Duty On Small Boats During WWII

By George Rogers

Three of my four years in the Coast Guard were on small boats. Small boats were defined as those 65-feet or smaller. My first was a brand-new 38-foot picket boat, which was a classic at that time.[1] The crew was Barrett, BM1/c; Rogers (me), Coxswain; Martin, MoMM1/c; Leadbetter, MoMM2/c; Wendt, S1/c, Veteto, S1/c.

When Barrett was transferred, I became the skipper and Vasey, Coxswain, was second in charge. I understand these 38-footers were phased out.[2]

The crews of the patrol boats received a dollar and 20 cents per day subsistence money extra with their pay. We had to buy our own food supplies from the commissary and pay our bill at the end of each month. Each boat also had an old-fashioned icebox and a two-burner alcohol stove. We carried government vouchers in case we had to buy gasoline at a harbor away from the Alameda base.

When the U.S. declared war on Italy, the Italian people in the San Francisco area were restricted in their activities, and all Italian fishermen were stopped from going out in their boats. It took the U.S government a while to realize that they had deprived the people of a food source. So, certain restricted areas were set up for the fishermen under supervision of the Coast Guard. Joe Dimaggio’s father was one of those fishermen.

Although the Navy operated the submarine nets at the Golden Gate, it was the Coast Guard who patrolled the surface area near the nets.

Does anyone remember the degaussing area operated by the Navy? Ships returning to sea would pass through to demagnetize (degauss) the hull so that it would not attract enemy mines.

I was given command of the CG-45037, a 45-foot boat with a six-man crew. The movie Port Chicago Mutiny is the story of a Victory and a Liberty ship loaded with ammunition exploding at Port Chicago, Calif., killing over 300 men on 1 July 1944. The blast lit the sky for miles around and rattled windows as far away as San Jose, 35 miles to the south. Smoke from the explosion billowed up to 12,000 feet in the sky, and the blast was heard as far away as Nevada.

The Navy Court of Inquiry met and found that there had been a major explosion followed by several minor explosions and burning for three to six seconds, “culminating in a mass explosion. The final explosion was by far the greater.” The origin of the accident was never determined, but it was believed that a workman may have dropped a depth charge, which triggered the explosion.

There were five Coast Guardsmen on the fire barge moored at the dock, all of whom were killed: Edward J. Portz, James C. Sullian, Peter Broda, Will DeGryze, and Charles Reilly.

Anchorage 13 was an area in San Francisco Bay where ships being loaded with ammunition were anchored. It was brought to the docks by train, loaded onto barges, then towed out to Anchorage 13 and loaded on the ships. The Coast Guard’s duty day and night was for small patrol boats to circle the area and slow traffic down to make no wakes, and to keep unauthorized vessels away.

When the war ended in September 1945 and some of the boats were decommissioned, I was sent to a fire barge, CG-60018F, at Benicia Arsenal. Benicia Arsenal was used as an internment camp for Italian prisoners of war, who spent most of their time playing soccer.

In December I was summoned to Alameda and told I was being discharged under the Surviving Members Of A Family law. My brother died 17 August 1945 as a MoMM3/c on the USCGC GALATEA. I then travelled back to Brooklyn to receive my discharge.

When I left the service, I stayed in touch with about eight close friends, but now that number is down to one card at Christmas.

[1] 538 picket boats were built between 1931 and 1943, with the majority built after the Pearl Harbor attack, and were used throughout the Coast Guard, including the Great Lakes and in the 2d District (Mississippi).

[2] The picket boats were gradually phased out and replaced by 40-footers, which were built between 1950-66. The last picket boat was decommissioned in 1964.


38' Picket Boats - Courtesy of Ken Laessar's CG History Site

38 Foot Picket Boat
CG38301 - CG38836 built by various manufacturers
Length 38' x Beam 10'4" x Draft 3' x 15,700 pounds
powered by various gasoline engines
Single screw 25 knots

The cabin-picket type of patrol boat was designed to meet the requirements of patroling and policing of harbors, shallow inlets and protected waters along the coasts. The hull was wood carvel design. Those boats operating north of Cape Henry and in the Great Lakes were ice sheathed. A total of 538 of these boats were built, 68 prior to December 7 1941. All were disposed of post WWII

40 Foot Utility Boat - Courtesy of Ken Laessar's CG History Site

 

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