He then walked over to me and we had some small talk. He explained that the rocks, stained orange from iron, made nice pavers to outline his garden.
He then looked at me and without pre-able began his story. His rather amazing story.
"It was 1945 and I was an Electrician's Mate in the Coast Guard. I got called down to the Admiral's office one day and he says to me, 'I need chiefs to head over to Germany to pick up a boat we're being given for war reparations.' I tell the Admiral that I never volunteer for nothing. I can't win, you see. If I don't go and it's great, I'm kicking myself, but if I do go and it's bad, I'm kicking myself. Can't win.
"'How's the wife?' The Admiral asked me. 'You got a new baby?' Yeah, they're okay. 'Well, you take three weeks leave and think it over. I need a good chief.' So I go home and I'm there about a week and a half when he calls me up and says they have more details and need me for a meeting. So I head back and they're picking chiefs and the Admiral wants me to go. We'll, I'm not gonna volunteer, but if you want me to go, I'll go.
"So I went. It took us thirteen days to fly to Germany. Our first day we went to LaGuardia Airport but the plane wasn't flying so we spent the night in New York. We then flew out to Newfoundland Labrador. We landed to refuel. Then man said there's a bus outside ready to take us to the cafeteria for something to eat. I looked out the porthole and there wasn't anything out there. I asked him where it was and he said, 'See those lights at the end of the runway? Right there.' Aw, I could walk that. He said, 'No, you don't understand. It's forty below outside.' So I got on the bus. From the plane to the bus was a long walk because it was indeed forty below.
"When we got back, the engines were frozen and we had to stay the night. The next day we flew into Iceland for refuel, but a fog rolled in, thick as I'd ever seen. That fog lasted 2 days. When it lifted we got on the plane but they busted a starter getting the engine started so we had to wait a couple more days to fix that. We were finally in the air to England. Flying over the Atlantic the number two engine cut out. They told us not to worry, but then one of the engines on the other wing started to cut out. It died and they restarted it, and it died again. I thought we were in a real fix but they said not to worry, they can keep the plane up as long as it doesn't get too rough. Well, it got rough and we were bouncing around in an airplane with only two engines over the Atlantic, but we made it to England. It took days to fix the plane before they got us the last two hour flight to the American Sector of Germany.
"Now we were all excited to finally see this ship and we headed straight down to the docks in Brennen. We had three ships to choose from, each one worse than the last. The best of them was the Horst Wessel. Horst Wessell was a stooge for Hitler in the thirties and instrumental to getting him to power. His namesake was a wreck. It was aground, listing over thirty degrees and needed to be pumped twenty four seven. We had no parts, no funding, no resources and no way to get it home. Anything of value had already been scavenged, shot up, or blown up from 'Zee Var'.
"Now mind you, Germany had been bombed flat. There was nothing, nothing. No materials, no supplies, no roads, no fuel, no food. Un-exploded bombs were everywhere. They couldn't close streets fast enough. It took you 45 minutes to walk down the block because they'd close off the street and detour you to another street which they would then close down. Germans would show up everyday to work but we didn't have any money. They worked anyway because there was nothing else to do!
"After days trying to figure out what to do, the Captain came down and got all us Chiefs together and laid it out. He pointed to the Engineer and told him to strip apart the engine. Every bit. Take it apart and see for yourself its condition. None of the Germans saying, Ja, das gudt. See for yourself. He then pointed to the Chief Bosun and told him to get below and see the state of the canvass. What's rotten, what's good. Go over every line because if we have to sail this thing back then we will.
"The Captain them pointed at me and said, 'Lowe, I need you to get parts. I'll get you transportation. I don't care how you get them, where you get them, but I don't want to see you on that boat unless your dropping parts off. Now Vaughn is a German born American officer and he's working up in Munich. He'll help you. Just don't leave the American Sector.
"The American Sector was a postage stamp in the middle of Germany. At first it was land locked, but the American's complained they didn't have a port so they gave them Brennean which lead to the Baltic. It also has the German underground submarine base. But the American Sector was really small, like looking at Rhode Island. Trying to find parts and canvass was no easy task and I may have strayed over the line here and there, but I managed.
"We were having a meeting with the Captain, Admiral and a German Admiral when the Engineer stormed in, didn't knock or nothing, like he was having a conversation with you out in the hall about the engine. The Captain slowed him down and asked him to explain. 'It's cracked down the middle! The engine is no good.' Well they looked at me and I knew what my next assignment was. Where to find an engine for a boat in 1945 in the American Sector of Germany? Turns out that the Germans were using that engine in a lot of other boats and we where able to find a block that wasn't blown up or scavenged for something else that we could use. We put the engine together and re-floated the boat and sailed it back home.
"Once home we re-painted it and Re-Christened it the Barque Eagle. I am one of two remaining Coast Guard Members still alive who sailed her to her new home."
He said he had taken up enough of my time and thanked me for listening. I thanked him for sharing his story with me. I was too amazed and awed to say anything else. I asked him his name and he said, Edward Lowe. He walked back to his car, gathered up his rocks and headed out, honking his horn as he left the parking lot.
If you are driving across the Gold Star Bridge in Connecticut, look down and you might see a magnificent cutter parked at the Coast Guard Station. It's not always there because it sails around world wide quite a bit.
But if you're lucky, you might catch a glimpse of it down there.
And you'll know it's story.