Guest post: For those who came before us…

>Today’s post is from PA2 Bill Colclough of the Ninth District Public Affairs staff and Lt. j.g. Jerrold Federer of Marine Safety Unit Chicago. Here’s their story about taking the time to recognize one of the many who make up our long blue line of Coast Guard history.

“MSU Chicago hosted and thanked a Coast Guard veteran June 5, 2009, for his service during World War II.

Robert J. Doherty, born in Providence, R.I., was attending Brown University when the war broke out but left early to join the Coast Guard.

‘My father, who is now 89 years old, has always spoken of his years in the Coast Guard during World War II with great affection, and he has regaled us over the years with detailed stories of the North Atlantic, the South Pacific, and the Philippines,’ said Maureen Caughran, Doherty’s daughter. “When I learned that the husband of a colleague of mine, who lives in Chicago, was Cmdr. Paul Mehler, I asked her if Cmdr. Mehler would be willing to show my dad around the station there.’

(Right: Robert J. Doherty and his daughter Maureen Caughran enjoy a ride on MSU Chicago’s 25-foot small response boat (RB-S) along the Chicago River Friday, June 5, 2009.
MSU Chicago and Station Calumet accommodated Doherty and his daughter with a tour of the unit, lunch, a ride on a 25-foot small response boat and a slideshow dedicated to his service in World War II.
U.S. Coast Guard/Photo by Lt.j.g. Jerrold Federer)

MSU Chicago accommodated Robert J. Doherty with a tour of the unit, lunch and a ride on a 25-foot small response boat.

Doherty enlisted in the Coast Guard Jan. 14, 1942, as a Seaman First Class. Five days later, he found himself assigned to the 327-foot cutter Duane. After finishing boot camp, Doherty and the rest of the crew from the Duane became part of the North Atlantic convoy, calling on Iceland as their homeport.

(Right: This photo of the Duane provides clear evidence of the type of weather encountered on these northern convoy lanes, particularly during the winter months. Although such storms and heavy seas could make life on board a surface vessel uncomfortable, they also helped shield a convoy from U-boat attack. U.S. Coast Guard photo)

In spring that same year his brother, Jim, enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corp
Here are Doherty’s reflections on his and his brother’s service:

‘Back in Providence:
I think it was here in the spring of 1942 that Jim [brother] enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corp, followed in early summer by our Dad’s taking a leave from his newspaper job to join up with the U.S.A.A.C. As a 50-year-old Major in the [inactive] reserve (he was a 1st lieutenant of the field artillery in France in WWI), he spent several weeks of Florida’s summer heat in boot camp with 21-year-old college grads doing calisthenics, etc. From there, he was assigned as executive officer running B-29 training bases.

Spring 1943:
When our ship [Duane] returned from Iceland, I had a 15-day leave and visited our folks at an air base in the middle of Kansas, where Dad was the executive officer (second in command). While there, the three of us [including Mother] drove to Denver to visit Jim, who was stationed at Lowry Field—kind of a mini family reunion. At the end of my leave, I reported to the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., for a four-month course and graduated as a commissioned officer (Ensign).

Summer 1943:
Assigned to a ship being outfitted in Brooklyn—a new 500-foot freighter transformed into an A.P.A. (Auxiliary Personnel Attack) with hundreds of bunks for the soldiers and Marines, and 36 landing craft to get them to the beaches of the Japanese-held islands. In the meantime, Jim landed in England as a sergeant in the Air Force with the 8th Air Force. He was stationed at a base outside London where he operated a link trainer, a simulator for continual training of pilots.

Fall 1943:
Spent November and December in San Diego training with the 4th Marine Division from Camp Pendleton, landing them in our 36-foot boats on San Clemente Island (over and over again). Our first amphibious operation was to land these Marines on the beach at Kwajalein Island in the Marshall Group, in February 1944. A prior operation (not ours) was a Marine landing at Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands in November 1943.

1944 – 45:
Additional landings –Saipan (Marianas) in June; Admiralty Islands (New Guinea area), a few months later; Philippines in October; Luzon (north of Manila) in January; Iwo Jima in February; Okinawa in the spring (stand-by—area reserve—no landing). August 14 – V-J Day. We sailed August 15 (on schedule) with 52 women passengers bound for Hawaii, where we picked up troops (trained for the invasion of Japan) and delivered them to Japan as occupation troops. Picked up returning troops from various areas on way back to Portland, Oregon. Finally separated from USCG in Seattle, January 1946.’

Before he departed the MSU with his daughter, Doherty was given an MSU Chicago hat with a Lt.j.g. pin.

‘That really made him smile when I gave it to him,’ said Federer.

(Left: Cmdr. Paul Mehler, commanding officer of MSU Chicago, gives a tour of his unit’s area of responsibility on the Chicago River for Coast Guard veteran Robert J. Doherty aboard a 25-foot small response boat Friday, June 5, 2009.
U.S. Coast Guard/Photo by Lt.j.g. Jerrold Federer)
‘My dad and I also visited the Museum of Science and Industry to see U-505, the German U-boat that was captured by the U.S. Navy on June 4, 1944. The ship my dad was on in the North Atlantic, the Duane, was imperiled by German U-boats like the U-505, so seeing a U-boat up close was quite an experience, for both of us,’ said Caughran.

‘We are both sincerely thankful to Cmdr. Mehler and the others at MSU Chicago for such a wonderful visit,’ Caughran concluded.

Tags: , , , , , , ,