[Excerpted from U.S. Coast Guard Magazine, October, 1944]
The Mail Buoy
An Open Forum
Conducted by The Editor
(Restored By Don Gardner)
"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."
A TRIBUTE TO SOME FORMER SHIPMATES
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.
M. G. MAGNUSSON,
Commanding CGC Ironwood
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