“Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more, and you should never wish to do less.”
– CDR Jeff Thomas, Commanding Officer CGC Spencer (WMEC 905)
On occasion, Coast Guard units receive letters from community members to say thank-you or to request a unit ballcap, photo, coffee mug or some other token from the unit. Earlier this spring, LCDR Michael Moyers, executive officer of CGC Spencer homeported in Boston, Mass., received one of these letters…
But this one was different.
The letter was from a Dr. McAnally requesting something to present to a member of the Loudon Tennessee Rotary Club, Carl Wattenbarger. You see, Seaman Carl Wattenbarger was a Coast Guardsmen who served on U.S.S. Spencer, C.G., during World War II from 1942 to 1945.
Despite the fact the U.S.S. Spencer is not the same ship as the current CGC Spencer, it is a part of the cutter’s legacy. The captain and crew knew it was an opportunity to honor a veteran and recognize a part of Coast Guard history.
The crew not only fulfilled the request but went above and beyond. They sent a Coast Guard Ensign flown from CGC Spencer‘s mast, a smaller flag that was flown from their small boat, a couple of World War II era pictures (reproductions), a unit tee-shirt and a ballcap. The most unusual and prized token was a polished 76mm shell casing from a recent gun shoot aboard Spencer engraved with, “Presented to Carl Wattenbarger from the crew of CGC Spencer.” CDR Jeff Thomas, Commanding Officer CGC Spencer, also included a hand written letter thanking Carl for his service.
“This kind of thing means a lot to me personally and the crew of Spencer. We always look for ways to honor the traditions and service of those who have gone before us,” said Moyers. “This is what it’s all about and one of the reasons I continue to do what I do.”
Wattenbarger, now 92 years old and living in Loundon, Tenn., was “deeply touched by the crew’s efforts” and sent the cutter a few stories and pictures from his service on the U.S.S. Spencer during the war.
“I was assigned the laundry duties, which suited me just fine,” he wrote about his assignment aboard the Spencer. “The laundry had a big sorting table, which I slept on. So, I had a private room with the biggest bed on the ship.”
Although laundry was his job, he served on other watch billets during the nine round trip voyages across the Atlantic during the war.
“When submarines attacked the convoys at night, we could see the ships exploding,” he wrote. “We would look for survivors… we picked up on ship survivor on three different times. He was one lucky guy.”
Carl also told the crew about one particular attack on a German submarine while he manned the five-inch cannon onboard. This battle victory made headlines and history. Read more here.
“When we found Carl, I knew we had to do something special,” added Moyers.