The Mail Buoy


An Open Forum


Conducted by The Editor


[Excerpted from U.S. Coast Guard Magazine, October, 1944]





USCGC Ironwood.


In June, 1942, the Coast Guard took over a ship, lifted her face, and turned her over to the Greenland Patrol. She was small, only 120 feet long and very much unlike the type of a ship that a young fellow had dreamed about when he joined the Coast Guard. I was appointed Commanding Officer of this little ship, which had been renamed the Nanok.


On the same day that I reported aboard, a large number of the crew also reported. Many of them had never seen salt water or been aboard a ship. I certainly wondered how we were going to make out in far-off Greenland with a gang of youngsters that had never been to sea before.


After a few days of preparing for sea, we sailed for Greenland, wondering what our duties would be after arriving there. It didn’t take long to find out that the Coast Guard ships around Greenland never have a dull moment. There were many and various types of jobs to be done, under unfavorable and ever-changing conditions and extreme hardships.


Cold weather, ice, fog, snowstorms, and plenty of hard work was far from the expectations of my crew of “green” potential sailors. But there they were, “cooped up” in that little “tub” month after month, in bad weather, wet to their skins, regardless of whether they were on lookout watch or in the “sacks.”


I saw those kids stand in water up to their armpits; in water that had a temperature of 34 degrees, working from 0600 to 2300, floating and rolling oil barrels ashore. I saw them work all day and well into the night, unloading tons of shark meat, whose odor could be smelled for miles; their hands torn and bleeding from the sharp needles on the shark skin. I saw them hang on with one hand and break ice with the other, twenty out of twenty-four hours in a 65-mile per hour gales, with the ship on her beam-ends, and the temperature at 5 degrees below zero. Cold, hungry, tired and sleepy, but they worked on with a grin on their faces, not for one day, but for three days.


I have been to sea for over thirty years, on all types of ships; however, I must take my hat off to that bunch of kids who were once as far from being sailors as the come, but who, through their own perseverance and stamina, turned into darn good sailors. They worked themselves into a “frame of mind” that there was no task too hard for the crew of the Nanok.


Wherever those young sailors are today, I hope that they keep up that wonderful spirit and I want to wish them the best of luck.


I feel certain that there are thousands of other kids in the service who possess that same grand spirit and who are proud of their service in the Coast Guard; as proud as the Coast Guard is of them.



Lt.-Comdr., USCGR

Commanding CGC Irownwood





Atlantic City, N. J.


The author of this missive has, in the course of his service, traveled quite a few miles by train, bus and truck.


He has traveled in blues when passing through country where it was comfortable to travel in blues.


When the weather was a bit more torrid he wore whites.


After one trip in whites, he never again ventured forth in whites while traveling in transfer status.


Why? Because from the preceding experience he found himself dirty and full of cinders after a few hours in coach. After riding for about ten hours in whites no laundry on earth could clean them well enough to be worn again. They were useful only to the rag-man and even he, the rag-man, would drive a hard bargain in negotiating for them.


The question arose in the morbid mind of this itinerant salt (about six months’ sea duty) what would be an ideal dress for men traveling several hundred miles in transfer status? I might add that it invariably happens that the men have to lug their seabags from truck to baggage room, from one railroad line to truck, to baggage room on another railroad. Thus, even before the trip begins, the men become dirty and crummy and sweaty!


Well, this inane creature came to the brilliant conclusion that the best way to travel when under orders, and if the traveling is to be more than, say, 250, is in dungarees. How about it, huh? Do any of you gentle readers have any better ideas?

Your truly,








I am a member of an LST in the Southwest Pacific and am a regular subscriber to the Magazine. I can honestly say that every member of our crew enjoys reading the Magazine. I would like you to send the Magazine to my girl friend so that she can understand how big a part of the Coast Guard is playing in this war. I’m sure she will enjoy reading the Magazine almost as much as we do.









We have just received the August issue of the Magazine and, as usual, there was a free-for-all to see who would have the privilege of reading it first. I was the lucky one. Keep it coming and keep up the good work. It’s a great morale builder on our rescue boat as on all others.


I am enclosing a money order for a subscription to send to my wife back home so as to keep her posted on the work the Coast Guard is doing to help win the peace that will soon be for her and me and the rest of the world.


Thanks for a swell Magazine about a swell branch of the Service.









After reading your column “over the Editor’s Shoulder,” in the July issue¾I thought I’d drop a line to say that, to my mind, you’ve brought something out into the open that has been haunting the greater portion of the wartime servicemen.


Outside of the question, “I wonder when we’ll get back home?” the other thing a lot of us think about is, “What will we be doing a year after peace is declared?”

You hit the nail on the head when you said that many will use the war as a justification for drifting along through their remaining years. Sometime I catch myself thinking as follows: “If I ever get through this war alive and in one piece, I’ll never care what I do, just as long as I’m back home.” That’s about the way a person gets, but I hope it’s just a temporary state of mind, because a lifetime is a long time to rest on one’s so-called laurels, and war-stories will be a dime a dozen in the beer joints all over. I think every Serviceman should read your editorial and let it sink in.




Lieut. (jg) J. M. COWLE.






Since I’ve been a regular subscriber to the COAST GUARD MAGAZINE I have never requested anything of this nature before. Therefore at this time I would like a little free advertising in order to locate four former buddies who were stationed at the Lazeretto,  Coast Guard Depot in Baltimore.


Maybe through your generosity we may have the opportunity of meeting again some day. These are the gunner’s mates, second class, we would like to get in touch with: T. Cornwell, John Kordilla, Elmer O’Neil, and Ed. Blanton.

Thanking your in advance we remain,



 E. F. PIETRO, GM2c,



Editor’s note: Censorship regulations prohibit identifying the ship to which Mianowski, Pietro and Crystol are attached.







F.P.O., Frisco, Calif.


A friend of mine wrote and asked me: “What can you, a yeoman, do at sea?” I could fairly feel his sarcasm dripping out of the letter. In response I knocked out the enclosed poem which I mailed him for his edification.


I don’t know whether or not it rates publication in the COAST GUARD MAGAZINE, but I’m enclosing a copy.


Very truly,



I’m the yeoman aboard

And that is in accord

With the rate that I wear on my arm.

But in addition

(Breaking tradition)

I work like a mule on a farm!


A wheel-watch and look-out

(Both I could do without)

I stand every day we’re at sea,

With each pitch and sway

I stagger each day,

A salty for I’ll soon be.


I used to think “Sailor”

Meant “Wolf that could nail her”

But I see now that I was wrong.

It means “Navigate.”

Have your duel with fate

Before you get women and song.


In Pittsburgh I had me

A laundry handy

To do all my gear and my clothes.

But now I’ve found out

What scrubbing’s about


I’ve helped scrape decks and swab

Like a regular gob.

Yet they say: “For the life of a yeoman.”

And I still bear malice

Against my first callus

(I should have used it as an omen.)


But one thing I vow

We do have good chow

The best cook that’s ever been found.

Our meals are delicious

We eat them from dishes

That are always jumping around.


We have sports gear on hand

For when we’re on land

We could go ice-skating or swimmin’

When we sailed (this is fact!)

Only one thing we lacked

We forgot to take along women!


I walk with a roll,

I curse from my soul,

I chew my tobacco in cud.

I’ve mastered the mazes

Of good salty phrases,

And drink stuff (called coffee) that’s mud.


We’re all in this fight

To see it ends right

If it lasts ‘till I’m crippled with gout,

And after we do win,

And if I have children

I’ll have things to tell them about.


Let me say in conclusion,

This is no illusion,

I’m not stationed back home where there’s fun,

And whoever says: “Yeomen

Are worth less than no men”

Better quickly say that on the run!






USCG Radio Station,

Mobile 21, Ala.


I noted with interest the picture on page 23 of the August issue showing an LCI(L) sinking off Normandy.


I spend fifteen months of my life aboard that particular LCI(L), thirteen of which were in combat zones. I was deeply touched, to say the least, upon noting that it was finally destroyed on its third invasion. Fortunately the crew suffered no fatal injuries, so I read. Thanking you for your time, I remain,











c-o F.P.O.,

San Francisco, Calif.


Enclosed is payment for two one-year subscriptions to U. S. Coast Guard Magazine.

I have been mailing the magazine to my home after I finish reading it but since so many of the fellows borrow it and never return it, I decided that sending a subscription from your office direct to the folks at home would be an answer to my problem.

Keep up the find work in the Magazine because it is one of the best boosters of morale.








Ft. Worth 7, Tex.


My son, Marshall Fitzgerald, S1c, was lost when the USS Leopold was sunk. I would like to hear from some of the survivors or from the parents of some who went down.








Relief Lightship No. 106


Why hasn’t the shrouded mystery of one of the most heroic rescues of the war been lifted? Last February the destroyer escorts Marchand and Ricketts effected one of the most dramatic life stories ever published in your magazine. Over 80 men were pulled from mountainous waves after two ships had been in collision, rescuing three-fourths of the complement of both ships. The Marchand searched the seas with all searchlights and numerous other illuminating lights, risking a “fish” from any undersea raider. The Marchand was too badly damaged to make a stand against a sub. With the whole starboard side hoved in and taking water in several compartments, her lifeboat shattered, guns smashed and headway speed reduced to a few knots, but the morale of the crew was not shaken, she maneuvered alongside each survivor under the most adverse conditions possible. She proceeded under her own power 1000 miles in an East Coast port without protection and the efficiency of the ship greatly imperiled even though contacts were made with undersea craft. How about the story, Ed.?





Editor’s Note-We have published all material which has been officially released. Our August edition contained much information about the above-mentioned rescue-E. L.







Prior to the war I had many years’ experience as a prison administrator in the various jails and penitentiaries of the City of New York and in that capacity have had many opportunities to observe the full devastating effect on the Bad Conduct or Dishonorable Discharge upon its holders. Many of the prisoners I interviewed in the course of duty bitterly complained that had it not been for their service record in the last war, they would not have had to resort to crime to make a living.


It is with the hope of saving, if possible, some of our erring youth of today some of this misery, sham and hardship, both to themselves and to their loved ones, for some indiscretion while in the Service that I ask a last port of call chance be given to the offender before dishonorable or bad conduct discharge. It is suggested that a D.T.C. afloat be organized, somewhat as in the Army. The findings of a court martial board would provide the maximum sentence in a military or federal prison if found guilty, with a dishonorable or BCD upon discharge, but with the proviso that the offender at his own request be sent to a disciplinary training center afloat. In our case a lightship or like type permanently moored vessel specially selected for training purposes, for a period of not more than six months. Upon satisfactory completion of this period and during which the offender would be under rigorous discipline and training the original charges would be shelved, and a clean bill of health with restoration to active duty be given.


Properly administered, the graduate of such a training center would find a new outlook on life in general and, with his background of thorough training and full realization of his responsibilities, be a needed asset to any ship’s company. A brief outline of administration follows:

1.        Conduct and scholarship records would be the sole basis for restoration to former status.

2.        No liberty or visits while in training.

3.        Mail privileges.

4.        Training to be conducted by fully qualified instructors specially selected for ability in this field.


Curriculum would consist of complete itinerary of the Blue Jackets Manual with accent on practical seamanship.


Church attendance, while not compulsory, would be noted as further evidence of desire for rehabilitation.






San Diego, Calif.


Been trying to write to you ever since I came back in the Service almost two years ago but something always came up to prevent it. Would appreciate it very much if you would insert a line in the magazine that I would like to hear from some of my old shipmates. Have lost contact with most of them during my wandering around these last six or seven years. Imagine most of them are “gold braid” by now but some of them may be able to find time to drop me a few lines.


I often see Bill Pond, ARM1c, who is now in San Francisco and we always mention how we used to write to the Magazine when he was on the Haida and I was on the Chelan, and later on the Tallapoosa, Redwing and Air Station at Port Angeles. Guess his ambition has faded like mine though for I never see anything in the Magazine by him. Speaking of the Chelan, I see she is still doing her bit for the British, and at the last report had two subs to her credit.


Makes me feel mighty proud of her and I’m sure my old shipmates who served on her back in the “thirties” feel likewise. She was and is a grand ship. It’s only too bad that she now has to take lives instead of saving them as she used to.


Your Old Correspondent,



Editor’s Note¾Twelve years ago Ken Harkem became this editor’s first correspondent, of a time when efforts were being made to form a Service-wide staff of personal correspondents.-





Southwest Pacific.


I would like very much to have this letter published in the COAST GUARD MAGAZINE.


In the past few C.G. Magazines I read where several of the CG sailors were complaining because they were not getting 48-hour liberty but once every three weeks and at other place they were getting them every other week. I think this should stop most of you from complaining.


I am a signalman out here in the Southwest Pacific. Have been our here for seventeen months. It has been five months since I had a liberty and I haven’t had a date for that length of time. Some of the boys aboard here haven’t had liberty where they could date a girl for eleven months. I don’t believe I would complain if I were where I could get a decent liberty at least one night out of a week.


Most of all, I understand there are lots of Spars in the States now. Well, I have never seen a Coast Guard Spar. I would like to be back where most of you lucky boys are getting a good liberty once in a while, not always expecting to get your bunk shot out from under you. I can look back when I used to be stationed at Metomkin Inlet Lifeboat Station. I was always crying because I couldn’t get liberty so I could go to Chincoteague every other night. I wasn’t thinking about the boys overseas who couldn’t see the light of liberty.


I am only writing this for a few of so many Coast Guardsmen to read who are stationed in the States and getting a good liberty at least one night a week.




Editor’s Note¾In fairness to all concerned we must point out that complaints from men on the home front are the exception to the rule. Men serving overseas should not be disturbed by the rare and exceptional complaining of dissatisfied individuals who most certainly do not speak for the majority. Coast Guardsmen on the home front have a very real understanding of the difficulties confronting their comrades overseas.- E. L.






I have just received a medical discharge from the Coast Guard and I would like to have the Magazine sent to my home. The Magazine is really interesting and it will surely be a comfort now that I no longer am in the Coast Guard.


I would like to hear from some of my former shipmates aboard the Taney. I served on the Taney eighteen months overseas and I would like to get in touch with some of the old gang.




Editor’s Note: It is interesting to observe that a large percentage of Coast Guardsmen are arranging to have the U.S. Coast Guard Magazine follow them into civilian life, thus providing them with a link to an epic period of their careers.



Readers are urged to accept this department as their own and make of it an open forum wherein opinions, ideas, thoughts, etc., may be freely and frankly discussed. Address all letters to 3 Church Circle, Annapolis, Maryland. 




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