My name is Daniel “Dick” Sawyer. I am 87 years old in the year 2011. I am a Veteran who served in World War II in the European and Pacific Theaters.
I enlisted in the Coast Guard in December 26,1942 and went through boot camp at the Manhattan Beach Coast Guard Station in New York. I was then assigned to Pier 18 in Staten Island, New York.
Coast Guard Cutter 83 Feet Long WWII
I was reassigned to Ellis Island and was picked up by CG 83504 which is a Coast Guard Cutter 83 feet long with a crew of 12. We went all over the Caribbean, to Cuba, Grand Cayman Island, and little Cayman Island, escorting a sea train of ships from West Palm Beach, Florida to Havana, Cuba.
Next I was assigned to Coast Guard Gunner Mate School in St. Augustine, Florida. After that school I was a Gunners Mate 3rd Class and later promoted to 2nd Class. I went back to New York and was picked up by the Destroyer Escort Kirkpatrick 318. We escorted Liberty ships with Combat Soldiers from the United States to various ports in Europe. We made a number of convoys over to Europe and back to the United States.
While protecting the convoy we investigated many sound and radar contacts for potential German submarines. We would be on the outside perimeter of the convoy of ships, protecting the convoy, and racing to investigate possible submarine contacts.
We would circle back to investigate sound and radar soundings. If we thought we had a submarine we would drop depth charges with K Guns, which would shoot out the depth charges in a pattern. The depth charges would explode underwater at the depth that we thought that the submarines were hiding in.
We had been ordered to support the Normandy invasion to be loaded on to Liberty Ships to give sea and rescue support for the invasion. But we ran into a Hurricane off of Camp Hatteras. The storm was so violent that it pulled the head (toilet) out of the deck. The calking was splitting out of the seams and there was two to three feet of water on the deck. I tied myself into the top bunk and somehow we made it to the Morehead City docks. Repairs took 3 weeks so we missed the Normandy invasion.
When the European War was over we went to the Brooklyn Navy Yard to have our guns refitted, replacing some of the guns with Quad 40 mm guns. We were getting ready for the impending invasion of Japan. We went through the Panama Canal enroute to Pearl Harbor.
While we were waiting for instructions the atomic bomb was dropped and World War II was over. But I was still in the Coast Guard and we still had work to do. Our ship escorted a convoy of 15 LST’s (Landing Ship Tank) that were part of the southern occupation forces to Sasebo, Japan.
Our motto at the end of the war was “Don’t ask questions, just have fun.” I was with two of my long time shipmates and friends, Elwell and Gallager. Gallager was a little Irish guy, and a great boxer. We managed to egg each other on and had fun and got into trouble.
We had a beach liberty celebrating the end of the war. Elwell, Gallager and I enjoyed more saki then we should have. We bought a water buffalo and the three of us rode the buffalo into the village. Elwell was on the back and must have fallen off the water buffalo but we were not sure when.
We met some nice people and we stayed with them in their hut. They fed us fried bananas which did not agree with us and we were sick all over the sleeping mat. We were late getting back to the ship, which got us in hot water with the Captain. We then found out that Elwell had been found in a rice paddy with nothing but his nose and mouth sticking up above the water.
The Captain sentenced us to no liberty for our remaining time in the Coast Guard. He also transferred the three of us away from our ship the Kirkpatrick to serve on an LST (Landing Ship Tank). The bow of the LST would open to let Marines or cargo land on the beach. This was a step down for a Destroyer Escort sailor.
While on the LST we went to Japan. There was no liberty permitted because they were still afraid of Japanese attacks. Elwell, Gallager and I decided to sneak off the ship. The sentries were armed with machine guns. We waited till one of the sentries went to the far end of his post, then climbed down a rope behind the bow door and then down to the shore and into town. We had a great time. I was able to climb the rope back onto the LST when we got back, but Elwell fell and was captured by the Guard and back in trouble.
Another guy and I visited Nagasaki a month or two after the bomb. We did not know about how dangerous radiation could be. The destruction of the city was amazing.
I rode the LST to many ports including the Phillipines and Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. While on liberty in Hawaii I was coming back on the liberty boat where my LST was anchored off shore. I fell off the liberty boat at night. No one saw me fall and they went on without me.
I thought sure I was going to drown and thought what a hell of a way to end the war. I was a pretty good swimmer and nervously tread water for at least 5 minutes. Finally someone realized I was overboard and the boat came back to get me.
Our LST then went to San Diego, back through the Panama Canal, and then to New Orleans, where I was discharged.
After the war I worked with Stokely-Van Camp, Inc. for 34 years.