Within days of their Dec. 7, 1941 surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese Imperial Navy occupied scores of islands throughout the western Pacific Ocean. Japan’s goal was to create a defensive buffer against attack from the United States and its Allies – one that would ensuretheir mastery over East Asia and the Pacific. It wasn’t until the United States’ strategic victories at the Battles of the Coral Sea (May 4-8, 1942) and Midway (June 4-7, 1942) finally halted the Japanese Empire’s expansion that the Allies were free to unleash an offensive.
The strategically-located Solomon Island chain, lying to the east of Papua New Guinea and critical to protecting the supply lines between the U.S. and Australia, was selected as the place to begin the island-hopping offensive campaign to take the Pacific back from the Japanese. The Solomon Island operation, America’s first amphibious operation since 1898, lasted six months and consisted of a number of major battles – on land, at sea and in the air.
American forces first landed on the Solomon Islands of Guadalcanal, Tulagi and Florida on the morning of August 7, 1942. It took some very fierce fighting, but the Marines cleared Tulagi and Florida in two days. The main American forces on Guadalcanal met little resistance on their way inland to secure the airfield at Lunga Point (later renamed Henderson Field). Almost immediately, Japanese naval aircraft attacked transport and escort ships, and Japanese reinforcements were sent to the area. The fight for control of Guadalcanal and the surrounding seas continued for months with no clear winner, while both sides continued to lose men, ships and aircraft.
It seemed that every time the U.S. achieved a hard-fought victory, the Japanese would resupply Guadalcanal by night via the infamous “Tokyo Express” fast destroyer resupply chain and be ready for more fighting the next day. But eventually, U.S. forces gained the upper hand, and by February 1943, after six months of deadly and costly combat, the Japanese withdrew the last of their men and conceded the island to the Allies.
Guadalcanal was also the Coast Guard’s first major participation in the Pacific Campaign. These men were assigned a vital role in the landings – the operation of amphibious-type assault craft. Many of the Coast Guard Coxswains (who are in charge of the navigation and steering of a boat) came from Life-Saving Stations, and their training and experience with small boats in treacherous waters close to shore made them the most-qualified small-boat handlers for the crucial task of landing fighting men on the beaches. One such boat handler was Douglas Munro.
Douglas Albert Munro was born on October 11, 1919, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. His father, James Munro, who originally hailed from California, and his mother, Edith Thrower Fairey from Liverpool, England, settled their small family of four in South Cle Elum, Washington, just outside of Seattle, where they raised young Douglas and his elder sister Pat. Douglas remained in South Cle Elum, from grade school through high school graduation in 1937, and then attended the Central Washington College of Education in nearby Ellensburg, Washington.
Munro and his friend from Seattle, Raymond Evans, eventually enlisted in the Coast Guard in Sept. 1939, the same month that Britain and France declared war on Nazi Germany. They served together on a Higgins boat landing craft off Guadalcanal during the Second Battle of the Matanikau, where both gained national acclaim for their heroic rescue operation that saved a Marine Corps unit trapped behind enemy lines.
Munro initially volunteered for duty on board the USCG Cutter Spencer, where he served until 1941 and earned his Signalman 3rd Class rating. In June 1941, President Roosevelt directed the Coast Guard to man four large transports and serve in mixed crews on board twenty-two naval ships. When word arrived that these ships needed Signalmen, Munro repeatedly requested and was finally granted permission to transfer to the USS Hunter Liggett (APA-14).
The “Lucky” Liggett was a 535 foot, 13,712 ton ship and was one of the largest attack transports in the Pacific. She carried nearly 700 Officers and men and thirty-five landing boats, including thirty-three LCVPs (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel, or Higgin’s boats) and two LCMs (Landing Craft Mechanized). In April 1942, the Liggett sailed to Wellington, New Zealand, to prepare for a major campaign in the south Pacific.
As the task force gathered, Munro, now a Signalman First Class, was assigned to temporary duty on the staff of Commander, Transport Division Seventeen. During the preparations for the invasion, he was transferred from ship to ship, as his talents were needed. The task force rendezvoused at sea near the end of July, and on August 7, the Liggett led the other transports to their anchorage off Guadalcanal, serving as the amphibious task force command post until the Marines secured the beaches.
At the time of the invasion, Munro was attached to the staff of Rear Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner on board the smaller 9,600-ton attack transport USS McCawley (APA-4). He made the landing on Tulagi Island where fierce fighting lasted for several days. About two weeks later, Munro was sent twenty miles across the channel to Guadalcanal where the Marines had landed and had driven inland. One of the bloodiest and most decisive battles ensued, and the Americans quickly seized the island’s airfield.
After the initial landings at Guadalcanal, Munro and twenty-four other Coast Guard and Navy personnel were assigned to the newly-established base at Lunga Point. The base was commanded by CDR Dwight H. Dexter, USCG, who was in charge of all the small boat operations on Guadalcanal. Situated on the Lever Brothers coconut plantation, the base consisted of a small house with a newly constructed coconut tree signal tower, and Munro was assigned there because of his Signalman rating. The base served as the staging area for troop movements along the coast. To facilitate this movement, a pool of landing craft from the numerous transports lay there to expedite the transportation of supplies and men.
A month into the campaign, the Marines on the island were reinforced and decided to push beyond their defensive perimeter. They planned to advance west across the Matanikau River to prevent smaller Japanese units from combining and striking American positions in overwhelming numbers. For several days near the end of September, the Marines tried to cross the Matanikau River from the east and each time met tremendous resistance. On Sunday, Sept. 27, Marine LtCol Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, commander of 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, embarked three companies of his 7th Marines in landing craft to land west of the river, drive out the Japanese and establish a patrol base on the west side of the Matanikau.
Just two weeks short of his twenty-third birthday, Munro took charge of ten LCPs (Landing Craft Personnel) and LCTs (Landing Craft Tank, or tank lighters) from the landing craft contingent at the Lunga Point base that were dispatched to transport Puller’s men to a small cove west of Point Cruz. The destroyer USS Monssen initiated the assault shortly after noon with a covering barrage from her five-inch guns. 500 Marines, led by Maj. Ortho L. Rodgers, landed unopposed in two waves at 1 PM, then pushed inland and reorganized on a ridge about 500 yards from the beach.
Unbeknownst to Maj. Rodgers’ Marines, a high level Japanese air raid of 17 bombers struck Henderson Field as they were disembarking on the beach, interrupting the Marine’s communication net and preventing word of unexpectedly strong Japanese forces from being relayed to Puller from a party of Marine Raiders probing further up the west side of the Matanikau River. The air raid also forced the support ships, including the Monssen and its supporting firepower, to temporarily get under way and withdraw from the vicinity of the island, denying the crucial fire support the Marines would immediately need.
At approximately 1:50 PM, as they reached the ridge, an overwhelming Japanese force struck Puller’s Marines from west of the river. This catastrophic situation deteriorated even further when Maj. Rodgers was killed and one of the Company Commanders was wounded. The Marines were stranded with no fire support or communications, facing superior enemy numbers, and in imminent danger of being surrounded and annihilated.
After landing the Marines, Munro returned to Lunga Point with his landing craft. A single LCP manned by Coast Guard Petty Officer Ray Evans and Navy Coxswain Samuel B. Roberts remained behind to take off the immediate wounded, staying extremely close to the beach to expedite the process. Meanwhile, Japanese forces that had worked their way behind the Marine landing party suddenly fired a machine gun burst that hit the LCP, severing the rudder cable and disabling the boat’s steering controls. After jury-rigging the rudder, Roberts was struck by enemy fire and Evans managed to jam the controls to full ahead and sped back to Lunga Point Base. Unable to stop, the LCP ran onto the beach at 20 mph. Roberts later died but was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross.
As the shot-up boat piloted by Evans arrived back at the Lunga Point base, the plight of the Marines was not known, since they had failed to take a radio and were unable to communicate their predicament, and the bombing raid had driven the destroyer Monssen out of visual range with the Marines. However, the enterprising Marines used their under-shirts to spell out the word “HELP” on a ridge not far from the beach, and “Cactus Air Force” pilot Second Lieutenant Dale Leslie, flying out of Henderson Field in a Douglas SBD “Dauntless” naval scout plane/dive bomber, spotted the message and passed it by radio to another Marine unit. Word quickly arrived that the Marines were in trouble and were being driven back toward the beach.
At 4 P.M., Lt. Col. Puller, realizing that his men were isolated and endangered, embarked on Monssen to personally direct the covering fire for the Marines who were desperately trying to reach the beach for extraction. Puller re-established communications with his surrounded Marines via visual signals and directed the Monssen to blast a path through the Japanese to provide a route for his surrounded Marines to return back to the beach.
The landing crafts had meanwhile been readied at Lunga Point. Again, virtually the same boats that had put the Marines on the beach were assembled to extract them. Douglas Munro, who had taken charge of the original landing, volunteered to lead the boats back to the beach. None of these boats were heavily armed or well protected. For example, Munro’s Higgins boat had a plywood hull, it was slow, vulnerable to small arms fire, and was armed only with two air-cooled .30 caliber Lewis machine guns.
As Munro led the boats ashore, the Japanese fired on the small craft from Point Cruz, the ridges abandoned by the Marines, and from positions east of the beach. This intense fire from three strong interlocking positions disrupted the landing and caused a number of casualties among the virtually defenseless crews in the boats. Despite the intense fire, Munro led the boats ashore in waves of two or three at a time to pick up the Marines. Munro and Evans provided covering fire from their exposed position on the beach as the Japanese pressed ever closer to the beach, making the withdrawal increasingly dangerous with each passing second.
The returning Monssen, along with Leslie’s “Dauntless” dive bomber, provided additional cover fire for the withdrawing Marines. As the Marines arrived on the beach to embark on the landing craft, the Japanese maintained a murderous and withering fire from the ridges abandoned by the Marines, just 500 yards away, and the last group with their twenty-five wounded were in danger of being cut down. Munro quickly identified the deadly situation and unhesitatingly maneuvered his boat between the enemy and the final group of withdrawing Marines to protect the remnants of the battalion. With no regard to his own personal safety and exposed to the enemy’s deadly fire, Munro successfully provided cover and enabled the last remaining Marines to escape the deadly trap.
With all the Marines safely in the dangerously-overloaded small craft, Munro and Evans steered their LCP off shore. As they passed towards Point Cruz they noticed an LCT full of Marines grounded on the beach. Munro steered his landing craft to assist the disabled LCT and directed another tank lighter to pull it off. Twenty minutes later, the craft was free and heading out to sea. Before they could get very far from shore, the Japanese had set up a machine gun and began firing at the boats. Evans saw the incoming fire and shouted a warning to Munro, but the roar of the boat’s engine prevented Munro from hearing him, and a single bullet hit him in the base of the skull. Munro remained conscious long enough to say only four words, “Did they get off?” before dying.
Due to his extraordinary heroism, outstanding leadership and gallantry, Signalman First Class Douglas Munro was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the only coast guardsman to receive such an honor. The U.S. Coast Guard has named two of their cutters in his honor, the high-endurance cutter USCGC Munro (WHEC-724), and the National Security Legend-class cutter USCGC Munro (WMSL-755), while the Navy has named a destroyer escort in his honor, the USS Douglas A. Munro (DE-422). The Douglas A. Munro Inspirational Leadership Award is annually awarded to the Coast Guard enlisted member who has demonstrated outstanding leadership and professional competence to the extent of their rank and rate.
Raymond Evans, who remained in the Coast Guard, retired as a Commander. He was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions on Guadalcanal. He died on June 7, 2013 at the age of 92. The USCGC Raymond Evans (WPC-1110) is named in his honor. The CDR Ray Evans Outstanding Coxswain Trophy is a prestigious annual award that recognizes a Coast Guard coxswain who demonstrates exceptional boat handling skills and leadership.
In honor of Samuel B. Roberts, the US Navy named three ships after him. The destroyer escort USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413), commissioned in April 1944, fought in the Battle of Leyte Gulf of October 1944 and was sunk by the Imperial Japanese Navy in the Battle off Samar on October 25, 1944. The USS Samuel B. Roberts (DD-823), a Gearing-class destroyer, was the second ship of the United States Navy to be named for Samuel B. Roberts. In August 1970, the ship was ruled unfit for further service and was sunk as a target in the Atlantic Ocean 195 nautical miles north of Puerto Rico on November 14, 1971. The third USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG-58), is an Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided missile frigate, commissioned in 1986 and decommissioned on May 22, 2015. When it struck an Iranian mine in the Persian Gulf in 1988 and was in danger of sinking, its crewmen who were engaged in damage control passed around and touched a plaque commemorating the first ship.
The Solomon Islands Campaign cost the Allies approximately 7,100 men, 29 ships and 615 aircraft. The Japanese lost 31,000 men, 38 ships and 683 aircraft. Over the next two and a half years, U.S. forces captured the Gilbert Islands (Tarawa and Makin), the Marshall Islands (Kwajalein and Eniwetok), the Mariana Islands (Saipan, Guam, and Tinian), Iwo Jima and Okinawa. With each island reclaimed from the Japanese, the U.S. moved closer to Japan. Growing superiority at sea and in the air, as well as in the number of fighting men, gave the U.S. increasing advantages. Nonetheless, wherever U.S. forces met Japanese defenders, the enemy fought long and hard before being defeated.
View the service reflections of Coast Guard Auxiliary member:
SO Stephen Fletcher
U.S. Coast Guard Auxilary
If you served in any branch of the U.S. Military, join your brothers and sisters in arms at TogetherWeServed.com
PLEASE DESCRIBE WHO OR WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE COAST GUARD?
I decided to continue to serve in the Coast Guard Auxiliary as a way to give back to my country, and help support active duty as well as Veterans. The Auxiliary has opened door and opportunities for me to serve alongside the regular active and reserve duty (the gold side counterparts to an auxiliary member). Many of the local stations are limited on their manpower, and the auxiliary fills the void. My skills and prior service as a Marine, can be utilized to help our men and women currently serving. Everything happens at the flotilla level, those are the workers, the troops in the trenches. The flotilla that I am in serves Sector Detroit, and Station Belle Isle. We hold our meetings at the Coast Guard Station, and work closely with them in various missions. Giving back to those that serve, the country, and the community.
WHETHER YOU WERE IN THE SERVICE FOR SEVERAL YEARS OR AS A CAREER, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH YOU TOOK. WHAT WAS YOUR REASON FOR LEAVING?
I was looking to expand on my information technology training, and my path was geared to that end. After Boot Camp I attended my MOS school (Computer Science School) at MCB Quantico, VA. I then was sent by the Marine Corps to the various RASC’s, and then ending (keeping true to a Marines basic function) at a Deployable computer based unit (5th DFASC). While at the 5th DFASC, we accomplished many “first’s” in Marine Corps history. This unit was a small 30 member T/O billeted unit, but true to the unit’s motto, we were “Good to Go”. Some amazing advances in the technology and computing world were taking place. The 5th DFASC was the first ADPE mobile center, taking the computing power of a RASC out into the field to support a MAGTF. We were the first to load onto a ship, USS Fairfax County (LST-1193), first to conduct ship-board data processing, first to deploy in a beach-head landing, first to deploy onto aircraft. There were many first’s that this unit took on and accomplished.
In the Auxiliary, I have had the chance to expand on my Marine Corps Training. Taken training and become a Operational Auxiliarist, Vessel Examiner, Program Visitor, and Information Systems. The Auxiliary allows me to support the US Coast Guard in non-traditional roles as well. The Coast Guard maintains a skills bank of members with certian skill sets. They can then draw upon these skills on an as needed basis to accomplish tasks which would otherwise overburden active duty manpower. Augmenting the station crew is another way to give your time and talents. Watchstanding or Radio Watchstanding frees up a crew member to accomplish other duties, making full use of their resources.
IF YOU PARTICIPATED IN ANY MILITARY OPERATIONS, INCLUDING COMBAT, HUMANITARIAN AND PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS, PLEASE DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT TO YOU AND, IF LIFE-CHANGING, IN WHAT WAY.
The Marines and Coast Guard are always there in time of emergency. Humanitarian Aid is always a focus when you answer the call for help. Hurricane Diana in 1984 was one time we stepped up to the call, and assisted the people of North Carolina that suffered severe storm damages and losses. The one operation that sticks with me is the bombing(s) in Beirut. We were supporting those Marines/Navy personnel after the bombing of the US Embassy (18 April 1983). Feel free to view the online version of the Memorial that was made by the community of Jacksonville, NC. Visit the Memorial when you are at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. http://www.beirut-memorial.org/history/index.html
In the Auxiliary, we have participated in many Maritime Observation Missions, Search and Rescue, Aids to Navigation, and Air Support. Auxiliary boats and aircraft donate hundreds of hours that might not be available if only active duty did those tasks. Thousands of buoys need to have their positions verified to confirm that are on station and protecting the navigable waters.
One of the largest missions of the Auxiliary is Recreational Boating Safety. The Auxiliary promotes safety on the docks and water, gives public education on water safety, boating skills, and rules of the road. Free vessel checks are also performed to advise the boat owner of all the federal and state requirements keeping the boat owner informed and safe.
OF ALL YOUR DUTY STATIONS OR ASSIGNMENTS, WHICH ONE DO YOU HAVE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY? WHICH ONE WAS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
One of the best places I was stationed that gave me the best memories was the 5th Deployable FASC, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, NC. It was there that I was cross-trained on many different fields / MOS’s within the 40xx group, and other duties as well. We trained in garrison, and deployed to the field. We participated on various exercises (Solid Shield and CAX were favorites). The unit consisted of about 28-30 Marines total, so it was a very close, tight group, from our Major down to the last Private. There were many experiences that I had which I don’t believe would have happened if I was at a larger land based unit, that wasn’t deployable. (See news article in my profile documents). We broke ground for many Marines to follow us, as at that time our unit was new, and testing the theory. We accomplished many “firsts” in Marine Corps data processing history. First ship-board unit, first ship-board operations, first beach landing, first air-transport, among others, all for a mainframe computing environment. We even got kudos from BGEN Wineglass on being Marines in the field. CWO4 Williams can share that and other stories. We lived up to our new units motto, as we really were “Good To Go”.
On the Coast Guard side, Sector Detroit is the place to be. With missions at the Detroit River Days, to the Ford Fireworks, to Ice Patrol missions, serving here at home with the local Coast Guard just strengthens our resolve to be Semper Paratus (Always Ready).
FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE, INCLUDING COMBAT, DESCRIBE THE PERSONAL MEMORIES WHICH HAVE IMPACTED YOU MOST?
The many friends that I made while attached to the various units I served in. Additionally, many of them are here on TWS, and we have re-connected and re-visited our past memories, true to the mission of this site. The stories from all them members of TWS help create as well as document the history and traditions of which I played a small role in.
One of the most heart-wrenching experiences was the recent multi-burial of veterans. These veterans were unclaimed remains of those that passed without any next of kin or the means to provide a funeral. On September 11, 2014, thirteen veterans, located by the Missing In America Project (MIAP) made the long journey to the Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly, MI. Hearse after hearse pulled into the cemetery until all 13 arrived. Pallbearers made up of many volunteers from active duty Marines, Army, Air Force, and Navy. Members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary also volunteered as did members of VFWs and American Legions. 78 pallbearers carried these thirteen men to their final resting place. One family member was there to receive her brother’s flag. The other twelve were presented to Gold Star Mothers who stood in place for the family these men did not have.
WHAT ACHIEVEMENT(S) ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF FROM YOUR MILITARY CAREER?
The Navy Unit Commendation. This award shows not only that we did a good job, but shows the teamwork of the entire unit to earn that distinction. Additionally, I was awarded the Coast Guard Unit Commendation. The citation in part reads:
“For exceptionally meritorious service from June 24, 2009 to June 23, 2014, while providing unprecedented levels of dedicated public service and operational support to the U. S. Coast Guard’s missions. Demonstrating remarkable professionalism and boating safety expertise, the Auxiliary performed over 1.1 million vessel safety checks and marine dealer visits, delivered over 540 thousand hours of boating safety course instruction and conducted over 809 thousand hours of public outreach. Displaying superior underway and airborne operational proficiency, Auxiliarists logged over 19.8 million hours of support and patrol missions, saved over one thousand lives, assisted over 20 thousand boaters in distress and prevented the loss of more than 185 million dollars in property. The Auxiliary always answered the call, remaining in lockstep with the Coast Guard’s response to every major incident.”
Teamwork is what these two awards recognize.
OF ALL THE MEDALS, AWARDS, FORMAL PRESENTATIONS AND QUALIFICATION BADGES YOU RECEIVED, OR ANY OTHER MEMORABILIA, PLEASE DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH ARE THE MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?
The Navy Unit Commendation & Coast Guard Commendation. These awards show not only that we did a good job, but shows the teamwork of the entire unit to earn that distinction. While the other awards also hold great memories, these two signify the brotherhood, or as history has shown many times; “this band of brothers”, the cohesiveness of the Marine Unit.
WHICH INDIVIDUAL(S) FROM YOUR TIME IN THE MILITARY STAND OUT AS HAVING THE MOST POSITIVE IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?
I would have to say that the one Marine that made the biggest impact on me was my Senior Drill Instructor, Sgt Slusser. He instilled in us recruits not only the training that we needed in those long weeks of Boot Camp, but the drive to be the best at everything we do. For that title ‘US Marine’ is a very prestigious honor to have, and it proves that we are the best!
The other individuals that stand out the most are the three officers of the small but close knit unit, 5th DFASC. These three were great leaders, and we learned a great deal from them, and I am proud to have served with all three (Maj Marsh, CWO’s Williams and Trimble).
CAN YOU RECOUNT A PARTICULAR INCIDENT FROM YOUR SERVICE WHICH MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE BEEN FUNNY AT THE TIME, BUT STILL MAKES YOU LAUGH?
This incident stems from my time at the 5th Deployable FASC. Most data-processing Marines, once they have completed Boot Camp and gone on to their MOS in data-processing, leave the grunt work behind. They are used to working in a building, eating at the chow hall, and shopping at the base exchange. The 5th DFASC brought back the word deployable. This was our first “deployment” and our chance to experience field life. But alas, in the field there is no head, what to do. Well, the sharp thinking minds on the data-processing Marines, took the admin’s jeep (it had a little trailer) and returned later with a port-a-john, which of course they covered and concealed with camo-netting.
WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? IF YOU ARE CURRENTLY SERVING, WHAT IS YOUR PRESENT OCCUPATIONAL SPECIALTY?
I followed the path I started in high school; the Information technology realm. I am currently supporting the IT infrastructure (soon to be a national realm) of a transportation business, including Main site, VPN remote sites, and hundreds of mobile data (in vehicle) terminals.
In the Auxiliary I have continues my Information Systems path, becoming the Division Staff Officer-Information Systems. This position tasks me with correctly recording submitted hours and supporting the other staff officers with Information Systems support. Data Processing in a nutshell, pulling training reports and others as needed.
WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS ARE YOU A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? WHAT SPECIFIC BENEFITS DO YOU DERIVE FROM YOUR MEMBERSHIPS?
AMVETS, American Legion, American Cold War Vet Assoc, Marine Corps Vet Assoc, Marine Corps League, NCO Association, NAUS, VFW. I also serve in the USCG Auxiliary. Being an auxiliarist has allowed me to re-connect with my military memories, as well as re-establish those connections that I had while serving in the USMC. Back in uniform, and giving of my time and talents to support the US Coast Guard’s mission. Boating Safety is the primary mission of the Auxiliary, and we augment the USCG in other areas. As I expand my career in the Auxiliary in areas of Vessel Examinations, Program Visitors, and Auxiliary Operations (including USCG Watch Standing) with Boat and Air Stations, I will continue to focus on giving back.
IN WHAT WAYS HAS SERVING IN THE MILITARY INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND YOUR CAREER?
Military life has given me a sense of discipline and responsibility. Bearing, as they teach you in boot camp, is how you carry yourself. The leadership traits you learn can all be applied throughout your life, and will serve you well into your future years, whatever the situation is.
The skill set is useful in maintaining good work ethics. Leadership is key in almost all businesses, and those experiences in the USMC and USCG have developed and honed those skills.
BASED ON YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO HAVE RECENTLY JOINED THE COAST GUARD?
Keep the faith. Be true to yourself and your service branch, do your best at all times. As a Marine I still uphold the Marine motto ‘Semper Fi’. Know that we all veterans and civilians alike, support the things that you do that ensure the preservation of our freedoms. Thank You for your service !!
IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU REMEMBER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND THE FRIENDS YOU SERVED WITH.
TWS has let me re-connect with many of the Marines (and other branch service members). It is all about keeping those connections, and developing new ones along the way. The camaraderie that one develops while serving in any of the armed forces runs deep in the soul of that person.
TWS, regardless of the branch, allows that brotherhood that we had in time of service to rise up and flourish again. I have been able to make remembrance profiles for some of my family members (my father and grandfather) who served in WWI and WWII. Having a place that my family can share information and service history of our relatives is a great way to honor their contributions to the freedoms that I enjoy. Additionally, I have the honor of adopting a fallen member(s) profile from the current era, and can ensure that his sacrifice to this nation is not forgotten. From the stories and knowledge that the veterans have for the newer service personnel, to the lively banter in the forums, TWS allows the history to be both cherished and passed along.
Read the service Reflections of US Coast Guardsman
US Coast Guard (Ret)
(Veterans – record and share your own service story with friends and family by joining www.togetherweserved.com. This is a free service)
WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE MILITARY?
During most of my childhood, life at home was not good. My parents moved frequently and eventually divorced when I was 12 years old. At this time my brother, Jim, enlisted in the United States Coast Guard. By the time I reached 16 years old, I had enough of my family’s problems. On the advice from my brother and with my mother’s approval, I enlisted in the United States Coast Guard when I turned 17 and departed for boot camp in January, 1964.
WHAT WAS YOUR SERVICE CAREER PATH?
After Boot Camp March, 1964, I was assigned to the Coast Guard Training Center, Cape May,NJ as an Electrician’s Mate “striker”. I advanced to Fireman (E-3). I was transferred to the Coast Guard Training Center, Groton, CT, Electrician’s Mate School. After satisfactorily completing 16 weeks of training, I was transferred to the 13th Coast Guard District, USCGC Winona, homeported at Port Angeles, WA. I advanced to 3rd Class Petty Officer after six months aboard the Winona. The Winona completed underway training in San Diego, CA, one Ocean Station November, and one Alaska Bering Sea Patrol during my tour.
1966 transferred to 1st Coast Guard District, Boston, MA, Pre-Com Detail, USCGC Atka. Sailed the CGC Atka to Baltimore, MD where she was placed in a 6 month shipyard availability period. We sailed to Bermuda on a shakedown cruise during which time a request to rename the ship “Southwind” was approved by the Commandant. After shakedown the “Southwind” completed a 6 month patrol in the Artic. While enroute I advanced to 2nd Class Petty Officer with duties as ship’s electrician and propulsion throttleman. Upon returning to her homeport of Curtis Bay, MD Coast Guard Yard, December 1967 my enlistment ended.
After 1 1/2 years as a civilian I re-enlisted as a 2nd Class Electrician’s Mate (June, 1969) and was assigned to Coast Guard Base, Mayport, FL. During my 2 year assignment I advanced to 1st Class Petty Officer, responsible for maintenance and repair of electrical systems on shore stations and small boats.
1971 received orders to Vietnam via the Coast Guard Training Center, Alameda, CA for training in Weapons, Explosives Loading Supervisor, SERE and Orientation. I was assigned to Senior Coast Guard Officer Vietnam (SCGOV). My primary responsibility repairs to maritime Aids to Navigation, secondary responsibility Explosive Loading Supervisor.
During my tour I re-enlisted for a period of 4 years and received approval for my request to attend the US Navy’s Advanced Electrician’s Mate School. 1972 reported to US Naval Training Center, Great Lakes, IL. After 33 weeks of intense training I graduated with honors being #1 in the class.
I received orders to US Coast Guard Group Humboldt Bay, CA as the 1st Class Electrician’s Mate in charge of the Electric Shop. We made repairs to electrical systems and equipment throughout the Group.
1974 transferred to the CGC Red Cedar, Portsmouth, VA. Only electrician responsible for maintenance and repair of electrical system and equipment. I stood EWO watches. Made #1 on the list for Chief Petty Officer in 1975.
Transferred to the 5th District Naval Engineering (ene) Assist Team. The most significant duty during tour was the design and refit of the CGC Cherokee DC power distribution system to AC power distribution system.
In 1977 I transferred to USCGC Yocona, Astoria, OR. I readjusted and repaired the DC main propulsion system which gave the Yocona the ability to complete full power trials. I made #1 on the list for Senior Chief Petty Officer and advanced in January, 1979. We performed fisheries patrol and made major drug bust on the Helena Star for several tons of marijuana.
August, 1979 discharged as an enlisted man and took the oath as a Chief Warrant Officer with duty assignment to the 1st Coast Guard District Naval Engineering (ene) Type Desk Officer for lightships and buoytenders.
1982 transferred to Coast Guard Group Mayport, FL as the Engineering Officer.
Retired August, 1985.
DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN COMBAT OPERATIONS? IF SO, COULD YOU DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE SIGNIFICANT TO YOU?
Yes, I was in Vietnam in support of combat operations. I repaired maritime Aids to Navigation equipment, i.e. buoys for navigating major channels up and down the coast of Vietnam. As a secondary job function, I supervised the offloading of 500/1000 lb. bombs from an ammunition ship to barges which were towed up the Saigon River to the ammo dump. I participated in the replacement of the main power distribution panel which blew up at CG Tan My Loran Station.
WHICH, OF THE VESSELS OR DUTY STATIONS YOU WERE ASSIGNED TO, DO YOU HAVE THE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY?
CGC Winona, my first sea duty assignment to Ocean Station November and the Bering Sea Fisheries, Law Enforcement Patrol.
FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT?
The most memorable moment of my career was having my wife attach my shoulder boards and my son present during my commissioning to Chief Warrant Officer.
OF THE MEDALS, AWARDS AND QUALIFICATION BADGES OR DEVICES YOU RECEIVED, WHAT IS THE MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?
The Coast Guard Achievement Medal with a Combat V, it was awarded to me from the Commandant in recognition for my meritorious service in Vietnam while serving with the Aids to Navigation Detail under the command of Senior Coast Guard Officer of Vietnam.
WHICH INDIVIDUAL PERSON FROM YOUR SERVICE STANDS OUT AS THE ONE WHO HAD THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?
Commander Donald Hoffer, USCG, Chief of Naval Engineering (ene), 5th Coast Guard District. In the establishment of the 5th District Naval Engineering Assist Team, Commander Hoffer had the confidence and assurance in our ability to perform emergency repairs to vessels and special projects. His approach to us was “there was nothing that we couldn’t do as long as we were provided the funding”.
CAN YOU RECOUNT A PARTICULAR INCIDENT FROM YOUR SERVICE THAT WAS FUNNY AT THE TIME AND STILL MAKES YOU LAUGH?
When I was assigned to a certain vessel there were times when we were on fisheries and law enforcement patrols, the Captain would drop anchor to allow us to fish off the fantail. Whenever “fish call” was announced over the PA system, the Engineering Officer was always first to get the prime spot on the fantail for fishing.
One particular time at “fish call”, many of us assembled and of course the EO was already there at his prime spot. However, this time a seagull flew over where the EO stood and dropped a “present” on the top of the EO’s buzzed head which ran down his face and neck.
Consequently, someone else was able to fish the EO’s prime spot.
WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER THE SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? IF CURRENTLY SERVING, WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT JOB?
Ship repair and new ship construction as Electrical Dept. Supervisor. Now permanently retired.
WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS ARE YOU A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? WHAT SPECIFIC BENEFITS DO YOU DERIVE FROM YOUR MEMBERSHIPS?
HOW HAS MILITARY SERVICE INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND CAREER?
I try to keep my life structured, realizing the responsibility of my family and others. I always try to do any job right the first time.
I believe it is important for a supervisor to train his personnel especially one that could do his job in the event he wasn’t available.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR THOSE THAT ARE STILL SERVING?
IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU MAINTAIN A BOND WITH YOUR SERVICE AND THOSE YOU SERVED WITH?
TWS has given me the ability to contact several of my shipmates that I served with. I have enjoyed the memories as I have gone through all my service records and photos for posting to my profile on TWS. I also have the opportunity to make and have made new friends through TWS. I especially like the military structure that TWS emphasizes.
LT Robert McAllister
U.S. Coast Guard (Ret)
(Veterans – record and share your own service story with friends and family by joining www.togetherweserved.com. This is a free service)
PLEASE DESCRIBE WHO OR WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE COAST GUARD?
When I was graduating from high school, the commercials that were on TV were all about the ‘active peace-time service.’ My father was in the Navy during WWII and my brother was on active duty with the Navy, serving on a submarine in Hawaii. Most of the military connections that I had were Navy, Marine, and Army. I didn’t see myself as a Marine. I was too skinny, 155 lbs soaking wet, and not a big athlete.
So, I attribute those TV commercials as the major factor in my decision to join the Coast Guard.
WHETHER YOU WERE IN THE SERVICE FOR SEVERAL YEARS OR AS A CAREER, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH YOU TOOK.
I was not really career minded during my first four years in the Coast Guard. I had a fairly tough time in boot camp. My home was only 15 miles away and I had a girlfriend at home so my mind was probably more on her and my buddies than becoming a Coast Guardsman.
Every time I turned around I was receiving demerits. It seemed every other weekend I was doing extra instruction. I became fairly familiar with Coast Guard cleaning and painting along with many trips to the Grinder for buckets of rocks, etc. My entry test scores were high but because of the demerits from boot camp I received my last choice of duty station in the last district. I was sent to Seattle, Washington as an SA and found myself on the Lighthouse Tender USCGC Fir (WLM-212).
We made many trips, servicing three light ships and various lighthouses and light stations. Good food, hard work, and exercise. I became a solid 175 lbs. I did lose my appetite for sea food for quite a while after cleaning sea life off of the buoys we serviced. The CO of the Fir, after reviewing my service record, noted that I had received a 2.8 conduct out of boot camp. His comment was “They can’t do that to someone!” Several senior personnel on the ship talked with me and thought that I should go to Electronics School. The CO had my conduct marks changed to 3.0 and forwarded a request for me to attend ET School in Groton, Connecticut.
I arrived in Groton as an SA and after 7 months of training graduating as an ET3. I served on USCGC Alert (WSC-127) out of San Diego, went to LORAN-C School in Wildwood, NJ, a short tour at LORAN Station, Kauai, HI, on to LORAN Station Kure Island, HI, and LORAN Station Venice, FL.
During this 4 year period, I remained an ET3. This was at a time when the Coast Guard had slick arm Chiefs (CPO in less than 4 years). After serving my four year hitch, I got out.
During my five month hiatus, I worked three months for Pacific Bell in Oakland, California when I came to the realization it was just a job, not a career. Since I had enjoyed what I had been doing in the Coast Guard, I reenlisted with the intent of making it my career. A decision I have never regretted.
DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN COMBAT OPERATIONS? IF SO, COULD YOU DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE SIGNIFICANT TO YOU?
I served twelve months with CG Squadron One, Division XII, in DaNang, Vietnam. I was the Senior Enlisted ET, stationed on the Non self-propelled Floating Workshop YR-71. The crews berthing area left something to be desired, but then I was not sleeping in the open in a jungle. Most of my days were spent in the electronic repair shop on the barge or on one of the 82-foot patrol boats, repairing or adjusting the electronics. I always had the option of going out on any of the 82 footers that we serviced. However, I always put it off and as my time was nearing the end of my tour I though less of going on patrol.
A good share of my off time was spent with my two friends GM1, Maxwell and YN1 Fischer. We would go to the beach to bask in the sun and bathe in the ocean. Sometimes we would visit the club at Camp Tien Sha, down the road from the Vietnamese Navy Base where the YR-71 was tied up. Other times we headed for a small, open air, club at the end of the pier that the barge was attached to. A young Vietnamese man named Phuoc served us our drinks who we found lived behind the bar, actually underneath it. We put our money together for Phuoc to attend training as a typist, hoping that he would be able to get a better job and future. We sent him twice but without success. We heard Phuoc got a job in Hue and died during the Tet Offensive.
The bitter reality of the war was always present. When we made a trip to the DaNang Navy Hospital, I saw piles of combat boots, each one representing a loss of a limb. It was a horrible sight. Sometimes at night, we would watch the “fireworks” around DaNang as enemy rockets slammed into military installation throughout the area followed by friendly return fire. The most spectacular were seeing the gunships in action across the bay. The tracers would be a red light from the sky drawing lines on the ground. I’d hear stories on how service members on their way home waiting for their flights at the DaNang AB were killed or injured during the rocket attacks.
One of my nicest memories while in Vietnam was seeing Bob Hope’s 1967 USO Christmas at DaNang AB. As Hope had been doing since his first USO tour, he brought with him a taste of home. This time it was Raquel Welch, Elaine Dunn, Phil Crosby, Barbara McNair, and Miss World, Madeleine Hartog Bell. For those two hours I was lost in the laughter, glamor and music and not once did I think of the many hazards that existed around me.
With my year in country was over (February 6, 1968) I was given a TR [travel request] for a PANAM flight out of Saigon, leaving from DaNang to Saigon to Hawaii. But since January 1968 was the start of the Tet Offensive and the DaNang AB was still an enemy target, my TR became useless. There were no flights from DaNang to Saigon and there were no flights from Saigon to anywhere. I traveled back to my unit where they cut new travel order for any flight leaving from DaNang to anywhere else.
My worst night in country was spending the night at the airfield in DaNang waiting for my flight–the very installation I saw rocketed almost every night I was in DaNang. This anxiety increased when I thought about the stories of people being killed while awaiting their flight. That did not happen and after about 12 hours at the airfield I was finally given a seat on a C-141 leaving for Japan. Goodbye Vietnam!
I still ‘welcome home’ everyone I meet that served in Vietnam.