Reunion takes Campbell vets on Eagle tour

Vince Fynan of Moorestown, N.J., tours the Eagle Tuesday in New London as part of a reunion of those who served aboard the Coast Guard cutter Campbell.
Vince Fynan of Moorestown, N.J., tours the Eagle Tuesday in New London as part of a reunion of those who served aboard the Coast Guard cutter Campbell. Dana Jensen/The Day

New London — When his fellow veterans climbed a set of stairs to the boat deck of the Coast Guard barque Eagle Tuesday, Vince Fynan ducked into the galley.

He wanted to see how it compared to the galley he worked in aboard the Coast Guard cutter Campbell (W32) during World War II.

Fynan, 91, and Robert Cameron, 93, who served together, were among a group of about 40 Campbell veterans and spouses who visited the Eagle as part of the ship's association reunion in southeastern Connecticut this week.

Capt. Raymond "Wes" Pulver, Eagle's commanding officer, said he enjoyed meeting the veterans from the various eras, since there were men on the tour who served during the 1940s through the 1970s. But, he said, it's always particularly special to talk with World War II veterans.

"This is the history of the Coast Guard," he said. "For them to spend time here, commemorating their time in the service, it's inspiring."

Before they boarded the barque, Fynan, of Moorestown, N.J., and Cameron, of Staten Island, N.Y., stood on City Pier talking about the Campbell's participation in convoys to escort ships with supplies to Europe during the war.

During one of these convoys, on Feb. 22, 1943, the Campbell was ordered to help rescue the crew of a Norwegian tanker that had been torpedoed in the Atlantic. The German U-boat, which was still in the area, fired at the cutter.

Fynan and Cameron said that after firing multiple depth charges, the U-boat surfaced so close to their cutter that its bow plane sliced through the cutter's hull. Cameron was manning the guns and Fynan was handing out ammunition at the time.

The crew fired at the submarine and later rescued some of the U-boat's crew, who could be seen jumping overboard. The Campbell was towed to Newfoundland, repaired and returned to convoy duty.

Cameron said it was not the only time they were attacked. Fynan said German planes flew so close to the ship one time he could see the pilots.

The ship, which also patrolled the waters off Vietnam during the Vietnam War, remained in the fleet until 1982. Fynan stayed in the Coast Guard until 1945 while Cameron retired after 30 years.

j.mcdermott@theday.com

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