And Pass the Ammunition

Original caption: “Seaman Barrett C. Benson who was a Methodist minister with two churches at Dalton and LaFayette, Georgia, saw the men of his churches going off to war…Deciding to follow them, he enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Note his flat cap with Coast Guard band, the distinctive USCG shield on the sleeve of his winter jumper, classic 13-button trousers, 10-pocket M1910 belt with M1905 bayonet hanging from its side, and an M1903 rifle with stripper clip of .30-06 M2 ball at the ready. If you are curious, the photo even caught the rifle’s serial number (587211) which makes it a circa 1914 Springfield Armory-made weapon. (USCG Photo, NARA NAID: 205588663)

The former minister joined the Coast Guard as an apprentice seaman and went through the regular ‘boot’ training with thousands of other young men. He is shown carrying on his duties as an armed guard protecting fighting ships under construction at Manitowac, Wisconsin.

On Sundays, he has been helping out as a preacher in a Twin Rivers church, after answering a call to fill in for the regular minister who was unable to attend.

Coast Guardsman Benson said, “When the war is over, I hope to be back in the pulpit a better man for having had the adventure of trying to maintain my duty to both Church and State.”

While there is no date on the photo, the craft behind the good SN (Rev.) Benson is, judging from the number and the shape of the wheelhouse, likely the 38-foot “cabin cruiser” type picket boat CG 38387, or possibly CGR-387, a Coast Guard Reserve “Corsair Fleet” picket boat (formerly the 37-foot pleasure craft Contact, #22H158) taken into service in the 8th Coast Guard District in Feb 1942 and then disposed of in June 1946. As both vessels were active throughout WWII, that doesn’t narrow it down very much, but I’d lay odds on, judging from the uniform and equipment, the image was likely snapped in the winter months of 1942. 

Further, it doesn’t seem that Benson remained in the USCG for “the duration,” and he soon shipped off with the Navy as a chap since a 2013 obituary lists him as, “A retired United Methodist Church Minister and United States Navy Chaplain with the rank of Commander, serving on a ship in the Pacific Theatre during WWII, active duty during Korean conflict and the Vietnam era.”

As a side note, Manitowoc Shipbuilding built 36 LCT (5) landing ships and 28 Gato and Balao-class fleet submarines during the war, with 13 additional submarines canceled Post VJ Day.

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