By Ted A. Morris,
The noted radio commentator Walter Winchell once referred to the Coast Guard's Boot Camp at Manhattan Beach as the only legal "Concentration Camp" in the world. Colonel McBride gives us a first hand view of this infamous and now almost forgotten "Garden of Eden."
24 April 1944, at the age of 17 years, one month, 11 days, I enlisted in the
United States Coast Guard at the recruiting office in Minneapolis, Minnesota. My
father, Chief Boatswain Mate Earl J. Morris, officer in charge, said something
about meeting his quota or shipping out. I
had graduated from high school January 1944 at the age of 16 and thought I could
win the war all by myself.
that time the Coast Guard was enlisting men only as Steward Mates Third Class
(STM3/C) who would serve as permanent mess cooks wherever they were stationed.
Many went to the twenty-two AP transports and
nine APA assault transports which the Coast Guard manned for the U.S.
Navy. My father, using his 24 years of service, requested my enlistment as an
Apprentice Seaman (A/S). It was approved, and off I went to Manhattan Beach
Training Station, Brooklyn, New York. I
was assigned to Company “Y” as one of about forty other apprentice seamen
who, for one reason or the other, were
able to stay out of the galley!
didn’t get there all at the same time. We
sort of wandered in piece meal. Boot
camp started for me wherever everyone else was at the time.
My second day there I took my physical and shots, collected my sea bag
issue. That night someone showed me
how to stencil, “roll and stop” my gear.
The next morning I had a sea bag inspection from one of the Company
Y “bungalow boatswains”.
the war Manhattan Beach was a summer vacation spot with about sixty
duplex bungalows. When the Coast Guard took over, all the partitions were
removed to make room for 30 double deck bunks, rifle racks, 4 commodes and 2
sinks. It was crowded.
Among other facilities, barracks, training buildings, and the USCGC
NEVERSAIL were built. Included was a
“head” with about 50 sinks and 100 shower heads and all the cold
water you could use. The hot water
lasted for about the first ten people. We of course had to wear leggings,
“boots”, have square hats, polished shoes.
And whatever the uniform of the day that was announced about five minutes
before muster for breakfast at 0530.
across the street was a bungalow for the crew of Patrol Frigate 93 USS LORAIN
(PF93) who were awaiting the ship’s commissioning. To say the least, they were not a bunch of “boots”.
No one seemed to have anything for them to do, so they didn’t do
anything but make fun of us “boots”. And
go on liberty which we could not do.
the time of my arrival, Company “Y” was
learning to launch pulling boats and row all over Sheepshead Bay. And do it over
and over again. The next week we were sent “next door” to the U.S. Maritime Training
Station to practice abandoning ship without the life boat. You were instructed
how to put on the Kapok life jacket, hold your nose, grab
your family jewels, keep your feet together and jump 20 feet into a large
tank with a pretty serious fire burning on top.
You had to swim out of the flames, splashing water about to keep your
eyebrows from being singed or hair catching fire.
You got to do this three times the first day.
next couple of days we practiced putting out fires above and below decks in a
“training ship”. We learned how
to use a number of fire fighting rigs, how to close water tight doors, pump
water from one compartment to another, wear oxygen breathing apparatuses and be
able to live in a smoke filled environment.
Then rush top side, grab your family jewels, and jump into the flame
filled tank, splash water everywhere, get hauled out, form up and march back to
the bungalow. You didn’t eat
between the 0530 breakfast and
1800 supper. I recall we spent nearly the whole week doing that. My eyebrows
eventually grew back.
third week we were told to get our shaving kits, two pair of skivvies, two pair
of dungarees. We boarded a bus for
Sea Girt, New Jersey to gunnery school six hours away. The first day was spent in the classroom being instructed in 20mm,
40mm twin and quad mounts, the 3 inch 50-caliber, and the 5 inch 38-caliber open
mount. Four days were spent trying
to shoot down the U.S. Navy plane towing targets back and forth. Some PF crews
were there also, but we weren’t allowed to be contaminated by them. We were given lunch. A
canteen cup of green pea soup and two pieces of dry bread separated by a slab of
ham or spam. Nothing to brag about.
Nor was breakfast or supper.
back to MBTS and our first liberty. Saturday 1200 to Sunday 1800. I slept most
of mine at a USO in New York City!
of the “old” boots graduated and went on to better things, and several new
ones arrived. My fourth week was
learning how to do close order drill and march endlessly all over the base. Quite often I went around the drill field at double time with my
rifle at high port. This was to teach me something,
I’m sure. We had to march everywhere. And
scrub our clothes in a bucket, use the clothes stops to tie them to some
ratlines, haul them up a central
mast. Then post a guard
with about six others (STM3/C) to march around the clothes mast till the
clothes were almost dry, lower them down, roll them up, “stop” them, put
them in your sea bag in a specific order. And
hope they didn’t turn black from mildew before you used them again.
the fifth and sixth weeks we learned all about the USCGC NEVERSAIL.
How to tie knots, make rope fenders, splice both manila and wire rope
till your fingers bled, especially if you bit your fingernails.
Do you realize how many nerve endings are in your fingertips?
We also learned how to stand various watches. How to semaphore.
How to salute; when to salute. How
to man the side; what the “bosun” blew on his pipe.
How to make the NEVERSAIL ready to sail.
How to approach a dock; how to tie it up.
How to anchor; how to rig a sea anchor.
How to rig a collision mat; how to make one.
the end of the sixth week, about 12 of us were placed on orderly duty at MBTS
headquarters running countless errands, making coffee, cleaning up after
everyone and saluting everyone. During one of my errand runs I wound up in the
classification branch of the personnel office and found a kind soul who took
pity on me. He had me make out the
necessary paper work to get assigned to the next Quartermaster/Signalman School
there at MBTS. That class
began on 12 June 1944. Suddenly
the eight long weeks of my boot camp was over. Without boot leave. I was rated Seaman Second Class (S2/C) and
moved out of the bungalow into a large barracks building with an indoor
“head” and hot water showers. I
know I’ve left a lot out. We had
pretty good chow. Got to see some
first run movies after setting up the chairs in the base gym.
Had four liberties in New York City that I didn’t sleep through.
Camp was eight weeks long, and I can only remember the names of about three
school was 12 weeks long and although we learned a lot about Quartermaster
tasks, were all rated as Signalman on graduation.
I later changed my rate to Quartermaster 3/C.
And after surviving the sinking of the USCGC MAGNOLIA and a brief
hospital stay, the Japanese gave up, the war was over, and I got the opportunity
to train as an Aviation Machinist Mate.
left the Coast Guard in December 1948 after nearly 5 years, and joined the U.S.
Air Force for another 25 years of service. --Ted
A. Morris, LTC, USAF, RET.
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