PREFACE TO COAST GUARD STORIES VOLUME I

By Jack Eckert & Don Gardner

This is the preface to the book

In the Spring of 1998 I decided to try my hand at an Internet web site to tell the Coast Guard story through the eyes of the participants. Initially I seeded it with some of the stories of my early years, then added several stories from other sources that I believed were in the public domain. A request at Fred’s Place, the internet registry for Coast Guardsmen, asked for contributions in the form of stories and poems.

The web site began to take on a life of its own, although rather slowly. Don Gardner was one of the first to answer. Don had collected stories from amateur radio operators who were members of his club, but his effort was directed toward putting the stories in print.

From the beginning we freely collaborated—by melding our efforts, we have obtained many more stories than we would have by working alone—and which we believe will benefit the ultimate readers.

Don’s career in the Coast Guard was in communications. His view is from a different perspective than mine—the engine room. While comparing notes we often saw the same things but from different vantage points, and this has helped greatly.

Both of us enjoy writing, but I must say that his British lexicon drives me nuts. We often cross-check each other’s work, which has proven beneficial in many instances as we have much in common, but again from different vantage points. The effort of Don’s book, Coast Guard Stories, and that of Jack’s Joint, is to preserve the culture of the Coast Guard as known and lived through the eyes of many participants.

In our lifetime the Coast Guard has almost suffered several cultural deaths. The Rum War Coast Guard of the Prohibition era; the almost non-existent Coast Guard of the Depression era; to the vastly expanded WW II Coast Guard; through the drastically reduced Coast Guard of the late forties; to the cold war Coast Guard of the fifties, sixties, and early seventies; and to the law enforcement Coast Guard of the eighties and nineties that is in place today. Through all of these era’s since the end of World War I there runs a common thread holding this small brotherhood of men and women together. Consider the following:

The Coast Guard is a unique service with a unique set of missions that are constantly changing, requiring versatility and the ability to adapt to change rapidly. The major differences between our small service and the others is the recognition of the individual person who is serving, that we train for wartime service by working everyday in our peace missions and that we are more generalists than we are specialists. Our motto is “Semper Paratus,” but it could just as easily be “Can Do.”

The men and women of the Coast Guard are always proud to wear the shield and proclaim they are members of the Coast Guard. Former members, whether “one hitchers” or retired “lifers,” share this pride. While we wore the Navy-style uniform, we were quick to point with pride to our shield and proclaim with pride that we were Coasties!

The stories within these pages are a taste of Coast Guard life, told sometimes tongue-in-cheek by the Coasties who lived it. Historians should not accept these stories as factual in all respects. In some cases artistic license may have been used, misused, and abused. Taking the color out of these stories would make them plain black and white and gray, of little interest to the ultimate reader.

And so dear reader, open the book, read and savor the stories, and let your imagination roam through the adventures of the Coasties at sea, ashore, and in the air. Learn of some of the interesting characters who played roles in the daily dramas. Feel the passion and pathos in many of the tales. Most of all—ENJOY!

Jack A. Eckert , LCDR, USCG (retired)

Port Washington, Wisconsin

E-mail: jeckert@execpc.com

 *****

. . . and Acknowledgements

As former members, we hold the Coast Guard close and dear in our hearts and memory. We are absolutely confident that although the Coast Guard has and will continue to make many changes that may be foreign to us ‘old salts’, our service will continue to uphold its high traditions and spirit of ‘can do’.

As members of a small organisation that were the poor cousins of the Navy, using their cast-off equipment, their cast-off ships, their uniforms (we added a shield); their dirty jobs; and anything else they could put on us. But taking pride in our service and its traditions, we were able to operate well beyond expectations. Refresher training scores usually revealed that our Cutters scored higher than the Navy—we could use their castoff equipment better than they could use their supposedly improved, newer equipment.

Along the way we had some fun! A number of stories here are of the ‘now it can be told’ variety (because you can’t do anything about it?). Sometimes, when the ship’s motto seemed to be ‘There will be no Liberty until morale improves’, (used commonly on the GRESHAM), we had to create our own morale.

Many of the stories used here were downloaded from Jack’s Joint (www.jacksjoint.com/); the remainder of the stories were received directly by me, usually from members of the Coast Guard Club[1] and may or may not be posted, in whole or in part, at Jack’s site.

Although Jack uses American English, I prefer using English English—not to annoy him, however, but because I can’t help myself. Radiomen everywhere who have stood endless radio watches, with two CW frequencies on the ‘cans’ (split phone watch) and 4 on speakers, who have drunk endless cups of black coffee, and suffer from Morseus Excessus (exhibiting strange characteristics) know well what I speak of.

My strange affliction manifested itself in Bermuda when I awoke one morning and found that I had become an ardent Anglophile overnight. Looking into the mirror quickly before it broke did not disclose anything abnormal except me, but a side effect of this malady became evident rapidly—whenever I typed a letter to mail home, my ‘normal’ spelling had changed.

I don’t think the side effects of Morseus Excessus is terminal, but to ameliorate the major problem associated with this condition (whistling Morse code aloud), I must use English English. All the stories I have written in this collection written by is, as you can see, in that foreign language. Stories from Jack’s Joint were not changed from American English, although this has required that I take to bed on occasion to recuperate from the after effects.

To those who contributed to this initial effort, we would really like to extend our heartfelt ‘thanks’; obviously it would not have been possible without you. The stories have been amusing, thoughtful, informative, and insightful. This collection depended on the participation of Coasties who took the time to sit down to write their reminisces of the times and places which remained fondly and firmly in their memories. Many of the stories began, ‘you may not believe this, but . . .’ and end with ‘and that’s no &#@%$#@!’ (Aviation stories begin usually with, ‘there we were at 10,000 feet and number (?) engine went out. . .’)

Jack and I will expectantly continue to collect your sea tales. As Jack said, the view from the bridge area and the engine room is not identical; and Boatswains Mates, Gunners Mates, Commissary Stewards, et al, also have different slants on life in the Coast Guard, and that makes interesting reading indeed. Future and present day Coasties may get a taste of what life was like from a long-ago era and find that, after all, perhaps there isn’t much difference between the Rum Runners War and today’s Drug War.

We encourage everyone who served in the Coast Guard to sit down and write a story for posterity. You need not worry about punctuation or spelling—just tell your story in your words and between Jack and me, we will have it up on his web site and in the next anthology of Coast Guard Stories, Vol. II. So, turn to on the typewriter!

Don Gardner , RMCS, USCG (retired)

High Point, North Carolina

E-mail address: ad4pt@juno.com and ad4pt@arrl.net

[1] A club for licenced radio amateurs who have served in the USCG or USCGR.

 

CONTACT DON FOR A PRINTED COPY OF THE BOOK OR JACK FOR THE BOOK IN ADOBE ACROBAT (.PDF) FORMAT ON A CDROM DISK

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