It’s fascinating to look over the wartime flotsam of a departed sailor’s life, especially if he was close to you.
In the foreword to my book War Stories in Their Own Words, published in September by The Morning Call, I mention my dad, a Coast Guardsman in World War II.
When he completed the 24-week radio operator course in Atlantic City, he had a choice of postings. He wanted to go where it was warm, so he volunteered for Argencia. But Argencia is not Argentina. Argencia is a port in Newfoundland. Dad spent the rest of 1945 shivering in the North Atlantic, collecting weather data off Greenland and Iceland.
My point was, that’s the only war story my dad told me. I never asked him about his experiences in the Coast Guard. By the time I was interested, it was too late. He had slipped into the fog of Alzheimer’s.
But Dad did leave behind his service paperwork, including his discharge papers, which I copied and keep in a thick file. They show he served on two Tacoma-class patrol frigates out of Naval Operating Base 103, Argencia – PF-57 Sheboygan and PF-58 Abilene. His rank was radioman second class when he left the service in May 1946 just before his 19th birthday. I also have his pea coat.
One of the papers Dad kept was the exam for radioman second class, 25 questions like this one: “What are parallel trimmer condensers mounted on the main tuning condensers of a receiver adjusted for during alignment?” Yikes. He also had the 1943 hard-cover book Always Ready: The Story of the United States Coast Guard, which is stamped “USS Sheboygan,” suggesting he got it from the ship.
But not everything he kept was dry material. One printed, unofficial certificate points to the camaraderie shared by men of the sea:
Certificate of Rugged Duty
Now Hear This:
By the gods Hymir and Indra,
Know all you present that Venditta, Carmine, has completely knocked himself out on at least two Weather Patrols aboard the USS Sheboygan. He was there, and he went back.
Upon presentation of this Certificate, he is hereby entitled to discuss the weather at length.
This document may also serve as proof, for the above named man only, for all sea stories told to unbelievers.
It’s signed by the commanding officer, whose name is illegible.
The certificate has an ink drawing of a ship being tossed about in a bad storm, with dark clouds spewing wind and lightning. The drawing alone is enough to make my stomach queasy.
Dad kept that fun paper with his war documents for many years, until his death in 2004. It meant something to him, but what, exactly?
I’ll never know the story behind it.