By C. J. "Mickey" Potter

From The Coast Guard Navy of WWII by W. E. Knight --  Copyright 1998 - Reproduced by Permission



"She was a sea dog and only knew the sea."

On December 7, 1943, the USS BURLINGTON (PF-51) was launched in Wilmington, California , and in the weeks that followed, went through the drill and was commissioned.

The Coast Guard crew went aboard, stores and ammo were loaded, and there was a shakedown. Then changes were made, there were more drills and more stores loaded. Finally it was off to San Pedro, California for a full load of fuel. The "51" was ready for duty.

In San Pedro one more crew member came aboard. The Chief Gunners Mate brought a small black and white pup aboard. It was never determined where he got the dog who was named "Burley" after the ship. All of the crew liked her and the feeling was mutual.

The 51 left a day later for the South Pacific, non stop to Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides Islands. When thge ship crossed the equator all of the crew, Burley included, went through the usual ceremony and became "shellbacks."  From the New Hebrides the ship proceeded to New Guinea, endless patrols, and the heat--always--the heat. Then on to Morotai, taking two tenders and 41 PT boats. While firing on enemy planes and bringing back the LST's to New Guinea. Burley had free run of the ship at all times. Between October 6th and October 22nd, the 51 was in the middle of the invasion of the Philippines, getting the LST's on and off the beach and through the smoke, gunfire, and heat. Burley directed the action, barking and giving everyone a friendly wag of her tail. Everyone loved that little dog. Through the heat, poor food, and little water, Burley seemed happy to be part of it all. On the way back to Leyte with another convoy on November 12, after getting the LST's on the beach and waiting for them to unload, there was a large Kamikaze attack. Burley barked encouragement to the gun crews of the 51 as they shot Jap planes out of the sky. Duty changed for the 51 as they went back to Pearl Harbor and liberty where Burley drank beer with the crew -- and liked it.

From San Francisco where the ship got some repairs, it sailed to the Bering Sea and the Aleutian Islands -- suffocating heat in December, bitter cold in January. A crew member made a sweater for Burley. For eight months the 51 worked the Bering Sea and the decks were awash almost every day, but Burley had better sea legs than the crew.

The United States decided to give the 51 and seventy-four other PF's to Russia so the 51 sailed back to Seattle to remove equipment not to be given the Russians. The ship was then taken to Cold Bay, Alaska. The crew and Burley went back to Seattle for R&R at a camp on Mt. Rainier. The second day at camp Burley was missing. A search party found her and it was thought she was killed by a bear. The crew was heart broken. When she was laid to rest there were many wet eyes  among the crew because they had lost a friend and shipmate. A big fireman was heard to say, "Burley never stood a chance, She knew nothing about trees, bushes, or mountains, and she sure as hell didn't know anything about wild animals. She was a sea dog and only knew the sea."

When the time comes for the crew of the 51 to cross over the bar they will be welcomed by Burley with a happy bark and a wagging tail. A sailor couldn't ask for more. At all of the reunions for the 51 the old sailors still talk about Burley and miss her.


Return to Coast Guard Stories