The Depot

10 Facts About the U.S. Coast Guard You Didn't Know

1. Medal of Honor facts about the Coast Guard

The U.S. Coast Guard has one Medal of Honor recipient. U.S. Coast Guard Signalman First Class Douglas A. Munro died heroically on Guadalcanal on Sept. 27, 1942 after he volunteered to evacuate a detachment of Marines who were facing annihilation by a large enemy force. He succeeded in safely extricating them, saving at least 500 Marines, and in doing so was mortally wounded.

In the engagement in which he gave his life, Munro had been in charge of the original detachment of ten boats that had landed Marines on a beach. Having successfully landed them, Munro led his small boat force to a previously assigned rally position. Almost immediately upon his return, he was advised that Marines were under attack from a larger Japanese force at the insertion point and that they needed to be extracted immediately. Munro volunteered to lead the boats back to beach for the evacuation.

Commanding the rescue expedition, he brought the boats in-shore under heavy enemy fire and proceeded to evacuate the Marines still on the beach. Though the majority of the Marines had been loaded into the boats, the last remaining elements of the rear guard were having difficulty embarking. Munro maneuvered himself and his boats into a position to cover the last groups of men as they headed to the boats. In doing so, he exposed himself to greater enemy fire and suffered his fatal wound. At the time it was reported that he had remained conscious long enough to utter his final words: “Did they get off?”

Munro was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

2. Facts about the Coast Guard Pulitzer Prize Winner

Alex Haley enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard in 1939 after attending college. Haley enlisted as a mess attendant third class since the mess attendant and steward’s mate ratings were the only ratings in the Coast Guard open to minorities at that time, according to the Coast Guard. He saw service in the Pacific Theater in 1944 and he made money with a side hustle penning love letters for his shipmates. He also freelanced and submitted articles about war duty and sea service for Coast Guard publications.

At one point, Haley became the only chief journalist in the Coast Guard, serving as the assistant public affairs officer at the Coast Guard’s New York City headquarters. In 1959, he retired from the Coast Guard after 20 years of service to pursue his dream of becoming a full-time writer. Seventeen years after his retirement, he published the international best-seller, Roots: The Saga of an American Family in 1976. The book was later made into a television mini-series. Haley died in 1992. He is the only uniformed public affairs officer to have a ship named after him.

3. Military facts about the Coast Guard

The U.S. Coast Guard is not an organization in the Department of Defense, in fact, it used to be a part of the Department of Transportation until it was realigned under the Department of Homeland Security in 2003. It is considered, however, one of the U.S. Armed Forces and when federally mobilized for war, it falls under the Department of the Navy.

4. World War II facts about the Coast Guard

In 1942, a German U-boat surfaced off the coast of New York and deployed a  team whose aim was to sabotage U.S. industries. They would have succeeded if it wasn’t for Coast Guardsman John C. Cullen who was on beach patrol the day they came ashore.

Cullen found the men changing and accepted a bribe from them (to win their trust). He promptly reported the incident to the FBI. The men were all captured and this collar led to the foiling of a similar plot in Florida where another team of Germans was arrested.

5. Facts about the Coast Guard and floating weather stations

During World War II, the U.S. Coast Guard manned floating weather stations in the Atlantic. While this doesn’t sound like a precarious act, it was especially dangerous during the Battle of the Atlantic.

The Coast Guard deployed barely-armed ships on weather monitoring missions. The ships, for the most part, would float in one general area, collecting atmospheric data for use in operations.  This made them vulnerable to attack. In Sept. 1942, the Coast Guard Cutter Muckeget disappeared. It was later determined that the ship was sunk by a German torpedo. More than 100 Coast Guardsmen were killed.

6. Facts about the Coast Guard and their busiest rescue day

While most American military forces were trying to kill Germans on June 6, 1941, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter “Homing Pigeon,” rescued 126 drowning Allied fighters from the waters off the Normandy coast. Part of the Coast Guard’s mission that day, in addition to operating the landing craft, was to patrol the waters and rescue stranded service personnel in the water. In all, the rescue flotilla saved more than 400 men.

7. Facts about the Coast Guard on D-Day

Even though it has been covered extensively by history books, many still do not know that the U.S. Coast Guard led the operating, maintaining, and salvaging of landing craft during World War II. It was Coast Guardsmen who drove the landing craft onto the beaches of Normandy.

8. The Dude knows some facts about the Coast Guard

The Dude, the now famous character played by actor Jeff Bridges was once in the U.S. Coast Guard. Okay, that’s not true, but it wouldn’t have been too much of a stretch if that were written into the script given Jeff Bridges served as a boatswain’s mate from 1967-1975 and left the Coast Guard Reserve as a petty officer second class.

Bridges has made more than 70 movies, including Iron Man and True Grit, but he achieved a cult-like following as the White Russian-drinking, pot smoking, bowler in the 1998 movie, The Big Lebowski. Bridges’ father and brother, also actors, both served in the Coast Guard Reserve and Coast Guard Auxiliary.

9. Historical facts about the Coast Guard

Anthony Christy was 105 years old when he died in Sept. 1862. He was the keeper of the Christiana Lighthouse in Delaware making him the oldest active serving Coast Guard member.

10. Nautical facts about the Coast Guard

The Vigilant was the first ship ever launched by the Coast Guard. The service’s first cutter took to the water in 1791.

Comments on this post ( 0 )

Leave a comment