Tuesday, June 6, 2006 · Last updated 9:15 p.m. PT
D-Day veteran reunited with his Coast Guard
cutter 62 years after invasion
SEATTLE -- When World War II veteran Wilfred "Bud"
Eberhart first logged onto the Internet earlier this year he had no idea
this new interest would soon lead to an even more significant discovery:
the old wooden Coast Guard cutter he served on during the D-Day invasion.
Five months ago, Eberhart, 84, of Mitchell, Ill., learned that the
83-foot boat had been restored and was one of the few remaining of the 60
cutters that were part of Coast Guard Rescue Flotilla 1. On Tuesday, the
62nd anniversary of the World War II invasion of France, Eberhart spent
the day on the deck of his old boat, USCG-11.
"It's a dream come true," Eberhart said after a
commemoration on the wharf next to the boat, including a four-shot cannon
salute and a wreath dropped into the lake in memory of the Coast Guardsmen
who pulled 1,438 injured troops out of the water off Omaha Beach during
the landing on June 6, 1944.
The cutter, now painted white instead of wartime gray, has been in
Seattle since it was decommissioned in California in 1962. It was bought
by Raymond Holland, now 75, converted to a yacht and renamed the Tiburon.
Holland, a retired Boeing electrical technician, had no idea what a
rare possession he had until five months ago when a boat restorer, a
veterans group and Eberhart all found each other through the Internet.
"It's deep within my heart," Eberhart said on the deck of
the CG-11, after flying out with his family for the reunion and
commemoration. "You'd be surprised how I feel about this boat. I just
can't explain it."
The Tiburon was in dry dock on Lake Union being restored after its
most recent mishap - it sank in the lake a few years ago - when one of
Eberhart's sons decided to search online for the old Coast Guard cutter
about which their father had told so many stories.
Scott Eberhart, 40, of Maryville, Ill., thought his research would
turn up some interesting new Web sites for his father to explore.
He typed in the cutter's identification number in a search engine
and pictures of the boat just popped up. "I said, 'Dad, you're not
going to believe this. I think I found your boat.'"
The former signalman third class said: "I didn't know whether
to jump with joy or cry, so I did both."
His thoughts turned quickly to his former shipmates, the last of
whom he talked to in 1994.
"I just wish they were here on this boat again," Eberhart
said of his 12 fellow crewman and the boat's skipper, who all survived the
invasion. "I'm so glad I made it."
He said his old signaling skills are still with him, including Morse
Code, which he used to send messages to other vessels during his two-plus
years in the Coast Guard after being drafted. "Of course, I'm a
little slower on it now than I used to be, but I can still do it," he
During a year and a half on the USCG-11, the crew tracked submarines
and then pulled dead and injured troops out of the water during the
Since the war, Eberhart held various transportation-related jobs,
including working as a machinist for the federal government and as a
mechanic for a local sheriff's office. Later in life, he was elected to a
couple of government offices including township highway commissioner.
Holland was glad to be part of the reunion and enjoyed swapping
stories about the boat with one of its former sailors.
"It's a beautiful boat. It's really seaworthy," Holland
On the Internet:
Combatant Craft of America: http://www.combatantcraft.org/
Coast Guard Combat Veterans Association: http://www.aug.edu/libwrw/cgcva/cgcva.htm
Coast Guard Cutters: http://uscg83footers.org/ww-ii.htm