn't witness the
event personally and no doubt the Navy was outnumbered
at the time or hadn't slept well the night before, or some-
This book is supposed to be primarily an account of the
Coast Guard's part in World War IL But it is a story of
ships as well as of men, so the saga would not be complete
without some mention being made of the glorious finales to
the careers of the cutters Pontchartrain and Sebago, despite
the fact that they belonged to the British at the time.
Those ships were among the ten 250-foot cutters trans-
ferred to Britain before the United States entered the war,
so literally what happened to them after that is part of the
history of the Royal Navy. However, among seafaring men
the world over, ships have personalities that are just as real
as those of individuals, and Coast Guardsmen will always
think prideftilly of the crowning achievement of the Pont-
chartrdn and the Sebago, just as though they had never left
When the British took them over, they changed their
names to the H.M.S. Hartland and the H.M.S. Walney.
Practically nothing was heard of them until the Allied in-
vasion of North Africa.
On the night of the landings, the Hartland and the Wal-
ney were standing in toward the Mediterranean harbor of
Oran, a well-fortified French naval base. Sheer mountains
which rise to a height of about 1,000 feet gird the anchorage,
and a long concrete jetty thrusts diagonally across the mouth
of the bay, making a narrow entrance and forcing any in-
coming ship to run close under the guns of lowering shore
batteries. Of course that narrow passage was protected by
an antisubmarine net.
Because of the scarcity of good landing beaches in the
vicinity and possibly because of some uncertainty as to
whether the French garrison would resist, it was decided to
attempt to force the entrance and land troops right in the
city so that they could quickly take over ajiy of the shore
batteries which showed fight.
The presence of French warships in the harbor and the
fact that the garrisons still had bitter memories of the day in
1940 when the British Mediterranean Fleet had shelled and
sunk a number of ships of the French fleet in Oran and
near-by Mers-el-Kebir did not make the task of the invaders
Nevertheless the job had to be done and the ex-Coast
Guard cutters Pontchartrain and Sebago were chosen to do
the boom-forcing. It was a suicide assignment unquestion-
ably, if the French decided to resist. And they did.
As the ships stole through the velvet blackness of the
Mediterranean night, they suddenly were illuminated by
brilliant searchlights placed on the surrounding hillsides so
as to train directly on the harbor entrance. At once the
shore batteries belched flame, followed shortly by the guns
from the warships inside the jetty.
The thin skins of the two cutters could not withstand
much of that sort of treatment, but it will be to the everlast-
ing credit of both the ships and the dauntless men handling
them that they did not give up the unequal struggle until
they had shattered the boom, forced their way into the har-
bor and landed their troops!
Although many of the more colorful exploits of the in-
vaders involve the crews of the little thirty-six-foot invasion
barges, it should not be forgotten that the Coast Guard pro-
vided the officers and crews for many of the larger types of
invasion craft the 330-foot LST's which can and did cross
the Atlantic under their own power and yet were of suffi-
ciently shallow draft to run right up on the beaches of Sicily
and Italy to disgorge substantial numbers of medium tanks,
ready for the fight; and the smaller LCFs, likewise ocean-
going craft designed to land approximately 200 fully
equipped fighting men on hostile shores.
When the history of the current war is written, it may
well be that the development of these unique landing craft
will rank with such military turning points as the invention
of the tank in World War I. Certainly the conduct of am-
phibious warfare against Fortress Europe would not have
been possible without them., at least with such relatively
small losses to the attackers as have been experienced to date.
It was in the invasion of Sicily that these new craft got
their first test under actual battle conditions and they came
through with flying colors, both literally and figuratively.
Built in the United States in one of the most remarkable
emergency ship-construction programs that the pages of his-
tory have to offer, the LST's and the LCI's crossed the At-
lantic several months before the assault on Sicily was
For the most part they traveled a southern course and
thereby escaped much bad weather. Nevertheless their shal-
low draft made it inevitable that they would be rough riders,
and the way their officers and crews roll their eyes skyward
when the subject is mentioned indicates how they feel about
it. To hear them tell it, the little Canadian corvettes which,
someone said, "will roll on wet grass," are churchlike in
their stability by comparison.
On the other hand, the men who sail them are just as
quick to laud their performances in the task for which they
were specifically designed landing on enemy-held beaches.
In contrast to the lightly opposed landings in Sicily, the
invasion of Italy by the American-British Fifth Army was
bitterly contested by the Germans. In addition to mines
and strong points on the beaches, the Germans had many
cunningly devised gun positions in the surrounding hills
which also commanded the beaches. Employing tricks they
used in Tunisia, particularly at the Kasserine Pass, they used
small caves in which to hide their vicious 88's. Even then-
muzzle flashes could not be seen, making it difficult to lo-
cate them and even more difficult to knock them out. Seven
days after the initial landings, some of those hidden batter-
ies still were pouring a deadly fire into the beach parties;
even the concentrated, accurate fire of warships could not
Coupled with the fanatical vigor with which the Luft-
waffe pounded the invasion barges, these hidden batteries
made the fighting around Salerno the fiercest that many of
our men had encountered up to that time.
Lieutenant Howard L. Kleinoeder of Seattle, who com-
manded one of the LCI's, reported on his return to this
country that the German fliers were almost foolhardy in
their daring and persistence.
"They fought as if the fate of Europe hinged on the out-
come of the Salerno battle," he said, a and they took one
chance after another. They seemed to be doubling their
efforts to make up for the surrender of the Italians, subject-
ing the invasion flotillas to repeated bombing and strafing
At one point, two Coast Guard invasion craft were lying
offshore early in the invasion when a Messerschmitt-iop
swooped down low over the stern of the nearest ship and
approached the second on the beam about amidships. It
was Kleinoeder's LCI that the plane was after and all the
German's guns were blazing almost at point-blank range.
The Coast Guard gun crews were fighting back, however,
and succeeded in blasting the onrushing plane right out of
the air. But not, however, before six members of the LCI's
crew had been wounded.
There were times, Kleinoeder related, when the strength
of the enemy seemed an impossible barrier, particularly
those camouflaged 88's. A shot from one of them went
through the bridge of a landing craft in his group, pene-
trating the bulkhead near the wheel, whizzing past the
helmsman and then tearing through another bulkhead near
the engine-room telegraph where a second man missed death
only because he dropped to the deck instinctively.
The beach at Salerno was particularly good for the land-
ing craft, shelving steeply from the water's edge, Kleinoeder
said. That enabled the bows of the landing barges to be
run right up on dry sand while still leaving plenty of water
under the stern so that when the powerful Diesels were put
in reverse, they could pull the ship back off the beach.
"That's important to us," Kleinoeder said, "because our
missions always call for more than one landing. It's not just
a case of getting one load ashore and then abandoning the
Enemy-held beaches were not the only sources of peril
to the Coast Guard's Invaders either. They shared the dan-
gers of the men in the ships in which they crossed the seas
to those beaches, and in all too many cases, died with them.
The night the destroyer Little went down was a case in
The "Mighty Little," as her crew called her, was an old
four-piper destroyer which had been converted into a Marine
transport and had carried Leathernecks to Tulagi for the
initial invasion of the Solomons. Coast Guard Invaders had
handled the Higgins boats in which the Marines made the
trip from the Little to the beach.
Twenty-one-year-old Boatswain's Mate Robert Schindler
of Bayonne, New Jersey, one of the Invaders, recalled that
there wasn't much trouble on that first landing. In fact, the
Little shuttled around in the Solomons for a month without
running into anything she couldn't take care of. One night,
however, after they'd been circling slowly around in the
harbor so as not to make too good a target for Jap subs,
general quarters sounded. Unidentified craft had been de-
tected approaching and all hands were ordered to battle
stations. Schindler was an ammunition passer for one of the
Followed closely by the Gregory, a destroyer-transport of
the same vintage, the Little tore out of the harbor at top
speed in an effort to intercept the newcomer. The crew
more or less expected it would turn out to be another Ameri-
can unit. The same thing had happened before, so they
weren't particularly keyed up.
Theirs was a false sense of security that time, for out of
the inky South Pacific night a dim shape loomed and just
about the time the Little got within range, the shape belched
tongues of flame. It was a Jap cruiser bombarding Tulagi.
As it happened, the Japs were so intent on their deviltry that
they didn't spot the onrushing United States destroyer at
once. The Little veered off sharply so as to bring her bow
and stern guns to bear. Just then a star shell split the dark-
ness and the entire area was illuminated. A Jap searchlight
snapped on, its blinding beam smack on the Little. The
Gregory's automatic weapons hammered at the light.
The Japs were working too, for a salvo of eight-inch shells
slammed across the Little's deck about six inches high!
"It was a miracle," said Schindler. "They missed every-
Such luck couldn't last at that range, though, and an-
other salvo of three eight-inchers caught the after deck-
house besides which Schindler and some thirty of his mates
had been crouched a short time before.
Schindler felt himself picked up from the deck and hurled
through the air. His last conscious thought was that at any
rate he wouldn't have to worry about being churned to
death by his own ship's propellers. When he came to in the
water, the destroyer was burning fiercely but some of her
guns still were barking defiantly at the Jap.
In addition to being blown overboard, Schindler was lit-
erally filled with shrapnel by the salvo which hit the Little's
deckhouse. Navy surgeons dug about sixty pieces out of
him when he finally got back to San Diego and even then
they didn't have it all One of his forefingers was hanging
by a thread when he regained consciousness in the water
and he could feel a piece of shrapnel in his scalp. Still the
Japs weren't satisfied, for when a searchlight picked him up
as he floated in his tattered life jacket they opened up on him
with a machine gun. Fortunately they hit him no more.
With Guadalcanal about seven miles away, afraid to call
for help lest he betray his presence to the Japs, Schindler put
in several hellish hours before he managed to attract the at-
tention of other survivors on a life raft and was hauled
aboard. Once during the depths of his despair in the night,
he tried to drown himself but the sea water merely made
Finally a plane located them huddled on the raft and
sent rescuers to them. Aboard a transport and awaiting
medical attention, Schindler delightedly discovered that the
"doc" was the one from the Little who also had been saved.
He not only dressed Schindler's wounds but rigged a splint
for his shattered finger out of a coat hanger and now "it's
just about as good as new."
BLUIE WEST ONE
"~ ARLY in the war the Army Air Forces realized the
""*" need for adequate, accurate weather reports from
^ Greenland. Where the Germans wanted the infor-
mation to enable them to plan air raids on Britain well in
advance, the AAF wanted it in connection with prospective
ferrying of bombers to Britain.
The story of how the Air Forces set about getting the data
is one which evokes many a chuckle in the wardrooms of
Coast Guard ships.
With great secrecy, so the story goes, the AAF assembled
a group of technicians in Washington one day and, behind
carefully guarded doors, told them they had been chosen
for an all-important mission but one which would impose
great physical strain upon them. They were to go to Green-
land to man lonely weather-reporting stations there.
In due course they embarked for Greenland with every-
thing about their mission still very hush-hush and in due
course they arrived at the first port of call on their itinerary.
As they were moving into the harbor they got the surprise
of their lives, for rising into the Arctic air was an observa-
tion balloon with a barograph attached exactly the same
BLUIE WEST ONE
equipment they had come hundreds of miles to put into
Someone in Washington had forgotten that, months be-
fore, the Coast Guard had ferried Army instructors around
to most of the Danish hamlets on the coast of Greenland for
the purpose of instructing the local radio operators in the
collection of the desired meteorological data.
The Coast Guard soon had reason to be glad, however,
that the expedition of weather observers had arrived when
it did, for the men proved of immense aid in effecting the
rescue of Army fliers from the treacherous Greenland icecap
some of the most dramatic rescues which history has to
Here, again, is an example of the Coast Guard's readiness
and ability to meet a wartime emergency* When the need
arose, even in faraway Greenland, the Coast Guard lived up
to its motto.
Credit for the preparedness in that theatre, incidentally, is
due in large measure to one man about whom the public
knows little or nothing Rear Admiral Ed. H. (Iceberg)
Smith, first commander of the Greenland Patrol.
Long before war came to America, Smith had been con-
vinced of the strategic importance of Greenland to the
United States and especially of the vulnerability to attack of
the northeast coast of Greenland. He had made a close study
of the subject on two Arctic cruises of the Northland prior
to the one on which the Nazi radio station was seized and
destroyed. Then he prepared a detailed report of his find-
ings and it was submitted to the Navy Department.
"Okay/ 5 said the Navy, in effect. "The job is yours. Do
something about it."
In short order thereafter, "something" was done. Smith
was placed in command of the operation, later attaining the
rank of Rear Admiral, and three ships were assigned to him
for the Greenland Patrol. Today he has some forty craft of
all types in his force, some Coast Guard and some Navy. He
is the only Coast Guard admiral afloat and the only officer
of that service commanding an area.
Smith took his original three vessels, the Northland, the
North Star and Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd's old polar
ship, the Bear, and headed north. He established headquar-
ters on the west coast of Greenland at a location known in
the service as "Bluie West One."
Operating in the hemisphere's northernmost waters was
nothing new to the Coast Guard. For years it had been
given the job of maintaining the Ice Patrol in the North At-
lantic, watching and reporting the location and course of
icebergs which would be a menace to shipping. In Alaskan
waters it had run the Bering Sea Patrol, which among other
things had the responsibility of dealing with Japanese poach-
ers in the salmon and seal preserves.
Consequently, when the Navy wanted a job done in the
Greenland area, it was only natural that the Coast Guard
should be called upon to do it.
BLUIE WEST ONE
However none of Its former experiences In the Arctic com-
pared In scope, importance or difficulty with what it was up
against this time. In the first place It never had operated on
a year-round basis in the Greenland area. Always in the
past it had followed the local custom of "getting the hell out
of there" by the end of September so as not to get caught in
the ice. Now it not only had to stay in there for the duration,
but it had to operate a sizable shore establishment, which in-
cluded aviation facilities, and engage in a wide variety of
unfamiliar activities such as rescue expeditions on the icecap.
The job put the courage and endurance of both officers
and men to the severest tests at times, for they had to oper-
ate in weather conditions which they maintain cannot be
matched anywhere in the world. Hundred-mile-an-hour
gales were not uncommon. One young lieutenant who had
command of a small patrol craft told of being in a blow in
the Hudson Bay area during which the force of the wind
ashore reached 178 miles an hour.
"And it was dying down by the time it reached shore,"
Instead of getting back to their main base at least every
three months, the cutter's crews sometimes were away as
much as ten months at a time.
One day, while making routine visits to some of the small
hamlets or hunting establishments along the coast, the
Northland got word that three Canadian fliers were down
on the icecap at a point well up on the west coast of the
island. She at once got under way for the location named in
the hope of taking the victims aboard.
Lieutenant Skinner, the lad who participated in the seiz-
ure of the Nazi's radio station, was now the cutter's naviga-
tor. In peacetime his toughest navigation problem doubtless
was in finding his way around the catacomblike basement
of the National Capitol. Consequently he was more than a
little jittery at the prospect of taking the ship into those com-
paratively unknown waters.
To make matters as bad as possible, the weather closed in
and for four days Carl couldn't get a shot at either the sun
or the stars with his sextant, and of course there were no
radio navigation aids for him to fall back on. His only
course was the nautical process of "standing on and off"
running in to where the shore line was believed to be, tak-
ing soundings at frequent intervals and hoping for a sight
of the coast which might give them a bearing. They were
looking for the entrance to an unnamed bay, and although
Skinner was privately scared stiff that his position by dead
reckoning was wrong, unless he was formally relieved of
his job and that fact noted in the ship's log, his word was
law as to the course. Occasionally peaks or headlands would
loom up through the fog and usually precipitated an argu-
ment on the bridge as to their identities.
No one knew for sure, though, and the nervous strain was
As it was, on the fourth day they managed to hit the right
BLUIE WEST ONE
spot a large and almost landlocked inlet which they named
Pollard Bay in honor of the cutter's captain.
There was no sign of the Canadian aviators, however, and
the rescue party had the distressing feeling of being too late.
They scanned the shore line on either side of the glacier
which filled one end of the bay but to no avail. The fliers
either had perished or left on foot in an effort to reach some
settlement overland, it appeared.
As the cutter was about to leave, however, a lookout
"Light on the glacier!"
Binoculars were trained on the river of ice and, sure
enough, right at its edge, where huge sections were likely to
break off and plunge into the water at any moment, a small
fire burned. Three figures were gesticulating wildly beside
it. The fliers had been found.
Later it was learned that when they failed by every other
means at their command to attract the attention of those on
the ship, the desperate airmen had stripped off their parkas,
without which they could not hope to survive long, and
made a bonfire of them!
By means of a blinker signal, which the plane's radioman
could read, the cutter directed the trio to make their way to
the shore line where a boat picked them up and rushed them
to the warmth and security of the ship. They had been
down on the icecap for eight weeks and were suffering from
frozen hands and feet.
Typical of the youngsters who are carrying on the air war
against the enemies of democracy, the fliers included a
schoolteacher, a meat salesman and a lad who had been in
school when he answered his country's call. They didn't lose
any of their hands or feet as a result of the frostbite, fortu-
nately, but they'll never again be able to stand much cold
because the tissues have lost their resistance to it.
Use of the Greenland route for ferrying planes to Europe
has been one of the principal reasons, obviously., for the
maintenance of the Coast Guard's patrol up there. Not
merely for the dramatic business of rescuing fliers forced
down-, but for the mundane but no less important task of
keeping the air bases and collateral establishments supplied.
This meant convoy duty of the most difficult nature, in
which the deadly ice pack and savage, unpredictable storms
were even greater menaces than the U-boats.
They had their troubles with the underseas raiders, never-
theless, as the latter tried to interfere with the shipments of
critical cryolite from the mines near Ivigtut.
One day, however, one of the subs made a sad mistake.
It began trailing the Northland while the latter was on a
routine observation detail. The cutter had been plying a
fixed course for several hours and the U-boat apparently be-
lieved it was headed up the coast for a rendezvous with some
possibly important shipping, so it tagged along.
At the end of the run, though, the cutter had completed
its observations and reversed its course, intending to head
r. .S". Coast Guard Photo
WAR CLOUDS OFF SICILY
U. S. Coast Guard gunners tensely study the lowering skies tor enemy planes.
U. S, Coast Guard Photo
FROM THE DECK OF A COAST GUARD-MANNED TRANSPORT
The bomb-pocked waters off Sicily during the invasion.
UNDERNEATH DROPPING BOMBS
U. S. Coast Guardsmen and Navy beach battalion men are shown hugging
the shaking beach at Paestum, Italy, as a Nazi bomber unloads on them.
U. S. Coast Guard Photo
MOVING UP AT SALERNO
U. S. troops marching up the Salerno shore. Coast Guard-manned landing
craft that brought them ashore are visible in the background.
back to its base. Almost immediately the sound gear de-
tected the presence of the apparently unsuspecting subma-
rine which had been following outside the sound range. It
was promptly the target for a terrific depth-charge attack.
At full speed, which was scarcely great enough to take it out
of range of the explosions of its own ash cans, the Northland
laid several patterns of the sub-busters over the area,, and
while they didn't bring back the captain's pants as proof of
the sub's destruction, the Northland's officers and men who
were aboard at the time have been authorized to wear on
their campaign ribbons the insignia of a successful attack on
It was in the rescue of stranded airmen, however, that the
men of the Greenland Patrol most closely approximated the
"mercy sailors" of the peacetime Coast Guard*
Early in the summer of 1942 a formation of Lightning
P-38 fighter planes, equipped with belly tanks, were being
flown to Britain across the Greenland icecap. Because a
fighter-plane pilot has neither the room nor the equipment
to work out long-distance navigation problems while in
flight, the P-38's were being led along the course by an Army
bomber. It was strictly a case of follow the leader, so when
the bomber was forced down on the icecap, the fighters had
no option but to follow suit. They could not find their own
way either to Britain or back to any American base.
In all, there were twenty-six men down on the ice. They
were located by searching planes and food and clothing
were dropped to them. There was only one way for them to
get out, however, and that was by a long, hazardous trek
over the crevasse-filled icecap. They needed guides and dog
teams, if possible, and it was up to the Coast Guard to get
Iceberg Smith gave the necessary orders and a converted
Chesapeake fishing craft set out from Iceland with the only
available dog team and a couple of Army Air Force men.
The Northland picked up some more of the Air Force
weather-reporting group and followed.
Much of the epic struggle of those stranded fliers against
the Arctic already has been told, but when they finally set
out for the cutter they were loaded down with personal gear.
And, of course, they lugged their secret bombsights, the
famous "Blue Ox," each in its little zippered bags. As they
trudged wearily over the glacier's white but treacherous
surface, they began jettisoning their belongings anything
that added weight, like pistols, binoculars, etc. By the time
they reached the coast they had little but the clothing they
stood in and their bombsights.
"We got no loot out of them at all," recalled a Coast
Guardsman from the Northland. "They were the healthiest-
looking bunch of disaster victims I have ever seen, though.
You see, the sun shone for almost twenty-four hours a day
at that time and they all had acquired beautiful coats of tan."
Naturally, such colorful episodes are few and far between
in the life of the Greenland Patrol. Monotony is the usual
BLUIE WEST ONE
fare. However, when there were no rescues to perform, the
men devised a variety of ways to entertain themselves. Oc-
casionally, for example, they would go ashore and play
baseball. In one such game, played well above the Arctic
Circle, the Northland's engineers beat the deck force, nine
During ice-breaking operations, devotees of winter sports
used to leave the ships and go skiing.
"When you're ice-breaking," one officer explained, "about
all you need is an ensign on the bridge and an engine-room
force. Everybody else can go below or ashore."
Captain von Paulsen, who usually alternated with Admiral
Smith as the Patrol's S.O.P.A. senior officer present afloat
spent much of his spare time excavating in old Eskimo
graveyards. There have been no Eskimos in that part of
Greenland for a couple of hundred years, so he had no fear
of offending any bereaved relatives.
A subordinate estimated that von Paulsen had dug around
in as many as 200 ancient Eskimo graveyards. His cabin
usually was well stocked with polished skulls and guests
frequently were startled as they sat down to the captain's
table by the sight of a candle flickering in the grinning skull
of some long-dead Eskimo.
Von Paulsen, it may be seen, is one of the Coast Guard's
most colorful characters who wins the admiration of his men
through sheer leadership. A typical example of how he op-
erates was furnished one day when a motor surfboat went
aground on a sand bar. Von Paulsen was the first man over
the side in the waist-deep, icy water to lighten the boat and
get her back into deep water. Needless to say, none o the
men had to be ordered to imitate him.
Earlier in his career, von Paulsen was an aviator and there's
a story about him when he commanded the Coast Guard air
station at Miami which certainly merits retelling.
Word reached him one day that a child had gone adrift
in a rowboat and apparently had been swept out to sea. Von
Paulsen got into a plane and searched the area until he lo-
cated the rowboat and its terrified occupant. The wind had
increased so 3 however, that the curling, white-capped seas
were a positive danger to the youngster. The rowboat might
capsize at any moment,, so there was no time to wait for sur-
face craft to come up. The water was too rough for von
Paulsen's seaplane to land and take off., so there was only
one other course. He put the plane down in a crash landing,
jumped clear and swam to the rowboat.
Once aboard, he found there were no oars, so he ripped a
seat from the thwarts and used it to paddle ashore!
Von Paulsen doesn't stand on much ceremony in the
Arctic. His uniform often consists of unpressed slacks and a
sweater or windbreaker, a battered cap and a pair of wooden-
soled Danish shoes which he got from the Busfo. On occa-
sions, this completely "non-reg" attire has brought confusion
to younger and junior Navy officers who mistook him for a
rather untidy member of the Northland's crew.
BLUIE WEST ONE
Take the case of the skipper of a Navy tanker from which
the cutter was getting fuel one day. Von Paulsen was loung-
ing around the deck watching the fueling operation but, as
is his custom, not interfering with his officers. The captain
of the tanker, a commander, may have noticed the oddly
dressed character, and he may not. At any rate he sent word
a little later that he would like to have the cutter's captain
make a formal call.
"Oh, he would, would he?" said von Paulsen with heavy
sarcasm. Actually, according to naval etiquette, it was the
tanker captain's place to make a courtesy call on the senior
"Tell him that the cutter's captain will be happy to ac-
cept," von Paulsen directed. Then he had his cabin boy
break out his best uniform the one with the newest and
shiniest four gold stripes on the sleeves.
Just what occurred when he walked into the cabin of the
tanker's three-striped skipper is not recorded but the cutter's
wardroom made due note of the fact that later in the day
the tanker captain sent over a big basket of fresh fruit for
the cutter's junior officers and invited all hands to attend the
movies that night aboard the tanker.
Like all good commanders, von Paulsen had a faculty for
knowing what was going on all over his ship without get-
ting the reputation of a snooper. He had a habit of turning
up at the most unexpected times and places, though, and the
men knew they couldn't put anything over on him.
One day a loquacious petty officer was literally peeling
paint off the bulkheads with his profanity. Inspired by some
job his working party had been given to do. In the midst
of his outburst, the captain's quiet voice floated down from
"That's not very good cursing, young man, even if cursing
were permitted in a working party."
Cutters on the Greenland Patrol often have strange experi-
ences which have nothing to do with the war. One time,
for example, the Northland was sent to take supplies in to
the little Eskimo village of Scoresby Sound, a fjord which
runs some 120 miles in from the sea and where you can still
have 900 fathoms of water under your keel at its head. No
ship had been able to get in for a long time and the natives
were in grave danger of starvation if they had to go through
another winter without fresh supplies.
An offshore wind was blowing at the time the Northland
reached the point where it would enter the Sound and the
officers knew that the ice pack would be open sufficiently to
permit their passage. As long as the wind held, they would
be all right. Otherwise they might be in danger of having
the ice close in behind them and seal them there for the
And, sure enough, just about the time they reached the
village, the wind shifted! They estimated they had a maxi-
mum of twenty-four hours in which to unload the supplies,
which included a deckload of about sixty tons of coal.
BLUIE WEST ONE
The old mayor of the village, Hendrik Hoegh, a dignified
and intelligent Greenlander, told the Coast Guardsmen that
for the preceding two months he had daily climbed the
2 ? ooo-foot mountain behind the village to watch for a ship.
He knew, he said, that his people were doomed if outside
aid did not come.
When the Northland tied up and was ready to unload,
all the young women of the village, from age eight to
eighteen, came down to help. But the male natives merely
looked on. Realizing the need for speed, the Coast Guard
officer in charge of the unloading was incensed at this lack of
co-operation from the village menfolk. Finally he picked up
a sack and flung it across the shoulders of one of them and
ordered him to get going. The native indignantly hurled
the sack to the ground and strode off to complain to the
A solemn conference of the natives ensued and finally
Mayor Hoegh came down to the ship. Very apologetically
he conceded that the Coast Guardsmen were right. After
all, they were working at the unloading and they were doing
it for his people, not for themselves. But, unfortunately, it
was the tradition of his village and his people generally that
the women did all the work. The men were hunters and
However, as a special concession in view of the emer-
gency, his men had agreed to help.
And they did, but what the amazed Coast Guardsmen
saw next was the husky native men solemnly lifting the
sacks and packages and placing them securely on the shoul-
ders or backs of the little girls, who then carried them up
the hill to the village!
One day in the spring of 1943 the cutter Escanaba was
lying in a Greenland harbor waiting to escort a convoy, in-
cluding a large transport, back to the United States. Below
decks some of the crew were listening to the Berlin radio
the music was better than on any of the other stations they
Suddenly the men were startled to hear the name of the
transport in their convoy mentioned.
It was the infamous Lord Haw-Haw speaking, and he de-
scribed the ship, told what she had been doing in the pre-
ceding months, where she was at the moment and declared
"she will not reach the United States!"
Of course such talk was regarded more as propaganda
than anything else, but, nevertheless, the commander of the
escort group alerted all his ships, put their crews on "six
hours on and six off" watches with the sound gear operating,
while still in port. His precaution was sound because an
Army transport plane on the way in to a landing reported
spotting a sub a short distance outside the anchorage.
"We had trouble with the U-boats for about eighteen hours
solid after we got under way," a crew member said. "No-
body got any sleep in that time, but at least we had the sat-
isfaction of knowing that the subs could not get at the
BLUIE WEST ONE
transport to make Lord Haw-Haw's prediction come true."
About the end of the second day out., the Escanaba's skip-
per told his crew that those not on watch could stay in their
bunks to make up for lost sleep, relieving them of the ne-
cessity of turning to for scrubbing decks and similar off-
watch chores. They didn't even have to get up for chow un-
less they chose.
About 5:00 A.M. of the third day out, therefore, only a
handful of the officers and men were on duty. A tall, dark-
haired seaman, second, who looks startlingly like Victor Ma-
ture had the wheel. He was Raymond O'Malley.
"The sound gear picked up a contact that sounded a little
like machine-gun fire," O'Malley said. "It was bright day-
light then, because of the Arctic sun's position above the
horizon twenty-four hours a day at that time of the year,
but nobody reported anything out of the ordinary nothing
like torpedo wakes or anything like that."
As soon as the contact was picked up, however, the
skipper and the "exec" who were sleeping in the small
emergency cabin aft of the wheel house, were roused and
immediately came on the bridge, pulling on life jackets as
they ran. The OD (Officer of the Deck) and the others had
their heads stuck out the battle ports, trying to see if they
could spot anything that would account for the contact.
In a matter of seconds there was a terrific explosion.
"The next thing I knew," recalled O'Malley, "the exec
was dead and the OD's face was covered with blood,
"I still had the wheel It was my job to stay right on the
course until the OD gave me instructions which way to
swing the ship. When he spoke, however, it was to order
me to get out on the wing of the bridge and man one of the
"I just had time to reach for my life jacket and pull it on
when the water hit me. The ship went down in less than
twenty seconds. The torpedo had hit her just abaft amid-
ships and broken her in half.
"I was on the bridge wing when the water hit me but I
had time to see the stick [mast] falling before I went under.
I went down a second time with the ship, but was blown to
the surface by the underwater explosion of her boilers.
"The water didn't feel cold although I learned afterward
that it was logged at thirty-three degrees.
"In the water around me I saw the skipper and a couple
of other enlisted men. The skipper advised us to swim for
a strongback [a wooden boom used to lash the ship's life-
boats to for support] and to stick together.
"I got to the strongback but my hands already had begun
to freeze so that I couldn't move the fingers. I just was able
to throw a clove hitch around one wrist and lash myself to
the strongback when I passed out."
It was an hour and three minutes after the explosion that
O'Malley and one other seaman, Melvin A. Baldwin, Boat-
swain's Mate, second, were hauled aboard a rescue vessel, a
seagoing tug which had been in the convoy. Both men were
BLUIE WEST ONE
unconscious for several hours after their rescue and medical
officers told them that another five minutes in the icy water
would have finished them.
Baldwin had been asleep in his bunk when the torpedo
hit. To this day he doesn't know how he managed to get
out of the forecastle although, with a grin, he concedes that
there wasn't anyone ahead of him on the ladder. Neverthe-
less, his escape is one of those inexplicable mysteries of the
sea, for the Escanaba had disappeared from view even before
those on the other ships in the convoy had heard the noise
of the torpedo's explosion.
O'Malley says the only reason that Baldwin is alive is that
his arm froze to the strongback, preventing him from sink-
ing into the sea when he lost consciousness.
Following the Escanaba 3 loss, the Navy revealed that she
had been one of the two Coast Guard cutters which rescued
some 230 passengers and crew of a transport torpedoed and
sunk in the North Atlantic the preceding winter. The Es-
canaba 's skipper, Lieutenant Commander Carl Uno Peter-
son, was posthumously awarded the Legion of Merit by
Admiral Royal E. Ingersoll, Commander-in-Chief of the At-
lantic Fleet, for his part in the rescue. Five other officers and
men received either the Navy and Marine Corps medal or
letters of commendation.
For more than eight hours in absolute darkness and in
constant danger of submarine attack, the Escanaba kept at
the rescue operation. During that time three men selected
to serve as "retrievers/ 3 dressed in robber suits and with lines
about their shoulders, swam long distances from the cutter's
side to bring back men on rafts or in the icy water who were
unable to help themselves. They spent about four hours in
the water, saving many men who otherwise would have per-
One survivor fell from a crowded boat before he could be
lifted aboard the cutter. His body was covered with oil,
making it impossible for the others in the boat to haul him
back. Ensign Richard A. Arrighi, one of the retrievers, saw
what was wrong and soon rescued the man by swimming
between the boat and the cutter although he was in constant
peril of being crushed against the cutter's hull by the heavy
Constant maneuvering of the cutter was necessary during
the rescue operations subjecting the men in the water to an
added hazard the danger of being caught by the ship's
propeller. Two enlisted men, Arrighi's fellow retrievers,
saved many of the floating survivors from being caught in
the propeller's suction. One of them swam right in under
the ship's counter to retrieve a raft loaded with survivors.
One of the petty officers aboard the ship which rescued
O'Malley and Baldwin was Victor Mature, the movie star,
who so frequently portrays the part of a conceited young
When he showed up aboard a cutter assigned to the Green-
land Patrol, he was wearing the insignia of a boatswain's
BLUIE WEST ONE
mate, first class. Naturally, he was in for a rawhiding from
many of the old-timers who lost no opportunity to needle
him about the fact that they had won their stripes "the hard
Scuttlebutt has it that Mature took the ribbing in good
part for a time but finally it began to get under his skin.
One day in port he announced that he was going up on the
dock and any so-and-so who had anything more to say about
him or the way he got his rating could come up and say it to
him then, or else button up. But, he'd better come up fight-
Some sources say he had to slap a couple of the lads
around a bit before he finally was accepted on other merits
than those of an actor.
He was only in the service a short time when quite a
legend was being built up around him. Take the time he
was ordered to Washington, for example, to participate in a
war-bond selling drive.
When he arrived at the airport an officer was there to meet
him. Mature got off the plane and the officer noticed that he
"Where's your hat?" the officer asked. "You can't go
around Washington without a hat."
"You know what, Jack?" inquired Mature, calling the of-
ficer by his first name. "I can't keep a hat to save my soul.
The dames keep snatching them wherever I go. I've lost
thirty-seven hats that way!"
"I don't care how you lost them/ 5 the officer said. "Get a
hat but quick.**
"Now look/ 5 protested Mature. "I've been traveling with-
out one for the last six or eight hours with Russ and he
hasn't objected yet, so why should you?"
The officer's jaw dropped, for when he looked in the di-
rection of Mature's gesture toward "Russ," he discovered
that it was none other than Vice Admiral Russell Randolph
Waesche, commandant of the Coast Guard, to whom Ma-
As stated earlier, one of the missions of the Greenland
Patrol was to protect the ships carrying ore from the cryolite
mine near Ivigtut, up on the West Coast of Greenland. As
a matter of fact, the United States took an intense and un-
usual interest in the security not only of the ore shipments
but of the mine itself well in advance of the establishment of
The mine is operated by the Pennsylvania Salt Company
of Philadelphia, but it was not the American capital in the
mine that inspired the government's solicitude. It was the
fact that the Ivigtut mine was the principal source of cryolite
and, at that time, cryolite was vitally essential to the produc-
tion of aluminum, being used in a molten bath to extract
aluminum from bauxite.
In those days, when the expansion of the aircraft industry
was just getting under way and grave doubts existed as to
BLUIE WEST ONE
whether there would be sufficient aluminum to meet the
need, the Germans could have dealt a damaging if not crip-
pling blow by interrupting or eliminating the production o
that one mine. Since then, fortunately, the aluminum in-
dustry is not so dependent upon cryolite. New processes
have been found and, like the Germans, we have developed
synthetic substitutes for cryolite.
However, in 1939-1940 one cryolite ship was regarded as
worth "ten tankers" by many interested persons and they lost
no time in impressing that fact upon the government.
One day, after the Greenland Patrol had been set up, a
young Coast Guard officer whose ship called at Ivigtut got
a somewhat startling insight into just how well the govern-
ment had been impressed. He was taken up to the cryolite
mine and, while being shown around the premises, noticed
that a number of steps had been taken to defend the mine
For one thing, there was an antiaircraft gun near by which
had a familiar look.
"Isn't that an American gun?" he asked.
"Yes, sir," spoke up a competent-looking individual, his
perfect English causing the Coast Guard officer some sur-
prise. "It's a Coast Guard gun. I used to be in the Coast
Guard, sir, until I came up here!"
It was quite true. The cutter Campbell had delivered the
gun to Ivigtut sometime previously and, following the same
procedure that was used by the Army and Navy to provide
competent airmen for Chennault's Flying Tigers in China,,
the Coast Guard had permitted a number of its most dis-
creet noncommissioned gunnery officers to resign from the
service and sign on at substantial boosts in pay as mem-
bers of the gun crew to protect the cryolite mine.
Since then, of course, the Army has taken over the de-
fense of Greenland and that arrangement has been termi-
When the Greenland Patrol was established, one of the
first things Admiral Smith and his men had to do was to
begin hydrographic surveys of the area, for the available
American maps and charts were of little value. The Danish
government had just completed a fine hydrographic survey
of Greenland before the Nazis occupied Denmark, but un-
fortunately all the data had been sent to Copenhagen and
fell into the hands of the Germans. So there was no ques-
tion but that when the Germans began laying plans for lo-
cation of weather stations and other facilities in Greenland,
they had better charts to work from than probably will be
available to the Coast Guard for some time to come.
To overcome this lack of pilotage data, Admiral Smith
assigned several of his ships exclusively to hydrographic sur-
vey work. One of them was die famous Arctic exploration
vessel, the Eowdom, which is owned by Commander Donald
B. MacMillan. For a time MacMillan skippered the Bow-
doin in her Greenland Patrol duties for it was only on those
terms that he agreed to turn her over to the Coast Guard.
BLUIE WEST ONE
In gathering up ships for Ms little fleet, Smith acquired a
number of erstwhile steam fishing trawlers and their skip-
pers. The latter weren't so hot on paper work and naval
regulations, and inspecting officers frequently found the pa-
per work pretty badly fouled up when they came aboard.
But when there was dirty duty to be performed, when sea-
manship was the prime requisite, Admiral Smith knew he
could always count on the trawlers and their skippers to
There was a tragic illustration of that in December of
1942. The pack ice had closed in on the northeast coast of
Greenland, making operations afloat there impossible. Three
of the ships in the patrol two wooden-hulled former trawl-
ers and a steel-hulled Navy tug had been in the area for
many months and it was decided to send them back to the
States. By routing them through the Strait of Belle Isle be-
tween Newfoundland and Labrador, it was just possible that
the ships would be, able to get back home by Christmas.
They got under way together, but since the wooden ships
were faster than the steel one, the latter soon was left behind.
The weather began to get bad and up in that part of the
world, where the Gulf Stream and the Labrador current
virtually collide, icing conditions are particularly bad in the
winter months. Moisture forms on the superstructure of the
ships and quickly freezes. Enough of the resultant ice top-
sides can be fatal to almost any ship, so the wise skipper
takes every precaution to prevent that happening.
Commanding one of the wooden ex-trawlers was an old-
time fisherman. He had been sailing off the Grand Banks
for years, so he knew the score. Accordingly, when the ice
began to form on his top hamper, he took direct action.
Rousing out the entire crew, he kept every man-jack chop-
ping ice for thirty-six hours almost without a letup. It was
what the boys in the Fleet call rugged duty and undoubtedly
some of those lads got so tired they wished the ship would
founder and get it finished. Somehow they managed to carry
on and their ship made port although not for Christmas.
The second ship was the NatseJ^ and as we know, she
never was heard from again. Her skipper was Tom La-
Parge, one of America's foremost mural painters, but his
seagoing experience was rather limited. Veteran Coast
Guardsmen believe that he didn't fully realize the danger
which the accumulating ice constituted and the ship simply
turned turtle before the crew could even send out a distress
Incidentally, when the Natsef^ vanished she took with her
some forty completed paintings depicting the activities of the
Coast Guard in Greenland. They were the work of a couple
of New Englanders who had been painters in civilian life
and struck up an acquaintanceship in boot camp. They are
Seaman Ben Wolf of Cape Cod and Coxswain Norman
Thomas of Portland, Maine.
They separated when they left boot camp but met again
in Greenland. Naturally impressed by the primitive beauty
BLUIE WEST ONE
of their surroundings, the pair worked in their spare time on
many paintings of the things they saw and when they had
about forty finished, they seized the opportunity to send
them back to the United States aboard the Natse^l
Because of the impossibility of patrolling the northeast
coast of Greenland during the months from September to
April in surface ships, Admiral Smith was forced to find a
substitute means of knowing what was going on in the vast
expanse of coast line that stretches up beyond Scoresby
Sound. A regular plane patrol is not possible because of the
uncertainty of the weather and yet there were hundreds of
miles of coast the section closest to Spitzbergen and Nor-
way incidentally where the Germans might make surprise
landings by plane. So Smith hit upon the idea of a sled pa-
trol to be conducted by Danish hunters or Norwegians hired
by the Danish authorities in Greenland. These hunters are
usually the only humans north of Scoresby Sound, for the
Eskimos have not inhabited that part of the island for many
years. When the Greenland Patrol was established there
were only twenty-eight persons in that entire area and not
all of them were allowed to remain. Any Norwegian who
was not in the employ of the Danes was evacuated, whether
he wanted to leave or not, because it was feared he might be
coerced by invading Germans, possibly through fear of re-
prisals against his relatives in Norway, into co-operating in
the Nazis' schemes for getting weather data out of Green-
The sled patrol worked all right for a time. The trappers,
who usually operated in pairs, sent in reports occasionally
from Danish weather-reporting stations. To keep in touch
with one another in the event of a party getting lost, they
followed a custom of leaving notes in each of the huts at
which they stopped along their trap lines, telling where they
were headed. As it developed this was a tactical error. One
day the reports ceased coming in from the sled patrol No
one knew what had happened and there wasn't much that
could be done about it, due to the difficulty of landing planes
on the ice.
The mystery finally was solved when one of the Danes
got back to a settlement on the southern coast. With him, as
a prisoner, he had a German soldier!
It was the commander of a Nazi detachment of about
eighteen men who had landed surreptitiously on an island
far up on the northeast coast of Greenland and had suc-
ceeded in capturing the entire sled patrol, one group at a
time. They surprised one outfit and then, backtracking
along the traplines and reading the notes the trappers left
for each other, the Germans were able to nab the whole
crowd about fifteen in all.
Except for one of the trappers, Eli Knudsen, who tried to
resist and was shot in his tracks, none of the sled patrolmen
was seriously mistreated. In fact, once the Germans had de-
stroyed their radio equipment, they turned the Danes loose.
The leader of the German Greenland Expedition, as the
BLUIE WEST ONE
Nazi outfit was known, was overpowered by the Dane when
they went on an exploration trip along the barren northeast
coast and although it entailed a forty-day sled trip across one
of the most forbidding bits of terrain in the world, the Nazi
was finally delivered into U. S. custody. A Navy plane was
flown over from Iceland and the German officer taken there
In May of 1943, U. S. Army Air Force planes commanded
by Colonel Bernt Balchen bombed and strafed the base
which the Germans had set up on their remote little island
and as soon as ice conditions permitted, Admiral Smith sent
die ever-ready cutters Northland and North Star in to com-
plete the destruction of the base and capture any Germans
Captain von Paulsen commanded the cutter force and a
detachment of Army ground troops who went along. The
North Star, seemingly in a repetition of the bad luck which
deprived its crew of the honor of capturing the Eus\p in the
first brush with the Nazis in Greenland, became jammed
for more than a month in the unusually heavy pack ice. The
Northland found several favorable leads and soon was
within striking distance of the base. Von Paulsen went
ashore personally to command the attack which involved a
dash across an open stretch of ice-covered but fairly level
terrain in order to come upon the enemy base from the rear.
It was hidden from the view of the attackers by a range of
No elaborate strategy was required, however, for all but
one of the Germans had disappeared. They either had been
killed in the aerial attack or been evacuated subsequently by
Von Paulsen and his men found plenty of evidence of the
accuracy of Balchen's attack. All the main buildings except
a small generator shack had been destroyed as well as the
small supply ship which had been anchored in the harbor.
From the solid construction of the damaged structures, it
was evident that the Germans had hoped to make a perma-
nent affair of the base. It included a radio station, power
house, emergency generator and radio transmitter separately
located, defensive machine-gun emplacements and food
caches. The supply ship had had telephone communication
with all the principal shore points.
Although there were no Germans at the base when the
Americans arrived, one turned up there a short time later.
He was a technician who had been back at the trappers' hut
where Knudsen had been killed but had lost his sled and
dogs through the ice and therefore could not get back to the
base until the ice went out and he could row back in a small
Thus, for the third time, the Coast Guard figured promi-
nently in preventing the Germans from establishing them-
selves on this continent. The fact that two of those attempts
had been made by radio-equipped forces in Greenland in-
dicates the importance which the Nazis attach to the pro-
BLUIE WEST ONE
curement of weather data from that area and, conversely,
the important contribution the Coast Guard is making by
denying them access to it.
Because of the size of that vast and grossly misnamed
country, Coast Guardsmen on duty in Greenland know that
the defense of the territory is neither their job nor that of the
Army units which followed them there. The real task of
both is to see to it that the system of air bases by which com-
bat planes are ferried to Britain are kept operating and sup-
"When we see those big bombers go over, even though
most of the four-engined jobs don't have to stop any more,
we know that our job is being done," said one Coast Guards-
man. "Then the long, grueling hours we put in up in that
Godforsaken territory begin to have some meaning."
In some cases, as we have seen, the "meaning" of those
bomber flights to the Coast Guard was a lot of difficult rescue
work when the planes were forced down on the icecap. On
the whole, although we may have to wait until the end of
the war for the details, the record on ferrying planes over
the northern great circle course has been exceptionally good.
In the early days of the war, when the range of fighter
planes was shorter than it is today, the need for a system of
bases between the production centers and Iceland, the last
land on the northern great-circle route to Britain, was clearly
recognized. Even before the United States got into the coi>
flict, as a matter of fact, a couple of survey expeditions were
sent to the Canadian Arctic and combed the territory pretty
thoroughly for air base sites. President Roosevelt's son, El-
liott, was along on one of the expeditions and some Ca-
nadians were a little resentful of that fact. They felt that it
was a little too obvious a form of pressure to get decisions
on base sites and related matters without going through the
customary ritual of negotiation.
Doubtless those disturbed Canadians were reading things
into the picture that actually did not exist. At any rate, all
sign of ruffled feelings long since has disappeared, aided
possibly by some assurance that Canada will fall heir to the
bases when the war is over.
A number of bases were built in the Canadian Arctic,
starting at Churchill, the Canadian railhead on Hudson
Bay. They were within easy fighter-plane range of one an-
With one or two exceptions, the bases have had little or
no use in connection with the plane flights to Britain. The
bombers didn't need them and possibly a decision to let the
British aircraft industry concentrate on the production of
fighters made it unnecessary to fly those made in the United
States across the ocean.
Nevertheless, the decision to build the bases in the Ca-
nadian Arctic added to the burdens of the Greenland Patrol
for it was up to Admiral Smith's men to get the ships carry-
ing the construction men and materials into the base sites
and, once the bases were built, to maintain the flow of food-
stuffs and other supplies to their garrisons and plane ground
As in the case of Greenland, operation of ships in the
Hudson Bay area and its approaches was difficult because
of the lack of adequate charts and the scarcity of men famil-
iar with those waters. The Hudson's Bay Company had a
steamer which used to make trips in to its trading posts and
the Canadian Government steamer Nascopie also operated
there. The crews of those vessels seldom quit, it seems, so
that the pool of men who knew the waters up there never
got very large.
Consequently, the Coast Guard had to go it alone again.
They more or less felt their way in to the various base sites,
piloting the merchant ships along with them. Little by little
they got some aids to navigation in place. These consisted
chiefly of shore markers and a few Coast Guard-manned
light-houses, because like the fjords of Greenland, the water
in the Canadian Arctic is usually too deep in which to an-
chor buoys or ships, for that matter.
In addition to escorting the supply ships in to the Hudson
Bay bases, a major part of the Coast Guard's duty there was
to use its ships as radio stations for the Army outfits building
the bases until such time as the latter could get their own
communications system in operation. Even after that time,
the Coast Guard had to assign picket boats and their crews
to each base for use as plane rescue craft or crash boats, as
they are known, and to handle the multifarious details con-
nected with the shipping operations involved. This duty,
like the rest of the work of the Greenland Patrol, devolved
upon the Coast Guard under a joint Army-Navy agreement
entered into when the operations in Greenland and the Ca-
nadian Arctic were decided upon. That agreement stipulated
that the Coast Guard would provide the ships and men that
would be needed.
Coast Guardsmen are full of wisecracks as to why the
Navy prefers to give those northern "plums" to the smaller,
though older, service but the fact is that the Coast Guard
was admirably fitted to handle the work. As a result of its
years of experience in running the International Ice Patrol
and the Bering Sea Patrol, the Coast Guard had men who
knew the score so far as operating in the Arctic was con-
cerned and who could provide at least the nucleus of the
force that ultimately was found necessary. Furthermore,, it
had at least some ships which were built or reinforced for
operating in ice.
Soon after the Coast Guard began operating in the Green-
land area, an Icelandic trawler manned mostly by Britishers
came in to Bluie East One, the base on the southeast coast
"Had you heard the Bismarc^ is loose up around here
somewhere?" one of the Englishmen inquired conversa-
It was true. The powerful, 35,ooo-ton German battleship
had slipped out of her Norwegian hideout and accompanied
BLUIE WEST ONE
by a strong escorting force was bent on raiding Allied trans-
atlantic convoys. A particular target for her doubtless was
the already heavy volume of shipping to Murmansk.
It's an old story now of how the Elsmarc\ sank the mighty
British battle cruiser Hood with almost her first salvo, send-
ing a chill of horror through the democratic nations by this
added demonstration of Nazi invincibility. What is not so
well known is a Coast Guard sidelight on the dramatic and
successful effort made by the British Royal Navy to avenge
What happened was that about the same time word of the
Bismarc^s presence in the area reached Bluie East One, a
call came for the Coast Guard to look for survivors from
eight ships reported to have been sunk en route to Mur-
mansk. Three cutters responded., including the 240-foot
The Modoc didn't find any survivors although one of the
other cutters made a brilliant rescue but she found some-
thing else not at all to her liking. First of all, a flight of six
British torpedo planes appeared in the sky one morning.
They were the old, slow Fairey Swordfish type which could
make about eighty-five knots if they had a good stiff tail
wind. To go in against an adversary such as the Bismarcl(
in those crates was worse than suicidal. And those British
pilots knew it, don't make any mistake. But they went in
and although only one of the six came back, some of them
managed to slip their "tin fish" into the Bismarck's stern
sheets and so disabled her steering gear that the British sur-
face ships ultimately were able to dispatch the Nazi.
Before making their attack on the Bismarc^ the torpedo
planes first made a run on the Modoc. Apparently they took
her for part of the German's screening force, but when they
identified her they went on about their real business. This
was the first inkling the Modoc had of what was going on.
Presently, hull down on the horizon, she spotted the Bis-
marc/t and watched the torpedo planes make their heroic
The skipper of the Modoc had no time for the drama of
the situation, needless to say, for he quickly realized that he
was smack dab in the middle of what proved to be the war's
greatest sea battle in the Atlantic! There was a pardonably
frantic note in the Modoc s radio messages which she began
to send out in plain English then, explaining that she was
on a rescue mission and had nothing to do with the impend-
A little later the Bismarc}^ broke radio silence. In what
seems in retrospect to have been a lordly, overconfident man-
ner, she told the Modoc to get the hell out of the way or else
she would not be responsible for what happened. As events
proved, the Bismarc\ was unduly concerned because nothing
happened to the Modoc. It all happened to the Bismarc^l
When men of the Greenland Patrol tell that story of the
Modoc' s predicament, they sometimes are reminded of a nar-
row squeak experienced by one of the other cutters in the
BLUIE WEST ONE
patrol. This one put into a port controlled by the British
one day and in the course of conversation about anchorages
and related matters, her navigator learned with dismay that
they had run right through a British mine field !
"Why doesn't somebody tell me these things ?" he wailed.
"We just came through the middle o that damn thing!"
"Say," gasped his informant, apparently a very practical
chap, "we'd better tell the British that their mines are in-
Strategically speaking, the Greenland Patrol is just one
link in the United Nations' all-important "Bridge of Ships"
to Europe and since no bridge is any safer than its own ap-
proaches, prompt steps had to be taken to protect the
approaches to this one, namely, the ports and water-front
facilities from which the ships start crossing the "bridge."
Soon after the United States got into the war, the job of pro-
tecting those approaches was turned over to the Coast
A TORPEDOED tanker, the Robert Tuitle, was towed
/ \ into Hampton Roads in 1942 but disaster still
-A V stalked her. The night she arrived, fire broke out
in her No. 6 hold.
When Captain Rae Hall, stocky, gray-haired and quietly
efficient Coast Guard captain o the port of Norfolk, was
notified of the blaze, the first thing he did was order ten tons
of dry ice sent to the ship's side.
Hall's first thought was that he would try putting out the
fire in the oil floating around the ship by tossing the dry ice
into the flames. Previous experiments had taught him that
in calm water, that method of fire fighting would work and
he was tiiinking of saving other valuable war shipping in the
key anchorage as much as of extinguishing the Turtle's fire.
"It took some time to get ten tons of dry ice down to the
ship," Hall told the American Merchant Marine Conference
later, "but in the meantime, we had plenty of experience
with fog nozzles and foam. When the dry ice arrived, we
had a serious explosion on the Robert Tuttle, so No. 6 was
then open and pouring out oil. The dry ice was in blocks
perhaps eighteen inches to a side, and we started throwing It
just into the tank. Inside of twenty minutes we had stopped
ail flareback explosions, and in about thirty-five minutes we
had the fire out on the ship.
"I think we would have fought that fire a long time with
fog nozzles and foam, and probably would have had the
whole harbor afire before we got through."
Incidentally, only two of the ten tons of ice Hall ordered
were used in extinguishing the fire.
While this novel fire-fighting method stamps Captain
Hall as a resourceful officer, the incident is related rather to
illustrate the manifold responsibilities imposed upon the
Coast Guard when it was entrusted with the security of the
Fortunately, harbors on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of
the United States are far from the combat zones of this war,
but they are every bit as important to the successful prosecu-
tion of the war as the very tanks and other weapons that are
used to fight It. For if anything happened to deprive our
ships of the loading and other port facilities here, it would be
well-nigh impossible to get those aforementioned weapons
to the fighting fronts.
Recognizing the need for positive steps to safeguard the
ports, President Roosevelt directed by Executive Order on
February 25, 1942, that the Secretary of the Navy take all
steps necessary to protect water-front facilities in the United
States, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands
against injury from sabotage, subversive acts, accidents or
Forthwith, the Secretary of the Navy delegated the author-
ity and responsibility thus conferred upon him to the Com-
mandant of the Coast Guard.
It was a big job. Not only must the Coast Guard patrol the
more than 50,000 miles of U. S. coast line in fair weather and
foul, but it must watch every vital dock and pier in every
major harbor. The new assignment made the Coast Guard
responsible for scrutinizing every person who set foot on any
ship or pier connected with the war effort and designated it
as the policeman and firewarden for all our water fronts.
The magnitude of the task was staggering but none knew
better than the Coast Guard how vitally important its ac-
complishment was to the war effort.
With industry, agriculture and the armed forces taxing the
nation's manpower resources to the limit, however, it was
with an understandable enthusiasm that Admiral Waesche
greeted the idea of using part-time volunteers for the port-
Much of the work fell at once upon the old Coast Guard
Reserve which had been set up in 1939 to provide a reservoir
of boats upon which the service could draw in times of emer-
gency. Born to meet a peacetime need, primarily to assist in
the dissemination of information on the rudiments of sea-
manship and rules of the road to the growing thousands of
amateur yachtsmen and motorboat owners, the Reserve lived
and expanded to perform even more vital services in war-
Still on a purely voluntary basis, literally thousands of
members of the Reserve known as the Auxiliary since the
creation of a purely military reserve can be found on duty
in or around the nation's major harbors. They go out on
regular patrols, either in their own boats or those of other
members. Lawyers, doctors, truckmen, in fact men from
almost every walk of life, are represented and they glory in
the fact that while they may be too old or otherwise disquali-
fied for military service, they are making a real contribution
to the fight against the Axis.
A Coast Guard official from Washington headquarters got
a graphic view of a cross section of the Auxiliary one day
when he boarded one of its boats in Boston harbor. Before
he had been long on the cruise, he discovered that the crew
included a bartender, an undertaker, a Protestant minister
and a Catholic priest.
By no means all of the boats which belong to the Auxiliary
they number more than 10,000 engage in patrol activities,
but they are available, just in case. Not all of die plans that
have been made for them can be revealed, either, for military
The spectacularly heroic performance of Britain's small
boatowners in the evacuation of Dunkirk will go down in
history, of course, but while no one visualizes anything like
a parallel opportunity for America's boatmen, there are possi-
He situations in which they could render tremendous ser-
In New York, for example, the Auxiliary's members have
long been planning what to do in the event that anything
should happen to the system of bridges and ferries linking
Brooklyn to Manhattan. Even a short interruption to those
services in rush hours would be crippling to the metropolis
but if the Auxiliary has anything to say, nothing like that
When the Japs struck at Pearl Harbor, the Auxiliary was
not caught napping. In the important Pacific Coast port of
San Francisco, for instance, a dozen powerboat skippers had
mustered the crews and were on patrol just in case.
As we have seen, the advent of war imposed a terrific bur-
den on the Coast Guard on the landward side of our ports
and in an effort to cope with that problem, another unique
civilian volunteer organization came into being. It is offi-
cially known now as the Coast Guard Volunteer Port Secur-
It was born in Philadelphia, the birthplace of many of our
national institutions, and originally was referred to as the
"Philadelphia Plan." It was so successful that it quickly was
adopted in major port cities like Baltimore, Cleveland, Du-
luth, Tampa, Jacksonville, and subsequently was being or-
ganized in every port city of the country.
Like the Auxiliary, it numbers men from all walks of life
HELMSMAN ON ANTISUBMARINE PATROL
U. i'. Cjast Guard Photo
GENERAL QUARTERS !
There's no time for comedy when General Quarters Is sounded aboard a
Coast Guard cutter. The smiles you see on these Coast Guardsmen mean
only that this is the moment they've been waiting for an enemy submarine
has just been detected and every man is running to his battle station. The
picture was taken aboard the cutter Spencer in the North Atlantic.
many of whom served the nation in former wars and who
want to feel that they are doing a real service In this one.
Plans for the Volunteer Reserve originated with D. Fedo-
toflF White, chairman of the British Ministry of War Trans-
port, Philadelphia committee, and Donald Jenks, assistant
director of railway transportation and supervisor of port con-
ditions for the Office of Defense Transportation. It was
natural that such a plan should stem from Philadelphia, for
even before the United States entered the war tremendous
quantities of war materials were moving seaward down the
Delaware. Saboteurs, fire and many other hazards were ever-
present threats to the security of those cargoes.
White and Jenks talked to Admiral Waesche about the
plan and found him warmly in favor of it. Authorization
for enlistment of an initial regiment of 152 officers and 1,000
men was forthcoming immediately. Two days after the an-
nouncement was broadcast that the regiment was to be
formed, more than 800 applications were received and many
others eager to join visited the offices of Harold W. Scott,
vice-president of the Pennsylvania Company, who had been
commissioned as commander of the regiment.
Bankers, clerks, professional men of many types flocked
into the new organization, particularly those who for one
reason or another could serve the country in no other way,
for besides giving them a chance to do their bit., it also was a
change from their daily routines and offered a chance of
excitement now and then. After basic training in general
fire prevention, anti-sabotage and anti-espionage and other
security work, the men are taught to handle weapons and
are instructed, too, in the proper methods of loading and
handling explosives aboard ship.
They agree in advance to stand regular watches of eight
hours every fifth or sixth day. They may be on duty aboard
a ship being loaded with munitions, patrolling a dock or
stretch of water front or merely inspecting identification
cards at a dock entrance. But whatever their task, they know
they are helping to prevent any interruption to the vitally
important flow of men and munitions to the far-flung fight-
ing fronts. They also have the satisfaction of knowing that
their performance of the work is releasing another man for
a combat post.
Although the Coast Guard's Port Security Force geared
itself from the start to combat sabotage, fire is the great and
ever-present threat to the safety of United Nations' ships and
their precious cargoes when they're in port. In the first place,
the very character of those cargoes ammunition, explosives,
aviation gasoline makes them natural fire hazards. The
speed with which ships have to be loaded in wartime ren-
ders it more difficult for the longshoremen to exercise the
proper care in their work and, what is more dangerous,
many of the latter are inexperienced persons attracted to the
water front by high wage scales.
The constant fear of the Coast Guard, for example, is that
one of those untrained dock workers will accidentally drop
a case of hand grenades or some similar Item. Then, too,
there is always the possibility that some careless worker or
crew member will drop a cigarette butt where It will do no
good. It's to guard against such accidents or mistakes that
the Port Security Force must be on its toes every minute.
In addition to fire-prevention measures, the Coast Guard
had-to be prepared to fight fires if they did get started. Con-
sequently, It has assembled the world's greatest fleet of fire-
boats. At the same time this Is written, the fleet numbers
250 such craft, equipped with the most up-to-date apparatus.
They are based in the most important ports but, of course,
that rating of some of the ports changes with the war and,
accordingly, the Coast Guard shifts its fireboats to wherever
the activity is greatest.
The men In charge of the Port Security problem maintain
a close liaison with both the Army and Navy and they know
from day to day what each of those services is planning for
the various ports. They know, too, that once the war in
Europe is over, that against Japan will grow in intensity and
port activity will shift to the Pacific Coast. They are ready
for that, also.
To provide crews for the fireboats as well as to train other
Coast Guard personnel in fire prevention and fire fighting
on shipboard, a special school was established at historic
Fort McHenry in Baltimore harbor. There the men are
taught the latest methods of combating oil fires, explosions,
how to confine a blaze to one section of a ship and a host of
"We took in a lot of firemen from municipal depart-
ments/' one Coast Guard officer related, "but just because a
man knows how to fight a house fire is no guarantee that he
can handle fires aboard a ship. We found that out."
At the Fort McHenry school, the men are trained in the
use of so-called "fog nozzles'* devices which throw water
on a stubborn fire in such a fine spray that it resembles fog
which literally blankets the blaze, reduces the temperature
In a confined space to a point where the fire fighters can get
at the blaze and employ whatever other measures are neces-
sary to extinguish it. The use of all types of chemical meth-
ods for fighting oil fires, such as carbon dioxide "foam," is
also part of the curriculum.
The fact that such training and caution pays handsome
dividends is evident in the absence of serious fires on our
Important water fronts. There have been plenty of small
ones start, but they were discovered so promptly and the
men trained to subdue them were available in such numbers
that they never had a chance. The fire on the former French
luxury liner Normandic is such a controversial subject that
this is not the place for its discussion, but in fairness to the
Coast Guard it should be said that the service was not re-
sponsible for the fighting of that fire.
When the Coast Guard was made the guardian of port
security, it had only a skeleton organization to handle it. To-
day the force engaged in that work alone Is far larger than
the entire peacetime Coast Guard. It includes more than
30,000 enlisted men, almost 2,000 harbor patrol boats and
the fireboat fleet.
In direct charge of the program are 99 Captains of the
Port in the more important harbor cities, a'nd approximately
150 Assistant Captains of the Port in places of lesser impor-
At the outset, the Coast Guard found a maze of conflicting
or overlapping regulations, frequently differing for individ-
ual ports, with which merchant ships had to comply, so one
of the first things the service did on taking over Port Secur-
ity was to issue a standardized set of regulations, greatly
reduced in number and clarified so that the masters of ships
would always know what was expected of them in any
Foreign languages presented quite a problem in this re-
spect and to meet it, the Coast Guard prepared a ten-
language poster containing some of the basic rules and
regulations. In the preparation of the poster, unique in the
number of languages used for one poster, officials ran into a
number of difficulties. For instance, they had a terrible time
in Washington trying to find a typewriter with Greek char-
acters which they could use in setting up the Greek portion
of the poster. They finally found one the only one of its
kind in the city.
Because of the increasingly large number of foreign lan-
guage skippers and crews with which the Port Security
Force had to deal, the Coast Guard found itself urgently in
need of linguists and it was a source of amazement to many
of the officials that they were able to fill this need from the
ranks of their own enlisted personnel. They went into the
"boot" camps and found no difficulty in locating men who
could speak Russian, Dutch, Polish, French and all the other
United Nations' tongues. Just as soon as those men are
ready to leave the training camp, they are assigned to the
Port Security Force and detailed wherever their linguistic
abilities can best be used. On the West Coast, for example,
there was a great need for men who could speak Russian be-
cause a substantial number of Russian ships come in there.
Incidentally, not all of the Port Security Force's troubles
arc linguistic. For example, the chief engineer of a Russian
ship was on the verge of having a baby when the ship ar-
rived in the United States many Russian ships now have
women in their crews and the Port Security officers found
themselves with the task of getting an ambulance and mak-
ing other arrangements to get the woman into a hospital.
In drafting its regulations for the control of vessels in port,
the Coast Guard incorporated a certain amount of "calcu-
lated risk." On the premise that nothing should be done
which would unduly hamper the efficient operation of the
vitally needed ships, certain restrictions which might have
delayed the turnaround the time a ship spends in port load-
ing or unloading and refitting were either liberalized or
eliminated. To Insure a properly balanced set of regulations,
the draft of the standardized rules was submitted to the
Navy and War Shipping Administration, to ship operators
and to the maritime labor organizations and then all hands
were Invited to a round-table discussion of them at Coast
Guard Headquarters where a final draft was evolved.
"We have been working under these regulations for al-
most a year," a Port Security officer said, "and the fact that
we have had practically no adverse comments concerning
them Indicates the time and thought which all concerned
put into their preparation. They are, I believe, in the opin-
ion of all parties interested, a proper balance between the
need for security measures for vessels and the necessity that
the operative efficiency of our ships be maintained at a
Primary responsibility for compliance with the regulations,
of course, rests with the masters, owners, operators and
agents of the ships. In brief, the regulations require the
maintenance aboard at all times of a crew of officers and
men equivalent to a regular deck and engine watch. Addi-
tional guards ship guards, fire guards and cargo guards
also are required in numbers varying with the job being
done and the size of the ship. Steam pressure must be main-
tained or else the ship's fire-fighting system and switchboard
must be hooked up with shore sources, for obvious reasons.
Some means of propulsion must also be maintained, unless
permission is obtained from the Captain of the Port to dis-
pensc with. it. This is necessary in the event that the ship
itself catches fire and must be moved to protect the pier or
near-by ships. It might also be necessary to move the ship
to protect it from, fires on other ships.
Frequent inspections of vessels in port are made by the
Coast Guard to see that the regulations are being carried out
and every effort is made to impress upon all concerned the
need for unceasing vigilance. A favorite warning given is
that the loss of a ship and its cargo in these days might well
be equivalent, in terms of tanks, planes and other war sup-
plies, to a severe loss upon the battlefield. It might be even
worse, for the failure of such supplies to arrive on the battle
fronts at the proper time might well result in even greater
In these days of oil-burning ships, one of the gravest men-
aces to vessels in port is the presence of oil on the water.
Careless or inexperienced skippers and with the tremen-
dous expansion in the size of the Merchant Marine, there
are many of the latter sometimes permit their engine crews
to pump their bilges in port. There are suppossed to pump
them at sea before they get to port, or into specially provided
barges which can later be emptied at sea. However, rough
weather and the pressure for a speedy turnaround frequently
impel the skippers to disregard the rules. When they do, it
puts a film of waste oil on the surface of the water around
the ship which soon spreads over the harbor. Thus a fire on
one ship might quickly spread around the entire port.
Therefore,, one of the Coast Guard's most important jobs is
to patrol the water around the ships regularly to see that
they are not violating that highly important regulation.
Because the fire hazard is so great, the Coast Guard makes
it a rule to survey all ships and port facilities frequently to
determine the existence of such hazards and point them out
to the operators. Usually they have been removed promptly,
but occasionally the service has had to crack down and use
the teeth in its authority to obtain compliance.
In peacetime one of the difficulties in fighting water-front
fires was that many municipalities did not have enough or
proper equipment for such work. It was to correct that lack
that the Coast Guard acquired the 250-odd fireboats, the
smallest of which has a pumping capacity of 2,000 gallons a
minute. In addition, it secured several hundred trailer
pumps, well suited to that type of work because they draw
water directly from the harbor or stream, without the need
of standpipes or hydrants.
Incidentally, when the war is over, it is the hope of Coast
Guard officials dealing with the matter that the municipali-
ties will see their way clear to taking over a large part of
this harbor fire-fighting equipment. Ways and means of
arranging such transfers already are under study.
In the early days of the war, the specter of widespread
sabotage of our ports and ships spoiled the sleep of many
officials in this country, not only in the Coast Guard. And
the potential menace was real enough, although as a result
of either die prompt and comprehensive preventive measures
or the enemy's deliberate abstinence from that form of attack,
little or no trouble of that nature developed. To guard against
it, one of the first things the Coast Guard had to do was to
deny access to the water fronts to anyone who might have
sabotage in mind. This meant the establishment of an iden-
tification system which would not Impede the regular busi-
ness of the piers and other water-front facilities.
Today no one is permitted on a water-front facility unless
he possesses a Coast Guard identification card issued by the
Captain of the Port. The card can be obtained only after
the applicant has satisfactorily identified himself, established
his citizenship, has been sponsored by a reputable person or
association and been fingerprinted on forms submitted to the
Federal Bureau of Investigation for checking with then-
files. Literally millions of such cards have been issued since
the system went into effect and the lack of public criticism
of the inconvenience which results is the best testimonial to
the manner In which it has worked.
To guard against unauthorized persons getting aboard
vessels in port by coming alongside in a boat, thus evading
the identification card setup, the Coast Guard requires all
vessels moving in or from local waters to have a movement
or departure license. The combination has given the service
a substantial measure of control over the access to vessels and
shipping facilities both from the land and water sides.
Despite the lack of widespread sabotage attempts, which
many expected as soon as the United States got into the war,
some of the Port Security officials figured that when the
German U-boat campaign failed to destroy the "Bridge of
Ships" to Britain and our own fighting forces, the Nazis
would next try to "hit us through our ports." In other
words, if they couldn't sink the ships in transit, they would
try to damage them at their piers or make the loading facili-
ties unusable. Accordingly, precautionary measures were in-
tensified, guards were alerted and everything conceivable
was done to be ready. Until this writing, that fear has like-
wise proved unwarranted. Naturally, the Coast Guard won't
relax its watchfulness deliberately until the danger really no
Officials in charge of the Port Security program maintain
that even if they could be assured that the danger of sabo-
tage had been completely and permanently eliminated, their
task still would be much greater than it was at the start of
the war or even a year ago and probably won't reach its peak
for some time. The explanation for this, of course, is that
the problem grows with the volume of shipping to and from
the battle-fronts and with shipbuilding activity. There's
nothing static about it. It can almost be said, in fact, that the
Port Security Force never knows what to expect next.
An example of the unexpected nature of some of their prob-
lems was furnished at a ship repair yard. A vessel that had
run aground on a rocky shore was brought into dry dock for
repairs. Unknown to the repair company, the fuel-oil tanks
had been punctured but the oil was held in by outside water
pressure. But after the ship had been shored up in the dry
dock and pumping had been started to drain the dock, the
tanks suddenly began to disgorge their contents and soon a
thick and menacing film of oil had spread far beyond the
The situation was critical, not only for the repair crew
aboard the ship surrounded by a pool of oil but for all the
other ships and facilities of various kinds in the vicinity. A
single spark from a welding torch might have been all that
was necessary to start a conflagration. Prompt action stop-
ping all so-called "hot work 55 such as welding and cutting,
forbidding all smoking and similar precautions to control
sources of possible ignition averted a disaster and the oil
menace was removed.
Careful study not only of the conditions which cause fires
but of the fires themselves has given the Coast Guard some
interesting data on the subject so far as the nation's ports are
concerned. In the nine-month period from October 1942 to
June 1943, inclusive, there were 2,111 water-front fires re-
ported to Coast Guard Headquarters. Of these 16.6 percent
were caused by welding or cutting operations with acetylene
or electric torches; only 8.7 percent by smoking or the care-
less use of matches. And not a single blaze was reported as
being of incendiary origin!
Generally speaking, the work of the men of the Port Se-
curity Force actual patrolling of the piers, supervision of
the loading of ammunition and all the other activities is
unutterably dull. Theirs is not the glamorous role of the
fighting man, and all the medals they have received up to
this writing would not crowd a hollow tooth.
Nevertheless, they have more than one exploit to their
credit that for sheer, unadulterated intestinal fortitude will
take a lot of beating.
One spring night in 1943, when New Yorkers were still
getting used to living without benefit of neon lights, skilled
stevedores were just putting the finishing touches to the
loading of an ammunition ship across the bay at the Caven's
Point pier. This long, slender dock juts diagonally out into
Lower New York Harbor almost as though someone had
started to build a bridge to the Brooklyn shore and then gave
up the idea. There was a definite reason for the tremendous
length of the structure, however, for it is there that the bulk
of the ammunition and high explosive that moves through
the Port of New York is loaded aboard ship. And it's no
military secret that that is plenty.
On the night in question, the last of some 1,300 tons of
explosive enough for 650 of the two-ton block-busters
that the Germans have come to know so well had been
placed aboard the ship. She was due to sail that night, was
just about to cast off from the pier, in fact, when fire broke
out in the boiler room in a location that was difficult to get
at. It spread rapidly.
Coast Guard and City of New York fireboats, notified by
radio, were rushed to the scene together with land and pier
fire-fighting equipment. A force of 200 Coast Guardsmen
from a near-by barracks also arrived.
Lieutenant Commander John T. Stanley, a veteran of fif-
teen years' service in the Coast Guard who had just taken
charge of ammunition loading in the Port of New York that
day, was In immediate command of die fire-fighting oper-
Here was a situation that was fraught with peril not only
for the firemen and others in the immediate vicinity but for
thousands of others in the densely populated sections of
Staten Island, Brooklyn and even Manhattan itself, the
towers of which could be seen dimly on the night sky line.
Stanley and the others knew only too well what they were
up against. The 1300 tons of explosives aboard the burning
ship were just about the same quantity which demolished a
large part of the north end of Halifax, Nova Scotia, one
December morning in 1917, leaving a couple of thousand
dead and other thousands homeless. But, emulating the
heroism of the intrepid little group of Royal Navy men who
went aboard the burning ammunition ship in Halifax har-
bor that day, only to perish in the blast which followed,
Stanley and his men boarded the ship at the Caven's Point
In the course of the preliminary efforts to extinguish the
blaze, a white-haired Army officer wearing the two stars of a
major general boarded the ship. He was Major General
Charles Groninger, commandant of the New York Port of
Embarkation, who blandly disregarded the horrible danger
of the situation and came to see for himself if everything
possible was being done to avert the threatened catastrophe.
His young aide, brand new on the job, was with him.
"Well, I didn't last long in the Army," the youngster had
told himself when he heard where they were going that
Stanley quickly discovered that efforts to extinguish the
fire were not making much headway. The only thing left
was to scuttle the ship. Because of the fire, it was impossible
to get at the sea cocks, so Stanley had the ship towed out into
the bay a couple of hundred yards from the pier and the
fireboats then began pumping water into her.
For two hours they pumped, with no one knowing during
that time whether the fire or the water would win that unus-
ual race with disaster. Finally the ship began to settle. She
went down on an even keel and in a short time only her
masts and funnel could be seen. The danger was over.
Meanwhile, the residents of Staten Island and Brooklyn
had been warned by radio to keep their windows open and
to remain away from glass that might shatter. Fortunately,
such precautions proved unnecessary. Next day New York
learned the details of its narrow escape.
Months later another American port city had a somewhat
similar experience but only a handful of people knew
On that occasion fire broke out in a freight car loaded
with ammunition. It was at a freight terminal in close
proximity to the city's downtown business district.
Lieutenant (j.g.) Harold Waters, commanding the Coast
Guard's ammunition detail in that city, called for volunteers
from among his men when word of the fire reached him.
He selected ten from those who responded and rushed to
the terminal in a truck. Railroad police and employees were
grouped some distance from the burning car, expecting its
deadly cargo to let go at any minute.
Waters ordered them still farther away and then led his
men to the car and began a systematic attack upon the fire.
There was none of the excitement of battle to stimulate those
men, just the cold certainty that any minute might be their
last. Yet they didn't falter and to that fact many a man and
woman in that city owe their lives. But they don't even
The fact that there has not been, up to this writing, a seri-
ous explosion of ammunition despite the stupendous quanti-
ties which are constantly moving through our major ports
is a glowing tribute to the manner in which the Coast
Guard and all others involved have handled that phase of
port security, but the foregoing two incidents also serve to
illustrate graphically why it has been so successful
In its twenty-four-hour-a-day effort to prevent any such
disaster, the Coast Guard supervises the loading of explosives
on all commercial ships and the movement of all explosives
from the time the seal on the freight car door Is broken until
the ship Is safely out of the harbor.
They are the arbiters as to whether longshoremen are
qualified to handle cargoes of explosives and In these days
of relatively high wages for work on the water front and
because of the scarcity of manpower, a lot of below-par
workers are on the labor market and they also keep a
trained man at each cargo hatch into which explosives are
being lowered to see that no unsafe practices are being used
and that the explosive Is stowed in the proper manner in the
Some of the factors which complicate the task of the Port
Security people are worthy of mention.
"Owing to the pressure on ocean transports and the
demand for cargo space/' explains R. C. Stange, a fire-
prevention expert assigned to the Port Security division, "the
maintenance and repair of ships suffers in comparison with
peacetime standards. Time is lacking and repair facilities are
not always available to keep vessels in first-class condition.
Consequently, we find leaking oil lines, defective oil burners,
extinguishing equipment in poor condition and other un-
satisfactory circumstances. Oily bilges cannot always be
pumped out on schedule for lack of barges or shore tanks.
"Crew members back from trips through submarine-in-
fested waters are understandably not greatly concerned with
the minor perils of existence, and interest in fire-prevention
measures suffer accordingly. The remedies for the situation
are simple, but not always easy to effect. However, the
Coast Guard is constantly endeavoring to see that ships are
maintained in such condition as to be reasonably safe from
fire, through constant inspections and reinspections and en-
forcement of the statutory regulations for the security of
vessels in port. . . ."
Stange explained how in at least one major instance battle-
field requirements increased the hazard of fire in the ports
of the United States.
"Normally large-scale transportation of gasoline by water
is accomplished in bulk by tankers especially designed and
built for the purpose, with all the safeguards that the fire-
prevention engineer can devise/' he said. "The needs of
troops in outlying bases and in the field have necessitated a
decided change in this method of handling inflammable
"Gasoline must be furnished in drums or in five-gallon
cans or even in smaller containers according to the demands
of the field units. They are shipped in ordinary cargo vessels
without the compartmentation, fire-extinguishing equip-
ment, explosion-proof electrical equipment and other appur-
tenances of the regular tankers. To complicate the problem
still further, the drums and cans employed are usually single-
trip containers with the thin shells quickly susceptible to
corrosion effects and not capable of resisting rough handling.
They must be handled in such a way that the shells are not
punctured nor the seams ruptured. They cannot be piled or
stowed in deep tiers or the containers will burst under exces-
"When this occurs or leakage takes place for any reason
we have gasoline vapors seeping through the hold of the ship
not only while it is being loaded, but more especially when
it is being unloaded, perhaps under very adverse conditions
(such as with enemy dive bombers only too willing to pour
a few rounds of incendiary shells or bullets into the open
hatches of such a vapor-charged hold). This means extreme
precaution in the way of ventilation and elimination of
sources of flame or spark.
"The hazard of gasoline in lightweight containers is not
confined to the ship. We have storages along the water front
of thousands of drums awaiting shipment; there is also a
great deal of gasoline cargo handled by barge on our rivers
and harbors. This entire subject of safe handling of gasoline
and other low-flash petroleum products in drums and cans
has been given a great deal of study. Storage patterns have
been worked out which make possible the rapid detection of
leakers, unraveling of piles and the control of incipient
And although the records show that a couple of thousand
water-front fires have occurred in less than a year, the great
majority of them were snuffed out without the aid of major
fire-fighting equipment. The important thing to remember
is that they were discovered before they had made any head-
way. In that connection, it is also worthy of note that in spite
of the fact that thousands of private watchmen, guards and
fire watches are on duty in water-front establishments, Coast
Guardsmen on patrol or guard duty discovered and sent in
the first alarm for 22 percent of the 2,319 alarms reported to
headquarters as having been sounded for water-front fires in
the period from October 1942 to June 19435 inclusive!
A HO of shadowy figures clambered out of a small
boat on a deserted stretch of Long Island beach
and walked quickly away from the water's edge.
They were soon lost to view in the fog and the solitary oars-
man in the boat stood up and shoved his light craft back
into deeper water. A few minutes' rowing brought him to
the dark, cigar-shaped hull of a submarine where willing
hands helped him lift the light-weight, collapsible rowboat
aboard and lower it through a scuttle.
No words were spoken and no time was lost. The U-boat,
for it was a German sub, turned slowly and headed eastward
into the Atlantic and soon even the steady throb of her
Diesels died away.
Meanwhile, on the beach, the rowboat's three erstwhile
passengers were just in the act of filling in a hole they had
dug in the sand. Still visible in the excavation were portions
of the German naval uniforms which they had worn over
"Get a move on, Reilly," rasped one of the trio. "Get that
hole filled in. We don't want daylight to catch us here."
"I'm doing the best I can with only this board for a shovel,
Hans/* replied the one addressed as Reilly. "And you don't
have to start using that Irish name on me already, do you?"
"You know what the Director said/ 5 chimed in the third
man. "We were to adopt our new identities the minute we
had changed clothes. Remember, all our credentials have
our new names on them. 3 *
Finally the hole was filled and all trace of their digging
obliterated. The three men then headed inland, each carry-
ing a couple of bundles wrapped in heavy paper.
At a tree-bordered concrete highway they stopped.
Hans, whose last name was Kluege, set his parcels down
and turned to his companions.
"Here's where I leave you/' he said. "I'm going north.
There ought to be buses or trucks along for all of us soon,
but in the meantime we'd better separate.
"I'll meet you back here in three weeks."
Without even the formality of a handshake, they moved
off into the foggy night. Reilly, whose real name was
Gunther Diehl, and the tall, thin individual named Johann
Wahl, or John Wall as his phony draft registration card
read, turned their steps toward New York.
As he trudged in the opposite direction, Kluege gloated
inwardly. Their landing had been a complete success. Soon
they would be swallowed up in the country's heterogeneous
"These stupid Americans/' he told himself. "We come in
right under their noses and they know nothing of it. It
7. S. Coast Guard Photo
NAZI CAPTIVE FROM SUBMARINE
Glad to be out of the cold water, this Nazi submarine lieutenant is hustled
below for hot coffee, after being fished from the sea.
might just as easily have been an invasion force. But that
will come later. 5 '
At the Nazi school for saboteurs in Berlin, from which he
and his erstwhile companions had been graduated a few
weeks ago,, Kluege had been told repeatedly that their mis-
sions often might be in the nature of preparations for in-
vasions, organization of Fifth Column activities and similar
tasks. This assignment had nothing to do with invasion,
however. On the contrary, it was aimed at doing the maxi-
mum possible damage to America's growing war potential
so that American troops would not be able to do anything
about invasions for some time to come.
Kluege was bound for Fall River, Massachusetts. In Berlin
they had furnished him with the name and address of a Ger-
man-American family to whom he was instructed to go. To
them, of course, he was to represent himself merely as a
former resident of Milwaukee who had come east to obtain
a job in a war plant.
The lights of a truck swinging around a bend in the road
behind him cut short his soliloquy and he turned to "thumb"
a ride. Luck was with him again, for despite the hour and
the loneliness of the section, the driver stopped. Perhaps it
was because there were two men in the spacious cab.
"Where yuh headed, bud?" the driver asked.
"Fall River," said Kluege.
"Hop in, then. I'm going through to Boston, but I can
haul you a good piece of the way."
Once in the truck, Kluege explained lie had just come off
a ship in New York the day before and was on his way to
visit friends while the ship was in dry dock.
"You smell like you slept in the bilges, chum/' the truck
driver said bluntly, "Them clothes you're wearing surely do
need a little shore leave."
Had he only known it, the smell he referred to was the
submarine's all-pervading smell of Diesel fuel oil. Kluege
had a few anxious moments when he realized that the truck-
man had detected something which he, himself, had grown
so accustomed to in the past few weeks that it no longer
seemed strange to him. He could only hope that the fresh
air would lessen the pungency of his garments before he
reached Fall River.
From Providence he took a bus to Fall River, arriving at
the home of the Schraf t family not long before their evening
"I knew your son Heinrich in Milwaukee, Mrs. Schraft,"
he said. "He told me you probably would be able to tell me
where to get a room around here."
Kluege was taking no chance when he talked of knowing
Heinrich Schraft. He knew plenty about the son, even if he
had never seen him. The Gestapo had taken care of that.
"Come in, come in," said Mrs. Schraft, delighted with the
prospect of word of her son.
Nothing would do but Kluege must stay for dinner and
meet Heinrich's father. He worked at the rubber factory
and should be home any minute.
Naturally,, It was because Mr. Scburaf t worked at the rubber
factory that Kluege and his superiors had selected that
family for him to visit. But the plan was working even
better than they had hoped. For, when the older Schraft
arrived and was introduced, he insisted after a whispered
consultation with his wife that Kluege occupy Heinrich's
room "at least until you get settled."
After a polite interval with the family when dinner was
over, Kluege excused himself and said he thought he'd stroll
around the town for a while. Before leaving, he went to his
room and came down with a small paper-wrapped parcel
which he explained contained a couple of soiled shirts which
he would leave at a near-by Chinese laundry.
It was a simple task, as he let himself out the back door,
to slip Herr Schraft's identification badge from his work
coat hanging in the porch.
Kluege's package of "laundry" turned out to be a common-
place workman's lunch box when he removed the wrapping
and several hours later, wearing Schraft's badge with its
number and small photograph, he joined the stream of
workers pouring into the rubber plant for the midnight
As he suspected, the guards at the gate gave him only a
cursory glance. Once they saw the badge on his lapel, the
lunch box under his arm, they thought no more about him.
It was the kind of thing the psychology experts can ex-
plain quite glibly. In simple terms, it was just gall and strict
conformity to the herd pattern, doing what everyone else
in the crowd was doing.
The rubber factory was housed in an old New England
textile mill, a six-story brick structure that had turned a deep
burgundy shade with the passage of years. The only eleva-
tors were a couple of hydraulic freight lifts at either end of
the block-long building. Consequently, the workers had to
climb wide, wooden stairways to get to their posts on the
upper floors. This was exactly what Kluege wanted, for it
gave him a chance to tour the whole plant without attracting
When he had found the spots he was looking for, Kluege
retraced his steps. This time, he made a number of stops en
route. There was nothing furtive about his movements,
however, nothing to create the least bit of suspicion. Had
anyone taken the trouble to watch closely, though, they
might have seen him dropping slender cylinders that resem-
bled fountain pens into odd places behind a pile of cartons
at the base of an elevator shaft, for example, amid bales of
cotton-wrapped supplies and in trash barrels.
The cylinders, of course, were thermite pencils which burst
into furious flames a short time after Kluege had walked
through the main gate where the guards joked with him
about the overtime pay he was accumulating. Even before
he reached the Schraft home, the sky was reddened by the
glow of fire which raced through the tinder-dry old plant.
The wail of fire-engine sirens roused the sleeping city.
Next morning's papers carried banner headlines reading:
"FLAMES DESTROY HUGE RUBBER STOCK PILE." "HUNDRED
THOUSAND TONS OF MOST CRITICAL MATERIAL RUINED."
At the breakfast table Kluege tried to lighten the gloom
of the Schraft family by joking about the distance he had
traveled to get a job which promptly went up in smoke but
he failed dismally. On the other hand, he thus reminded
the Schrafts that he had a perfectly logical explanation for
moving on to Boston in search of work; that is, in the event
that his departure so soon after the mysterious fire had
caused anyone to wonder.
Gunther Diehl had a little more trouble with his plans in
New York. The day after he arrived he struck up an ac-
quaintance with a young chap named Erich Keller whom
he met in a restaurant. Diehl had watched Keller's board-
inghouse and followed him to the restaurant, of course, but
to Keller it seemed like any ordinary chance meeting.
Keller, it developed, was employed as a welder aboard the
British liner, Queen Mary, which was then in the process of
being converted to use as an Allied troopship.
"Do you suppose I could get a job there?" Diehl asked.
"I'm a welder, too."
W C U Keller hesitated. "There's a lot of red tape
involved. You got to be investigated, you know. It's a Navy
Diehl dropped the subject for the time and die two went
out to a movie when they had finished their dinner. A
couple of days passed and Diehl called on Keller at the
"Erich," Diehl began. "I have just got to get aboard the
Queen Mary y and I want your help."
"Gee, I don't see how I can help you/' objected Keller.
"There's just no way I could get you in."
"Keller," interrupted Diehl softly. "You got a mother and
sister in Germany, haven't you?"
"Ye-yes," stammered the other, startled. "But what's that
got to do with it ? I'm an American citizen and they would
be, too, if I could get them over here."
"But you wouldn't want anything to happen to them,
would you, just because you refused a simple request? . . .
Ever heard of Dachau, Keller ?"
"You mean the concentration camp?"
Fear glittered in Keller's eyes momentarily. Suddenly he
knew only too well what he was up against in Diehl. The
"What do you want me to do?" he asked dully.
"Just take a day off tomorrow," said Diehl smoothly.
"That isn't asking much, now is it? You just stay home,
sleep late as you like. Take in a movie in the afternoon or
go fishing. Anything you like. Meantime I take your badge
and go to work in your place. Nobody will know the dif-
ference. Ill tell your gang you're sick and the union sent
me in your place."
And that was how it worked. Diehl climbed the gang-
way to the Queen Mary's broad main deck just before the
work whistle blew. Everyone was in too much of a hurry
to pay particular attention to Mm.
When he found Keller's group, they accepted his story
without question and soon he was busily at work with the
welding torch. He had not tinkered with the truth in any
sense when he told Keller he was a welder, for he was a
good one. Nobody had any cause for suspicion on that score.
When lunchtime rolled around, the workers broke up into
their usual little groups, many of them climbing to the boat
deck where they could enjoy the sun while they ate.
Diehl found himself alone near where he had been work-
ing all morning. This suited him beautifully. He squatted
on the deck, his back against a steel bulkhead, and opened
his lunch box. Carefully removing the top from the thermos
bottle, he inserted what looked like a metal straw and pre-
tended to drink deeply.
Actually his "straw" was a type of spray. Youngsters use
them to spray "dope" on the wings of their model airplanes.
The thermos bottle was filled with kerosene and, instead
of drinking milk or coffee, Diehl was carefully spraying
with kerosene a six-foot pile of kapok life jackets stored at
one side of the deck. It is doubtful that he would have been
discovered even had anyone come along wMle he was thus
After leisurely finishing his sandwiches, he capped the
thermos, closed the lunch box and got to his feet. A few
feet away his welding torch lay on the deck. Strolling over,
he picked it up, pulled his safety goggles down over his eyes
and began adjusting the flow of air and acetylene gas into
the nozzle of the torch.
A shower of sparks shot from the torch and before anyone
could do anything to prevent it, the pile of life jackets was a
So many of the workers and fire guards were at lunch
that before any organized effort could be made to combat
the blaze, the greater part of the deck on which the fire
started was in flames. The numerous coats of paint which
covered the interior of the great liner caught swiftly, causing
the flames to race along the length of the ship like a prairie
The fact that the great ship turned turtle late that night
from the weight of water and ice which formed in its upper
decks was a windfall which neither DIehl nor his colleagues
had even hoped for, but even if that added disaster had not
occurred, he would have destroyed the ship's usefulness to
the Allies for many critical months.
Diehl was among the group of somber-eyed workmen
whom the police ordered off the dock while the ijire still was
under way. And no one raised a hand to stop him as he
walked through the main gate and disappeared*
Three weeks from the night the U-boat had set them
ashore on the Long Island beach, Kluege and Diehl met at
their rendezvous. This time they shook hands, for each
knew how successful the other had been. Newspapers
throughout the length and breadth of the land had heralded
their exploits without, of course, any mention of their names
or even any definite suggestion that anything more than
accidents had been responsible.
"Where's Wahl?" Kluege asked.
Diehl shook his head.
"I never saw him after we got to New York."
What they didn't know was that their colleague had
plummeted from one of the concrete piers of a railroad
bridge across the Susquehanna, shot in the back of the head
by a vigilant guard who surprised him in the act of placing
a charge of explosive at the base of the pier. The authorities
kept the incident quiet, hoping thereby to get a lead on the
dead man's associates and to find out whether his attempt
to blow up the bridge was an isolated case of sabotage or
part of a widespread plot.
Kluege and Diehl waited half an hour longer than the
time agreed upon and then made their way to the beach. The
sub's little rubber boat was waiting for them. If Wahl came
later, too bad. He'd just have to look out for himself.
The depredations here attributed to Kluege and Diehl are
things that might have happened. They didn't happen, of
course, but it is not going too far to say that the only reason
such things, or incidents strikingly like them, didn't happen
is that John C. Cullen, a twenty-one-year-old Coast Guards-
man attached to the Amagansett, Long Island station, was
on the job shortly after midnight on the night that three
Nazi saboteurs actually did land on Long Island.
Cullen left the Amagansett station at midnight on the
night of the landing to begin the six-mile East Patrol. The
weather was thick and visibility poor but when he was only
300 yards from the station, he spied three men on the beach.
One of them was dressed in civilian clothes. The others
were in bathing suits and standing in water up to their knees.
"What's the trouble?" Cullen called out.
There was no response, but the man on shore commenced
walking toward Cullen.
"Who are you?" demanded Cullen. This time, when the
stranger failed to answer, Cullen reached in his hip pocket
for a flashlight.
The other apparently thought he was reaching for a
weapon, for he cried out:
"Wait a minute. Are you Coast Guard?"
"Yes, who are you?" Cullen countered.
"A couple of fishermen from Southampton who have run
"Come up to the station and wait for daybreak."
At first the newcomer didn't answer. But when he did,
there was a new note In his voice.
"Wait a minute;' he snapped. "You don't know what's
going on. How old are you? Have you a father and
mother? I wouldn't want to have to kill you."
While the young Coast Guardsman was recovering from
that outburst^ one of the men in bathing suits came up
through the fog dragging a bag. He started to speak in Ger-
"What's in the bag?" asked Cullen. "Clams?"
He knew well enough there were no clams for miles
"Yes, that's right/' answered the first man. Then, appar-
ently reassured by Cullen's apparent lack of reaction to his
threat, he went on In a more friendly vein.
"Why don't you forget the whole thing?" he asked. "Here
is some money. One hundred dollars."
"I don't want it," Cullen demurred.
The man took more money from his wallet.
"How about three hundred ?"
Cullen thought fast.
"Okay," he said, and took the money.
"Now look me in the eyes," the stranger said.
At first Cullen feared the man was going to try to hypno-
tize him and he evaded his eyes. The man insisted. Bracing
himself to resist, Cullen looked directly at the stranger. To
his relief, nothing happened. The stranger kept repeating:
"Would you recognize me if you saw me again?"
When Cullen finally answered "No/ 5 the man appeared
Cullen left abruptly, but as soon as he was enshrouded in
the fog, he raced for the station and reported what had hap-
pened. The officer in charge, a boatswain's mate, immedi-
ately telephoned his superiors at their near-by homes and
they soon were on the scene.
In the meantime Cullen and three other enlisted men had
been armed with rifles and dispatched to the place where
Cullen had encountered the strangers, but the latter were
nowhere to be seen and there was no trace of their landing.
However, Warren Barnes, Chief Boatswain's Mate, spotted
a long thin object in the ocean when the fog lifted for a
moment. It obviously was a submarine and Barnes, fearful
that a landing of more enemy personnel was to be at-
tempted, posted his men behind the sand dunes with orders
to repel the invasion.
Fog swallowed the U-boat, however; the noise of its
Diesels faded away.
Relieved but still perturbed, the Coast Guardsmen searched
the area but without success. Someone reported sighting a
light on a distant dune, but when the Guardsmen got there
nothing was to be found.
Ultimately Cullen and the others returned to the station
to make a full report on the night's events and it was then
that Cullen found that the saboteurs had short changed him.
Instead of $300, the "bribe" he accepted consisted of only
260 two fifty dollar bills, five twenties and six tens.
After dawn, the search of the beach and sand dunes was
resumed. Soldiers had arrived in the meantime to assist.
Soon after it was light, Cullen and one of his superiors
found some cigarettes of German manufacture almost buried
in the sand. Another searcher discovered a furrow in the
sand and traced it to a spot where someone apparently had
been digging. Had they been an hour or so later, the sun
would have dried the area so that all trace of the digging
would have been obliterated.
As it was, excavation of the spot produced several cases
which subsequently proved to contain a number of pen and'
pencil sets, loose powder and glass tubes presumably ma-
terials for incendiaries. The crates were removed to Coast
Guard headquarters at New York and officials there started
to complete the inspection of a couple of the unopened
crates. When a hissing sound began emanating from them,
a report in official files said, "it was suggested that they open
it at the end of a pier."
The hissing sound, it developed, came from the contact
of salt water with the TNT in the crate!
The rest of the story of the Nazi saboteurs is pretty well
known. They were rounded up, along with five others who
landed on a Florida beach, and after a sensational, secret
military trial at Washington, all but two of them paid with
At first ? report has It, Cullen got nothing but a bawling
out for having been unarmed at the time the trio of Ger-
mans accosted him. A little more than a year later, however,
he was awarded the Legion of Merit medal.
There was no such delay, however, in profiting from the
lessons which Cullen's experience provided. The landings
of the saboteurs were rendered ineffective by the vigilance of
the Coast Guard and the prompt action of the Federal Bu-
reau of Investigation, but conversely, they focused official
attention upon the vulnerability of this country's far-flung
Immediate efforts were taken to increase and intensify the
protective measures. More Coast Guardsmen were added,
naturally, but what probably was more important, dogs and
horses were made a major part of the patrol setup.
It may well be that the execution of the original group of
invading saboteurs will completely discourage any further
such expeditions, but should the contrary prove true, the
visitors can be sure of a warm reception if any of the Coast
Guards' scores of specially trained, savage dogs get wind of
them. At the pretentious Joseph Widener estate in suburban
Philadelphia, the animals were meticulously taught the
proper method of tearing a man to pieces. So savage are
the dogs which finally are accepted for duty that only their
trainer and the Coast Guards with whom they go on patrol
can come near them.
By the use of saddle horses, obviously, the patrolmen are
enabled to cover much more territory and cover it more
thoroughly than they could hope to do on foot. Wheeled
vehicles, of course^ are almost useless on the sandy or rock-
strewn beaches which the men must traverse.
Many of the men assigned to beach patrol "sand-pound-
ers/' as they are known in the service are veterans of much
more hazardous duties, for the Coast Guard recognized early
that beach patrol offered a splendid opportunity to give the
men healthful relaxation from service in combat areas,
aboard the hard-worked combat cutters or other arduous
posts where they were wounded or suffering from undue
Thomas Sortino, twenty-six, of Forest Park, Illinois, is a
typical example of how the Coast Guard finds practical solu-
tions of its rehabilitation and manpower problems.
At the time of the invasion of North Africa, Sortino was
a boatswain's mate, first class. He was with the forces at
Fedala, and after the initial landing he was ordered to take
one of several boats loaded with soldiers to Casablanca, about
fifteen miles south along the coast line.
As they neared their objective, two enemy destroyers swept
out of the darkness. They bore down on the boat which
Sortino commanded and opened fire. The other landing
craft in the column dispersed and escaped in the darkness.
Sortino's craft was trapped, however. The two destroyers
came within thirty feet of it and, at that range, blasted it
to smithereens. Many of the soldiers either drowned or were
killed by gunfire. When Sortino came to, he found he had
been blown clear of the boat by one explosion. His right
arm was badly torn by shrapnel, so badly that he knew he
would lose most of it, even if he lived. Still he clung to the
shattered member as he floated in the chill water, buoyed
up by his life jacket. That was all that buoyed him, how-
ever, for he said afterward that he prayed for death.
After about two hours in the water he realized he had the
strength to live, and despite the prospect of having only one
arm, life again began to seem desirable. It was in that frame
of mind that he was picked up by a couple of French fisher-
men who rushed him ashore to a hospital. His ordeal was
not over, however, thanks to the way in which the German
Armistice Commission had stripped North Africa after the
fall of France.
There was no anaesthetic left in the hospital and Sortino
had to endure the amputation of his arm just above the
elbow in full consciousness!
Two days later the Casablanca armistice was signed and
Sortino was returned to the American forces who promptly
shipped him back to the United States for hospitalization.
Frequently, in such cases, the wounded man goes back to
civilian life, his military career over.
Sortino, however, chose a different course when he was
finally released from the hospital. He took some leave first
long enough to marry the girl who had waited for his
return then he went back to duty with the Coast Guard.
Before joining that service he had been in the cavalry, and
therefore knew and loved horses. So it was a logical move
to assign him to the newly established Coast Guard horse
patrol for duty as an instructor. Loss of an arm doesn't in-
terfere with his ability to teach new patrolmen how to ride
and care for their mounts. Besides doing a useful job for
his country in time of war, officials felt that the assignment
would help convince Sortino that, despite his handicap, he
could be a valuable member of society.
THE PICKET FENCE
~ ARLY in the summer of 1942, when the U-boat blitz
against America's coastal shipping was at its worst, a
*f German submarine was cruising on a course that
would have taken it directly into the path of an approaching
convoy. As it happened, however, the sub never saw that
convoy and the Nazi commander probably still is trying to
puzzle out why, if by some unhappy chance he has not al-
ready been gathered unto his fathers.
The explanation is that the U-boat ran into the Coast
Guard's "Picket Fence" without knowing it. The Nazi was
not intended to know it, of course. Not even many Ameri-
cans had been told about the "Picket Fence" at that time.
Actually what happened was this: One of the small boats
which make up the "fence" detected the U-boat's presence.
It was not equipped to fight the sub, nor could it radio its
discovery to the approaching convoy. However, it had one
other course, and took it. Putting on full speed, the little
craft raced for the convoy, reached it ahead of the submarine,
and the result was that the convoy altered course and es-
THE PICKET FENCE
On another occasion this was In "maneuvers" the Army
Air Base at Westover, Massachusetts,, planned a surprise "at-
tack" on Philadelphia. The planes took off as scheduled and
roared eastward over the Atlantic. Then they headed for
Philadelphia, but their whole maneuver was unsuccessful
for they were spotted and reported by four separate picket
These are only two exploits of the so-called "Picket
Fence," There are others, but their telling will probably
have to await the war's end.
Construction of the "Picket Fence" was begun in those
desperate days when United States beaches were coated with
oil from the tankers torpedoed on our very doorstep, when
great flares at sea marked the end of many of our merchant-
men, some within sight of watchers ashore. Our ships were
being sunk more rapidly than the burgeoning shipbuilding
industry was turning out the replacements. Marine insur-
ance rates soared to twenty-five percent.
In the midst of this black picture, the Navy came in for
some sharp but not always well-informed criticism. Con-
gressmen and columnists, about equally expert in naval
matters, had a field day with the Navy. The burden of their
criticism appeared to be that the Navy, asleep on the job,
had not foreseen the seriousness of the U-boat menace, and
even after it developed did not make full use of the available
small boats to combat it. On the strength of this barrage of
criticism, one organization of boatbuilders descended on the
Navy with a plan for the construction of thousands of small
boats some thirty thousand, if memory serves.
Much could be said on both sides of the controversy, of
course, starting with the fact that as late as April, 1940, after
war had been raging in Europe for more than eight months,
Congress refused to authorize a twenty-five-percent expan-
sion in the conventional combat categories of the Fleet, de-
ciding that an eleven-percent increase would be sufficient
at that time. When It couldn't get ships like destroyers and
cruisers, which it always could use, what chance had the
Navy of winning Congressional approval for the hundreds
of subchasers and escort craft which ultimately proved neces-
sary ? For, remember, the United States was not at war at
that time and a demand for huge numbers of antisubmarine
craft could only have been interpreted to mean that the Navy
had predetermined that it was going to war.
Regardless of the merits of the controversy, the Navy
yielded to the pressure to some extent and announced that,
although it had been steadily acquiring privately owned ves-
sels suitable for its purposes, another call had gone out to
private boatowners for approximately a thousand additional
small craft, the majority of which were to be turned over to
the Coast Guard. Many of them ultimately found their way
into the organization of patrol craft which came to be
known as the "Picket Fence."
Under the jurisdiction of the Navy's Eastern Sea Frontier,
the duties of the boats in the "Picket Fence" were limited
THE PICKET FENCE
primarily to observation and rescue and they work out of
more than thirty Coastal Picket Bases located along the East-
ern seaboard,, each under the command of a Coast Guard
These craft, which include many sailing vessels famous
Bermuda racers such as the Edlu, Winfred and Sea Gypsy
and the equally well-known Gloucester fisherman, the Ger-
trude L. Thebaud, are among them may be compared to
hundreds of eyes and ears all along our Atlantic Coast watch-
ing and listening for signs of enemy action. It is just as
though an additional line of lighthouses and lifesaving sta-
tions had been established ten or twenty miles offshore.
The sailing craft, which make up a subdivision known as
the Corsair Fleet, are reminiscent of the Coast Guard's
earliest ships and like those predecessors the Massachusetts
and the Scammel, for example the Corsairs are based in
New England ports such as Gloucester and Greenport, al-
though some also operate out of Norfolk.
In antisubmarine work they have certain advantages pe-
culiar to them alone. Their ability to move noiselessly
through the water so that a submarine may start to surface
almost alongside with no suspicion that an enemy is near
by is one priceless advantage. On the other hand, sailing
vessels, not bothered by any noises of their own, have a
greater sensitivity in listening for U-boats. In general, also,
they have a greater cruising radius and can stand heavier
weather than motor vessels of equal size.
The routine of die motor yachts, former swordfishermen
and pleasure craft alike, is similar to that of the Corsairs ex-
cept that they are not sent far offshore nor do they stay out
as long as the schooners. Generally speaking, an attempt is
made to assign both types to home waters where their crews
will be familiar with local conditions, but whenever the need
arises such as an increase in U-boat activity in any other
area the "Picket Fence" craft are promptly dispatched to
the danger zones.
One graphic example of that versatility was provided when
fresh-water sailors from the Great Lakes were sent to the aid
of their salt-water brethren. More than seventy powerful
motorboats made the trip through the Erie Canal to the
Eastern Seaboard or down the Mississippi to the Gulf.
All manner of men make up the crews of the boats in the
"Picket Fence." Bankers and brokers, fishermen and yachts-
men, schoolteachers and factory workers. There's a former
Congressman from Connecticut Edward W. Goss serving
as the chief boatswain's mate skipper of a little vessel operat-
ing out of Charleston. Larry O'Toole, a roving artist hail-
ing from Boston's T- Wharf, is now a ship's cook, second
class, aboard one of the schooners out of Gloucester. Ac-
countants are doing their figuring on maneuvering boards.
Automobile mechanics find themselves tinkering with boat
Life in the "Picket Fence" is far, far from being all beer
and skittles. Because of the physical beating the crews take
U. S. Coast Guard Photo
GUARDING THE NATION'S SHORELINE
U. S. Coast Guard mounted beach patrol on the West Coast.
U. S. Coast Guard Photo
COMING HOME IN THE DAWN
U. S, Coast Guardsmen return from a night patrol.
U. S. Coast Guard Photo
COAST GUARD DOG PATROL
On a lonely Atlantic outpost a Coast Guardsman and his alert canine partner
peek over a sand dune as they check on a strange movement down the beach.
On antisaboteur patrols over isolated stretches of the coast line the Coast
Guard Dog Patrol is of immeasurable assistance to the Coast Guard,
THE PICKET FENCE
in their small craft, few of them being over eighty-three
feet long, it ranks as one of the toughest assignments in the
Take the case of the CGR 3070 for example. It not only
shows the hardships which the men of the Inshore Patrol
have to contend with in dirty weather, but also goes a long
way toward proving the Navy's point that just because a
boat has a hull and an engine, it is not necessarily a good
Before the CGR 3070 became a Coast Guard craft, she was
the yacht Zaida, a trim fifty-eight-foot yawl belonging to
the late George E. Ratsey, the famous sailmaker, who built
her for racing.
On December 3, 1942, she was hove to off the East Coast
riding out a gale. That was bad enough, for although she
was sturdily built and mannerly enough, she was not de-
signed for that rough stuff. Then the hurricane struck her!
It rolled her right on her beam ends and for a sickening
minute her masts dipped into the ocean. Two men on her
deck saved themselves only by grabbing life lines and hang-
ing on until they thought their arms would pull out of their
Slowly the yacht righted herself, for haven't we said she
was mannerly? Then she rolled the other way. This was
too much. Her tall, shapely mizzenmast carried away with
a crack like a rifle shot.
Below decks pandemonium reigned. The once orderly
cabin was a shambles* Clothing, men and all sorts of gear
were hurled around like matchwood. A potbellied stove was
ripped loose from its base,, slithered across the cabin and
caved in a couple of Seaman James T. Watson's ribs.
To the other five men below decks, it must have seemed
as though the end had come for all hands. Even after the
little ship got up off her beam ends, she still careened drunk-
enly around the ocean, completely at the mercy of the hur-
ricane. Fifty-pound hunks of lead ballast also slipped their
moorings and added to the general peril by slamming
around the little cabin.
Curtis Arnall, who played the part of Buck Rogers in a
radio production before enlisting in the Coast Guard, was
skipper of the yacht. When the hurricane hit, he was swept
from the cabin to the galley by the wall of green water
which poured through her hatch as she went over.
Nothing in the average landsman's experience is com-
parable to what happened to the 3070 and her crew. With
her mainmast gone, it was impossible to sail her and the
auxiliary engine was useless. Even had they been able to
get canvas on her, it is doubtful if the men could have han-
dled her in such weather, for although her skipper was quite
a well-known yachtsman, none of the crew had been more
than a few months in the service.
After the first impact of the hurricane, when they had had
a chance to survey their plight, the men decided to call for
help. Their radio telephone was petering out, however, and
they Bad scant hope that their distress signal had been heard.
In any event, they spent the first night tossing about the
mountainous surface of the ocean, with their little ship hope-
lessly out of control.
The men managed to get the injured seaman lashed into
a bunk where he lay chewing aspirin in an effort to quiet
the knifing pain from his broken ribs. They also tried to
get the loose gear in the cabin stowed away again and set
about bailing out the water which had poured below decks
when the ship heeled over on her side. There wasn't much
more they could do except hang on in what they all knew
was a fight for lif e, with the odds against them.
When the hurricane first struck, the 3070 was off Nan-
tucket. After the first night of terror, dawn found them
somewhere of? Cape Cod, and about noon a British destroyer
located them just off the Cape's tip. The sea still was run-
ning much too high to attempt to take anyone off. Even if
the yacht had been under control, a trip in a bosun's chair
under such conditions would have been suicidal.
However, the destroyer managed after considerable diffi-
culty to get a line aboard the 3070 and took her in tow,
headed for Halifax. The feelings of her officers and men
can only be imagined. The yawning jaws of death had re-
ceded a bit. Perhaps they weren't finally doomed to watery
graves after all.
Their troubles were far from over, however. The wind
continued to batter them and once, while Seaman Toivo
Koskinen was forward trying to rig a chafing gear on the
towline, a wave swept him overboard. With miraculous
good luck another wave tossed him right back on deck and
a shipmate grabbed him.
Sometime during the night, as the two blacked-out
ships wallowed northward through the storm, the towline
snapped. Once more the 3070 was at the mercy of the ele-
ments. The destroyer was nowhere in sight when the next
For days they drifted, pounded by one storm after another.
Fifty-foot waves crashed down upon them in terrifying
demonstrations of the relentless power of the sea. Prac-
tically everything aboard was saturated with salt. It got into
the drinking water, soaked their clothing and even their
cigarettes. The crew met the latter emergency at least par-
tially by smoking tea, and sometimes coffee, rolled in pages
from the Bluejacket's Manual.
Meanwhile, would-be rescuers scoured the storm-tossed
ocean wastes for the helpless craft. For all they knew, how-
ever, their search was just so much wasted effort. As far as
they could tell, the sea already had claimed the CGR 3070.
Nevertheless, the search went on and, at last, on December
9, a faint wireless voice was heard from the missing Corsair.
But no position was given before the signal faded, and even
as the search was pressed with renewed vigor, another hur-
ricane hammered the New England coast.
Another week went by and then a Flying Fortress spotted
the incredible little ship off Nags Head, North Carolina.
What torment her crew had endured in the interim, no one
knew. Their food supplies long since had passed the danger
point. Probably, too, her exhausted crew had ceased to care.
The Fortress dropped a sack of food on a parachute, but
the cruel El fortune which had been dogging the 3070 still
seemed to be dominant, for the sack burst when it hit the
And then, before rescue boats could be directed to the
spot, still another storm roared along the Atlantic coast and
blotted the 3070 from sight again.
As soon as the weather moderated sufficiently to permit
the aerial hunt to be resumed and it doesn't have to be very
good weather before Coast Guard and Navy fliers will go
out the search was on again. Another five days elapsed
without a sight of the ill-starred Zaida. Finally, two days
before Christmas, a Coast Guard cutter spied her twenty-five
miles off Ocracoke Inlet, North Carolina and then she was
swallowed up in a rain squall.
This will-o'-the-wisp performance was almost unbeliev-
able, but it was not destined to continue much longer, for
later that day a patrol blimp located the 3070 and, this time,
managed to keep her in view until two patrol boats got
alongside. They found her crew still aboard, and except for
Watson, not seriously injured. All of them were bruised
and battered by their twenty-one-day ordeal, however. All
were unshaven and close to exhaustion from lack of food
They were transferred to the rescue ships, taken ashore
and later flown to New York for treatment. A relief crew
was placed aboard the 3070 and she was finally brought into
Ocracoke, having traversed some 3,100 miles since the first
hurricane hit her. Which, even if unintentional, is pretty
good traveling for a sailing craft.
As the much-sought little ship she was the object of one
of the greatest organized maritime hunts in history came
into port that day, at least one of the Coast Guardsmen who
watched her was destined to be a victim of a similar though
less protracted ordeal about ten months later. He was
twenty-three-year-old Francis Donaldson, soundman second
class, who was assigned to the patrol craft Wilcox which
foundered on her maiden Coast Guard voyage not far from
where the Zaida was picked up.
The Wilcox was an old menhaden fishing vessel when the
Coast Guard got hold of her. She had a wooden hull and a
squat superstructure that made her look like an inland ferry-
boat. The Coast Guard did a lot of work on her, overhauled
her from truck to keelson, spent nine months and consider-
able money on the job. They even put some of the latest-
type sound-detection gear aboard her. Young Donaldson
said it was one of the best sets he had ever worked with.
Finally, one day in September, she was pronounced ready
for sea and her skipper, Lieutenant (j.g.) Elliott P. Smyzer,
THE PICKET FENCE
USCG, was ordered to take her to her new Atlantic coast
base. Even before she got out into open water trouble de-
veloped in the engine room but it was not recognized as
an evil portent apparently and even if it had been, those
things don't count in wartime, especially in the Coast Guard.
So as soon as the repairs had been effected, the engine room
called the bridge and reported the ship was ready to proceed.
The wind was rising as the Wilcox headed out but they
had a following sea and Smyzer thought they would be all
right. He began to have his doubts, however, when he found
the ship rolling as much as thirty degrees. At that, she
hadn't begun to show what she really could do!
Smyzer had had three years' service in the Navy during
World War I and was in the Merchant Marine after that,
but only about seven or eight of the thirty-odd men in his
crew had ever been to sea before. As a result of the rapid and
tremendous expansion of both the Navy and the Coast
Guard, you can find similar situations on a great many ships
these days. Fortunately, they don't all run into such hard
luck on their first cruises.
Throughout the first day, the wind continued to rise and
the seas climbed steadily higher. Waves were running as
high as fifty feet. Darkness closed in and although the
Wilcox was taking a terrific pounding, she still was under
control. Smyzer thought they would be able to ride out the
During the night, however, they were forced to stop two
or three times because of trouble with the main bilge pump.
In those intervals when the engine was shut down, the little
ship rolled sickeningly. A couple of times she heeled over
as much as seventy-five degrees.
"It seemed as if she must surely go over," Smyzer reported,
"but she righted herself and I knew that if she didn't go
over in seas like that, she would stay afloat."
As events proved, he was too optimistic, but that was not
because the Wilcox capsized.
Sometime between 4:30 A.M. and 5:00 A.M., Lieutenant
(j.g.) Trickey, the engineering officer, mounted the bridge
and told Smyzer he was having serious trouble below but
that, if he could get the auxiliary bilge pump running, they
would be able to hold their own. In a little while he did
manage to get the auxiliary going but the respite was
"Captain, we've got to get to port," the engineer called
through the voice tube. "Something has gone wrong and
we're taking water so fast that I can't keep ahead of it. Can
we put into port somewhere along here?"
The "something" that had gone wrong was that the
Wilcox V seams had begun opening up and no amount of
pumping was going to suffice. At first, however, the crew
didn't realize just what had happened.
"I knew that there was no port we could reach," Smyzer
related, "but I thought if we changed our course and headed
directly to the beach the waves would not be so severe when
THE PICKET FENCE
we got in far enough, and we could swing the ship around,
just keeping enough headway on her so that we wouldn't
"I didn't want to run up on any rocks, and I didn't know
precisely what the condition of the beach along there was. 5 '
The situation was desperate and Smyzer knew it only too
well. And although, like any good skipper, he probably
wanted fiercely to save his ship, the safety of his crew was
uppermost in his mind. He sent for his chief radioman.
"Skipper, are you going to send an S.O.S.?" the latter
asked as he stepped into the chartroom.
"Yes," said Smyzer.
But as they stood at the chart table while the captain wrote
out the message, the lights went out. The last generator had
Immediately the radioman hooked up the portable trans-
mitter and for the next hour he sat at the key, pounding out
the distress signal. The range of the portable equipment was
such, however, that he knew there was scant chance of its
being heard by anyone.
Meanwhile, down in the cramped engine room Trickey had
organized a bucket brigade, recruiting all available hands re-
gardless of their regular posts. He said he thought they
probably were good for another four hours, but there was
not much conviction in his voice when he said it. And just
when Smyzer figured the four hours would give them time
to reach the beach, the main engine quit again.
Once more Trickey got it going and the captain tried
changing course to ease the pounding on his ship first due
west, then northwest and back to west again. Mountainous
waves of angry green water hammered at them. More and
more of them were coming right over the bow and racing
along the deck.
"Captain," reported Trickey, "every wave we take aboard
is just flooding us out."
Smyzer merely shook his head.
Shortly after daylight, a strange thing happened. One of
Mother Carey's chickens, a small sea bird, fluttered to rest
on the Wilcox's fantail and there it stayed.
"We're done for," said Trickey when he saw the bird.
"That's a bad omen the worst thing that can happen to
About 8:00 A.M., the ship had its first personnel tragedy.
Two members of the crew were up forward when a great
wave struck. One of them heard it hit.
"Hang on!' 5 he yelled. At the same time he threw his legs
around the other's body in a scissors grip. But his effort was
vain. The wall of green water struck them and tore them
apart. The second man grabbed frantically, tore his would-be
rescuer's cheek like so much tissue paper. Then lie disap-
"Man overboard!" the shout went up.
A full gale was blowing by that time. Nevertheless, Smy-
THE PICKET FENCE
zer stopped the ship while a life ring was hurled after the
unfortunate seaman. A cruel decision faced the captain, one
which probably will wake him up sweating in the middle
of the night for years to come. The man who had gone over
the side was Harry Stephens Dennis of Bogota, New Jersey.
He had a wife and child at home.
Smyzer knew, however, that he had thirty-four enlisted
men and three other officers still aboard to think about. He
knew, too, that if he tried to swing his already water-logged
ship in that storm, she would turn turtle and all hands
would be lost,
"I decided to proceed toward the beach," he reported
It was a case of the greatest good of the greatest number
and certainly no one will question the decision the captain
so reluctantly made, least of all the other members of his
At that time the Wilcox was making about two-thirds her
normal speed, but in a few minutes Trickey notified the
captain he could give him a full 350 revolutions per minute.
Again Smyzer had hopes of getting the ship closer to the
beach, only to have them dashed in less than half an hour
when the main engine went completely dead.
Throughout this grueling period, the ship's young and
inexperienced crew had performed like old-timers. Most of
them were horribly seasick from lack of food and the vio-
lent tossing of the ship but young Donaldson, a "veteran"
of almost two years' service, much of it in the Iceland area,
declared he never heard a whimper out of any of them.
In fact, there was even some effort at gaiety. While the
bucket brigade strove to keep the water down in the engine
room, Trickey got out the wardroom phonograph and started
playing the entire collection of records. As each number
finished, he would take it off and carefully skim it into the
ocean with the grim remark:
"Well, I guess we woji't be wanting that again."
Somewhere along the line a practical citizen among the
enlisted men decided that since they were going to have to
abandon ship sooner or later, he wanted to go over the side
in his best suit of dress blues. So he fought his way to his
locker and stripped off his dungarees.
"Dungarees is cheaper than blues/' he explained. "Besides,
when we get picked up, they'll probably give us some leave
an' I don't want to have to sit around no barracks waiting
for a suit of blues!"
Before long the whole crew had followed his example.
Throughout the day Smyzer kept the bucket brigade go-
ing, the crew working in two shifts. Truly it was a battle
of men against the sea, and slowly but inexorably the men
were losing. They knew it, but there was no panic. Black
despair seized many of the youngsters, however, at one point.
In the midst of their bailing efforts, an electrifying shout-
went up from the fantail:
THE PICKET FENCE
Sure enough, through the murk they could see the outlines
of a good-sized craft. Some later identified it as an LST.
It seemed to be heading in their direction and Smyzer said
he thought that their feeble distress signals must have been
picked up after all.
"As he approached he changed course and went over a
way to our port," the captain related, "and then he changed
course again to run apparently parallel to our position.
"I had a distress signal hoisted and we fired some rockets.
We fired our 20-millimeter gun, the magazines of which
contained a good many tracers that I thought could be seen.
We were not able to use our big blinker because the power
was gone, but we had a portable light that we got topsides
and the quartermaster signaled him and got a reply. We
explained the precarious position we were in and asked
The newcomer lay to for a few minutes, but they couldn't
get a definite response out of him, couldn't tell whether their
message had been understood or not. Whatever the explana-
tion, the men of the Wilcox had the dismaying experience
of seeing their one hope of rescue turn away from them and
disappear over the horizon.
It may have been that the LST was having all it could
handle to keep itself afloat in those seas, for the big landing
craft are notoriously poor sailors. Her crew may have feared
that they'd be running into some kind of a Nazi trap if
they responded to the appeal for help. Most likely, though,
they just didn't understand the signals from the Wilcox.
"The morale of my crew dropped to nothing," Smyzer
said, describing the effect of their apparent abandonment.
"I heard remarks such as 'What's the use, we're licked.' "
It was his move, he knew. He had decided earlier to put
off abandoning ship until the last possible moment because
he felt that the men couldn't live on a raft in those seas. He
called all hands topsides and those who could crowded into
his cabin, the others pressing close to the doorway.
"Boys," he began slowly, "we are not going to give up
hope. You are all cold and wet the same as I am, but you
must have faith. We are going to pull through this. You are
going to do exactly what I tell you. It will be tough, but we
are going to fight this thing out until the seas go down to
such an extent that I feel it will be comparatively safe for
you to ride the rafts. Not one man goes over the side on a
raft until I give the word."
His words had the desired effect, for all hands went back
to their tasks. The struggle against the water rising in the
engine room grew steadily more difficult, for the men not
only were working without food but they had no drinking
water because there was no power to operate the pumps.
They managed, nevertheless, to 1 keep the bucket brigade
going, working in half -hour shifts. Repeatedly the young-
sters would have to drop out momentarily when their sea-
THE PICKET FENCE
sickness forced them to make a beeline for the rail. But al-
ways they staggered back to the bucket brigade.
At 10:20 P.M.,, the seas were breaking over the Wilcozfs
stern, she was so low in the water. It was then only a ques-
tion of time before she would founder, for already a danger-
ous port list had developed. Smyzer passed the word for
everyone to clear out of the engine room and stand by to
Meanwhile, the chief boatswain's mate had been tying the
rafts together, checking their equipment and rations. When
everything possible had been done, he began firing the last
of their rockets. One after another they traced a fiery path
into the inky sky, then cascaded varicolored balls of fire
At 10:30, when they had been fighting their losing battle
against the sea for almost twenty-eight hours, Smyzer or-
dered the rafts on the port side to be lowered away and the
men assigned to them to follow them into the sea. A couple
of minutes later, the process was repeated on the starboard
side. "I can't jump," faltered one youngster, clutching the
"Better do it," called another. "You're going to get wet
Smyzer and Trickey almost went down with the ship
when they made an effort to get the dinghy into the water
after all the rafts had left. It had been lashed down, how-
ever, after having once been made ready for launching, and
they were unable to free It.
"Get over the side as fast as you can/' Smyzer directed the
engineer. "In another minute she's going down."
Smyzer said he had a difficult time getting away from the
sinking ship because of the suction she was creating, but he
succeeded in fighting his way around the stern. In the dis-
tance he could make out one string of rafts and at once
struck out for them. He found, however, that he had in-
jured his left arm during the day and it was of little use.
Fortunately, he bumped into a ladder in the darkness and
was able to haul himself onto it. His efforts to paddle
toward the rafts with one hand were a dismal failure, so he
dropped into the water and began swimming again.
When a few minutes later he found he had made little
headway and bumped into the ladder again, he figured he
was meant to use it, so he climbed back and spent the ensu-
ing seventeen hours trying to stay on it. Repeatedly he lost
Luckily for all hands, the Wilcox had gone down in the
Gulf Stream and the water was comparatively warm.
"The sharks were right bad," said Donaldson. "They had
me worried for a while, because I had always heard they
liked white meat and my bare feet were shining in that clear
Gulf Stream water like a pair of headlights. I sure wished
I had kept my shoes on."
The men quickly found that they could not expect the
THE PICKET FENCE
rafts to support them if they clambered aboard. The best
they could do was secure themselves to the life lines along
the sides. One or two men could get onto the raft and row.
"Only one of the eight guys around our raft had a knife/'
Donaldson said, "so he was elected to get up on the raft and
dish out the rations. 55
Small quantities of drinking water and food were avail-
able for all those at the rafts. Smyzer, on his ladder, had no
During the day the weather had begun to moderate some-
what and Donaldson, who, by the way, was the son of Wil-
liam J. (Bill) Donaldson, superintendent of the House Press
Gallery in Washington, told feelingly of how the little group
of wretched men watched a convoy steaming past on the
horizon. They had no means of attracting its attention and,
the men on the ships could not see the rafts or their occu-
pants at that distance.
Later a blimp soared overhead, but it too missed them so
far as the men in the water could tell. They were wrong,
however, for Ensign Harry Cook of St. Petersburg, Florida,
the copilot who was at the rudder at the time, spotted an
object floating in the water. Nosing down to investigate, the
object was identified as a life raft. Just then a green flare
went up from the raft.
By this time, a PC boat which had been escorting the con-
voy that Donaldson and his erstwhile shipmates had watched
disappear, came into view in response to a message from the
blimp. The latter then cruised in the area, locating three
other rafts, and in about two hours the surface craft had
completed the rescue.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the whole affair
was that not a soul was lost in the actual sinking. It certainly
is a tribute to the discipline which Smyzer was able to main-
tain as well as to the manner in which the crew, inexperi-
enced though they were, performed under soul-trying
Out of the ordeal young Donaldson brought one recom-
mendation Navy life jackets should be some bright color
instead of the battle blue they now are painted.
"When we got aboard the rescue ship," he said, "they told
us that, when they first sighted us, they thought we were
porpoises. We were splashing around and waving our arms,
but our jackets just blended in with the color of the water."
Of course the Navy well knows that yellow is the color
that can be seen best at sea or from the air, but in choosing
the blue color for life jackets, the same as the hulls of its
ships, the Navy had to decide whether the rescue factor was
sufficiently important to warrant destroying the camouflage
of its ships, for naturally the crew has to wear life jackets all
the time they are on deck while at sea. In the case of cruisers,
for instance, this would mean that possibly a couple of
hundred spots of bright yellow, should that color be substi-
tuted, would be running around topsides, making beautiful
targets for strafing planes.
SEARCH FOR SAFETY
A NOT of haggard-looking men sat on the edges of
their bunks in a Navy barracks at an eastern sea-
port one day early in 1942. They wore new dun-
garees but they were unshaven and some were noticeably
jumpy. Their nervousness was understandable, however, for
they were the survivors of the crew of an American mer-
chantman which had been torpedoed literally on Uncle
Sam's front doorstep.
An officer with the gold shield of the Coast Guard above
his rank stripes was questioning them and noting their an-
swers carefully on a long, printed form.
After die usual questions as to the name and size of the
ship, her cargo and destination, the officer wanted to know
such things as whether the enemy was sighted and when,
where the torpedo hit, the immediate effect of the blast and
how long the ship stayed afloat after she was abandoned.
He also queried them closely concerning the lifesaving gear
carried and how it performed.
"How many lifeboats and rafts did you carry?"
"Did you use the boats or the rafts?"
"Have you any recommendations or criticisms?"
Similar scenes were repeated many times in the months
that followed as Admiral Karl Doenitz's U-boat blitz in-
creased in ferocity. And in the early months the answers to
the Coast Guard's questions were tragically similar. The
lifeboats could not be lowered because the torpedo explosion
had damaged the lowering gear, or else the boats were
swamped by inexperienced personnel
One glaringly apparent fact which emerged from the in-
terrogations was that untrained or ill-trained crews aboard
American merchant ships were the cause of appallingly high
losses of life.
Gradually, however, the questioning of survivors by offi-
cers of the Coast Guard's Merchant Marine Inspection Serv-
ice was developing a composite picture of what happens
when one or more "tin fish" enter the vitals of the average
cargo ship or tanker. The faults in equipment and person-
nel showed up unmistakably, and steadily the Coast Guard
hammered away at the job of rectifying the errors.
As the beginning of the third year of America's participa-
tion in the war approached, theretofore secret statistics on
what had been accomplished were released. For example, in
January of 1942 the average loss of life per ship attacked was
34.6 percent of those aboard dry cargo ships and 42 percent of
those on tankers. In September 1943 the losses had dropped
to 2.1 percent on the last 15 dry cargo ships attacked, with
no losses at all on six of them, and to 7.3 percent on the last
SEARCH FOR SAFETY
15 tankers attacked. Likewise, on ten of the tankers there
was not a life lost!
How was the transformation accomplished ? Certainly no
single factor deserves the whole credit, but one which prob-
ably rates the lion's share is training. Because, obviously,
even the best of equipment will not necessarily enable an
untrained crew to make an orderly abandonment of a ship,
whereas a crew that knows how to use whatever equipment
it has stands a much better chance of survival.
This was made terrifyingly clear in the case of two ships
which went down in the North Atlantic with very heavy
losses. Before they sailed, the records show that the exam-
ining officers criticized the state of the crews' training and
their lack of familiarity with the lifesaving gear.
When the torpedoes hit, the very 'thing feared by the ex-
aming officers happened.
The first men to reach the boats began lowering away.
Then, without regard to the boats' capacity, other panicky
passengers and crew members began swarming down the
life lines. The sea was rough and boat after boat capsized,
hurling the occupants into the water, some to be crushed
between the boat and the hull of the ship and others to
perish in the icy water.
Many of those who either jumped or were thrown into
the water owe their lives to one of the earliest safety require-
ments set up by the Coast Guard after it took over the duties
of the Commerce Department's Steamboat Inspection Serv-
ice on March i, 1942. This was that life jackets be provided
with small,, waterproof electric lights with red bulbs which
the seamen may turn on to guide rescuers to them. When
the water is so cold that men can live only a matter of min-
utes, the importance of being quickly located can readily
As with many other wartime safety measures,, the Coast
Guard had the experience of the British and other maritime
nations to draw on in working out standards for the lights.
The red bulb was decided on, for example, because life rafts
already were equipped with white electric lights which turn
on as soon as the raft hits the water. Therefore, in order
that rescue boats would not waste precious minutes by going
after survivors who already were on rafts, the lights for the
jackets were equipped with the distinguishing red bulbs.
"We still get criticism of those red bulbs, however," one
officer said, "from people who feel that the red light can't
be seen far enough. They think it ought to be white or
yellow. It seems to me, though, that regardless of the color,
the light is valuable only if rescue boats are close enough to
reach the swimmers in a few minutes and, in such cases,
elimination of all possible confusion is the desirable thing."
The majority of the Coast Guard's wartime safety meas-
ures are based on careful analysis of the experiences and rec-
ommendations of a large number of survivors, but a few of
them can be traced to individual occurrences.
One group of seamen, for instance, came ashore after a
SEARCH FOR SAFETY
protracted period in a lifeboat and it was discovered they
had been overlooked repeatedly by patrol planes.
"We could see the PBY's [Navy flying boats] go by,"
they related, "but we were unable to attract their attention."
Finally one of them hit on an idea. Taking the bottom
of a tin ration can, he fastened it to the blade of an oar and
used it to flash the sun's rays back at the planes. This crude
heliograph proved effective, too, and soon thereafter the
Coast Guard made it mandatory for all lifeboats to be
equipped with polished steel signaling mirrors. They are
somewhat more elaborate, of course, than the piece of tin
can fastened to an oar blade, and each mirror is accompa-
nied by simple instructions for sighting it so as to give the
maximum chance of the signal being seen.
Early in the war the British found that one of the primary
needs aboard merchant ships operating in combat zones was
for plenty of life rafts which could be dropped into the sea
speedily and without any complex lowering machinery. Ex-
perience of the most bitter kind showed only too clearly that
lifeboats, especially wooden ones, were often rendered un-
usable by the explosion of a torpedo, either as a result of
damage to the boat itself or to some part of the launching
Slip rafts seemed to be the answer. Secured to the ship's
stays, they could be dropped into the sea by the simple means
of pulling a lanyard, and the crew could swim to them after
jumping overboard. This, of course, is not as comfortable
as being lowered over the side in a nice dry lifeboat, but
with ships going down in less than ten minutes, sometimes
even in a matter of seconds, the sailors quickly learned they
could not be choosy.
Despite the obvious lessons to be gained from the experi-
ence of the British, the Dutch and the Scandinavian ships in
the early months of the conflict, the majority of American
merchantmen were inadequately equipped when war finally
came to the United States. It took disasters such as the sink-
ing of the S.S. City of Atlanta, one of the first victims of
Grand Admiral Doenitz's blitz against our coastal shipping,
to spotlight the needs completely.
In the City of Atlanta's case, the ship rolled on her side
almost immediately after the torpedo hit. This carried the
lifeboats on the low side under water at once, and those on
the upper side could not be launched because their davits
were of the gravity type and there was no way to lift them
clear of the ship in that position.
The only three persons who survived were those who
managed to get onto some wreckage in the water. Obvi-
ously, had there been rafts or floats available, other lives
probably would have been saved because there were eighteen
or twenty persons in the water wearing life preservers, but
they perished before they could be got out of the water.
To a certain extent the loss of life on American merchant
ships might be considered in the nature of chickens coming
home to roost because the bulk of those ships were virtually
SEARCH FOR SAFETY
worn-out veterans of World War I which lacked up-to-date
lifesaving gear and whose watertight integrity was not pre-
cisely irreproachable. However, that is only a partial answer.
U-boats of today are infinitely more deadly and efficient
weapons than their 1914-1918 predecessors; their torpedoes
are much more powerful, capable of sinking ships in a mat-
ter of minutes. In World War I, by contrast, crew members
who were not killed outright by the torpedo explosions
usually had ample time to get lifeboats away before their
ships sank. Very frequently, too, the subs gave sufficient
warning to enable them to take to the boats even before the
torpedoes were fired. No such practice prevails today.
When the Coast Guard took over the job of helping mer-
chant crews protect themselves from the results of torpedo
attacks, it did two things to put the system on a practical
basis. It instituted the practice of interviewing all available
survivors of ship sinkings to learn as much as possible about
what happens in such cases and to get firsthand recommen-
dations for safety measures and equipment.
Then it brought into die service as commissioned officers
many of them with the rank of commander veteran mer-
chant skippers who had had their ships torpedoed under
them. These men were assigned as examining officers for
the Marine Inspection Service and given the job of seeing
to it, as far as possible, that every ship which sailed in convoy
had at least the minimum of lifesaving gear aboard and that
the crews were familiar with its purpose and operation.
If there is anything that a merchant sailor hates it's the
idea of regimentation. That's why he's a merchant sailor
and not in the Navy. Consequently, attempts to get the old-
timers to engage in lifeboat or fire-drill in peacetime was
just about impossible. After the first few sinkings, however,
that was all changed.
Repeatedly survivors of torpedoings testified that lack of
training in the use of the available lifesaving gear caused
many deaths and they urged more and more drills. Like
that patent medicine we are told the children cry for, the
seamen frequently ask that such drills be held before they
put to sea. Captain H. C. Shepheard, USCGR, tall, rugged
director of the inspection service, says that almost invariably
the requests come from the old-timers, especially those who
have been through a torpedoing or two. Such men realize
only too well how vitally important it is that every member
of the crew know exactly how to operate the lifeboat davits,
where the releasing levers are located in the boats, and sun-
dry other details that they won't have time to learn after the
"tin fish" hits.
Take the matter of releasing levers, for example. There
are several patented varieties and each is located in a differ-
ent part of the lifeboat. One, for instance, will be a metal
ring in the bow of the boat while another may be a long
lever located under a thwart in the middle of the boat. If a
seaman has been trained to operate the first type, he will be
completely at a loss on a dark night to release the boat from
SEARCH FOR SAFETY
the davits if it happens to be equipped with the second type.
To a landlubber this may not seem a very important item
but seamen will tell you that it often spells the difference
between life and death. Many a lifeboat has been swamped
and its occupants hurled to their deaths because the releasing
gear did not work, or was not operated properly. Such acci-
dents often happen if the ship still is under way when the
lifeboats hit the water. At such times it is vitally important
that they be released from the davits as soon as they are
water-borne. Otherwise the forward motion of the ship will
most likely drag the bow of the lifeboat under water.
As the new merchant ships, the Liberties and Victories,
came off the ways, the Coast Guard struggled to have such
important items of equipment standardized. In the mean-
time, and for the older ships on which standardization is not
possible, the Coast Guard is concentrating on training and
In peacetime, shipowners are in the business for profit and
they look at every recommendation for additional equipment
with a coldly calculating eye. Knowing that attitude, the
Coast Guard was instrumental in getting the government to
adopt the policy of having the War Shipping Administration
assume the cost of all wartime safety measures that might be
recommended or required as the need developed. This in-
sured the minimum of delay in getting the necessary equip-
In the case of rafts, improvisations had to suffice at the
outset in order that the all too small number o ships would
not be tied up unduly long while better models were devel-
oped. So the early type of slip raft was little more than a
sturdy crate with flotation tanks rigged in each end. Equip-
ment stowed aboard it was held to the absolute minimum
and there was no shelter of any kind provided. As a result,
many seamen who were forced to spend protracted periods
clinging to them suffered cruelly.
Gradually improvements were made and the latest ap-
proved type of raft is an elaborate affair indeed. All metal, it
does not deteriorate from exposure to the weather on the
ship's deck and is designed with sufficient strength so that
it can safely be dropped into the sea at practically any angle
from a height of fifty or sixty feet. In watertight compart-
ments it carries at least as much equipment as would be
found in a lifeboat, such as blankets in waterproof con-
tainers, a mast and sail, canvas which can be rigged as spray
guards and tents. The latter serve not only as shelter from
storms but enable the occupants to escape the serious sun-
burns which proved torture for many torpedoed victims.
Early in 1943 one of the year's most widely circulated
books came off the presses, but it got no notice from the re-
viewers, neither criticism nor acclaim. It wasn't even offered
for sale. Nevertheless, its first printing was 35,000 copies and
it went to its readers with the unusual distinction of pos-
sibly becoming for them second only to food and water as
an essential to life. In many respects it was a defensive
SEARCH FOR SAFETY
weapon that may well prove the means of saving hundreds
of lives before the war is over.
This unusual book was the work of the Coast Guard's
Marine Inspection Section,, containing the carefully distilled
results of the scores of interviews the Section's officers had
had with American, British, Belgian, Dutch, Norwegian
and other United Nations seamen who had survived the
destruction of their ships by Axis submarines.
The stories with which these men returned to United
States shores were not pleasant, and the details of many of
them remained in the Coast Guard's confidential files, but
all of them, built around the hard core of a tough fight for
life, had in them lessons which fairly cried out for recogni-
tion by the youngsters who flocked from farm and factory
to the decks and engine rooms of America's growing fleet of
merchant ships in answer to Hitler's challenge. It was for
those youngsters, as well as for the older seamen who also
had much to learn about the hard ways of war, that the book
Many who scan its pages will see only the matter-of-fact
regulations and recommendations for the promotion of
safety at sea, but between the lines are the grim stories of
the men on whose experiences the book was based. In plain,
unvarnished language, the seamen told how they stayed alive
for as long as two months when their supplies of water, bis-
cuit and pemmican were exhausted, their nerves frayed and
their bodies burned or frozen. More than that, they told of
the heights of ingenuity to which the human mind will rise
in the face of the final test for survival or death. All this and
more was the essence of the unpretentious, blue paper-
covered book. It was distributed to every operator, every of-
ficer and every member of the crews of American merchant
Probably none of the stories told by the rescued seamen
may be classed as deathless prose, but in the terse language
of the sea many of them portray clearer pictures of the
ordeals suffered by men adrift than the ablest fictionist could
convey. One such, printed in the earlier editions of the
Marine Inspection Section's book, was Kaare Karstaad's ac-
count of how nine Norwegian seamen sustained themselves
for forty-eight days while drifting over almost a thousand
miles of the Atlantic. His passage on the turtle, for example,
is starkly realistic.
"Turtles swim around on moonlit nights," he wrote, "and
the occupants of a raft should keep quiet and not move
around, because the turtle is curious and will come to see
what it is. When it gets near the raft, you can grab it by its
legs . . , and turn it over on its back. Then it will be power-
"We lashed them down on their backs till daylight. When
daylight came, we killed the turtle by knocking it on the
head and utilized blood by using a long chisel, sticking it
into the turtle's breast between the forelegs. The heart is at
NO SMOKING DEFINITELY
U. S. Coast Guardsmen stand on the alert with fire extinguishers as the hold
of a merchant ship is loaded with 1,000-pound aerial bombs. The Coast
Guard's Port Security Detail takes every precaution to see that the explosive
eggs" are safely and properly loaded for the trip that will end with concus-
sion in Axis-land.
SEARCH FOR SAFETY
about the middle of the backbone. The thrust will make the
blood come out like a fountain. Catch blood in a glass and
drink :t right away. For those who are not so fond of blood,
it she aid be noted that it makes no difference whether you
take one mouthful or a whole glass. The same taste is left
in the mouth. The blood is cold and refreshing but has a
typical blood taste.
"As soon as you drink the blood, you take off the bottom
shell and open it up in the middle. Get rid of the stomach.
Take out liver and eat it at once. If it is kept any length of
time it will get sour and become poisonous. Don't eat the
kidneys at all.
"When you are opening the turtle, you will see in the body
cavity a fluid between the different parts that looks like
bouillon or consomme. You can drink this fluid. It is deli-
cious and not extremely fishy. You should eat a good por-
tion of the meat from the neck and legs while it-is still fresh
and raw. It looks like fresh chicken meat and does not taste
at all fishy unless the fat gets into it; then it turns bitter.
The back legs are good, too. . . ."
Although with perhaps less intimate detail, the book tells
the seamen how to do many things that may help them pro-
long life messages of hope and inspiration.
On the matter of drinking water and substitute fluids, for
instance, the book is quite expansive. Methods of catching
rain water and squeezing potable fluids from the flesh of
fish are explained in detail For the Coast Guard knows
only too well how all-important it is for men at sea to have
In peacetime, when survivors of ship sinkings could rea-
sonably expect rescue in a matter of hours, one quart of
water per person was deemed adequate to keep stored in
lifeboats. In wartime, however, when men stayed adrift for
weeks, even months, the minimum was increased to ten
quarts per person. Nothing is more feared by the men in
charge of the sea safety program than the tendency of ship-
wrecked mariners, adrift for longer than their water rations
will last, to turn to the sea water all around them to slake
their burning thirst. The high sodium and magnesium con-
tent of sea water is invariably fatal to the drinker in a very
short time, and, what is worse for his companions, it "usually
drives him mad before it kills him.
Knowing that survivors can exist for protracted periods if
they have water food is not nearly so important the Coast
Guard teaches that rain water is one of the greatest blessings
to shipwrecked mariners but there are a number of impor-
tant facts to remember about catching it. Ignorance of these
facts has resulted in illnesses and even some fatalities, chiefly
because the canvas used to collect the precious rain water
had been exposed to salt spray which polluted the rain as it
fell into the receptacle. To avoid this, the Coast Guard ad-
vises that the first canvasful of rain water be thrown away,
despite the will power such an act would require of .thirsty
SEARCH FOR SAFETY
men, and tells them how to rig the canvas as high above the
boat or raft as possible.
In its instructions regarding the provision of water for the
lifeboats and rafts, which occupy almost two full pages, the
book contains some advice which may be surprising to land-
"In filling water containers such as ... one-gallon cans, it
is desirable, if possible, to use boiling water," one paragraph
begins. "The cans should be filled within one inch of the
top to allow for expansion and freezing and sealed while
hot. This method drives off the dissolved oxygen and thereby
Publication of the Coast Guard's book filled a long-felt
need, but like many such things it took a war to bring it
about. Until it appeared there had been no book in the his-
tory of maritime commerce that was required reading for
seamen on active duty "no vade mecum that the mariner
took with him wherever he went," as one Coast Guard offi-
cer put it, a no guide to tell him what to do when all hope
"And although other maritime nations had sensed the
need for such a volume, no accomplishment in the shape of
a complete edition had ever been achieved. Great Britain,
for example, had experimented with the general idea for
some time, but without carrying the project through to com-
"With regard to our own merchant seamen, the void that
the lack of such a book left seems, in retrospect, more than
obvious. When men are tossed about helplessly for days on
end in a sparsely equipped and highly vulnerable boat or
raft, and when only knowledge can help them survive until
rescued, there is grave danger that it will not be hunger or
thirst or exposure which will kill them so much as their own
ignorance of how to sustain life with only what the sea itself
will yield them."
Perhaps the most brilliant demonstration of the power of
knowledge, human ingenuity and presence of mind in such
cases was that given by three members of a Navy plane crew
forced down in the Pacific early in the war. Undoubtedly
the strength of character, plus the skillful application of what
he knew, displayed by the pilot, a chief petty officer, saved
the lives of those three men.
When the harrowing details of such ordeals first began to
reach the public in the early days of the war, a great to-do
was raised about the provision of adequate supplies of fish-
ing gear for lifeboats and rafts so that the , men would have a
better chance of fending for themselves. Former Governor
Gifford Pinchot of Pennsylvania, an enthusiastic and expert
deep-sea fisherman in peacetime, was one of die most active
in the campaign for the inclusion of such gear in the re-
quired equipment of all merchant ships. The Pinchot kit
contained also the materials and instructions for extracting
potable fluids from the flesh of fish.
That the idea was good there can be no question, but offi-
SEARCH FOR SAFETY
cers studying the problems of survivors of torpedoings think
it was somewhat overemphasized. It was all right in the
early days, they explain, when a substantial number of ships
were running the gantlet of the submarine blockade alone
and many of them were being sunk far from any other ship-
ping. In those cases the survivors frequently had to spend
weeks in their lifeboats or rafts.
Today, when virtually all United Nations' ships move in
strongly guarded convoys, the situation is changed. One or
more of the escort vessels is designated for rescue work in
the event that any ships in the convoy are sunk. Conse-
quently, the chance that survivors will have to spend any
great length of time tossing around in boats or rafts is small.
In fact, the average can now be figured in hours, rather than
days, so that there is not the same need for the men to be
able to catcE fish for food and drink as there was at the
Many of the safety measures advocated by the Coast
Guard on the basis of recommendations of men who have
been through the mill may seem inconsequential at first
blush, but usually they are rooted in bitter experience and
almost without exception they represent the composite views
of the survivors, not those of any one individual.
Take, for example, the question of footholds for lifeboat
lowering bitts the metal posts around which the lifeboat
falls are snubbed so that the boat doesn't fall too rapidly. As
the toll taken by the U-boats grew ominously blacker, it was
found that more and more seamen were reporting difficulty
in handling the falls when their ships developed heavy lists,
because there was no way in which to brace their feet at that
angle. Accordingly, steps were taken to see that cleats or
footholds were provided so that even if the man had to lie
almost on his back on the deck because of the list, he could
still surge the falls properly.
Another recommendation that may have brought from
ship owners a lifting of the eyebrows, if not some forthright
profanity, was one for rounding the edges of all lifeboat
thwarts and benches. Such a request might have sounded
like coddling our tough, hardy seamen, but actually it was
nothing of the sort. Men found by experience that if they
had to spend long periods at the oars of lifeboats, seats with
sharp edges cut their flesh cruelly, especially when their flesh
had lost its normal powers of resistance through malnutri-
Firm in its belief that there can be safety at sea, even in
wartime, the Coast Guard's search for it is never ended. And
Captain Shepheard voiced the hope that it will not end with
"It would be a greater tragedy than those already suf-
fered by our merchant seamen if we did not benefit from
their experiences," he said, "and put them to the construc-
tive use of all sea-faring men for all time to come."
In Shepheard's view, merchant seamen are not expendable
and the Coast Guard's fight for their safety and well-being
SEARCH FOR SAFETY
is, in fact, a fight for the safety and well-being of the nation
itself, for if the merchant seamen fail in their momentous
task, we will have lost the war.
Discussing some of the problems relative to the safety of
the merchant seamen, Shepheard declared that one of the
most alarming and, at the same time, one of the most chal-
lenging aspects of the war at sea was the speed with which
some of our torpedoed merchant ships went down.
"Frequently there has been insufficient time to launch life-
boats properly," he explained. "It therefore became increas-
ingly necessary for us to devote more and more study to life-
rafts. The evidence that we gathered from the men who had
spent long, trying days adrift under all sorts of weather con-
ditions made it mandatory that decisive steps be taken for
equipping our merchant ships with more adequate rafts than
the old ones so long in use.
"We discovered that the old rafts with flush decks and un-
protected sides proved torturous to seamen in all kinds of
weather. Survivors were unprotected alike from the sea,
from the sun and from extreme heat or cold. The dreaded
'immersion foot' frequently was caused by a long stay on
such rafts, and many men were lost due to this or other ail-
ments resulting from exposure."
"Immersion foot" is not a new disease, but it is much
more prevalent as a result of the war than ever before. It
may develop whether the victim has been wearing shoes or
not and, because of its prevalence among survivors of tor-
pedoings, the Coast Guard's safety book goes into some
detail as to Its cause and cure.
"Usually the first thing noticed is painful feet/' the pas-
sage says, "and then a few days later the feet and legs begin
to swell. These first symptoms are much like chilblain even
though the water temperature may have been above freezing.
After a time, discoloration of the skin appears and blood or
water blisters, ulcers, and even death of the tissues may
occur. The feet feel numb, and they may become paralyzed.
Numbness and tingling sensation may be felt in the arms
"You have read above that swelling of the feet and legs
may occur with a poor diet, especially if there has not been
enough vitamins or enough protein. This condition is dif-
ferent from the swelling of Immersion foot,' because in
"immersion foot' there is much pain, often discoloration of
the skin, and the feet are likely to have ulcers or sores on
them. These other symptoms are not found with the swell-
ing caused by a poor diet
"First aid treatment for "immersion foot' is very important
because the vitality of the legs and feet has been lost and the
tissues arc cosily damaged. With treatment, circulation of
the blood in the feet and legs is improved, but remember
that too rapid a return of circulation may cause severe pain
and further damage. Be very careful in handling the limbs
while numbness is present, to keep from injuring the flesh.
Keep the victim's feet and legs raised above his body level
SEARCH FOR SAFETY
and put cold compresses on them every 15 or 20 minutes to
relieve the pain. . . . Keep the victim's body warm. . . .
Never fut direct heat on a -foot or leg suffering from im-
mersion. Massage is harmful to the legs and should not be
Physical health and well-being are not the sole concerns
of the Coast Guard's safety-at-sea experts, either. Behind
many of their suggestions are reasons that have to do with
the morale and mental health of the men. It was to bolster
their morale as well as to lessen fatigue, for example, that the
Coast Guard ordered the legal capacities of all lifeboats re-
duced enough for the occupants to be able to lie down occa-
sionally, instead of having to remain bolt upright all the
time they were adrift.
Also, although the experts contend that drinking water is
the only sustenance that seamen absolutely must have in or-
der to keep alive, they freely recommend inclusion of such
things as vitamins, food concentrates and similar things in
the emergency rations because they know they will help the
men feel that they are better off whether that is actually the
case or not.
Along the same line of reasoning, the Coast Guard rec-
ommends that men adrift in boats or rafts not eat their ra-
tions for each meal all at once, but rather that they consume
small quantities at more frequent intervals. To men totally
alone on a seemingly endless expanse of sea, without room
to move around and without diversion of any kind, nothing
brings greater relief than the ceremony of issuing rations,
however pitifully slim the ration might seem to a landlubber.
The extreme advisability of keeping busy as a means of
avoiding panic or hysteria was emphasized by Kaare Kar-
"We kept busy mending the rig or fishing or doing some-
He and his mates even dived under their raft to clean it!
But after forty-eight days adrift, their constant occupation
proved to have paid well because their minds and nerves
stood up admirably under the strain of the ordeal.
Thrilling and often tragic sagas of the sea are buried in
the files of the Marine Inspection division at Coast Guard
Headquarters while the search for better means of safe-
guarding life at sea goes on. Take die case of Junior Third
Officer James Cameron, for example.
Young Cameron was on the bridge of a tanker early one
morning in November. They were in the North Atlantic
and the weather already had winter's bitter lash in it. With-
out warning, a torpedo crashed into the tanker's hull about
amidships, tossing Captain Soren Sorensen out of his bunk
onto the floor of his cabin. Still somewhat stunned, the skip-
per made his way to the bridge. Flames were leaping high
in the air from the 'midships section and shouts of officers
and men trying to get boats ready for launching added to
"Have some cigarettes put in my boat," the Captain told
SEARCH FOR SAFETY
Cameron, and turned back to his cabin to get a flashlight
and his ship's papers. When he emerged, the only boat ac-
cessible from the bridge had been swung out and was ready
to lower. On the basis of the experience of other ships, Sor-
ensen and the others probably thought their ship was in
danger of immediate disintegration and the thing for them
to do was to make their getaway while they could. In fact,
the Coast Guard's Marine Inspection division recommends
just such procedure not only in the case of tankers but in
"You usually can reboard the ship if it develops that it is
not going to sink/' one officer explained, "so the thing to do
is get the boats away as quickly as possible. Then go back
aboard if you are able."
At any rate, Sorensen and all the other deck officers of his
ship but one got away in the boat together with five seamen.
Young Cameron and the rest of the crew remained aboard
and when Cameron arrived on deck with the Captain's ciga-
rettes, he found he was alone on the bridge and in command
of the ship. It was truly a frightening accession to com-
mand, but Cameron rose to the occasion in a manner in
keeping with the finest traditions of the sea. There was no
panic in him although with flames roaring skyward from the
hold punctured by the torpedo, he could almost touch death.
A steadying influence undoubtedly was the sight of the
young Navy officer who commanded the Armed Guard mak-
ing his way forward to his guns, undeterred by the holocaust
behind him. Also reassuring was the voice on the engine-
room telephone when Cameron finally got around to an-
swering its insistent summons:
"What the hell's wrong up there? Everything's under
Perhaps they weren't all going to Kingdom Come in a
Cameron ordered the 'midships section flooded and then
set about fighting the fire topsides. He still had all but seven
of the crew available because, except for the five men who
got away in the only lifeboat launched, all the others were
on board. Only two had been injured and there were no
deaths, miraculously, from the torpedoing.
Gradually the fire was extinguished and after some delay
the engines began turning over again. They could make
only a fraction of their normal speed and because of her
flooded condition, the ship was difficult to maneuver. Nev-
ertheless, young Cameron succeeded in working her into a
United Nations port although it necessitated him standing
twenty-nine consecutive watches on the bridge!
Shortly after the torpedoing, the Captain and others in the
lifeboat were picked up by an escort vessel; although they
requested that they be put back aboard when it became ap-
parent that the tanker was not going to sink, the medical
officer on the rescue ship ruled that they were not in fit con-
dition to return.
Temporary repairs were effected to the tanker, a new cap-
SEARCH FOR SAFETY
tain and other officers arrived and after the ship had been
inspected by insurance and other authorities, it was decided
to move her several hundred miles southward to a port
where permanent repairs could be made.
She was only at sea a matter of hours, however, when a
storm came up which proved too much for her weakened
structural condition and she broke in two. It is one of the
tragic ironies of war that young Cameron, hailed by the press
a couple of days earlier as the ship's savior, was one of eleven
men lost when the forward half of the vessel went down.
COAST GUARD ALOFT
THE destroyer Sturtevant sliced her way through the
Atlantic at an easy speed. There was no sign of the
enemy and all seemed well. Suddenly a terrific explo-
sion shook the ship and almost in less time than it takes to
tell, she was gone.
Her radiomen had no warning of what was to come and
consequently no opportunity to send out the usual distress
call. As a result, no one ashore or elsewhere afloat could be
expected to know that she had met with disaster. Probably
her survivors realized that fact and when they found them-
selves alone on the ocean., they doubtless looked forward to
protracted suffering and possibly death.
But they reckoned without the Coast Guard's small but
effective air arm.
Aviation Machinist's Mate (first) A. M. Cupples, a Coast
Guard enlisted pilot, was on patrol in the vicinity where the
Sturtevant went down. He didn't see the sinking but came
along in time to spot the survivors in the water. Cupples was
flying a land plane and therefore could do nothing himself
about picking up the men. Unfortunately, he also was flying
without a radioman and was thus unable to send out a call
COAST GUARD ALOFT
for help. So he did the next best thing. Shoving his throttle
"through the gate/' he headed for his base, landed and re-
ported his discovery.
At first he had some difficulty getting the Navy to believe
his story. There had been no distress call from any ship in
the area nor any other indication of trouble.
"You must be mistaken, fella," they told him.
Cupples insisted and declared he was going back to the
spot as soon as he could refuel and get a radioman. Still
skeptical, the Navy dispatched surface craft to the location
Cupples had given and finally the survivors were picked up.
"Had it not been for the Coast Guard . . ." It is not only
the Sturtevant's survivors who can measure their chances for
life in those terms, for up and down both the Atlantic and
Pacific Coasts, Coast Guard patrol planes maintain a con-
stant vigil and though that branch of the service got a late
start compared to the rest of aviation, it has made up in
heroic, spectacular achievement what it lacks in size and age.
A good indication of the reputation the young aviation
branch enjoys may be found in the fact that late in 1943 a
force of Coast Guard PBY's (Catalina flying boats) was as-
signed to relieve a Navy squadron which had been operating
in Greenland, one of the world's toughest spots for an air-
Even before that compliment was paid to the Coast
Guard's fliers, they had been operating for considerable
periods in the Arctic in ship-based planes. In fact, it was one
of those which figured in an outstanding example of the
heroism and self-sacrifice which characterize the air arm of
the Coast Guard as well as its surface units, for the fliers ac-
cept as their own the seaman's tradition that "you gotta go
out, but you don't have to come back." A sterling reason for
that, of course, is that Coast Guard aviators must be seamen
first. The commissioned officers can get flight training only
after they have had three years of sea duty.
Late in November of 1942, the cutter Northland received
word by radio that communications had been established
with the crew of an Army Flying Fortress which had
crashed on the Greenland icecap two weeks previously. The
cutter was instructed to proceed to the aid of the fliers who
reported that some of their number were seriously injured
in the crash, gangrene had set in some of their wounds and
all were terribly cold and hungry. The Northland proceeded
to the Greenland coast but many miles of ice lay between
her and the stranded fliers. The latter's plight seemed hope-
Lieutenant John A. Pritchard, Jr., twenty-nine-year-old
Coast Guard aviator from Burbank, California, didn't think
so. He went to Commander Francis C. Pollard, the North-
land's skipper and also a California!!, and said he had a plan
for getting the Army fliers off the icecap without resorting to
the long ordeal of trying to reach them by dog team with
the probably fatal delay that that would entail.
"I've been studying this thing for a long time, Com-
COAST GUARD ALOFT
mander," he said, "and I'm confident I can land the plane on
the ice with the wheels up, just as if I were landing on water.
Furthermore, I know I can take off the same way."
Pritchard had been flying continuously in Greenland for
the preceding nine months and had demonstrated himself
to be a competent, careful airman. But Commander Pollard
was understandably reluctant at first to authorize the flight.
And yet those poor devils up there on the icecap needed res-
cuing. Certainly that was the Coast Guard's time-honored
business. Undoubtedly arguing thus, Pollard asquiesced and
Pritchard got ready to take off.
He looked grotesquely overstuffed in his heavy, sheepskin-
lined black leather flying suit as he stood on the "Northland's
fantail waiting for the single engine of his Grumman am-
phibian to warm up. Then after a few final words with
Commander Pollard, the pilot and his radioman, Benjamin
A. Bottoms of Salem, Massachusetts, climbed into the cock-
pit and the plane was hoisted over the side into an ice-free
stretch of water.
Skillfully Pritchard drove the little plane across the sur-
face of the bay and lifted it into the air. Fog enshrouded
them almost before they were clear of the water. Pritchard
had to get above the 2,ooo-foot-high icecap in order to begin
his search and he flew for half an hour over the desolate
waste before he located the wrecked Fortress. In his months
of flying in the area he had learned only too well the perils
involved, the manner in which a flier loses his all-important
sense of depth perception when flying over that white waste
so that he can't tell how far above the ice he is and fre-
quently can't even distinguish the horizon.
Much of the time up there, flight instruments cannot be
depended upon and for that reason there is little or no night
flying possible in Greenland. An altimeter set for sea level,
for example, isn't of much help to a pilot if he doesn't have a
chart showing the altitude of the terrain over which he hap-
pens to be flying. In the case of the Greenland icecap, there
just aren't any complete charts.
Pritchard, therefore, was well aware of the dangers of his
mission but he profited by the experiences of those others.
When he located the Fortress and her trio of survivors
ironically, they had been on a rescue mission themselves,
searching for a missing cargo plane which had disappeared
on a flight from Iceland, when they crashed he circled the
spot while Bottoms radioed a message that they intended to
set the plane down near by.
"Don't try it," replied the Army fliers, with courageous
solicitude. "You'll never make it."
Pritchard ignored that and picked out a long downslope
of ice well covered with snow. He had the problem of his
take-off in mind and knew that his chances would be better
if the plane were headed downhill The landing was as
smooth as if it were on the unruffled surface of a South Sea
lagoon. ' ' '' i I'' 1 |
They still were four miles from the B-I7, so leaving Bot-
COAST GUARD ALOFT
toms to keep in touch with the Northland and the wrecked
plane, Pritchard set out over the ice on foot. Death narrowly
missed him at one point on that journey, for he fell into a
crevasse that was over his head. Some of those apertures in
the icecap, covered by a thin and deceptive crust of snow, are
hundreds of feet deep. Fortunately, the one into which
Pritchard plunged was only a little over his head and he was
able to climb out.
Arrived at the bomber, Pritchard found the men seriously
weakened by their ordeal. One had a broken arm and the
other two were suffering from gangrene. With great diffi-
culty he managed to get all three back to his plane and it
was decided to take the two most seriously injured back to
the cutter on the first flight.
The take-off was described later by one of the rescued
men, Private Alexander L. Tucciarone of the Bronx, New
"I can only explain it by saying 'God was with us,' " he
said. "We bumped from hill to hill, each time bounding a
little higher until suddenly we had the old familiar smooth
sense of being air-borne."
Pritchard had established a new "first" for the Coast
Guard, for he was the first flier to land on the Greenland
icecap and take off again. Others had tried it but most of
them had landed with their wheels down, the wheels had
promptly broken through the snow crust and the planes
nosed over. Some of the pilots were able to walk away from
By the time Pritchard got back to the Northland, the Arc-
tic night had fallen and he alighted on the water in the glare
of the cutter's searchlights. The entire crew lined the rail
and cheered as the heroes came aboard.
The two rescued men soon were comfortably installed in
the cutter's sick bay and one of the first things they asked
for was Pritchard's autograph.
Next morning Pritchard and Bottoms took oflf again to
complete their job. They had had to leave the third man
from the Fortress alone on the icecap the night before. They
managed the landing and take-off the second time without
any apparent difficulty, for the cutter picked up a message
from Bottoms saying they had the third man aboard and
were in the air again. But nothing more ever was heard
A heavy snowstorm had come up with the treacherous
speed characteristic of that country and Pritchard apparently
lost his bearings for a fatal period. Searchers located the
wreckage of his plane from the air some days later where it
had crashed into an upthrust of rock and ice. The front
of the aircraft was demolished, the searchers reported, al-
though the tail surface appeared undamaged and there was
no sign of life around it. "Greater love hath no man . . ."
But Pritchard and Bottoms did not die in vain. Not only
had they saved the lives of the two soldiers brought out on
COAST GUARD ALOFT
their first trip from the icecap, but they showed the way for
the rescue of others. Bernt Balchen, famous Arctic and Ant-
arctic flier and explorer, who is now in the Army, performed
a similar rescue by putting a seaplane down on a small pool
of water that had formed in a depression in the icecap. Next
day the pool had disappeared through a crack in die ice!
Early in the history of aviation, men of vision in the Coast
Guard saw the possibilities of planes for supplementing the
work of the cutters. Planes were so much faster than the
surface craft, they would be invaluable, for example, in
searching wide areas for the old and poorly maintained sail-
ing ships which were always getting into difficulties neces-
sitating the aid of the Coast Guard. Planes could spot the
distressed craft quickly, thus enabling the cutters to get to
the location without undue delay.
As early as 1916, in fact, Congress authorized the Coast
Guard to detail officers and enlisted men to aviation duty
and to establish ten aviation stations on the Atlantic and
Pacific Coasts, the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico. As
Congress sometimes does, however, it failed to appropriate
any money for this ambitious project, treating Coast Guard
aviation much as an earlier Congress treated Alexander,
Hamilton's plan for the construction of ten sailing cutters
for the Revenue Service.
In spite of that Congressional failure, the actual beginning
of the Coast Guard's air arm can legitimately be traced to
the summer of 1915 when Captain B. M. Chiswell, then com-
manding the cutter Onandaga at Hampton Roads, and two
young lieutenants began experimenting with a borrowed
plane to determine whether there was a place for aircraft in
the service. Results of the experiments were so successful
that one of the young officers. Third Lieutenant Elmer F.
Stone, was assigned to Pensacola to learn to fly and the
other, Second Lieutenant Norman B. Hall now Captain
Hall, in charge of the Coast Guard's Port Security Section
was ordered to the Curtiss Airplane and Motor Company
at Hammondsport, New York, to learn how to build air-
These enthusiastic young pioneers had barely got started
on their new studies when World War I broke out and upset
the plans of a lot of people including the United States Coast
Guard. Stone, who served as one of the pilots of the NC-4
on her history-making transatlantic flight in 1919 and who
died in 1936 with the rank of commander, was assigned to
duty with the Navy as a pilot aboard the cruiser Huntingdon
and Hall was transferred to the Buffalo office of the In-
spector of Naval Aircraft at the Curtiss Plant.
Still without funds to establish Coast Guard aviation, an-
other attempt was made by some of its proponents in 1920.
The Naval Air Station at Morehead City, North Carolina,
was made available and the Coast Guard set up a tent hangar
there. Up on Ten Pound Island at Gloucester, Massachusetts,
Carl Christian von Paulsen, or Captain "V.P." as he is
known to the Greenland Patrol today, borrowed a plane
COAST GUARD ALOFT
from the Navy and set up a tent hangar there. Von Paulsen,
perhaps the oldest and boldest pilot of the Coast Guard, op-
erated an obsolete seaplane there on a number of difficult
Down at Morehead City, Stone and a few other young
hopefuls, also using borrowed Navy planes, demonstrated
the value of aviation as an adjunct of the Coast Guard by
hunting for wrecked planes and surface craft of all types,
by helping fishermen locate schools of fish and by doing a
variety of other chores. Repeatedly, Congress* attention to
these operations was invited by high officials of both the
Coast Guard and the Treasury, but their appeals for funds
fell on deaf ears. In dejection the struggling young aviators
struck their tents.
Paradoxically, lawbreakers can claim almost full credit for
the ultimate establishment of an honest-to-goodness Coast
Guard aviation service. For in 1926 it had become apparent
to Congress that the Noble Experiment of Prohibition had
gone awry, that rumrunning was virtually out of control.
Then, and only then, Congress swiftly appropriated $152,000
for five new planes for the service and two new air stations.
It was almost beyond belief. Losing no time, the Coast
Guard set up one of the new stations at Cape May, New
Jersey, and another at Gloucester, Massachusetts.
Gradually the service expanded. Steadily its record of
achievement grew. The most spectacular performances, of
course, were the landings which the Coast Guard fliers made
at sea to take injured or sick seamen or passengers off their
ships and rush them to hospitals. These feats made head-
lines and contributed materially to the development of a
special type of plane which is deemed suitable for that work
and which can be regarded as the forerunner of the great
clipper-type flying boats which made transoceanic flying
history in the years immediately preceding World War II.
A number of the senior pilots of the service had more
than eighty such landings apiece to their credit, and in the
opinion of many of them the training they thus acquired
made them especially well qualified for resuce work in the
combat zones when World War II began. A proposal was
made by the Coast Guard to put these highly specialized
fliers at the disposal of the Army and Navy air forces for
rescue work in the forward areas where combat fliers might
be forced to land on the water.
Nothing came of the proposal, however, and the subject is
a sore one for a lot of the Coast Guard fliers, Because of
their relatively high rank, a lot of them are forced to take
over administrative or command jobs where they have no
opportunity to use their flight skill. As a result a number
of them are giving up aviation and applying for sea duty
because it offers them the only chance for active service.
Aside from personal considerations, one reason that the
fliers regret the lack of approval of the project is that they
see in it the chance to lay the groundwork for a service they
are convinced will be urgently needed when peace comes.
< >. .v. c t
COAST GUARD RESCUE IN GREENLAND
Ready for the job. . . . Coast Guard Lieutenant Pritchard stands alert as his
plane is readied aboard a Coast Guard cutter. His heavy clothing stood him
in good stead when, after landing his aircraft, he was forced to trudge four
miles over icy terrain to reach the Army fliers, all. of whom were suffering
intensely from the cold and hunger.
The Coast Guard amphibian plane has been put over the side, and Lieutenant
Pritchard and Radioman Bottoms are ready for the take- oil.
I '. ,V ( ,M/tf (,,!,/ /'lift,,
SPECTACULAR LANDING ON 1CKCAP P>Y LIKUTKNANT PRITCH ARU
This sketch by Coast Ciiiardsman Larry O'Toole shows the sp<Ti;u-ular land
ing made by Lt. John A. Pritchard in his icscue of the two Army ainurn.
COAST GUARD ALOFT
"Everybody who owns a plane and has an office in his hat
Is filing applications for permission to establish overseas air-
lines after the war," one top-notch Coast Guard aviator said.
"It's perfectly obvious that there's going to be a tremendous
expansion of transoceanic air travel when hostilities are over.
"Somebody is going to have to look after those passengers.
We won't be able to have repetitions of the Cavalier incident
all over the globe."
The British Imperial Airways flying boat, Cavalier, was
forced down at sea en route from Bermuda to New York
back in 1939. Coast Guard cutters were rushed to her aid
from as far north as Cape May. A terrific storm was raging
oft Hatteras, making it impossible for the cutters with their
top speeds limited to about fifteen knots to make any sort of
time on the run.
Fortunately the big flying boat did not sink immediately
and all but one of her passengers and crew ultimately were
rescued by a merchantman which happened to be in the
"There won't always be a ship handy like that," went on
the Coast Guard aviator. "So I feel that there will have to
be some co-operative sort of arrangement such as we have
for the International Ice Patrol to deal with the problem of
safeguarding life along the routes which will be followed
by the transoceanic airlines."
In his view and it is shared by other high-ranking Coast
Guard officers who are not fliers there will have to be large
and speedy flying boats based at strategic points such as New-
foundland and Iceland for the northern great-circle course,
able to get to the scene of a crash or forced landing at sea in
the shortest possible time. These planes and their crews will
have to be capable of landing on rough water and taking off
again. Big speedy surface cutters will have to supplement
the planes, because there will be times when weather con-
ditions will not permit even Coast Guard planes to fly.
Finally, Coast Guardsmen envision the need for organiza-
tions and facilities to salvage the great flying boats that may
be forced down. Craft like the Martin Mars cost so much
that it will be extremely uneconomical to neglect any op-
portunity to bring them back to port and they will be so big
and sturdy that there probably will be many cases, assuming
they happen to be forced down, in which they will be well
able to remain afloat for protracted periods.
Like the rest of the Coast Guard, the aviation arm has ex-
panded tremendously since the war began. It has six times
as many pilots and three times as many planes, which means
that the available planes can be kept in operation a greater
percentage of the time. Ultimately, according to present
plans, the service's planes will be fivefold the number it had
on Pearl Harbor day.
Although details for the most part must await the end of
the war, it can be said that Coast Guard aircraft have had
more than their share of contacts with the enemy. From
COAST GUARD ALOFT
December 7, 1941, to June 30, 1943, for example, Coast Guard
aircraft delivered sixty-one bombing attacks on enemy sub-
marines; they located more than a thousand survivors from
torpedoed ships or aircraft and sent surface craft to their
rescue and actually rescued ninety-five others themselves.
Some idea of the value of the service rendered by Coast
Guard airmen may be gleaned from the estimate that prop-
erty assisted and saved from possible loss in the nineteen
months prior to July i> 1943, was worth approximately
$10,000,000. In that period, Coast Guard planes made a total
of 763 assistance flights on a wide variety of missions.
Among these were searches for disabled land and sea air-
craft and surface vessels and their survivors, transportation
of serum and other medical supplies, flood relief, transpor-
tation of injured persons and various types of assistance to
other government agencies. A total of 17,834 patrol flights
were made in that period during which more than 60,000,000
square miles were searched.
Aside from its wartime program, Coast Guard aviation
still performs its former duties, one of the most important of
which is the observation of ice-pack conditions in the Great
Lakes. By keeping daily tabs on that situation, a lone Coast
Guard aviator has been instrumental in getting the low-lying
ore ships in operation weeks earlier than usual, thus helping
to speed up the vital steel production of the "Arsenal of
Inevitably, the greater part of Coast Guard aviation's work
is connected with the war but in spite of that it has managed
to make notable humanitarian contributions.
For instance, when a great patrol-plane pilot spots the
bearded survivors of a torpedoed ship bobbing around in a
lifeboat far below him, frequently the first thing he does is
to "bomb" them. The plane circles the boat, makes a brief
run over it and then repeats the process. On the second run,
the bomb bay opens and down plunges one of a pair of
"bombs" which each Coast Guard patrol plane carries in its
This sounds like strange tactics for the "mercy" fliers to
be pursuing toward helpless seamen but all is not what it
seems. The "bomb" is actually a container full of food which
is dropped from a height of about a hundred feet, lands near
the boatload of survivors and floats until they can row over
and retrieve it.
The "provision bomb" as it is known in the service was
developed and perfected by two aviation enlisted men sta-
tioned at the Elizabeth City, North Carolina, Coast Guard
Air Station. An interesting story lies behind the experiments
of the two men and the need for the "bomb."
When the war began, a cargo parachute developed by the
Forest Service was tried out by the Coast Guard as a means
of getting emergency supplies to victims of enemy action at
sea. The parachute had been a success over land, but its use
over water was found to be impracticable because it could
COAST GUARD ALOFT
not be depended upon to come down close enough to weak-
ened men for them to swim or row to it and frequently
breakage and complete loss of the containers resulted.
A number of alternatives were tried and discarded. Milk
cans attached to kapok life preservers were used for a short
time, but these containers were bulky, hard to obtain and
often were lost when the kapok tore away upon contact with
The Mark V practice bomb finally was hit upon as having
the proper dimensions although the tail made the device too
heavy for the desired lifesaving purpose. A watertight, light-
weight fin made first of wood and cardboard but later of
wood and doped fabric was substituted thereupon. This
solved that part of the problem, but how to get a nose for
the bomb heavy enough to make it drop nose first so it
wouldn't ricochet, and yet not so heavy that it would sink
the whole works, was a poser.
The two inventors, Frederick H. Denio, metalsmith first
class, and Harold V. Booth, aviation machinist first class, hit
on the answer after many failures. They designed a concrete
nose, cast in four sections which are then covered with a thin
skin of cement. This binds the sections together and holds'
them while the bomb is in flight but it shatters upon impact .
with the water; the rest of the concrete sinks, leaving the
bomb standing upright in the water.
By placing a thick layer of sponge rubber or heavy cork
between the nose and the reinforced bottom of the bomb,
the force of the impact could be absorbed and damage to the
The "provision bomb" can be dropped from low-flying
planes on any spot desired. It can be hung from standard
racks or thrown from the hatch of a plane. Light in weight
approximately twenty-two pounds it contains about
twenty pounds of provisions including seven cans of water,
one pint of rye whisky, two rations of the Navy's concen-
trated food, cigarettes, matches, four kinds of medicine,
bandages, adhesive tape, salve for burns, rations for three or
four days and a can opener.
For special emergencies, such as in response to radioed re-
quests from ships at sea, the "bomb" can be used to deliver
other specifically needed items.
Commander Richard L. Burke, commanding officer of
the station, took an active interest in the development of
the bomb because, as a veteran of many rescues at sea, he
recognized the need for it. For his outstanding exploits in
air-sea rescues, Burke was awarded the Distinguished Flying
Cross shortly after he had put his plane down on the ocean
and picked up survivors of the crew of a German submarine!
Another Coast Guard flier who won high honor for a
rescue at sea was Lieutenant David O. Reed of Winchester,
Kentucky. On patrol duty in the Gulf of Mexico, Reed
spotted two lifeboats containing twenty-one Norwegian sea-
men whose motor ship had been torpedoed and sunk by a
COAST GUARD ALOFT
U-boat. The men were badly sunburned and one of them
had a broken back.
Reed set his twin-engined seaplane down close to the boats
and began taking the survivors aboard. His plane ordinarily
could carry only eight or nine persons but Reed, undaunted,
got all twenty-one Norwegians aboard. In addition to the
passengers, he was carrying 600 gallons of fuel.
"Plane was extremely tail heavy/' the pilot said in his re-
port, "and pilot and copilot, Ensign V. C. Tully, USCG, of
Biloxi, Mississippi, both applied full weight to push yoke
forward. In spite of their combined efforts the plane took to
the air at forty knots indicated air speed, in an extremely
nose-high attitude. Before clearing finally into the air the
plane came back on the water once.
"Once in the air no difficulty was experienced in picking
up speed and in getting the plane in a level attitude. In level
flight and stabilizer set full nose down it was still necessary
to apply forward yoke pressure."
Reed landed his overloaded craft on Lake Ponchartrain,
New Orleans, without mishap and got all his passengers
ashore. Subsequently he was awarded the Navy Cross for
the feat, one of the few Coast Guardsmen to be so honored
up to that time.
Up in Alaska, Coast Guard airmen are not only quietly
making aviation history in a routine sort of way but they
have organized a parachute rescue squad, believed to be the
first of its kind, who will be able to drop to the aid of vic-
tims of airplane crashes or other accidents in isolated Alaskan
spots. Chief Boatswain Arthur Hook, who used to do wing-
walking and other barnstorming stunts at county fairs, or-
ganized this new outfit and has been training them at Seeley
THERE is much that is fantastic about World War II
so much, in fact, that even minor miracles apparently
don't count but no saga of the Coast Guard would be
complete without mention of, nay, tribute to the medical
men who serve with it. To the few casual observers who
chance to identify them as members of the medical profes-
sion, they doubtless look like any other naval officer in their
blues or khaki but the truth is they are not in the armed
forces at all. They are commissioned in the United States
Public Health Service.
The Public Health Service itself is fairly well known. No
one is particularly surprised when one or more of its doctors
or "microbe hunters" turns up in some pestilence-threatened
area. Quite the contrary, in fact. But the idea of them step-
ping out of an invasion barge on some still-contested beach-
head in the Mediterranean or on the other side of the globe
is one that has not yet gained what you'd call wide currency.
Nevertheless, that's exactly what goes on almost wherever
the Coast Guard is fighting. Public Health Service doctors,
most of them tough, eager young fellows but some not so
young, are right there with the fighting men.
Approximately 460 PHS doctors, a third- of them dentists,
now are serving with the Coast Guard afloat or at various
shore installations in the United States and Greenland. At
this writing, three have laid down their own lives while on
that duty. Two perished with cutters lost at sea while the
third died in an airplane crash. And the United States had
been at war almost two years before Congress provided that
Public Health Service doctors on duty with the armed forces
should have die same death and disability benefits as the
members of those forces.
Probably no surgical feat in naval annals will top that of
the pharmacist's mate who, with no previous experience
save as an onlooker, performed a successful appendectomy
aboard a submarine deep in a Jap-infested portion of the
Pacific. There was stark drama about that incident not to
mention the suspense and uncertainty. There was also great
courage on the part of both the patient and the "doctor."
It is a case that stands alone.
On the other hand, the doctors aboard the Coast Guard's
little ships carry out their missions of mercy under conditions
which would make the average surgeon or physician shudder
One of the cutters on the Greenland Patrol, for example,
was fighting her way through a heavy gale after having
made a dangerous trip into a remote Eskimo village to
deliver fuel and food to the natives. While the storm was at
Its height, a nineteen-year-old seaman was stricken with
An operation was imperative and delay might be fatal
But consider the plight of the young surgeon. Dr. Edward
B. Gall. Aboard ships of the cutter class, the sick bay usually
is hardly worthy of the name so far as size is concerned.
Most of them are only big enough to accommodate ambula-
tory cases. If a seaman breaks an arm or leg, he can be
treated in his own bunk. But an operation for appendicitis
is a different matter. Probably most doctors in such circum-
stances would requisition the officers' wardroom and rig an
operating table there.
In Gall's case, however, there was not only the question of
an appropriate place for the operation. The ship was rolling
and pitching heavily, so much that even the removal of a
splinter with a dull putty knife would have been a rather
dangerous performance. Whereas, removal of an appendix
with a razor-keen scalpel . . .
It was a dismaying prospect and yet the life of the suffer-
ing young sailor demanded that the operation be performed.
The solution was not only to strap the patient securely to
the operating table, but the legs of the doctor and his two
assistants were lashed to the table as well. Within a few
weeks the patient had made a complete recovery.
On the face of it, it would seem that no one would have
a deeper appreciation of the blessings of anesthesia than
patients who find themselves in such extremities as the lad
Dr. Gall operated on or young Ensign Kenneth B. Nelson,
twenty-six, of Chicago,, who had a similar experience.
With his ship in the teeth of a hundred-mile-an-hour
North Atlantic gale, Nelson's appendix began to kick up.
Dr. Paul W. Lucas of Durham, North Carolina, a junior
grade lieutenant in the Public Health Service, decided that
an operation was necessary.
"I've never seen a storm like that during my twenty-three
years at sea," another of the cutter's officers declared, on their
return to an East Coast port two weeks later. "A hundred-
mile-an-hour gale was blowing. When Ensign Nelson was
stricken, we rigged a false wooden deck over the concrete
one in the operating room and secured the table to this.
"Then Nelson was lashed to the table and an anesthetic
administered. Dr. Lucas performed the operation assisted
by a warrant machinist, a chief pharmacist's mate, and an
electrician's mate, first class.
"As the doctor completed his operation and started closing
the wound, the anesthesia began to wear off. Nelson re-
gained consciousness. Though in great pain, he just gritted
his teeth and held on until surgery was completed.
"Within a week Nelson was able to be up and around."
A few months before the cutter Escanaba was lost with all
but two of her officers and men, she figured in one of the
greatest rescue operations of the war. A transport had been
torpedoed in the North Atlantic and literally hundreds of
military personnel and civilians had to go over the side into
the icy water in the dead of night.
There still were plenty of them bobbing around on rafts
or merely in life jackets when the Escanaba came on the
scene, but many of them were beyond helping themselves
and it was necessary for members of the cutter's crew to go
into the freezing water after them. One of the intrepid souls
who did go over the cutter's side with a line about his waist
was heavy-set Assistant Surgeon Ralph R. Nix, a drawling
United States Public Health Service doctor who hailed from
McComb, Mississippi. In addition. Nix had to direct and
assist in rendering first aid to all the survivors. Some idea
of the extent of the job may be gained from the Navy's an-
nouncement that 132 men were rescued by the Escanaba on
that occasion almost half as many again as were in the
cutter's entire crew.
During a battle with a surfaced U-boat, the cutter Spencer
was hit by one shell which caused twenty-four casualties
among her crew, four of them serious. Immediately, the
facilities prepared by Dr. John J. Davies, of Davenport, Iowa,
for just such eventualities were being taxed to the utmost.
For the ensuing seventy-two hours the surgeon was scarcely
off his fee^ Describing the difficulties of the situation later,
he recollited that at one point while he was in the midst of
an abdominal operation on one lad, one of the Spencers five-
inch guns kept hammering directly overhead, each blast
jarring the cutter as though it, not a U-boat, were the target.
Although the doctors assigned to cutters are there pri-
marily to look after the officers and men aboard those ships,
their services often are placed at the disposal of others. In
convoy work, for instance, the cutters' doctors frequently
are called upon to treat injured or ill seamen aboard the
freighters, few of which carry their own doctors.
On one occasion during a severe storm, Dr. William C.
Lewis diagnosed and prescribed treatment for one sailor's
ailment aboard another ship by conversing with one of the
ship's officers by short-wave radiophone. He got regular re-
ports on the man's condition and gave directions for his care
until the weather moderated sufficiently for him to transfer
to the freighter and see the patient personally. On the same
trip, members of a gun crew on another ship were injured
in an accident and Dr. Lewis handled their case in the same
manner until he could be rowed over to see them.
The association of the Coast Guard and the Public Health
Service goes back a great many years. It started in fact with
the establishment of the Marine Hospital Service, a$ the
Public Health Service orginally was known, in 1798 eight
years after the creation of the Revenue Cutter Service. The
Marine Hospital Service, as its name implies, was founded
to care for merchant seamen. Actually, it can be regarded
as the first example of organized socialized medicine in this
country for the seamen were taxed twenty cents a month for
It was a natural thing for the Revenue Cutter Service to
send its men to the Marine Hospitals for treatment inasmuch
as both services were under the jurisdiction of the Treasury
Department until the Public Health Service was transferred
a few years ago to the Federal Security Agency.
The assignment of Public Health Service doctors to serve
aboard Coast Guard vessels was just as logical, since in the
early part of the nineteenth century the Coast Guard's mis-
sion was broadened to include the rendering of assistance
to merchant ships in distress.
In peacetime, Public Health sends between twenty and
twenty-five of its doctors each year to serve with the Coast
Guard for periods ranging from one month to a year or
In the course of that service, they get a wide variety of ex-
perience. In addition to caring for the crews of the cutters,
for example, the doctors who serve with the Bering Sea
Patrol often have to minister to the native tribes in remote
Alaskan villages who get no other medical care the year
One young doctor on that detail found to his surprise that
nurses employed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs frequently
remove tonsils for the natives or perform appendectomies.
In fact, a nurse who won't or can't remove tonsils doesn't
rate very high with the Eskimos.
Looking after the men of the cod-fishing fleet which op-
erates throughout the summer in Alaskan waters during
peacetime is another chore of the Public Health doctors, but
usually that doesn't entail anything more complicated than
a finger infected after a losing engagement with a dirty fish-
hook or an occasional appendectomy.
The young surgeons serving aboard the landing craft of
the amphibious warfare forces in the Mediterranean lead a
totally different kind of existence, obviously. Their vessels
often were used as hospital ships to transport wounded sol-
diers or naval personnel from the invasion beaches back to
base hospitals in Africa and the doctors' job would be to
carry on as far as possible from where the medical personnel
of the front-line dressing stations or field hospitals left off.
Before the Nazis' grip on the Mediterranean was broken,
the Public Health Service doctors, like a lot of others in that
area, often were under enemy fire. One of them had his sick
bay literally shot out from under him but he merely salvaged
what he could of his equipment, moved ashore and set up
there until a new landing craft was provided.
All in all, it can be seen that the lot of the Public Health
Service doctor afloat is just as tough as that of the men he
sails with but there is something peculiarly fitting in having
those members of so outstandingly self-sacrificial an organi-
zation as the United States Public Health Service working
shoulder to shoulder with an agency devoted primarily to
the promotion of safety of life at sea the United States
^ |"1HE global nature of World War II carried the Coast
1 Guard far beyond those territorial waters which were
1 its only concern originally. So broadened were its hori-
zons, in fact, that the name Coast Guard was distinctly a
misnomer. More or less musically, many a member of the
service put it this way:
"I'd like to meet the guy who named the Coast Guard,
And find out what coast he had in mind."
It was the peacetime training and traditions behind that
proud name, however, that qualified the "First Fleet" for its
momentous war role. Similarly, it is clear that performance
of that mighty mission has served to gear the Coast Guard
for an expansion of its peacetime activities.
Manifestly, it will not be able to slough off all of its war-
born chores as soon as the conflict is over, for some of them
definitely belong in its peacetime curriculum.
One such, for example, is its inherited Merchant Marine
Inspection Service with all that it means to safety of life at
sea. And doubtless there will be others, for not all of war's
by-products are bad.
Reg Ingraham, the Navy correspondent of
Time Magazine, has written a fresh, excit-
ing account of the unsung heroes of our
United States Coast Guard. The Coast
Guard may have received fewer medals than
Army or Navy forces, but it has decorated
itself with honor among fighting men and
become distinguished by a surprising lack of
concern for popular acclaim of truly heroic-
Since 1790 when a few tiny cutters were
ve r e\ ' VK 'V n a " r WaK ; and ln the in *e batter^ hulks of German
yeaii between its men have trained to save 3 . . . . Coast Guardsmen were with the
S P ,vW T' 81 rescue W0l ; k ' Ae Lighthouse arines that landed in the Solomons;
.Semce. the International Ice Patrol. were an u essential factor in
Jocay Coast Guardsmen are on every c ' ess o the rf zvy task forces that have
battle front-manning invasion barges, plow- ffected , andin ^ in North Africa , in
ng the seas znshm, gray ships for the peril- in Italy and in the islands of the
ous job ol convoy escort, patrolling our own "
coast line of 50,000 miles and guarding our hese broadened horizons, many a
a bora against sabotage. Its most important ;r o the Service put it this way:
iityfes remained unchanged-thepreserva-'d l ike to meet the guy who named
i ion of life and of property. the Coast Guard,
The (.oast Guard has established a base Lnd find out just what coast he had in
on Greenland- 151 me West One-and other mind '
' K.SLS i where they man weather stations; World War I, the loss of life has been
,.-.ui pcrlorm mcredible rescues of pilots and port i onate l y heavy. There is the mov-
.sc, unen. I-ew reah/c that hostility against the ry of Lieutenant Pritchard who dared
Axis was begun in (.rcenland more than ' ible ; n landing his planej wheds
IvlIr'alT' ] H -I'"' lllhreak of P en up, on the Greenland ice-cap to rescue
TI' r''" <1I ' K>I ; three airmen who were stranded when
I IK- day ,s ,,asl when the Coast Guanl S - VTmy ship aashed; who brou ^ ht the
nun were known merely as "_sandponnders". s J^fef and went back ^ in for
-I*' >"> of ihc Atlantic and Pacific omra de-never to return. There is the
beaches. Their proud record shows that tale o Third officer fames Cameron
many have risked then- lives in line of duty SCTippledship . ... J
l!Ua!L21Ull2L-l]ui. ff fronts. .rhe Z havc"fo t iglit j . !ed excitement abounds in First Fleet,
a mingling of humor and heroism simply
but powerfully told. The epic of the Zaida,
the stirring exploits of the cockleshell picket
boats, a hundred other examples prove it.
First Fleet is addressed to every American
who works for victory and who scans the
newspapers anxiously to see how the fight is
going. Here he will learn that if our country
is safe and strong and free, a glorious part of
the credit belongs to the Coast: Guard now
and for a future beyond the horror of present
war. Me will get a kick whenever he sees the
and silver shield.