CGC Spencer reconnects with history

“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)

CGC Spencer

CGC Spencer

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.

U.S.S. Spencer, C.G.

U.S.S. Spencer, C.G.

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.

Carl Wattenbarger with gifts

Carl Wattenbarger is shown proudly displaying items sent by the USCGC Spencer. Photo courtesy of Mr. McAnally.

“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.

Laundry room

Carl Wattenbarger working in the laundry room aboard U.S.S. Spencer, C.G., during the war. Photo courtesy of Mr. McAnally.

“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.



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13 Responses

  1. BMCS Jack Crowley USCG Retired says:

    Great Story, the ships response was outstanding.

  2. Beatriz M. Pena says:

    Great Story,

    My son is currently on USS Spencer and couldn’t be prouder of the job they all do. This was a really nice thing to do for a veteran of the USCG. I’m sure he really feels honored with the presents he received from this ship.

    Keep up with the good work,
    Coastie Mom

  3. Doug Douglass says:

    Wonderful story. Carl I served on your Spencer TAD on Ocean Station Echo as a Photograper’s Mate in 1965. I do know where the laundry was, in the stern under,(in WWII), the depth charge racks. Carl since I to live in Loudon I will look you up this week.

    Doug Douglass PH2 64/68

  4. Jeff Stanek, GMC, Ret says:

    As a Plank Owner of USCGC Spencer (WMEC-905) I’m glad that you are “Carrying on a Proud Tradition.” Outstanding!! BZ

  5. Ray Philyaw, CWO(BOSN), Ret says:

    Well done shipmates! Love hearing stories from the sub-hunters.

  6. ME1 Duane Buckner says:

    Hats off to the crew of the Spencer for rendering honors. I’m sure that it meant a great deal to Mr. Wattenbarger to hear from this generation’s Coast Guard.

    As an aside- this article also lists my favorite quote, originally attributed to Col. Robert E. Lee

  7. Paul Wisniewski, LT, Ret says:

    I enjoyed being a part of the SPENCER crew and glad to see our Coast Guard respecting it’s proud history! Hello Ray!

  8. DC1 Phillip Reaves says:

    Great job to the crew of CGC SPENCER they responded to Carl as if he were still serving beside them today. We need not forget the rich history of this great service and the men and women who built it.

    B/Z and Simper P!

  9. Andrew Bolton says:

    My grandfather was on board a British freighter crossing the Atlantic when it was sunk by a German U-boat in March, 1943. The survivors (including grandfather) were picked up by the USCGC Spencer and taken to Londonderry, N.Ireland. So it seems perfectly possible that Mr Wattenbarger was on the Spencer at the time it rescued my grandad!

    Best wishes and thanks to all,
    Andrew Bolton (London,UK)

  10. Doug Douglass says:

    Well I printed this article and left it at Carl’s house, (he wasen’t home). He has since call and invited me over to talk which I did accept.

  11. Liz Hobson says:

    Hi Carl,
    Very interested and proud to hear about your time spent on the Spencer. My husband’s grandfather was on the USS Spencer. Any chance you remember the name Hobson?

  12. Doug Douglass says:

    Carl is in an nursing home now here in Loudon TN. At times he remembers the Coast Guard and his ship the Spencer. He still proudly wears his Spencer cap. 93 years young.

  13. Kimble Wattenbarger says:

    Carl Wattenbarger, my uncle, died a few days ago in Loudon, Tenn. He was buried today, July 18, 2011.