A Lightship Sailor Is Surprised

By Donald H. Ward


This happened when I was signalman on the Chesapeake Lightship (LV116) on station at Cape Cod Bay.

I was on watch from 2000 hours to Midnight. This was some time during the late 1942 WWII period. Winter was just setting in and the air was cold one  did not like standing out on the bridge. Everything was blacked out (no lights). Around 2200 hours I thought I saw a set of running lights; just Red & Green side lights. At first I thought I had been drinking to much coffee so  I called the next watch to verify what I was seeing. Sure enough they were running lights. I said to my mate" What is this crazy nut trying to prove?" We broke open the challanging code book to send a challange for the last two hours. I made several attempts even going ahead of the time and back two hours -- No response!

I made a radio call to the base station at the canal entrance and explained what was happening. The officers on duty there consisted of three branches of the service (Coast Guard, Army HECP,& Navy COTP.) The reply from all 3 was to continue challenging.

Well I finally made contact and all turned out OK except for the numbers for the ship.  We could not find them in the listing of ships, or planes. After about ten minutes of looking we found the damn thing, and what a surprise we got.

The damn ship turned out to be a blimp with a number like Z172937540278352. When we saw that number we almost passed out. The sender was ok but slower then usual and I kind asked for his name and rate.

It was about at this point I was about to jump over board and swim for my life.

The sender said his rank was (now get this) Commander so and so. I do not recall just who he was but new I was in hot water because I had told him he should go back to school for signal lessons to speed up his pace. We had a nice chat and he invited me to Boston to some Hotel and look him up. He thanked me for the advice that I gave him and to also turn off his lights or he could be shot down by a German sub that might be off shore.

I did go to Boston, but just to pass through to go home and see my wife and new born son in Portland, Maine

I know there have been some tales lot worse then my story, but that night was something I will never forget because the war was on and I had already experienced one close call with a UBoat off the entrance to Kennebunkport, Maine while serving on small boats on off-shore patrol out of Biddeford Pool, Maine.   So until my next story I will say" Semper Paratus" to all.

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