By L. Bradford


From the "Tree Army" to "Hooligan's Navy" 

We sailed from New York Harbor in the Spring of 1942 and up the coast to Portland, Maine. There we picked up a convoy and sailed out into the sub-infested North Atlantic Ocean, one of four U.S. fighting ships escorting the convoy to England.

I was a boot seaman on one of those ships, a boot seaman on a USCG Submarine Chaser. Boot seaman I soon learned stand lookout watches in the crow's nest of submarine chasers. Figuratively I had traded a former tree-top environment as a member of the CCC for a mast-top one on the SC's.

Before enlisting in the Coast Guard, I had spent several years in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) commonly called the "Tree Army." There among other chores, I spent many happy, carefree days tipping and tending trees. Compared to tree army service I was destined for some strange experiences, weird places, and impossible situations in the U.S. Coast Guard.

Those mast-top lookout watches were my first strange experience, No weirder place could I have found myself than on the swaying, pitching, post atop a sub chaser ... racing pell-mell amongst the slow moving targets of a heavy laden convoy made up of liberty ships and rust bucket trawlers. The most hectic times of all were when General Quarters were called, especially in the darkest hours of the night. There were many times when they became what seemed to my "green tree army" mind in the crow's nest, simply hairy configurations of impossible situations. Particularly when the convoy was under vicious attack by a wolf pack of German Submarines.

That anti-submarine warfare in the North Atlantic is ancient history now. Many other Coast Guardsmen (I am sure) and countless thousands of former CCC boys survived more harried World War II experiences. Yet, of all the strange experiences. Weird places, and impossible situations I ever remember, those mast-top lookout watches in the crows nest of a World War II USCG Submarine Chaser tops them all.

From "We've Been There" by Esther Stormer 1992 - Reprinted by permission.


Return to Coast Guard Stories