BOOK AND VIDEO REVIEWS

Updated May 27, 2001

THE SECOND 255 REUNION CDROM - 700 hiqh quality pictures taken at the recent 255 reunion by Ken Laesser are now available in limited quantities. This was a great reunion and this disk provides a lasting memento of the days that passed so fast in Las Vegas between May 6 and May 10, 2000 when 530 shipmates and wives of all 13 cutters got together. Available from Master Chief Laesser for $15.00. For further information double click the subject line above. Highly Recommended.

Reviewed by Jack A. Eckert

5/27/01

THE AMBASSADOR STORY - A Video Tape Presentation of the rescue of personnel by the Coast Guard Cutter COOS BAY in February 1964 of eleven crewmen from the ill-fated Manhatten - Produced and Directed by Brian Bailey. Written, Narrated, and 8mm Films Taken by Captain C.W. "Bill" Bailey - Copyright ©2001 - All Rights Reserved - This video tape was derived from a number of 8mm films from a hand held motion picture camera that tracked much of the event. As Captain Bailey indicated, the camera was on board and there was a lot of film available in the ships exchange. As expected there is more graininess from that process but that is almost forgotten by the viewer as the story unfolds, masterfully narrated by the Captain. Background music lends interest to the presentation. It is a good story and one of the first filmed under these adversities showing the work of the Coast Guard effecting a rescue on the open ocean. Captain Bailey said, "This event generated extensive favorable media coverage for the Coast Guard at a time when budget shortages required reduction of facilities, especially in Maine, thus creating an aura of public discontent. This was offset by the generous media treatment of this SAR event.  Further, plans for a new high endurance Cutter (Hamilton Class) program had been jeopardized by Congress  cutting it OUT of the CG appropriation.  The cut was restored subsequent to a detailed account of the rescue submitted by a prominent Member of the House and published in the Congressional Record." 

This film belongs in every Coast Guardsman's library. Available from Captain Bailey at eastwind68@aol.com for $15.00 per copy, postpaid.

OLD COAST GUARD STATIONS - VOLUME II - North Carolina - by Richard L. Chenery III Copyright © 2000 - All Rights Reserved - Published by Station Books, PO Box 2714; Glen Allen, Virginia 23058-2714 Price $19.95 + $4.00 S/H. - ISBN 0-9665204-1-6 --From Currituck Beach southward down past Cape Hatteras and on down to Cape Lookout and Cape Fear there were once a total of 29 lifeboat Stations built along the North Carolina Coast. Waters offshore were treacherous and this was called the "Graveyard of the Atlantic." Over 2,000 ships went down here over the years.

In the days of the "Wind Wagons" it was not uncommon for one to go aground because of the shifting sand bars, treacherous currents, and primitive navigational skills and instrumentation. The stations were all equipped with a beach apparatus which would be hauled to site, a line shot across the mast of a stranded ship and a breeches buoy rigged to remove the passengers and crew. If the ship was stranded to far away to be reached by Lyle Gun, a pulling boat would be launched into the surf and rowed by the surfmen to the wreck in hopes of removing the survivors and returning them to safety ashore. Stations near inlets and coves could more easily launch their boats thus relying on them more heavily then the beach apparatus.

To keep eyes to the sea to detect a vessel in distress the Coast Guard (and the Life Saving Service before it) used watch towers and beach patrols, men on foot walking the beach. The stations were approximately seven miles apart so the beach pounders would be able to connect up with each other. That is why the large number of stations along this stretch of coast.

As sail faded into memory and navigational skills and equipment improved, the need for stations at seven mile intervals waned. Gradually the Coast Guard retired some of the stations, relocated others, and shifted more to the use of motor driven boats near inlets and coves.

Today the beach apparatus and beach patrols are a dim distant memory. No longer does a Coast Guardsman on a station have to memorize all of the positions for the beach cart drill.

Mr. Chenery with the aid of many historical photos brings these stations back to life. It is good that their memory not be lost to antiquity. These surfmen, the Midgettes, Grays, Talleys, and more will live on through this book. These men were all heroes whether or not they sported medals. Iron Men working with wooden boats.

This is a limited edition and you are all advised to purchase the book while it is still in print.

Reviewed:

Jack A. Eckert, LCDR, USCG

August 14, 2000

 

WISCONSIN LIGHTHOUSES - A Photographic & Historical Guide By Ken and Barb Wardius ©2000 Prairie Oak Press; 821 Prospect Place; Madison, Wisconsin 53703 $23.95 ISBN 1-879483-60-2 - From Superior to Ashland; From The tip of the Door County Peninsula, up and down Green Bay to Lake Winnebago; and down the Eastern Lake Michigan Coast of Wisconsin to the Illinois border lighthouses wink, blink, and stare. The Wardius' camera lens has captured superb photographs of these American Castles of the Midwest. More then just merely photographs in a bound album, they have researched well to provide the reader with a thumbnail sketch of each light as well as of lights long since extinguished. If you want to know directions to a light, they are in there for all of them.

Of particular interest to the me were the write ups on the Milwaukee Lightship that came before the Milwaukee Breakwater Lighthouse and the history of Green Bay's Green Island Lighthouse and it's keepers.

As a Coast Guardsman in the middle 1950's I was stationed on Pilot Island Lighthouse and the Milwaukee Breakwater Lighthouse. I routinely maintained Sturgeon Bay Canal & Canal Entrance , Cana Island, Eagle Bluff, North Point, Plum Island, and several others. I made the first service inspection of the skeleton tower erected on Green Island in 1957 replacing the old light. Green Island had to have been the largest bird sanctuary in the world that day as the birds were as numerous and aggressive as those from the Alfred Hitchcock movie, The Birds, filmed in Bodega Bay, California. It was a nightmare proceeding along the beach between the nests and being squawked at by a million irate birds.

This beautiful book will go on your coffee table. Buy two of them because there are many pictures suitable for framing in their pages.

8/6/2000

Reviewed by Jack A. Eckert

LCDR, USCG (retired)

A DEEP BLUE SOUNDING: A Dark Voyage With the U.S. Coast Guard By Donald B. Hutton ©2000 By Edgewater Press, Inc. P.O. Box 187, Lancaster, New York  14086 – ISBN 0-9678117-1-6 $14.95 – Since the Don Winslow of the Coast Guard series of the 1940’s there has been no significant adventure novel centering around the activities of the U.S. Coast Guard. Only a Coastie could author one and Don Hutton a Coast Guard veteran has done just that. The book establishes the mystery of the sinking of the fictional CGC Cape Solace in the very beginning and takes us through 169 well written pages of high adventure and treachery and murder on the high seas. You are advised to start the book early in the evening as you will have trouble putting it down before you retire. The only distraction in the book is a few technical inaccuracies but after all this is a work of fiction – I hope!

8/6/2000

Reviewed by Jack A. Eckert

LCDR, USCG (retired)

 

THE COAST GUARD NAVY OF WWII  By William E. Knight, QMC, USCG (retired)  Copyright 1998 by Wm Knight All Rights Reserved  -- ISBN 0-9668681-0-2 -- Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 98-94220 - 211 Pages – Privately Published

Chief Knight’s book is the most important book published about the Coast Guard in World War II since Malcolm Willoughby’s “History of the Coast Guard in World War II.” It is obvious even to the casual reader that the research necessary to write this book took many years.

The extreme draw-down after World War II contributed heavily to the loss of institutional memory of the Coast Guard regarding the many ships they operated for the U.S. Navy. Whole classes like the Patrol Frigates have long since been forgotten because the crews only sailed them for a few years before they were given away, put into mothballs, and in some cases scrapped. The crews were discharged and returned to civilian life, scattered all over the country like milkweed seeds in the wind. Just as the crews were scattered so was the documentation scattered. It is probable that nobody cared in 1945-46, the war was over and that was that.  

Lost in antiquity are such ships as the WAKEFIELD, ADMIRAL H.T. MAYO, JOSEPH DICKMAN, HUNTER LIGGETT, LEONARD WOOD, BAYFIELD, MINTAKA, ALBERIO, ERIDANUS, AMMONUSUC, POOLE, LEOPOLD, RACINE, BURLINGTON, MENGES and hundreds of others sailing under Navy commission pennants with Coast Guard officers and crewmen. 

The role of many of these ships is carefully researched and recorded in the book. Ship logs sometimes amplified by personal Recollections make up the wartime history of some of these ships. One ship, the USS MENGES (DE-320) had only one Commanding Officer, LCDR Frank McCabe (who retired as a Captain) from the day it was commissioned until it was decommissioned at Green Cove Springs and put into mothballs after the war.

Chief Knight opens the book with his own recollections of the war and his personal involvement. Fifteen chapters follow, all amply illustrated, providing histories of the larger vessels and some of the smaller ones. Throughout the book all the Navy ships and craft manned by the Coast Guard are listed in detail.

The Appendix lists all medals and awards to Coast Guardsmen by name.

This exhaustive work by retired Chief Bill Knight belongs in every library of every Coast Guardsman who loves the lore. Most of this history would be forgotten but for this work.

4/1/00

Reviewed by Jack A. Eckert

LCDR, USCG (retired)

In 1998, shortly after this book was printed Chief Knight suffered a stroke and is currently in a nursing home. For his book he was appointed as a Plankowner Lifetime Member of the Foundation for Coast Guard History.

The book can be obtained by ordering it from Dorothy M. McCann, 1052 E Timber Lane, Freeland, Washington 98249 for $30.00 postage paid. Ms. McCann is taking care of the sales for Chief Knight.

OLD COAST GUARD STATIONS - Volume One - Virginia: Popes Island to False Cape by Richard L. Chenery III Copyright © 1998 - All Rights Reserved - Published by Station Books, PO Box 2714; Glen Allen, Virginia 23058-2714 Price $19.95 + $4.00 S/H. - ISBN 0-9665204-0-8 THIS BOOK IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT (6/1/99)

In the Preface Vice Admiral Rufe captured the essence of this work: "Unfortunately much of the proud 208-year history of the Coast Guard is not well known. This is especially true of the lifesaving stations along Virginia's Eastern Shore. The account that follows in the book tells that story through photographs and interviews with Coast Guardsmen who served there. These hardworking, humble men, almost all native Eastern Shore Virginians, bring the stations alive through their captivating reminiscences."

While the book addresses the Virginia Eastern Shore Stations much of it applies to stations located elsewhere. The author discusses the Beach Cart and Rollover evolutions supported by ample illustrations. The Surfmen of yore are given depth and dimension. Their unique uniforms are shown from today's perspective with plenty of photographs. The old, pre-1960, wooden, gasoline powered boats are shown and discussed, i.e., the 38' Picket Boat, the 36' Motor Lifeboat, The 26' Monomoy Surfboat, the DUKW's and the Carriage Mounted Pulling Boats. In particular the 36 footer with varnished gunnels and polished bright work brings back memories.

Extracts from station logs give a brief overview of the events of the day. It is over 40 years since the last surfman retired. Many of them have crossed the bar for the last time. Mr. Chenery has done a real service tracking some of the remaining ones down, interviewing them and recording their narratives. In another ten years this part of living Coast Guard history will be gone forever.

This book is recommended reading for everyone who ever served on a Lifeboat Station or wondered what they were all about.

Launching into the Surf

Technological advances rendered the old surf stations obsolete. Helicopters, advanced navigation equipment, infinitely better communications, highly improved boats and so forth in today's service have replaced the horse, dog, beach cart, pulling boat, tower watches and beach patrols of yesterday. But their memories remain as part of the traditions of our unique service.

Mr. Chenery is a former BM2 in the USCGR and a former active duty member of the USAF.

jae - 3/11/99

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This page was established on March 11, 1999.

 

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