by Ralph J. Rogers



My decision to join the Coast Guard was simple: I liked riding a ship better than walking and marching.......

My decision to join the Coast Guard was simple: I liked riding a ship better than walking and marching. My first trip on the USS JOSEPH T DICKMAN was to Guantanamo, Cuba. Enroute we had a torpedo fired at us. Expert handling of the ship helped us avoid it. Then on to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Bermuda; then from Norfolk back to Bermuda and return.

We made invasions at Fedala, North Africa; Gela, Sicily; and Salerno, Italy. We made three trips from Mers el Kebir to Naples. While we were at Fedala, six ships were hit by torpedoes; at Gela we were bombed and one ship was hit and exploded. At Salerno we were bombed but no ships were hit. We made three trips to Naples from Mers el Kebir (Oran) and Algiers, North Africa. Then we went through the Panama Canal on a round trip to Brisbane, Australia via Noumea, New Caledonia.

During this time, two of the radio gang helped me learn the code; I put on earphones and practiced copying the "Fox" schedule and eventually made RM3c. Sending me to radio school was never mentioned, perhaps because I was a reservist. I carried a lot of messages! I don't know who decided to promote me, but it was surely appreciated!

When we returned to the States, I took ill and, with a temperature of 102 degrees, was sent over to the U.S. Public Health Service Hospital on Staten Island where I was diagnosed with laryngitis. They kept me a few weeks then sent me to Manhattan Beach to await orders. After a lot of waiting, I was given orders to St. Louis, then a thirty-day leave.

My service time was completed on a security detail aboard the steamer Minnesota. Our duties were to tow a floating dry dock, with a newly-built submarine aboard, on our usual run from St Louis to Lockport, Illinois via the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, on to New Orleans, La. for delivery; then the return trip to St Louis. I made ten round trips. Our security detail was two radiomen and eight or ten guards, one officer and one Chief in charge. In addition to on board personnel, various state and city police covered the highway bridges as we passed under. Two-way voice communication with them was used to stop and start traffic as well as to send our ETA at the next detail. Railroad bridges and locks/dams were covered by an Army security detail; we had one-way voice to them with which we provided our ETA’s.

One night we were caught in a bad storm that toppled a 1900-foot span of Highway Bridge at Chester, Illinois into the Mississippi. We had just gone past that point minutes before with a submarine on board! The high sides of the floating drydock acted like a sail and caught a lot of wind, which put us in danger of going aground, but a fine pilot handled the situation.

What a great service to have been a small part of!


From Coast Guard Stories by Don Gardner - Reprinted by Permission


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