NEW BOOT AND NO PLACE TO GO
By Donald H. Ward
Well it was about 1942 early September when a few of us boots arrived at a new home. We were trucked out of South Portland,Maine to a point called Cape Elizabeth,there was a U.S.Lighthouse on the hill and a Life Boat Station at the bottom looking directly to the east'ard. The station was so close to the beach you could feel the spray from the waves with a good nor'easter blowing.
We were dumped off and told to report inside for duty. Well now I'll tell you this was the last place I ever thought I would end up after joining the Great United States Coast Guard. I thought I would be sent aboard a ship and get some sea duty and see some of the world or at least some type of action.
The 6 of us just stood there for awhile and then it seems that all hell broke lose.
There was a fog bank rollin' in form the east'ard and a breeze was picking up, when out of no where there came a blast that I had never heard befor, it was so loud that I jumped up about 3 feet off the deck of that porch. The light keeper assistant had gone to the whistle house and started up the fog horn. Now I have heard some truck horns and whistles blow, but the blast from the damn thing shook the plates off the shelves of the local people.
It was about then when the Chief Bos'n ( He was a old surfman and had been froze in the service after about 30 years of service) He was a real old salt and just as loud as the damn fog horn. I found out later that they named him "Bellowin' Melcher. His name was Melcher Beal from Machias,
Maine, but I swear that he was born in that damn whistle house. As the Chief came out on the porch he ask if we had any problems? Well me being a fresh boot and thought I knew what to do at this point spoke up and said "Yes Sir! I would like a transfer to sea duty."
He asked my name and told me to report at the top of the stairs and get into my undress blues and
leggins, that I had the next watch on the North Patrol. He also informed me that I would get all the sea duty I wanted on the north
patrol, and had just 30 minutes to get ready. I think this is where I learned my first lesson in
seamanship, never open your mouth when there is someone else's foot in there .
On arriving down stairs and reporting for duty I was given a 45 caliber machine gun, a night watchman's clock along with a kerosene lantern. I was told that at the end of the patrol was a white key post with a key attached and to insert the key in the clock and give it a few twist to inprint the time of my arrival. Now this was supposed to be a four hour patrol two hours going and two hours returning. Also there was to be another person walking with me, but he would be 10 minutes behind and we were not to walk together. I was told to follow the path and would see the key post at the end out on a point of land.
I started walking up over the first set of rocks and down the otherside. At this point the
fog was thick you could cut it with a knife. I was stumbling and falling over things I could not see and was not
familiar with the area I was walking. Well it seems I had walked about 3 miles and still not
encountered any key post. I had past a few cottages and houses but still nothing that looks
like a key post.
I said to myself just keep walking, so I did just that. So after about another hour of shuffling along the rock and cliffs I saw a white object and headed in that direction. I was still along the waters edge and could see and hear the waves breaking on the shore line. I then saw some buildings and a fence I walked around the fence along the shore line and came back up on the embankment. At this point I saw a house and it was a lighthouse I went to the door and knocked, who should open the door but another Coasty.
He asked what I wanted and I explained where I had come from and he told I was lucky I had not been shot that I had just passed through a Fort (Fort Williams) and there was soldiers on duty with loaded rifles.
At this point I said I was not going to walk back and he said he would take me to the spot I was to punch the clock. So off we went in a Jeep and when we arrived at Trundy's Point the other Coasty was waiting for me.
I had walked past armed soldiers and a Fort around barbed wire and up to Portland Head Light house. This would not have been so bad but I had no light and fell down about 20 times. I was about to throw that damn clock into the ocean and the gun with it.
We made it back ok but we walked together and I did not let him out of my sight. On arriving back to the station I threw the gun down with the clock and said I am out of here tomorrow morning.
The chief came out and told yes I was out of there tomorrow and it would be on the West patrol this time
I had plenty of sand to walk on and would be easy on the west patrol. Then he said when you get back
you can take the watch tower after I help clean up for field day which was Friday and inspection
was next day. I swore that day that I would never open my mouth to anyone wearing gold on their sleeve.
I hated that man from the word go, but he was one of the best damn seaman I ever knew I learned more from him in 6 months then I did in 3 years of service. First was the morse code before any liberty, then rowing every morning at 9:00 am and afternoon at 3:00 pm the pullin' boat went off the beach with 6 men and a cox'n.
The weather played no part of not going out and rowing, he said rain, sleet, snow or blow the boat goes out every day.
Next was the Beach Apparatus. Set up the cannon and learn what to do by procedure. Every man knew how to operate the beach buggy and what to do at each station, even down to wrapping the shot line back on the pegs. The rowing took over three hours each session and different men each time.
The MOTTO is you have to go out, but you don't have to come back this is what makes the COAST GUARD
a proud bunch and should be respected by all on land, air or sea.
These are the things that make the Coast Guard so unique and outstanding for the job that is performed by each and every man that enlists in this branch of service. They stand out beyond any other branch as far as I am concerned they have a three fold duty to perform Save Lives, Property and defend our country in time of war and peace. SEMPER PARATUS is just what it says, ALWAYS READY in time of WAR or PEACE.
Donald H. Ward was in the USCGR 1942-1945
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