THE STORY OF JOE WINTHROP, PM1
by Jack A. Eckert
This Sea Story kicked around the Coast Guard for years and is retold in one of its many forms.
After WWII the Coast Guard drew it's forces down to a dangerously low level. Weather patrol required more ships and each ship required a crew to sail it. Over a several month period 17 Navy AVP's were commissioned. Each with a complement of 12 Officers and 140 men.
A severe shortage of personnel to man these ships existed. It was easy to recruit seamen and firemen and send them to boot camp and have them on a ship in eight or nine weeks. But these younger sailors had to have someone to teach them what to do. With this in mind the recruitment of ex Navy senior enlisted personnel began in earnest. Recruiting Offices were instructed to use all means possible short of press gangs to get these people on board as quickly as possible. Many of the basic requirements were waived to meet their quota.
An ex Navy man named Joe Winthrop reported into a mid western Recruiting Office and inquired if he could enlist in the Coast Guard with his former Navy rate, Plushman First Class. The recruiters were baffled. No one knew what a Plushman did but a first class was a first class so they enlisted him post haste and cut orders for him to report to the First District in Boston for further assignment to duty.
Winthrop checked into Constitution Wharf a few days later and was ordered to the Personnel Office. The Personnel Officer had no and idea what a Plushman did but there was a crying need for a first class on one of the newly arrived AVP's. Orders were cut and he reported aboard. The Ships Office notified the Executive Officer of Winthrop's arrival. The Exec didn't have the foggiest idea what a Plushman did and what division he should be assigned to. He contacted the Engineering Officer who likewise was in a quandary as to what to do with Winthrop. This was becoming embarrassing.
The Exec and Engineer went to see the Captain and they had a "pow wow." The Captain didn't know either. They didn't want to admit their ignorance by calling the District and asking them what Winthrop was supposed to do. Ignorance does not look good on fitness reports and the Captain, a Commander, was nearing his fourth stripe.
In those days the Coast Guard only had 27 different ratings. Most of the personnel were either Enginemen, Boatswains Mates, and a few of the shipboard unique ratings such as Quartermaster, Carpenters Mates, etc. The Navy had hundreds of different ratings because they were large enough to specialize, a luxury the smaller Coast Guard couldn't afford.
The Captain had a stroke of genius, "we'll assign Winthrop to the Engineering Department, give him several strikers, and see what he does." The Exec and Engineer concurred with that idea and it came to pass that Winthrop was assigned to E Division and was given two FA's and an SA to work for him. The problem now solved the ship got ready and sailed to OS Charlie.
After about the fourth day out it was noticed that not only Winthrop was missing but so were his strikers. The Exec told the Engineer to search the ship and give him a status report.
Within a few hours Winthrop and his strikers were located in the Main Parts Hold. There he was manning a five ton chain fall that had a large steel ball on it. The strikers each had a blow torch and were heating the steel ball up to red hot. The Engineer was so amazed he contacted the Captain and Exec and requested they come to witness this scene. They arrived.
"Winthrop, what on Earth are you doing?"
"My duty sir" replied Winthrop.
"Why are you heating that steel ball?"
"To drop it in this water tank sir."
"That makes no sense at all Winthrop", said the Exec.
"Yes sir it does" says Winthrop as he released the red hot steel ball and it dropped into the Water Tank.
"PLUSH" said the steel ball.
Return to Coast Guard Stories