Shipmate of the Week – CWO Clifford Mooneyham

For more than a century, sailors on patrol in the Bering Sea would make port calls into Dutch Harbor. So it wasn’t strange last week when Coast Guard Cutter Munro pulled into the remote port along the Aleutian Islands. What was unusual, perhaps, was how crewmembers assembled themselves in full dress along a humble Aleutian hillside.

15 comments
Crewmembers from Coast Guard Cutter Munro stand by their work. Illiuluk Bay and Mount Ballyhoo are visible in the background. U.S. Coast Guard photo.
Crewmembers from Coast Guard Cutter Munro stand by their work. Illiuluk Bay and Mount Ballyhoo are visible in the background. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

With contributions by Ensign Jacob Hauser, Coast Guard Cutter Munro.

For more than a century, sailors on patrol in the Bering Sea would make port calls into Dutch Harbor. So it wasn’t strange last week when Coast Guard Cutter Munro pulled into the remote port along the Aleutian Islands. What was unusual, perhaps, was how crewmembers assembled themselves in full dress along a humble Aleutian hillside.

At first glance, it would appear they were there alone. But they were not. They were there alongside the fallen. Last week, as the Coast Guard celebrated 222 years of service to our great nation, Munro’s crew decided the best way to commemorate the day would be to honor six Revenue Cutter Service sailors buried on the hillside.

A photo taken Aug. 4, 1990, of Capt. Jeffery Hartman laying a wreath on the grave of Revenue Cutterman C.D Moulthrope of USRC Perry, who perished in 1896. Photo courtesy of Alaska State Library.
A photo taken Aug. 4, 1990, of Capt. Jeffery Hartman laying a wreath on the grave of Revenue Cutterman C.D Moulthrope of USRC Perry, who perished in 1896. Photo courtesy of Alaska State Library.

It all started when Chief Warrant Officer Clifford Mooneyham, the ship’s main propulsion assistant, was coordinating events for Munro’s scheduled mid-patrol break in Dutch Harbor. Mooneyham originally set up the event to clean up the cemetery and assist with some simple grounds maintenance. But when he arrived he was surprised to see the extent of disrepair at the Revenue Cutter Service gravesites.

Headstones and marker boards were knocked over, wooden borders were rotten and dilapidated and weeds had grown through the rock beds that formed the burial sites. Mooneyham was troubled by what he saw.

“It was as if the Revenue Cuttermen, their heritage and the sacrifices, they made had been forgotten,” recalled Mooneyham.

The conditions at the gravesites impacted Mooneyham tremendously as he realized just how connected he is with his forefathers; a connection stemming from commonalities Bering Sea sailors of yesterday and today share.

“We each hold our shipmates and their contributions in high regards. We each have a strong commitment to our service, to the mariners and villages of Alaska and to our nation,” said Mooneyham. “For the most part, our routine is the same. We leave our loved ones to go on patrol. We take mid-patrol breaks in Dutch Harbor for repairs and recuperation and we spend our leisure time enjoying outdoor activities including hiking, fishing and hunting.”

Mooneyham has served in the Coast Guard for 23 years and has been stationed aboard Alaskan cutters for the past ten years. He has experienced countless patrols in Alaskan waters including the Inside Passage, Gulf of Alaska, Cook Inlet and the Bering Sea. He wanted the younger crewmembers aboard Munro to feel this same powerful connection as they helped honor the Revenue Cuttermen.

“Chief Warrant Officer Mooneyham and Captain, at muster, told the crew some of the stories of the fallen sailors that we are going to go and fix up their gravesites which made it more personal. Getting to hear about what they did and how they served relates to us all in the Coast Guard,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Ashley Mcdougal, a Munro crewmember who helped restore the gravesites.

“I’ve always believed in honoring those who have sacrificed for the good of others, but going beyond that, these men were our predecessors. I find it difficult to describe… the amount of respect I have for these men, I don’t think I could accurately capture it with words,” said Seaman Evan Tarbell, who also helped restore the gravesites.

22 years later: Captain M. A.Cawthorn lays a new wreath in continued reverence for all cuttermen who have given their lives at sea. Chief Warrant Officer Clifford Mooneyham, (far left) was instrumental in planning the event. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Fireman Joshua Richie)
Capt. M. A.Cawthorn lays a new wreath in continued reverence for all cuttermen who have given their lives at sea. Chief Warrant Officer Clifford Mooneyham, (far left) was instrumental in planning the event. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Fireman Joshua Richie)

Mooneyham and the crew paid their respects as they restored the gravesites. But more than that, they lived up to their ship’s motto, “Honoring the past by serving the present.”

“The project and our motto go hand-in-hand. The best way we can honor cuttermen in the past and the heritage from which we come, is to continue with the same devotion to service as they did in their day,” said Mooneyham.

While Mooneyham and the crew repaired physical aspects of the gravesites, they also collected historical information on each of the headstones. Because many of the stones are missing information or are deteriorated, Mooneyham aims to use this information to correctly identify who they are, their date of birth and death and the cutters they served on. Once he has the information he hopes Munro can work with the state library and historical society as well as the Coast Guard historian’s office to have headstones engraved as a permanent gravesite that will not deteriorate in just a few years.

The work means a lot to the crew. Everyone from the captain to those who have been aboard for just a few short months drew inspiration from the event. Mooneyham led efforts that not only paid respects to those who have gone before him, but inspired a generation of future Coast Guard men and women.

“There’s a sign posted on one of the office doors here,” said Tarbell. “I don’t remember what it depicts or where it originated, but there’s a quote on it that I think sums this project up nicely: ‘The nation which forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten.’”

Thanks to Mooneyham and his shipmates aboard Munro, these words, spoken by soon-to-be President Calvin Coolidge in 1920, ring true today just as they did close to 100 years ago.

Do you know a Shipmate that has done something great for the service, the missions or the public? Please submit your nominations using the “Submit Ideas” link on the right.

15 comments on “Shipmate of the Week – CWO Clifford Mooneyham”

  1. Outstanding. What a way tto honor the past and also honor the ship named after a Medal of Honor Winner      BZ   I served on the Munro out of Seattle from 1978 -1980

  2. Remembering the great Coasties who have gone before.  A stunning and respectful memorial service.  Thanks to all.

  3. Thanks for reminding all of us about the importance of remembering and honoring those who have defended this country so well down through the years.

  4. My son Shane severs on the Munro and is this warms my heart to know that even through his so far way from home, he is with a great group of men and women how have a great amount of love I their hearts. Great job MUNRO!

    love,
    mom

  5. In the 1980s, I assisted Native Pride of Unalaska in restoring the grave sites. They contain the remains of both USRCS and early USCG people. Look especially at the grave of C. C. Mauethrop–see my book on USRCS in Alaska, p. 38–to see part of his story. He lost the chance for the award of, I believe, the Silver Life Saving Medal for an amazing rescue because he died while on the Patrol. I interviewed an early cutterman many years ago and he mentioned that any cutter–especially those from Alaskan ports–always stopped and tended to the graves. Apparently, like so many things dealing with the service’s heritage, it has gone on to become very sporadic.

    Dennis L. Noble

  6. In true tradition “of those that have gone before us”, the assistance of everyone on board to do this outstanding project with the follow up histories of those that have crossed the bar and replacement grave markers, is nothing short of the true meaning of “Bravo Zulu”.
    The crew of the Cutter Monroe is to be congradulated
    MKCS USCG Retired

  7. It was an honor for me to lay the wreath on CG Day, 1990 the Bicentennial of the Coast Guard’s birthday. The Coast Guardsmen in the period costumes were from the Cutter Storis who had been instrumental in establishing a monument to the Bering Sea Patrol.
    Captain Jeffrey Hartman USCG (ret)

  8. This story and the associated comments have truely affected me. This kinship and comradery are the reasons I chose the Coast Guard. This effort to honor the past, and the continued pride in service of the crew of the Munro reflect on all who serve, and have served, in this greatest of Services. Well done –
    Paul S Giovanni
    ET1, USCG Retired

    1. We couldn’t agree more, ET1 Giovanni. Thank you for stopping by Compass but more importantly, thank you for your service.

      Very Respectfully,
      Lt. Stephanie Young
      Coast Guard Public Affairs

  9. The stone grave marker is for a Seaman C. C. Moulthorpe, born in April 1873 and listed as ‘killed’ in July 1896. From the report of USRC Perry “While making evening colors, the pennant became fouled and would neither break out nor lower. Seaman C. C. Mauethorp, who was assigned as acting quartermaster and had the watch, went aloft to clear the pennant, when for some unaccountable reason, he fell to the deck and was instantly killed.” Ref: “Alaska and the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service 1867-1915”; Chapter 2 pages 38 and 40. [U.S. Naval Institute Press (c) 1999 by Truman R. Strobridge and Dennis L. Noble].
    Bravo Zulu to all the members of USCGC Munro which have done an excellent job of “Honoring the Past”. It was an honor to sail with them in the Bering Sea.
    Professor Sankey Blanton (Vin U)
    U.S. Naval Academy Class of 1971
    SO-PB 5th Southern Region Division 9

Leave a Reply