My Original Sin
By Jim Orrock
From "The Helm" Published By Members of the USCGC DUANE Association - Reprinted By Permission
Those of us who have been to Bermuda during the hey day of Coast Guard Cutter visits can empathize with the authors plight.
was a Young Coast Guardsman on my first overseas liberty. We had just delivered
a Greek sailor to Georgetown, Bermuda for medical aid. The
word was we got him just in time, another forty-five minutes he would
have been dead. The executive officer gathers the liberty section on the fantail
and warned us about the cops of
Bermuda. Told of some things we should not do while in town. Number one; do not
mess with the memorials and their flags. Hell, my mind was on the booze, maybe
women, and damnit I
two hour watch seem to drag on
forever. Finally, I was
nineteen hundred I ran into most
an hour or two later we headed to another club after
We stroll in to another establishment the likes of this old country boy had never seen. The waiters wore tuxedos, I remember a lot of glass, and French doors leading to a terrace. I was setting there getting a little nervous. The management was getting a little upset at us.
of the crew (Officers and Enlisted) was talking about tearing the place apart.
The next thing I knew Tom Bedell stood up, yelling and threw a chair through the
French doors glass going every where. Some officers started throwing chairs and
glasses. Man, I want out of here.
Goodie Two Shoes" only thought this stuff happened in the movies. I believe
the cops came, but we where long gone and they did not pursue us. I am thinking,
if they do not do anything these guys are pretty soft.
have always been a Naval History buff, even back then. Anyhow, I am stumbling
down the street and see this World War Two memorial, with flags of the British
Empire. One of the flag is the Saint George Cross or the Royal Naval Ensign.
“Damn, I would like to have that,” in my drunken stupor, I think. So over
the little fence I go, take down the flag and off on my merry way I go. Beside
those guys tore up that club and they did not do anything, Why should they care
about a silly old flag.
damn taxi driver saw me take the flag and off to the police station he went. I
had given the flag to fireman Midgett, since he had a bag big enough to put it
here come a little police car, siren wailing and lights a flashing. They start
going through everyone’s bags, and
dragged me in front of the magistrate. He even wore a
am put in a cell. A Door with bars open to the weather, a wooden bench to sleep
on and a sink and toilet combination; really interesting. As I lay there I was
thinking, “Boy, you have screwed up big time.”
on the good cutter Duane, word had gotten back to Captain Roger Erdman,
of my incarceration. He put out the word, “We leave none of the crew behind,
get Orrock out of jail.” Well the O.D. was Ensign Stromsen; poor lad had grown
a fine peach fuzz beard while on Ocean Station Echo. He shaved it off, borrowed
the Engineering Officer’s Dress Blue jacket with all of his fruit salad (the
E.O. was a mustang, so he had a few ribbons.) I was told Mr. Stromsen had a good
bit of money with him to pay any fine or bail money. Off to the jail he
am awakened in my cell and brought back before the magistrate, and there stands
in front of him Ensign Stromsen in this Lt. Commander’s jacket and no beard.
judge looks at me
course the Ensign is mad as hell at me, because he shaved his beard off to
rescue me. Now I am getting scared of what the Captain will do.
get back to Boston in a couple of weeks and there is a captain’s mast held
just for my benefit. I figure he will take my crow away
am shaking in my boots as I stand before Captain Erdman. The executive officer
starts things off, telling me I am charged with stealing the flag, did not I
remember him telling the crew before we went ashore about “do not mess
Captain then starts reading the police report, I am thinking he going to have me
shot, he keeps on reading, it sounding worst all the time. He finishes reading
the report looks over at the executive officer, and says “do we have anyone
representing the Bermuda government, since we do not then this report is hearsay
and can not be used against MST3 Orrock, all charges are dropped.” Damn my
knees almost gave way.
Captain then said “Orrock, I know you will not let something
I will never stand before you again, under charges” I told him.
a couple of months later I was on a plane going back to Boston, sitting next to
me was Ensign Stromsen’s mother. When she found out I was from the Duane,
she started telling me how mad her son was that he had to shave off his beard to
save that no good Coastie from jail. I did not have the heart to tell her I was
the no good Coastie.
eighteen months later the Canadian Coast Guard Icebreaker, John MacDonald tied
up outside of us in Boston. I went aboard to take a tour, traded my baseball cap
for one of their berets. Anyhow, as we talked sailor talk, they happen to
mention one of their shipmates was in Crown Point Prison for trying to steal a
flag in Bermuda. A DAMN cold chill went down
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