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Beyond This Point

C: From an early book:

Nantucket Patrol

With war already raging in Europe, the United States entered World War II on Dec. 8, 1941, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. I was attending Brandeis High School in Boston and working winter nights for the Union Freight Railroad. Having lied about my age to get the job, I cleaned, salted, and burned kerosene rags on frozen switches to keep the trains moving on cold nights. It was often a tedious and lonely job, and little did I know it was preparation for patrolling the sand dunes of Nantucket in the near future. When I was 16, I already stood six foot tall and worked during the summer as a longshoreman on the Boston waterfront. As I watched the older men join the armed forces, I knew my time was coming. Because of all my experience, which included working on harbor oil tankers, dredges, and tugboats, I was tempted to exaggerate my age once again and sign up for the war effort. I took a particular interest in the sea, probably from watching the warships come and go and knowing that my cousins and uncles were on board.

One day while downtown, I spotted a multiple-service recruiting office and walked in. The first question I got was, “How old are you kid?” The recruiters enjoyed speaking with me but sent me packing because of my youth.

Time went by, reports from the war had me anxiously waiting to join the service, and finally on my seventeenth birthday, I returned to the recruiting office. Chief Boatswain Jack Linden recognized me from the waterfront and greeted me with, “Jim, get over here and let me tell you about the Coast Guard.” After a short conversation, he gave me a release paper for both parents to sign so I could join at 17 years of age. He told me to return with the signed form and a birth certificate. Since my brother Joe had already left for war, my sobbing mother was not

enthused about my plan to sign up. Even my rough-and-tumble tugboat captain dad refused to sign the form, knowing the North Atlantic was fair game for the Germans. I wasn’t going to take no for an answer, and fortunately, Port US Navy Captain Bob Metcalf talked my dad into signing the form. Afterwards, my mother signed it as well.

On August 10, 1943, I was sworn in as a seaman third class in the US Coast Guard. With a train ticket and a map of Manhattan Beach in Brooklyn, New York, I headed for boot camp. Since we were at war, boot camp was not a vacation spot for young servicemen to enjoy and tour New York City. Training was harsh and necessary. Physical training was led by Commander Jack Dempsey and four other boxing champs, all of whom were hard taskmasters. After a month, I was assigned to Company 39 shore police patrol on Coney Island and Times Square where I was paired with a NYPD patrolman. On Nov. 1, I learned that Company 38, consisting of 60 sailors, was being assigned to the First Naval District in Boston.

Shortly afterwards, I ran into Commander Dempsey, now my mentor, who was impressed with my knowledge of the North Atlantic area. He sent me to the commander of the personnel office, Bob Godfrey, who issued me both written and oral exams. He was so impressed with the results that he said, “Son, you would be an asset to the First Naval District,” and immediately reassigned me to Company 38.

I continued doing shore patrol duty which consisted largely, not of fighting the enemy, but of breaking up barroom brawls of sailors and other servicemen. Building on further patrol experience, and after several other short transfers, I ended up at Sankaty Head Station on Nantucket Island serving under Boatswains Mate First Class Jack Ecklebar. He issued me a bunk and locker, and I settled down to look around the barracks. What a far cry from a tug or fishing

trawler, where I had felt so squeezed in. But to my surprise, another sailor named Jack Teisdale warned me, “Hey Jim, don’t think this is easier than ship duty. Yea, it’s on land, but we walk and walk. And just about everyone here has had a confrontation with the enemy.” I was a little surprised to hear that, but then again, we wouldn’t be stationed here if it weren’t necessary.

Picture me now, a 17-year-old sailor handed a Thompson submachine gun, a 38 Smith & Wesson pistol and a flare gun, both holstered, and all the ammo I could carry! More importantly, I was also assigned a German Shepherd Dog named Rinty who was to become my constant companion. No time wasted, I was assigned a four-hour watch from 6 PM to 10 PM, walking several miles north to Wauwinet and reversing course back to Sankaty Head. My first evening shift was uneventful, and I enjoyed the fall evening walk with my new dog, up and down the moors watching the ripples in the sand. Jack’s warning was foremost in my mind. Why would they hand me all this gear and weaponry if it weren’t necessary, I thought. I reminded myself to stay on guard and not daydream.

Well, the next morning, I woke up early and had breakfast with my new boss, Jack Ecklebar. He got me ready for my day shift with a small speech: “Jim, always be ready to meet the enemy on your patrol. Last year, before guard dogs were assigned, a Coast Guardsman disappeared while on patrol.” That got my attention! He continued, “Three German saboteurs were recently caught on Long Island, and we can expect some company to visit us here soon enough.” This news gave me goose bumps with a tinge of excitement and a touch of fear.

Ecklebar emphasized the importance of my assignment and encouraged me with fatherly advice and wisdom. “These saboteurs were probably set ashore from an enemy submarine,” he said.



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The story, Gold Fever, is also on audio below:

As gold climbed to $900 an ounce, more and more gold commercials popped up. I never had the desire to own gold or the money to buy any, for that matter, but obviously people did. I received a call from my friend Frank Parsons one evening, asking me if I would be interested in a short-term security job

C: The entire story on audio –   













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