Douglas A. Munro: The U.S. Coast Guard's "Medal of Honor" Recipient
Doug Munro Remains the Only Member of the U.S.G.G. Ever to Receive the Medal of Honor
It was 27 Sept., 1942. Signalman First Class Douglas A. Munro wouldn't see the 28th.
Munro, the first and only member of the U.S. Coast Guard to receive the Medal of Honor, had been aboard the the seaplane tender Ballard. Anchored just off Guadalcanal, the ship received word that 500 men from the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, had met fierce resistance from the Japanese and were pinned down on the beach, their backs to the sea. So bad was it that the Marines had begun to stack dead bodies - like sandbags - for cover.
Munro immediately volunteered to lead five Higgins boats in to get them out. The signalman and his crew stayed low in the small boats as lead whistled and screamed overhead. As they neared the island the anguished cries and moans of wounded Marines grew louder, until a gentle bump followed by a scraping sound told the rescue team they had arrived in hell.
The gray-helmeted Munro and his crew swung into action. The evacuation had begun. The Higgins boats, too small to remove all of the Marines at one time, made several trips from the island to ships. Near the end of the mission, when only a few Marines remained on the beach, enemy fire intensified, pinning them once again. Munro recognized immediately that the Marines were in an untenable position, and their deaths were imminent. He quickly placed his vessel between the beachhead and the enemy, thus drawing the fire to himself.
When the last Marine was huddled safely behind the boat, Munro grabbed one of the Higgin's two guns and released a murderous burst of return fire, trying desperately to hold the enemy off until Marines could be taken aboard. Moments later he was mortally wounded. His crew, injured themselves, carried on until the last boat arrived and cleared the beach. Munro maintained consiousness long enough to utter these last four words: "Did they get off?" Assured that they had, he slowly closed his eyes and entered eternity. He died knowing he had sucessfully completed his last mission.
Eight months later, on 27 May, 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt presented the Medal of Honor to Munro's mother, Mrs. James Munro.
Buried in his hometown of South Cle Elum, WA, he rests between his mother and father in the veteran's section of the cemetery.
In his honor, the Coast Guard Cutter Munro was commissioned 7 Sept., 1971. There is a statue of Munro at the Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May, NJ, as well.
Note: More information on Doug Munro
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