Who would ever believe that I...................

I Was Recruited From French Frigate Shoals

By Don Opedal

I had a relationship with French Frigate Shoals that not only preceded my Coast Guard career but also may have been responsible for it!

As a high school senior in 1969 I was applying for the military academies. At the same time I had been talking to ETC Pete Hughes and ET1 Al Haines on Loran Station French Frigate Shoals (KH6ABH) and a reserve, ETC Chuck Taylor (WB6CCN) in California, on ham radio for some time. (The group had this joke going that they met on 7315 KHz, which hams will recognize is outside the band, with an identification of QPU. Q signals are used in radio as abbreviations, originally to reduce the effort of sending Morse code by hand. Many readers are familiar with abbreviations used on CB radio and by others such as 10-4, 10-20, etc. Radio uses three letter codes such as QTH (location). QPU had no meaning other than to this group; more on that later!)  I was KH6GRG and living in Hawaii.

I met Pete Hughes when he was in Hawaii after being evacuated from French Frigate Shoals, which was flooded by a storm. I met Al Haines as he passed through Hawaii after leaving French Frigate Shoals. I even collected a box of coconuts (plenty of them in my yard) and took the to Base Honolulu to be flown out to French Frigate Shoals where they might grow into trees. The people at the base asked my for the paperwork; at the time, what did I know about a DD-1149?

I had told these Coasties about my Academy trys and they suggested considering joining the Coast Guard. Imagine trying to recruit someone while on isolated duty!  (My neighbor across the street, CDR Phil Lutzi, had also provided information on the Coast Guard Academy.)  I visited the Coast Guard recruiter, got basic information, took the tests, etc. I told my parents I was going to join the Coast Guard and the reaction was Of course you arent, you are going to college!  I had a small scholarship to the University of Hawaii but I wanted to get away from home and do something different. About a month after graduating from high school, I called the Coast Guard recruiter and said to sign me up. On Thursday, July 2, 1970 (Friday was the July 4 holiday,) I enlisted.

Following boot camp I went to Governors Island for ETA School. I arrived Friday night and Saturday morning I set out to find Pete Hughes who I knew was stationed there, now a CWO. Locating his residence I knocked on his door and when he answered I said, QPU, Sir!  On Sunday I found CDR Lutzi who was also on Governors Island.

In December 1974 I was back in Hawaii on leave. I had just made ETC and been selected to go to OCS. However, for something to do I arranged to fly out to French Frigate Shoals for the day on the weekly log flight and got to see the place I had talked to and started on my Coast Guard career five years before. 

On another day I flew out to Loran Station Johnston Island to visit there. Another brand new ETC was also flying out and we came to face-to-face in out new uniforms and realized one of us had the Chiefs insignia on the overseas cap on the wrong side. It was me.

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