EVER GONE, NEVER CLEAN, EVERGREEN
(March 1951 — March 1952)By Jack A. Eckert
Like a man condemned and walking my last mile I walked across the dock to meet my doom on the Coast Guard's most notorious "Slaver."
Seabag on my back and orders in hand, I walked across the dock to the EVERGEEN and reported aboard. I had seen the ship in Argentia several times when we were transiting through on the McCULLOCH, and in Boston, the EVERGREEN’s homeport. Even though the sight of the ship was benign, horror stories seemed to follow the ship wherever it went. I was scared to death
After reporting, I was assigned a bunk and a locker in the forecastle, unpacked enough clothing to live with and took my seabag to the main hold before reporting to Chief Snyder in the engine room.
"Welcome aboard. You are going to work in the scullery." Just what I needed to enhance my career—another stretch of mess cooking. I sure hadn’t accomplished much in my first couple of years.
My morale was about as low as it could be at the moment. Within two hours I had left a white ship and reported to a much smaller black ship with a horrible reputation that was scheduled to sail in two weeks for a three months long oceanographic run in the North Atlantic. Had I been more courageous, I might have gone over the hill.
But the scullery wasn’t so bad, it was not a difficult job and gave me an opportunity to meet the crew, a good-natured bunch who took pride in doing their jobs well. I was quickly accepted and began to get along well with everyone. What a change! The mess deck Master at Arms was also the ship’s corpsman, a real decent fellow.
Richard Kilroy was the BM1. I have met few better sailors than him; I respected him as a leader, even though I did not work for him. He in turn respected his men and worked diligently to ensure they were trained in their duties. Most of his deck force were Italians from Boston, but Kilroy gave them Irish last names, which everyone called them by. Years later I met Kilroy as an Instant LT and Group Commander of Two Rivers, Wisconsin, when I was a LCDR working out of Headquarters. Same guy, commanding the same aura of respect.
An unmarried seaman was the messcook. Between us and the MAA, the mess deck was kept in good order, with the cooks helping as needed. The potatoes were peeled and the dishes kept clean. Eating "family style" meant no serving line and no trays to deal with, only dishes and silverware. The hardest job was lugging the garbage up to the dock in port for disposal and to the slop chute to be thrown over the side at sea. Yes, in those days we fed the seagulls who followed us. In port I completed work, cleaned up, and headed to shore by 1700 (5 p.m. to landlubbers).
After we had been at sea for a couple of weeks, my stint in the scullery was completed and I went to the engine room. At sea, watches were four hours on and eight off. Two of us were always on watch underway—the Engineering Watch Officer, who was a Chief or First Class, and either a FA, FN, or EN3. The EN2 was "oil king" and did all of the auxiliary work, standing no regular underway watches.
Chief Snyder and I hit it off well. He ensured that I was properly qualified to stand watch. The Chief was good-natured and we kidded around during the long hours. The oiler had the job as rover to check the remote areas of the ship hourly, which would take about 15 minutes out of every hour. Duty in the engine room was good work and I enjoyed it.
After four months I was recommended for EN3 and sewed on my crow a month later. Now I was happy the ship had a bad reputation because no one wanted my job.
In port, watches were six hours on and six off, 24 hours on duty, then 24 for liberty. Between ourselves we arranged for every other weekend liberty. The watches were easy; during the day the 0600-1200 and 1200-1800 worked on whatever had to be done in the engine room. On the 1800-2400 I would work on the equipment and keep my space clean, and so forth, until 2200, then I would go up on the mess deck and watch TV. On the mid-watch the QM and I would spend it on the mess deck; I checked the engine room every hour or so, and he the gangway. The guys automatically turned in their liberty cards coming and going—there was hardly any rowdiness in Boston, even after a long trip.
The oceanographic patrols were different from weather patrols. The ship carried a civilian oceanographer, Mr. Soule, several support staff, and a Coast Guard officer. The trips were usually 12-15 days long; we would go to pre-selected spot and drop the oceanographic bottles to various depths to pick up samples, which were taken to an on-board laboratory and analyzed as the ship moved to the next drop point. Run, stop, day and night. At the end of each run stopping at "x" number of stations, the EVERGREEN would go into Argentia to refuel, reprovision, and R&R.
Recreation was the Blue Jackets Club, period, for the white hats. As mild as the crew was in Boston, they were the complete opposite in Argentia. The Navy, Marine Corps, and transiting Coast Guard Cutters did not like us, nor we them. I was not much of a drinker in those days, but Argentia was the exception.
The captain was a mustang, a good seaman and a rounder. In Argentia he would disappear for a few days. One night, just before we were scheduled to sail, the captain was ashore somewhere or other, the crew was in the BJ and got into it with a group of off-duty marines. Somebody had the presence of mind to call ahead to the ship and tell them we were coming back fast. The engineering plant was warmed up anyway so the OOD ordered the lines singled up and, as the last crewman scrambled aboard, the gangway was rapidly hauled aboard, leaving the Marines on the dock cursing. We pulled away and dropped anchor in the harbor.
The captain and a few cronies were picked up by small boat and returned to the ship the next morning, then we got out of there PDQ.
The captain and the officers were all good guys except for one, the executive officer. Everyone, officers, warrant officers, chiefs, and the crew hated the man. He was a reserve called to active duty for the Korean War and stayed on. Maybe that was the secret on that so-called prison ship—everybody was so busy hating the XO they didn’t bother squabbling amongst themselves. Funny psychology!
Upon returning to Boston in mid-summer both the captain and XO were transferred. CDR Derby came aboard and the senior LTJG became XO. This was a good period during my tour of duty on the EVERGREEN—it was a ship where everyone worked together and got a fair deal.
We made a loran run in late summer to Port Union, Newfoundland; Battle Harbor, Labrador; and Fredriksdahl; Greenland. That was a good trip. We stayed in Port Union for a few days as the Buena Vista port, where the loran station was, was shut down.
I remember having a few drinks with the "Newfies" in Port Union and then marching off to Buena Vista, a few miles away, with Richard Kilroy in the lead of about a dozen of us singing Irish songs. When we got there they were celebrating Orange Day, an anathema to Kilroy. We parted ways, agreeing to meet on the square at 2300. Someone was supposed to arrange transportation. Naturally I got hooked up with an attractive skirt and lost track of time. The crew found me at midnight; we got back in time to stay out of trouble, even though it was Cinderella liberty, which expired at midnight as the coach turns into a pumpkin and the footmen turn into mice.
The run to Battle Harbor was also interesting, a grim-looking place, where we transferred supplies ashore with our LCVP.
Greenland was beautiful. You could see mountains from 40 miles away. We anchored out and again used the LCVP to transport stores ashore. Several natives rowed out in kayaks. A black seaman named Smith gave one of them $5.00 to roll the kayak over with him in it. The native took the fiver, paddled away from the ship, gave Smith a big, toothy grin, waved, and paddled to shore. Poor Smitty was devastated.
The return trip to Boston took about nine days. The seas were a bit rough and the EVERGREEN was no racing yacht. The day after we got back and unloaded our LCVP, we were out in Boston harbor working buoys with an inexperienced buoy crew. The following week we loaded bags of coal onto the buoy deck and hauled it out to Boston Light where we lightered it ashore then carried it up to the light station on our backs, a bag at a time. Even the off duty snipes were caught up in that as were the RMs, QMs, and every other warm body.
One problem on the EVERGREEN was lack of fresh water and an evaporator that made only 50 gallons an hour. Water was always short. The ship’s laundry consisted of a couple of Bendix washing machines, an ironing board, and an iron located in the main hold. Most of the time there was no water to wash clothes, and showers were minimal. The ship carried a larger group of people than the CACTUS or SORREL without an increase in water or stores capacity. That made life a bit rough . . . and smelly.
I was due to get out in November, 1951, even though enlistments had been involuntarily extended, known affectionately as "Harry’s Year." I had leave on the book, requested and was granted 30 days. I went home to Waukesha, got a job working on truck engines at a local limestone quarry, told them I would be back in a few months, then returned to the ship. It was then I found out they really meant it—I was extended for a year. Rats!
In October we sailed for the CG Yard at Curtis Bay where we got a new evaporator, amongst other things. Our engineering crew was too small to accomplish a complete main engine overhaul, so the Yard did it. By the time we sailed in mid-December, the engine room was a mess. I didn’t think we would ever get it cleaned up.
We returned to Boston and prepared for the oceanographic patrol after the Holidays. During the January in-port, the ship was called out to search for survivors of two ships, Fort Mercer and Pendleton, that had broken in half off Cape Cod. I was the boat engineer and managed to get pneumonia from the experience. When we returned after several days of fruitless searching, I was given a subway token and sent to Brighton Marine Hospital to get well.
They stuffed me full of penicillin every six hours for at least a week. Whether that did any good or not, I don’t know, except that my butt was sore as a boil from those shots.
The hospital was almost ready to discharge me when one of the ship’s officers called the doctor and demanded I be released. The doctor took exception and wouldn’t sign me out. Meanwhile, the EVERGREEN sailed. Two days later I was released and checked in at the District Office. Personnel asked whether I intended to reenlist. Good grief, no—I was already on a year’s involuntary extension. The Chief Yeoman sent me back to the base and told me I would be contacted. After a few days of prisoner chasing, I was called back and told I was transferred from the EVERGREEN to the FREDRICK LEE because the Coast Guard did not want to pay for a flight to Argentia.
That was bad news. Not only did I like the EVERGREEN, but my sea bag and all my gear was aboard. I had a set of ratty-looking dress blues, a shaving kit, and a couple of changes of underwear and socks. The base took mercy on me and opened the "Lucky Bag*," where I picked up a set of dress blues, undress blues, white hats, a couple of set of whites, and a laundry bag to put it all in. I bought new socks and underwear from Small Stores. I also had a locker at the Charleston YMCA containing civvies and shoes. I was in business for a little while anyway.
So, much to my chagrin, that was the end of my life on the EVERGREEN.
* * * *
*Locker for stowage of articles found adrift and impounded by the Master-at-Arms.
FROM THE THANK YOU PAGE:
 - BM1 Richard Kilroy, CGC Evergreen (WAGL-295) Boston, Massachusetts - Kilroy was the best pure shipboard Boatswains Mate that I ever met. He looked like a Boatswains Mate, his uniform, even his dungarees, were always pressed and neat. He wore his bosun's pipe proudly around his neck and knew how to use it. He was tough but gentle with the seamen in his charge. He used the sailor's tongue proficiently. In later years I always quietly looked for BM's that could measure up to his stature, knowledge and professionalism. I have never met a man who exemplified his trade like he did. I am proud to have known him. Thanks Kilroy, you showed me the powers of Coast Guard pride.
From the Reunion Hall on Fred's Place - Evergreen:
On 06/21/99 Richard J. Kilroy (email@example.com) said:
Evergreen was first CG assignment after previous USN. Went aboard in March of 49 right from recruiter's office. Told me the ship never goes anywhere; a few days later went on my first of three Ice Patrols. Went from SN to BM1 aboard. Served with some of the best people in the CG. Retired as LCDR in 77. Been on a lot of ships, Navy, CG and Merchant Marine. Got to say the Evergreen led the fleet. When you put on your sailor suit and were crew on the W295. You were the real thing. Looking forward to being in touch with old shipmates.
EPILOGUE: Also from the Reunion Hall on Fred's Place - Evergreen.
On 03/11/98 Louie LaRiccia (firstname.lastname@example.org) said:
A tale of interest - Though I did not serve on the Evergreen, (Eastwind, here), my brother, Fred did. Back in 1992 or so my wife and I hosted four sailors off a US Navy frigate in for R&R here on the island of St. Croix for Thanksgiving dinner. Our conversation was interesting as all four were radarmen as I had been. (Boy, has CIC changed!) The talk drifted to their trip from Virginia to here and the target practice with a real ship as a target. They mentioned that it was an old Coast Guard ship and all of them remembered it was the Evergreen. I called my brother that afternoon to give holiday greetings and report on the demise of the `Green.
On 04/03/97 Joe Richardson (email@example.com) said: Thanks Mark for the link in finding the fate of the Evergreen...am very sad to announce that the old gal was decommissioned Jun 13, 1990 and they sunk her as a target Nov 25, 1992. Very sad indeed.
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