More News of Sinbad, Coast Guard Mascot
Last week one of the featured dogs in our series was Sinbad, a mascot for the Coast Guard during the late 1930s-40s. Because of the article about Sinbad, I heard from Mike Walling, who has researched and written a great deal about the Coast Guard and the Navy has collected stories from veterans from World War II, Korea, Viet Nam and Iraq. (I’ll be writing about one of his first books, Bloodstained Sea: The U.S. Coast Guard in the Battle of the Atlantic 1941-1944.)
He has published a book about Sinbad so he had additional information to share. (Visit Mike’s site for more information about the book about Sinbad as well as other books relating to the American military.)
In his research, Mike had come upon two letters that appeared in the USS Campbell Newsletter, October 11, 1943, and he was kind enough to send them on to me. He shares: “Lieutenant Commander R. S. Lecky, Campbell’s executive officer, wrote the original seven-page letter in longhand. To the best of my knowledge, it is the only surviving letter that Sinbad received along with a copy of his reply that survived World War II.”
I created America Comes Alive as a way to tell stories about America’s past, and these letters—written one dog to another—are so touching. They provide a poignant view of Americans of the past.
Aug. 18, 1943
c/o Postmaster, New York.
We read about you and saw your picture in a magazine. Mom said to me, “Mr. Boots, he’s just like you. He must be your twin. We must send him your picture.” So Mom took my picture and here it is.
Say, boy, you really must rate on that ship, since you are the only man on board whom the captain cites and calls by name. But, boy, does it burn me up. You see, our Bud went off on his ship right after Pearl Harbor and I begged so hard to go, but he just patted my head and said, “You can’t go, Mr. Boots. You stay here and take care of Mom. I must settle.”
Then he said, “Besides, there’s no room on a battleship for a little fellow like you.” No room on Battleship X for me! Say, boy, your ship must be much bigger than a battleship, for they took you on and you are five pounds bigger’n me.
Mom says I’m bench-legged. What’s bench-legged? I’m black and tan and white with dark brown eyes, and Mom says I’m barrel chested just like you. What’s barrel chested, Sinbad? Mom says she loved your story and suspects you’re a reprobate, a rounder and a seasoned old salt, pickled in alcohol. Are you? And she says, “”But, Mr. Boots, you’re a refined little gent’man, a landlubber, and your morals are above Sinbad’s. What’s morals?
What I’m writing is a military secret between you and me. I cross my heart and swear I’ll never tell if you do what I ask. You see, Morn, and I want to know something about Bud. When you are sailing the seas in your big ship, keep a sharp lookout for Battleship X, because Bud is gunnery officer on her. You will recognize him because nobody else on earth looks like Bud or smiles like him. He will smile at you, for he smiles at all little dogs, and you will know it’s Bud.
They call him “Corky” in the Navy, so keep your ears cocked, and if you should see him, will you, Sinbad, let me know? I will die a martyr before I tell our secret.
Your twin in the service,
Sinbad Writes to Mr. Boots
At sea (to you)
At home (to me)
Oct. 11, 1943.
Dear Mr. Boots–Say, that was such a nice letter you wrote to me and I do appreciate your kindness and thoughtfulness. It is a pleasure to know you for your life story is interesting to me just as mine has been made interesting to other people. Secretly, though, Mr. Boots, I’m just a plain ole dog who has more honest-to-goodness real friends than anyone I ever heard of, and to me that’s what really counts…
You’re real lucky to have Mom and Bud. You see, I don’t know where I came from except that I’m told I was just a puppy when I came to this ship six years ago. …Now, sailors are the hardest working, most patriotic and fun loving men in the world. We get on the beach and due to the strong salt air we have inhaled constantly for weeks on end; naturally we want something to quench our thirst. A few beers are tasty and I, like my buddies, enjoy them immensely.
Concerning my morals, I would say they are good, Mr. Boots, because I have a slant on life that is probably a little different from your viewpoint. My life, as I see it, is for a group of hard fighting, hard working men doing everything in their power to the extent of sacrificing their lives to bring peace and unity to this world. My work is to keep up their spirits, to keep smiles on their faces, their hearts light and carefree. It’s a big job to work for more than 200 men–real American men.
If I should ever run into Bud Ward, I’ll surely tell him I’m your friend. I’ll bet he’ll pat me and hug me around the neck, but I know what he’ll be thinking. He’ll be hugging me because he misses you so much. That, Mr. Boots, is another one my jobs. The boys out here have left their best friends behind, just like Mr. Bud did, so I try to squeeze into a little corner of the empty space in their hearts. Most people say I’m an enlisted man’s dog. I consider the officers my good friends too, but they don’t take as much time to play with me and I feel much more carefree with the men and I never make a mess where it caused any trouble. So you can see that I am surrounded by enlisted men practically all the time.
During action, of which we have had aplenty, the terrific noise of the guns and explosives bothers me quite a bit. Not that I’m scared, because I know that my buddies have trained their hearts out and will take care of our ship. But I’m afraid sometimes, just worried sick over what might happen to some of them. I usually get in one of the boy’s bunk and place my paws over my ears to help protect them from the noise. After everything quiets down, I come up on the topsides prancing and barking to bring my buddies’ feelings back to normal quickly.
I can’t bark worth a darn, Mr. Boots, can you? I suppose it must be the sea life I’ve led. I have been in a number of countries and have coins from every one of them on my collar. I am sending you some for your collar. I have been north of the Arctic Circle and the certificate proving the fact hangs in our Mess Deck. I am an honorary member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, with papers duly signed and sealed at an Army camp on the fighting front. See how swell people have treated me? That’s why I do all I can for them.
In closing, I’ll let you in on a secret just between you and me and my buddies on the ship because I don’t want it spread around. You know how the boys like to nickname each other? Well, instead of calling me Sinbad all the time they sometimes call me “Stinky” but I just ignore them and pass it off with a shrug!
It has been fun talking to you and Mom, Mr. Boots. Keep your chin up and do all you can to take care of Mom until that happy day when Mr. Bud will come smiling home. In the meantime I must do my daily work so until we meet when you share my bone, if you care to…
Best of luck,
Dog 1/C USCG
[NOTE: Sinbad’s letter was signed by his own footprint and it was mailed to “Boots” Ward – Sinbad’s twin.]