Remembering Boot Camp, Curtis Bay

By Donald H. Ward


I received my letter to report for duty at the Coast Guard Recruiting Station, Washington D.C. July 28,1942. That seems like a long time ago but looking back it seems like yesterday, and I am wishing I could relive those days once more.

Arriving at Sparrows Point near Curtis Bay, we were taken to the base from the train station. It was one hot day with no breeze. Upon arriving we were taken to the sickbay and given the usual shots, then on to the clothing locker for gear. Well, I might just as well have stayed home for what was issued—the clothing locker was out of uniforms.

I was one of the lucky ones as I brought extra under clothes and socks, along with the required shaving gear. We had to wear the same clothes for 12 days before we were issued uniforms.

We had to learn to stencil our names on each piece of clothing, from hat to socks. Then came the job of rolling and stopping with those damn little pieces of string.

You learned fast or were kept back for another go at boot camp. I recall standing my first watch—Captain of the Head. No one was allowed into the head after a certain hour at night. Well I tell you, try stopping a guy that is 6’ 7” and weighs 250 pounds and needs to go bad. You learn to turn your head the other way for 10 minutes.

The days were real scorchers and the nights were somewhat cool with a breeze coming off the Bay. Up at 0430 and out for muster and then march to chow, afterwards march back to barracks. It was march, march, march. We never did get any proper training, no manual of arms or seamanship. We were issued a Blue Jacket’s Manual and was expected to know what it from cover to cover.

There was one fellow in our company from Texas. Now this guy was a real gold brick and made things miserable for the whole company. The second day at reveille we all were out to muster when they called his name. No answer. The Boatswains Mate said we had three minutes to get him out for muster. He got up but was not dressed. Two days later it happen again; this time five of us went to bring him out, but we just opened the window and tossed him bunk and all outside. There was no more late calls from that turkey.

Physical education and training, running, pushups, rope climbing, you name it and we did it. We also help build barracks for the recruits coming into the service. We had just 28 days of this training and then shipped out on the 27th day of August, 1942, full-fledged sailors, ready for combat or sea duty. Everyone thought they were going to be sent a ship or shore station where there would be easy living.

It seems that we all had daydreams of going different places. I assumed we would be sent south as we were used to the heat, but we were shipped north as far as the damn trains ran, and trucked in after that. So now you know how this ex-‘Coastie’ got transplanted to the north.

This was the beginning of a new life for me. I have never regretted one day. Found a beautiful wife, raised six great children, two sons and four daughters. I learned a lot in the service, and among the many lessons I hold dear is to respect others for what they are, not what they do or what their nationality or religion is.

Edited By Donald Gardner

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