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Men, Wind and Sea
The Story of the Coast Guard

Riley Brown

The Author and the Work

Riley Shepard Brown was born on June 25, 1909 (in either Cordele or Shellman, GA depending on the source), and died June 22, 1992 (in either Moorestown or Cherry Hill, NJ). Obituaries in the Courier-Post and in the Philadelphia Inquirer can be read online: they tell us that by profession he was an advertising executive for N. W. Ayer & Son in Philadelphia, but had also been a professional minor-league baseball player and a writer of detective stories, and for the last couple of decades of his life he would write a column for the (New Jersey) Courier-Post. His two best‑known books, however, are Stringfellow of the Fourth (a biography of the Confederate spy Benjamin Stringfellow) and the work before you.

It should immediately be said that Men, Wind and Sea, written for a popular audience, is not a history of the United States Coast Guard: only the sketchiest elements of that service's history are presented in it, and those almost randomly. The reader might as well be forewarned also that the book is not as well written as it could have been: its main flaw is in straining for the vivid effect, and once or twice lapsing into fiction (unknowable for example: what Lt. Grantham did and felt while alone in the plane that crashed him to his death, p178).

That said, what Riley Brown has done really well is the thing that matters: he gives us a gritty, detailed feel for what the Coast Guard does; as an enlisted man in it — he would later serve overseas in that service during World War II, as a Radioman First Class — he was very well qualified to write such a book, and at his best (for example, the amazing courage and persistence of Surfman William Midgett in Chapter 2) he tells a gripping story.

Seventy years and more have passed since Men, Wind and Sea was written, and much has changed, especially the technical means available to the Coast Guard: airplanes, satellites, computers. The essentials have not, however, and of this continuum the book gives us a snapshot taken just before World War II.

To my shipmates, the officers and enlisted men of the Coast Guard — and to the memory of those men I knew; and who were killed in the line of duty; to the men without whose untiring devotion to duty, the stories recorded within would not have been possible, I dedicate this book.

Riley Brown


Foreword — By Rear Admiral Russell Randolph Waesche, Commandant of the Coast Guard


From the Revenue Marine to the Coast Guard
The origin of the cargo — Seven years older than the Navy — The story of the old cutter Eagle in its fight with the British brig Dispatch — The Coast Guard in the Mexican War of 1845 — The Hudson and its sister ship in the battle of Cardenas Bay in the Spanish American War.


Iron Men, Wooden Ships
The work of the Coast Guard in the hurricane of 1899 — The Aaron Reppard and the Abiel Abbott — Heroic feats of Coast Guardsmen in taking off survivors — The heroism of surfman Midgett in riding his horse through the surf to the grounded Priscilla — His single-handed rescue of ten survivors against terrific odds.


The Coast Guard in the World War
The sinking of the Cutter Tampa — the Seneca rescues the crew of the British collier Cowslip — Heroism of Lt. F. W. Brown and his crew in taking over the sinking British collier Wellington, a job refused by British crew — Heroism of Coast Guardsmen who  p. x took a train of TNT through fire and explosions to safety — Heroism of Coast Guardsmen who took unarmed surf boat out to rescue survivors of a torpedoed ship, with the submarine in the vicinity — Rescue of crew of torpedoed Mirlo from a sea covered with burning oil — Seamanship of the Coast Guard in rescuing the men of a squadron struck by a hurricane in mid-ocean.


The "Morro Castle" Disaster
The burning of the Morro Castle — The work of the surf stations in rescuing survivors — Towing of the burning ship by the Cutter Tampa — The horrors of a fire at sea.


Amazing feat of the Cutter Pontchartrain in locating and towing in the disabled yacht Uvira against adverse weather conditions — Coast Guard rescue of survivors of the Tzenny Chandris, who had been in the water for 24 hours, surrounded by sharks.


The Sea is a Killer
Miraculous job of floating of the stranded Norwegian motor ship Childar in a heavy southern gale — Hazards of the 200 mile tow to port — The Cutter Mendota rescues survivors of the Purnell T. White under conditions of snow, sleet and fog.


Death Goes to Sea
Cold blooded murder of two Coast Guardsmen and one Secret Service Agent by the  p. xi lone wolf of the sea, Alderman — Heroic self-sacrifice of Coast Guardsmen killed rushing him — His capture by the survivors — The only execution in the history of the Coast Guard — The Sinking of the British schooner I'm Alone and subsequent diplomatic tension — Capturing law-breakers, a difficult job for the Coast Guardsmen, and one never fully appreciated.


Wings and Men
Medical aid to the Trawler White Cap by the cargo plane from Salem air station — Heroic self-sacrifice of Lt. Grantham in saving three men under him at the loss of his own life — Establishment of Coast Guard air bases, beginning in 1920 — Description of the present work of Coast Guard air service.


Guardians of the Sea Lanes
The work of the Coast Guard in the North Atlantic on the International Ice Patrol — The sinking of the liner Titanic in 1912 — Terrifying ice fields, and the origin of icebergs — New duties of the Ice Patrol.


Dots and Dashes
An SOS breaks in a Coast Guard radio station — The communication system swings into action — The inner workings of the most efficient radio communication system of the world — The wreck of the Akron, Navy dirigible — remarkable radio work in the case of the damaged Coast Guard Destroyer Herndon — Heroic Coast Guard radio and rescue work in the wreck of the Robert E. Lee.


 p. xii  Floods and Hurricanes
The invaluable work of the Coast Guard in the great flood of 1936, and the New England hurricane of 1938 — Many cases of individual heroism — How the Coast Guard swings into action when disaster strikes.


The Coast Guard and the Future
The Coast Guard expands — The training of United States maritime personnel — The absorption of the United States Lighthouse Service — The combining of the two oldest government agencies in operation into one.



The Coast Guard as It Was — 1898


Modern Coast Guard Speed Boat and Amphibian on a Rescue


The Cruising Cutter Pontchartrain — Built 1928


165‑Foot Patrol Boat — Built 1933


Coast Guard Plane Dropping Hurricane Warnings


Coast Guard Plane Rescuing Crew from Burning Boat


Coast Guard Cutter Tahoe Passing Icebergs


Iceberg from the Cutter Tahoe


Cruising Cutter — Built 1937


Same Type of Boat Looking Aft


Seriously Burned Man Transferred from Lifeboat to Coast Guard Plane


Injured Man Aboard Coast Guard Plane


Motor Lifeboat After Search on Great Lakes


Coast Guard Boat Landing Flood Refugees


Ice Patrol Vessel Passing Between Icebergs


Technical Details

Edition Used

The edition followed in this transcription was that of my own hard copy, Carlyle House, New York, 1939. The 1939 copyright was not renewed in 1966 or 1967 as then required by law in order to be maintained. The work is thus in the public domain; details here on the copyright law involved.

For citation and indexing purposes, the pagination is shown in the right margin of the text at the page turns (like at the end of this line); p57  these are also local anchors. Sticklers for total accuracy will of course find the anchor at its exact place in the sourcecode.

In addition, I've inserted a number of other local anchors: whatever links might be required to accommodate the authors' own cross-references, as well as a few others for my own purposes. If in turn you have a website and would like to target a link to some specific passage of the text, please let me know: I'll be glad to insert a local anchor there as well.


As almost always, I retyped the text by hand rather than scanning it — not only to minimize errors prior to proofreading, but as an opportunity for me to become intimately familiar with the work, an exercise which I heartily recommend: Qui scribit, bis legit. (Well-meaning attempts to get me to scan text, if success­ful, would merely turn me into some kind of machine: gambit declined.)

My transcription has been minutely proofread. In the table of contents above, the sections are shown on blue backgrounds, indicating that I believe the text of them to be completely errorfree. As elsewhere onsite, the header bar at the top of each chapter's webpage will remind you with the same color scheme.

The printed book was very well proofread; a few very minor typographical errors are marked with a dotted underscore like this: as elsewhere on my site, glide your cursor over the bullet or the underscored words to read the variant. Similarly, bullets before measurements provide conversions to metric, e.g., 10 miles.

A number of odd spellings, curious turns of phrase, etc. have been marked <!‑‑ sic  in the sourcecode, just to confirm that they were checked.

Any other mistakes, please drop me a line, of course: especially if you have a copy of the printed book in front of you.

[image ALT: A large boat at sea between two icebergs three times taller than it. It is a photograph of a Coast Guard cutter on the International Ice Patrol and serves as the icon on this site for the book 'Men, Wind and Sea'.]

The icon I use to indicate this subsite is my colorization of the striking photograph on p97, which captures part of the Coast Guard's mission — man against the overpowering forces of Nature, its wind and seas. The colors are those of the Coast Guard emblem, of course.

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Site updated: 6 Nov 13