In 1938, the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Campbell adopted a mixed-breed puppy. Little did they know that their canine companion would become a world famous Coast Guard veteran. He was, literally, a member of the crew, complete with all the necessary enlistment forms and other official paperwork, uniforms, and his own bunk. He sailed on board the combat-tested cutter through World War II and saw plenty action, both at sea and in port. As Life Magazine reported: “An Old Sea Dog Has Favorite Bars and Plenty of Girls in Every Port.” Until recently he had the honor and distinction of being the only Coast Guardsman to be the subject of a biography! It was Sinbad of the Coast Guard, written by Chief Specialist George R. Foley, USCGR and published by Dodd, Mead and Company of New York during the war. The book made him an international celebrity.
Although he served honorably, he did run into a bit of trouble on occasion, as any sailor might during a long career at sea. He caused an international incident in Greenland, another in Casablanca, and was busted in rank a few times for minor infractions. As another author noted:
“Sinbad is a salty sailor but he’s not a good sailor. He’ll never rate gold hashmarks nor Good Conduct Medals. He’s been on report several times and he’s raised hell in a number of ports. On a few occasions, he has embarrassed the United States Government by creating disturbances in foreign zones. Perhaps that’s why Coast Guardsmen love Sinbad, he’s as bad as the worst and as good as the best of us.”
Regardless of the fact that he liked to blow off a little steam while on liberty, he was a brave and capable sailor when he was on duty. He earned the respect and affection of his shipmates during one famous battle when the Campbell fought it out with the Nazi submarine U-606. The cutter was severely damaged during the fight and the commanding officer ordered all but essential personnel off the ship. They transferred to a nearby destroyer but a tough and hardy few stayed on board the Campbell while the cutter was towed to safety, patching her hull and ensuring that she stayed afloat during the voyage. Among that few was Sinbad.
He served faithfully on board Campbell for eleven years, garnering more sea time than most of his contemporaries, before finally retiring to the Barnegat Light Station. He passed away 30 December 1951 and was laid to rest beneath the station’s flagstaff.
Story and photos courtesy of the Coast Guard Historians office.