June 1950 to March 1951
By Jack A. Eckert
The horrors of the sand dunes behind him, this young sailor(sic) enters the world of the "White Cuttermen" when he reports aboard the CGC McCulloch.
I was a happy camper after I arrived on The McCulloch. I was assigned to B-1 Engineroom. An overhaul was in progress and Chief Marchal put me right to work. I was just cleaning parts but I felt useful. I cleaned up that night, went ashore, dirty fingernails and all. Had I finally arrived?
The next day the ship sailed and I thought I would be an oiler under training in B-1. Not so, I was assigned to mess cook duties under the Master at Arms. I was crushed! The MAA was a BM1 named Reynolds who had earned the CG Gold Life Saving Medal. A very good guy to work for. I felt the job to be demeaning and I knew I was assigned to it for 60 days.
Unlike most of the other AVP's the McCulloch had port holes in the skin of the ship. The day we sailed it was a beautiful sunny day. We left at 0800 for Ocean Station Easy (It was later called Echo.) This was a short 2-1/2 day run. By the time we passed the Boston Lightship the ship began to pitch and roll gently. I was working on the mess deck, the port holes were open, I saw the water come into sight and go out of sight in rhythm. I made the scullery sink where I upchucked. I was green for three days until we got on station. It was no fun doling out food and being sick. I would work to do the minimum and then hit the rack until I had to get up again. I survived and the nausea finally went away.
This was a good first station to make. The weather was beautiful, the seas were a deep azure blue, porpoises and flying fish were around the ship almost for the entire 21 days we were on station. We had swim call almost everyday. At night we would have movies onthe fantail. As a mess cook I didn't have anything to do between cleanup after the evening mess and 0500 when I had to get up and begin setting up for breakfast. I could go to all of the events on the ship.
The three weeks went fast.
During the trip I became friendly with one of the cooks. He seemed a decent sort who didn't look down on me. I would often go up into the galley and talk with him at length. It was nice to have someone to talk to. I hadn't been in the black gang long enough to know anybody even though my rack was in the Engineers Berthing area. So I looked on Nick as my mentor.
We arrived back in Boston after the patrol. The ship had a tradition of granting 72 hour liberty to all three sections after arriving. One section would have the duty, two would be off, one of the off sections would be on a 72. They rotated through this until everybody got one. Even the mess cooks were included unlike most other ships on arrival home. This was great.
Nick the cook asked me if I wanted to take in a show and I readily agreed. We went out to dinner, and took in a show. It was late so he suggested we get a hotel room rather than go back to the ship. The crew would be coming in well oiled and the quarterdeck would be no fun at 0100. Sounded like a good idea. So I agreed.
Believe me, in those days I was very naive. I has 5'8", blonde, slight of build, and had a baby face. I had never met a homosexual before and didn't know what to look for. To make a long story short, I had a pass made at me in the hotel room and it scared the hell out of me. He backed off and I was glad to get out of there. I found out later that a number of the crew thought that it was pretty funny and that I was a good likely victim. Nobody even hinted to me that there was a problem. A lesson learned. Nick was transferred before the ship sailed again and I went into the engineroom shortly thereafter. I never mentioned the incident to anyone but suspect that I wore a name for the duration of my tour on the McCulloch.
During that import period I was working on a Sunday. It was not uncommon to have visitors aboard. On that Sunday not one but three girl friends showed up within minutes of each other unexpectedly. I did a good job of keeping them apart. They didn't meet nor did any of the three suspect there were two others aboard visiting me at the same time. This got me a name too. Better than the other one I may have had. I understand it was the topic of conversation in the Wardroom a couple of times.
I finally got off mess cooking and was assigned to B-2 Engineroom to work on the boilers. On my first day, two of us were put into the double bottom service tanks to clean them. This is below the bilges so I had nowhere to go but up. I found out what claustrophobia was all about. On my first duty day I was put on #1 boiler under training with the BT1, a rather strange man named Hartz. He quickly ran me through my duties and then disappeared for a couple of hours. I didn't have a clue as to what I was doing. This was a manually fired boiler unlike the automatics normally found on most of the AVP's. I stood that watch for the rest of the import period and never figured out how it worked. Scary, in future years I was very careful about qualifying people before they went on watch alone.
The ship got underway for Ocean Station Charlie and I was put on #2 boiler which was semi automatic. I really had nothing to do but sit there and manually check the feed water and watch the steam pressure guage. Now I found out what seasickness was all about. In front of the boiler was a lube oil purifier. If that doesn't get you nothing would. The trip was rough but uneventful. I caught a couple of stretches of compartment cleaning when I was on the 4-8 watch. This made for long days. All in all I managed to survive the boiler watches, compartment cleaning, afternoon drills, etc. without blowing up the boiler. I still didn't have a clue as to what I was doing.
About a week into the patrol I was giving the boiler a bottom blow. The valve packing gland nut blew off and I got second degree burns on my right arm and shoulder. The Corpsman gave me a shot of morphine and I laid down on a blanket on the 01 Deck. I was in LaLa land. All I remember about the incident was how good I felt looking up at the clouds passing over us. It was my first and last encounter with morphine. It was euphoria. I can see how it can become habit forming. I was back on watch in two days.
Just before the ship got in the Assistant Engineering Officer came down and examined me for my lateral change in rate from Seaman to Fireman. I really don't think I answered many of his questions too well but he passed me anyway. I swapped my white stripes for red stripes.
It was now early fall and the import period was uneventful. I did my usual quota of skirt chasing but that was about it. We did go down to Newport, Rhode Island for Buttercup training and I got into my first service school. Lousy liberty town.
I was reassigned to B-2 as an oiler under training for the next patrol, Ocean Station Howe (Hotel.) I met a new nemisis, Chief Charlie McCarthy, the only Catholic Chief on board, all the rest were Masons. He had two real dislikes; first, Masons who held lodge meetings in the Chiefs Quarters from which he was excluded, and second, me. I seem to have brought out the worst in him. I was given every crappy job imaginable and he hounded me to do them. I got hit and kicked several times. He didn't like mid-westerners nor people of German descent. I was both. Good thing at the time I wasn't a Mason, I don't think I would have survived.
The Ocean Station was alternately rough and calm. We wanted to go swimming but that was denied. One morning when I was on the 4-8 I brought the engineroom trash up to throw overboard and saw an eleven foot blue shark strung up on the balloon shack catwalk. Reason enough not to go swimming.
After morning quarters the crew came out on deck and proceeded to hit the shark with ball bats, chopped at it with fire axes, pulled it's teeth, etc. It was a feeding frenzy in reverse with the officers and crew running amok. I found out later that this was common among sailors. We had caught a few sand sharks and they didn't rate the attention the big blue shark did. Mostly their teeth were pulled and they were cut up for bait to catch more sharks. We caught over 150 of them on that patrol. A slab of bacon was the caught the first sand shark.
I caught on to the oiler watch very quickly. It was mostly taking the readings, floating to the remote areas such as steering and the shaft alleys hourly, keeping the bell log, and wiping down the machinery. I assisted in starting and stopping the main engines and operated the auxiliary diesel engine generators. If it weren't for the Chief I would have been happy with my lot.
We came back in for the holidays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. I didn't have any people in Boston so I stood by for others who did have families.
I acquired the famous sailors disease, piles. Like many I was perpetually constipated. This in combination with the cold deck plates afflicted me. I also had stomach problems probably associated with my constipation. This led to another problem; I complained to the Chief Corpsman about my stomach problems. He took me up to the Constitution Wharf Sickbay. The Doctor called in all of the Corpsmen and demonstrated how to check for appendicitis which he diagnosed me as having. I went back to the ship, was given a subway ticket and told to report into Brighton Marine Hospital to be operated on. After I checked in I was examined by the staff Doctor who called in a couple of more. They collectively said I was misdiagnosed, I did not have appendicitis, and was sent back to the ship. The Chief Corpsman was mad at the Hospital and said he had no intention of taking me to sea as he didn't want to operate on me with a can opener. Now I had two Chiefs mad at me, McCarty who said he would trade me for a used broom and the Corpsman who wanted me off the ship. It couldn't be arranged fast enough and the ship sailed. I was put up on Mess Cooking duty in the scullery so they could keep an eye on me. What a way to make a living.
This patrol was a Baker (Bravo) in January. We started shipping blue water over the bow as we passed Boston Lightship and the conditions worsened from there. It was hold on for dear life. The ship iced up badly several times and everything was dropped as all hands went out on deck to chip it away with baseball bats. That was a new experience, why people weren't killed amazes me. Big blocks of ice fell on deck, barely missing men trying to knock it off at that level, the ship rolling slightly and firemain water used to try to wash the ice overboard. Everybody should make one of those patrols. It will make a Christian out of you.
The scullery was a zoo where new meanings were given to the words, Missle Hazzards. Trays flew every which way, water sloshed around on deck from leaky valves and overflows. The deck was as slippery as glass. I escaped the patrol and the scullery duty without a broken arm, head, leg, or appendix.
When the ship arrived back to Boston I was TAD'd to the Casco to make a patrol as they were short of firemen. I stood B-2 engineroom watches without incident and fit in well. I remember few people on it and less would remember me. I just laid low and did my job. The Casco came in off of Ocean Station about a week before the McCulloch was scheduled to sail for patrol. Naturally I was given the duty on the McCulloch after I returned. The very next day I was piped to the Ships Office where the Exec told me to pack my seabag as I was being transferred permanently to the Evergreen, a notorious "Prison Ship." I asked the Exec to try to send me to the Casco, but no dice. I went to the Evergreen to meet my fate.
Chief McCarty didn't even get his desired used broom for me and the Chief Corpsman (who I believe was behind the transfer) got rid of one of his problem children.
Read About an Incident that occured in the late 1950's - Lost at Sea by J.C. Carneyİ2000
Read More About the McCulloch nee Wachaprague - Link to Ken Laesser's Coast Guard Site.
Read More About the Revenue Marine Cutter McCulloch - Link to Ken Laesser's Coast Guard Site.
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