Rear Admiral Richard J. Knapp's, USCG (Ret.) Oral History
U.S. COAST GUARD ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM
Date of Interview: June 2 and 3, 1987
Chronology of Rear Admiral Richard J. Knapp's Coast Guard Career
Appointed as a cadet, U.S. Coast Guard Academy
Graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy , Ensign
Sea duty, USCGC Escanaba; USCGC Gresham
Promoted to Lieutenant (junior grade)
Commanding Officer, Ship Training Detachment No. 5
Promoted to Lieutenant
Operations Officer, USCGC Spencer
Hull Inspector, USCG Merchant Marine Inspection Office, New York City
Commanding Officer, USCGC Yeaton
Graduated from George Washington University , MBA
Staff Assistant to the Comptroller, Coast Guard Headquarters
Promoted to Lieutenant Commander
Chief Staff Officer, Coast Guard Squadron One, Republic of South Vietnam; Commanding Officer, Division 12, Da Nang; Commander, Task Group 115.3
Promoted to Commander
Commanding Officer, USCGC Acushnet
Chief, Coast Analyst Branch, Budget Division, Coast Guard Headquarters
Commanding Officer, USCGC Southwind
Promoted to Captain
Commanding Officer, USCGC Edisto
Chief, Ocean Operations Division, Coast Guard Headquarters
Deputy Chief, Office of Personnel, Coast Guard Headquarters
Promoted to Rear Admiral
Comptroller of the Coast Guard, Coast Guard Headquarters
Commander, Seventeenth Coast Guard District
Retired from active duty
Medals & Awards
Legion of Merit (with Combat Distinguishing Device)
Meritorious Service Medal (2)
Coast Guard Commendation Medal
Navy Unit Commendation
Coast Guard Unit Commendation
This is interview one of an oral history of Rear Admiral Richard J. Knapp, U.S. Coast Guard, Retired. Ms. Seamond Roberts transcribed the taped interview for the U.S. Coast Guard Historian's Office and we are grateful for her efforts.
June 2, 1987
NARRATOR: Admiral, would you state your full name.
KNAPP: I am Richard J. Knapp, Rear Admiral, Retired, U.S. Coast Guard.
NARRATOR: Thank you. Could you tell me a little about your early education up through high school?
KNAPP: Well, I was born [14 February 1929] and raised in Passaic, New Jersey, and generally speaking from the time I could understand such things I had wanted to go to one of the military academies and learned upon graduation at Passaic High School I looked into the possibility of getting an appointment to the Naval Academy and they were all political appointments and at that point in time, I didn’t have the political pull to get an appointment, and I took the exams for the Coast Guard Academy and passed and was offered an appointment, and about that same time, along came my congressman with an appointment to West Point for the year later, which would have been that I would have graduated from West Point in 1952, instead of from the Coast Guard Academy in 1951, which I did, and I guess the primary reason I chose the Coast Guard was because basically I was marine oriented, and beyond that, I felt that World War II had finished and there would be no more wars and I didn’t relish the thought of spending my life on a peacetime Army post and that I felt that the Coast Guard offered excitement in terms that I was looking for in peacetime, so I picked the Coast Guard Academy and entered in ’47 and graduated in ’51.
NARRATOR: What would you say accounted for your early interest in going to an academy?
KNAPP: Oh, I don’t know. I guess I kind of liked the kind of work we did and I liked to some extent the organization that went with a service career, the somewhat structure that went with it and the prospect also of, quite frankly, getting a good education at the government expense and then having certainly have to serve your obligated time, but with the option to, you know if you really didn’t like it – and I did think that would be the case – and it wasn’t at it turned out – of getting out after your obligated time was served with a good education. But, my primary reason was not to get the education; the primary reason was to go and have a career in the service and the academy I would have graduated from. But, once again, recognizing that if it was truly not what I had thought it was, obviously having the option of getting out with a good education.
NARRATOR: What was your inspiration? Was there family in the military, or did the motion pictures or literature of the day get you interested? What hooked you?
KNAPP: Well, you know. The family, aside from the fact that my father had been in World War I in the Army, and an uncle in World War II, and a couple of uncles in World War II – I can’t put my finger on just exactly what it was, you know, whether it was the movies or books or whatever, but somehow I can’t put my finger on exactly what it was, but it was there. Well, you know, the uniform was I guess – as a kid growing up in New Jersey , my parents would take me up to West Point and we would watch the parades and walk around the military academy, and I guess, you know, I guess the shipping over music got to me from early on. So, that could be – that could be a factor.
NARRATOR: Did you attend a public high school and whether it was public or private, was there any kind of specific emphasis you had in your pre-college education?
KNAPP: No. Yes, it was a public high school that I attended and it was the Passaic High School and it was the only public high school was meant in a town which was a town of roughly 65,000, the classes were fairly large. No, I along with my folks had determined early on that I was going to go to one kind of college or another, so I was taking all college prep courses with a strong emphasis on the engineering prep, you know, including chemistry, physics, math and so I was well prepared for whatever came up in terms of service academy or any other type of school I might have gotten to.
NARRATOR: What memories come to mind when you think about the academy?
KNAPP: Well, I guess, the first one having gotten the appointment and having read and seen the kinds of discipline and things that would go on in the fourth class or plebe year, I guess my biggest concern was getting there on time. And, yes, I left my parents, jumped on a bus, went to New York, got on a train up to New London and pity the poor conductor, because I kept asking, "Make sure – I’ve GOT to get off at New London," and my big concern was that I was going to miss that New London stop and if I got there late, I would lose my appointment. So, that’s probably the first thing, and then arriving at the academy and not having a real good idea of how they were phasing people in, but everything was basically organized chaos, and I found out later, that was, you know, that was by design. But, for a newcomer, coming into this, it was interesting. We were greeted there by the second class cadets who were responsible for our indoctrination and during swab summer and I can remember that first day seemed almost interminable, but I will never forget it.
NARRATOR: Did the academy prepare you well for your first assignment?
KNAPP: Yes, I think it did - if not in the details of some of the jobs that you would get as a junior officer, certainly with the attitude and the determination to take on just about any job. Now, on the standpoint, depending on how you look it, but from my point of view, I was lucky, because when I graduated, we did not have a lot of officers out there on the ships, and my first assignment was the Escanaba, which was a 255-foot weather ship out of Alameda, California, and so, we were lucky in that because there weren’t a lot of officers, you got a lot of jobs aboard ships, so a lot of responsibility immediately. And, so, if you picked up a department which would be, as in my case was the gunnery department, I would say that we were very, very well prepared at the academy with the gunnery courses that we were taught. Or, if I had taken on the communications department, I would have been equally well prepared from a standpoint of the education at the academy. But, we also picked other collateral duties that went along with the main departmental duties, such as it was in my case the Exchange Officer. Well, obviously, we didn’t do a lot of Exchange work at the academy, but you certainly learned how to add and subtract and logical approaches to things and an organized approach, so it was workable. So, you know are, there are people who say, "Well, we’ve got to tailor our education at the academy to more nearly reflect the duties that go on, on board ship," and there you bump into – at least in my opinion – a philosophical question of whether you are sending folks to the academy as a college, or you are sending them to the academy as a trade school, and if you are sending them to the academy as a trade school, then you would more clearly point toward those actual duties that you do on board ship. If you are going to treat the academy as a college – college level – then, you are in the business of developing the character, the attitude, and the fundamental knowledge to handle anything that does come up on board ship, and I favor that approach.
NARRATOR: Do you feel like your education prepared you – well, you mentioned it – prepared you well for your first assignment? Do you think it did a good job of preparing you for the rest of your career?
KNAPP: I’d like to think so. Yes. I’d like to think so. You might get differing opinions from various people whether they be contemporaries or peripheral people who I have worked for, but I’d like to think that the answer for that would be "yes."
NARRATOR: You mentioned your work on the cutter Escanaba. Was that good duty? Was it enjoyable? Was it miserable? What was it like?
KNAPP: Well, it was a little of all of the above. At that time, it was ’51 and Korea was going on and the West Coast weather ships were charged with manning weather stations that ranged from what were then called Man and Uncle, one-third and two-thirds the way between San Francisco and Hawaii, to Sugar and Victor, where Victor was somewhere in the area of southeast of Japan, and Sugar was up off the Kamchatka Peninsula up in the North Pacific, and then station Queen which was basically in the Gulf of Alaska, as I remember, just south of the Aleutians, and we had these ships and they were augmented by destroyer escorts that were brought on, but basically we were logging in some years nine months away from home port, and a good portion of that at sea. There were times, certainly, when the weather was really rough, when you would wake up to take your watch at 4 o’clock in the morning or 3 o’clock in the morning and chase your shoes across the deck and say, "Why am I doing this?" and add to the feeling of some sort of accomplishment later on when the situation improved where you accomplished something and I am not so sure whether it was a feeling of accomplishment or whether it was analogous to feeling so good when you stopped banging your head against the bulkhead. You know, it felt so good. I’d opt in favor of the fact that there was some accomplishment. You were doing a job you saw that you were part of a system and if you could look at it that way, it was enjoyable, except that, you know, no one enjoys being away from home. I was luckier than most because I was single. So, I didn’t have any real worries at home. I could see other people who had left families who had some concerns for them, and I guess for those folks, maybe it wouldn’t be quite as enjoyable. But, from my way of thinking, it was if not always enjoyable, it was always rewarding because, #1 I was doing the thing that I had come into the Coast Guard for, which was to go to sea; #2, hopefully I was learning and preparing myself for when I got moved up to take command of one of these ships – and you know that is always the ultimate, at least it was always my ultimate objective – and so, if you look at it from that perspective, then it was at least always satisfying and rewarding, if not always enjoyable.
NARRATOR: You mentioned the feeling of accomplishment. Was that a personal accomplishment or did the crew actually have a good enough idea of the purpose of the mission to feel an accomplishment in that sense?
KNAPP: Well, I think the crew did. I think the crew did. It took some work in terms of morale. The weather stations at that time were set up to #1, get meterological conditions out at various points and the purpose of the meterological data taking, if you will, was to provide upper winds data for aircraft transiting the ocean. See, at that point in time, we did not have jets and the range of the various aircraft that were flying was somewhat limited and so there would be some concern for the kinds of winds that you would have aloft and what was the most favorable altitude for going from point A to point B. And not only that, but we would provide, sitting in the grid, a navigational check for those aircraft that were flying trans-ocean at that point in time. A good portion of the air traffic involved traffic in support of our operations in Korea . A lot of it was just plain commercial traffic and certainly the crew that worked up in CIC had an appreciation of that. The rest of the crew would hear what was going on from there. Beyond that, you know, you always strive to have the best looking and best kept ship that you could and if you could work with the crew so that they could see the results of their work, rather than shoveling against the tide, you know, and work like crazy and never see any results. We felt that there would be also some crew satisfaction to see the results of their work, whether it is chipping, painting, whether it is boat drill when you have the best pulling boat crew going, and you would also relieve a ship on station and get a chance to take those boats out and ride the sea there and go out in pretty big seas and go on the other side of the ship – with oars – and certainly this is in today’s age somewhat of an anachronism, but that is the way that it was then. And, if you could take these guys out and teach them the confidence of going out in the small boat and just with their arms transferring mail or personnel or whatever from ship A to ship B. Once in awhile, you would get a search and rescue case where a ship would be in trouble and you put a damage control crew aboard and work some pumps – there was a sense of some satisfaction – and obviously out on weather patrol, you had less chance for that than you did in a search and rescue situation of cutters that I commanded later.- but, the same principle as them.
NARRATOR: I understand you were stationed on both 255’s and 311’s. How would you compare the two classes?
KNAPP: Well, they are different. The 255-foot cutter was specifically designed for patrols and escort duty in the open ocean and they were originally designed to be about probably, I think, 50 feet longer, and for some reason or other – and this was before my time, so I don’t know the exact details – they decided that they weren’t going to build a ship that long. It was probably budgetary restraints. So, they cut some out of the middle, as I understand it and we ended up with a 255-foot ship. The beam was not changed, so the length: beam ratio was basically smaller than you would have had, and it was kind of round bottomed. The scantlings on the 255 were absolutely first rate. I mean, that was a well-built, heavy ship, meant for ocean duty. There was a problem. I don’t know if you knew that. It rolled. I mean, not that there was any problem with stability, but just the hull configuration was such that it rolled quite a bit and with the kind of stability built into it – the METAcentric height – it had a snap roll, so when it rolled almost like a destroyer, but she would snap right back. If you weren’t used to the motion, you got sick. As a matter of fact, I never had a history of seasickness, but on my first patrol, I stood my watches carrying a bucket, because I was not well, and it took a little while to get used to the motion. But after you got used to the motion, no real problem. Then, they took the 255’s and in order to try to slow that roll down, they put on the sides – just below the turn of the bilge – oversized bilge keels and they would certainly not do anything to stability, but what they did was kind of inhibit the roll, or at least slow the roll down, but that helped somewhat. But, basically it was a good – there was almost no place that normally I would be concerned with taking a 255 anyplace. It was a stiff, rugged ship with very heavy scantlings.
Now, the 311, on the other hand, was a ship that was built primarily to tend torpedo boats and/or seaplanes in the South Pacific during World War II and that duty envisioned them being anchored in a lagoon and being the mother ship for a squadron of torpedo boats or seaplanes. They were basically seaplane tenders or torpedo boat tenders and the Gresham that I went on board was I think was the old U.S.S. Willoughby. I could be wrong, but I think that sticks in my mind. And, you could immediately tell the difference between the structure on that ship and the structure on a 255. You could look at the hull plating on a 311 and you could see the frame sticking through like the ribs on a skinny kid, and when you got into a seaway, the fume tight bulkheads between the staterooms would actually ‘pin’ or I would say pop back and forth to the extent that if you didn’t put your glass in the toothbrush holder, because if you got into a rough seaway, that it would pop that thing right out and so it was not nearly as rugged a ship as a 255. Living conditions were a little bit better. The staterooms – the officers’ staterooms – were on the main deck and I think even the crews’ quarters were better laid out than on the 255, but they were, in my opinion, not nearly the ship in terms of open ocean performance that the 255 was.
NARRATOR: Then between 1954 and 1957, you were the Commanding Officer of Ship Training Detachment #5. What exactly did you do?
KNAPP: Well, I had served on board the 255 and literally run that gamut from gunnery officer up through first lieutenant and navigator. Then, I went CIC officer, operations officer, and from there I went to the Gresham for engineering training and got my qualifications as an engineer, but they were short of deck officers at the time and decided to put more academy officers into engineering, so there was a lack of deck officers, experienced deck officers, so basically I stood my time between being an engineer and being the operations officer on board the Gresham. When I completed my engineering duty, the commanding officer sent a message to Headquarters and requested that I be reassigned as the operations officer and back came a set of orders to take over command of STD #5. STD #5 was a training detachment that specialized in CIC operations – combat information center operations – and it was comprised of a large vehicle. I would compare it to say a Greyhound bus. It was not a tractor and a trailer; it was strictly a large van, built specifically for this purpose. Now, there was one on the East Coast and I think that was STD #2, and that was the same arrangement in the trailer, but it was a tractor-trailer arrangement. Anyway, this was like a huge travel bus and forward had a little driver’s compartment where I had a driver. I had a crew of three, a chief radarman, an ET, and a seaman. And, they were charged with taking care of the van, and as I said, the forward part was a driver’s compartment. Just aft of that was a small office with a safe for classified publications and some gear for generation of problems, CIC problems, and after that was a compartment that had various problem simulation gear that could simulate targets on a radar and radio transmissions and so on and so forth, and a dead recognition tracer that we could use to general ship’s tracts, and after that was a CIC – a combat information center – with the both the DRT plotter, a summary plot, various radio speaks, just like these folks would have in CIC. And the whole idea was to have this as a mobile unit that could go anyplace where there were Coast Guard cutters. It originally started out for only the weather cutters, when we had all the DE’s in that were in during Korea and they would go to a port and they would then schedule the CIC teams from those ships to come in and get training and radar navigation, tactical maneuvering involving communications and involving maneuvering board problems that involved ship maneuvers in not only steaming in company, but anti-submarine screen reorientations and things of this type, plus training in standardized communication.
We stressed radar navigation procedures and instruction that would involve ships steaming both singly and in formation, in company, and brought together both the bridge control and the CIC teams to work out the interaction between the two. So, basically, it was a very, very inexpensive way of bringing the school to the students. And when the . . . and as we kept looking at it, we were limited by time because of the number of ships that we had, and then with decommissioning of a lot of the DE’s after the Korean Conflict was over, we were then able to take the remaining weather ships and increase the course content to two weeks and really do a comprehensive program for the kinds of things that I described, and, in addition to that, we set up a one-week program for all the other ships, the buoy tenders, the then 83-footers, the 125’s, the 213’s like the Yocona, the Storis, and essentially what that meant is that we covered the same kinds of things, but not as extensively as we did with the big ships that were involved in underway training down in San Diego. In other words, we would give the bigger ships at least a preview and preliminary instruction for their training down in San Diego with the big training groups and then the smaller ships we would stress basically the radar navigation, the ship control, the use of radar, the use of maneuvering boards, the development of courses and speeds of contacts, how do you determine the closest point of approach. In other words, things they should know for running their ships safely and avoiding either bumping into another ship or putting it aground. And we would do that for a week. So, basically, that took us to every place that there was a Coast Guard ship. The one item that I didn’t mention was we even for the larger ships, we even went into plane ditch procedures. In other words, with the ocean stations, as I mentioned before, the situation would develop so there was always the possibility of a plane having to ditch somewhere at sea. And if they would ditch, or if they could pick their place to ditch, they had the weather stations right close by, and so a lot of times it would happen at night. So, there were procedures laid out for laying out a landing lane for the aircraft to take and vectoring the aircraft back down to a base leg, an approach course, the final, and just actually vectoring them in, because it was very typical for them to tell where the water is, and then just kind of bring them down, and at night we would lay our flares, set up and instruct the team on how to conduct air control procedures and communications with the aircraft and then actually have a problem where there would be an aircraft in trouble. And, we would simulate the problem right from the aircraft calling and saying he was having engine problems and he had so many persons on board and the kind of aircraft it was and he would have to ditch, and then the CIC team would have to go through their procedures to bring him down safely.
As a matter of fact, a somewhat humorous incident – depending on where you were sitting – occurred with that just prior to my assuming command of the unit. And, as a matter of fact, I was at the opposite end. I was onboard Gresham at that time. We were on Ocean Station November which by that time we had gotten rid of Uncle and it was halfway, basically halfway between San Francisco and Honolulu . And, STD #5 had been out in Honolulu and they were generating a problem onboard one of the 255’s and the problem was an air-sea rescue problem, as I just described to you. And, they used to rig, instead of just using internal gear that didn’t touch the radios at all, they worked through the radio gear aboard the ships and set up dummy antennas that were actually grounded so that nothing was going out over the air. Well, through some . . . some happenstance, there was a little leakage on this one and they were using actual aircraft –
KNAPP: Well, not the jargon, but the names of airlines which could reflect an actual airline, o.k.? Like United or Pan Am or so on and so forth. Unbeknownst to them, as I said, they found out later than a hatch or something around it was acting as an antenna, and the RCC at Pearl picked it up, and broadcast this huge alert throughout the Pacific. As it turned out, they were going down there Ocean Station November, and the Gresham was on Ocean Station November, and we got prepared for this airplane to come down and my station was in command or in charge of the rescue boat and I had my crew and I spent three hours up there with my crew in the boat waiting to be lowered for this aircraft that was coming down and it wasn’t until much later that much to the embarrassment that they found that really this was a drill that was going on and that there was no actual aircraft and people had been alerted throughout the Pacific, and so it was interesting, and it was about that time or shortly thereafter that I received orders off the ship and orders to take command of STC #5.
NARRATOR: Did you do all the training?
KNAPP: No, well, no. We shared. We shared the load. We had basically it was between the chief radarman and myself and the chief would take the technical aspects of radar, but we could move back and fort. I did a lot of the tactical maneuvering and communications and if we got a problem, then our ET would take the radarman through the theory of the radar, how it works, the basic tuning of the radar in the terms of the controls that could be used, the sensitivity time control and things of that type, you know teaching the capabilities of it to make sure, at least to ensure that these folks were comfortable and on speaking terms with their gear. So, we kind of split it and for the seaman, he kind of did work around the unit, so it was shared. I did a lot of the instructing and in fact when I first went onboard, I did more than I did later because I wanted to learn this whole thing and be able to do everything that needed to be done in case something happened to the chief. But, as I said, it was a regular split.
NARRATOR: After STD #5, you were operations officer on the Spencer, correct?
KNAPP: Yes, yes, that was interesting because I spent three years on board the STD #5, and that was longer than any CO had spent. I was the third CO, as I remember, and my relief was ordered in and I had no orders, and I was back on leave and I said, "Well, I’ll take a trip to D.C. and see what is going on." So, they were going to send me to graduate school. They were starting up a new communications engineering course at Monterrey , which would be two years. It was different. They had a communications course that they originally had an Annapolis and they shifted it to the postgraduate school in Monterrey .
NARRATOR: You had requested graduate school?
KNAPP: I had requested it much earlier, much, much earlier, but not that one, I don’t believe. Anyway, I had orders to go to school and having just come off STD #5 where I had been teaching all this stuff that an operations officer should know, I felt that basically that this was the first time I knew more than the guys that were working for me and I really knew what had to be done and how it should be done and I hadn’t been onboard a 327 yet, so I wanted to check out onboard a 327 as the operations officer. So, I declined my orders to school and requested assignment aboard Spencer and got it. And I spent about a year as the operations officer on weather patrol in the North Atlantic and found out that those 327’s were probably, at least at that time, the finest ships afloat in terms of sea keeping and the ability to take what the North Atlantic (and any place else) had to dish out.
NARRATOR: So, compared to the 255’s and 311’s, they were superior?
KNAPP: Well, yeah. They were superior I think in that they wouldn’t take any more than a 255, but they were certainly more comfortable than a 255, and I would say probably on par with the 255 in terms of actual sea keeping, but in my opinion, more sea piney in terms of the ride.
NARRATOR: Were there any more memorable incidents while you were on Spencer?
KNAPP: Not really. It was generally routine. Routine weather patrol, North Atlantic and up to Station Bravo and Charlie. We would have good weather and bad weather, but nothing memorable. And once again, I was only onboard there for just about a year.
NARRATOR: And then you went to Merchant Marine Indoctrination School?
NARRATOR: Do you remember much about that?
KNAPP: Oh, I remember that intimately because when I received my orders to go to Merchant Marine Indoctrination School , I immediately assumed – because the commanding officer called me up and said, "What is that? That you have orders and had you requested orders?" I said, "No, Sir." I said, "This is obviously a mistake." I said, "I think I know what’s happened," because when I had asked for duty onboard the Spencer, there were very – as I remember – very few lieutenants afloat onboard ship. Lieutenants were other places. Lieutenants were in graduate school or they were someplace else, but there were not many academy lieutenants that I knew of onboard ship, and so you have a captain as the skipper and a commander as the XO, and then you have all ensigns and some jg’s and I felt they needed a lieutenant as an operations officer. The only exception to that was that there were lieutenants onboard that had come into the Coast Guard under Public Law 219, which is where they came in as from the Merchant Marine, specifically to go into merchant vessel inspection, and before they went to indoctrination school, they were direct commissioned and went to indoctrination school with a direct commission, and then before they went to the marine inspection duties as I remember, they would generally serve a tour onboard ship. And so, as I told Captain Stanley, I said "There is obviously a mistake, Captain." I said, "Somehow or other, they think for a lieutenant onboard ship, they’ve got me mixed with a 219-er and they probably feel it’s my time to get off and go into marine indoctrination school," and I said, "I’ll go down Headquarters and check on it." So, I went down to Headquarters and checked with officer personnel and was informed that, indeed, there was no mistake, and that the old Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation people who had come onboard when we took over that marine inspection duty I guess back in the early 40’s. I don’t know if that is the case. Whatever. These folks were kind of on their way out and they had to put in some academy officers to form the nucleus of the Marine Inspection function of the future. I understood that and that made some sense to me and it wasn’t something that would have been my choice for a career or for even a subspecialty, but you know, orders were orders. And, so, I took the orders and went to New London to Indoctrination School . I tried to get out of them. I tried to get out of the orders, and the reason I tried to get out was not because I didn’t want the orders, but at that point in time the personnel policy was such that if you went into marine inspection, as it was called, you were practically assured of your rest of your career being spent in marine inspection, o.k.? You might get occasional tours out on board ship, but basically you were going to be a marine inspector and you were going to be in that program for the rest of your career. And that’s not what I had come into the Coast Guard for. If the program had been such that you would spend a tour of duty (four years) you know, as a tour of duty as a marine inspector, and then rotate it out and have the choice of going back in or not, that’s entirely understandable and I think that’s the way it should be. But, you’ve got to understand the other side of the coin. The people that were making these decisions were under pressure, because marine inspectors, whether they be hull inspectors which I was, or engineering inspectors, exert a terrific economic impact on the merchant marine industry, because how they call a shot regarding the replacement of hull plating or in the case of engineering replacement of boiler tubes or other machinery over which we had cognizance, represents a significant impact on the marine industry. And, the marine industry, understandably, was not thrilled with having new people there all the time, learning on their time, and they wanted continuity. They wanted people who were truly professionals in this thing and people who they could establish a relationship with and an understanding of what this fellow wanted so it wasn’t a question of inspector A calling for this and inspector B, even though it was still in the rules calling for something else, they wanted some kind of assurance of continuity. So, because number 1, economic impact, number 2, that was what they were used to, because it was the way the old BMIN worked, and so naturally, that was what they wanted from the Coast Guard. And that’s how our personnel folks reacted – understandably. The only problem was, as I said before, I didn’t want to have to have a career in marine inspection. So, anyway, I graduated from school and went my first station – in fact, my first and only station – was New York City , where I became a hull inspector, and quite frankly I really did enjoy it. I did enjoy it. I enjoyed the first time you got into your coveralls and no one knew you were a Coast Guard officer, or what they knew you were, and I was a lieutenant I guess and younger than most and the marine industry would call the hull inspector, "Captain," or they would call the engineering inspector, "Chief," you know, just like they do in their own industry, but for us young guys that had just gotten out couldn’t bring themselves to call us captain, so they called us "Commander," but we were near that anyway, but what I liked about it, you were down there, you were working with these guys down in the hold. You were checking hull plating, checking bolt kits, checking life boats and you were doing things. You were up and down the holds, really did enjoy it. You know, for a change. For a change! And, I liked what I learned. I learned what could be done. I learned what should be done, what shouldn’t be done in terms of welding. What could be done in terms of cropping out, what you could run into in certain conditions that would benefit me later in terms of having command of my own ship. So, it was great. The only thing I didn’t like was the prospect of spending my whole career doing that.
Well, like I said, being young, we kind of agitated to get out and there was no way really of getting out at that point in time, and the powers that be, the people in charge of marine inspection, knew that we were not thrilled with being there, but that we did do our work. Anyway, as it turned out, this was back to prior training again and prior assignments, there was a big collision. I had been there, oh say maybe eight months. I had been there almost eight months, making unsuccessful attempts to at least get a commitment that when I served my four years, I could go back on what I called general duty. There was a collision between a Grace Line ship and I want to say, the Santa Clara , but I’m not sure if that’s the one, and a tanker called Val Kamp. And it was a classic case of one ship not knowing what the other ship was going to do and a question of who did what, when the engines were stopped and so on and so forth, and these folks knew I had had command of SDT #5, and said, "Well, look if you had the logs and everything, could you reconstruct what went on?" I said, "I think so," and the officer in charge of marine inspection at the time was reluctant to have me do that, so I said I would do it on my own time – and I did – and I looked at the logs and had reconstructed and played with various extremes of what could happen and what did happen and so on and so forth and came to some conclusions with regard to when the tanker had really shut his engines down, and about the time that I was handing in my report to the chief investigating officer, telling him what my conclusions were, the second engineer from Val Kamp was turning himself into the MSO in Houston, Texas, telling them exactly what my report had said to these guys, and I don’t know what happened, but the next thing I knew, I had a set of orders out of marine inspection to take command of the Coast Guard Cutter Yeaton up in New London, Connecticut, so not only did I get out, but I got command of my first ship.
NARRATOR: That’s great. While you were hull inspector, what were your major responsibilities?
KNAPP: Well, the major responsibilities were to go out and conduct inspections of U.S. merchant vessels and to some foreign vessels under the SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) Convention and if when you looked at U.S. vessels, you inspected the hull and deck plating, watertight bulkheads, the operation of watertight doors, the integrity and outfitting of lifeboats, which was very delicate lifeboats as they were made then of lightweight METAl and used to have various areas that were always suspect and one of them used to be the end thwart boxes where they had wooden thwarts and they would get damp and moisture would collect and stay in the end of those and it would corrode and you would be looking for that, looking for the corrosion, or the weak spots in the METAl, and you would have this hammer, which is one of the reasons as I said that the marine industry wanted experienced people around – people who been there for awhile. Because you would get loose with this hammer, and it was almost like with a chisel on the end, you would kind of tap the bulkhead or tap the lifeboat and if you got a dead sound, you would tap a little harder, and most of the time if you were right – if you were good – you would go right through, telling you that you had a deteriorated spot there and the structure was, you know, not sound. And, you would have to pop it out and put new METAl in. And if a fellow wasn’t really experienced or didn’t really know what he was doing, you could ruin some good lifeboats and put extra work and extra expense on the marine industry and the same goes with the decks, but not as much because the decks were always of thicker METAl and the same with the watertight bulkheads. But, basically you were inspecting for structural integrity on the hull side and the adequacy and the completeness of the lifesaving, left preservation equipment onboard the ship. We did not do the cargo tests. The American Bureau of Shipping used to do that, and so there were a couple of people on board the ship making inspections.
NARRATOR: You say you took command of the Yeaton?
KNAPP: Yes, the Coast Guard Cutter Yeaton which was attached to the Third District on search and rescue patrol in Third District waters and stationed in New London, and actually the Third District – in the medium endurance cutter which would be categorized as – there were basically three, and they were almost ideally placed. There was Yeaton out of New London . There was Tamaroa which was a 209 foot ATF, seagoing tug, from the Navy, and Agassiz in New York – at Staten Island – was Tamaroa and Agassiz another 125 out of Cape May . And we used to operate one week out and two weeks in, and you would have one week out on patrol where you could either patrol or you could go anchor at the apex down at Sandy Hook and wait for calls to come in, and you did this patrol in the North Atlantic anywhere in what I called the "Gulf of New York," you know which is the Atlantic Ocean out in district waters, and sometimes including going up into First District waters to hitchhike – I picked them up in the wintertime and actually delivered them in New Bedford and dropped the lines on the General Greene for a fishing vessel that was out of New Bedford. But, we worked as I said, one week out on patrol, the next week would be on Charlie status, and the next week would be on a stand-by status and it was good duty from the standpoint of once again the results that I told you before. Here, here the crew could really see the results of their efforts. The results of their training – putting a tow line on a fishing vessel sometimes as large as you were under not so good conditions – and we had what I considered to be a nice team with the Yeaton, Tamaroa and Agassiz and as it turned out all the skippers that were on them did pretty well. I had command of the Yeaton. Now retired Vice Admiral [William F.] Rea [III] had command of the Tamaroa, and my class mate who is now the Commandant, Admiral [Paul] Yost, had command of the Agassiz .
KNAPP: Well, as I said, it was the Agassiz, Tamaroa, the Yeaton team was I think that was pretty good and quite effective.
NARRATOR: By that time, the 125’s were getting pretty old. Did you have any special problems attributable to age?
KNAPP: Yes, yes. And as I said before, it’s a matter once again of drawing on previous assignments, things that you learned. We went down to the shipyard at Curtis Bay , the Coast Guard Yard, and put it in dry dock. I put on my old coveralls again and took my old re-inspection hammer and went over the hull, and you know we found some bad plating and it was comforting to me to know as a commanding officer what was good and what was bad – AND to know it personally, as opposed to having it told to you. It was still on a smaller scale where we had that luxury, and quite frankly as I said, we had a ship’s office just aft of the wardroom, starboard side, and it wasn’t very big. As a matter of fact, the yeoman couldn’t be very big in there. It was a one-man office and it was just at the turn of the bilge and I didn’t need a hammer and I didn’t need a set of eyeglasses to see that the material there, the hull plating, was almost like Irish lace. I mean, it was just ready to go and that had to be replaced, but it due to function of age, but beyond that, once you got the hull plating in shape, they also were a good little ship. They had the twin engines and as long as you didn’t go from full ahead to full astern and you nursed them through the engine evolutions and was careful, you know your pudge packs would hold and they were good maneuverable little ships. When it was very rough, they were also very wet. Not only on the fantail where you would have to put the crew in lifejackets, the tow line crew and rig lifelines if it was particularly rough so that you wouldn’t lose someone over the side, but if it was really rough you would take ‘em over the bridge and you would get water in the wheelhouse. But when handled properly, I was never really concerned and Yeaton in my opinion gave yeoman service in the time that I was on her.
NARRATOR: Were there any real memorable incidences that come to mind from that tour?
KNAPP: Not really. You know, they were mostly search and rescue cases which involved fishing vessels, some assistance to recreational boaters, but mostly commercial fishermen. The side trawlers out of New Bedford, Gloucester, Cape May and certainly there would be some where the weather would be particularly bad and it would be a little bit more difficult to pick them up and the crew would get a little bit more wet than normally, but there was nothing really out of the ordinary beyond like I said, the normal search and rescue, put a tow line on, tow him in, where sometimes it was rougher and wetter than others, but nothing really beyond that.
The one memorable incident is that you might want to include was during my tour onboard Yeaton that the Texas Tower – you are familiar with the Texas Towers which were set up along the East Coast and they were basically radar stations and I believe the Air Force manned them and they were not unlike the offshore oil rigs now, except they were just strictly a tower with a lot of radar gear aboard them. And Texas Towers – they were strung along the East Coast and it was all part of an early warning system, and they were planted in the Continental Shelf there, and I don’t know the year of course. It had to be sometime between ’58 and ’60, but one of the towers off the Jersey coast collapsed and I don’t remember – certainly, we were on patrol and we had to go out on-scene – and we didn’t pick anyone up, and I don’t remember if everyone was evacuated or not, but we patrolled the area and tried to keep divers off because there was a lot of classified stuff there and we patrolled the area. But, also on that tour Ambrose Lightship, the ship that provides – it’s now a fixed light structure – but it used to be Ambrose Lightship. It was struck and sunk. And we were on patrol, once again, I don’t think anyone was lost there and so it was pea soup fog and Yeaton went out and proceeded to become the substitute for Ambrose Lightship, sitting out there in the fog on their station, and doing their thing with the relatively low powered whistle that we had. So, aside from once again the towing and routine search and rescue, those are about the only two incidents relatively out of the ordinary.
NARRATOR: And from there, you gradually got to graduate school, right, at George Washington University ?
KNAPP: Well, yeah, and there is a story behind that. Maybe the personnel folks won’t appreciate this, but I concluded that when I turned down the first set of orders to graduate school – and, as you know, most of the academy graduates all go to graduate school – when I turned down that first set of orders to graduate school, I became a real generalist with no subspecialty, and became available for whatever came along. In this case, it was merchant marine inspection, and I said, "Well, maybe . . . Maybe I ought to." Well, you see all I had really wanted to do was to be a sailor in this outfit, get checked out on all the ships and get command of my own ship and so on and so forth. Maybe, I had better put in for grad school and not make the same mistake twice. So, when I got to the Yeaton, I was going through all the old directives to find out what I had missed in terms of Coast Guard policy while I was in marine inspection because you didn’t see a lot of that stuff. Number one, you were off busy working on merchant ships all day long and number two, you weren’t on the distribution list for a good portion of it, so to run my ship and find out what was then current in terms of operating instructions and policies, I pulled out all the directives and went through them. Well, in going through the personnel instruction, in one of the personnel instructions, I came across graduate school and that was when it struck me. This was in – I relieved in late May – so this had to be in June or July of 1959. And something told me, "Don’t make the same mistake twice," maybe you had better put in for graduate school. So, I went through the graduate school list and at that time, like I said, I didn’t like the way supply would tell operations what they could and could not do and also pay masters what they could and could not do, and I saw , let’s see here we are master of this administration, financial management takes care of that, George Washington University, one year tour and you are not out too long. I think I’ll put in for it. So, I applied for graduate school and by December I had a letter back from Headquarters saying, "You will go to graduate school as soon as you get off the Yeaton, and your termination or your relief date on the Yeaton is 1961, you will report to Washington and go to graduate school." So, I was relieved of command in June of ’61 and went to Washington and completed the financial management course and got my MBA in June of 1962.
NARRATOR: And how did you enjoy that year at graduate school?
KNAPP: That kind of was in my opinion the toughest assignment that I’ve had, and it was tough because we were doing – we were trying to do – in one year what had previously done in two years up at Harvard. Just about that time that we used to send our people to Harvard to get an MBA, and around that time people were asking a question, "Well, can we afford to have our people out of the line for two years?" and maybe even more importantly, "Can we afford to give them a set of credentials that makes them more attractive to the outside world than they are to us and have them just take their degree and leave us?" O.K.? Let’s (do) something that gives a lot of the same stuff, but does it in less time. And the result was that they stopped sending to Harvard – and the other is conjecture on my part as to why you would do something like that – and it makes a certain amount of sense. So, anyway, in that year we were going to get an MBA. We were going to write a thesis and we were going to have comprehensive exams. Well, normally it’s comprehensives or a thesis, but we had both, and that’s not so tough. The tough part is that when you got to school – at least the way I felt – when you went to school, it’s like owning a house. If you were ever not doing your schoolwork, but sitting there watching a football game, you felt guilty because something more always had to be done. Even if you thought you had your thesis complete, another thought would come and you would start off on something else. So you never felt as though you were doing enough! And you always – at least speaking for myself – had kind of a guilt feeling, because I could be doing more. You would do it, but you could have been doing MORE! And so, besides the absolute requirements of producing certain things, you also had that nagging feeling that if you didn’t this, but you did something else that was personal, you felt guilty about it because you should have been doing that. So, in that respect, it was probably the toughest year of my life.
NARRATOR: Then, you would have liked to had more time to do the same?
KNAPP: No! No, not at all. It wasn’t a question of more time. Even if you did it for two years, even if you stretched out to two years, you would have that feeling – and I think it is the very nature of going to school. If you are going to school and you are going to study, you can never learn too much. So, anytime that you are not learning, anytime that you are not doing more school work but doing something else, you have got to feel a little bit guilty. At least, I did.
NARRATOR: I understand.
KNAPP: Don’t get me wrong; it doesn’t mean that I didn’t watch the Washington Redskins play, but all the time I watched them, I felt guilty.
NARRATOR: Yes, sir. (Laughing) From there, you went back to Headquarters as a staff assistant to the Controller?
NARRATOR: What was some of the major economic issues during that tour and did your education at George Washington prepare you well for that job?
KNAPP: Well, it’s tough. Once again, unless you are going to a straight technical course, it’s tough to say that your education at a university level actually gave you the ABC’s of a particular job. In that sense, it probably didn’t. But in the sense that it gave you the background – once again, as I said about the academy, the exposure, the familiarity with the general universe of problems that are involved in the kind of work that you would be doing – it did! It did prepare me. Economic problems? My job as the Staff Assistant to the Controller is a very general type job. It’s a very general type job to the extent that as a staff assistant, you picked up just about almost anything that no one else wanted to do, or things that people could not find a nice, convenient niche for. So, your projects ran you know far and wide. One of the primary jobs that I had was the responsibility for the administration of the Coast Guard Travel Manual. O.K.? Now, the Coast Guard Travel Manual was a direct offshoot of the Joint Travel Regulations (JTR) which were promulgated by the Department of Defense, and the Joint Travel Regulations were generated by a group known as the Per Diem/Travel and Transportation Committee, which was comprised of a representative from each one of the Armed Forces, and I was the representative from the Coast Guard. But, once again, the value of meeting people and learning somewhat of the problems, even if the result is a travel regulation, learning the background that leads to that gave me a terrific insight into other services. And I did that for basically three years and it involved going out with the Per Diem Committee and they also administered housing allowances, the cost of living allowances, so you get a good feel for the shifts and the impact of shifts in the economies, the cost of living at various places, budgetary impacts, what raising a housing allowance in Alaska would do to the budget and so on and so forth. We checked for adequacy of housing. We made some trips. I made a trip in ’62 I guess it was with this group and we got to see the various bases in Europe, including the submarine base up at Holy Loch and so, it was very, very interesting and that was one of the primary duties. Others had to do with writing position papers for the Controller on various issues. I remember one of the issues at that point in time had to do with making military and civilian travel rates the same and our position was that you really couldn’t do that. The military was different. You forced a guy to live in government quarters. You didn’t do that to a civilian and so on, but that’s a small part of it. The other had to do with the military/civilian retirement system and Social Security and basically doing analyses that would show that – There were arguments that military retirement was so much more expensive than civilian retirement because civilians contributed to it, o.k., and Social Security and things of this type and then doing analyses that basically it really wasn’t true. And, in fact, the government wasn’t even footing their share of the money into the fund and by year X, the fund was going to be defunct. You were doing those kinds of analyses and so, once again, it was interesting. It was as interesting as you wanted to make it. It was probably a good way for someone coming out of graduate school to get his feet wet, because to a great extent he wasn’t carrying a lot of responsibility for the policy, but he would be able to put his thoughts out, have it reviewed by a higher authority, and accepted or not accepted as policy and so it was I think a good way to break into the controller business.
NARRATOR: Were there any burning issues of the day for the Coast Guard economically?
KNAPP: Well. Not really that I got involved in or was really involved in at that particular point in time. There was always the question of meshing our . . . I think that the biggest issue of the day was meshing our supply and support systems with DoD who was then going in for MILSTRIP, MILSTAMP, MILSTAD and then meshing our systems to work with those. But, once again, we had certain elements in the supply side and logistics side that actually handled that. I wasn’t particularly involved in that, but those were issues that were going on.
Of course, at that time, it was just previous to the establishment of the Department of Transportation , and I think probably one of the biggest things is that that was a time when they were started to look at programs and program budgeting. That was when McNamara was in there. And they started to take a look at the Coast Guard from the standpoint of programs and, around that time, we were in terrible shape – as far as I remember – the currency and/or obsolescency of our equipment. In fact, we were being criticized by Congress for not coming in and asking for more aircraft, more ships, and so on and so forth, and I think it was in that spot of time that we were embarking on the acquisition of the 378’s. That would be 1962. Yeah, around that time that we were then – and just previous to that we had been I guess you would say criticized for not asking for that kind of stuff and I think if you check Admiral Hayes’ recollection in your records that you will find that it was just previous to that time that he had served on this task force to look at Coast Guard programs. Because previous to that, we had budgeted on the basis of personnel, maintenance, supply. We never talked in terms of what you were getting for that. It was around that time that we started to shift our emphasis to say, "What are our programs?" Search and rescue, aids to navigation, merchant marine inspection, law enforcement and certainly you would have personnel costs in all of those. But you could see what you were getting in terms of program output. The shift was then coming where we were making our shift from merely funding a category of expenditure to funding a program – with those categories of expenditures in them.
END OF INTERVIEW ONE
INTERVIEW TWO OF THE ORAL HISTORY OF REAR ADMIRAL RICHARD J. KNAPP, U.S. COAST GUARD, RETIRED.
JUNE 3, 1987
NARRATOR: Sir, what can you tell me about your years in Vietnam ?
KNAPP: Well, it really wasn’t years, although from time to time, it would seem that way. We all had about a one year tour there. I was finishing up a tour as the Staff Assistant to the Controller and had orders to take over an executive officer of Yocona in Astoria, the plan being that I would serve as the executive officer for a year and relieve the commanding officer, and the President (It was President Lyndon Johnson at the time) had indicated a desire to interdict the arms and supplies that were apparently flowing south from North Vietnam to the guerillas in the south, and he approached the Navy and inquired as to their ability to interdict. And, of course, naturally they operated mostly with destroyers being their smallest type vessels, so their ability to get closely inshore where a lot of the traffic was apparently being run, was limited. And so, they came to the Coast Guard and Commander Jim Hodgman at the time was the CNO Liaison and apparently had an interest and thought that the Coast Guard had a role there and conferred with the Commandant, and before you knew it, this was probably about April of 1965, the President asked the Coast Guard, through the then Secretary of the Treasury, how long it would take for the Coast Guard to get something on scene and the Coast Guard said, "Probably 60 days from the time you give us the order." Well, they gave us the order and Commander Hodgman was selected to be the squadron commander and my orders were cancelled and I was going to go as the Chief of Staff officer of the squadron. So, we throughout the Coast Guard, we gathered up 17 WPB 82-foot patrol boats and armed them with four .50-caliber machine guns and 81-mm mortar modified so that we could fire in a flat trajectory with another .50-caliber piggyback mounted on that. We put the 17 patrol boats onboard freighters and headed them toward Subic Bay in the Philippines . This was together with spare parts and so on and so forth. And, we gathered up crews of those boats, plus other volunteers. Most of those boats had chiefs in charge and because of the security aspects, it was decided that they would put a Jg. or a lieutenant in command of those ships and keep the chief boatswain mate or chief quartermaster who had been the officer-in-charge as the executive petty officer and keep the chief engineman that was on there or keep that chief engineman billet to be the basically the engineering officer. The 82-footers were a good pick because they had the twin Cummings turbocharged engines, made fairly good speed, and were just very marginally slower than the 95’s, but with only the two engines, required approximately just half the maintenance.
So, the spare parts were shipped and everything was en route to Subic Bay and the squadron personnel were ordered in to Base Alameda which we used as a staging point for organizing the squadron and setting up tables of organization and doing what needed to be done in the terms of survival training for the folks that we sent to the Navy’s survival course and eventually we started shifting them out towards the Philippines to pick up their assigned units and the staff moved to the Philippines. As the chief staff officer, I was doing kind of the day-to-day work. Commander Hodgman as the squadron commander was out traveling out in the Far East , making the basic operational arrangements with Navy commanders that had to be made. As it turned out, organizationally, the squadron was going to be attached to Task Force 115, code named Operation Market Time. The sole purpose was to interdict arms and materiel being shipped from North to South. As it developed, the role expanded, which I will go into.
When we got to the Philippines and started – and that was when Commander Hodgman came in with guns and materiel and started putting the squadron together and started putting the crews together with their boats, making sure that all spares were on board, because we were not going to have a depot, so we put whatever spares that we thought they needed, and the word came from the Navy that originally we thought that we were going to have the squadron out of Da Nang, and the task force commander indicated that he really wanted it in two places. He wanted one unit, or he wanted some patrol boats at Da Nang and some patrol boats at An Toy, which is in the Gulf of Thailand . Well, the only way we could do that was to take the squadron and split it up into two divisions, and it was decided after some discussion that Commander Hodgman as the Squadron Commodore would take command of one division – that would be Division 11 down in AnToi and I would shift from being the Chief Staff Officer of the squadron and take command of Division 12, which would be based out of Da Nang, and Commander Hodgman would take 9 boats and I would take 8 boats.
So, we organized on that basis and basically Commander Hodgman was the Squadron Commodore and everything administratively went through him, but operationally we worked almost directly with Task Force 115. So, sometime in June I guess it was of ’65, I gathered my eight boats and we had support of the Navy LST that was going to provide basically our support base for us until we could get a barge that we had found in Subic Bay and the Navy was going to modify it, which the barge consisted of some berthing quarters and machine shops that we would use in Da Nang, where we were going to have the barge towed into Da Nang, moored at our base, and we would have the machine shop for doing engine overhauls, storage space for engine spares, and berthing areas for division staff plus spare boat crews. But until that happened, we were going to have an LST who would act at the mother ship so to speak. That was at Da Nang . At An Toy, they were going to have an LST permanently detailed to be the mother ship under the command of a naval CO. We lined up behind the LST and sailed across the South China Sea, sometime in June, and arrived there – I guess it was late June. Eight boats were refueled at sea and got into our base, the eight patrol boats and our LST, and got our briefings from the various naval forces there and went into our mission.
In the meantime, Division 11 had still been staging at Subic Bay and eventually they sailed south with their LST to establish their operations in the Gulf of Thailand . It was 1965 and it was just the beginning of the big build-up in Vietnam . We were going through the transition from strictly advisory teams to larger infusions of manpower into the area and we were going to get serious about this.
Basically, the squadron’s job was as I said was interdiction, but it gradually expanded because of the versatility of the 82-footers and quite frankly the expertise of our people, both on the boats and in the staff position, in terms of both manning the boats and then running the operations, running small boat operations, like they did on the search and rescue cases, just different missions. Eventually, the boats were filling in on close inshore fire support and in support of shore based operations. They worked in terms of vertical envelopment operations where they worked with a helo carrier that would launch helo’s and send them in behind the lines, flush them out toward the beaches, and the 82-footers would be there waiting – those kinds of operations. Plus other certain operations dealing with insertion and recovery of various kinds of operating teams. In Division 12, our area of operations was basically from the DMZ, the 17th parallel, down to roughly Kein An in the south. The Division 11 covered the Gulf of Thailand , and before long it was apparent that the operation was successful enough so that the Navy not only decided to acquire their own boats. This is before they went to the riverine warfare. And they decided to not only acquire their own boats, but requested that we bring some more 82-footers over, so we brought over another eight 82-footers and established them down around Vin Tau/Cam Ranh Bay – that particular area, the central coast. So, by that time, we had 27 patrol boats and the Navy then brought in their swift boats which were basically crew tenders that they used on the Gulf that they use to bring crews between the home port and the oil rigs out on the Gulf of Mexico . But, they modified them and they were about 50 feet long. They modified them for close-in to work in concert with our 82-footers and they put an officer-in-charge of those divisions and those divisions were eventually absorbed within the Coast Guard operating divisions. In other words, I had a division as Commander of Task Group 115.3, and I had division of our boats plus a division of swift boats. Commander Hodgman had his Task Group 115.2 or .1, I forget exactly what it was, and then he had within that task group, he had his division of 82-footers and a division of Navy swift boats.
NARRATOR: Who manned the swift boats?
NARRATOR: What kind of crew?
KNAPP: Well, they had an officer in charge and then enlisted folks, I don’t remember the exact number, but it was less than ours. I think we were up to probably 11 or 12 maybe 13 when you could count the liaison officers. See, we took on board Vietnamese liaison officers who would do the interpreting and work with us when we boarded junks to search for contraband or things of this type and they were basically our liaison type and they were assigned to the boat. They became essentially a part of the boat crew. It was interesting. It was a time of some confusion, probably some paradox in terms of the way the war apparently was being run, but I think it was a very, very interesting time for the Coast Guard. It certainly was for me. I know it was for Commander Hodgman and eventually the Coast Guard built a reputation whereby they got to be known as a can-do outfit and it wasn’t long after I got back, as a matter of fact, in 1966, that they asked for some more Coast Guard help and this time, they wanted to augment their destroyer forces and Squadron 3 was formed which was comprised of our high endurance cutters. At that time, it involved the 255’s, what we had left of the 311’s and eventual the 378’s. And, once again, the Coast Guard came up looking pretty good. The 378’s particularly were a hit, an operational hit as far as the Navy was concerned, because they didn’t have the armament of course that a destroyer has with the one 5-inch gun, but the point was that with the destroyer, even though she had high speed, if you had to get a destroyer from point A to point B, it took sometime to build the steam up in those high pressure boilers before they could crank up their 30-some-odd knots, whereas if you wanted to get from point A to point B with a 378, you just fired off the gas turbines and you were up to 30 knots and on your way.
KNAPP: There was some speculation – I think it’s probably beyond speculation – that the Navy fashioned some of the new Spruance Class destroyers or what they call frigates now I guess – back to the first design was very much that of a 378. And, eventually, the special LORAN chain was set up to help in the operations, both air and sea, and it got to be quite an operation. Eventually, you had some interesting people there. As I said, Commander Hodgman was the original squadron commander and it became apparent that he was being spread too thin to look after his division and my division as a squadron commander and still to have to run his operational responsibilities, so there was brought in an overall squadron commander in Saigon that was Captain LaPorte and he took over and so that he could be basically our spokesman with the Navy for both divisions and basically be the administrative link between the squadron which was still Coast Guard units and Commander, Pacific Area, who had the overall Coast Guard responsibility. Commander, Task Force 115 had the operational responsibility, but we were still Coast Guard units and still responsible for Coast Guard procedures and things that were required.
When Commander Hodgman was relieved, he was relieved by Commander Jack Hayes, who later became the Commandant, who was then relieved by Commander Norm Venski who got to be admiral in the Coast Guard, who was then relieved by Commander Paul Yost, who is now the Commandant, and it was about the time that Admiral Yost came in there – he was down at An Toi, down in the Gulf of Thailand at Division 11 – it was about at that time that the riverine warfare was heating up and Division 11 was in on the involvement of that and Admiral Yost played a big part in that. So, it was a time of challenge. It was a time of great interest. It was a time of great concern, obviously when you send folks out into a hostile zone such as that was and there has to be some concern by and for the families that were left behind. But, I would say overall if you checked what the diaries that are on file back in the Historian’s office and check operational reports, you would find that by and large, the Coast Guard once again proved that it was a can-do Semper Paratus organization.
NARRATOR: Were there any Coast Guard problems that you ran into in Vietnam ?
KNAPP: Coast Guard problems?
NARRATOR: Any problems that were due to the Coast Guard?
KNAPP: Well, no. Shortly after I left, of course, there was a mix-up in recognition signals and an Air Force jet strafed one of our boats [the USCGC Point Welcome] and killed several people, but beyond the fact that you had folks – some folks who really wanted to be there, and some folks who really were not thrilled to be there – I don’t remember any – and the fact that they were of course far removed from their families and the kind of comfort you have by being stationed in continental United States, I don’t remember any particular problems. We had logistics problems to start with, as I described. We had our LST and our barge that we were going to have as our machine shop because the machine shop capability on the LST was minimal. Finally, the barge appeared, and the barge really looked like Noah’s Ark. It finally came over the horizon on Christmas Day of 1965, and we all spent Christmas Day 1965, which is probably the best way you could spend it, all hands, unloading all gear from the LST and putting it on that barge and setting the barge up as our support base and living quarters and office and supply depot. Eventually, the logistics got to be such a problem that I requisitioned another larger barge, simply for storage, and had that anchored right nearby and essentially then we set up a logistics and spare parts system that literally furnished the whole squadron. I figured I had all the space there. I had the airport and I had endless ships coming to Da Nang , so I could store stuff there that many other people didn’t have room for and if someone needed it, they could get it down there and it worked out pretty well.
NARRATOR: Could you explain again the confusion over some kind of recognition signals that you said caused the friendly fire incident [USCGC Point Welcome]?
KNAPP: Well, apparently . . . I don’t remember the exact details because it happened after I had left, but there were recognition signals that were used. In other words, if you were challenged, there was a challenge and there was a reply, and if you gave the wrong reply, you were in deep trouble. Well, it never became clear – at least in my mind – whether or not the recognition signals had been exchanged or whether they were incorrect or what, but the fact of the matter is that at night an Air Force jet without checking with his headquarters or our headquarters to see if we had anything in the area. It came down on an unknown target and strafed it. The unknown target happened to be one of our 82-footers. Our patrol schedules normally were published and people knew what area we were in and there was always some question as to whether or not the proper procedures had been followed by the jet, by the 82-footer, or by either.
NARRATOR: If the Coast Guard were confronted with another assignment like Vietnam , what advice would you offer?
KNAPP: Well, I’d say you do things almost the same. As a matter of fact, those of us that came back - some of us who came back from there , came back convinced that the marine counterinsurgency role for the United States should absolutely and officially and substantially be assigned to the Coast Guard. We felt that – and I still do feel – we have the capability. We have the kind of ships that can operate in close. We can supplement what the Navy does. We are used to operating in remote areas with a small command control center, operating small boats. We do have a requirement to be an armed force. We are by Title X an armed force. We have a requirement to go under the Navy in time of war and what better way than to have the role assigned to the Coast Guard, so than rather to have to start from scratch when someone rings the bell, you are continually training in that mode so that when the time comes, you are able to perform.
NARRATOR: So, from Vietnam you returned to the Acushnet out of Portland . What kind of duties did that cutter perform?
KNAPP: Well, basically, the Acushnet was a search and rescue cutter, but what she also performed were duties as the surface patrol for the International Ice Patrol on occasion, and if there was going to be a bad ice year, the Acushnet would be detailed to work and monitor ice berg flow. At the same time also, it was probably the start of the foreign fishing , of extensive foreign fishing in our – well, they weren’t our waters then. They would stay outside 12 miles. But, in waters contiguous to the continental United States , so the Acushnet also did fisheries patrol, but basically the fisheries patrol was enforcement of the various treaties and enforcement was primarily directed at U.S. vessels. In the large way, it was not a lot different, except that the area change, and the area was far more extensive, but not a lot different than the duty onboard Yeaton. Basically, 75 men and 8 officers onboard Acushnet. She displaced – oh roughly – 2,000 tons I believe and 213 feet long, an ex-salvage vessel for the Navy and excellent, excellent ship for North Atlantic rescue patrol. I mean you could take that ship out in anything and know you were coming back. It was an excellent vessel. As a matter of fact, I concluded sometime later that there ought to be one up in Alaska and it was during my tour as Commander, 17th, that I was able to negotiate a swap between the 210 that we had stationed in Kodiak and the Yocona which was sister ship of the Acushnet, which is now based out of Kodiak. Our area certainly was probably larger than onboard Yeaton. We operated out of Portland , Maine , and had the whole basically North Atlantic Ocean, north of the District line, between the First and Third Districts and conducted fishery patrols and search and rescue patrols up off the Grand Banks . It was very, very interesting duty.
NARRATOR: Admiral, you mentioned that our fisheries enforcement was mostly aimed at U.S. vessels during that time. What was the policy towards enforcement of treaties with the foreign vessels and what was the specific policy towards seizures, and do you remember any seizures?
KNAPP: Well, no, I don’t remember any seizures. The basic policy on foreign vessels I remember at the time was where they could not intrude within 12 miles of the coast. And, there were times when you would have intelligence vessels out there, but we would root them out, but to the best of my knowledge, there were no seizures. At least, the Acushnet made no seizures. You have got to remember at that time people were just becoming conscious of the economic impact of the vast foreign fishery systems that were being set up in what is now our 200-mile fisheries conservation zone. Basically, I’ve forgotten the name of the treaty, INPC – no, international – there was a treaty that dealt with the size of nets our people used and it was basically flag/state enforcement and had certain mesh size that could use and if they used anything less than that, it was a violation, and that was the kind of thing we were enforcing, plus ensuring that the foreign vessels did not intrude within 12 miles of the coast.
NARRATOR: Were there any real memorable incidents while you were aboard Acushnet?
KNAPP: Oh, yes. We had our share of good, tough search and rescue cases. Fires? We were on fisheries patrol and naturally the fishermen were not thrilled with being boarded by the Coast Guard to check their mesh size and to see if they had liners in their nets or things of this type, but we were out and we were amongst the U.S. fleet, checking and all of a sudden one of them called up on the radio and said, "You guys that are following us. There’s a ship on fire out there." Well, my immediate reaction was this was a red herring, but I looked out in the direction that he was pointing, and, sure enough, there was the plume. So, we headed up at flank speed and got there and it was literally blazing and we laid the ship up right alongside and let people off and dumped plenty of water on it and extinguished the blaze and it was still floating and we tried to get in and de-water, but we couldn’t really de-water all of it. There was an unknown leak. I had the crew on board – on board my ship aboard the Acushnet – and wanted to go onboard with the damage control party. I wanted the skipper or the engineer to go with us and they would not go and I was concerned about sending our people now that the property had been saved and there was no lives lost. I was concerned with risking our peoples’ lives, going into a place that they don’t know anything about in terms of the layout. So, I didn’t send anyone on board and got a letter from the skipper of the boat telling me it was his wish that he just didn’t want us to go onboard and he didn’t want to go onboard and he doesn’t care if we go onboard or not and it’s fine if we tow them towards New Bedford I guess or Gloucester and so that was his instructions and that’s what he really wanted to do. So, I told him that I was concerned about the safety structure of the vessel. Well, to make a long story short, towing it in, beautiful calm weather, and the next thing you know, the fishing boat just went down, behind us with our wire. There was a wire hanging from a tow line and we broke that off and that was the end of the boat, but no one was injured and everyone was saved and we had some other search and rescue cases that I am sure that other skipper from other ships have had where you could get a particularly rough weather situation where you have a lull. The funny part about it, this was a stationery lull, it was spring time, a stationery lull and it just whipped that water up into a frenzy and we were sent out to find this ship that had lost all communications and they were in a given area and you really couldn’t see too well. We couldn’t give air cover because there was no ceiling. So, we went out and as it would happen, the entire root to the area or the vicinity of the ship was across the swell, which meant you were in the trough all the way, and even with boats rigged in, I lost both boats. We just dipped them in and they never came back up again – just lost both lifeboats. We found them and we were able to get a tow line on them and tow him in. And it made the papers and it was something that went around and when I got back to Portland, the funny part about it there was a warrant who had been with me in Vietnam, was a chief petty officer, and I liked him very much. His name was Sprague and as a chief, he was a good tough chief boatswains mate and now he was a warrant and the first time he saw me when I got back with the Acushnet and no boats, he said, "Commander, you finally got yours." He says, "When you were in Vietnam , you wouldn’t let us come in when that weather was rough out there, and I was thinking he’s finally getting his aboard the Acushnet," and I said, "That’s the way it goes." No, it was a good assignment. I enjoyed it.
We wrapped the Acushnet up. As it turned out, I was the last skipper to have command of Acushnet in Portland because at that time, at that stage in time, they were starting with the large data buoys for transmitting weather information from places were ocean station vessels formerly had been and they were starting up in the area of Alaska, to go up to Alaska in what I believe they call the North Pacific Experiment – the NORPAC Experiment – and the Acushnet was selected to be the vessel to service that buoy. So, I was called to Headquarters to plan for the trip and so on and so forth and then went back and sailed the Acushnet – took a half crew with me – and sent the other half crew out to San Diego to be ready to meet us and find quarters so that they could relieve and the other crew come back and get their families, but I sailed around to San Diego and was met by the relief skipper and I was relieved. Acushnet, at least for the next couple of years, worked out of San Diego in the NORPAC Experiment and from there she was then transferred to the Gulf where she is working out of Gulfport right now.
NARRATOR: Now, from Acushnet, you returned to Headquarters as the Chief of the Cost Analysis Branch. What were some of the major economic issues during that tour for the Coast Guard?
KNAPP: Well, economic issues. It’s probably a perennial issue is that you are always facing budget cuts and you are always being asked to do more with less and at that point in time, the Polar Class ice breakers were under construction and it was at that time that the Bureau of the Budget. It was then called Bureau of the Budget but OMB also as management of the budget and came to be interested in saying, "Well, you know, basically ice breakers do not do work for the Coast Guard. They do it for everyone else. They do it for the National Science Foundation. They do it for the Department of Defense, and yet the funds are all in the Coast Guard, so why shouldn’t we have the ice breakers funded on the basis of user charges?" Well, you know while you couldn’t fault their logic, from the standpoint of practicality and working ice breakers, it was not a very practical thing to do because you just don’t take your ice breaker, take the funding away from it, give it to DoD or the National Science Foundation and for two years they decide on not having anything to do and all of a sudden, they decide that they want an ice breaker, you just don’t fire up an ice breaker together with crew to meet the demand. So, we kind of tussled with them and came up with an alternate scheme whereby we keep the funding for all personnel and shoreside support plus any programs that supported Coast Guard roles and missions and the rest of it would then be taken away from our budget, put in the other agencies’ budgets and they would pay us an incremental user charge based on days of use. In other words, the ice breaker would always be there at the dock, would always be funded and it would be funded for Coast Guard operations, but anything above Coast Guard operations, they would pay the incremental user charge for fuel, incremental maintenance, out-of-pocket costs, things of this type. And we thought that was as reasonable as we could get, given the situation, but it was about that time that OMB backed off and said, "Well, never mind. We will just demand that you are not going to build new polar ice breakers on a one-for-one basis to replace the Wind Class, so we will just demand an economic analysis and we will put the user charges away." And, it’s funny, but you know, it seems that things I dealt with in a previous assignment always came back in a subsequent assignment and when we get to it, you will find that this whole issue came up again when I was Chief of Ocean Operations. Of course, it was nice to have worked with it and nice to have a speaking acquaintance, except that it came from a different sector. It came from Congress this time. Anyway, there was that; there was that issue.
The Coast Guard at that time was looking for a better way to budget. By that time, we had operating programs and we were able to determine the cost of our operating programs. In other words, as I told you earlier, you know the concern, when I was with the Controller, you know we would fund for personnel or we would be funded for maintenance, but it told you that you did maintenance and had that many people to fund, but it didn’t tell you what you did with them. It didn’t tell you how much of those personnel costs went into the search and rescue program, how much of the personnel costs went into law enforcement, aids to navigation, merchant marine inspection, and by the time I had gotten there, that had been fairly well ironed out and we had a good program cost allocation and that was one of the primary things that my shop did. Beyond that, we were looking for better ways to manage the funds that we had and were being asked to do more with less. There were some of us who were concerned that all the money rested in engineering. This will probably get you at odds with the engineers when they hear this. But, everything used to rest in what was then Subhead 45 and that was for vessel maintenance and that was almost literally with the exception of some money in electronics, basically all the vessels’ money, including the everyday maintenance, and it was apparent (at least to me) that commanding officers were not exercising the authority that they really had and everything was being turned over to their engineering officers, not that there was anything wrong with them, but it just didn’t give you the break that you really needed. So, we wanted to split out some money that was basically the day-to-day operating expenses of a vessel and the commanding officer was responsible. And, he was responsible for a whole pack of money that he got, and certainly he would use his department heads to do their specialty maintenance, but he was in charge. And, we came up with the concept of Subhead 30 and the Subhead 30 was basically the operating funds that you got at the start of a business cycle to generally run your unit. Now, any extraordinary expenses like annual overhaul, you know where your engines are going to overhauled and it wasn’t something that was done every year – still stayed in Subhead 45, and remained the responsibility of the engineers. It was something that . . . in fact, this let the engineers . . . it put the onus on the commanding officer to be not only the commanding officer, but a manger of his facility, and I don’t like the term "manager" because even though being a manager is implicit in being an officer or a commanding officer, I don’t want to have us start moving toward the term of "managers" as opposed to "commanding officers" and "officers." But it gave him the manager responsibility and he had that responsibility and he had to manage also the funds that came through from other sources, the old Subhead 45, so that was something that we worked on and it still exists, but they have changed from the old Subheads to Operating Guides and the reason for that was that on the Subheads, if you overspent in a Subhead, you were subject to the Anti-Deficiency Act and subject to prosecution. On the other hand, if you had just one great big allotment, one big pot of money with operating guides within, then if you overspent in one Operating Guide, but underspent in the other, it washed through and it was not subject to the Anti-Deficiency Act. And that was basically the kinds of things we did.
The economic issues and the issues that really in my opinion affected the Coast Guard’s operations and the overall future of the Coast Guard came later.
NARRATOR: From there, you took command of the ice breakers Southwind and Edisto . What were those operations like?
KNAPP: Well, the Southwind was a Wind Class ice breaker that we had gotten from the Navy and was stationed in Curtis Bay, and primarily her area of responsibility was the Eastern Arctic and that involved resupply missions to Thule, which is the Air Force Base up on the northwest coast of Greenland, servicing some navigational beacons, along Sonderstron Fiord and then basically scientific and support work for the Department of Defense up along the east coast of Greenland, up pretty high, well north of Spitzbergen, and places like that. During my time on board, I guess she had been deployed to the Antarctic, but during my assignment, she did not go to the Antarctic. As it turned out, that became a split tour because I took command of Edisto about 5-6 months into my tour and how that happened is that we were scheduled to do the northeast Arctic resupply of Thule and Edisto was homeported at the time – which is a sister ship basically to the Southwind – was homeported in Milwaukee – and she was going to head out and do some of the scientific work. Well, on her way out, she had (as I remember) an explosion back in her motor room and was cancelled from the deployment and so we took the trip to Thule and did the resupply and came around [Cape] Farwell there and made our port calls at Bergen and headed back up to the ice and did our research work and then headed down toward Hammerfest, Norway, and Hammerfest is just about 300 miles west of Leningrad, as I remember, just your north cape. It is probably the northernmost community in Norway .
NARRATOR: Who did you have aboard to do the research?
KNAPP: Well, we had as I remember some scientists on board, both from the Naval Research – they were Naval Research folks basically – and plus we had our own technicians too to help them. So, we went to Hammerfest . By this time, Edisto had been repaired and it was decided apparently back in Headquarters that it would be a good idea to deploy her and at least get her up in the ice to help us do some of this scientific work for the north, so she deployed and came up. We were on the route in the ice and we were working with a Military Sealift Command ship, and I forgot the exact name now, but she was an ice breaker hull and she was doing research work, so we were doing some ice breaking for her too. What had happened is that we were up quite high. We were up about 80 degrees north anyway and it was decided – Captain [Adrian L.] Lonsdale was the commanding officer of Edisto and obviously I was commanding officer of Southwind. He had made his four stripes and I was still wearing my three. He had been a year ahead of me at the academy and it was decided that he would take the Navy Research ship and escort it into the ice and there was good reasoning behind that and it was because basically his six engines were all in good shape and basically I had only four of mine and they were grounding out, so I didn’t have all the full power that I really, really needed and I was to do some other scientific work on my own. So, we stayed in good contact along with one another and what happened in escorting the – it was the Mizaar , the Navy ship them – in escorting Mizaar through the ice, they bumped into rough going and one of the things you do sometimes is to tow the ship that you are escorting through the ice. Well, I guess as the towing started, Edisto was towing and I guess she fetched up on an ice ridge and apparently I don’t know what happened to the lines, but the upshot of it was that there was a collision between the Mizaar and the stern of the Edisto which literally wiped out all the stanchions and everything supporting the flight deck, so their flight deck was useless, and I had the helicopters so they couldn’t use it. It was kind of flapping and they were kind of stuck. Well, as they were working their out, Edisto damaged her rudder which rendered her steering inoperable and basically as I remember seeing it later, it was massive trauma to the steering engine room with the rubber stalk kind of poking up through – it was massive. And, in an effort to get out – of course, he was in a place that I couldn’t get to him because of ice ridges – in an effort to get out, he sheared the starboard shaft, so he had now lost his starboard screw. And, when you consider the scantlings on this kind of equipment, it tells you the forces involved because that shaft as I remember was 17-inch solid stock.
KNAPP: Anyway, like I said, I could not get into him because they were in the huge massive floe, locked in, and with my four engines there was no way I could get through the ridges. By this time, I knew I had a towing contract anyway and I figured the best thing to do was to maintain my capability to get in, so we stayed in radio contact with them and I went up to the ice edge as close as I could get, and they tried to blast themselves out. They really couldn’t and so we waited and what I was really waiting for was a change in the weather, because in the ice if you wait long enough, it’s the wind that builds the pressure by driving the ice up against something that is immovable and so I was waiting for a shift in the wind to release the pressure on the ice. Well, it turned out, we got a pretty good storm and I was 10 miles inside the ice edge. They were about 40 miles in. And, I could feel the swells in there, so I called Edisto and I said, "Do you feel the swells in there," and that was kind of what I was waiting for. I was hoping that the swells would have caused some folds in the ice and release some of the pressure. So, we went in, and – correct me if I am wrong – Edisto had finally barged herself out of the ice. Edisto had barged herself out, just following a lead, just kind of like a billiard ball. She had done that with shear power, no steering ability, just shear power, but the Mizaar was still engulfed so it was Mizaar that was still in about 40 miles and I had to get them out and so they said that yeah they had felt the swells. So, we kind of pounded our way in and had got her out, but then we had to tow Edisto , so we towed her. This time, we were 1100 miles from Iceland . So, we towed her 1100 miles to Iceland and then made temporary repairs to tow her across the Atlantic and this was November by this time and the orders were to get her back to get her fixed so she could get into the Seaway before it closed, so as to take up her duties in Milwaukee for ice breaking in the Lakes.
Well, the temporary repairs that were put on, on the first time around didn’t hold and when I had to take her back into port and we had to do more extensive repairs, just to hold the rudder straight, so she wasn’t shifting. And we started to cross again and ran into foul, foul weather, and we got her just west of the southern tip of Greenland and it was apparent that we were not going to be able to get her back to get her into the Seaway. A decision was made. They would send a relief ship out. I would take my ship into Milwaukee . They sent Morgenthau I believe and Morgenthau came on scene. We transferred towing line. The weather was beautiful – absolutely beautiful at that time, so Morgenthau towed Edisto down to Curtis Bay and we proceeded into Milwaukee through the Seaway and we got right at Cleveland on Thanksgiving. We arrived at Cleveland on Thanksgiving 1972, and Admiral [Arthur B.] Engel was there to meet us and give us a Unit Citation and all that kind of stuff, and then we proceeded on to Milwaukee where I was advised that it was my choice. I could stay on board Southwind and stay in Milwaukee or I could change my command over to Edisto and keep my homeport at Curtis Bay .
Regarding the potential shift from Southwind to Edisto, basically the crew was all going to shift and they had been my crew on that trip and they were a good crew and I really had no desire to be stationed in Milwaukee , so I elected to move to Edisto . Captain Lonsdale came back and took his crew to command the Southwind, so we took command of Edisto in the Yard and fixed her up and there I finished the remainder of my two years doing basically the same thing, including probably the first winter patrol up in the Arctic that they had done in many, many years. So, it was very, very interesting. There were interesting people. The missions were interesting. It was dynamic. It was always, always a new challenge with regard to accomplishing your mission with the ice always changing, so it was very interesting.
NARRATOR: Were there any particular problems that you encountered in that first winter patrol?
KNAPP: No, it was just very rough. At that point in time, also we were in the period of the early 70’s and of course there were people who quite frankly had come into the Coast Guard to avoid Vietnam and now Vietnam was over and all the folks that were in the service to go to Vietnam were being let out and some of these folks felt that they should now be let out of the Coast Guard, so there was some degree of personnel problems, but nothing really out of the ordinary.
NARRATOR: Sir, your next assignment was as Chief of Ocean Operations Division. What were your major problems during that tour?
KNAPP: Well, I don’t like to call them problems – probably challenges because quite frankly I consider that tour of duty as probably one of the most interesting tours of duty of my entire career in the Coast Guard. I came into take charge of the Ocean Operations Division, which was comprised basically of three branches and the branches were really – related to the programs which I described to you earlier – you know, operating programs. We had the ice operations branch which obviously related to the ice breaker duties that I just described to you. We had the oceanographic branch which looked at the oceanographic program of the Coast Guard, and we had the law enforcement branch which related at least at that time to the fisheries problems that I described to you when I had command of the Acushnet. In addition to that, there was a power play being put on at the time by NOAA, the National Ocean Atmospheric Administration. There was developed up in the Senate, sponsored by Senator Fritz Hollings, I believe, a little effort called the National Ocean Policy Study, and the National Ocean Policy Study was looking at, as I remember, taking this from the Coast Guard, moving things around that would have been not in the Coast Guard’s best interest as I remember it. And, I was given a staff to look that over. I was given a Captain to work for me, to monitor the National Ocean Policy Study for Coast Guard impacts and so we kind of watched that. But, I said it was the most interesting and it was the most interesting for a lot of reasons. First of all, at that time, we were just completing the construction of the Polar Class ice breaker, the Polar Star, the first one with Polar Sea following shortly thereafter and development of a new concept of operations with the establishment of the Ice Breaker Support Facility – the ISF – in Seattle . It was a whole new concept where we would have support facilities specifically for a given kind of ship, in this particular case, two particular ships, and it was a questioning of manning, a question of rotating crews and trying to get the more time out of the ships with less crew by rotating them through, almost like a modified Blue/Gold concept that they use on the nuclear submarines. So, this was something that was going on. In addition to that, I mentioned the question of user charges. That came up again, but this time, it came from Congress and this time I was able to – based on my experience up in the Chief of Staff’s office – to speak to the problem from an operational level and we posed as a solution the same solution that we had proposed before which was keep the basic funding, but let us just charge incremental costs. Well, basically, that’s what Congress did. They locked it out. That is essentially the way we ended up doing it, but the duties of the ice breakers, the question of whether or not we were going to continue operating them – it was always there, so it was a question of finding uses for those breakers.
Now, in that regard, you asked about economic questions. Well, it was probably one of the biggest economic questions with biggest economic potentials that came up while I was in this job, and it came up in a couple of areas. One of them was in the Ice Operations because at that time they were conducting – The Corps of Engineers in concern with the Coast Guard was conducting a Great Lakes – I forget the exact title – a Great Lakes Expanded Navigation Season Demonstration Project. Now, essentially what it was for was to prove the feasibility of keeping the Lakes open year-round so that they could be shipping iron ore from Lake Superior to the railheads and they had developed a process whereby they could take most of the moisture out of the ore, reduce it down to very concentrated portions, and ship it and just keep shipping it all year long rather than establishing huge inventories for shipment in the spring. And, so we were involved in that, and not from the standpoint of breaking ice, but from the standpoint of looking at ice inhibiting structures, ice control structures. It was about that time that we were then also designing and working with the engineers and designing the replacement for the 110, which turned out to be the 140 foot ice breaker, and we were under EXTREME pressure from agents of the Wortzler Shipyard in Finland to take one of their designs, and as it turned out, we said before, we would build ships in Zaire if they were competitive and they could meet our operational requirements, both in terms of performance and in terms of follow-on support. You know, systems, engineering systems, communications systems, electronic systems, and as it turned out Wortzler even put a bid in on the 140, but they were very high. I remember that we had to get a special bid. A call came from the White House. The Finnish ambassador was there and apparently asked at the various highest levels if they could do it, so we held the bid up and got a bid package over to the White House, so that it could be given to the Finnish ambassador and it turned out that their bid was high.
We built the ships and they have been, based on what I know of them, quite successful – quite successful. The biggest issue at the time was the fact that people were now becoming really, really concerned with the operations of the foreign fishing fleets in our overall continental shelf and what was going on also was the Law of the Sea Conference where they were trying to establish 200 mile zones by consensus but did not want countries to do that unilaterally. They wanted to do it through the Law of the Sea. Well, it was apparent that nothing was happening at Law of the Sea, and it was also apparent that other countries were looking to establish – and were in fact establishing – unilaterally 200 mile limits. They called them economic zones, fisheries zones or whatever. So, we supported it. The Coast Guard supported basically, as I remember (at least, I personally did) supported the unilateral establishment of the 200-mile fishery zone, and of course that was catching on up in Congress too, because people like Senator Ted Stevens with great interests in Alaska fisheries. I don’t know . . . As recently as three years ago, of all the foreign fish that are taken in U.S. waters, 93% of it is taken up here in Alaskan waters, and so there was a concern. So, there were a lot of bills. Senator Magnusson, Senator Jackson, Senator Stevens – all put bills in there and you could see where we were going. We were going toward a 200-mile limit. Well, there were questions of "How are you going to enforce this 200-mile limit?" There are millions and millions and billions of square miles and I, for one, and was very personally concerned about how we use our ships, because by this time we had already witnessed the demise of the ocean station program and there we were with a whole group of 378-foot cutters and they weren’t doing very much. They would make public information cruises up to Delaware, but they were not doing a lot, and they were going to refresher training, but you really couldn’t justify them on the basis of search and rescue when you look at the search and rescue statistics whereby well over 95% of search and rescue cases are done within 5 miles of shore, you really couldn’t justify the existence of the 378-foot cutters which are very expensive for search and rescue. So, they are to be used. We had to find a use for them. We had to find a use for all those cutters. So, it was determined that we were going to patrol those with cutters. People said, "Well, you can use black boxes." Well, we developed a position which said – and I believe it to be true – that black boxes can surveil what is there, but they cannot tell you exactly what is going on in terms of what is going on onboard the ship in terms of prohibited species and things of this type and we developed a plan for enforcing a 200-mile fisheries zone that called for very modest increases in assets, relatively speaking. As a matter of fact, depending on who you talked to, we were either criticized for asking for too much. What we were more roundly criticized for not asking for enough. They said we would never be able to do it with that number. These were congressmen saying that! It was the Department of Transportation and OMB who said that we were asking for too much. But, in answer to the folks who were saying that we were asking not enough, we pointed out the fact that, you know, you are really not going to patrol the whole every-square-mile of the 200-mile zone, because fish are where you find them, and for years we have been tracking with the National Marine Fishery Service – or they had been tracking – the migrations of the fish within the zone, so you are really going to enforce what we call the active fishing areas and that is where the fishermen are, and you are not going to find a guy fishing where there is no fish. So, the fish will determine where the concentrations are going to be and where the concentrations are going to be, that is what we will do and we will do it with a system of air and surface coverage where the air coverage will cite them, identify them if possible, alert the cutters on patrol as to where the concentrations are. The cutters will go on in forward and see about if they are in accordance with the law. So the asset question was settled and the concept was adopted and all of a sudden we had a use – at least one use for our 378-foot high endurance cutters – and I think a very meaningful use, because it certainly was an economic benefit to the United States, and even more so when you now look and see what has happened to the fishing off the coast whereby foreign fishing vessels have been almost literally displaced by American vessels – and that was the intent of the act.
Anyway, we found the use for those vessels. At the same time, and a very good and meaningful role in the Coast Guard, the Coast Guard played a very significant role in the development of the Act, not negotiating, but taking part in discussions with Congress, with congressional staff, with the State Department, with the National Marine Fisher Service, so it was really a team effort. Originally we started out only looking at the enforcement angle, but you can’t look at something in isolation because enforcement has a relationship to treaty writing, agreement writing, and so on and so forth, so eventually we became involved in the whole operation and it was a very, I think, significant to me a satisfying team effort by not only various offices and personnel within the Coast Guard, but the Coast Guard in concert with the Department of State in negotiated the GIFAS, the Governing International Fishery Agreement, you know that you sign with each country when they come to fish. The National Marine Fisher Service, who looks not only to enforcement but the biological aspects of it, and certainly Congress who was going to be putting the law through and didn’t want to put through a law that was unenforceable or that was unreasonable, so it was to me, almost the epitome of a team effort that you are taught about in textbooks and it worked. Not always without difficulty, but it worked.
Around that time also, strangely enough, in law enforcement people became aware of the fact that drugs were being sent into Florida and at that time, there was going to be a joint U.S.-Bahamian operation that dealt with drug interdiction and the operation order was written, but it included 210-foot cutters as well. Why not 378’s? To make a long story short, we used 378’s for that – drug interdiction operations – 210’s for drug interdiction operations – every other vessel that we could for drug interdiction operations and it is significant to note that the change in Coast Guard philosophy over a certain number of years. Without getting into personalities, because I don’t think you can really associate a particular position with a particular personality at any given time – at least, I wouldn’t want to try it – but I remember when I was in the Cost Analysis Branch in the Chief of Staff’s Office, sitting in on a very high level meeting where the Department of Treasury (I believe it was) came to the Coast Guard and it couldn’t really have been the Department of Treasury because they were our bosses, but it was a group within the Department of the Treasury who wanted the Coast Guard to do some kind of law enforcement interdiction and they did not receive any kind of satisfaction and they did not receive any kind of satisfaction on the premise that all our ships were already programmed for search and rescue. They were programmed for search and rescue and they couldn’t do anything else. Of course, there were those of us who felt that what better search and rescue asset do you have than one that is already deployed, doing something else – the multi-mission concept. And this multi-mission concept began to develop and so we get back to my tour in Ocean Operations and we started to take an active – a VERY, VERY active role in drug enforcement. At first, it was very difficult because the Coast Guard had been wearing the white hat for so long and that we had gotten away from our real law enforcement function that provided at least partial original basis for our establishment and it was difficult to get back into that mode, but it was also apparent that we were the ones who were going to do it, or we were the ones that should be doing it, and there was very real trauma. You read about it now in magazines where – well, let me just back track a little bit. We had to come up with a viable use of force policy since we didn’t have one. You know, how does a man protect himself in a potentially violent situation when he is dealing with which could be a hardened criminal element. You have got to address that. You just can’t say, "Well, we will discuss that next week or have a study on it." You have got to address it and you have to address it in real terms that give a person the kind of guidance that he needs to do his job, preserve his life, and not yet antagonize the public. And if you can read some of the boating magazines now, you will see apparently that we have antagonized the boating public, probably some of that criticism is warranted. O.K.? Because sometimes, people go off the deep end. So, it is a constant assessment of that particular practice, but the point is that that kind of philosophy, that kind of issue had to be addressed, and was addressed, and the Coast Guard moved toward an active, a proactive law enforcement that rather than a reactive mode of operation where you react to search and rescue. Here, you are doing proactive fisheries enforcement, proactive drug law enforcement and that program got off the ground and started to work and there were a lot of very successful operations where before long, our skippers were not reluctant to fire a shot across the bow – in more than words! And it was done, and to the best of my knowledge, there was never any abuse of that. There was a situation where a drug operation was going off of Southern California . A very fast speedboat was headed toward Mexico , a helicopter in pursuit with DEA agents on board. It took after the boat. The boat fired at the helicopter. The DEA agents took out their guns and started firing at the boat and several folks in the boat were killed. Of course, there was a question about the Coast Guard jurisdiction and so on and so forth, but there were those of us who thought that this was a logical – and to an operation which started and ended the way it did.
So, like I said, that tour was interesting because it developed and put into being the fisheries law enforcement, developed and put into being the drug enforcement, it worked with the ice breakers, developed a role for the oceanographic use, and to the extent that was necessary looked after our interests in the ocean policy study and it was dynamic. It was interesting. We increased our seizures on the fisheries grounds. You asked if we had any seizures when I was onboard Acushnet and the answer was "not really," but that did not mean that there were no seizures at the time, but the seizures were basically for being inside the 12-mile limit.
As we started to put the emphasis on fisheries enforcement, like I said during my tour in Ocean Operations, we were picking people up for violating the continental shelf. In other words, if they had creatures of the shelf onboard – lobsters, things that live on the shelf which we contended was our property – we seized them for that and seizures went up and the fines went up and before long if we signaled our intent that we meant business and in 1976 I think the law was passed – it was not really begin to become operable until the spring of 1977 I think – and we had our 200-mile limit which has further been expanded subsequently to a 200-mile economic zone which takes into account not only the fisheries but pollution and things of this type.
NARRATOR: What was the status of the Ocean Station Program?
KNAPP: Well, the Ocean Station Program had died. The Ocean Station Program had died for the Coast Guard sometime I think between 1972 and 1974, and the worse part about it was no alternate program had been developed for the use of the HEC’s, which is why there was a very great concern which said, "Use ‘em or lose ‘em." Because, they are expensive to maintain and as I said that the fisheries and the law enforcement, the military readiness which we picked up an increased role in, were ideal uses for those and I think central to the preservation of the Coast Guard as I would like to know it.
NARRATOR: In retrospect, was it a good move to cancel the Ocean Station Program when it was curtailed?
KNAPP: Well, it probably was. You see the Ocean Station Program was financed through us and a whole group of nations and like I said, it was a very, very complicated formula that they used and you have got to remember as I talked about my Ocean Station duty that it was developed basically in support of military operations, but then as military operations were replaced by commercial air transport operations, you were dealing with aircraft of limited range and less sophisticated navigation systems. First they had was LORAN-A and so you needed some kind of reference point, but as aviation progressed and the range and the speed and the dependability of the aircraft plus the increased sophistication of the navigation systems, you generally gradually eliminated the need for those Ocean Stations Programs or Ocean Station ships.
NARRATOR: Sir, then in 1977, you became the Deputy Chief of Personnel. What was the status of women within the service at that time?
KNAPP: Well, we had women in the service, obviously, but it was only at that time that the impetus was building for a more active role for women in the service beyond the traditional office work and moves were being made to put them onboard ships, and I don’t remember the exact date or under whose watch they went onboard. I know we had to be working toward putting them at least on the 378’s during my tour in personnel because we were doing a study and looking at various ships to see which ones had the capability to take them, which ones had the capability, which ones didn’t, and it was clear that with the berthing configuration on the 378’s that was one of the easier ones to accommodate women. Of course, with officers, there was no real problem. We are talking about crew now and we were looking at buoy tenders to see what the economic impact would be of modifying buoy tenders to take women, and I remember just as Admiral Hayes was coming in, which would have been at the end of my year there as the Deputy Chief of Personnel, that we had finally decided to put them on the 378’s because I believe that Admiral Hayes was involved in developing the first press release that let that out and that comes to mind, so we were working on it during that time, and you see it’s progressed even since then.
NARRATOR: Were there any significant problems generated by the transition in putting women in more active roles?
KNAPP: Well, you know, I think yes there were. I don’t have firsthand knowledge because I had at that time probably – I didn’t serve onboard ship anymore so I was not shipmates with the problem, but I can remember situations where there were conversations where a particular woman didn’t want to go someplace, she would have to leave her boyfriend or husband, but you know, it’s not a lot different that the role reversal, so I don’t consider that a big problem. There have been you know – well to say there have not been any problems on board ships because of this is I think putting your head in the sand. I know a particular case where a woman on board ship and a woman officer on board ship were taking up with another married male officer on board that ship and the commanding officer attempted to take that situation in hand and solve it and the case blew up into a civil rights case, a discrimination case, and everything which probably would not have existed had you not had the co-educational nature of the wardroom, but I think these are the kind of things that you have to expect and if you don’t expect them, then you are living in never-never land and so to me – that’s a long answer to your question, but have then been problems? Sure. Sure, there have been problems, but the question is that you might not have that same problem in an all-male area, but you would have other problems, so . . .
NARRATOR: Sir, what do you feel were the most difficult adjustments in bring women into the service?
KNAPP: Well, I think you have got to define that a little bit, because you know, we have always had women in the service, but we haven’t had them in the kinds of operational roles that they are being placed in right now. I think probably the biggest problem you have is allowing for and making allowances for the physiological difference between men and women. You have got to have separate facilities and that is a problem, but it is workable. You always have the problem of reactionary views. You know, this never has been and therefore will never be, and it will never work. That’s a problem. You can get around that through good leadership. Probably contrary to a lot of practice, I believe that the way that particular problem is handled is by making no concessions to women – I mean don’t treat them any different than anyone else – same standards and let them prove themselves and then they gain the respect of their peers, their subordinates, their superiors, and everything is gained on a solid standard basis. It’s when the concessions are made because of a gender or because of a race, that you compromise the intent of what you are trying to do. I know when I was Commander of the 17th District, we had some isolated LORAN Stations – Port Clarence, Attu, St. Paul – and I have got to tell you, we had some young women officers as commanding officers of those units and I think they commanded 26 men and they were some of the finest commanding officers that I have seen. In particular, we had a young lady who was the commanding officer of St. Paul and she faced a double whammy and the double whammy consisted of not only probably the reaction of male dominated situation to a new female commanding officer, which she handled as did the one at Port Clarence, but she was also in a not totally isolated area, but was in a native community of St. Paul which is largely as I understand a patriarchal society and where the women are not quite up to the level of the male species, and here she was plopped right down in the middle of that, in command of 26 men. Now, there had to be a threat. There had to be a threat to the male side of that native population and in fact from all reports that I had, there was some animosity, yet she was able to win them over without compromising the purpose for which she was out there. So, you know, sure there is a difference and I am glad there is and there will always be. But, as long as you can accommodate the requirements for separation, you know, just based on our mores, maybe even that will change in the future, and as long as the woman is capable of doing the job – physically and mentally capable of doing the job, I guess it is something that should be pursued. There may be a point at which either society or shear practicality dictate otherwise, but given the state of society today, I think you would be hard pressed not to make every effort to do what the trend is taking you, just as long as it is done on the basis of fairness and not solely on the basis of gender.
NARRATOR: Do any other challenges come to mind during your tour as Deputy Chief of Personnel?
KNAPP: No, only the standard ones where so-and-so wants to go here and so-and-so doesn’t want to go there and it all comes up through the Officer of Enlisted Personnel, but basically that was it. The one thing that we tilted with – there were fitness reports- and you know the fitness report grade creep was going in. People were being concerned about the really the reliability and the effectiveness of the fitness reports and we looked at various ways of changing that and well, we got a new fitness report form. It seems to be working out, but I think the key to it is to change it from time to time whenever you start seeing a fix starting to set in – to change it a little bit and establish a new norm and hopefully get some ground zero truth. But basically, I think that the Coast Guard has done very well with the officers that we have and the enlisted men that we have, and I think that’s less the result of the fitness report system or of any fitness report system and more a result of the kind of service that we are. First of all, we are relatively small, so basically in the service, at least in the officer ranks, you know almost every one of your contemporaries plus or minus a rank or two, either personally or by reputation, so that adds ground zero truth to a fitness report. It’s the same in the enlisted ranks and with the kind of jobs we do and the very close association we have with each other, as opposed to a very rigidly structured rank-by-rank where no one talks to someone two ranks below him, I think that helps our set-up considerably.
NARRATOR: You mentioned that you occasionally heard personal complaints. Do complaints like that often get to the level of the Office of Personnel or Deputy Chief?
KNAPP: Well, yeah, you get them only because it was something that was new – because it was women, but you know the real question was would you have heard that if it were men? And, the answer is no, so that puts it in proper perspective and appropriate action was taken.
END OF INTERVIEW TWO