It appears that Seaman 2nd Class Irving W. Shields came to the pee-commissioning crew of SEBAGO after a short stint on the deck force of Cutter Alexander Graham Bell (WIX-184). The Bell was a former EC2-S-C1 Liberty ship that suffered combat damage during a crossing to the Mediterranean Sea in early 1944. The 427 foot vessel was never fully manned as we would expect, and it's likely that Irv never saw more than 60 men on her decks at any given time while he served aboard. He must have felt like a BB rattling around in a big tin can.
The War Shipping Administration transferred the Bell to the Coast Guard for the express mission of large scale life raft testing during autumn of '44. She entered commission on October 7th, was decommissioned on December 22nd and the ship returned to the WSA for more work as a cargo steamer. It's possible that Shields was actually a plank owner of Cutter Bell as well as SEBAGO, but no documents exist to show the ship was ever intended to sail with a full compliment. Testing was the mission and we must assume that the crew was dispersed immediately after decommissioning.
Irv, a native of Buffalo, New York, was the youngest of three brothers. His oldest brother, Bob, had graduated the University of Buffalo shortly before WW II and held a commission in the U.S. Army. He was already in the Pacific Theater when war broke out. Middle brother Bill had gone straight from high school to the Navy and was sailing with the Atlantic fleet when war came.
Like many youngsters in the early war years, Shields dropped out of high school in order to join his brothers in the fight. It's uncertain exactly why he went to the Coast Guard, there may have been some desire by the family to keep at least one son close to home, or maybe a military recruiter had some influence. Regardless, Irv was just about 19 when he arrived at California in early 1945 to await assignment to the next available 255.
Almost all of the men that were in the 255 crew pool received training at Treasure Island that would later be applied while aboard the new cutters. It was obvious to most that these crews probably would not be seeing combat. Many of the officers and senior enlisted were authorized to bring their spouses and families to Alameda while the 255 fleet was being completed. A relaxed training schedule offered time for a lot of liberty and it wasn't long before Irving met his future bride, Jean.
When SEBAGO made ready to sail south to the Canal Zone and east to the Atlantic, Jean boarded a train and went ahead to Buffalo to await Irving. She lived with his parents until his discharge from active duty in May of '46 and they wed shortly afterward.
Aboard SEBAGO it was Irv that took care of the ship's mascot, 'SeaBag' - not the first time he had looked after a shipboard dog, he looked after Cutter Bell's dog, Soogie, while aboard that ship.
Old Salts Discharge Certificate
Look closely at the illustrations !! Now a salty old veteran at age 20, Irv and Jean started their family which eventually grew to include son Timothy, daughter Lynn, and the youngest son David, who has provided the photos and information for this biographical sketch.
Irv's older brother Bill had left the service to join a watch and clock repair business in Buffalo and it wasn't long before he had an opportunity to buy the company. The three brothers formed a partnership and L. Hora Clock Company became "Shields Brothers Clocks-Watches" in the late 1940's. The company expanded to small appliance repair and by the 1960's "Shields Bros Co Appliance Repair" was one of the largest factory authorized repair and parts centers in western New York State and Irv was in charge of the sales end of the company.
By this time Irv had become heavily involved in the Masonic Lodge and after obtaining his advanced degrees he became an active Shriner.
In the late 1960's he purchased a 31 foot Trojan Sea Voyager cabin cruiser which he named 'The Spree.' While his dad was a member of the Inner Harbor Yacht club in Tonawanda, NY, David recalls many memorable trips in the waters of the Niagara River, Lake Erie, through the Welland Canal to Lake Ontario, and the Erie Canal.
Sadly, the last years of pleasure boating on the Great Lakes also coincided with a series of heart problems for Irv. He died from a sudden onset heart attack on November 21, 1973, leaving his widow and three young children.
The small collection of photos from the Shields album show us a brand new SEBAGO, full of fight and determination. We should be thankful that he had the opportunity to take the photos and that his family have made the effort to share them with us. There are many stories of SEBAGO plank owners, about 273 of them I would guess...but we will never be able to know most of them. If you are the survivor of SEBAGO plank owner, please look through the old family albums for photos of the crew and the ship. The old salts were a special bunch and we all want to learn more of them and the ships they manned. p /