In Memory Of The Escanaba

Author Unknown


Originally published in the U.S. Coast Guard Magazine - Volume 10 - No. 16 dtd October, 1943

Grand Haven Michigan, town populated by some nine thousand persons, has witnessed something it will long remember -- The United States Coast Guard's celebration of its 153rd birthday. No highly paid stage, screen, radio stars were present; no well known military or dance bands playing for the crowd; but there were 500 well trazined Coast Guardsmen.

The celebration for Coast Guard Day was first conceived by Lieutenant Gorden S. Disbury, Commanding Officer of the District Coast Guard Training Station in Grand Haven, together with the civic leaders of the community. Coast Guard Day was to have a deeper meaning here than in the many cities celebrating the occaision. For it was here the Coast Guard Cutter Escanaba was stationed before going into convoy duty in the North Atlantic. We all know that disaster befell the Escanaba  and she was lost with all hands but two.


Words can do little to replace such a gallant vessel, but money can build another fighting ship. Thus it was decided that a drive for one million dollars in war bonds should be initiated to raise enough money for another Escanaba.

As though it were the will of God, the first rays of sunlight broke through a blackened sky on the morning of August 4, 1943, simultaneously with the playing of "Semper Paratus" by the stations military band. Then the parade began -- Five hundred trainees from the station gave a thrilling exhibition of the manual of arms to some six thousand people.

On the reviewing stand stood Captain T.A. Shanley, Commanding Officer of the Ninth Naval District, Lt. G.S. Disbury, Commanding Officer of the training station in Grand Haven, Congressman McKee and Senator Jenkman, noth of Michigan; Ensign Pearl Kheel of the SPARS; and the officers of the training station. Also present were many families of the men lost on the Escanaba. It was a fitting tribute to the men who gave their lives for the survival of our "Democratic Way" of living.

After the parade the bond drive was inaugarated to raise one million dollars to help build another Escanaba. Patsy Montana and her Cowgirl Swingsters of the National Barn Dance program provided more lively music on a program which included the Coast Guard Cutters. Captain Paul Brown, formerly with the Flying Tigers, Ensign Pearl Kheel, and last but not least, Raymond F. O'Malley, S1c, one of the two survivors of the Escanaba.

Seven radio stations carried the program throughout Western Michigan with the entire day's activities carried over the networks. However the day was just beginning. A luncheon was given in honor of the Escanaba families and official guests at the American Legion Hall. Later breeches buoy drill, swimming meets, and capsize drills bewildered and brought the audience to it's feet. The Coast Guard Band under the direction of Anthony J. Calendio, CBM, furnished musical color through out. All these events were carried out by the enthusiastic trainees -- all endeavoring to have their individual barracks garner the most points.

Later the trainees kept the crowd breathless by going over an obstacle course consisting of sand dunes, barriers, parallel bars, and fox holes. From there the boys donned the gloves, entered the ring, and fought a few bloody battles, thrilling radio audiences as well as spectators. Many knockouts livened the event.

At night, under a threatening sky, a memorial service was conducted by Reverend R. A. Lewis of Grand Haven. The three volleys fired and the beautiful strains of taps broke the silence prevailing throughout the ceremony.

The induction of seven SPARS into the Coast Guard by Lt. Disbury was highlighted by the fact that it was the aim to have a SPAR replace every man lost on the Escanaba. At the conclusion of the oath, rain began to fall -- but the crowd remained because the bond drive was to continue thereon.

Forty Thousand Dollars was raised from the first bond sale.

The evening was climaxed with dances for the enlisted men of the station sponsored by the citizens of Grand Haven in order to augment a fund to aid the local Coast Guard Welfare fund. About two thousand tickets were sold to the public, thjus making the dance a huge success.

In all Coast Guard Day in Grand Haven will long be remembered by those who witnessed it.

Return To Coast Guard Stories


This article was contributed by Larry Stefanovich, President of the Coast Guard Sea Veterans of America.