COASTIES ON THE RAMPAGE

By John R Smith

 

Avenging a debasing humiliation, crewmen of the Northwind have the final word by committing a dastardly deed.....

 

To read my articles, you'd think the air station at Kodiak (NOJ) was the only Coast Guard base in the world. Other than schooling and an unpleasant, albeit short tour of duty aboard CGC DILIGENCE, it was my only duty station, hence the wealth of stories from NOJ.

In spite of my obvious affection for old NOJ, our receiving antennae were positioned in a valley, and were very directional at best, and nearly non-functional during the worst conditions. The crummy old Navy transmitters and their mis-positioned antennae didn't help our sending capabilities either.

During the late fall of 1967, CGC NORTHWIND was assigned the unenviable task of performing a November ALPAT (Alaska Patrol). These patrols were generally very arduous duty, and that late in the year, were performed only by icebreakers, because of heavy ice forming in the Bering Sea.

Communications on that particular patrol were incredibly difficult, partly because of terrible weather and "props", with heavy static most of the time. Being adept at CW and not at radioteletype (RATT), we, at NOJ, were just the opposite of the "lower 48" Radiomen, and that situation also caused a problem. The NORTHWIND RM's probably used up 3 "RYRY" test tapes trying to gain teletype communications with NOJ, and we were constantly trying to get them to pick up the key and speak in our language. Our equipment simply was not on a par with that used by the rest of the Modern Communications World. When the NORTHWIND was repeatedly "buzzed" by a Russian Bear bomber during the patrol, we even received a "Z" message by CW!

Needless to say, the NORTHWIND sailors were very glad when the patrol was over, and they returned to Kodiak for refueling and a little R & R before heading back home to Seattle. On the night before setting sail for Seattle, a portion of the ship's company headed into downtown Kodiak for some libation and celebration. Things got a little out of hand and Shore Patrol was called, which consisted mostly of Marine veterans enjoying relatively comfortable duty after being rotated from combat in Vietnam.

The Marine battalion was housed in a single barracks building on the main base, and an Eskimo totem pole stood proudly outside the main entrance to the barracks. To say the Marines didn't like members of our service branch would be an understatement, and that dislike was demonstrated by marching the rowdy crew of NORTHWIND back to the ship under armed guard—a humiliating distance of nearly 4 miles. This act did little to cement relations between the two branches, and the Coasties swore revenge upon the "grunts".

Since several of our classmates were aboard NORTHWIND, we were on the pier to watch the departure the next morning. Something appeared out of the ordinary at first glance, and upon further inspection we determined the discrepancy. As NORTHWIND sailed out of Woman's Bay, the Marine's pride-and-joy, their totem pole, was proudly displayed lashed to the main mast.

When the watchstanders from the day watch returned to the barracks that evening, there were lengthy discussions about the Commander of the Marine Battalion's radio conversation with the Captain of NORTHWIND. Proper radio procedure was not followed and professional courtesy seemed sadly lacking. Points of the conversation included the Captain's family heritage and the relative position of members of the Coast Guard on the food chain, etc.

I don't know if the situation was ever resolved; however, when I left Kodiak in 1970, the totem was still missing from the base.

 

This story is Courtesy of Don Gardner's Book entitled, "Coast Guard Stories

 

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