Sunday, June 22, 2008

A ghost tale, mixed up sea story, or a tall tale?

After going to the gym the other day, the kids and I headed to the grocery store. Still wearing my PT gear and needing a shower, I also badly needed to pick up milk and some other food staples. At any rate, the shirt I was sporting read "Coast Guard" on it, in small print-nothing too bold. Sidling up next to me at the deli, was an older gentleman, a bit disheveled and hunched over his cart. He spoke to me in a gruff but kindly voice. "Who's in the Coast Guard?, " he asked. The children and I, startled look up and I proudly responded, "My husband is." The man went on to tell me that he served in the Coast Guard. In fact, he was an FS and had been prior service Army. We began to talk casually and he reported that he served aboard the CGC GALLATIN and the CGC BIBB. He told me of the blizzard of 1978 while he and his shipmates rode out the storm. At that time, the GALLATIN was homeported in New York City. The former Coastie then went on to tell me about how he also served aboard the BIBB, which he said, " sits at the bottom of the ocean." He told me that the female CO died as did other crew members.

Now, I don't know much about Coast Guard history, but I have been doing some reading. I can't find anything about a female CO on the BIBB dying or even about back to back hurricanes it may have been caught in, which he also told me about. The man made it sound as if she and other members of the crew died in the sinking of the BIBB. Naturally, I wanted to find out more about this, so I checked it out on the internet. Either I have very limited research skills and don't really know what to look for, or his stories were made up. Of course, the man could have been confused. It's been about 25-30 years since the incidents he referred to and his time in service.

I did learn that: the BIBB was sunk, but not until the latter part of the 1980's. Also, the earliest female CO in the Coast Guard was in fact in 1979, but it was LTJG Beverly Kelley, who went on to serve 30+ years is now a retired. She is most often noted and applauded for her service as the CO of the CGC CAPE NEWAGEN. During that era, LT Colleen Cain was the first Coast Guard woman killed in action, but that was in 1982. LT Cain was killed during a SAR mission near Honolulu.

I'm asking any of our readers, if you can make sense of this these bits of information, please let me know. I'd love to figure out what this man was trying to tell me. Does he have mixed up tales or could he have been talking about the GALLATIN or even another cutter for that matter? Did a female CO actually die aboard ANY cutter or during a sinking?

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