How I Became a “Meat head”

By Mike Brewer


I enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve and went on active duty in February 1945, after graduating from high school. I was seventeen years plus and my folks signed for me to go.

The Marines were fighting at Iwo Jima at that time and I was off to help via the Alameda “boot” camp. Near the end, our class was asked if anyone was interested in radio school; having learned Morse code as a Boy Scout, I volunteered and was soon off to Atlantic City for class 69, completing school in November of 1945. The war in Europe had ended and the Big Boom in Japan ended that mess in late summer.

After school I was returned to the 13th district in Seattle and, after a leave en route, reported to CGC ATALANTA. As luck would have it, the ATALANTA was stationed in Astoria. Great duty.

About March 1946 on a bright day, our skipper, Adam W. Sofalko, decided that we Radiomen had too much time on our hands as we had not been out to sea for a couple of weeks. Over the intercom came, “Brewer, report to the Bridge.”

Upon reporting as directed, I was told that the Bridge walkway and gangway needed to be swabbed down. Having never been a Seaman 1st or even a Seaman 2nd, I was truly a greenhorn. I asked what the mix was for the soap and was told one bar of the old yellow Fels-Naptha type GI soap and a handful of trisodium whatever.

As luck would have it, I searched the ship and there was not a bar of soap anywhere, from Bridge to bilge.

Using my best deductive abilities, I reasoned that in the absence of soap, maybe two hands full of trisodium would do.

Mix accomplished, I applied it liberally to the Bridge, and some naturally ran down the bulkheads to the main deck and on beyond. After applying the cleaner, I hosed it all down with a fire hose and returned to the radio shack.

As you have probably guessed, the mix did a job on the wartime battleship grey paint and left much of it a sick, streaked white.

Within a short while I was again summoned to the Bridge and asked to explain why the ship was turning white. The skipper was not happy with my explanation.

The next day Seaman Campbell and I explained the incident. He said, “Oh, you meathead!”

The name stuck, and I have relished it to this day.

While the real seamen were repainting the areas I had goofed up, they decided it was best to also use paint remover and strip the wooden gangway to the wharf. Somehow it got tipped over and created a terrible mess in the front gun tub and down the main deck. Thankfully, I was not there at the time.

We decommissioned the ship in May 1946 at the Coast Guard Base on Lake Union in the ship canal above the locks in Seattle.

I was among the 200,000, plus or minus a few, that the Coast Guard didn’t get to keep when WWII was finished.

Cutter Dione

CGC DIONE In Navy Gray - Sister Ship To The ATALANTA - Courtesy of Ken Laessar's CG History Site. 

Further Information on The Atalanta.

Atalanta WPC 102
Built by Lake Union Drydock & Machine Works, Seattle WA
Launched 16 June 1934, Commissioned 20 September 1934
From 1934 on Atalanta was based at Seattle WA and used extensively for the Bering Sea Patrol. She was rearmed in early 1942 and operated under control of WESTSEAFRON
Decommissioned 1 August 1950 and sold 7 December 1954

Return To Coast Guard Stories