The new Cutterman’s Memorial, dedicated to those lost in the line of duty while serving aboard our cutters, was dedicated at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C. today. Etched into the Memorial’s six granite panels are the names of the fallen and the ships they served in, along with the poem “Hurrah for the Sea” and a cutterman’s insignia. Set into the background are some of the cutters and battle streamers.
“These shipmates were simply doing their duty, performing the mission,” said Adm. Bob Papp, commandant, U.S. Coast Guard. “They gave everything to our Service and Nation. This Memorial is a small token of our appreciation. We can never forget them.”
Coast Guard cuttermen are a proud group with a long history of service to our Nation that dates back to the first cutter, believed to be Vigilant , which was launched in March 1791. ADM Papp’s words highlight a stark reality known and shared by all cuttermen who operate in a dynamic and demanding environment at sea. While we honor and remember all shipmates lost in the line of duty, the Memorial was established to remember those who gave their lives aboard cutters in service of their country.
The Coast Guard has operated more than a thousand different cutters across its 220 year history. They span the age of wind driven sail, steam powered paddle wheels, and diesel-electric driven propellers. They saw intense action in war and peace, operating in all corners of the globe. They also include legendary names like Eagle, Bear, Hudson, and Tampa. But behind all of the technology, operations and exploits; are the people: the cuttermen.
“When I entered the Coast Guard Academy, all I wanted to do was be a cutterman,” said Papp. “I spent much of my career at sea fulfilling the responsibilities of our Service. I could not have imagined doing anything else.”
And while cuttermen have performed great feats in service to our Nation, they have also known great sacrifice. We have lost 124 vessels, 83 of which were during wartime operations. Since 1917, 1242 cuttermen, our shipmates, have made the ultimate sacrifice. Among them, 11 crewmembers of the Coast Guard Cutter Cuyahoga , which was lost 32 years ago today at 8:45 p.m. near the mouth of the Potomac River in a collision with the 521-foot Argentinean bulk freighter Santa Cruz II.
“Our work is difficult and sometimes dangerous,” said Papp, adding, “The sea is unforgiving—it always has been.”