Written by Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Kelley
In the North Atlantic Ocean with sea spray crashing over the bow, and taps playing over a ship’s sound system, the crew of the Legare gathered Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018, to honor the 76th anniversary of Signalman First Class Douglas Munro’s courageous sacrifice.
Munro, a Coast Guardsman, gave his life in World War II at Guadalcanal, September 27, 1942, when he helped cover the evacuation of hundreds of Marines who were surrounded by the enemy. Every Coast Guards member knows the story of Douglas Munro. His bravery is branded into our hearts as soon as we enter the gates of boot camp or walk into one of the Coast Guard Academy’s officer training programs. When we hear his name spoken, most of us get one of two images, either the black and white portrait of a young soft-featured man with his tilted Dixie-cup hat, or the painting of him leading the Higgins boats under heavy fire where he lost his life. The only Coast Guardsman to ever receive the Medal of Honor, his citation reads:
For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry in action above and beyond the call of duty as Officer-in-Charge of a group of Higgins Boats, engaged in the evacuation of a Battalion of Marines trapped by enemy Japanese forces at Point Cruz, Guadalcanal, on Sept. 27, 1942. After making preliminary plans for the evacuation of nearly 500 beleaguered Marines, Munro, under constant risk of his life, daringly led five of his small craft toward the shore. As he closed the beach, he signaled the others to land, and then in order to draw the enemy’s fire and protect the heavily loaded boats, he valiantly placed his craft with its two small guns as a shield between the beachhead and the Japanese. When the perilous task of evacuation was nearly completed, Munro was killed by enemy fire, but his crew, two of whom were wounded, carried on until the last boat had loaded and cleared the beach. By his outstanding leadership, expert planning, and dauntless devotion to duty, he and his courageous comrades undoubtedly saved the lives of many who otherwise would have perished. He gallantly gave up his life in defense of his country.
The Coast Guard’s core value of Devotion to Duty has had no greater example. His actions call us to honor our oaths to be ready and willing to do the same.
The crew of Legare paused on Thursday and ceremonially honored Douglas Munro’s heroism for a brief moment, they embraced his legacy and were reminded of his sacrifice.