Northbound 27 September 1948


Hello Darling,

By the time you receive this, I suppose I shall already have been “home” and gone again. It takes longer, usually, for mail to reach New York from Trinidad, then it takes the “Brazil” to get there.

What a case of “channel fever”, I have this trip.  It seems as though each voyage is worse than the preceding one.  Every click of the compass, as it follows the ship’s yawl back and forth to the rocking rhythm of a quarter sea, seems to say:  7 more days, 6 more days, 5 more days.

As I pace back and forth, back and forth, becoming so impatient to be in your arms that the delay seems almost unsurpassable.

So I pace back and forth and examine, once more, the unbroken line 360″ line between sky and water, and make another firm resolution with myself to stop wasting my life away at sea. ( to be cont’d after I go up on the bridge for 4 more hours of pacing )

Darling, a group of Argentine Exchange Students came up on the bridge today to take pictures of the mates getting a noon position.  It’s a wonder we even got a position, every time we’d turn around we would nearly stumble over two or three getting candid shots.  Anyway, one of them took one of me when I was getting my sight so I’ll send it along for laughs.  I’m not really as fat as I look in the picture.  ( must be poor exposure or something! )

My precious, it’s simply no use!  I can’t write anymore.  I’m too close to home and I keep drifting off into dreams of you.  Oh Betty!  My sweet darling Betty, I love you so much!

214 more breakfasts alone!  Then we shall each find contentment, peace, and happiness together in this fear torn world, in a fast disappearing haven called family life.

Your are my heart!  Beat strongly for me, I love you with my life!

Yours Forever,



28 July 1948. Rio De Janeiro



My own darling “Cyclone”,

You now have only 277 more days before you have to get up and cook my breakfast!

I received one letter when we got in, and am enclosing my only copy of addresses in this letter.  I’m afraid I won’t be hearing from you too much this voyage, unless you send a few letters, as soon as you receive this new list of addresses.  Do your best though, please darling.  You know how much getting letters means to you, well, just put yourself on the other side of the equator, where only a few people speak English even, and then try to imagine how priceless a letter, direct from the heart of your loved one, becomes.

Betty, my love, it’s twenty minutes to 8:00 p.m..  I’ve got to sleep to eleven because I work from midnight to 8:00 a.m. in South American Ports.  So, I’ll have to cut this letter short.  I have to go on deck and earn the price of a finder for our new car and maybe a little for our “baby” bank account.

I’m sorry this letter is so short, but, I’m in a hurry and I wanted you to have those addresses right away, so I can read some more of your lovely letters SOON!

Yours as long as I live.






Man Overboard


Port of Spain, Trinidad
27 August 1947
10:00 p.m.

Hello Heart Tender, (Keeper, that is)

It’s rather hot down here, as you can see by the way the ink blurs. Tonight, about two hours ago, to be exact, I was taking a longboat back to the ship. As I rounded the stern of a Liberty ship, a seaman committed suicide by leaping into the ocean. My boat searched for him for over an hour but we could not locate him, in the dark and with the swift current. He probably made one trip too many up into the jungle of Moengo, under the hot sun.

Men crack up on this run my dear. But, never the ones who are really seamen, who have clear heads, a sense of humor, faith, and a woman who loves them.  For example, several weeks ago, an engineer tried to smuggle through customs with his pockets and suitcase filed with Bauxite. (bauxite is ore, something like iron ore only very light and powdery) The engineer had just been down here too long, and with the continuous heat and constant hauling of Bauxite, the poor fellow’s mind just cracked. “Going Fruit” we call it down here. Why do I like the sea you ask?!

It’s peace and quiet,
It’s the roar of elements, angry and torn asunder.

It’s smooth and gentle,
It’s mountainous and terrifying.

It’s challenge.
It’s defeat.

It’s confidence.
It’s fear.

It makes men.
It breaks men.

It’s comfortable and pleasant.
It destroys men who know not how to sail.

It’s securing loose gear on a dark night on a wet deck with green seas coming aboard.

The sea is the place where a man who knows his work reigns supreme and unchallenged, and where a man who tries to bluff his way along is eventually caught and taught a permanent lesson, by the sea, the very element he thought to bluff.

Only those who know the sea and his habits can successfully sail her. Men who don’t do their work in the proper manner, are careless, are caught eventually, and reckoned with in nature’s own way.


The question, “Why do I like the sea?”, is really a poser. Sometimes I like it, mostly I don’t. But a man is suppose to do what he knows best. At least until new opportunities are available.

I know that rather than go to sea, I should like to be married to the girl I love, work ashore, come home to her every night, etc..

But, at present, let us say merely, that like the sea, or not, there are other things I desire more, and what I’m doing now, will enable me to obtain that which I desire, more easily, and retain it more capably. All this work is an attempt to answer your question.

Sept. 1. At Sea

Darling, I haven’t written for the past two days because I haven’t felt too hot! The sun is changing it’s declination from North to South, which means that it is directly overhead. If it is hot where you are, just imagine what kind of furnace I am working in. Not only is the sun hot, but, it’s heat is retained and reflected up to you by the steel decks on which you stand your watches.

Four hours, under those conditions, I must confess have been all I could cope with lately. I had sun fever yesterday, but was all right by the time my watch came around, so I went up for more punishment.

This is all for now my love. I have to sleep off today’s sun so that at midnight (four hours from now) I can stand watch again. Darn! It’s hot!

I love you Bette!


At Sea. 22 September 1947

at sea

Darling Betty,

It is evening! The soft, lulling, hiss of the season’s first snow is just audible above the lively crackle of the fire, and through the storm windows. The golden circle of light from the fire forms a cozy haven from the overture of winter without.

Here in “pre-tucking -in” conversation, sit a sweet young girl, Betty and her son, “Davy”. After the consistency of pleading, of which only the young are capable, the bedtime story begins. Taking a lock of hair from the little boy’s head at her breast, and curling it around her finger, with a strange sparkle in her eyes, she looks into the fire and says:

“Once there was a man who, sailed ships like that one on the mantelpiece, all over the world. But, after six years, he no longer wanted to go to sea, he wanted to come home and settle down and have little boys like you, Davy.”

So he started working ashore helping his father design houses, like this one. But, he wasn’t happy, although he was glad to be home with his mother and father, and put thoughts of war, Iwo Jima, and the marine he killed behind him. He was uneasy, and needed an outlet to ease his mind until he decided how he was going to earn his living ashore.

Now, about this time, the snow started to fall, and one day while he was cleaning the cellar, this man noticed a pair of skiis, covered and neglected in the dust of six years of idleness.

So each weekend he would relax by going North into the crisp, untarnished air and ski, and ski, and ski, until his heart, (still within him) sang with exhilaration, and joy.

Now, one weekend, on a reunion with several old ski buddies, back also from the, “Late Hate”, he met a lovely girl, who was to change his whole life.

He tried several means of becoming acquainted, one most notable. But, he had little success, so he copied down her name and address from the hotel register, resolving to try to get in touch with her when he got home.

After the initial date, things went smoothly, and the nights they were together went by all too fast. After a few months, and with her help, he finally made up his mind to go back to sea for a year.

Now the girl knew that the man loved her very much, in fact, he gave her his heart for her birthday. But, she really didn’t think she loved him, until after he had gone to sea. Then she began to miss him, and to realize that she might be falling in love with him too!

Then little Davy raised his head sleepily and asked, “Who was the man Mommy?” “He was Your Daddy!” you answer.”



Maybe someday you can tell a little Davey that, my love. I hope so! At least it’s my dream at present. Will it be yours?

I love you Betty,


P.S. This letter sounds a little strange, when I read it over, but you get the general idea, so please bear with me on the rest. ( I really shouldn’t send it, but, oh well- here goes!)

Goodnight Darling!

At Sea. Enroute Port of Spain. October 15, 1947


photo (11)

David W. Shields

Dearest Betty,

Well, it looks now as though I shall be coming home to you about the second or third week in November. In any case, no later than the third week in November.

I have the Chief Mate’s berth on here next voyage, if I want it. But, I’m going to have a talk with the Port Captain when I get back and see about a Chief Mate’s berth on one of the Liberties or a C-1 out of New York. Then I’d be home every five weeks. Wouldn’t that be great huh? Then you wouldn’t be able to forget what I look like.


Gosh darling, I’ve missed you terribly. There are so many things I want to talk over with you. I value your thoughts, and the interpretations you give. I want to share so many of my thoughts and ideas with you, and get your reactions. But, I don’t want to do it by mail. I want to wait until I have you beside me, once more. Has it seemed a long time since I’ve held you darling? Have you really missed me? Not just when your alone or feeling blue, then it’s easy to miss a body. Do you really miss me? At odd times in the day. Have you looked at the office door, perhaps, wishing I could come in and take you to lunch? I hope you have. When someone, whom I’ve never met, but am terribly jealous of, takes you home, do you find yourself wishing, occasionally, that the arms you’re in were mine? Please!

Girl of mine! Just think, in less than a month, I shall be “home” and for awhile, you shall be really my girl again.

I hope that each time I leave you in the coming months, you shall come to miss me more and more, then we shall both know and this affair shall be one-sided no longer.

Well, my love, I must sleep a few hours, (very few) in order to be fit for my watch.

Sleep very well my love,

October 25, 1947

I happened to come across the rest of this letter in my drawer. Must have forgotten it was there. However, I could just as well have written it today as the same thoughts are in my head.

Except for the sailing date. as you know by a previous letter, we are due in Newport News, Va. on the 6th of December, and I’ll be home one or two days, at the most, after that. So, sweetheart, if any event arises that you think you’d condescend to be seen at, with me, I shall be free each and every night until after Christmas.

Cold as it probably will be, Brr! I shudder to think of it! We shall have to go to 3rd Cliff one day. And if there is snow at Guilford, we shall have to go there one Sunday anyway, (a visit to the scene of the crime?)

See if you and Tom and Gwen can decide on a few thing we could do, and a few places we could go on double dates. A good play, a ball game (I guess the season will be over by then though). How about “Pops”, have they started yet?


But, don’t you dare have anything planned our first night, for I want to rediscover you without too many witnesses.

I imagine, allowing two days to discharge cargo, another for annual inspection, and one more getting my relief, that I shall be home on the 10th of December; one day either way at the most. So far as I know, that is definite.

Honey, I’m giving you fair warning on this so I don’t expect any surprised comments from you. I expect to see you my first night home. If you should be out on a date, and see the Shields’ car in your yard, upon return, it will mean that I’m inside, waiting for you, and I don’t care who your date is, get rid of him but quick and come “home” to your Dave. Forewarned is forearmed!

Can you still not understand why I’m so positive and insistent about our love? Think this old one over:

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for,
The evidence of things not seen!”

“The heart has reasons, of which, reason has no knowledge.”

I love you,

Yer ole Sea Daddy!

Spawners of the Farm

My parents loved each other. This much is true. I have letters my father wrote my mother while away at sea during World War II, before they were married, expressing his undying love and plans for the future:

Dearest Cyclone,

     Well, the other Junior has not reported for duty as yet, so I work 24 hours on and twenty four hours off.  Not quite enough time to get home to see you, but almost!  Gosh honey, I love and want you so much that the days away from you seem unbearable.  I don’t think I’ll be away at sea after we are married.  I don’t think I’ll be able to stand it any more than you.  “Truly”, I love you so much that it hurts.

I hope you don’t mind my borrowing that other picture of you for my room.  I have it right on my desk in front of me.  It looks fine, but I can only look at it, I can’t feel the warm, silky curve of your cheek against my fingers.

     Oh darling!  Thank God!  I found and convinced sweet, tender, loving Betty C., to be mine.  What a wonderful feeling it gives me to know that, although we are apart, our hearts and lives are as one.

I met a mate today who was Ck. Mate when he was 20 years old.  He is now 50, and guess what he is?….Ck. Mate!  That’s the kind of brilliant career going to sea is.  Nope, not for me.  Just long enough to get money for the two of us to get started with.  After that, college or some definite course of action ashore.  I don’t know what as yet.  All I know is that I’ll not be going to sea any longer than is absolutely necessary.  That’s all for now “Masterpiece”.

     All my love dear,

  Your Dave 

Brazil May 1948