Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wimpy Lassiter's World War II records

Wimpy Lassiter spent most of World War II on one of three Coast Guard cutters, all of which operated just off Norfolk. The Navy subsumed the Coast Guard during the war, and the cutters were tasked with picking men from the burning wreckage of German u-boat attacks. By all accounts, Lassiter made for a terrible sailor. Eyewitnesses tell us that he was sick most of the time. Lassiter himself told a friend that he wanted to crawl off and die because of the motion sickness.

While researching Hustler Days I reviewed Lassiter's military records and put together a timeline. I've reproduced it below. You might come across a few of my typos here and there because this is pretty much how the timeline appeared in my raw, unedited notes. I find the entry for May 8, 1943 particularly instructive. The military records for that day indicate that Wimpy neither desired a job, nor had requested to attend a service school. This shouldn't come as a surprise, as Wimpy already was making himself rich in Norfolk. He was said to have amassed several hundred thousand dollars in pool winnings in the  pool halls during these years -- and remember, this was the 1940s. Under such circumstances, why would he want to attend a service school?

Lassiter would go on to win eight major 14.1 titles during the 1960s -- and that's not counting his four straight pool victories at Johnston City. He also picked up five nine ball championships in Johnston City, a Johnston City one-pocket victory, and he won the Johnston City all-around championship five times.

I've also posted this time line of his early years in my separate Wimpy Lassiter blog. You can find it here.

Total time in Service: Three years, 10 months, and 7 days.
Spent time aboard vessels: CG 83511, CG 74307, CG 74306

September 1934 - Dec. 14, 1937
Attended high school. In letter by Edgar E. Bundy, Superintendent of Schools to recruiting board, Wimpy was said to have left school for work.

Employed by J.C. Connery, Burgess Street, Grocer man (according to Coast Guard application), drinks intoxicating liquors on ``rare occasion,’’ never convicted of crime.

April 2, 1941
Walks into recruiting station, Norfolk, to sign up. Signs special temporary enlistment contract. Employment was shown as clerk; enlisted or three years; described as 22 years old, 5’10’’, weighing 136.5, with blue eyes, black hair, fair complexion,

April 22, 1941
Receives physical examination that reports: 20-20 vision, not color blind, hearing normal, height 70 inches, weight 136.5 pounds, chest (exhale) 34; (inhale) 31 pulse before exercise 84, after exercise 100, after three minutes 84. Tonsillectomy, 1931. Age 22 years, 6 months.

April 25, 1941
A form he fills out shows no experience in any trade.

May 1, 1941
Accepted for service in Norfolk, VA. Receives clothing bounty pay of $112.75 Immediately transferred (at 2:30 p.m. that day) to Curtis Bay, Maryland for training.

May 1, 1941
In designation of Beneficiaries for Death Gratuity, names mom, Florence L. Lassiter as beneficiary. No mention of dad. Signed by recruiting officer.

Aug. 12, 1941
Requests transfer to Elizabeth City, where Wimpy understands vacancies exist in Seaman branch.

Aug. 27, 1941
Transfer denied.

Sept. 1, 1941
Advance from rating from Seaman to Seaman second class.

Dec. 2, 1941 (1730)
Depart for temporary duty, course of instruction at the Internal Combustion Engine School, Norfolk, upon completion report to the senior Coast Guard officer, Fifth Naval District, for assignment.

Dec. 3, 1941-Feb. 14, 1942
Class assembles. Names of classmates listed in records. Special qualifications record shows:
"Norfolk training station, 2-14-42, completed operators’ course in Internal Combustion Engines, with a final mark of 76.3 or 3.1, 43rd in a class of 45 men."

Dec. 6, 1941
World War II begins.

Feb. 21, 1942
Transfer to CG-140 (There is some uncertainty on this entry).

Nov. 17, 1942
Also shows him aboard CG 73406.

March 21, 1942-Nov. 20, 1944
Transfer to CG 74306.

June 8, 1942
Raises in rank to Ffc (something first class -- uncertainty on this entry).

March 15, 1942
Landing party boat training, New River, N.C..

Nov. 17, 1942
Promoted to machinist mate second class.

May 31, 1943
Becomes machinist mate first class.

July 31 1943
Trains on Camp Glen Rifle Range, receives expert rifleman’s medal on 14 Aug. 1943.

April 30, 1944
Enlistment involuntarily extended for the duration of war, plus six months.
Vessel Designation: CG 74307, at CG base: 05-013.

May 1, 1944
Enlistment involuntarily extended for duration of war, plus six months.

May 8, 1943
Coast Guard Enlisted Qualification Card Shows: 7 years grammar school, ending in 1931; three years High School, ending in 1934 (which means six years of playing pool before the service), And Grades of 80 in social studies, 66 in Arithmetic, and 79 in Mechanical aptitude. Shows no service schools qualified for, and no service schools desired. Weight then: 158 pounds. Main occupation: no jobs.
Says: "No jobs, no service schools desired."

Nov. 7, 1944 (1145) -Nov. 24, 1944
Received inpatient treatment for Pyelonephritis. Vessel designation CG-74306.

Nov. 20, 1944-Nov. 29, 44
Aboard CG 74306.

Nov. 29, 1944 through Sept. 12, 1945
Stationed aboard CG 74307.

Sept. 12, 1945
On leave, from vessel CG 74307.

Sept 16, 1945
Transferred to CG 83511 for duty, CG Patrol Base, Municipal Pier, Norfolk, VA; apparently from CG 74307.

Oct. 1, 1945
Letter from J.I. Crews states: "Lassiter ... has completed a continuous period of three years’ active service on 4 April, 1944, with no mark in conduct of less than 4.0. Accordingly, appropriate entry has been made of the service record and above named man has been authorized to wear appropriate (ribbon) in lieu of issue of actual award at this time."

Oct. 10, 1945
1300 hours, letter addressed to Wimpy in Norfolk, Virginia says, "Proceed to: Portsmouth, Virginia, CO.CG Personnel Separation Center, No. 5, Crawford Street. Discharge from the Coast Guard on Draft No. Nornor-56."

October 11, 1945
Discharge papers show that he weighs 161 pounds. Apparently gained 25 pounds in the service (up from 136.5 pounds).

October 12, 1945
Discharged in service

-- R.A. Dyer

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