by Johnny Johnson


Worse than the language once reserved for the back end of bowling alleys here are ..

While on rummy patrol during the Prohibition Era, we were way outside the twelve mile limit when the KICKAPOO made visual contact with a rumrunner. The skipper, CWO Hayes, yelled, "Come alongside, I want to board you."

Rummy yells back, "F--- you, captain."

The skipper asked the quartermaster, "What did he say?"

The QM replied, "Can't hear him, captain."

The truth of the matter is you could hear the rummy skipper all over the KICKAPOO, including the radio shack, engine room, fire room, and mess hall.

The KICKAPOO is steaming toward Rockland, going north in Muscle Ridge Channel with the skipper in his cabin, just aft of the bridge, and the OOD is in his stateroom, both getting cleaned up for early liberty. The QM and helmsman are on the bridge and the QM says, "You've got sh-t for brains if you don't run her aground." With that the helmsman did full right rudder. The skipper roared out of the cabin bleeding like a stuck pig--he had been shaving with a straight razor--to see the KICKAPOO bow stuck between two trees.

Fortunately, it was not ebb tide and the ship backed off and proceeded to port as if nothing had happened.

During the winter of 1934-35, or maybe it was 1935-36, when most of the Maine coast was a big ice cube, you could drive in a truck to most islands in Penobscot Bay. In fact, the KICKAPOO was once recoaled by trucks traveling over the ice.

We were once headed for the fuel dock in Rockland but never made it on time, so we lay to in the ice about a half mile from shore. A few guys wanted liberty and the skipper said, "OK, but you have to walk across the ice."

A dozen or so guys got cleaned up to go ashore and a ladder was placed in the drift ice and the stewards mate was convinced to be the first off. When he stepped from the ladder onto the ice flow, he disappeared from sight, leaving his watch cap floating in the broken ice. There was a scream, "Man overboard!" No one moved. The Acey-Duecey game on the mess deck remained the same. Finally, someone yelled, "Man overboard, no sh-t --- now!" This brought someone with a boat hook and the poor guy was fished out.

The magic words were, "No sh-t now!"

I remember our Chief Boatswains Mate in the Fourth of July parade yelling commands, like: "Squads right . . . don't f--- up now! . . . March!"

On the KICKAPOOO, most of the radio gang used to eat peanuts and the hulls went into the wastepaper can, which was emptied whenever it was full. One of our gang was a Mr. Sanitary. When relieving the watch, he used grain alcohol to wash off the "mill" [typewriter] keyboard, telegraph key, knobs, and dials on the T-4 and T-6 transmitters, as well as the receiver controls. He then washed his hands with alcohol over the can. A great deal of alcohol went into the can.

Once, upon completing cleaning chores, he lighted his pipe and threw a burning match into the can. A hugh W-H-O-O-F followed, and it rained peanut hulls for some time after that. Fortunately, there was no fire.


A few words about the KICKAPOO. This ship was the former Shipping Board tug BALDRIGE and was transferred to the Coast Guard 31 October 1921. Her first duty station was Cape May, NJ.

On 2 January 1925, the KICKAPOO rescued the entire crew and all passengers, 227 in all, from the American steamer MOHAWK and landed them safely at Lewes, Delaware.

Converted to an icebreaker in 1926, the KICKAPOO was homeported at Rockland, Maine. I went aboard in December 1932. Prior to conversion to icebreaker, the KICKAPOO was a one-radioman ship.

I have a list of 20 or more radiomen who were assigned to the KICKAPOO--most of them were a wild bunch of bastards.


Return to Coast Guard Stories