Lightship 116-538 Manning and Berthing

 1930 to 1939: The U. S. Lighthouse Service years.

For the first 9 years in service, the Lightship 116 had a full crew of 17, 7 Officers and 10 sailors.  The Department of Commerce, Lighthouse Service standard ship Deck Log Book had a page where all the Officers assigned to the ship were to be listed. From this page were can usually obtain the names and titles of the Officers assigned to the lightship.

Not so for the sailors.  But we can ascertain what some of the sailors on board and what their titles were by the pages in the back of the Deck Log Book where the Record of Absences was recorded.  This included Name, Rating, Date Left Vessel, Date Returned to the Vessel and Remarks.

The Officer billets were as follows, which matches the Officer billets and titles of Merchant Ships during this time period:

Master,   Mate,  additional Mate *,  Engineer,  Assistant Engineer,  Radio Officer,  and a second Radio Officer

*In some ships and situations, the additional Mate would be replaced by an additional Assistant Engineer. There is no reference that has been found for when this would occur, but we speculate that most lightships were not underway much and when transiting from shore to station it was rarely longer than 24 hours. Also, as lightships Propulsion and Engineering plants becoming more complicated, having an additional trained Engineer on board would help keep the lightships systems operational.

The sailors Ratings were Seaman, Oiler and Cook, which also matches the Merchant Ship unlicensed Ratings of the time period.   To date we have not found an entry for a sailor rated as Bos’n.

 Berthing for the crew was similar to the Merchant Service as follows:

The Master was in a single cabin forward just behind the Pilothouse,

The two Radio Officers had bunks aft in the Radio Room,

The four other officers had single man staterooms just off the Wardroom aft,

The 10 sailors were bunked in five two-man staterooms forward.

17 Total

1939 to 1945: The post Lighthouse Service and World War 2 years.

The shift from the Lighthouse Service to the Coast Guard in June of 1939 brought some changes to the manning of Lightship 116, some of them major.

First the Master was replaced by a Warrant Bos’n as the Commanding Officer. Existing lightship Masters were NOT offered a Warrant as a Bos’n, but instead were offered the Rate/Rating of Chief Bos’n Mate, an enlisted rate of E-7 or Chief Petty Officer, which would have been the second in command of a lightship.

Second, all other officers and sailors of lightships and lighthouse tenders were told that they had to join the Coast Guard by enlisting, many at significantly lower levels then they had in the Lighthouse Service.

Third, the Radio Officers were replaced by enlisted Radioman. The Coast Guard had no officer equivalent of a Radio Officer.

 This left the only Officer billet as 1 Bos’n Warrant Officer. However, from January 1943 until June 1945, the Commanding Officer was a Commissioned Coast Guard Officer. These are the years the lightship was assigned to the Coast Guard Captain of the Port at Sandwich Mass for the war, serving as the Guard and Examination/Inspection Vessel for the north end of the Cape Cod Canal.

The enlisted billets would have included:

1 Bos’n Mate Chief Petty Officer (E-7)

1 Bos’n Mate First or Second Class Petty Officer (E-6 or 5)

1 Machinist Mate, either a Chief or First Class Petty Officer (E-7 or 6)

1 Machinist Mate Second Class Petty Officer (E-5)

2 Radioman Petty Officers (E-6 or 5)

1 or 2 Commissaryman Petty Officer(s), or cook(s) (E-5 or 4)

8 or 9 other junior enlisted sailors, Bos’n Mate Third Class, Machinist Mate Third Class, Seamen and Firemen.

17 Total

We believe that the berthing for the crew was about the as same during the 1ighthouse service years.  We know that during the war (1943-1945) extra berthing/bunks were added, probably to the starboard side open area to accommodate extra personnel who were assigned over and above the 17 billets.  At one point there were as many as 22 total personnel on aboard the lightship 116.  This could have included a number of Naval Reserve Officers who were the pilots for the ships transiting the Cape Cod Canal.  They would have been transferred onto ships traveling south and transferred off the ships traveling north.

One note, although given the choice between leaving the lightship or enlisting in the Coast Guard in 1939, many of the lightship crew just stayed on as civilians. The Coast Guard was short-handed after taking over all the Lighthouse Tenders and Lightships, so they allowed many of the former junior crew to remain on board serving as civilian members of the Coast Guard.  This ended in December of 1941 after the attack on Pearl Harbor.  All remaining civilian crew on lightships were told to enlist by December 31st 1941 or their employment would be terminated.  A review of the December 31st 1941 Crew Muster Roll for Lightship 116 confirms that all of the lightships crew were Coast Guard personnel.


1946 to 1970: The post World War years to decommissioning.

After June 1945, the Commanding Officer (CO) or Officer in Charge (OIC) reverted back to a Warrant Bos’n. As the Navy and Coast Guard Warrant Office program underwent changes in the 1950’s, it was then a Warrant Bos’n at the Warrant Officer 1 (WO1) rank.  In the mid to ate 1960s the Coast Guard started reducing the use of the WO1 Rank for OIC of a lightship and the billet was changed to a Chief Warrant Officer 2 (CWO) rank.

 The enlisted billets were also revised.

Primarily the Radioman billets were removed as radio equipment became easier to use. Repairs needed to any of the radio equipment or electronics were completed by Electronic Technicians from shore who were brought out by a Coast Guard Cutter.

The enlisted billets were:

1 Bos’n Mate Chief or Senior Chief Petty Officer (E-7 or 8) designated as second in command

1 Bos’n Mate First Class Petty Officer (E-6)

1 Motor Machinist Mate, then Engineman Chief Petty Officer (E-7)

1 Motor Machinist Mate, then Engineman First Class Petty Officer (E-6)

1 Commissaryman, then Mess Management Specialist, then Culinary Specialist Petty Officer(s) (E-4 or 5), sometimes an extra was assigned

10 Junior enlisted, Bos’n Mate Third Class, Engineman Third Class, Seamen and Firmen

16 Total normally

Berthing for the crew was as before, except that the bunks in the Radio Room were removed when the Radioman billets were removed. An additional 2-man stateroom was added to the forward part of the Starboard open area for up to two cooks, although normally only was was assigned.

Another main change after the war was that with only one officer on board and the four senior enlisted personnel using the four single man staterooms aft off of the Wardroom, the Wardroom was no longer used as a lounge or Mess for the one officer.   The one Warrant Officer CO/OIC ate his meals on the Mess Deck with the crew and the Wardroom was used as a Ships Office space for completing paperwork and storing ships files.

The volunteers of Lightship 115-538 have been working to determine the names of the Coast Guard personnel assigned to this lightship from 1930 t 1970. See the Lightship 116-538 Crew web site page for details.