Aerographer's Mate 3rd Class
Service Branch: United States Coast Guard
Combat Action: WWII - North Atlantic
Home Town: Phillips
Military Specialty: Weather Observer
Unit: USS Woonsocket
Decorations, Citations, and Awards: - National Defense Service Ribbon, Honorable Service Emblem, Coast Guard Good Conduct Medal
The North Atlantic can be most inhospitable. Rough seas with fierce gales, driving rainstorms, massive ice bergs, and treacherous swells threaten commercial shipping and military vessels, alike. The Woonsocket’s mission was to patrol their sector and alert any commercial or Allied military vessels entering it to such threats or any others that might surface. In the last months of World War II, it was AG3 Don Schuster’s job to record and report sector weather conditions and ensure that Woonsocket broadcast the most accurate, up-to-date navigational data.
Typically, time on station lasted about 30 days. Then, they would return to the Boston Navy Yard for refueling, re-provisioning, and any necessary repairs. Recording weather observations isn’t all that difficult or dangerous… in good weather. Bad weather can be dangerous anywhere, but at sea, it can be particularly deadly. Imagine being a storm chaser…on a boat…in the middle of the ocean. In order to get precise observations – temperature, pressure, humidity, precipitation types & amounts, visibility, wind speed & direction – the Woonsocket not only chased storms but also sailed into them. Gathering data required that Don to go out on deck, in the storm.
During one voyage, the seas were so heavy that just staying on station and upright required expending the bulk of the Woonsocket’s fuel supply. Without enough fuel to make it to Boston, the ship was forced to put in at Reykjavík, Iceland and refuel. It seems that “…any port in a storm…” is more than just a figure of speech. Don didn’t come under hostile fire as did those who survived combat, but surviving the eye of a hostile North Atlantic storm was extremely hazardous duty, all the same.
Semper paratus, Don.