"Within six months, U-boats sank nearly 400 Allied ships off the United States Atlantic coast, killing thousands of sailors and destroying about 2.34 million tons of cargo. Much of the cargo was fuel oil vital to the Allied effort.
Defense of the merchant ships was left, for the most part, to the undermanned force of U. S. Coast Guard vessels.
The torpedoed ships would burst into flames and the sailors would be coated in a residue of thick oil and diesel fuel. Most of the time these men literally burned to death. I will never forget that smell of burning flesh. If there happened to be any survivors, we had the solemn task of picking these men up from the water and taking them back to shore for emergency treatment. We were instructed to pick up any body parts we found as this would aid in identifying victims. I served aboard the DIONE for approximately one year. Many Coast Guard cutters were involved in rescue operations following German attacks on American shipping.
Shortly thereafter, I was assigned to the CG-83368 (Call Sign: NLXJ). Home port Naval Training Station, Naval Operating Base, Norfolk, Virginia (NTS NOB NorVa.) She was a little 83 footer made of wood. Our job was to follow the training aircraft carriers (these were shorter and narrower than the actual aircraft carriers) around the Chesapeake Bay just in case a plane went overboard while practicing their deck landings. If it did, we were right there to pick up the pilot. During World War II, the United States Navy purchased two Great Lakes side -wheel paddle steamers and converted them into freshwater aircraft carrier training ships. Both vessels were designated with the hull classification symbol IX and lacked hangar decks, elevators or armaments. I served on the CG-83368 for about six months.
I was assigned to the USS SAVAGE (DE-386) on 29 October, 1943 as Quartermaster Second Class. She was brand new and I was a plank owner. Shortly afterward I earned the rating of Quartermaster First Class. As QM1c, I was responsible for the bridge watch-to-watch navigation of the ship and vessel control. Steering the ship was one of my chief duties. I plotted bearings, maintained, corrected, and prepared nautical charts and navigational publications for the Navigator's use. I learned Celestial Navigation and became quite adept at it. I was responsible for navigational instruments and clocks and the training of ship's lookouts and helmsmen. A naval quartermaster's main task is to steer the ship and execute the helm orders given by the Captain or watch officers. I vividly remember being in the middle of a typhoon while trying to steer the ship . The SAVAGE was practically lying on her side with waves washing completely over her. I can proudly say that I never suffered from seasickness. There were also many times that thick ice had to be scraped off the ship because the extra weight would have sunk her.
I bunked near the laundry room. We were attacked by German planes on 01 April, 1944. Our convoy was enroute to Bizerte. I don't recall being scared. I was only 23 years old and was busy with my duties; so there was no time for fear. I remember that a member of the depth charge crew, James W. Searcy, MoMM3c, was wounded during action. As I recall, he received a Purple Heart. The SAVAGE earned a Battle Star for this attack.
I remember being in port in Africa and having my older brother Jim (he was in the Army) come aboard the ship to have dinner with me and the crew. My youngest brother, George, was also in the Army.
I served aboard the SAVAGE for twenty-seven months and was detached from her on 04 January, 1946 in Tsingtao, China. I came home on the USS LEONARD WOOD.
I was honorably discharged from the United States Coast Guard on 15 February, 1946. My highest monthly rate of pay had been $119.70. My Mustering Out Pay was $100.00.
After being discharged, work was extremely hard to find. I held several part-time jobs until I was finally able to find full-time work at Andrews Air Force Base. I worked there for about six months as a warehouse clerk.
In 1947, I enlisted in the United States Naval Reserve. I first served on the USS PC(C) 1168. We trained one weekend out of every month and once a year we went on a two week cruise. I also served aboard the USS ROBERT F. KELLER (DE-419), a John C. Butler Class Destroyer Escort ship. We cruised to Baltimore, Canada, Cuba, and the British Isles. I remained in the Naval Reserve until 08 August, 1958.
In the latter part of 1946, I was able to transfer from Andrews AFB to the U. S. Hydrographic Office (then located in Suitland, Maryland). After several months of working as a clerk and completing college classes, I became a Cartographer.
Over the years, the old Hydrographic Office became the U. S. Naval Oceanographic Office, and then the Defense Mapping Agency. I retired from DMA in 1976 with 35 years of government service.
I was married on 02 July, 1948 and have been married to the same woman for fifty-three years. I have two daughters, one grandson, and a daughter-in-law."
[From conversations with my father during 1998.]
[On Sunday 10 March, 2002 at 7:50 PM EST, my father Gerald O. Day passed away. He was 81 years old. He was buried at Cheltenham Veterans Cemetery, with full Coast Guard honors.]