Prewar to Coast Guard

Segment stub for 70499

Arctic Circle Mission

Storis and Cactus

Life in Greenland

Closing Thoughts


Joseph Traina was born in Labadieville, Louisiana in June 1917. [Annotator's Note: The interviewer asks what he recalls of the Great Depression.] He went to school barefooted with two biscuits wrapped in newspaper for lunch. They had gardens and raised chickens. They did not have it all that bad. They were nearly self-sufficient. Before the war started, he was a warehouse man. In 1941, he figured he was going to be drafted. He was a ham radio [Annotator's Note: amateur radio, called ham radio, is a licensed service] operator, so he went to join the Coast Guard in September 1941. When Pearl Harbor broke out [Annotator's Note: the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 7 December 1941], the Navy took over. He had a lot of convoy duty escorting ships out of Boston [Annotator's Note: Boston, Massachusetts]. They would go to Greenland. They would have trouble with submarines. A lot of debris came up once after they dropped depth charges [Annotator's Note: explosive charge used for attacking submarines], but they do not know for sure if they got one. He was on the USCGC Comanche (WPG76) on that attack.


[Annotator's Note: Joseph Traina served in the US Coast Guard as a radioman aboard the USCGC Comanche (WPG76).] In early 1944, he and his shipmates would have died but got lucky. They were supposed to go the States and get 30 days leave [Annotator's Note: an authorized absence for a short period of time]. Their sister ship, the USCGC Escanaba (WPG-77), was sent instead. She was sunk with all hands [Annotator's Note: on 13 June 1943]. He knew one man in particular; he weighed over 300 pounds. Traina always wondered what would happen to him if he got thrown overboard. He still prays for those people. They went to relieve an Army base above the Arctic Circle that was frozen in. The Comanche was an icebreaker. They escorted three ships loaded with cargo. The base had nothing but airdrops for almost a year. They had not seen other people for that time and were happy to see them. They left there and went above the Arctic Circle to a strange island. Traina went with a landing crew and claimed it for the United States. They named it Comanche Bay. They returned to Greenland.


The USCGC Storis (WMEC-38) was a brand-new ship. Traina reported to it in Duluth, Minnesota. They sailed it to Boston [Annotator's Note: Boston, Massachusetts] where they got their guns. There was a movie star on his ship [Annotator's Note: US Coast Guard Chief Boatswain's Mate Victor John Mature; American actor]. The Captain said to treat him just like one of the crew. The man was dating Rita Hayworth [Annotator's Note: Margarita Carmen "Rita" Hayworth, born Margarita Carmen Cansino; American actress] at the time. Traina volunteered for landing craft school and left for that. He never made it to the school and wound up in a radio unit going to the Pacific. They went to California and then Coos Bay, Oregon. The war ended while he was there. The USCGC Cactus (WLB-270) was a buoy-tender that operated off of Woods Hole, Massachusetts. He was on her crew in early 1943. He had a good friend aboard the Cactus. He would take Traina to his home on weekends and he took him to see Plymouth Rock [Annotator's Note: traditional site of the landing of the Mayflower Pilgrims in Plymouth, Massachusetts]. They were both Italian. That was what hurt leaving one ship for another. He had to make all new friends. He was always transferred alone due to being a radioman. The Cactus was wonderful duty; good cooks.


Joseph Traina trained in Algiers on the Navy base [Annotator's Note: Naval Station Algiers in New Orleans, Louisiana]. When the war ended, he was sent to Washington for processing for discharge. He was discharged in Kansas City, Missouri. They offered a promotion for him to stay in, but he wanted to go home. In Greenland, they lived aboard ship. Greenland is a barren landscape of ice and mountains. A plane crashed there. They loaded 50 sled dogs to go and find the plane. They never heard if they found the plane. There was not much at the base itself. They had a USO [Annotator's Note: United Service Organizations, Inc.] show once. they traded with the Eskimos [Annotator's Note: period slang for indigenous people of Canada, Alaska, Greenland, and Siberia; now considered derogatory]. They did not live in ice houses. They had little, red houses. They traded cigarettes and chewing gum for necklaces and things they made. There was a weather ship at sea that needed repairs. His ship was put on weather patrol for a couple of months.


Joseph Traina met a girl in New York [Annotator's Note: New York, New York] and got married there. They moved to Louisiana. He went straight back to work. He started night school under the G.I. Bill, but he wound up quitting. The war did not really change him. He lost four years of his life but that is the way it goes. The war did a lot of good for America; we got rid of Hitler [Annotator's Note: German dictator Adolf Hitler] and brought Japan to its knees. The Japanese Admiral [Annotator's Note: Imperial Japanese Navy Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto; Commander-in-Chief, Combined Fleet] said they had awakened a sleeping giant. That was true because we clobbered them. The war changed the world to some extent and made things better for some of the people. [Annotator's Note: The interviewer asks what the significance is of having The National WWII Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana.] He thinks it is a good thing and revives the memories. There were a lot of bad times, but there were good times too. Good friends who stuck together. When he was discharged, he reverted from the Navy to the Coast Guard and then he was discharged again.

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