Scarborough, VADM, USCG Robert ‘44
Bob sent photocopies of his continuous discharge book showing his merchant marine career. Bob took his Basic Training out of Pass Christian and in fact never spent any time at Kings Point while a cadet. When he had sufficient time to sit for his 3rd Mate license, he was sent back to Pass Christian as a Special for license prep school; he immediately shipped out in May 1944 as third mate on the T-2 SS Catawba Ford.
He said he spent much of his time at Kings Point later in life as a Parade Reviewing Officer. Many years later he was given a degree from Kings Point but in the early days the decision to give Specials a degree was mixed; during his time he was denied a degree while before and after that timeframe degrees were given. Nevertheless Bob always felt he was a Kings Pointer.
Bob had many stories to tell about his sailing days in the Merchant Marine, the Navy and the Coast Guard where in 1982 he signaled finished with engines after serving as Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard. We are limiting his tales to some from his Cadet days.
His first cadet trip was for 4 months on the new Liberty SS Black Hawk to South African ports. While there was considerable evidence of submarine activity, his ship was not torpedoed. His ship was held in Capetown for an extended period of time where he had the opportunity to attend several sponsored parties even one attended by Prime Minister Smuts. There were four Cadets on the ship and upon return to USA two of the cadets claimed it was not a good ship for cadets; Bob was not of that opinion but all four were assigned different ships.
Bob and his shipmate from the Black Hawk, Donald Eberly (who had been a Navy Petty Officer when appointed a cadet), were assigned to what the assignment people thought was the Army transport Seminole formerly a passenger ship operated by Clyde-Mallory Lines. However when Bob arrived at Brooklyn Arm terminal on a Saturday afternoon he observed that the ship was painted white with red crosses. It was the newly converted hospital ship USAHS Seminole. When he reported on board Bob told the mate on watch that he thought it could be a violation of the Geneva Convention for him, in training to be a Navy line officer, to serve on a hospital ship. The mate said they were not scheduled to sail until Tuesday and assigned a stateroom. That night he witnessed a long steam of medical doctors embarking followed by a large number of young nurses (somehow he remembers that the oldest nurse, the supervisor was 25). He had a few drinks ashore with some of them and returned on board for the night. At 0600 the next morning he was awaked by banging on the stateroom door and was told that the Chief Mate wanted him to go forward to help with “shifting berths”. To his amazement the ship steamed out of the harbor bound for the Mediterranean North Africa. They were ordered to follow up on the aftermath of Allied Forces invasion of Italy; starting with the first three landings in Sicily. They shuttled back and forth every three days across the Med from Italy to Tunisia on the North African Coast. German Messerschmitt aircraft honored the white ship with its Hospital ship marking in daylight or when lighted; only once was there a strafing from one plane when they were blacked out that caused no injury; but Bob examined carefully the bullet holes near his upper deck room. He calls that trip the “Agony and the Ecstasy” tour. The agony was the terrible task of hauling severely wounded and dead bodies on board and the burials at sea. The ecstasy was the off watch company of many beautiful young nurses. They returned to New York in September 1943 and Cadet Everly reported to the Academy but resigned shortly thereafter hoping to resume his affair with a nurse with whom he had fallen in love (a shipboard romance that was not to last a lifetime and Eberly then resumed military service in a Petty Officer capacity).
Bob, then assigned in the status of a “special”, shipped out for three more trips as a cadet (about 4 months) on the MS Brandywine. He then had enough time to sit for his license and within 4 months, the new third mate shipped out on the Cataba Ford and later on the Four Lakes, Beecher Island, Antietam, Opequon and Saguaro, these last two ships of the war years Bob served as Chief Mate. He then had the one year necessary to sit for and pass his Unlimited Master’s license exam.
On that last trip, on the way home from the Pacific after Japan surrendered, his ship provided transportation for 10-12 Marines who were granted emergency leave for family reasons. Many had been in the combat zones for years; when they got to Panama and were given brief shore leave some became roaring drunk. The Shore Patrol picked them up and brought them to the ship telling Scarborough that they would be locked up in the local brig. Bob was Chief Mate and vouched for them and asked that they be taken on board. The men were out of control so they were hand cuffed to parts of the ship and had to be water hosed to settle them down. One Marine was free and crawling around the deck with a hunting knife in his mouth. Bob called the Cadet Calvin Major and other crew members to help subdue him; he was handcuffed to a rail for the night and was fine the next day. Bob believes that when any of those Marines remember that event they must be thanking him.