The Second 255 Coast Guard Reunion

By Jack A. Eckert

This was the announcement:

255 SAILORS 2nd Reunion:  There will be a second reunion in Las Vegas May 6 through May 10, 2001 at the Union Plaza Hotel, Las Vegas.

Contact Doak Walker RMC (ret)

Historian of 255 Owasco Class Cutters

Chairman of 255 Sailors Reunion II

Visit my website at http://www.ptialaska.net/~saad

E-mail saad@ptialaska.net  Phone: (907) 789-2579   

Fax: (907) 789-2780

Address: P O Box 33523

Juneau, Alaska 99803

 

 

Doak Walker

And 530 people showed up to enjoy a wonderful reunion of the men who sailed on all 13 ships of the class. Only a few people knew each other except for those who had attended the previous reunion two years ago and those who have had individual ship's reunions at other times.

The 255's have been gone for over 25 years. Most died an ignominious death in scrap yards.  None were retained as museums as with other classes of ships. When the last man who sailed on one of these ships crosses the bar, they will be forgotten about like the wartime Patrol Frigates manned by the Coast Guard.

A conservative estimate of 22,000 Coasties and all of the Weather-birds sailed on these cramped, rough riding, complicated, and cantankerous ships over their lifetime. That doesn't include thousands more who rode them for short periods of time on Reserve Cruises and whatever. A good percentage of people have crossed the bar now taking their memories with them. But the still living sailors who attended the reunion sure resurrected their memories. The air was blue with tales that should have been recorded for posterity but weren't. 

I was glad to be there even though only ten others from the ESCANABA (WPG-64) made it.

Doak Walker and those that helped him couldn't have done a better job. The activities began on Sunday afternoon an ended on Thursday morning with a "Farewell Breakfast." There was a short Opening Ceremony on Sunday, a golf tournament on Tuesday, some activities for the ladies, and a Banquet on Wednesday. The rest of the time was sit around and talk about old times with all that could be provided by an open bar. A new meaning was given to that old term, "splicing the main brace." This was really the best part, getting acquainted and reacquainted, talking 255 talk, snipe talk, telling tales about some of the characters that sailed on this so-called, "Fiasco" (a perversion of Owasco) class of cutters. The days just flew by. Time did not hang heavy on anybody. It all ended too soon.

The real show piece of the event was the presence of the Purser and the Flight Engineer who were rescued by the Ponchartrain after their PanAm plane ditched in the Pacific. This was vividly described emphasizing that everybody was saved from the ditched aircraft in seventeen minutes from the time the aircraft hit until all were safely back on the ship. What a feat. What a memory.

PanAm 943 Ditches in the Pacific

See http://www.jacksjoint.com/panamrescue.htm DITCH AND RESCUE By Wayne Hokom The author recalls the October 16, 1956 Ditch and Rescue of Pan American ...

By sheer dumb luck the Commander of the Ninth Coast Guard District, Rear Admiral James D. Hull was in Las Vegas for the CGC RUSH reunion. He was the ONLY active duty Coast Guardsman present at this large reunion and he kindly provided some remarks for those assembled at the Banquet. It is ironic that his career began in the days when the last of the 255's were going out of service.

I couldn't help thinking a bittersweet thought at this reunion. This group of people, representative of the 22,000 or so sailors who sailed the 255's has a limited life. This is almost the Grand Army of the Republic (the GAR) in microcosm. That huge veteran's organization consisting of people who fought in the Civil War had encampments every ten years until there weren't enough veterans left to meet and the organization eventually died. Sooner or later the last 255 sailor will cross the bar. The ships themselves have been recycled as razor blades many times and this class of ships and those who sailed them will be but a footnote in history. How sad.

Each group of 255 sailors had their pictures taken formally under their ship's name. Ken Laesser took 100's of pictures of this and everything and everybody else at this reunion. They will probably be made available for viewing on his website in the near future. The URL is http://laesser.11net.com/

Here are a few of the pictures I took at the reunion.

Outside of The Main Room the Reunion was Held at in the Plaza Hotel.

At The Banquet - Boyd Gatewood, Sam Burke, and Jack Eckert

Jim Gill

Ken Laesser, Doak Walker, and Jack Eckert

Iroquois Crew

To those of the survivors of the 22,000 sailors who manned 255's and weren't at the party, shame on you, you missed a good one. Maybe if Doak runs another one in another couple of years you can join in the fun. But don't wait too long, there will be nobody left for a party.

 

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CGC Escanaba (WPG-64)

Goodbye Little White Elephant

 

 

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