In Memory of the Escanaba
Excerpted from U.S. Coast Guard Magazine, October 1943 edition.
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, or radio stars were present; no well-known military or dance bands playing for the crowd; but there were 500 well trained Coast Guardsmen.
The celebration for Coast Guard Day in Grand Haven as first conceived by Lieut. Gordon 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 occasion. For it was here in Grand Haven that 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 to build 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, simultaneous with the playing of “Semper Paratus” by the station’s military band. Then the parade began¾five hundred trainees from the station gave a thrilling exhibition of the manual of arms to some six thousand people.
On the reviewing stand stood Capt. T. A. Shanley, Commanding Officer of the training station in Grand Have; Congressman McKee and Senator Jonkman, both 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 inaugurated to raise one million dollars to help build another Escanaba. Patsy Montana and her Cowgirl Swingsters, of the National Barn Dance Program, provided some very lively music on a program which included the Coast Guard Cutters. Capt. 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 and 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 feet. The Coast Guard Band, under the direction of Anthony J. Caliendo, CBM, furnished musical color throughout. All these events were carried out by the enthusiastic trainees¾all 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 foxholes.
At night, under a threatening sky, a memorial service was conducted by the 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, thus making the dances a huge success.
In all, Coast Guard Day in Grand Haven was one which will long be remembered by those who witnessed it.
by John Lindemulder
The noble sacrifice you made
For us, will always be
A memorable chapter in
The Saga of the Sea.
Beneath the North Atlantic’s waves
In tranquil slumber lie
Your loyal crew, whose valiant deeds
Will never, never die.
Couched on the ocean’s bottom rest
A ship that went to sea
With officers and men who fought
And died for liberty
For us there’ll be an empty space
When comes the close of day,
A voice, no other ship can fill
Where you once anchored lay.
Fond hearts will cherish memories‑
And eyes will gently weep
For those who with you slumber in
The “Cradle of the Deep.”
May we, like they to whom we pay
This humble tribute, give
And toil and serve and sacrifice,
So Freedom’s Cause may Live.
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