Just Doing My Job - The Grand Daddy Of All Sand Tales

 Donald H. Ward 

I had been stationed at Cape Elizabeth Life Boat Station for about a year. I had experienced one damned long cold winter and was ready for some sunshine and warm weather. The past winter had been as severely cold as I had ever seen. The temperature had been down to minus 42 degrees with snow up to your armpits. I had walked the patrols far more then I wanted to and was just about to go AWOL. I had put in for transfer after transfer but no luck, just stuck at this godforsaken place.

One morning the Chief posted a new notice referring to people walking with cameras along the shore just looking at the surf. If we found any one along the beaches or shoreline with cameras, we were to confiscate all equipment and bring the person into the station. This was by Order of the Commander. The Chief made it clear to all hands that he wanted this order carried out to the letter. It meant anyone out there after dark was to be brought in to the station without hesitation. All patrols were return immediately no matter who this person claims to be, return to the station with that person.

I had the watch for that evening from 1600 hours to 2000 hours along with a buddy of mine Bernard. We completed boot camp together, ending up at this station. I set out first from the station as usual and Bernie came along about ten minutes later. We planned to meet about the half way point of the patrol and keep each other company just as we had been doing for the last ten months. I reached Broad Cove, the half way mark and as I was proceeding down the cliff incline I noticed a person coming out of the wooded area at the other end of the cove. It was starting to get dark and I did not think he saw me as the light was in my favor and I blended in with the background of bushes and rocks.

Prior to the notice that had been posted, we had warnings of Germans coming ashore up around Rockland area, and were in the area heading south. The Coast Guard had sent out these warnings earlier in the month. We had to be very alert while walking the beach patrol.

At this point I decided to jump down off the cliff and hide under the embankment of the shoreline. I knew Bernie was behind me and would be meeting this person shortly. I stayed under the embankment until I saw this person reach the top of the cliff I had just came down from. As he disappeared over the top I came out and proceeded up over the top. As I reached the top Bernie was talking with this person. Neither of them heard me or saw me. I heard the person ask Bernie where the other person was that was supposed to be with you on this patrol?  He replied to him that I was ahead of him and he must have passed me along the way.

About this time I walked up behind the man and pushed the 45caliber machine gun in the back of his neck and said donít you move a damn inch or you are dead.

He started to yelling at me and telling me who he was, I in turn just told him to shut up, keep his hands up or I would shoot him. Bernie said "WARDY, he is a Commander!Ē I said "bullsh_t, he could be a German in an officers uniform like those bastards in Rockland." The officer started to reach in his pocket when I let a shot go across his shoulder that damn near deafened him. He said he had papers to prove who he was. I told Bernie to take out what was in his pockets and give to me, which he did. I told him to start walking he again and said that he had a jeep at the other end of the cove. I said "WALK, we walked out here and we are going to walk back to the station."

By the time we reached the station he had talked our ears off trying to explain what he was doing out there at this time of evening. I just kept saying walk, keep walking and donít look back just follow the other man in front of you. Bernie was mumbling about something all the way back and the last I heard him say was that we were headed for the brig. I told Bernie that if he as much as moved his head I would shoot him.

We reached the station and walked the person we picked up in first, then Bernie and then myself. The Chief came out of his office and saluted the officer and asked what was going on. Before the officer could say anything I blurted out for him to shut up and sit down pointing the gun at his head. I told the chief what had happened and that we followed the orders of the day.

I was then told to put down the gun and sit down and explain. I told the whole story of what had taken place and then went to the bulletin board and tore off the notice that was signed by the person we had brought in. Sure enough it was the Lieutenant Commander from the South Portland Base and he was The Commander of this area.

Bernie did not say much but I knew that I was in big trouble and no way out but the brig or one hell of long sea voyage for a long time. All quieted down and we were relieved of our watch and the Commander was taken back to his jeep.

All was quiet for a few days. No one said much of what happened. I was doing a lot of thinking while walking my patrols and standing watches. No one even mentioned that anything happened, but it did not take long, just a few days and I was on my way. A transfer came through and I was sent off to Baltimore assigned to the 125 foot Cutter Harriett Lane. 

I never knew what happened to Bernie and I was away from that shore station and glad of being aboard a ship.   


Return To Coast Guard Stories