SM 1 Douglas Albert Munro

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Of the 3,498 Medal of Honor recipients in American history, only one was from the U.S. Coast Guard: Signalman 1st Class Douglas Albert Munro. On this day 74 years ago, Munro sacrificed himself at the Matanikau River at Point Cruz in Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, while saving hundreds of his fellow service members.

In recognition, Munro was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his “extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry in action above and beyond the call of duty.” Munro remains the only member of the Coast Guard to earn this distinction.

Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Munro grew up in South Cle Elum, Washington. He enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1939. Upon hearing that the Coast Guard had been ordered to man transport vessels in the Pacific during World War II, Munro pleaded with his executive officer to allow him to transfer to this mission. He was eventually successful and was assigned to transport duty supporting Marine landings at Guadalcanal during the Solomon Islands campaign.

On Sept. 27, 1942, nearly 500 Marines were tasked with crossing the Matanikau River at Point Cruz at Guadalcanal. However, the Marines faced imminent danger at the hands of a larger and more heavily armed than anticipated Japanese force.

Munro volunteered to lead the evacuation mission as the Marines were pinned in a vulnerable position by advancing Japanese forces. Munro led a group of small boats charged with protecting 24 Higgins landing craft that were attempting to extract the Marines.

As machine gun fire from the land continued, Munro positioned his Coast Guard craft between the Japanese and the Higgins boats to provide cover for the evacuation. Armed with only two small guns on his plywood boat, Munro successfully held off the Japanese attack, enabling nearly 500 Marines, including 25 wounded, to escape.

As the last Marines were safely under way and while turning back to rescue a grounded Higgins boat, Munro was fatally wounded. Still thinking of those Marines he was charged to protect, his final words were: “Did they get off?”

Munro exemplified the honor, valor, and patriotism that United States Coast Guard service men and women display in defending our nation’s waters. In honoring Munro, we recognize the Coast Guard’s vital role in protecting America’s maritime security.

Munro embodied the Coast Guard’s motto, semper paratus (“always ready”), in his heroic, decisive actions in Guadalcanal. Recognizing the crucial security the Coast Guard provides our nation, Congress and the president should strive to ensure this sea service remains always ready.

We honor you, Douglas Munro.

(#Repost @the Daily Signal)

CAPT Beverly Kelley

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As a LTJG, Beverly Kelley became the first woman to command a Coast Guard cutter, the CGC Cape Newhagen, in April 1979. Two years earlier, the Coast Guard had experimented with assigning women to sea-going ships. The high-endurance Coast Guard cutters Morgenthau and Gallatin received 10 enlisted women and two female officers each.

Kelley was one of those officers. According to Coast Guard historical documents, a great deal of opposition accompanied the trial run—including concern from the wives of men aboard the ships. Some seamen reportedly even commented, There goes the neighborhood.”

The crews of the two cutters were briefed on appropriate conduct on a coeducational vessel and families informed about shipboard modifications to accomodate women and men working and living together. Just as had been the case when the Coast Guard set up its first racially integrated ships’ companies during World War II, the “mixed crews” quietly settled into a working routine and went about their business with little commotion.

Captain Alan Breed, commanding officer of the Gallatin, acknowledged a year later that some of his male crewmembers had experienced “apprehensions, reservations, concerns, and, in some cases, frustrations” when they were told that women would be joining the ship, but he asserted that “there have been no major problems to date … . Today, I doubt that there are over two or three who retain such hardcore opposition.”

When Kelley, who now holds the rank of Captain, took command of the Newhagen, the 14-man crew adjusted gracefully. Twenty years later, she made history again as the first female to command a Coast Guard medium-endurance cutter, the CGC Northland. She told the press, “I’ve punched all the tickets that my male counterparts would have to, to be the commanding officer…”

We honor you, Beverly Kelley.

(#Repost @Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media)

BM1 Edgar A. Culbertson

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Born on October 13,1935, Edgar Culbertson left Lincoln High School in November 1952 to join the Coast Guard. He served on active military duty for 14 years. From 1952 to 1956, and 1958-1967 he was on active duty, and from 1956 to 1958 he was on reserve service. In early 1960, Edgar reenlisted in the United States Coast Guard and was stationed in Duluth, Minnesota.

It was during Edgar’s second enlistment period that tragedy struck. On April 30, 1967 during a major storm, he and two other guardsmen volunteered to go out and search for 3 missing brothers that were seen on a pier and it was reported that one of the brothers disappeared. During the search, a wave caught and swept Edgar off the pier. Edgar, at the age of 32, died in the rescue effort, and the three missing brothers’ bodies have never been found. Edgar A. Culbertson was posthumously awarded the Coast Guard medal for his bravery in the rescue attempt.

Edgar A. Culbertson during his service had received the National Defense Service medal with 1 bronze service star, the United Nations Service medal, the Korean Service medal, the Coast Guard Good Conduct with 2 bronze service star in 1956 and 1961, the Coast Guard Unit Commendation ribbon, and the Coast Guard medal.

We honor you, Edgar Culbertson.

(#Repost @Ferndale Historical Society)

 

PO2 Olivia J Hooker

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On Nov. 23, 1942, legislation approved the implementation of the United States Coast Guard Women’s Reserve; the program known as SPAR – the acronym derived from the translations of the Coast Guard’s motto, ‘Semper Paratus, Always Ready’ – became the foundation for women in the Coast Guard today.

In February 1945, Olivia Hooker became one of the first African-American females admitted into the United States Coast Guard when she joined the service during World War II.

On March 9, 1945, Hooker headed to boot camp. She recalled waking up at 5 a.m. every day and exercising one hour before she ate. After breakfast, she and her shipmates had to polish the floors and accomplish any other chores required of them. The SPARs had to attend class and pass exams. Basic training was held in Manhattan Beach, N.Y., and lasted six weeks.

While Hooker was one of only five African American females to first enlist in the SPAR program, she never felt discouraged in her duties because of her color. Once, an admiral addressed Hooker in person and told her to come to him if she ever had problems. Hooker said that she was very glad to have made that kind of connection in the military.

Upon graduation from basic training, Hooker specialized in the yeoman rate and remained at the training center in Manhattan Beach for nine more weeks. Once she completed yeoman training, Hooker spent her entire service time stationed in Boston. Hooker worked in the separation center, typing discharges and doing paperwork.

In June 1946, the SPAR program was disbanded and Hooker earned the rank of petty officer 2nd class as well as a Good Conduct Award. Hooker said she was one of the last yeomen left in the office and she had to type up her own discharge.

Hooker went on to earn her master’s degree in psychological services from Teachers College at Columbia University, then received her doctorate as a school psychologist from the University of Rochester. Working as a professor in New York, Hooker had a remarkable career, finally retiring when she was 87 years old.

“I would like to see more of us realizing that our country needs us,” said Hooker. “I’d like to see more girls consider spending some time in the military. It’s a good idea to have people from different kinds of orientations and experiences because it’s amazing what you can do with a different point of view. The world would really prosper from more of that.”

Hooker’s long and unforgettable life gave her an appreciation for her fellow man and a dedication to her country. The impression she has left on our society and the amazing contributions she has made will never be forgotten.

We honor you, Olivia Hooker.

(#Repost @US Coast Guard)

WO Robert Reynolds Myra

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Myra enlisted in the Coast Guard Merchant Marines in October of 1945, at the young age of 17. He served in the Stewards Department as a Messman- Utility Man. Within a months’ time, he was promoted to Warrant Officer, a very quick promotion during that era! Although his service was at the tail end of the war, the Merchant Marines were often in the most dangerous positions, as the ships were frequently targeted as a way to block the supply chain.

Years later, among his important military documents, family members found his diagram of the ships’ life boats with personal notations of where life-saving gear would be found. He seemed prepared for the worst- an unlikely characteristic of peers his age at that time. Later studies showed, that many perished due to the lack of preparation for such catastrophic events.

We honor you, Robert Myra.

(Submission by Lynda Myra)

 

 

VADM Wayne Eugene Caldwell

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Wayne Eugen Caldwell was born on Springfield, Ohio, where he graduated at the top of his high school class and was recognized as an All-Ohio football player. He attended Ohio State University for a year before enlisting in the Army in 1942. He graduated from the Army’s Civil Engineering Special Training School at Kansas State University in 1944 and then embarked on his Coast Guard career.

Admiral Calwell began his Coast Guard career as a cadet at the Coast Guard Academy, where, as captain of the football team, he was known as “the Plug” for his stalwart play as a lineman on both offense and defense. He also boxed and participated in track and field.

After receiving his undergraduate degree in marine engineering in 1948, he considered playing professional football for the Detroit Lions but decided to stay in the Coast Guard. His first tour of duty was as gunnery officer aboard the USCGC Barataria, which operated out of Portland, Maine, on shore patrol duty. I:n 1952, he returned to the academy, where he served as mathematics instructor, company tactics officer and assistant football and track coach.

His next tour of duty was in Alaskan waters as executive officer and then commanding officer of the buoy tender USCGC Hemlock. He later served in Long Beach, California, and Honolulu and earned the rank of Commander in 1965.

From 1969 to 1971, he commanded the USCGC Chase, based in Boston. The Chase was deployed to waters off the coast of Vietnam, and Admiral Caldwell was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious service. He was cited for seven anti-filtration patrols and 35 naval gunfire support missions to aid allied ground forces. Under his command, the Chase carried out a number of humanitarian missions, including providing medical treatment to more than 1,000 Vietnamese civilians.

Admiral Caldwell was next assigned to the National War College at Fort McNair and received a master’s degree in international affairs from George Washington University in 1972. That same year he returned to the Coast Guard Academy, where he served as Assistant Superintendent. He also served as Commander of the 2nd Coast Guard District in St. Louis, as chief of marine environment and systems in Washington and as Commander of the Atlantic area and the 3rd Coast Guard District at Governor’s Island. He retired in 1984.

In retirement, Admiral Caldwell indulged his lifelong passion for woodworking and made furniture for his family and toys for his grandchildren. He served as an elder at St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church in Bethesda. In 1983, he was inducted into the Coast Guard Academy’s Football Hall of Fame.

We honor you, Wayne Caldwell.

(#Repost @Arlington National Cemetery)

 

SPARS Alice “Jo” Lawson

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As World War II was coming to a close, Lawson enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard SPARS, a women’s reservist unit. Lawson said, “I thought that was an adventure and it was.”

She would spend two years with the Coast Guard, working at a Navy Air Station Operations Office. Following that time, she’d continue living a life of adventure. “Some people go out and play golf or play tennis or whatever, and I went out to the little airport and learn how to fly,” said Lawson. It would be a few years later before returning to her hometown of Aledo.

Eventually she got married and had a family, but she had the most significant impact in her seventh-grade social studies classroom, going on to help shape other women who serve. “A remarkably positive energy,” Col. Ryan. “Whatever life throws at her, she hits it head on and does it with a smile on her face.”

And while short in stature, her influence looms large. “I wasn’t just there to teach the capitals of every state and what was in the book.” Lawson said, “I was there to teach them to be good citizens and all that jazz.” Lawson has also been involved with the Mercer County Mental Health Board and an organizer for the food shelf.

Aledo surprised her with a special recognition at their Veteran’s Day ceremony this year. They built a statue in their Armed Forces Memorial Park to recognize the service of women, and they chose Lawson as their surprise guest of honor. Aledo Police Department Lt. Nick Seefeld said, “I don’t think the women have gotten the recognition or the honor that they deserve for being in the armed forces, and this is a real daily reminder that not only are there men serving but there’s women out there putting their life on the line for our freedom too.”

We honor you, Alice Lawson.

(Submission by: Ninzel Rasmuson. #Repost @OurQuadCities.com)