We didn’t think Coast Guard Officers counted Sir!

By Craig Johnson USN (Retired)

U.S.S. Cutlass

One of the last Diesel Subs S.S 478

This story has some players that I believe should be identified prior to getting into the story.

1.       Diamond TWR1 – small torpedo weapons recovery vessel island-hopping in the Caribbean

2.       USS Cutlass SS 478 diesel submarine

3.       USCG Station St. Thomas U.S. Virgin Islands

4.       Commander 10th Naval District

5.       Port Captain is senior USCG officer assigned to USCG Station (Lieutenant                Commander (LCDR))

The Diamond had spent the last 3 days working with the submarine Cutlass on torpedo exercises and both vessels had been sent to St. Thomas for a liberty call.  The Port Captain had directed the Cutlass to dock at the old submarine piers that were on the far left side of the harbor as you enter the port.  The Port Captain directed the Diamond to dock all the way to the right of the harbor in a med moor at the USCG pier.  A med moor is when the stern points towards the pier instead of either side of the boat.  This was unusual since normally the Diamond was sent to the old submarine piers when she visited St. Thomas.

As usual the weather was beautiful so four of the seamen decided to go walking around the town, sightseeing. It was another unusual occurrence in a series of them that led to the final outcome of this story.  All four sailors were from deck. They went below and put civilian clothes on and left the boat.

Walking around the island they noticed signs advertising a store called the Cutlass Shoppe; this was something that they thought was funny since the submarine Cutlass was in port with them.  Their short walks were truncated by stops for drinks to help them handle the tropical heat.  As the four of them continued through the afternoon and into the evening the heat and the drinks started to combine and have an effect on reducing inhabitations.

About 2100 (9:00 PM), the four sailors somehow collected nine of the Cutlass Shoppe signs. These signs would make great gifts for the crew of the Cutlass.  When they started to walk down the waterfront past the beachfront bars, they became aware of a sign advertising a local bar.  The sign was a six-foot tall man wearing a straw hat, yellow shirt, and checkered pants holding up a mug of beer in his right hand above his head.

Collectively the sailors decided that they were tired of walking and it was time to head back to the boat. Somehow, upon arrival at the boat, it was found that the six-foot sign had followed them.  The sign was propped against the stern of the boat facing towards the row of bars it had deserted to join the Diamond. Those bars were about 100 hundred yards across the water.  The Coast Guard pier was well lighted with huge lights like in a football stadium. This enabled the bars the ability to see us clearly.

The seaman deciding that it would be fun to just sit on the pier, have a few drinks, and enjoy the evening. They had managed to collect a quart of scotch whiskey, a quart of gin, a quart of rum, a quart of sherry, and one can of beer. They collected a pot and four coffee mugs from the galley and reconvened on the pier just behind the Diamond.  They combined all the hard liquor and the beer in one pot –the beer to add flavor. They then just settled in to share their booty.

Since they had left for their excursion a USCG Cutter had returned and was tied up on the opposite side of the pier.  One of the shallow water sailors off of the Cutter yelled down and said that it was not permissible to drink on a Coast Guard pier.  The four sailors yelled back, less than politely, “Shut your f*****g mouth and leave us the f**k alone!”

Nothing happened for about an hour and then a Coast Guard LCDR drove up on his dirt bike.  While sitting on his bike he said, “This is a Coast Guard pier and you have to go aboard your boat and quit drinking!”

Four sailors appeared next to the bike. With two at each end, they picked up the bike and the Coast Guard Officer who was still upon it, and deposited them both in the bay.  When the officer surfaced, they commanded, “Keep your chump a*s off this pier.  It’s a Navy pier now!”

The Coast Guard sailors tried to recapture the pier. The Navy, welding galvanized pipe that they found lying on the pier, were able to hold the pier against the Coast Guard incursions until approximately 0400 when the four were overcome by deep, deep sleep. In reality since no one was really in any danger of getting hurt, the Coast Guard would move towards them once in a while to see what happened until there was no response from the four sailors.

The USCG LCDR who went for a swim was the Port Captain.  Once he managed to get to dry land and put on a dry uniform he initiated the following:

First, he radioed the 10th Naval District Duty Officer and informed him on what was happening along with the fact that he was expelling the Diamond from the St. Thomas port at sunrise.

Second, he was bringing the fours sailors by helicopter to San Juan so he could personally attend Admiral’s mast with them in the morning, if that was OK with the Admiral.

Third, He had the duty officer check with the Admiral, who approved the mast for 0830.

It needs to be understood that the Commander 10th Naval District felt that historically this Coast Guard LCDR had a problem with the Navy and always seemed to expelling his ships from St. Thomas for things that the sailors had done on liberty instead of letting the ship’s Captain handle the punishments.  In his opinion, it seemed that this Coast Guardsman wanted to control his fleet.

The Diamond left port at 0700 to travel to San Juan. Approximately an hour earlier the Coast Guard loaded the four sailors in their civilian clothes on their helicopter and flew to San Juan. The four sailors were so dead to the world they never even remembered this flight.

Once the Coast Guard got the four sailors to the 10th Naval District building; the sailors there tried giving them copious amounts of coffee, so they could go in front of the Admiral, at least a bit more bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.  At 0830 they were awake enough to go before the Admiral and were taken before him together, standing shoulder to shoulder, at attention.

He asked the LCDR first, “what happened?” The LCDR explained how he ended up the wet victim of assault. Then the Admiral, looking at the guilty sailors said, “That is one stripe for damaging private property.” He then asked, “Why did you throw the LCDR in the water?”

In unison, as if it had been rehearsed, the four sailors responded with, “I did not know Coast Guard Officers counted Sir!” The Admiral and all the Naval Officers present worked very hard at not laughing.

He then said, “That is one more stripe for throwing an Officer overboard. Now wait outside.”

The Admiral and LCDR talked for about 15 minutes.  As the LCDR walked by the four sailors he just smirked as he smugly looked at them out of the corner of his eye.  Once he was out of the office all four sailors were called back before the Admiral.  The Admiral, while trying not to smile, stated. “Since I have no one available to take your place I am not documenting this mast. It did not happen.  You will have to pay for repairs to the LCDR’s motorcycle. Do remember this after today –Coast Guard Officers Count!”

The Admiral told the Chief that in reality, he did not believe that the mast would hold up since the Coast Guard LCDR had brought the four sailors in front of him while they were still drunk, and in no condition to be there.

Our Engineers eventually fixed the motorcycle with parts we comshawed.  This was the first of three times the LCDR threw the Diamond out of St. Thomas.


5 responses to “We didn’t think Coast Guard Officers counted Sir!

  1. Pingback: The Navy Will Buy Your Fishing Tackle | Bangari Content Gallery

  2. Pingback: Deck Sprint: JFK’s Challenge | Bangari Content Gallery

  3. My late father was a chief n the USCG 1938-1960 & was in iWW2 He also stood 6 feet, 6 inches & weighed about 260. His fellow snipes claimed they saw him pick up a 300 lb steam valve & move it unassisted Dad was mostly stationed n New London,CT & did not take kindly to “bubblehead” squids remarks about shallow water sailors & having to be over 6 feet tall to be n the CG. More than once,,so I’ve been told, dad challenged a navy type to step outside & discuss the issue. None ever took him up on it.

  4. That’s funny! I didn’t know there was a height requirement for the Coast Guard? I know that your Dad would have been too tall to be a Bubblehead. I can see where one could be to tall for Submarines, but I can’t understand being too short for the Coast Guard! But that’s just me, at 5′ 7″ LOL

  5. The height requirements for the CG was a standard adopted to aid in wading back to shore in case of emergencies.

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