Wednesday, December 5, 2007


Like many veterans after the war, William never spoke much of his experiences in the Coast Guard. Even letters from home at the time were constantly imploring him to write more often and to tell the family how things were with him and what it was he was undergoing. Both the letters (at least the ones that survive) and they few stories that he would tell later on were largely concerning the less gruesome, even pleasant aspects of being in the service. As a result, his children would never have a firm grasp of what took place during those war years in the life of their Father. Histories of the ship, well documented pictures (thanks to his sister “O”), numerous letters back and forth, and newspaper clippings help piece the story together during the upcoming years, but these early years still remain murky.

Here is page one of his original application for enlistment. It is dated 22 July 1942, though by his own recollection, William lists the day he actually joined the Coast Guard Reserves as 10 September 1942, not too far from his 22nd birthday.

Orders came soon after this application was accepted. The following letter is perhaps the least well preserved of everything that was saved over the years. It is well worn and ripped at its folds as if it were kept in a wallet for some time. The letter is reproduced in part below this scanned copy for easier reading. It is hard to imagine what the young man was thinking as he began reading this letter from the Coast Guard soon after enlisting, aware of war breaking out all over the world.


From: COPT, Cleveland, (Sandusky, OHIO)
To: Valencheck, William
Subject: Orders; armed guard detail aboard Steamer Ball Brothers.

1. Upon receipt hereof, proceed immediately to the Steamer Ball Brothers and report to the master for armed guard duty aboard that vessel.

2. You will be quartered and subsisted at Government expense and you will remain aboard the vessel until properly relieved. Liberty will be of secondary importance and may be granted by the master at his discretion for a period not to exceed four (4) hours while the vessel is in port.

3. You will be governed by the regulations contained in the reference (c) and you are directed to learn, understand, and fully execute your duties as set forth therein. You will be furnished a copy of references (c) unless a copy is already in the possession of the master. In the latter case, the master will make his copy available to you for your information, study, and guidance.

4. You will be furnished suitable small arms unless Coast Guard firearms are already in the custody of the master. In the latter case, such arms will be made available to you when required for the proper execution of your duties. You are directed to handle, use, and store such arms in full compliance with the safety precautions set out in reference (c).

5. Travel under this order will be performed by Government conveyance. No mileage expense is indicated and none is authorized.


Randolph H. Thompson
By Direction

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