My first assignment was on the USS PC 1214 which I boarded at Coco Solo Naval Base in the Panama Canal Zone. I was sent to the naval base in New Orleans to await transportation tot Coco Solo. Transportation was aboard an LST, which I boarded about 50 miles above New Orleans on the Mississippi where it was loading ammunition. When te loading was finished we set sail down the river on our way to Panama. It was delightful sitting on deck observing the sights on the river bank.
And then it happened. We passed New Orleans and entered the ocean. The flat-bottomed LST started rolling and pitching. I suddenly got a very queasy feeling in the stomach which wouldn't go away. After about two days I got used to [sic] and never had a bout of sea sickness thereafter.
At Coco Solo I was assigned to the PC 1214 which was one of a flotilla of patrol ships doing convoy duty in the Carribean Sea. When the merchant ships came through the canal a convoy was formed and we took them up to Guantanamo Bay, where another convoy was formed to take them to whatever East coast port. There were ships waiting that had arrived from East coast ports to be escorted to the canal. A convoy was formed and we returned to Coco Solo. By the time we got there another group of ships was waiting to be convoyed.
Crew of the USS PC-1214
A PC is 173 feet long with a beam of about 20 feet. It had a crew of 65 men and five officers. It had a 3 inch fifty gun on the foredeck, several batteries of 20 and 40 MM machine guns, depth charge racks and Y guns.
At first I was disappointed to be assigned to such a small ship which was facetiously called part of the "donald duck" Navy. However, eventually I got to know everybody aboard and the comeraderie was good.
Upon finishing quartermaster school I did not yet get a rating but was known as a quartermaster striker. At sea I was a helmsman and lookout and signal man. In port I was part of the maintenance work force, scrubbed decks, chipped paint and handled lines.
While aboard the 1214 we had some pings on the sonar but never encountered a German Sub. They may have come close enough to take a look at the convoy and then decided that they couldn't get in position to launch a successful torpedo and scampered away.
On one occasion we set sail to Limon, a small fishing village on the coast of Costa Rica. When we arrived the captain went ashore with an attaché case. He returned about an hour later and we returned to Panama. Nobody ever knew what that was all about. We suspect that he carried cash as a payoff to operatives we had in Central America who were looking for fueling bases that we suspected the Germans had in order to maintain the U-Boat fleet in the Carribean.
This duty was from Feb 1945 to the end of the European war in May 1945. On VE day we were out at sea under radio silence and didn't know about it until we reached port.
While on leave we tried to meet girls, went to dance halls, movies and beerjoints.
I was never in actual combat or even near a Naval battle. The only time we fired our guns was in target practice. My battle station on the PC was second loader on the 3"/50 deck gun. Even with cotton in my ears the noise was raucus.
After the European war was over and no more U-Boat menace, our ship was ordered to the West Coast to join the Pacific fleet. We were to be converted from an anti-submarine vessel to an anti-aircraft vessel. Depth charge racks and Y-guns were removed and more 20 and 40MM guns added. We had this work done at a shipyard in Oakland, just across the bay from San Francisco. While there, the war ended and the ship was ordered back to the East Coast to be put in mothballs in the St. John River in Jacksonville.
On VJ day I was aboard the PC in San Francisco Bay. I had duty that day, so I couldn't go ashore on liberty. I think the news came over the radio about 8PM local time. The crew members who were ashore said San Francisco became party central. I had liberty the next day and the party was still going on.
While we were in Oakland getting the PC overhauled, the Captain decided he wanted to get married and had his fiancee travel from Minneapolis. The Captain and all officers left the ship for the wedding. Since the crew was left alone somebody poured a fifth of bourbon in the coffee urn thinking that the officers wouldn't return to late in the afternoon. While we were seated in the mess compartment drinking coffee royals, the wedding party returned on their way to the reception. The bride wanted to see the ship. He took her to the mess and while there she said she would like a cup of coffee. We all cringed at that. She took the coffee and drank it and never said a word.
Before the ship set out to Jacksonville I was transferred to the Naval Base on Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay for further assignment. While waiting for reassignment I was put on Shore Patrol duty in San Francisco. I had many eventful nights keeping order as hordes of sailors came ashore from long term duty in the Pacific.