Let’s go back, in memory, to a late afternoon in July 1945. WW ll is still going on and I am an 18-year-old seaman in the Coast Guard. I am a member of the crew of the USS General C.H. Muir, a personnel transport now anchored at the Enewetak atoll in the Pacific, a few degrees north of the equator.
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My ship is bound for the Panama Canal and New York City. I am to get off the ship, go to school in Connecticut and then take the entrance examination for the Coast Guard Academy.
We had left San Francisco in May and sailed to Pearl Harbor, to the island of Mog Mog in the Ulithi group and finally to Leyte in the Philippines where we offloaded Navy personnel assigned to the 5th Fleet. There were several other ships at Enewetak, all anchored in a line, all facing west since there was a several knot ocean current running west to east.
I happened to be on the main deck when the order came for several of us to get into the lifeboat now tied up to the stern handrail. We were to help maneuver the lifeboat to the position where it could be hoisted back on board the Muir. The weather was hot and humid and I believe that I eagerly made the suggestion to jump into the water, which would be refreshingly cool, and then to climb into the lifeboat since there was no ladder or other means of getting into the boat. Three of us made the sacrifice, jumped in, cooled off and then climbed into the lifeboat. The movie ” Shark” had not been made and we had yet to hear of the loss of the USS Indianapolis and the loss of life in the shark-infested waters between Guam and Leyte.
As soon as we were in place, someone unwittingly untied the line holding the boat to the ship. We immediately began to drift easterly with no means of holding the boat in position or controlling the rather rapid drifting away from our ship. My first thought was to get out the oars and row back to the ship. We did get out the oars but found it impossible to maneuver the rather large and heavy lifeboat in such a current. We shipped the oars and began to consider what other actions, if any, we could take to control our drift. We did float by several other ships but our rather frantic yells, waving of arms and other attempts to attract attention and help were futile. No one neither heard nor saw us.