By George P. Alton
Shortly after December 7, 1941, the Coast Guard, which had been amalgamated with the Navy, was assigned the task of protecting the coastline and other sensitive coastal territories of the United States against possible enemy landings and saboteurs, to enforce the blackout conditions mandated by law, and to see that all beaches were clear of people after sundown. Several thousand Coasties were transferred to this unglamorous, monotonous duty, but its necessity was emphasized by the capture of a group of German saboteurs landed by submarine off the East Coast early in 1942. The men on beach patrol were the eyes and ears of the first line of defense, lightly armed with Smith & Wesson .38 caliber revolvers. If an enemy were encountered we were to notify the FBI and the local army units stationed nearby.
In the early months of 1943, I was executive officer of the Coast Guard Beach Patrol Unit at Stinson Beach, which is situated about thirty-five miles north of San Francisco. Stinson Beach is favored with a beautiful sandy crescent-shaped beach that extends to the harbor of Bolinas and encloses the Bolinas Lagoon. The patrol area extended from Pt. Reyes in the north, including Drake's Bay, to Muir Beach several miles south of Stinson Beach. This area is now known as the National Seashore and the National Recreation Area.
A second group of men were housed at the ranch west of Olema, on the coast near Drake's Bay. Here, the men patrolled the coastal beaches on horseback. The 20 or so horses were stabled on the Tevis Ranch. I purchased a horse and kept it stabled there. LT Taylor, my commanding officer, conducted his command at the small community of Inverness located on Tomales Bay from where he was able to keep close contact with both his southern and northern units.
When I didn't have the duty at the barracks, I rented a small unit above a garage from an elderly retired couple, which was located a few hundred yards above the town at the foot of Mt. Tamalpais; a breathtaking panoramic 180-degree view of the entire crescent beach, from Stinson to Pt. Bolinas to the north. From here I was in contact with the barracks by phone or courier.
I had a small office on the second floor of the barracks, furnished with a minimum of equipment; two old chairs, a well-used desk, a battered old metal stack file, and a telephone. A Yeoman was assigned to handle my correspondence and do the few odd jobs I might need of him.
All hands dined family-style at a long rectangular table adjacent to the galley, eating the same food from a varied menu. It was well served, nourishing, and of good quality, thanks to my Chief Commissary Steward Porter, who was an experienced purchaser of groceries and an excellent housekeeper.
After learning some of the procedures of the station, I settled down to a routine that provided ample time for leisure to explore my surroundings and to acquaint myself with the beaches that came under our unit’s surveillance. I had time to saddle up my horse and, under the able supervision of LT Taylor, soon acquired a modicum of skill in staying aboard the animal when we rode over the most difficult terrain.
I was in good hands. LT Taylor enjoyed a worldwide reputation as an expert equestrian and owner of a riding academy in San Francisco. He was a skilled polo player and an author of several books on horses. We rode together over the chaparral covered hills and the sandy beaches of the rugged coastal range. The enlisted men who rode the horses every night on the beaches, laughingly referred to my horse, my pride and joy, as a "jughead." They refused to mount it. I was too ignorant of horses to know the difference.
Each sailor had a dog or a horse assigned to him, depending on which beach he was patrolling. The dogs were trained to attack on order or to back off. The horses were especially selected for their strength and endurance.
The patrols were posted at dusk and returned at midnight. We trucked the men to Muir Beach by motor van from Stinson, where they had a cottage with sleeping facilities. They were able to get some shut-eye after coming off their patrol at midnight. In the morning they were returned to the barracks at Stinson Beach by van. I usually made a point of inspecting the patrols at Stinson Beach at 8:00 P.M. before going off duty. I always reviewed procedures to follow in case of an emergency at that time. After the nightly rounds, I was free to do as I wished but always kept myself close at hand if necessity called.
There were two watering holes in Stinson Beach where the men could socialize with the locals and indulge in a bit of the brew; the Breakers, in the center of town, and the Sea Downs, fronting on the beach at the south end of town. After my nightly inspection of the patrols, I usually headed for one or the other. Both joints had Wurlitzer jukeboxes and small dance floors. I spent many enjoyable evenings listening and dancing to the strains of the Benny Goodman Band, the Dorsey brothers, Jimmy and Tommy, Artie Shaw, and Glenn Miller. Then there was Frank Sinatra crooning "Paper Doll" or "That Old Black Magic." These tunes and others, especially after a few beers, put all the guys and dolls in a romantic mood. A few beers down the hatch, and one and all were jitterbugging and really cutting a rug, slang for having a good time or hanging loose. Beer was usually the preferred beverage. We could nurse a bottle of beer along for quite awhile, and it was relatively inexpensive. There were always a few girls at either place seeking to escape the boredom of the winter night or their loneliness, or just out to have a good time. Many were married with their husbands fighting overseas. Limited petting and conversation were often the only activities engaged in. The young ladies were lonely and looked forward to the company of the equally lonely servicemen from our unit. I am quite sure that some serious romances occurred from time to time.
The weather along the California coast during the spring months is usually mild and bereft of the dense fogs that roll in from the Pacific like a cold shroud later in the summer. Bolinas Lagoon, situated a mile north and behind the sliver shaped beach, was a beautiful sight to behold on the nights when a full moon prevailed. The shimmering beams of golden light were reflected off the placid waters, and on such nights the perfume of romance filled the air and Stinson Beach fulfilled its reputation as a lover's paradise.
The watch at Stinson Beach had been posted and I made my customary rounds. All the blackout rules in the vicinity had been observed. I had now been a resident of Stinson Beach for six months and my routine was set. It was dark when I made my way down the road from the barracks to the village and headed for the Breakers to enjoy a few beers before turning in for the night. If a chance meeting of the opposite sex should occur, so much the better. I climbed the few steps to the entrance of the bistro, parted the blackout curtains and strode through the louvered swinging doors. The interior was well lighted. I made my way to the table I usually occupied in the right corner of the room. One of my crew was already seated at the table and motioned to join him. It was not unusual for me to socialize with enlisted members of my unit. We were like family at this isolated outpost.
Coxswain Tony Weaver was one up on me on the Budweiser wagon, but quickly ordered another round for the two of us. There were several other locals in the joint but there was no action going on. The jukebox was silent, and the small dance floor remained empty. After casing the joint, I noticed there was only one female in the place, sitting in the far corner opposite our table. From our vantage point we couldn't make out any details, however I was sure I had never encountered her before.
It was soon obvious that she was just as interested in us as we her. I felt the urge to gather my courage and ask for a whirl around the dance floor. Before I could make my move, she stood-up, and strode toward the Wurlitzer. I knew at once she was a new girl in town. If she had been here for any length of time, she kept herself well hidden from view. The record selected was the most popular recording at the time, "Green Eyes," with bandleader Jimmy Dorsey on the clarinet, and vocalists Helen O'Connell and Bob Eberle crooning the melodies. When the music commenced she turned away from the jukebox and headed straight for our table. I was able to get a full view of the woman as she strode across the dance floor, hoping she was going to ask me to dance with her, but her sights were on my companion. She invited Tony to join her on the dance floor and sway to the rhythms of the Jimmy Dorsey Band. It was an offer he couldn't very well refuse. Weaver and the green-eyed blonde made a handsome couple on the dance floor. There seemed to be chemistry between them that spelled romance.
Her beauty was breathtaking. She wore a close fitting, above the knee, white cocktail dress, her ample bosom was fully accentuated by the tight-fitting lipstick-red sweater, she walked with a well trained graceful gliding motion, both hips gently swaying as she made her way toward us. Her silk-sheathed legs were long and shapely and her body can best be described as statuesque. Her blonde hair was worn in pageboy fashion, and as she walked she made little cute motions with her head that caused her hair to swish from side to side. Her complexion was peaches and cream; utterly flawless. Long dark eyelashes shaded her beautiful widely spaced green eyes. Judging by the way she carried herself, I assumed she had been trained as a model.
Weaver was about 19-years of age, tall, dark, with wavy black hair and an engaging smile spoke, he spoke with a Tennessee drawl that the girls found quite charming and irresistible. He was an extremely handsome young man in his tailor-made dress blue uniform.
Weaver spent the rest of the evening with his new friend, their heads together in a world of their own. I left the Breakers half an hour later, beered to the gills, empty handed, and no place to go but back to my apartment. I did not see Green Eyes; the name I had dubbed her; after the encounter at the bistro. She did not return to the Breakers or any other of the watering holes in town or on the streets of the village.
Spring arrived and tourists, who were fortunate enough to obtain gasoline, were beginning to make their appearance in Stinson Beach. The days were sunny and warm. I spent much of my leisure time getting a sun tan at the beach with the added benefit of gawking at the few pretty girls who were arriving in town. Two-piece swimsuits were in vogue, to the dismay of some of the bluenoses in town who were shocked at the brazen show of feminine flesh. I was not of this mind.
Life was sweet and bucolic until early in July when a bombshell was dropped into my lap with a phone call from LT Taylor, who informed me he had been notified by Coast Guard Intelligence that Weave was accused of rape by the victim's husband. LT Taylor requested that I interrogate Weaver at once. I assured him I would do my best to ascertain the facts pertaining to the charge and advise him as soon as possible of my findings.
I went to my office at once, glanced at the meager furnishings, and the thought occurred to me that there was no method of recording the interrogations; no recording device or stenographer. I decided to have my Yeoman 3/c witness the proceedings and to make notes. I was entering a territory that was totally unknown to me. I cursed the bad luck that caused my transfer to this isolated place. I had been transferred from the Cutter ARIADNE because of chronic seasickness resulting from my inability to adjust to the rough waters of the "Potato Patch" west of the Golden Gate. So here I was stuck with the problem of Anthony Weaver, BM3c, USCGR, and his amour, which had apparently gone off the deep end.
Weaver reported to my office to answer the charges leveled against him. I warned him that if a general court martial was ordered and he was found guilty, the penalty could be 20 years of hard labor in a federal penitentiary. I cautioned him to tell the whole truth and to aid me to get to the bottom of the charge. Naturally, the first question I leveled at him was, "Did you do it?”
He replied with a most emphatically no. He said that the night he met Mrs. Wright at the Breakers, he had danced with her until the bistro closed and walked her home, where she invited him into her cabin for a nightcap. After downing a few cocktails, she excused herself to "get into something more comfortable." She returned from her bedroom a few minutes later wearing a sheer black negligee. She strode straight to him, threw her arms around his neck, and showered him with kisses.
I got the message that she was 'quick to trot', and was quite prepared to oblige her. After it was all over, I left the premises and logged in at the barracks in the wee hours of the morning. After our first meeting, I saw her on and off, pardon the pun, as often as possible." Weaver went on to say that she was a hoofer from New York who had been introduced to Mr. Wright by one of her girl friends, who had dated him from time to time on his frequent business trips to the "Big Apple." He fell madly in love with her and made her a proposition to come to the West Coast and be his mistress. She obliged him and was set up at Stinson Beach, isolated from prying eyes, and yet still close enough to his business, centered in Oakland, to be readily accessible. In addition, Stinson Beach was just a stone's throw from the nightlife of San Francisco. She told Tony that he was well-off financially, and was the owner of a chain of retail stores in Oakland. He visited her frequently, but because he was an older man, he didn't have the energy to entertain her in the manner which she had been accustomed to in New York. She finally decided to break out of her cage of isolation and "live it up."
All went well until Mr. Wright made an unexpected appearance when he and the blonde were "making out." Weaver went out the window of the bedroom in full retreat, with his shoes in one hand, and his trousers in the other. Mr. Wright caught a glimpse of him as he abandoned ship, and was able to ascertain his identity; Tony had neglected to take his hat with his name stenciled inside from the bed stand. Mrs. Wright, in order to cover her shapely butt and maintain the status quo, claimed she had been assaulted and raped by him.
I thanked Weaver for his forthright statements and told him I looked favorably on his story and would inform LT Taylor of my feelings on the charge. I had been told that Mr. Wright had powerful connections in the upper echelons of the Navy and warned he would have to be treated with kid gloves.
Shortly after my interrogation I was approached by two of his shipmates who wished to speak to me in private. We adjourned to my decrepit office where they said Weaver had spoken to them of his trysts with Green Eyes. He gave them some details that were new to me; Mr. Wright was married to a woman in Oakland and maintained a household, including children there. The thought occurred to me after hearing this new information was: Why would anyone make a complaint to the authorities when the publicity would destroy their reputation and their marriage? I could only come up with a simple but elementary answer: The David and Bathsheba bible story; jealousy of a younger man, the need to remove her lover from the vicinity, and the overwhelming desire to restore his deflated ego. I thanked the men for the information and assured them I would do my best to get Weaver off the hook.
A few days later LT Taylor phoned me from his Inverness headquarters to tell me that the Wrights would be making a call to ascertain what action I was prepared to initiate against the alleged culprit. Of course, Taylor was not as yet aware of the statements of either Weaver or his buddies with regard to the marital status of Green Eyes and Mr. Wright. I was dismayed that I would have to face these two people by myself. Why wasn't Taylor or Coast Guard Intelligence interviewing these people? Unfortunately, I had no one to go to for advice, which I needed very badly.
Mr. Wright and Green Eyes made their appearance as promised and were led into my office by my Yeoman. I offered them coffee or tea but they politely declined. After seating themselves in my rickety chairs, I requested my Yeoman to close the door and then take notes. Mr. Wright seemed to be in his mid-forties, medium height, a dapper looking man with a David Niven type mustache, and wearing a dark-blue pinstriped business suit. When he doffed his porkpie hat one could see that his hairline was in full retreat from his high forehead. He had an angry look on his face that spelled trouble.
Green Eyes was wrapped in a drab bulky coat that tended to hide her voluptuous body from prying eyes. She appeared demure and virginal with her doe-like downcast eyes. After introductions were exchanged, Mr. Wright enquired if I was aware of the nature of his charges to the authorities. I answered that I was and was ready to listen to the nature of his complaint against a member of my unit. He wanted to know if I had taken any disciplinary action or made any recommendations to my commanding officer. I replied in the negative.
I turned to Green Eyes and asked her if she had ever seen me before. She replied that she hadn't. I informed her of the possible penalty that could be handed down to a serviceman charged with rape or attempted rape. I made direct eye contact and asked if Anthony Weaver had raped her or attempted to assault her for purposes of sexual gratification. She turned her eyes away from me, stared at the deck for a moment, and then tilting her lovely head toward me, she replied in a barely discernible quaking voice, "Yes, he did." She said that she had invited him to her cottage to have a drink out of courtesy. A courtesy she had extended to many servicemen, and he had taken too much for granted and attempted to ravish her. She gave a little sob and a few tiny tears appeared on her cheeks and rolled down toward her petulant mouth. She had learned her acting trade well.
I asked Mr. Wright if he was married to the young woman who was sitting beside him. He became very angry because of my query and gazed at me with a look of disbelief on his face. He replied in a most angry tone, "How dare you pose such a provocative question." I ignored his anger and requested he tell me where and when he was married to Green Eyes. He replied that they were married in Mexico but seemed to be unsure of the time and date. I informed him that I had heard from reliable sources that the marriage to the woman whom he claimed as his wife never took place. On the contrary, she was not his wife but his lover. He was taken aback by my assertion. He rose quickly to his feet and, taking Green Eyes by the hand, stomped out of the room muttering obscenities and gesturing angrily with his free hand. His last words still echoed in my ears, "You will be hearing from me."
“Mr. Wright, I will forward my conclusions shortly to my commanding officer, and in the interim, I am not prepared to take any disciplinary action against Anthony Weaver."
I telephoned LT Taylor and told him of the gist of the meeting with Mr. Wright. I informed him what my conclusions and recommended that he notify Coast Guard Headquarters that the charges were unfounded and should be dropped. I gave him the reasons for my decision after hearing from both the defendant and the plaintiff. I then went over to the Breakers, put a coin into the slot of the Wurlitzer, and selected “Green Eyes.”
It didn't take long for the other shoe to drop. A week after my report, I received a call from LT Taylor to expect an official visit before the day was over and to remain on call at the barracks until his arrival. Late that afternoon he pulled up to the post in his jeep. After the usual greetings and small talk he requested we indulge in a game of ping-pong. He was an expert at this sport and always got his kicks by giving me a sound trouncing. For a big stout man he moved with remarkable grace and agility. His game strategy was to outlast his opponent by returning the ball without attempting to overpower him. It was a defensive game, but his strategy usually prevailed, and his opposition soon grew tired and careless and blew the game. Thus, I received my usual drubbing, which seemed to put him in a good mood, and he suggested we adjourn to my upstairs office.
After we were relaxed and comfortable, he stated he had received instructions from Headquarters that a quid-pro-quo arrangement had been consummated with "the Wrights." They agreed to drop charges against Weaver, but in exchange, all Coast Guard personnel involved in the "Green Eyes Affair," were to be transferred. Therefore, he had received orders reassigning Ensign George Alton, BM3c Anthony Weaver, Chief Commissary Steward Porter, and several other enlisted men to the Pacific Grove Beach Patrol unit. This station was based at Pt. Pinos on Seventeen Mile Drive, Monterey Bay. Taylor said with a smile on his face that there would be no demerits on our respective service records. My promotion to LT (jg) would not be jeopardized. I was to exchange stations with an Ensign Parker as executive officer at this new facility, which patrolled the beaches between Big Sur in the south to Moss Landing in the north.
I remained at the Stinson unit until Ensign Parker put in his appearance. In the interim I had to cancel my lease with my landlord, bid goodbye to my girlfriend who waited on tables at the Mill Valley Creamery, and to sell my horse and saddle. A few days later Mr. Parker made his appearance. He was most unhappy about his reassignment; he blamed me for screwing-up but soon got over his peeve and filled me in on some of the activities that I could participate in at my new station. He informed me that my new commanding officer, LT Markham, was a nice guy and was easy to get along with him.
It was a new ball game for all of us. The slate was wiped clean. Green Eyes could walk the streets of Stinson Beach without fear of meeting any of her detractors, Mr. Wright could continue with his dalliance, the good citizens of Stinson Beach could go about their business without fear of scandal sullying their atmosphere. Thus the whole affair was hushed up and life went on as usual.
My tour of duty at Stinson Beach had been enjoyable. I met many wonderful people, enjoyed walking and sunning on the beach, loved the cold, clear starlit nights and the wonderful weather of spring and fall. I thrilled at riding my horse over the hills and dales of the coast range and down to the sandy beaches to where the Golden Hind once made its brief appearance long ago. I relished knowing my crew, who came from all regions of the United States, with various religions and different economic backgrounds. I loaded my gear into my ‘41 Chevy coupe and headed south, prepared for new adventures that might come my way.
There were a few lessons to be learned from the experience of the Green Eye Affair. I learned that one must never make love to a married woman in her own house, and one must be sure to hang on to one's hat when making love. Most of all, I learned to exercise great caution when the Wurlitzer blares out the tune “Green Eyes.”
By the end of 1944, the end of the war was in sight and the need for beach patrol was over. After the war, I returned numerous times to Stinson Beach for recreational purposes. I married shortly after returning from overseas duty in 1945 and raised a family of three boys. When they were toddlers we would take them to Stinson Beach from where we lived in Oakland, to frolic in the surf and to build sand castles on the beach. The Tevis Ranch, where our unit stabled its horses, was acquired by the State of California and made a part of the Golden Gate Recreation Area, now reached only by hiking trails or on horseback. The village of Stinson Beach has not grown much in population; probably still less than a thousand. They have an excellent library, and the Stinson Beach Historical Society maintains an ongoing history of the community from its earliest days. Muir Beach remains much as it was when Coasties walked the beach.
All the names used in my story are fictitious in order to protect the innocent. My name is real, and the places and events that took place are authentic. Life goes on in Stinson Beach much as it did when I was stationed there, perhaps a little more sophisticated, a little more affluent, and certainly more youthful.
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