In response to Uncle Sam’s call for young, able-bodied men for the war effort in World War II, the Gulfport Yacht Club gave everything it had. Out of the 15 members, only one did not serve, but it was not because he didn’t try. C.J. Allen, better known to the club as “Pop,” was a World War I Navy veteran who had established the yacht club based on his vision that it could offer young boys clean and helpful fun. Pop taught the boys how to build their own boats and how to navigate the seas. When the call came for World War II, Pop tried to enlist for service but was denied. That denial did not keep him from supporting his boys, though, since he regularly purchased war bonds and even paid $80 to personally buy the Army a Garand Rifle with the hopes that one of his boys from the club would end up with it.
The rest of the 14 younger members made it into the service, scattered throughout the Navy, Army Air Force, Army, and Marines. Seven of the fourteen went to high school together, graduating from St. Petersburg Senior High School before entering the service. These young men were more than just a group of guys from Gulfport: they were a family of men, a brotherhood of sailors who were willing to serve the country that they loved so dearly.
Jim Flatter served in the Navy. He was a Petty Officer with a rating of Quartermaster Second Class and one of the seven who attended high school, graduating in 1940. James McMannis, another of the high school boys, served in the Army Military Patrol in Africa. Before his enlistment at age 25, he worked as a bookkeeper. Leo Maurice Dykes served as a First Lieutenant in the Army Air Force, enlisting at age 21. Before enlistment he worked for Florida Power. Bruce Ellis was a high school graduate and served as a First Lieutenant in the Army Infantry. Gordon Wayne Dykes, brother of Leo Dykes, graduated in 1941 and served in the Army Air Force. Lieutenant Clyde H. Council also served in the Air Force.
Two of the club’s members, Harvey Curtis Holland and Arthur Montigney, served as privates in the Marines. Ian Cowan was a private in the Parachute Infantry. Floyd Samson served in the Coast Guard, leaving his job at Blackburn’s service station. Arthur W. Metcalf, another St. Pete High graduate, served in the Navy as Musician First Class on the USS Ranger. William Nelson Longley, graduated and entered the Navy. Robert Callinan was a radio signalman in the Navy.
William P. Browne, known as Bill, served in the Navy after graduating in 1941. Bill was a petty officer in the signal corps, and survived the sinking of one of the vessels he was stationed on. On the way home from Murmansk, Russia, his ship came under aerial attack for six days before dropping cargo in port. His vessel sustained those attacks throughout the drop period in port, only to get attacked again after setting out for home. The ship took 15 minutes to sink, and Bill and the rest of the crew had to abandon ship, drifting for five hours before being picked up.
All of these men were a part of a family. Their family was not just one that held hands over a blessing for supper, but their family extended to each other, as members of the Gulfport Yacht Club, growing together under the teachings of Pop Allen about the ways of the sea. Their family extended even further, to the whole town of Gulfport, as this entire group of young men enlisted to protect their loved ones, putting their lives on the line for their country in a global conflict.
Josh Moses is a student at Stetson University College of Law and a volunteer researcher at the Gulfport Historical Society.