This post was compiled by Harry Kidd. Harry is a volunteer at the National Archives working on textual and photographic digitization projects. Harry is a former Navy photographer himself and came across this story while researching military photographers.
During WWII the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations interviewed over 600 servicemen from all branches of the military on their activities and experiences in the war. Interviewees ranged from junior enlisted personnel to flag officers. One of the individuals interviewed was Hy Rothman, Photographers Mate 2/Class, United States Coast Guard Reserve.
In a digest of the interview, Rothman recounted a harrowing tale in which he was sent on a mission to capture a German radio-weather outpost in Greenland.
Rothman described how two Coast Guard Cutters, North Star and Northland, were stuck in the ice for many days and nearly ran out of food and supplies. Rothman goes on to say that the crew of the Northland thought they would be stuck in the ice all winter and even made preparations to abandon the ship if needed. Rothman and the crew survived the ordeal by using 75 of their 80 mines to break through the ice.
Original Caption: USCG Cutter Northland, WPG-49 on Greenland Patrol. Local Identifier: 26-G-2988 (Box 45)
Original Caption: Coast Guard in Greenland. Coast Guard gun crews are shown as their ship heads out for patrol in the shipping lanes off the coast of Greenland. Local Identifier: 26-G-10-17-42-2 (Box 44)
Original Caption: Coast Guard blasts a passage in hunt for Nazi Greenland base. Demolition charges toss a spectacular geyser of ice and water as the crew of a Coast Guard combat cutter blasts its way toward a remote stretch of Greenland’s east coast on a hunt for hidden German radio-weather stations. Knocking out two of these stations rewarded the Coast Guard’s Greenland Patrol in ten weeks of intensive action among the ice flows. Sixty Germans were captured, one armed trawler was captured, another was scuttled by its crew. Four Coast Guard combat cutters participated in the dramatic series of incidents up in the Arctic. Local Identifier: 26-G-2962 (Box45)
Despite the near catastrophe, the mission was ultimately successful. Photographs taken by Rothman document the capture of the last enemy radio-weather outpost in Greenland. The Coast Guardsmen took German prisoners who remained at the base along with enemy supplies.
Original Caption: Coast Guardsmen surprise and capture 12 Nazis on last Greenland weather base. Landing under the cover of darkness, Coast Guardsmen from a combat cutter captured 12 at what is believed to be the last enemy radio-weather outpost in Greenland. Supplies were seized as the enemy surrendered without firing a shot. Later, a Nazi trawler with its crew of 20 was captured and salvaged in another surprise operation. Here, Coast Guardsmen keep alert guard over prisoners, whose hands raised in surrender. The picture was made by a Coast Guard combat photographer before dawn. Local Identifier: 26-G-2993 (Box 45)
Original Caption: Destroy German radio base in Greenland. This German prisoner, “Dr. Sennse, takes a long look from the deck of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter at the site of the captured German army radio base on the Greenland shore. He was captured by U.S. soldiers and Coastguard’s me, operating as a task force, when he came back to the base shortly after the Americans landed. He’d been building a grave over the body of who had been a member of the Danish scouting party that discovered the German base. Local Identifier: 26-G-09-21-43-9 (Box44)
Original Caption: Captured Nazi supplies delivered by coast guard to Greenland patrol. Supplies taken at a Nazi radio-weather station on the northeast coast of Greenland are turned over to the Danish sled patrol by Coast Guardsmen from the combat cutter, Eastwind, which engineered the surprise raid. Twelve Germans surrender without a fight. Later, two Coast Guard combat cutter teams to surprise and capture intact a German trawler, built in 1944, that was caught in the ice pack nearby. Twenty crewmen were added to the prisoner haul and the ship was salvaged from the ice. Local Identifier: 26-G-2994 (Box 45)
Original Caption: Coast Guard turns over captured German supplies to Danish sled patrol. Somewhere along the rugged northeast coast of Greenland, Coast Guardsmen deliver supplies captured in a surprise raid on a Nazi radio-weathers station to the Danish Sled Patrol. Twelve Germans fell prisoners of war without resistance in the pre-daylight action. Later, two Coast Guard combat cutters took a German trawler, beset in the Ice Pack, before its crew could destroy it. Salvoes from Coast Guard guns brought a quick surrender from the Nazi ship. Local Identifier: 26-G-2998 (Box 45)
Original Caption: Destroy German radio base in Greenland. Members of the combined U.S. Coast Guard and Army task force examine an abandoned Nazi parachute kit found on the site of the German Army’s radio base. Food, hand grenades, and other material where abandoned by the Nazis following the attack on the base by an American Army Air Force. The Germans presumably were excavated by plane. Local Identifier: 26-G-09-21-43-7 (Box44)
Original Caption: The Coast guard sends landing force into Greenland to capture Nazi weather base. Plodding over snow and ice-covered wastes on Shannon Island, Greenland, a Coast Guard landing force, ashore from a Combat Cutter, moves against the a Nazi weather station. All guns aboard the cutter were manned when the German camp was spotted in the distance. The Coast Guardsmen found the base deserted. It was destroyed after some equipment had been salvaged. Later operations by the Coast Guard led to the liquidation of another German Greenland base, the capture of several prisoners and the taking of an enemy trawler. Local Identifier: 26-G-2960 (Box 45)
Nazi Radio Weather Station – Greenland. Local Identifier: 26-G-2973 (Box 45)
All of the Rothman photographs used in this blog are now housed in the National Archives Still Picture Branch within the records of the United States Coast Guard. The photographs are part of the series, Activities, Facilities, and Personalities (26-G), which is currently being digitized in its entirety.