By Foster Byrd
These Stories are from “We’ve Been There” by Esther V. Stormer ©1992 – Reprinted By Permission.
joined the Coast Guard on March 26, 1941 in Fort Worth, Texas and completed
radio school at Curtis Bay, Maryland in March, 1942. From there I went directly
to Washington Radio, Alexandria, Virginia. All-in-all Washington Radio just
about sums up my Coast Guard career. Out of 20 years, I spent close to 12 years
at Washington Radio on three different tours.
brand new RM2 reported aboard with no previous military service, he relieved me
(RM3) at 2340. I was sure that he understood the 24-hour clock. When I relieved
him the next morning, he was up to 3200 and counting.
new RM2 reported and said to the Chief, "I guess you know my wife doesn't
think much of the hours I have to stand watch!"
Chief’s answer was, "Maybe she'd like your hours better if you were on a
RM asked, "What's that?"
in 1943, two
RM3's came walking in, both about 40.years old. One had a full beard and the
other was clean-shaven. The Chief had them sit down and start to work so he
could check out their ability to copy. The one with the beard was putting
everything down twice and the clean-shaven one was having trouble because he
couldn't type that fast. I suggested to the Chief that
he speed it up a little. About the time
he hit close to the world's record for sending, the
one with the beard stopped copying double, just dropped back to normal copy. The
Chief said, "When they CAN copy, they CAN COPY!" We hadn't seen too
this scene. Albert Allen, RM1, five feet 8 inches and something over 300 pounds.
He walked out to get in his car to go relieve the watch when he sees his cocker (dog)
chasing a large rat across the yard. The rat ran into
a hole in back of country-style outhouse, dog in hot pursuit. Allen ran after
dog, but before he can do anything, the rat and dog are both swimming around in
a pit six feet deep. (Use your imagination). Rather than rip out the seats and
get the dog out that way, Allen fell in. He relieved the watch 2-1/2 hours late.
The man he relieved was heard to mention that he'd have stayed on watch another
day to hear the story!
was a very bad storm in the Gulf of Mexico. A small vessel was lost and sinking.
The skipper knew little, if any, English. The Coast Guard Cutter said,
"Skipper, give us a long count so we can get a bearing on you." No
count to a hundred so we can take a bearing." No response.
the skipper sort of got the picture, and he responds with "1, 2, 3, 4, 5,
6, 7, 8, 9, 10, over."
Guard Cutter, "That's
real good skipper, real good, now count up to 10 three times."
to 10, up to 10, up to 10, over."
no fault of his own he didn't sink. They found him off the mouth of the
Mississippi. He thought he was off the mouth of the Mobile.
the end of World War II someone just happened to be on a platform in a hangar
and happened to glance in the bedroom window of the XO. The lower half of the
window was covered, the upper half not. It wasn't expected to have viewers from
that angle. The scene was definitely X-rated. As time went on, more and more
viewers gathered on the platform—the
couple evidently liked to leave the lights on. The exact words of a man who was
on the platform when it fell were, "There
were so many broken arms, legs, and other injuries
that there was no way we could have gotten a plane in the air."
William B. Dawson
(now deceased) took over as Commanding Officer
at Washington Radio in September, 1936, and served on continuously at that
station until his retirement in December, 1963. He was there over 27 years as CO
of the same unit without a break. If that isn't a record, it should be. During
that time, he advanced from WO1 to CDR and the number of people under his
command increased from about 18 to 20 to as many as 80 to 100 during World War
1953 Commander Dawson came in with an older RM1. "Byrd, this is Busbee. I'm
going to put him on your watch to break in." The guy looked a little past
the 50 mark so I was sure he was senior to me and I was worried that as soon as
I broke him in I'd lose my "supervisor" position. Finally I came right
out and asked, "Buz, when did you make first class?"
said, "In 1918 the first time." I was still senior. The last time he'd
made it was quite recent.
pulled into a Gulf station and asked for $2.00 worth of regular. The attendant
turned on his heels and ran to the owner, yelling, "Come here, come here,
here's that SOB that keeps saying, BUSHEL QUEEN, BUSHEL QUEEN, on our
radio." BUSHEL QUEEN was the voice call of one of our buoy tenders that was
breaking ice on the Potomac.
1957, the USCGC SEBAGO had been in port in Mobile for about 60 days. I
may have spent one night aboard ship but it is unlikely—I always had a
standby. The ship was preparing to sail and we'd be gone the better part of
three months. Our son, age three, yelled up from the dock. "Hey dad! You
got a standby?" His voice carried well. Every one within earshot doubled
over. At that instant a man fall overboard. I like to
think that he fell over
from laughing so
hard. Falling in the Mobile River is close to fatal,
so he didn't do it on purpose.
story: Changed name. First time I saw Joe, he came in driving a brand new 1941
Oldsmobile. Everyone gathered around to admire the car. Joe said he bought it
from a panicked draftee for maybe $200.00. After looking the car over, someone
said, "What is it Joe?"
said, "It's an Oldsmobile you idiot, can't you read?"
The guy said, "I can see that, but what is it, a 6 or an 8?"
6 or 8 WHAT?
rarely if ever looked at girls. He wasn't a sissy or anything like that—he
just didn't pay any attention to females. This is my favorite "Joe"
young lady asked me, "Byrd, did Joe ever mention seeing me at the
said, "No, Joe hardly ever talked about girls. Why?"
then asked, "You don't suppose he looked in the rear view mirror?"
likely, Joe just doesn't pay any attention to girls." Then she told me the
she was getting dressed, she saw the mailman go by and threw on a blouse and a
full skirt and ran down to the mailbox. As she was taking the mail from the box,
Joe went by in his 1941 Olds at perhaps 90 or 100 miles per hour. The draft blew
the skirt up over her head and it fell down over the top of the mailbox. So, she
wrapped it around her, diaper fashion, to get back to the house. It seems that
when she had started to get dressed, she
hadn't gotten as far as putting on underwear. For months, she'd felt sure
that Joe had seen her and spread the word, so to speak. I assured her that Joe
definitely DID NOT LOOK IN THE REARVIEW MIRROR. Now, Joe may have looked back,
but he wouldn't have thought it worth mentioning. (The girl mentioned here, died
in 1961 of cancer, leaving five children. She probably always felt that Joe HAD
1947, Joe was in bad shape. It was decided to send him down to the South Pole
with whatever the Coast Guard sent down there. Joe was probably one of the best
"CW" men that ever lived. He was at the Pole—no
liquor, and only one thing to do. He'd get all the messages from the Navy ships
during the day and that night he'd shoot them to us. We'd put two men copying
and put a recorder on, just in case, then have everything on the Navy Admiral's
desk the next morning. Never failed, the Admiral would question the date-time
group. It was impossible. "No way that message could be on my desk this
Joe got married. He was AWOL for several days. When he returned he told us he
was married. I asked, "Are you sure Joe, are you really married?"
He said, "I guess so, she says we are."
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