United States Coast Guard Reserve
1942 - 1945
Glen ridge, N. J.
RUFUS G. SMITH
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
The idea of using Auxiliary Sailing Yachts as anti-submarine vessels
originated with certain members of the Cruising Club of America during
the dark days of early 1942, when the Nazis were concentrating their U-Boat
attacks on coastwise shipping plÿing the Atlantic, Gulf and West Indies
lanes. Ships were being torpedoed daily almost in sight of our coasts. Navy
and Coast Guard forces available to fight them were few and far between,
and the enemy’s strategy was designed to build up a public clamor which
would force the Navy to give up convoying vital supplies to Europe in
favor of protecting our home shores. To have taken that bit of Nazi bait
might have given the enemy war machine that slight additional edge which
would have made it absolute master of Europe and Africa and changed
the course of world events for hundreds of years to come,
In early 1942 most of the new small vessels intended to meet the U-Boat
threat were yet to be water borne or in the throes of commissioning. Their
crews “squaring their hats” for the first time were barely free of the sweat
of farm and factory and had not yet wrung a drop of sea water from their
socks. But as Nazi torpedoes tolled off those fateful days and weeks in the
spring of 1942, it became increasingly apparent that we could not wait for
G. I. ships and crews.
So in early June legislation was rushed through Congress which per-
mitted the Coast Guard to recruit locally vessels and men to man them,
already tried and experienced at sea. R. G. Smith, having assisted the Cruis-
ing Club of America in compiling lists of suitable sailing yachts and šailing
men, was soon busily engaged in the corner of a Coast Guard office signing
men and ships into the service for duty in the 3rd Naval District. News-
papers, radio and the “grapevine” spread the news of who and what was
wanted among boating people.
Among the first to respond to the call were men who have since proven
to be the backbone of the Base Organization both afloat and ashore. Nick
Koster, ever smiling and capable Executive Officer was one of the first
and so were AI Giflen, Frank Egidi, Dick Sylvia, Nels Kimball, George
Horr, Bud Bailey, Wally Burden, Jack Auer, George Hart, and Les Wurfel.
Among others who answered the first call but later left us for other
duty or were discharged are, Lee Platt, Stan Hare, Frazer Wilde, John
Monaghan, Ted Toedt, Duncan Dobie, Jim Branigan, Vic Romagna, Dan
Rugg, the Ely brothers, Phil Harder, Mr. Bentley and C.. R. Vose (owner
of Sea Gypsy). Most of the above men had bad eyes, split eardrums,
“football” knees or other sundry deficiencies and, having been turned
down for other services, were raring to go as soon as they got by the
minimum physical rcquirements of the Coast Guard Temporary Reserve.
The Schaefer brothers, R. J. and F. M. E., were big factors in getting a parade of five sailing craft into the offshore patrol. They started the ball rolling by not only loaning but also giving “Edlu” (CG-68007) and“Wynf red” (CG-56017) to the service. “Sea Roamer” (CGR-1910) was
already being fitted out by Lieut. Coander I. A. Sartorius, USCGR,
and “Sunbeam” (CGR.1923), ‘Kidnapper” (CGR-1952), ’Sea Gypsy”
(CGR-1989) and “Truelove H” (CGR-1953) were soon taking on Coast
Guard gray, their owners having come forward and offered them wth
very few questions.
By mid-July some 20 to 25 men had been sworn in, variously uniformed
(Clothing lockers were all but bare in those hectic days), and had been
spread thinly over the six vessels mentioned above. The ships were more
or less ready at various western Long Island Sound ports to proceed for
final commissioning. The “five and dime” at City Island had been stripped
to provide dishes and utensils, and the men dug in to their own pockets
to stock up with chow and other incidentals.
It had been decided that the larger cruising range of the sailing craft
made them particularly suitable to the wide open stretches of sea south
and east of Montauk Point. So Greenport, the only deep-water harbor on
eastern Long Island, was selected as the site of the operating base. (All
old “Greenporters” know what a happy choice that was,) On 22 July,
Lieut. R. G. Smith, new gold flashing in the sun and belying his attempts
to act as an old hand, alighted from the Greenport rattler, parked his sea-
bag in a corner of the Captain of the Port Office and avowed his purpose
“to drive the U-boat from the seas”—with 20/400 vision propelled by
a storm trysail. That was the actual beginning of the Greenport Patrol Base.
The office was without either furniture or telephone, so about the first
job was to hasten down to Tuthill’s dock and help Jake Tyler catch the
lines of Edlu, Wynf red, Sunbeam, Kidnapper, Sea Roamer, and Sea Gypsy,
which arrived en masse. Then followed a few days of feverish activity aimed
at getting ships off shore on patrol without further delay. Hochheiser’s and
the Arcade were culled for utensils and sundries, Preston’s was raided for
stocks of oilskins, tools, marlin, and spare bits of gear, and Sea Gypsy became
Sweet’s best customer, hauling for cleaning and gray paint and to remove
tons of yachting comforts.
Two days later our first “regulars” arrived, Sullivan, Brothers, and Vanasdale, all seamen fresh from “boot” camp, sent down to stand 24 hour guard over confidential publications and such. Bob Schnelle, yeoman, just back from a harrowing ‘round the world tour on the ‘Wakefield”, arrived another couple of days later, He set up a borrowed typewriter on an orange crate and commenced a campaign to put the paper work on a G.I. basis.
“Sparks” Munro, Chief Radioman, caine next with a truckload of
radio telephones and all their trimmings. “Sparks” stopped to scratch his
head just once and plunged into the job of installing the vital radios. He
worked every day and almost every night for the next several months—
and so did most everyone else,
On 29 July, just a week after the Base began, Sea Gypsy, Edlu and Sea
Roamer stood out past the breakwater and Shelter Island to sea and their
first patrols. The day was bright and voices were cheery, but there were
those who wondered whether they would ever come back, for the subs were
still thick in American waters and the little ships were very much alone.
But they did “return to base”, and so did every vessel which ever left
it through nearly three long years.
Men sufficient to make up full crews for the other three vessels were
lacking, but fortunately the outfit turned out to be a pretty good advertise-
ment for itself. The ships in those days still had much of their yachting
gleam and grace, and it was the middle of a beautiful summer. First to the
docks to look, and then to the office to sign up, came several local boys,
Gordon Brooks, Bill Huntor, Harry Klefve, Dave Montgomery, Bill Ells-
worth, Bill Drumm, John Fisher, Mac Rackett and others. Jimmy Warnaka
was pulled f rom behind the counter at the “Paradise,” Greenport’s leading
breakfast and luncheon counter, Likewise Arnold Mitchell was persuaded
to leave his father’s famous wining and dining establishment to cook at
sea, and Dick Nugent, CBM, greeter, expediter, and promoter for the outfit,
had armed and persuaded ‘Pistol Pete” Burke that life as a “motor mack”
in the Coast Guard offered more than working for Greenport Basin and
Construction Co. ,
The word spread up and down the shores of Long Island and Connecticut,
and even into the hills of northern New Jersey. Sundays brought a series
of prospects to Greenport to see what was going on, and most of them
signed up. Norm Bates came and signed promptly, as did Gene Tompane and
his gang, Jip Coazens, Jack Clifford, Herb Pontin, and Bob Thayer. From
Stratford, Conn., came Ed Robillard, Dick Home, Dan McNulty and Jack
Woods, John Timken signed up by phone and appeared a few days later
with Halcyon, the little schooner which never went to sea.
By mid-August the thing was well started and patrols were being main
tained regularly at sea with the first six vessels. Three of them, Sea Gypsy,
Sea Roamer and Kidnapper did a particular reporting job on 14 August
which focused attention on the sailing vessels and earned those three letters
of commendation from Vice-Admiral Adolphus Andrews, Commander
Eastern Sea Frontier.
But it was also obvious that leaving the recruiting of vessels and men lo
chance would not be suflicient. In order really to gel going, more “push”
and “drive” was needed. That ‘push” was supplied by an advisory com-
mittee of prominent and experienced yachtsmen organized by Lieut. Com-
mander P. D. Mills, director of Reserve activities for 3rd Naval District
Coast Guard. This committee included Herbert L. Stone, Robert N. Bavier,
Percy Weeks, Jack Shethar, Drake Sparkman, and others. They did a bang-
up job of screening several hundred candidates, rating the best of them and
hustling them down to 42 Broadway for enlistment. They also selected
the best of the larger auxiliary sailing craft and motor-sailers, went after
their owners, and sold them the idea of putting thcm into service.
In a very few weeks ships were rolling down the Sound to Greenport
on every tide and the Cannonball brought new drafts of men almost daily.
The vessels were two and three deep around Jake Tyler’s and Sweet’s. The
men overflowed the Townsend Manor and sacked down on the bare floor
in what later became Doc Pulese’s sick bay. And who will ever forget
Mitchell’s on Saturday nights? Hustle and bustle was everywhere and plenty
of confusion, too. But for every quart of mistakes there was a barrel of
enthusiasm, so one by one vessels were commissioned and put to sea.
By the end of August, base headquarters had outgrown its corner in the
Captain of the Port Office and, as a case of military necessity, had taken over
all three floors of an unoccupied store and office building. Two months
later when it began to look as if we were there to stay awhile, this, too,
had been outgrown, and we pulled up stakes and moved to the biggest
building in town, the Booth House,
Originally, there had been no thought of operating open-decked sailing
vessels in northern waters in winter, and through the fall the big question
was, “when do we move south for the winter?“ It was asked by people who
knew that winter operation of such craft was unprecedented. It was an-
swered by “higher authority’ who knew that where they needed anti-sub
marine patrols most was off the busy approaches to New York. We staycd
right in Greenport.
By early December, some 33 sailing vessels had been enrolled and most
of them commissioned and actually on patrol. They were fully manned
(except those still fitting out) by about 225 full time Temporary Reserves
without benefit of indoctrination or boot training of any kind, and a few
“regular” cooks and odd ratings of one kind and another,
The fall had been cold and blustery, most of the cooks had been. seasick
and plenty of others, too. There had been no cod weather clothing and
no heating systems on the bnat.s, and winter houses were of canvas on
feeble brass pipe. But to offset it all there was “push” and “drive” and
barrels of enthusiasm in the men. The enemy had been sighted and
reported several times.
Then came the famous blow of Decernbcr 2-3-4 which caught Edlu,
Nordlys, Abenaki, Tradition, Victoria, Askoy and Zaida at sea and in 60
mile winds which blew and blew, Ahenaki was blown clear around the Vine-
yard and Nantucket. Nordlys and Victoria wisely made knots to the south
ward. Edlu stayed "on station.” Tradition had a bad time and probably the
narrowest escape of all, Zaida took a terrific knockdown going over
Nantucket shoals and began her famous fight which ended 23 days later
in North Carolina and the newspaper headlines, but will never die in the
minds of those (afloat and ashore) who brought her through.
Meanwhile a score of objections to the Temporary Reserve status for
full time hazardous duty personnel had come into the picture and nearly
everybody signed over into the Regular Reserve as of December 15th.
For the worst of the 4-Fers, it took a very special word from very high
authority, but we got that word, The Greenport Patrol Base had come of
age and was under full sail.
That is how it began—now, six years later, the Canvas Hangers are still
Port Washington, L. I., N. Y.
New York, N. Y.
420 Lexington Ave.
New York, N. Y.
EVERETT B. MORRIS
230 W. 41st St.
New York, N. Y.
G. CARLETON PEARL
44 Rossmore Ave.
Bronxville, N. Y.
Rumson, N. J.
REAR ADMIRAL EDWARD H. “ICEBERG” SMITH
New York, N. Y.
WILLIAM H. TAYLOR
205 E. 42nd St
New York, N. Y.
lAKE W. TYLER
Greenport, L. I., N. Y.