Spirit of Coast Guard mascot lives on

by Petty Officer 1st Class NyxoLyno Cangemi

The nation was at the brink of war when a 10-year-old Portuguese native stumbled aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Campbell and was immediately enlisted in the seagoing service. While he never had to go to boot camp or obtain U.S. citizenship, he served aboard the Campbell during WWII and was later assigned to Coast Guard Station Barnegat Light, N.J., due to medical conditions. Serving faithfully for 14 years until his death at age 70, Sinbad made it through the Coast Guard ranks to become the first chief petty officer in the service to serve during WWII and to drink from the toilet.

A mixed breed of both legend and fable, Sinbad became an icon throughout the nation when the Coast Guard crew took the stray dog into their lives and adopted him as their own.

His lovable way had an effect on many aboard the ship, who often found relief in knowing Sinbad was there with them during the war. At a time when the nation needed him most, Sinbad the dog offered himself to the service. Though he passed away in 1951, Sinbad’s legacy has spanned generations of service members, and each year his memory is revived as “old guard” and “new guard” come together and reunite to pay tribute to their fallen mascot.

The Campbell Association was formed about 23 years ago in order to reunite former crewmembers of the Campbell. In addition to yearly reunions, association members make a pilgrimage to Station Barnegat Light to visit Sinbad’s grave site.More than 55 years after his death, former crewmembers from the Campbell gather at Sinbad’s final resting place at the Coast Guard station to pay their respects and to reflect on the moments they shard together. This year’s meeting took place Nov. 3 on the heels of Hurricane Noel. Despite cold weather, heavy seas and strong winds, more than 15 members of the Campbell Association gathered together at the station.

Gordon L. Bell, a former Coast Guard captain who served aboard the Campbell, was one of the association’s members who visited the station to pay their respects.

“He was really a companion,” Bell said of Chief Sinbad. “The sailors onboard felt safe when they had that dog. They didn’t want to let that dog off the ship. They felt as long as the dog was there, they were safe.”

As Sinbad’s last duty station, Station Barnegat Light houses a collection of memorabilia, which commemorates Sinbad’s time in service. In preparing for this year’s association gathering, current crewmembers at the station set up a table displaying several artifacts from Sinbad’s career, including the canine’s medical records and transfer papers.

A rare opportunity for everyone assigned to the station, the station’s commanding officer, Chief Warrant Officer Kary Moss, seized the opportunity as a learning experience on the Coast Guard’s history for his crew.

Speaking about the Campbell crew, Moss said, “The sacrifices they’ve made, have made our lives better and easier today, and without their sacrifices, we wouldn’t have the privileges we have today.”

Moss said the gathering allowed his crew to learn more about their service’s rich history – including the foundation of the Life Saving Service, which eventually became part of the modern-day Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard has had numerous mascots throughout the service’s history, but none has garnered quite as much attention and fame as Sinbad. Just as sailors felt safe knowing Sinbad was around, the beloved mascot’s memory remains alive in the hearts of those he served with.

“It’s always good today to have a symbol of the past,” Bell said. “If you can grab onto something like that, I think it gives you good camaraderie among your shipmates.”

With the power to reunite people more than 55 years after his death, Sinbad was more than just a mascot who provided a sense of safety and security during a time of war – he is the embodiment of the human (and canine) spirit, an icon whose legend has touched generations of service members and whose spirit lies within the men and women of the Coast Guard today.

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