High Seas & Havana – Cmdr. Joseph C. McCoy, USN

7,500 words

picture of Joe McCoy

Joe is in center

I have compiled the following letters of Commander Joseph C. McCoy, Jr., to tell the story of this young Naval officer stationed on the U.S.S. Sarsfield (EDD 837) at the Naval Base at Key West, FL. He is in his 20’s, and has been working at WLW television in Cincinnati, OH, when he is called into service to the Navy Reserves. The letters to his parents describe in detail his adventures, as he enters places like Havana, Cuba, at their peak, doing everything from firing torpedoes on Guantanamo Bay to having lemonade with President Truman. An interesting story develops as he works his way up the ranks and responsibilities on board ship while steering his own course toward the biggest decision of his life. The real-life colorful characters, beautiful women, and glamorous locations he discovers along the way, make his journey one fascinating ride.

March 30, 1951,
Dear Mother & Daddy,
Saw the parade Wed., and Wed. night saw Truman and his cabinet come out of the Carleton after the State Dinner. Thursday morning my plane was one hour late getting into Washington. From Washington to Jacksonville, it was foggy and very rough. Three-fourths of the people were sick. Strangely enough, I wasn’t. Had a good lunch on the plane, beef stew. From Jacksonville to Miami the weather was perfect. We were ½ hour late into Miami so I missed my plane and had to take the bus. It was air conditioned and not so bad. I got to Key West at 9:30 and went aboard the Sarsfield. It is a beautiful ship and spotless. I share a small room with a Lieut. J.G. It has a washbasin, easy chair and closet. The wardroom and all the officers seem very nice. I had a talk with the executive officer today. It looks like I’ll be CIC officer for our ship, but not for sure, that sort of scares me. Today we went out and fired torpedoes. The Sarsfield is permanently stationed at Key West. Goes out in the morning and is in in the evenings and weekends. We go to Norfolk in May for repairs and again in Sept., but always back to Key West. We are an experimental destroyer, which just means we try out new methods of fighting subs, etc. They say Key West is nice, but not many girls. I’m going swimming all weekend. It’s very hot here, especially on the ship. I have a sun burn already. We get a new commanding officer tomorrow, a Commander. The address I gave you was wrong, but I’ll get the letters eventually. Please ship as soon as possible by air express: new tan gabardine suit, blue gabardine pants, brown seersucker suit, blue seersucker pants only, pair of brown shoes in closet, hole in one sole. Send them in a good box as I will send winter clothes back to you. I’m writing to Rita in Miami. Miami looked interesting going through. I sure wish I had my car here; I’m going to bring it down as soon as I can. Key West looks very picturesque. I got paid today. I’m glad Julia and Helen are getting a Ford. I did my correspondence course at Bob’s. Bob and Elsie were very nice and I had a good time. Would it be too much trouble for you to write to Time, Life, and Esquire changing my address? You send the old tape from the magazine with the old address to them. Had an elaborate dinner tonight. The captain’s wife and some of his friends were on board. Had cold turkey with hot dressing. I think I’ll like a destroyer very much. We have 15 officers and 300 men. It’s not such a small ship. The wardroom has deep red drapes and a dark green felt table cover, also radio and couch. Going into Key West tonight. Have to get up at 5 a.m. tomorrow for inspection. Hope Daddy’s well by now.
Love, Joe

USS SarsfieldMay 1951 Key West, FL
Dear Mother & Daddy,
This is a hard letter to write because I have so much to tell. Friday morning I got a new job. I am now 1st Lieutenant of the Sarsfield. Our other one was transferred. I am in charge of the whole deck force, about 80 men. It’s a much bigger job than CIC officer. I have to have the ship in shape. All painting, repairs to the deck, crews and officers quarters, etc., boats, lifelines, etc. I am also Air Defense Officer and Torpedo Officer. It’s really some job. I hope I can do it. Of course, I don’t have the other jobs anymore. One thing, I’ll be outside on deck most of the time now. I’ll write more about the job. The Captain selected me for it. I’m now in the Gunnery Dept. We have had a beautiful trip down to Havana, and I got in about 5:00. We tied up at the pier. I had the duty Friday night and I had to stay aboard. I did a watch from 4 to 8 a.m. at the gangway and watched the Cubans come aboard. I left the ship Sat. morning at 11. Two other officers and I, we had on civilian clothes. We went to Sloppy Joes for a drink and then did some shopping on the Prado, Havana’s 5th Ave. You have to argue with the taxi drivers, you say Cuanto how much, they say about twice what you end up paying them. We shopped at a place called Hermans. They have a bar and free drinks right in the store and very pretty salesgirls. After Hermans, we went to the Hotel National, very ritzy, $25.00 a person per day or night. It’s beautiful. One of the guys met some Canadian girls there the night before. We had a few drinks with them and then went back downtown. Then we went to a rum factory. You sample one shot of everything they make free. That almost finished us. We then went back to Hermans. Practically all the Sarsfield officers were there and some showgirls from the Sans Souci nightclub. We had a big party. Back on the ship for dinner. We started again about 8. We went to the Tropicana nightclub. It’s indescribable. It makes Beverly Hills look like a roadhouse. You enter into lush tropical grounds up to a modern marble entrance, lush carpets and colored lights. You go down a fabulous hall with huge gambling rooms on each side with dark red walls. The main dining room is outdoors. Very large with stone floor and huge tall palm tree and hanging tropical ferns. Colored lights over everything. An elaborate bandstand with 2 large orchestras, one Cuban music, one American. The most distinguished and beautiful women I ever saw. A huge floorshow with about a 30-piece orchestra. A bar completely surrounded by ferns. The waiters had beautiful uniforms on. I can’t believe places like it existed. The Tropicana is about 20 miles from Havana. After that, back downtown to a series of bars. We all ended up at Johnny’s Bar. What a place. I got back to the ship at 7:00 a.m. after having been up since 3:30 the morning before. Went to bed and got up at 4:00 p.m. Had dinner on ship and the funniest thing happened. One of the officers came in the wardroom at dinner and said that an Ensign was bringing a showgirl with a French poodle on board. This Ensign was always sort of bashful before Sat. night. So in came the beautiful blonde showgirl and the poodle, right into the wardroom and had dinner. The Captain and all of us about laughed to death. The Ensign was smoking a cigar and real authoritative instead of meek. One of the crew tried to bring a white rat on board a little before this. I went downtown again about 8. Strolled along the Prado, etc. I finally ended up with a few of the other officers in the Senille bar, drinking daiquiris with the poodle and the blonde. Got back to the ship about 12:30. We left Havana at 7 this morning and as soon as we got to sea, all the officers except the Captain went to bed. We were really sad looking. Operated today with a sub that was in Havana with us. Luckily we both survived today. Got into Key West at 6:30 p.m. I got mother a necklace, daddy, cigars, and Grandma a pair of earrings. Don’t know when I’ll get to send them.
Love, Joe

June 2, 1951
Dear Mother & Daddy,
We just arrived at Key West. It sure is good to be back, everything is so clean and bright down here. We got in at 9:30 a.m. We left Norfolk Monday morning at 8:00 and sailed by Chesapeake Bay to Bloodsworth Island. We fired at it Monday afternoon and at night and Tuesday morning. All I was concerned with was Monday night. I was Illumination Officer. We fire shells that light up a whole area so that we can see to fire other shells at. I had to keep it lit up. I told our forward gunman where to fire. I had a stopwatch, etc. If it went dark for a second, it was counted against me. Luckily, everything went OK. Tuesday evening we passed Virginia Beach and I could see the Cavalier. We had a very smooth trip down. I only had one night watch, so I got a lot of sleep. We had some good movies. Bob Hope, etc. Last night we were right off the Florida coast during the night and you could see trains, etc. on the land. I go take a my physical Tuesday, and will probably be sworn in as Lieutenant on Wednesday. That will be nice. Ensign isn’t so hot a rank. We haven’t got our mail yet. Guess I’ll be go swimming this afternoon. Just got back to the ship. I called you from the Trade Winds. That’s fine that Eric can drive my car down. I sure hope he comes soon. I’ll pay you for fixing up the car the middle of this month. I think it’s best my keeping my car instead of getting a new one.
Love, Joe

Oct. 24, 1951
Dear Mother & Daddy,
Sunday night we stopped at the Lookout House for a while and then to the airport. My plane got in on time, and Barbara was aboard. We were 10 minutes late getting into Atlanta, as it was all fogged in. Barbara and I drank martinis between Atlanta and Jacksonville. It was a little rough out of Jacksonville. Got into Miami at 8:15, so the last part of the flight was in daylight. Had breakfast on the way over to the girl’s house, and went to sleep. We left at 1:00 p.m. for Key West. Barbara and Beth (Rita couldn’t go) were in one car, and Joyce Teetor was with me. Joyce drove most of the way down and I slept. We stopped at a few places on the way down. Got to Sarsfield at 5:00. Picked up the boys and we went to the Sun & Sand for a drink, and then back to the ship. Had the girls aboard for dinner. Got them two rooms at a hotel. After dinner, we all went out to the Captain’s for a drink. He was very nice. Then went to the same old places, Bamboo Room, etc. Joyce and I walked up to the wooden pier that goes from the Sun & Sand out into the Gulf of Mexico. It goes out pretty far, and is the southernmost spot in the United States. It was real late and there was a full moon on the water and a warm breeze, music from the Club and drinks. Didn’t get in until real late so I’m pretty tired today. Girls left early this morning. We were out at sea today. Enjoyed my leave at home very much. It seemed like a long time since I had been there, and thanks for everything.
Love, Joe

picture of Joe and companion

Joe taking it easy..

March 27, 1952
Key West, FL
Dear Mother & Daddy,
Well I’ve really had a busy few days. Had the duty last Saturday. Sunday John Chapman and I drove up to Miami. Had a party there and drove back Sunday night. Three girls came back down with us. Vic Rotering was already up in Miami. Dick Cox was there too. We stopped in a few places down the Keys. The girls were Rita and 2 other Delta girls. Mine was from Cincinnati and named Billie Kessler. We got in Key West at 5 a.m. Monday morning. The girls stayed at the Rose Crest Motel next to the Sun & Sand, where we always have the girls stay. Mon. & Tues. we were in port so we spent all the time off the ship that we could. Monday had breakfast at the Sun & Sand at 10:30 with the girls; it’s beautiful here in the morning on the ocean. Mon. afternoon we went swimming and I met Truman. Monday night we had the girls aboard ship for dinner and then went dancing at Aeropolis. Ended up at the Sun & Sand very late. Yesterday met the girls for lunch. Last night we went for dinner to a very good seafood restaurant, then to Fort Taylor, Aeropolis, Sun & Sand, etc. John’s girl went back Tues. morning so last night there was just Vic and I and our girls. Billie is a real cute girl, dark hair, brown eyes. I have a date with her this Saturday in Miami. Went out to sea this morning. Rita and Billie flew back to Miami this morning. Got a letter from Bob. I’ve been meaning to write Grandma Davis a card to tell her I was so sorry she was sick and glad she’s OK now. Hope she’ll overlook the delay. Dick’s wedding is a week from Sunday and that is really going to be a party. I’m an usher, his brother is best man, and we’re wearing whites. With going to Miami the next two weekends, I’m really going to be broke. I’m getting along quite well as Operations Officer. We have a new Ensign who had taken over most of my routine duties as Communications Officer. Had to take the ship out this morning. I did pretty well considering extreme lack of sleep. We leave for the yard April 25th. I hope to drive up to Philly starting then. I may still go to school at Newport, RI, starting April 27th, but don’t think so.

Truman
Monday morning I got a call from the Little White House from a Navy Commander saying Admiral Dennison (the President’s Naval aide) wanted to see me at the Little White House at 3:45 p.m. and to wear the uniform of the day (wash khakis, no coat). I showed up promptly and the Secret Service had my name and let me right in. Admiral Dennison met me and took me into the living room. It was beautiful, in very good taste. The house is white wood with tropical shutters. The walls of the living room are light blue. Picture of Margaret on the mantel. Admiral Dennison and I sat down on a couch and a steward brought us lemonade. It was a hot day. We talked for about 20 minutes, mostly about the Navy. During this time, Admiral Lehy came in and Dennison introduced me, and Lehy said he was very glad to meet me. Then Joseph Short, the President’s Press Secretary, came in and said how glad he was to meet me. Later the famous General Harry Vaughn came in and said the same. I’ve never seen a friendlier bunch of people. Just like a big family. Then the President came down from upstairs and Admiral Dennison took me over to meet him. He introduced us and we shook hands and then the Admiral said I was on the Sarsfield and my family came from Independence, and the President said he knew my family well, and I mentioned Grandmother McCoy, and he said he knew her and Sarah Woodson and Margaret and Elizabeth. He said they were very nice old maids and friends of the boss (Mrs. Truman). He also mentioned some other of my relatives I can’t remember. He said one great grandmother or something of mine played the organ in his Sunday school class. He said he was glad he got to meet me and to tell the folks at home about meeting him. He looked old, but well. He surely was very friendly, a nice man. Thanks for writing the letter.
Love, Joe

Ship's crew taking a break...

Ship’s crew taking a break…

April 2, 1952
Dear Mother & Daddy,
Have had quite a good time lately. Spent the latter part of last week resting. Saturday morning we had a big communications drill. Left Key West at 12 noon with John Chapman. Got to Miami at 3:30. I had to go out to Miami Beach and pick up Billie who was out there. Then back to Miami Springs. Had a few drinks and then John, his girl Windy, Billie and I went out to dinner at a seafood place called The Chesapeake. Then went to a place called the Old Mexico on the outskirts of Miami. It has an inside bar and outside patio with water fountain and very cute enclosed booths and an orchestra, dancing, etc. Very fine place. After that, went to a few more places, then home. Sunday had breakfast at a Howard Johnsons, and then took Windy to catch her plane. Sunday afternoon Billie and I went swimming at Hollywood, Florida, about 17 miles north of Miami. There’s a terrific beach there, completely deserted. It’s a beautiful beach and no houses or people for a couple miles. The waves were real high and the sky, sun, and temperature were perfect. Really terrific to lie on the beach there and watch the ocean. Were there all afternoon, then drove back home, got dressed and went out to a restaurant called The Bahama, where they have delicious steaks. We were really hungry after the swim. Then went to a party at Rick’s girl’s house. Left Miami at 1 a.m. and got the Key West at 4:30 a.m. I didn’t drive all the way, we switched. Monday morning I had to back the ship out. Did the best job I have ever done. Captain didn’t say a word until I was all done and then said “good job.” I’m definitely not going to Newport. Still hope to drive my car to Philadelphia, leaving 25 April. Plan to leave for Miami next Saturday at noon. Dick’s wedding is Sunday at 4 p.m. Getting my white uniform all fixed up. Wedding rehearsal is Sat. night. Hate to say it, but this last week I have actually been enjoying the Navy.
Love, Joe

P.S. I was so sleepy last night, I went to sleep at 7 p.m. with my clothes on, phonograph going and reading a magazine. Didn’t wake up till 6 this morning. Also, do what you want to about putting an article about Truman and me in the paper.

Oct. 11, 1952
Dear Mother & Daddy,
Got your telegram when we returned to port about 6 p.m. today. I’m glad everything is O.K. and that the operation is over. I called last night from Dick Cox’s. Jim Bocktold and I were spending the evening with them drinking and listening to records. We sail at 7 a.m. tomorrow morning. I have the duty tonight. We’ll operate as usual tomorrow and leave our operating area for Cuba tomorrow afternoon. Should get to GTMO Sunday evening. Stored my car tonight. I rented a garage at the Casa Marina Hotel, the big old expensive hotel here for $10.00. I have a private stall, the car is locked, and Barbara Cox has the keys. I was lucky to find it. Voted today for Eisenhower. I think mail service will be slow to GTMO. There is a mail plane twice a week. GTMO, I think will be pretty bad, I’ll be glad when it’s over. This last week we’re done training exercises. Had the ready duty and anchored out the night.
Love, Joe

Oct. 21, 1952
Dear Mother & Daddy,
Had a nice uneventful trip down. We go down the northern coast of Cuba and around the southern tip. Got in GTMO yesterday at 4 p.m., went over to the Officer’s Club for an hour or so last night. We anchor out in the bay here and go ashore in the motorboat. We had a big administrative inspection by the fleet training group people this morning. Records, organization and equipment. We had a lot wrong, every ship does, but the Captain has restricted all the officers to the ship until the discrepancies are corrected. So we can’t go ashore for a while, which doesn’t matter much here. We’re in port tomorrow. Wed. we start going to sea for training exercises. People from Fleet Training will ride us every day and observe and correct us. It’s going to be pretty bad. I think we’re going to Kingston, Jamaica, the 6th & 7th of Nov. It’s pretty hot here now. Worse than Key West. I got your telegram last Thurs. night. Glad everything was all right. Guess you’ll be home soon. My car is safely at the Casa Marina Hotel garage. They have a Navy radio station here with good music. Guess we won’t hear much about the election. You’ll see it all on TV I guess.
Love, Joe

Joe is on the top right

Joe is on the top right

Oct. 31, 1952
Dear Mother & Daddy,
Another week over now, and just 4 more to go. This week was pretty bad. I was either on the bridge or in CIC from 7 a.m to 6 p.m. We had a lot of time this week attacking submarines with another destroyer. Also did simulated shore bombardment, controlled fighter airplanes, and fired guns. Later on we’ll fire our guns on Culebra Island down here like we did at Bloodsworth in Chesapeake Bay. Been going to the Officer’s Club about every night. Had dinner there last night. The Captain’s in a little better mood. Next weekend we leave for Kingston, Jamaica. Probably leave Fri. afternoon or Sat. morning, it’s not too far. The weather here isn’t too bad now. Cool at night. Haven’t had the hurricanes come near here. The mail here seems pretty slow. I got your letter mailed on the 25th, the 29th. You were going home from the hospital the next day. Hope everything is O.K. now. Too bad there was that other trouble after the operation. Guess cousins Margaret and Elizabeth were visiting you last weekend. What did they say about the White House? One of the record albums I got last week is very good. Songs from “Roberta.” I put in for 5 days leave starting December 23. Hope I get it. We can get Miami newspapers here about 4 days late. That was funny about that doctor’s home at the hospital.

Sat.
Got 3 letters from you this morning. Glad you’re back home and feel better. That was some visit at the White House.
Love, Joe

1952
Dear Mother & Daddy,
Just time for a note. The mail leaves for the U.S. in ½ hour. The last till next week. We leave for Kingston, Jamaica, tomorrow afternoon and get back here Mon. morning. Since last Sat. I had been working night and day with just enough time off for 6 hours sleep at night. Haven’t gone ashore once. The week has been the worst and it should get better now. We had our mid-term battle problem and our ASW operational readiness inspections this week. Got your letter written election eve. Certainly was glad Eisenhower won. I was really mad at the democrats after the things Truman said. Just heard a little news on the radio. No newspapers and I was too tired to listen to the radio election eve. My orders come today. I’ll be released so as to be completely out by Feb. 26. Glad you’re feeling better. I’ll send a card from Jamaica.
Love, Joe

Naval Base
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
Nov. 11, 1952
Dear Mother & Daddy,
Last week really was terrible. Worked night and day for the whole week. We got an excellent on our ASW operational readiness inspection. To make the week complete, we had tactical maneuvers on Friday. Left for Kingston, Jamaica, Friday afternoon, and arrived there at 8:00 a.m., Sat. morning. Went ashore about 10:00 and went to Myrtle Banks Hotel, the best there. Very good hotel and very English. Had drinks there in the morning on a terrace. At noontime we had lunch there, outside. They had a smorgasbord. A rhumba orchestra was playing also. Really some time after GTMO. Saturday afternoon, Dick Cox, Jim Bochtold and I went around downtown to all the stores, etc. All their goods are English, and very good quality. All the cars are English and they drive on the left hand side of the road. The policemen are dressed up very fancily. Later in the afternoon, we rented a 1928 Lincoln with driver. Frank Snodgrass was with us by then. We drove around town and saw the Botanical gardens, which were worth seeing. Sat. night there was a big dance at the Myrtle Bank for the Sarsfield and other destroyers that came down with us. It was for all the enlisted men and officers. They had a lot of local belles there. We were all dressed in whites. Frank, Dick, Jim, and I stayed there till 11:00, then left with 4 girls we had met. We drove off in our Lincoln to the Glass Bucket Night Club. It’s on the outskirts of town, and the best in town. It’s all outside. They really had a terrific orchestra. They played mostly rhumba and calypso music. We danced till 4:30 a.m. I’ve never danced so much, especially to latin music. The captain showed up with the other destroyer’s skipper. He was really well along by this time. They had some girls with them too. He bought us drinks and danced with our girls. We really had a roaring time. There was a very cosmopolitan society there. English army officers in field dress, Chinese, Jamaicans, English colonials, etc. My girl was quite pretty and very refined. They all have a funny accent in Jamaica. Sounds a little like French. Left the Glass Bucket about 5:00, and finally got back to the Sarsfield. Sunday, I had duty, but didn’t mind as we left Kingston at 4:00 p.m. Got back to GTMO Monday morning. Monday was an average day. Yesterday was a holiday. Went swimming at the club and had dinner and a movie there last night. We’re in port Friday for 2 or 3 days next week. Shouldn’t be too bad from now on except for our last battle problem and firing at Culobra Island. Should be back in Key West the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Haven’t had any letters for a while, but the mail is pretty irregular. Hope everything is O.K.
Love, Joe

Nov. 17, 1952
Dear Mother & Daddy,
Just 2 weeks to go now. Two weeks from today we should be in Key West. Last week was pretty easy. We operated Wed. & Thurs., but Friday we were in port for up-keep. Sat. afternoon went to some Navy exchanges (like any P.X.’s) then went swimming. Sat. night Frank Snodgrass, Jim Bocktold and I had dinner at the club and stayed there all evening. Sunday I had the duty. We are in port Mon., Tues., Wed. of this week. I am attending a three-day air controllers school here. It teaches you how to control fighter planes by radar and intercept enemy planes with them. The school is situated on a mountain peak overlooking the harbor and you get a beautiful view. I come back to the ship at night but it’s good to get away for the day. I’m pretty certain of getting Christmas leave. I’ll probably be home 22 December by Delta Air Lines. I’m sending a deposit to the bank today and having the receipt sent to me at Batavia. Will you please hold it till I’m back in Key West and then forward it to me there? Read a couple of good books lately, “Moulin Rouge,” and “Submarine.” Everyone is amassing quite a liquor collection to take back to the states. I’m collecting Bacardi Rum and Canadian Club. Enclosed is a post card of GTMO and a copy of this week’s operating schedule. I got your letter mailed the 13th today. Four days is pretty good.
Love, Joe

picture of after part of ship

After part of ship

1953
Dear Mother & Daddy,
I forgot to say in my last letter how nice it was to be home for Christmas and thanks for all the wonderful presents. This last week has been something. Tuesday night Frank, Jim, and I went out to the Sun & Sand and met up with Viola Veidt, the daughter of the movie actor Conrad Veidt, and a real Key West character. She had a friend of her’s there, a German girl, blonde and very attractive, named Regina. Somehow I ended up with Regina and we stayed up practically all night in the Trade Winds, etc. Wed. & Thurs. I had the duty. Sure was a dismal New Year’s Eve. We just sat in the wardroom. Sat. morning Jim & I left for Miami. Got there about 3. A friend of ours named Clint Roach from another destroyer was also at 664. Remember my telling you about the real cute stewardess I met flying home for Christmas that got off at Atlanta? Anyhow, I remembered her name was Bobby. Windy and I found her. She just lives a few blocks away. She remembered me and we went out Sat. afternoon. Sat. night we all went out, Clint, Windy, Jim, Betty, Bobby, and I. We went to a nightclub called the Bowery and the Old Mexico, a real sharp place half outside. Bobby is a real doll. Little, blonde, beautiful eyes. We really hit it off. She likes music, etc., as much as I do. I fell for her the first time I saw her on the airplane, never dreaming I’d go out with her. I spent the night at 664. Sunday morning, Bobby and I went to church and then she cooked breakfast. She lives in a beautiful house with 2 other stewardesses. She has a car and a TV set. Her parents live in Ft. Lauderdale, names are Zipf (Swedish). Sunday afternoon Bobby and I took a drive over to Miami Beach and then up the coast on the coastal road. Stopped for a while at a place on the ocean. It was quite cold in Miami Sunday. Sunday night Jim, Windy, and Bobby and I went out to dinner at the Bahama restaurant and then came home and drank before the electric heater. Left Miami at 1:00 a.m., and got back here at 4:00 a.m. We go to sea twice this week, tomorrow and Thursday. Sunday we have the ready duty. Bobby and Windy are going to come down to Key West the weekend of the 17th if Bobby can switch a flight. Anyhow, I’m going to see her again no matter what. You might know I’d meet someone like her just before I leave. Nothing will probably come of it, but I like her better than any girl I have ever gone with. She’s the kind I’ve been looking for! She has a real sweet disposition, etc. Now I really am fouled up, I don’t know what to do or where to go. I think I’ll call the Navy Dept. Wed. and go up to Miami and see her and Cox and look around next week. Dick Cox is thinking of settling in Miami too.
Love, Joe

Jan. 19, 1953
Dear Mother & Daddy,
Sorry to be late in writing this week. Last week we went to sea 2 days and fired torpedoes. The rest of the week stayed in port. We’ve been going out quite a bit. Jim, Frank Snodgrass and I really run into some characters down here. One night last week we were out with a guy that writes the Lone Ranger radio program, a Hungarian authoress, a helicopter pilot, Viola Viedt, Regina the German girl and Frank, Jim, and I. Jim and I had dinner at Dick Cox’s Thurs. night. We all left the ship at 3 in the afternoon for a haircut and didn’t get back until 3 a.m. Saturday went to the pool. Sunday we had the ready duty and had to anchor out all day. This week we go to sea Tues., Thurs., and Fri, and shoot torpedoes. I’ve had to work pretty hard the days we go to sea. The girls from Miami won’t come down this weekend, which is rather disappointing, because of flights. I have a date with Bobby for the weekend of the 24th in Miami. I’m going up to Miami very soon possibly Friday to see Mr. Cox and others about a job. Jim and I went to the Captain’s Monday night. I think he would me to stay in the Navy. That was really an experience that poor Sonny had.
Love, Joe

Jan. 22, 1953
Dear Mother & Daddy,
Still haven’t quite decided what I want to do. Guess I better hurry, there’s not much time. Last Friday I got off and went up to Miami. Went to see James M. Cox, Sr., but he was in New York. However, the people there were very nice and I talked to the manager and sales managers of WIOD. Their application for a TV manager hasn’t been approved yet. I think if it had, I could have gotten a job. Also talked to some other people in Miami. Miami doesn’t have much industry. I think I could get a job in Miami, but it would probably be in public relations or something. Also called the Navy dept. They said I could probably stay in if I wanted to, and could probably get a PC (Patrol Craft) if I wanted it. The weather down here has been really perfect lately. We had a Captain’s inspection Saturday morning. Sat. night the executives had a cocktail party. I didn’t have too good a time though. Sunday I had the duty. This week we work long hours with a submarine. Next Sat. I’m going to Miami, have a date with Bobby. Right now I’ll either stay in the Navy or come home and maybe go to California. Saw the movie “My Cousin Rachel,” it was very good. That Kroger job didn’t sound too bad.
Love, Joe

picture of Joe McCoy

Joe on the bridge of the Sarsfield

Jan. 27, 1953
Dear Mother & Daddy,
I’ve had a rather fabulous week. Last week we went to sea every day except Friday and shot torpedoes. About every night I was out with Regina, the German girl. We spent a lot of time at Viola Veidt’s house with some real Key West characters. Viola has a Great Dane that Sonny ought to meet. Regina is a very interesting girl. She was telling me about the time she was trapped in a Berlin air raid shelter and had to be dug out. When she drinks, she drinks it straight, no mix or chaser. We spent some time at the Trade Winds, Viola sings there. Sat. noon I drove to Miami to see Bobby. Windy had to fly, so Jim Bochtold didn’t go up, I went alone. Bobby was real glad to see me, and cute as ever. We went to the Pilot House across from the airport, and had a few beers. About 8 we went out to dinner. We went to the Hickory House in Miami Beach, sort of a theatrical restaurant. Certainly is a beautiful drive over Biscayne Bay at night. Bobby really looked darling. She had on a black dress and she’s a blonde (real). We had martinis and duck. We hadn’t eaten for a long time and it was a big martini and I wanted to say, “to hell with the duck,” and have more martinis, but she wouldn’t let me. Really was a nice dinner. After that we went to the 21 Room of the Sea Gull Hotel. Then went to Old Mexico in North Miami where we were the last time I saw her. It was real cozy there and they had good music. Then went home and had a few drinks. I stayed at the Airways Hotel. The stewardesses stand in reserve on certain days and have to fly if something happens to the regular girls. Bobby was on reserve on Sunday and they called before we went to dinner Sat. night and said a girl had the flu so Bobby had to fly Sunday noon. We both felt terrible about it. Bobby went to Cincinnati and came back Monday. I wanted to go with her (would have surprised you) and would have if I had the money spare! We had breakfast at the airport Sunday morning. I put her on the plane and got on myself. We all had a cup of coffee, Bobby, myself, pilot, co-pilot, and other stewardesses on the plane before the passengers arrived. It was the same flight 432 I met Bobby on. Stayed to see the plane leave, then went over to Windy’s house, and drove back to Key West early. This week we stay in Monday and are to sea the other days. We have the ready duty and anchor out Tues. night. Have a communications drill Sat. morning. I have a date with Bobby Saturday afternoon in Miami. I still like her as much as ever. Wish you could meet her. She really is a nice girl in every way. Just are about 20 more days in the Navy. I think now I’ll get out and go up to Miami and see if I can get anything I like there, if not, come back to Batavia and maybe go to California later. Maybe I ought to stay in the Navy, but if I did I would get transferred and the Navy isn’t all like Key West, and I might just end up wasting a year some place.
Love, Joe
Hope Grandma Davis is feeling much better.

Jan. 30, 1953
Dear Mother & Daddy,
Had a wonderful flight to Miami. The DC-6 really is beautiful, lounge, real leather, etc. We were up pretty high, 16,000 feet and it was very smooth. Had veal culet for lunch. Got to Miami at 1:45. It was warm and bright in Miami. Went over to the stewardesses’ house, 664 Sesoto Drive. Windy and Rosemary were there. Windy and I drank all afternoon and night. We really had a terrific time, Windy is so funny. I didn’t leave for Key West until 5 a.m. Monday morning. Saw dawn on the Keys, it was very pretty. Got to the Sarsfield at 8:15. There was a note from Bob for me. He and Elsie were at the Conda Hotel. Cleaned up and went to see Bob. Had breakfast with him. Got off for lunch and took Elsie and Bob to lunch at the Sun & Sand. They had been here since Saturday and had to leave Monday afternoon. They loved Key West and saw a lot of it. Bob got well acquainted with George, who owns the Sun & Sand. Showed Bob over the Sarsfield after lunch. Too bad I wasn’t here when they arrived. Things are still pretty relaxed this week. Every afternoon off. Went swimming at the Sun & Sand beach this afternoon, it was quite warm. Have the duty tomorrow, New Years Eve. Think we all may go up to Miami next weekend. Jim and I, Dick and Barbara. I’m very worried about what to do next month. I don’t like Cincinnati, but hate to go to a new city with no friends or job, and don’t especially want to stay in the Navy.
Love, Joe

picture of shipboard ceremony

Shipboard ceremony

Feb. 4, 1953
Dear Mother & Daddy,
Got your telegram about Aunt Dean Sat. morning. Certainly was sorry to hear about it. I liked Aunt Dean very much and really appreciate all she did for me. Guess you’ve been pretty busy. Didn’t do much in Key West last week. We went to sea every day and fired torpedoes. Sat. Jim Bochtold and I went up to Miami. Dick and Barbara Cox came up too. We went to quite a few places Sat. night. Jim had a date with a friend of Bobby’s. Sun. afternoon had a little party at 664. Rita was there. Went out to dinner at the Bahama, had a few drinks and then drove back. Got back to Key West at 2:30 a.m. I didn’t have as good a time as previous weekend, too frantic. Think I’m going up to see Bobby this weekend. Frank Snodgrass is having a cocktail party Fri. night. Our new captain is aboard and will relieve Capt. Barn this Friday. If I don’t make a last minute decision to stay in the Navy, I’ll leave the ship next Tues. to be discharged. I’ll be discharged right here in Key West, probably be out by Friday and might be home the next week. Will write more later.
Love, Joe

Feb. 11, 1953
Dear Mother & Daddy,
Got your letter about Aunt Dean’s funeral, etc. Certainly was nice of her to leave us the money she did. We were in port all week last week. Captain Barn was relieved Fri. by Captain Johnson. The ceremonies were on the fantail and each captain made a little speech. Afterwards everyone went up to the wardroom for cold turkey and ham. Barn was crying and kissed us all goodbye. Captain Barn certainly gave me a good fitness report when he left. Everything was about as high as possible! Friday night Frank Snodgrass gave a Sarsfield party, partly for me. He had a rum punch and it really turned out to be one of the best parties I have been to in Key West. We invited Regina and Viola Veidt. The Commodore came and we got Regina to play up to him. Everyone really got loaded. Capt. Barn was there. Sat. I drove up to Miami to see Bobbie. We stayed around her house that afternoon. A Delta co-pilot was there with Bobbie’s roommate and we all ate supper there. Bobbie and Barbara Lund cooked it. Later the 4 of us went to Tee Town & Country in North Miami Beach where they had a wonderful piano player named Jose Melio. Later went to Old Mexico. Sunday we went swimming all afternoon at a beautiful new pool at the Travelers Hotel in Miami Springs. Sunday night went out to dinner and watched TV. Left for Key West at 11. I leave the Sarsfield tomorrow night and go to the Naval base to be discharged. I’ll stay at the BOQ there. Should be all through by Friday. Have a date with Bobbie Fri., and probably will stay in Miami for a few days seeing her and looking over jobs. Probably drive to Batavia sometime next week. I’ll call you Sat. so you’ll know where to reach me.
Love, Joe

And this is where the letters end. For reasons we may never know, Joe decided to stay in the Navy and did not settle in Miami or create a life with Bobby. In the next several years, his father passed away from a sudden heart attack, and he married a local beauty from Batavia. He had a distinguished career in the Navy, raising to the rank of Commander, and serving tours of duty in the Mediterranean Sea, in Viet Nam and as Naval Attaché in Brussels, Belgium. He retired from the Navy early, settled in Batavia and was employed as the business manager in a prestigious law firm in downtown Cincinnati. Unfortunately, he died tragically young from cancer at the age of 53.

Although Joe did not live long, it’s clear that he lived a full life; especially during the years he spent stationed aboard the U.S.S. Sarsfield in Key West, FL. It was there that he found himself at the crossroad of every young man’s life, deciding which direction to take. Joe, it seems, choose to continue with the adventure at hand.

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3 thoughts on “High Seas & Havana – Cmdr. Joseph C. McCoy, USN

  1. Bobby Jackson

    I read your artical on Joseph C McCoy, would like to know if he was a artist and did painting.We are doing a follow up on a artist of J.C. McCoy. I would appriciate your reply. Thank You, Bobby

  2. Kathy Post author

    Hi Bobby,
    No, this Joseph C. McCoy was not an artist as far as I know. His full name is Joseph Chrisman McCoy, and was born around 1927, if that helps. Do you have any more information on the painter that might help determine if this JC McCoy was him?
    Kathy

  3. Bobby Jackson

    Hi Kathy, The only information we have is a couple of paintings, signed J.C. McCoy. Thank You for getting back with us. Bobby

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