In the summer of 1943, I was in my last year of high school and worked afternoons at Roy’s Restaurant, a favorite spot the local kids often walked to after school hours. My sister Carolyn, who was 19, worked at the Ration Board. We all helped out in the war effort even though the war seemed so far away from the tiny coastal community of Lubec, Maine.
My father, Howard Gray, had been Keeper at Maine’s West Quoddy Light since 1933. It is the easternmost lighthouse on the mainland of the United States. Before that, he had served at Maine’s remote and isolated Boon Island from 1930 to 1932. Boon Island Light is the tallest lighthouse in Maine and sits on granite rocks about 6 to 7 miles off the coast. When he was stationed on Boon Island Light, Carolyn and I stayed at a boarding school in nearby York Village during the winter months because of the danger of the fierce winter storms that would slam boulders at the tower and the house.
Today, however, was a sunny day in June, in what most people refer to as Downeast Maine. Although World War II was still going on, it was a wonderful day as usual for my sister Carolyn and our friends, Elaine and Gwendolyn Farmer, Gloria Mae Doble, a few other of our friends and myself, all of Lubec, Maine. We all met at the Old Coast Guard Beach to have a clambake on the sand. We loved it there, because the sand was so white.
We would always go to the other side of the heath and get our clams. They were so large and sweet, and there were so many that we could dig them with our hands. We kept this a secret so the clam diggers wouldn’t know. We brought them back to the beach, built a fire, and cooked them.
As we were eating them, we saw a large silver thing rolling in the surf. Both Carolyn and I remembered what our father told us, that if we saw anything unusual to tell him. We knew he couldn’t come to the beach, so all of us took it and laid it in the back seat of Carolyn’s old Chevy then took it home over the potholes.
When Dad opened the car door and saw it he was horrified. He didn’t even shut the door. He called Washington. We were told not to move it and leave it in the car. Government officials immediately dispatched someone to dismantle it. It was still active. Carolyn almost missed her day at the Rationing Board because of it.
We were told it was a decoy. The U-boats in World War II would tow these decoys from the back of the U-boats, so the destroyers would think this was the U-boat and drop the depth charges which would hit the decoy and the destroyer would assume they had blown up the U-boat.
Later the Coast Guard captured some of the German U-boat sailors. They took them into Roy’s Restaurant in Lubec, fed them and turned them over to the FBI.
It was the end of our clambakes; instead we cooked rock crabs on our beach. It was almost as much fun.
This story appeared in the
May 2005 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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