A TALE OF TWO LADIES
The Internet Edition of
The Old Salt's Journal
Volume II - No. 4 Fourth Quarter 1999
The Coast Guard Sea Veterans of America Quarterly Newsletter
This is the eighth issue of our Quarterly Newsletter, the "Old Salts Journal." It is published sometime during each of the four seasons of the year.
IN THIS ISSUE:
A TALE OF TWO LADIES
STAY INBOARD OF THE BIGHT
GOOSE ON THE ROCKS
INCOMING VESSEL ON CRASH COURSE
A BEER URGE AND A 9 MM NUDGE
GROUNDING OF THE SOUTHWIND
AND MORE ........
IN THE NEWS
A TALE OF TWO LADIES
by Jack Eckert
In the autumn of 1999 two ladies were snatched from the obscurity of history and brought to the present through two solemn ceremonies, one conducted on the West Coast and the other conducted on the East Coast.
Both of these ladies were a part of Coast Guard history and they should never be doomed to obscurity again.
Neither lady ever met the other. One of the ladies could have been the grandmother of the other. One had a tragic event swirl around her in childhood while the other's contribution began after her family tragedy.
Both were honored at dedication ceremonies by senior Coast Guard Officers within days of each other. Neither knew of the other nor of the respective rites.
One ceremony was conducted in New Bedford, Massachusetts and the other in Cle Elum, Washington. Neither lady was the principal reason for the ceremony. Their roles at the time that history was being written were secondary. But in honoring them, they took their rightful places.
Seamond Ponsard was a little girl of five in 1944 when she witnessed the loss of the Vineyard Lightship. As the daughter of a Lighthouse keeper, she was with him in the tower on the night the tempest overwhelmed the small ship that was securely fastened to the bottom. She saw the lights and then the lights were gone. She knew of many of the lost souls as her "uncles." They stayed with her family at the Lighthouse on crew change days.
She probably remembers that event as clearly as any of us remembers the day Pearl Harbor was bombed or the Kennedy assassination; if not more vividly.
Edith Munro was the mother of the Coast Guard's only Medal of Honor recipient. Her son, SM1 Douglas Munro distinguished himself at the Battle of Guadalcanal early in WWII and the award was made posthumously. He is not only considered one of the Coast Guard's greatest heroes but one of the Marine Corps also. Immediately after that tragic event Edith joined the Coast Guard as a SPAR and was commissioned. After her "Boot Camp" she traveled the country helping to sell War Bonds. Not content with that assignment she was reassigned to the Thirteenth Coast Guard District where she ran the District Barracks. She did a lot of trailblazer work integrating the females and males in her charge. She was the first woman officer ever invited to attend 13th District Staff Meetings. After the war she continued to assist in promoting the Coast Guard well into her eighties prior to her death.
She is buried next to her son Douglas at the Cle Elum cemetery.
Seamond Ponsard Roberts was flown from her home in New Orleans to attend the dedication of the monument to the tragic loss of the Vineyard Lightship some 55 years ago as an honored guest. There she was reunited with one of the survivors, a man who was on shore leave the night of the storm and was due to return to the ship the next day.
I recently was told by Seamond by email that this was the trip of a lifetime for her and she will always remember it.
Rear Admiral Blayney, the Commander of the Thirteenth District, in his address at the dedication ceremony for the memorial to Douglas Munro used the major part of his address to honor Edith Munro.
Both were solemn ceremonies. Seamond was in live attendance in New Bedford and I am sure that Edith was present in spirit at Cle Elum too.
Two ladies honored at two separate solemn events were brought forward from the obscurity of history and we shall be sure that they remain with us forever as two ladies with strong Coast Guard ties.
Rest in Peace Douglas Munro.
Rest in Peace Edith Munro.
Rest in Peace men of the lost Vineyard Lightship
Our Prayers are with you.
STAY INBOARD OF THE BIGHT
I boarded the buoy tender MANGROVE in February 1942 eight out of boot camp. Because I was small in stature I found myself in the wheelhouse as part of the quartermaster's gang. The commanding officer and most of the leading petty officers had come over from the Lighthouse Service when it was transferred to the Coast Guard in 1939. They had been civilians until that time and they were well along in their adulthood. For the most part they did not accommodate well to the military way of doing things. The one exception, CBM Stanley Meagus. He had been in the service for many years and the clash between his military philosophies and the other's civilian habits was painfully evident.
Chief Meagus was a fair man. He was also an abrupt, no shilly-shallying, brusque, demanding individual. He was serious about his work and he could generally be found on the buoy deck supervising operations when we had a buoy alongside. To one-quarter of the crew, who like myself, were entirely new to the scene, this appeared normal. (Meagus was also the Exec.) To the ex-civilian old timers this imposition of leadership by a "Johnny come lately" to the buoy tending business was cause for disgruntlement. Meagus was highly safety conscious and one of his principal rules while working a buoy was, "stay inboard of the bight."
With a buoy alongside, one line was led and secured forward on the tender ... another line was led aft and secured. This kept the buoy alongside the buoy pad where the work was done. The buoy was usually kept toward the forward end of the pad and thus there was a long line leading aft across an unprotected stretch of the pad. As the ship and buoy were moved by the sea, sometimes the forward line would be taut; sometimes the aft line would be taut. When the after line was slack it would lie on deck ... as the slack was taken up the movement of the ship and the buoy, anyone outboard of the line was susceptible to being pushed overboard. Thus the ... "stay inboard of the bight."
It was a hot, calm morning in the late spring of 1942 ... Chief Meagus was on the buoy deck.
The event took no more than 30 or 40 seconds. Amid the bustle of activities, Meagus stepped outside of the bight. With his attention claimed by the work on the buoy, Meagus failed to notice the line tightening up. Everyone on deck watched. The Captain and I could see it coming ... nobody said a word or lifted a finger to help.
As the line contracted, Meagus was ever so gently but irresistibly, caught in the small of the back and pushed towards the edge of the buoy pad. He turned to face toward the crew with a look of amazement coupled with an unspoken plea for help on his face ... no help came ... Meagus went overboard.
Aside from a damaged ego and ruined watch, Meagus wasn't hurt ... but he got along much better with the everybody afterwards.
GROUNDING OF THE SOUTHWIND
by Ralph Breschini
25,000 miles from home the ship hit a pinnacle and started taking on water .......
SOUTHWIND departed Coast Guard Yard, Baltimore, Maryland for "Operation Deep Freeze 68" on 16 November, 1968 with CAPT S. R. Dobler, Commanding Officer. The radio gang of "NMBT" [Southwind's international call sign] was: ENS Hipkiss, Communications Officer; RMC Roesing, RM-in-Charge; RM1 Wedge; RM1 Ritchie; RM2 Breschini; RM2 Alberly; RM3 Banke; RM3 Dozal; and one other RM3 whose name escapes me at this time.
I had an additional duty, Postal Clerk, with a fully commissioned post office on board.
SOUTHWIND was loaded with tons of food, 3.2 beer for "Happy Hour," a ship's store full of smokes, goodies and movies for many hours of good entertainment. What else could one need for a cruise to the bottom of the world?
Our first stop was the Naval Weapons Station in Yorktown, Virginia where cargo and ammunition were loaded aboard. Then, on to Craney Island in the Elizabeth River for fuel to the tune of 420,700 gallons, with an additional 11,858 gallons of JP-5 fuel. One more stop at Norfolk, where two HU-2B Navy helicopters were flown aboard and made ready for sea in the hangar on the flight deck.
We departed Norfolk on the 19th of November with stops in the Panama Canal Zone, Valparaiso and Punta Arenas, Chile, where a Navy SeaBee Detachment came aboard.
On November 30, SOUTHWIND crossed the equator and the usual hype and physical activity took place. We who had never crossed the equator before were initiated "to the fullest." We never did find the "golden rivet." One ensign locked himself in his stateroom; when he finally emerged, he really got the works. I felt sorry for him.
CGC Southwind Operating in the Ice
We arrived at Palmer Station, Antarctica on 21 December 1967. Our mission was to provide support for the Sea Bees while they constructed Palmer Station II. One SeaBee fell from scaffolding and was injured quite seriously. Our doctor and corpsman did a great job, but we finally had to take him to Argentina for medical treatment. He ended up going back stateside a short time later.
During the entire cruise, we drilled constantly. GQ, man overboard, fire, everything. We always moaned and groaned, especially if you had just gotten in the sack, but weekends brought Happy Hour, pizza and two cans of beer for each man. One could amass a number of cans if you had the right stuff to trade.
Every couple of weeks, SOUTHWIND would cross Drake Passage and head for Punta Arena, Chile for liberty, some fresh fruit, meat and mail. During one of the visits, "crabs" were brought aboard by some unsuspecting sailors and they spread throughout the berthing area like wildfire. During the day our mattresses and bedding hung out all over the ship. What a sight!
Boxing and wrestling matches were often held in the hangar, so if you had a problem with a shipmate, you could settle it on the mat-rank meant nothing there. The XO was invited into the ring by a Chief who had a little more respect for the XO when it was all over.
On 21 March 1968, Palmer Station II was finished and a dedication ceremony was planned. All the Sea Bees and two duty sections put on dress uniforms and went ashore for the event. USCGC GLACIER, which was on another ice operation in the area, arrived at our location in time to take part in the dedication.
SOUTHWIND was underway soon after the ceremony was completed and heading north for home when she struck an uncharted rock pinnacle, becoming hard aground. I had just gotten off watch and was in the sack when General Quarters sounded. We had heard and felt the sickening sound of something ripping out the bottom of the vessel. My GQ station was CW operator on 5++ KHz, the international maritime mobile distress and calling frequency. Half-dressed, with life jacket on, the order was given to send an SOS on 5++ KHz. The text, as I remember it, was: "SOS SOS SOS DE NMBT NMBT NMBT USCGC SOUTHWIND (time) (position) TAKING ON WATER AND ARE AGROUND." Well, needless to say, no one responded to the distress call from the bottom of the world. While I was doing my job, the call to the GLACIER from the bridge using 157.1 FM was made to "stop your forward progress, we are aground and taking on water."
The ship's company performed their assigned tasks flawlessly. Enginemen and damage control personnel knew what had to be done. Our forward dry stores compartment and an area in an engine room was flooded, but water tight integrity was held because of our professionals.
After crossing Drake Passage for the final time with GLACIER as our escort, a thorough inspection was made. It was determined we could make it home. With pumps going on deck keeping the water level down, we pulled into Maryland Shipbuilding & Drydock Co., Baltimore on 27 April after traveling more than 25,000 miles during Deep Freeze, completing our mission.
Hats off to a great crew!
Postscript: I was temporarily sitting at the Ice Breaker type desk, Naval Engineering Division in Headquarters when the dispatch came in. The entire maintenance section of ENE went to GQ to assist as much as we could. I am pleased that this story is being told by a crew member thirty years later -Editor
From Coast Guard Stories by Don Gardner and Jack Eckert
INCOMING VESSEL ON CRASH COURSE
By Rick Bennett
Doug Bingham forwarded this true story:
A lightship sailor fears two things at sea and on station; a storm that would engulf the small ship, and a collision. This is a first hand account. Nantucket Lightship 612 on an incident that happened in May 1984
On most any night while on station, there were two men assigned to the watch. The Engineering watch stander and the Bridge watch stander. The duty of the engineer on watch was to take hourly readings on the ship's generator, monitor the radio beacon signal and record the various
gauge readings of the refrigeration plant that contained all food and dairy products for the trip to "the shoals." He would also make rounds fore and aft of all compartments to verify fire and flooding safety. One of the most important tasks would be to stay in contact with the bridge
watch stander, for the safety of himself and the crew.
The bridge watch stander would send the local weather conditions hourly for mariners, and maintain an active radio and radar watch. The radar was the most important part of this watch. The radar had rings that could be turned on, to mark distances from the center part of the
ship to twenty-five miles or more. If a vessel was spotted on the radar, it was usually seen from twenty to twenty five nautical miles away. The watch stander would watch this vessel, and plot its course and speed through the water. The idea was to be sure that any vessel on this screen was not steering on a crash course to our ship. To do this, the watch stander used a grease pencil and drew the vessel's course on the radar screen as well as the time that it was plotted. It was in this
manner that an "early warning system" was formed for our safety. These two people ensured the safety of all persons onboard.
One night during May 1984 at 0200 I was awakened along with the rest of the crew to a page over the public address system. "INCOMING SHIP TEN MILES OUT ON A CRASH COURSE, GET DRESSED AND ASSUME YOUR ASSIGNMENTS." Seconds later, the engineering watch stander followed up with an appearance in the berthing area, shouting as he looked around "LETS GO PEOPLE, THIS IS NOT A DRILL." As any Lightship sailor knows, everyone has pre-determined assignments for all emergencies such as fire, flooding, and this one,
I got out of bed and was dressed in ten seconds it would seem. By now the lights in the berthing area were on and everyone was getting dressed and heading off to their assignments. My assignment was to parallel generators to allow use of the anchor windlass, and to ready the
windlass for use in hauling the anchor. I knew no one would attempt to raise the anchor until I reported to the bridge so I ran forward and readied the windlass first to save time. From here, I ran to B1 engine room, started the second generator and got it online. I called the bridge, and reported that the generators and the windlass were ready to weigh anchor. Captain Lewis answered and stated "He's almost on the center ring, there's not enough time. Get your men out of the engine room and on deck now!" I ran to B2 engine room where a two-man crew had just brought all four main engines online, ready for use.
Unfortunately these engines are useless when the anchor is still down. I shouted down from the catwalk "LEAVE THEM, EVERYBODY OUT AND TOPSIDE RIGHT NOW!" Out and up through the wardroom we went to the main deck. I reported to Captain Lewis that the engine room crew was all topside. "Aye," he replied, "see what you can do to make the life boats free from the deck." This was done in a matter of seconds. Funny, now that I look back on this, when we drilled for this very situation it seemed to take forever to get it done, and now it is done in a few seconds.
At this point, we have been on deck for a little more than a minute when everything seemed to become more apparent as to the severity of our situation. For your benefit, here are the facts of the situation at this moment.
First, it's the month of May. May is a foggy month, and true to form its like pea soup. So thick you can not see the bow light from the stern. That's one hundred and twenty eight feet away.
Second, we have a large vessel coming at us in this fog, and no one knows where it is at because it has gone off the radar into the center ring. This center ring is an area that nothing can be seen in. Also, because we are on the anchor, we are constantly moving. This means that this ship may have been on our starboard side, but could possibly be coming at us from any side now as we swing in a circle on the anchor.
The entire crew has come on deck, except the few working on the bridge. The Captain has radioed our situation to Coast Guard Group, Woods Hole, and Group Woods Hole scrambled helicopters from Air Station Cape Cod enroute to our position, which is fifty-six miles from
the nearest land. The water temperature would have been in the mid-fifty's to lower sixty's, and if you have ever been in water at that temperature you know it to be ice cold.
The anchor is still down and we do not have the ability to move out of the way of this as yet unseen vessel. Our radio beacon signal has been turned off in the hopes that doing so would alert the oncoming ship to check its course on automatic pilot. For the most part, we are sitting ducks in the ocean waiting to get hit.
As we watch and listen for an oncoming ship, I walk all around the deck and remove all life rings and strobe lights from the holders and place them on the deck. This will ensure that some of them will float free in the water if we get hit and the ship goes down. This will place life rings in the water, and activate the strobe lights so we can find them. Captain Lewis uses the public address system to advise the crew that if we go into the water, look for the strobe lights and make your way to them for pickup.
So we watch, listen, and wait. Whatever is to happen will take place in the next few minutes. It is hard to describe the feeling you experience when you are faced with this type of situation, especially since you know what has happened to other lightships in this situation. We wait some more, everyone looking out into the fog hoping that whatever is coming at us will somehow miss hitting us.
Nothing happens! No noise! No ship in sight! For that matter, no ship ever appears on the radar again. If this ship had discovered that it was about to be in a collision and turned away it would have appeared on the radar as it came out of the center ring. This never happened. There was nothing there; the only noise heard was the noise we were making. Five minutes pass and still nothing. Whatever it was should have been here by now. Another five minutes and still nothing. Group Woods Hole is in constant radio contact with us, and our only report is nothing heard, visually seen, or on radar.
It is now ten minutes past "zero hour" and still nothing is seen or heard. Captain Lewis states over the public address system, "STAND DOWN, ALL HANDS TO THE MESS DECK WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE WATCH." He informs Group Woods Hole that we are standing down, thanks them for the support, and the helicopters are cancelled. All hands go below and await the Captain.
When he arrives, he states " Nice job men. You were ready, and luckily we were not tested. However, we still do not know what was out there! Tomorrow will be holiday routine, post your watches and enjoy the day." We secured all the equipment we used for this situation, and went back to bed.
The following morning about 0800 we heard sonar pings. It became clear to us that we had been the target of a "bombing run" by a submarine out on trials. No wonder we never heard or saw anything, it went UNDER US.
So ended yet another day of a Lightship sailor, tomorrow will bring something new to deal with. We of course, will be ready.
A BEER URGE AND A 9 MM NUDGE
By Joe W. Rush
An incident occurred while I was stationed at the LORAN-C Station in Targaburun, Turkey, a story which I shall relate to you without the mention of any names. You might see why after reading the story. I will relate it to you as it was related to me, and the participants will be called "The Chief", "Doc", and "The Idiot."
The year was 1959, the year "The Idiot" turned twenty-one. His age has nothing to do with the story except that he was somewhat ignorant and totally brash. I still see him often and he is still somewhat ignorant, but the years have taken some of the shine off of the brash, if you'll pardon my little play on words. Here is the meat of the story:
Three of us; myself, The Chief, and Doc, had taken one of the Dodge Weapons Carriers (a fancy name for a 4x4 pickup with wooden bench seats in the rear) from the LORAN Station at Targaburun and made the daily mail run over to the Turkish army base near Corlu (that's pronounced "Chorloo"). We were early, but we meant to be. If we were early we would have to wait for our mail to be delivered from Istanbul and sorted, and there was no better place to wait than the "Red Dog Saloon". The beer was cold, it was good, it was cheap, and there was plenty of it, unlike our meager supply at the LORAN Station.
The Chief insisted on driving the truck and he delivered us to the appointed spot in good health and in good time. The Red Dog Saloon was a facility maintained by the US Army, and they were located on the back side of the Turkish Army base. They had been invited there to teach the Turkish Army about the care and feeding of the Honest John missile, and from all accounts they were doing a masterful job of it, since the Turks had not lately destroyed too much of importance around the area with the missiles. At any rate, upon arrival we checked with the mail room and, wouldn't you just know it, the mail had not yet arrived from Istanbul. That being the case there was nothing to do but wait, so we repaired to the aforementioned watering hole and commenced to drown a thirst and smoke a good cigar or two, or three.
Several beers later the mail room clerk came in and announced that the mail had been received and sorted, so The Chief reluctantly went to pick it up while Doc and myself said our good-byes and finished our beers. We then mounted the truck, with The Chief driving again, and headed for the main gate which was on the front side of the base. This meant that we had to go through the Turkish base to get out, just as we had had to do to get in. The streets, if you could call them streets, were hard-packed gravel and were terribly rough, sort of like a corduroy road. About halfway through the Turkish area I announced to The Chief that I had a very full bladder which demanded my immediate attention. It was then widely known that I could drink a six-pack of beer and process it within fifteen minutes as a full case, but The Chief told me to hold on to what I had. I held on! I held on for about another fifty feet before I announced that I could no longer hold on. This irritated The Chief a whole bunch, but he brought the truck to a screeching halt so that this Idiot Seaman, who couldn't hold onto his beer, could relieve himself. I was most pleased that he had stopped.
I quickly dismounted, being on the outside near the door, and just as quickly turned my attention to the business at hand, facing the rear tire of the truck and taking dead aim on that tire. I was hosing it down really well when I felt something poking me in the back. I turned my head and noticed what appeared to be a Turkish soldier standing squarely behind me. I twisted my neck further, unaware that more than my neck was rotating, and noted that the soldier was wearing a Turkish MP arm band, an item I had seen before, and the thing he had poked me in the back with looked quite a bit like the muzzle of a well used 9 mm automatic. Sure enough, that's just exactly what the damned thing was. Further noticing on my part brought to my attention that, just on the other side of the ditch near where I was standing, a soccer game had evidently been under way but had now stopped. It was well attended by a bunch of laughing and gesturing Turkish army types and, from the looks of them, some of them were officers. I guessed that one of the officers had sent the MP to see why this infidel was relieving himself on the company street. I guess the reason I didn't notice all these people before was that I only had one thing on my mind.
Being about half in the bag, I found the situation to be sort of funny and I started chuckling. Then I noticed that when I chuckled the stream, which was still pouring forth with gusto, had found the right foot and leg of the MP. He was wearing the heavy woolen greens that the Turkish Army wore in all seasons, with leggings. The leggings had not protected his shoe nor his uniform though, and his right leg was suddenly wet almost to his crotch. His eyes bulged out, he jumped back about four feet, shouting several words unknown to me, and then he began to jump up and down, sort of like the Yosemite Sam in the Bugs Bunny cartoon. The Chief heard all of this, leaned across Doc, and shouted at me to tell him what the hell was going on. Now, The Chief was red in the face under any condition, and when he had tippled a bit he was red enough so that you just knew he would bleed to death if you plucked out a whisker. Not only was his face a bright blood red, he was wearing his Chief's hat, a type of hat with a type of insignia that the Turkish MP had evidently never seen before. The Turk must have thought it prudent to salute this large, red-faced 'whatever'. He tried this, but he still had that 9 mm in his saluting hand and he came damned close to either knocking himself silly or shooting himself in the head, whichever came first. I never noticed which it was, but I never heard a shot and I was really pleased with that, and not just for the Turk, either.
With the Turk distracted by his aborted attempt at a salute and my business attended to, I stowed my hardware, jumped back into the truck, and told The Chief to get the hell out of there as quick as he could. After we were safely off the base I related to him what had happened.Doc had witnessed the whole thing while sitting sidesaddle on the seat with his feet on the running board and he supported my story while trying not to laugh. The Chief chose not to believe it since I had not been shot dead, which he would have done in the MP's place, and which he was thinking about doing anyhow.
I stored the above story in my "Big Ones" file and didn't give it too much thought after that. I rotated from Turkey, went to ET School, made it to ET1, and eventually became an instructor at the LORAN-C School in Groton during the years 1965-1967.
One day I had just dismissed my class for chow when I saw a familiar face coming up from down below. It was Doc in civilian clothes but I recognized him even though I couldn't remember his name. He had been the second HM1 stationed at Targaburun, the first one having been Doc Patrick.
He recognized me also, and we talked a bit. I asked him what he was doing visiting the school in civilian clothes and he told me that he was with what was then called CID, if my memory is correct, and that it was none of my business what he was doing there. I asked him how long he had been with CID while trying to remember what bad things I might have done in Turkey that might have caught his attention. He confirmed my fears when he told me that he had been sent to Turkey to relieve the original HM1 and get the lay of the land. When I asked him about the above story he confirmed it, and he also told me that "The Idiot" was quite famous in some circles around Washington, DC as the only person ever known to have relieved himself on a Turkish MP holding a gun on him and not get shot! "Doc" went on about his business and I haven't seen him since, thankfully.
Some people live and learn, some just live, and some are just inordinately lucky.
GOOSE ON THE ROCKS
by Jack Eckert
This happened in the Fall of 1968 in Sitka, Alaska.
A little background first. Alaska Airlines flew a lot of Grumman Goose's in South East Alaska. A number of them were gasoline fueled two engine models that ferried people from Ketchikan, Alaska to Annette Island, Alaska before the airport was built in Ketchikan. They also had three or four models that had turbo prop engines and were fueled by JP-5.
The "Turbo-Goose's" carried passengers from port to port in that part of Alaska, i.e., Ketchikan to Juneau, Petersburg to Sitka, etc. One of these planes landed one day in Ketchikan in the water with wheels down. It sank! Another landed at Juneau airport wheels up. That was the end of that one. Now there are only one or two left.
In 1968 I was a member of the Western Area Operational Evaluations Division. The entire division was working in Alaska that Fall. As was the custom when we were working on smaller units the team was split in two. One group went to Petersburg to work on their unit and my group worked on the base at Ketchikan. Upon completion of the respective evaluations the two groups were scheduled to merge in Sitka to do the CGC Clover.
With the scenario established this is what happened:
Our group consisting of CDR Dick Sardeson, myself then a LT, ENC Cliff Smith and YNC Harvey Scott boarded the Goose in Ketchikan to fly to Juneau. It was less time consuming and cheaper to fly that way then to fly over to Annette and take the Alaska Airlines 727 to Sitka.
It was a cold fall day, with low over hanging clouds, a variable ceiling, and varying visibility. Along with another government employee we boarded the plane from the ramp downtown, taxied across the water and took off.
The Goose had four passenger seats on each side of the plane for a total of eight. A ninth passenger often rode in the right seat in the cockpit. I was sitting immediately behind the pilot on the left hand side of the plane and could see through the forward windshield as well as the window under the wing.
We flew a few hundred feet above the water following the navigational channels. As the ceiling dropped the pilot would drop the plane so that he could see where he was going. At one point we were flying buoy to buoy and had to lift up to clear the mast of a fishing vessel. It was almost like riding a roller coaster in an enclosed cab.
The ceiling lifted as we approached Wrangel. We had to stop there to drop off and pick up mail. I looked out of my window down at the water and saw nothing but rafts of logs floating on it. I knew this would be a water landing but I had no idea where the pilot was going to put the plane down. Suddenly we landed in the water and the plume alongside and the water splashing on the windshield cut off my view. I had horrible visions of one of those logs penetrating the thin hull and we would be gone with the goose. It didn't happen (Whew!) We taxied over to what appeared to be a boat ramp, the pilot touched it, put his wheels down revved the engines and we climbed up the ramp on to a circular area. He stopped the engines and said we could get off and stretch.
Goose's have no on board bathroom. I was pointed to a privy where I relieved myself. Most primitive airport I ever saw. We were on the ground about 20 minutes when the pilot told us to reboard. He started up the engines, we waddled over to the ramp, slid down it and took off for the next stop. Again the thought of all those logs out there was in my mind.
With the scenario repeated our journey to Sitka continued with one more similar landing in between. Low flying, buoy to buoy, hopping over vessels so we wouldn't hit one, almost to the point where we would have to land. Another landing in a log jammed port, up the ramp, 20 minute layover, a better privy, and off again. I was still not getting used to it. Not only were my knuckles white by this time, my joints had just about penetrated the skin and came through.
One more stop, Sitka -- Would this day ever get over?
The ceiling kept dropping and the visibility kept getting worse. Now we were having to hop over buoys. And then just ahead the pilot saw a hole in the clouds and started to climb sharply. We kept climbing and I could see that we were trying to clear a mountain. On the other side of the mountain was Sitka. After clearing the mountain he descended with the intent of making a water landing. For some reason or other he decided against it and flew instead to the airport to make a ground landing.
On our final approach, he lowered the landing gear, dropped the flaps and just as we touched down he reversed the props. The cable controlling the reversing of the port propeller decided at that minute to break. The plane swerved up on to the rip rap sea wall on the left side of the landing strip with an awful jarring racket. I remember looking out the window and thinking, "there's no air strip here --- Klunk, Crash, Clunk-Clunk......" When the plane stopped there was a deathly moment of silence which seemed like an hour. The pilot drawled "AW SHITTTTT" breaking the silence. I looked out the window and port engine began to smoke. "Fire" I thought, "I'm getting out of here." I got to the door, opened it, got out of the plane even with the propeller still turning, somehow or other climbed down off of the rocks on to the air strip and began running like the devil was chasing me (and maybe he was.) The other guys and the pilot were not far behind me. I figured I was far enough away from the plane so that if it exploded I was safe. I slowed down, stopped and panted like a miler running ten miles. The others stopped too and we just stood there.
I now found out the engine was not on fire but the pilot had pulled the CO2 extinguishing system. The plane carried JP5 aviation fuel (like a low grade kerosene) and not the gasoline used by the rest of the "Goose's." So it looked worse than it was.
For some reason or other we all grabbed our brief cases on the way out -- Strange what you do by habit -- I had my 35mm Agfa camera with me and took a few slides before I ran out of film.
Now here we were standing in the middle of the air strip. The control tower is in sight and nothing happens. The Goose is on the rocks, we were dressed a little too lightly and we were shivering a bit, cold or fear I will not admit to.
Five minutes pass......... Ten minutes pass.........Fifteen minutes pass ........
A jet is overhead looking like it is positioning itself to land but circles the airport instead. We sure did not want to be on the run way with a 727 heading in for a landing so we looked for a place to go to.
We walked off of the strip on the opposite side of the sea wall and waited.
After about 20 minutes a vintage jeep arrives with a driver and a fifty pound CO2 bottle. (Lord love a duck, what would the driver have done with that if the plane were on fire?)
He asked if we were ok, yes answered by all. He said the plane was turning around and heading to Juneau. It wasn't allowed to land with a wreck on the ground. The 727 had notified the tower of the wreck.
We all got on the jeep with our brief cases and rode to the terminal building. I don't remember the ride but it must have looked like a "scotch taxi."
How an FAA rep got there I don't know but we were met by him and all escorted to the Potlatch Motel where we were kept under surveillance for three days. Alaska Airlines paid our hotel, food, and bar bills. They didn't get off cheaply!
On Tuesday the entire Op Eval team boarded the Clover and when we completed her moved on to our next stop, Anchorage.
As I walked down the aisle of the 727 jet that was to take us there I did so with some apprehension.
Old Salt's who have access to the Internet are encouraged to sign on at Fred's Place, THE site that contains names and addresses of more than 15,000 Coasties of all stripes. The internet address is http://www.fredsplace.org/ You will also find an area aptly named The Reunion Hall which provides a place for each current and former cutter, station, etc. to be signed on to by former crewmen. Look into each unit you were ever on and maybe you will find an old shipmate or two. (SEE THE EDITORIAL)
The Home Page address of the Coast Guard SeaVets is www.nwlink.com/~kenlong/cgsva.html
The Editor maintains an internet site called "Jack's Joint" http://www.jacksjoint.com/ which carries among other things stories too long to published in the OSJ.
National President, Larry Stefanovich at firstname.lastname@example.org
National Secretary, Ken Long at email@example.com
News Letter Editor, Jack Eckert at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have an email address please contact either Mr. Long or Mr. Stefanovich so that you can be listed for easy contact.
FROM THE FORECASTLE
This Issues Posers:
1. What was the name originally selected for the Coast Guard Icebreaker MACKINAW?
2. Which county in which state has the most lighthouses?
3. Who was the first MCPOCG?
4. Who was Secretary of the Transportation when the Coast Guard moved to it from the Treasury Department?
5. Which Coast Guard Cutter came to the rescue of the Bermuda Sky Queen?
The Answers to Last Issues Posers:
1. Some of the 378's, all of the 327's, and three of the AVP's were named after former Secretaries of the Treasury. Which other class of cutters built since WWI were also so named? Some of the 125's(Buck and a Quarters)
2. When is King Neptune's Court convened? When crossing the equator.
3. On which Coast Guard Station was the "Mansion" located? USCG Training Station, Groton, Connecticut
4. What are tholl pins used for? Installed in the gunnels to retain the oars on a 19 foot Jonesport Dory.
5. Watertight doors, hatches, and certain fittings are marked "W" "X" "Y" or "Z" or modifications thereof. Which fittings are always closed except when they are in use? XRAY
REQUEST AND REPORT MAST
Most of the people your editor has worked for over the years have wanted results and not excuses. Unfortunately for both the Old Salt's Journal which is late this quarter and for the editor's pride an excuse has to be made. A major failure of the newest computer irretrievably lost all of the letters and articles that had been collected for this issue. Every effort was made to retrieve the lost letters and articles but to no avail. The computer has been returned to the factory and this issue is being written on an old backup computer. Fortunately there are stories available from Jack's Joint to put in this issue. Apologies offered.
COAST GUARD ARTIFACTS REQUESTED
Subject: CG Artifacts
Date: Wednesday, December 08, 1999 12:22 AM
Larry, I am in the process of establishing a display case of historical artifacts on our command quarterdeck at CG Activities New York. I would appreciate your passing along this message to any of the old salty dogs that you are in contact with and ask them if they would be interested in donating or loaning anything to our cause. I'd be especially interested in uniform items, photos, historical artifacts, etc. All of this stuff would be in the safe hands of ACT NY. Thanks for your help. CDR David Martin, CO, Enlisted Personnel.
Commander Martin's snail mail address is Activities New York, 212 Coast Guard Drive, Staten Island, NY 10305. (718) 354-4028.
GRUMBLINGS FROM THE ENGINEROOM
FAREWELL TO THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
By the time this issue gets in your hands the Twentieth Century will be history. Most of us lived our lives in this century and will only see the onset of this new Millenium and new century.
Our Coast Guard has its origins in the eighteenth century but only since 1914 as we know it. It is an amalgamation of the Revenue Marine and the Life Savings Service enlarged in 1939 by the addition of the Lighthouse Service and lastly in 1947 of the Bureau of Marine Inspection.
It took many years, several wars, and actually into the seventies and eighties to truly almagamate the service. Cross training and cross assignments have thrown the terms "Sand Pepe," "Wickie," and White Cuttermen" into disuse.
It is obvious why the term "Wickie" disappeared, there remains only one token manned lighthouse. The rest are unmanned or abandoned and live only in romanticism. The lightships, whose beacon's have long since been extinguished are at best historical sites and at worst gone to the knockers.
Gone is the hostility between ship and shore stations. If it still exists in pockets it isn't as openly hostile. The term "White Cutterman" is no longer a term of derision at such places as the Merrimac River Station.
But also gone but not forgotten is the nautical uniforms the service has worn in it's different metamorphoses since inception. This is sad in a way as our Coast Guard has a rich seafarer's tradition.
The new millenium brings us a Coast Guard that is oriented more to law enforcement than to search and rescue. The trend away from the tradition close liaison with the U.S. Navy has been reversed.
What will the new millenium and the new century bring? It remains to be seen. Let us will join together to support our 21st Century Coast Guard in this new millenium yet still guard our traditions and lore of the past.
Remember -- We are a proud lot -- A Can Do organization that is always ready -- Semper Paratus.
by Jack Eckert
With apologies to my many Muslim friends
Each Moslem is duty bound to make a pilgrimage to Mecca once in his or her life. This is called making one's Hadj or Hajj..
Over the last few years Fred's Place located in Bartow, Florida has become the symbolic electronic Mecca for Coast Guardsmen, Old Guard and New. I found myself less then 40 miles away from Bartow on January 14, 1999 and that is when I made my Hadj.
I had contacted Fred by email in December and asked him if he would be home to me and he replied in the affirmative. My wife being otherwise committed (working and I wanted to get out of there lest I be commandeered into working too.) I assured myself Fred was home and I drove down to see him.
Fred Siegel and I had been stationed at many of the same units during different time periods, CGC Fred Lee, Groton Training Station, CGC Cook Inlet to name a few. We swapped a few stories about what they were like in our respective era's. It was good to talk face to face with somebody who had lived a similar life to mine. Many memories were conjured up.
Fred's background was that of a Radioman who advanced to CWO while mine was that of an Engineman who advanced to Commissioned Officer. Nevertheless we were on common ground.
He is a big guy with a pair of wire rims that sit askew on his nose. I was amazed when I found out that he has a physical limitation that forces him to type with one hand but that one hand can sure move across the keys.
We talked at length about Fred's Place, the web site and how it evolved. I was quite surprised when he told me that he doesn't use Front Page or something like that but uses note pad and writes his code as he goes along. He has a mastery of Unix which certainly shows through in the organization of his pages.
His whole operation takes place in a small, comfortable room in his house where the computer shares the space with a TV. The computer area is neat as a pin with no unnecessary clutter around (unlike that of the authors which looks like a tornado recently passed through.)
He has a rare insight into the machinations of the "New Guard" which I don't have. He feels that they work harder than we ever did in the old days. So much of our world was Weather Ships, mostly in Northern ports operating for years on end with a month in and a month out more or less. Today's larger cutters are in Southern ports where they are out for weeks at a time and in only for very short periods. The missions have changed drastically along with the uniforms. I had never considered the new life to be tougher. He may be right.
After a short four hours I left Fred to return to Haines City. On my way out I thanked Fred for his time and jokingly remarked that I had made my "Hadj." We parted ways probably to never again see each other but wished each other well.
By the way, for some reason or other he managed to attract a very lovely wife. There must be something to this guy.
FROM THE SHIPS OFFICE
Officers and Board Members of the Coast Guard Sea Veterans of America:
Larry Stefanovich - Chairman of the Board/President
Rod C. Jernigan - Vice President
Commodore Ken Long - Secretary-Treasurer
Dennis Streng - Historian
James Duffield - Director
Donald Van Horn - Director
Jack A. Eckert - Director
Bobby Padgett - Director
Richard Whelchel - Director
THE SLOP CHEST
The Coast Guard SeaVets has a number of other items for sale. Call (360) 856-2171 to place your order.
Garrison Cap for the SV Pin - $7.50
Ball Cap C.G.S.V.- $11.00
S.V. Pin - $5.00
S.V Patches - $5.00
THE OLD SALT'S JOURNAL ON THE INTERNET
There is an Internet edition of the Old Salt's Journal and it can be found at the following address: http://www.jacksjoint.com/oldsalt.htm.
Back Issues are also posted This site can be accessed 24 hours per day. The Internet edition does NOT appear before the printed edition is mailed to the members of the Sea Vets.
NON- PAYMENT OF DUES
The President and Secretary have requested that a note be inserted in this edition of the OSJ about dues payment. Several members are in arrears at this time. Membership will lapse and you will be discharged from the organization. We want you on board to help us grow anew.
If your membership lapses, you will have to pay the full initiation and dues of $25.00 to be reinstated in lieu of the $15.00 for re-enlisting.
CGSVA DONATIONS THIS QUARTER
CG CPOA $200.00 FOR AD'S
SEATTLE CG CPOA $100.00 TO HELP WITH THE MUNRO FLAGPOLE.
$129.17 FOR TRIP TO CLEE ELUM (MUNRO FLAG POLE)
TOYS FOR TOTS $30.00
GLACIER, AIR VET'S AND CG MEMORIAL $50.00 EACH
CG MUNRO DISPLAY AT CAPE MAY $100.00
FROM THE QUARTERDECK
We hope that you have enjoyed this edition of the "Old Salt's Journal." Your suggestions for improvement and your submission of timely and interesting materials will be greatly appreciated.
Don't Forget to write and tell us what you like and don't like about the Old Salt's Journal. We appreciate your contributions and are want more to put in future issues.. Semper Paratus, Smooth Sailing, and Maintain the Tradition!
Look for us again in the late Winter
SUBMISSIONS BEFORE FEBRUARY 1, 2000
Submit all articles and letters for The Old Salt's Journal
c/o Jack A. Eckert, Editor
312 W. Washington Street
Port Washington, Wisconsin 53074
The Old Salt's Journal is published quarterly by the Coast Guard Sea Veterans of America. Unlace otherwise indicated in the text, the material contained herein is NOT copyrighted and may be reproduced for related uses. It would be appreciated if the author, the Old Salt's Journal, and the Coast Guard Sea Veterans of America are credited in any republication.
Communications to the membership from the MCPOCG Vince Patton and CGSVA National President Larry Stefanovich will return in the next issue.
Disclaimer: Opinions expressed herein are those of the editor, columnists, or contributors and are not necessarily those of the U.S. Coast Guard or the Coast Guard Sea Veterans of America.
An Information page has been added to our website. It is called "Now Here This" Click on and get latest 'poop' on the latest news. We need help on this please contact Ken or myself for input --Larry. http://www.nwlink/~kenlong/cgsva. html
COAST GUARD STORIES
by Don Gardner and Jack Eckert
An anthology of some 300 pages of Coast Guard articles, sea stories, true stories, by Coast Guardsmen about the Coast Guard.
This book is privately published and available from Donald E. Gardner, 33908 Briarwood Avenue; High Point, NC 27265-1204.
$19.95 postpaid - Allow 4-6 weeks for delivery
Come Visit JACK'S JOINT on the WWW
A library of over 320 Coast Guard stories and growing.
Internet edition of the Old Salt's Journal
Lighthouse stories and links.
Simplified military links.
Help us tell the Coast Guard story through the eyes of the people who lived it.
The Old Salt's Journal
Coast Guard Sea Veterans of America
8042 Avery Lane
Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284-8707
THE COAST GUARD SEA VETERANS OF AMERICA NATIONAL NEWSLETTER
THE QUARTERLY NATIONAL NEWSLETTER OF THE COAST GUARD SEA VETERANS OF AMERICA
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR
We will be back again with another issue in the next quarter of the next year of the next century of the next millenium.
Royal Blue Jackets, Winter lining. Same CGSVA logos as the summer style. We need a minimum order of 30. Payable in advance. If the minimum is not met, Money cheerfully refunded Please order ASAP. preferably by OCT 5, 1999
Available Sizes are S. M. L. XL. XXL. XXXL only.
$55.95 ea. 2 or more $45.95. S/H $6.00. Send your order to Ken Long, 8042 Avery Lane; Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284-8707. Money Orders Only - Please.
CGSVA DONATIONS THIS QUARTER
CG CPOA $200.00 FOR AD'S
SEATTLE CG CPOA $100.00 TO HELP WITH THE MUNRO FLAGPOLE.
$129.17 FOR TRIP TO CLEM ELUM (MUNRO FLAG POLE)
TOYS FOR TOTS $30.00
GLACIER, AIR VET'S AND CG MEMORIAL $50.00 EACH
CG MONRO DISPLAY AT CAPE MAY $100.00