A Coast Guard Hero Honored

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CHATHAM, Mass. – Retired Master Chief Petty Officer Mark “Mac” McKenney and David O’Connor, both former Coast Guardsmen aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Point Welcome, scatter former shipmate Chief Petty Officer Richard Patterson’s ashes at sea from the deck of Coast Guard Cutter Tiger Shark off the coast of Chatham, Mass., Wednesday, June 16, 2010. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Connie Terrell.

A memorial service and burial at sea was held for a Vietnam War Era Coast Guard Hero, Chief Boatswains Mate Richard Patterson June 16.

BMC Patterson was a legendary Coastie honored for his heroic courage under fire when the CGC Point Welcome (WPB 82329) was attacked by friendly fire from U.S. Air Force aircraft near the demilitarized zone in South Vietnam on August 11, 1966. Chief Patterson saved the cutter and the surviving crew and was awarded a Bronze Star with the combat “V” device for his actions in a citation that reads:

“The first attack caused a blazing gasoline fire on the fantail of the cutter that threatened to engulf the entire after section of the vessel. Chief Patterson, displaying the finest qualities of bravery and leadership, took charge of the situation and using a fire hose, forced the flaming liquid over the side, thus extinguishing the fire. Even as he was accomplishing this task, he saw the second aircraft attack rip through the pilot house killing the cutter’s commanding officer and seriously wounding the executive officer and the helmsman. Unhesitatingly, and with complete disregard for his personal safety, Chief Patterson climbed to the bridge and took command. He ordered the crew to carry the wounded to the comparative safety of the below decks area. Alone on the bridge, he then maneuvered the cutter at high speed to avoid subsequent attacks. When it became apparent that he could not successfully evade the attacking aircraft, he ran the cutter close ashore, and directed the crew to abandon ship. Under his composed leadership, the wounded were wrapped in life jackets and paired with the able bodied before going over the side. Chief Patterson kept his crew calm and organized while they were in the water and until they were picked up by rescue craft.”

BMC Richard Patterson appears in the first row, right side of this photo taken during a memorial service for the Coast Guardsmen killed when U.S. Air Force aircraft mistakenly strafed and bombed the USCGC Point Welcome on the night of 11 August 1966, while the cutter was on patrol near the border between North and South Vietnam. The photo was donated to the Coast Guard Historian’s Office by BMC Richard Patterson, USCG (Ret.).

Chief Patterson succumbed to cancer on April 12, 2010, surrounded by family and friends.

Chief Patterson’s remains were scattered at sea from the CGC Tiger Shark following a memorial service at Coast Guard Station Chatham, Massachusetts.

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