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Greenland Memorial Wreath Presentation Ceremony

The Coast Guard Tug Association mustered at Bertholf  Plaza to honor and commemorate the men and ships who were a vital part of our nations defense during WW2 in the Greenland Theater of operation.  We shall never forget their great sacrifices. As master of ceremony, Sandy Schwaab introduced LCDR Byron Willeford,  XO of the International Ice Patrol (IIP), who addressed the group.

 Followed by CAPT. Bob Desh, Former CO of the IIP spoke of the great contributions made by the CG in the Greenland Patrol and reminded us all of the importance to always remember those that served in the Greenland Patrol.

CGTA Member Ken Black who served during WW2 was called to present the wreath, accompanied by Capt. Bob Desh. As the wreath was presented a Bugler sounded "Taps", followed by a lone CG Piper playing Amazing Grace on the bagpipes.

Atop the Greenland Memorial was a framed picture of the CGC Manitou which represented the three WYTMs that served in the Greenland Theater. The other two we the CGC Arundel and CGC Raritan.

This was a deeply moving ceremony .

Presentation given by Capt. Robert Desh, USCG at Greenland Patrol Memorial Ceremony. 

“Forgotten now and little honored then, but still they’ll never have to wonder if they’re men.”

These very profound words form the dedication to the “men of the Greenland Patrol” in the forward pages of Sloan Wilson’s coming-of-age novel, Ice Brothers.  As you can see, this succinct but wholly appropriate tribute also adorns the top of the Greenland Patrol Memorial to my right.  We gather here today to prove Mr. Wilson wrong…they are not forgotten.

During the summer of 1940, a full year and half before America ’s official entry into World War II in December of 1941, dedicated Coast Guardsmen were in the early stages of combat operations off the shores Greenland .  By June of 1941 this operation—the longest continuous naval operation of the war—had taken on formal structure and was now officially titled, “the Greenland Patrol.”  Among the four cutters that formed one of the early task groups was the icebreaking tug RARITAN . Against a backdrop of great violence in the battle for the North Atlantic , the “tuggers” were at war.

As the struggle progressed and the Greenland Patrol forces swelled, two more tugs, ARUNDEL and MANITOU, would don their Arctic war paint and join the fray.

I could spend hours chronicling the exploits and heroism of the brave Coasties of the Greenland Patrol, but a history lesson is not our purpose today.  We are here to ensure that Sloan Wilson’s words do not become a truth.  We are here to honor and remember the tuggers who fought the good and victorious fight.  A fight carried out in arguably the harshest environmental conditions found in any theater of the war.  A fight fought by brave, unassuming men—in stout, unassuming ships.   

I’m sure those who served in the great battlewagons, bristling with weaponry, were very dismissive of the Coasties who served in these tugs.  I can imagine that many a tugger had to defend the honor of his ship with word or fist in the smoky confines of assorted enlisted men’s clubs and waterfront taverns—for as we all know, tuggers are a proud lot.

We get a glimpse into this pride in a passage from the book “Life and Death on the Greenland Patrol” by Thaddeus Novak and P. J. Capelotti.  This wonderful little book, a diary of Mr. Novak’s life on the cutter NANOK on Greenland Patrol in 1942, gives us rare insight into a young Coast Guardsman’s life at war.

On August 13, 1942, the NANOK was moored at “Bluie West 8”, the code name for a crude combat port in Greenland .  The cutter ARUNDEL is tied up nearby.  Here are Novak’s impressions of his visit to the tug as recorded in his diary:

“Went on board the U.S.C.G. sea-going tug Arundel to see its much talked-about super sanitary engine room.  Even though I saw it with my own eyes, I found it difficult to believe.  The engine room officer must be some sort of fanatic.  I thought.  It is said one can sleep in the bilges in a dress-white uniform without picking up a smudge of dirt.  I believe it now.”

 “Steel deck plates glistened as if chrome-plated.  Handrail rods and stanchions glow as polished silver with a watchmaker’s finish.  All brass has been made to gleam like gold.  Paintwork appeared to have been washed down hourly.  There was no dust whatsoever.  In only one obscure area was the single copper pipe fitting that defied being sealed tight.  It dripped one drop of oil every one minute and forty-seven seconds.  To catch the drips, there was a highly polished solid copper, hand-made pan.”

 “As I entered this sanctum sanctorum, I was instructed to remove my shoes and put on a pair of rubber soled sneakers.  After my tour, I hastened to put on my shoes and leave the premises.  Had I not seen the engine room with my own eyes, no one could have convinced me that such a spectacle could exist…I hurry back to the ugly duckling Nanok.”

The real importance of this little sea story is in the images it conjures in your mind’s eye.  Images of a sparkling engine room.  Images of life at war.  Images of a young non-rate, far from home, in a cold and hostile land.

It is through these images that we will ensure that the dedicated Coast Guardsmen, especially the tuggers, who served on the Greenland Patrol, are never forgotten.  Read about these men. Learn about their exploits. Form those images.  For it is through your knowledge of Coast Guard history and the images it forms in your mind’s eye that we will prove Sloan Wilson wrong—they are not forgotten.


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George Staples at Greenland Memorial
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Dave French, Sandy Schwaab, CAPT Bob Desh and LCDR Byron Willeford
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Sandy Schwaab begins memorial ceremony
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We were blessed with absolutely perfect weather
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Sandy delivered a very moving dedication to commemorate the men and ships of t he Greenland Patrol
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Sandy introduced Guest speakers 
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LCDR Byron Willeford,  XO of the International Ice Patrol
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CAPT. Bob Desh, Former CO of the International Ice Patrol
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The Public Affairs office of the CG Academy was video taping this event
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Public Affairs office photographer


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CGTA Member Ken Black called to present a lovely wreath accompanied by Capt. Bob Desh
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Salute presented in honor of the men of the Greenland Patrol


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Heads bowed in reverence as bugler (top of steps) plays Taps
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Close up of WW2 photo of the CGC Manitou


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      Coast Guard Academy Cadet, in CG Tartan, plays Amazing Grace on bagpipes        

Close up of Greenland Memorial (Click)

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