This Compass series chronicles the first 14 heroes the Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutters have been named for. These men and women, who stood the watch before us, lived extraordinary lives as they lit the way for sailors in times past, braved gunfire in times of war and rescued those in peril at sea. As Coast Guard heroes, their stories are a constant reminder of our service’s legacy. As the namesake of the Coast Guard’s newest patrol boats, they will inspire the next generation of Coast Guard heroes.
With contributions from LTJG Ryan White
Engineman Robert J. Yered’s fearless actions set him apart as he stood duty in the explosive loading detail at the United States Army Terminal, Cat Lai, Vietnam, on February 18, 1968.
In the early morning hours the terminal at Cat Lai was attacked by enemy rocket, mortar and small arms fire. As the heavy rounds beat into the terminal, one of the rockets struck a barge carrying several hundred tons of mortar ammunition. The barge was quickly engulfed in flames, and threatened to destroy three nearby ammunition ships carrying more than fifteen thousand tons of explosives.
Engineman Yered courageously exposed himself to enemy gunfire as he helped extinguish fires on the burning barge. His bold act averted not only the destruction of his own ship but also that of the entire terminal.
Yered’s valorous character shone through many times throughout his career and he is one of 12 Coast Guardsmen awarded the Silver Star. Among his other awards are the Vietnam Service Medal with four bronze stars and a Purple Heart Medal.
Coast Guard 82-foot cutters were a perfect fit for the shallow waters required for operations in Vietnam. The cutters spent 70 percent of their time underway as they inspected vessels for contraband, intercepted and destroyed North Vietnamese and Viet Cong craft and provided fire support for friendly forces.
As the 82-foot cutters patrolled inshore, larger cutters helped in forming an offshore barrier against infiltration. A total of 30 high endurance cutters served with Squadron Three, which consisted of 10-month deployments from 1967 and 1971.
Retired Senior Chief Kennith Spoor had duties in the explosive loading detail, much like Yered, when he served in Vietnam from July 1969 to July 1970. Spoor vividly recalls the very real dangers of standing the watch at the Army Terminals.
“Our job with the Coast Guard was to supervise the off loading of explosives because they were having too many accidents,” said Spoor. “One of our biggest worries was a swimmer attack that would put explosives under a ship, which did happen in Qui Nhon.”
The manifestation of their biggest fears came true that day in Cat Lai, but despite this persistent threat, Yered exhibited gallantry at the highest level, as he put his life on the line for others- he truly is a Coast Guard hero.