Remember the Frigates
by Charles Isaacs
(Somewhere in the Pacific)
[Excerpted from U.S. Coast Guard Magazine, October, 1944]
Aboard a Coast Guard Frigate off New Guinea - You probably haven’t seen anything about them in the newspapers unless you read the small print and probably they were left out of that or referred to as Navy escort vessels. The crews really don’t care. Out here where a liberty "one in two months" means a few minutes to climb a tree and pick a coconut, newspapers and clippings are unimportant. The hundreds of Coast Guardsmen manning the frigates in the Southwest Pacific don’t mind being out of the headlines. They’re doing a lot of little jobs that add up to more than a few big ones.
Participating in the initial occupations of Hollandia and Aitape, pouring thousands of rounds of shells into Jap dumps and concentrations at Wadke, taking pot shots at Jap planes off the New Guinea coast, convoying tons of men and equipment to New Britain, Biak and Admiralty Islands and hundreds of thousand of miles of anti-submarine patrol and escort duty performed efficiently these past months in the combat areas doesn’t make headlines, but does bring wars to an end.
Sure, the people at home still write and ask if we’re doing beach patrol in Australia, and when a frigate ties up to a tanker for a drink a little sawed-off sub-chaser will putt by and gobs will yell, “Hooligans!” The Coast Guardsmen yell back, “which side of that thing does the cement come out of?” And civil war is on. The gun watches on the fantail eat smoke and curse the damn straight stack and, down below in berthing quarters, sweat doesn’t drip from your body; it runs.
These Coast Guardsmen don’t mind that too much. They used to be sand-pounders on beach patrol, truck drivers at shore stations, coxuns on picket boats and instructors at “boot” camps. But now they’re salty. They’ve grimly endured the monotonous days of New Guinea anti-sub patrol waiting for something that happened too seldom to relieve tense nerves and edgy dispositions. They’ve scanned the horizons anxiously and watched the skies determinedly as their ship’s nose poke into the exploding inlets and channels of Biak Island. To the raucous scream of the general alarm they’ve rushed to their guns eighteen times in twenty-four hours. They’ve sat quietly in the steaming rain, sweat and heat of the Schouten Islands waiting for Jap planes to pop over the mountain ridges. They’re frigate sailors now! As they sail their ships and man their guns along the stepping stones that used to be Japan’s they know they aren’t in the newspapers. But they don’t mind. There isn’t much time to read newspapers anyway, when you’re doing a lot of little jobs that don’t make headlines, but do bring wars to an end!
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