Coast Guard Heroes: Benjamin B. Dailey

The Coast Guard Compass was proud to unveil the first 14 heroes the service’s new fast response cutters would be named for and we are even prouder to share the next 10 names with you in a continuation of our Coast Guard Heroes series. Over the next two weeks we’ll be sharing profiles of the namesakes of the Coast Guard’s fast response cutters, from legends of the U.S. Life-Saving Service to courageous men who served during the Vietnam War. Today, we share with you the story of Benjamin B. Dailey.

A Life-Saving Service crew in their surfboat with the beach cart and equipment. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

A Life-Saving Service crew in their surfboat with the beach cart and equipment. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Written by Christopher Havern.

Benjamin B. Dailey was the keeper of the Cape Hatteras Lifeboat Station on Dec. 22, 1885, when he and his crew, assisted by Keeper Patrick H. Etheridge of the Creed’s Hill station, rescued nine men from the foundering ship Ephraim Williams, five miles off the Outer Banks.

Benjamin Dailey, pictured here in 1957, was the keeper of the Cape Hatteras Life-Saving Station during the famous "Ephraim Williams" rescue. Photo courtesy of U.S. National Park Service.

Benjamin Dailey, pictured here in 1957, was the keeper of the Cape Hatteras Life-Saving Station during the famous “Ephraim Williams” rescue. Photo courtesy of U.S. National Park Service.

Those aboard Ephraim Williams were distraught and hungry, having been battered by the weather for more than 90 hours. In one of the most daring rescues by the Life-Saving Service, Dailey’s seven-man crew pulled for two hours through heavy seas to reach the vessel. Only by relying on his expert boat-handling skills was Dailey able to bring all the survivors and his own crew back safely.

The officer detailed to inquire into the circumstance of the gallant affair closes his report with the following remarks:

I do not believe that a greater act of heroism is recorded than that of Dailey and his crew on this momentous occasion. These poor, plain men, dwellers upon the lonely sands of Hatteras, took their lives in their hands and, at the most imminent risk, crossed the most tumultuous sea that any boat within the memory of living men had ever attempted on that bleak coast, and all for what. That others might live to see home and friends. The thought of reward or mercenary appeal never once entered their minds. Duty, their sense of obligation, and the credit of the Service impelled them to do their mighty best. The names of Benjamin B. Dailey and his comrades in this magnificent feat should never be forgotten. As long as the Life-Saving Service has the good fortune to number among its keepers and crews such men as these, no fear need ever be entertained for its good name or purposes.

For his conspicuous bravery, Dailey was awarded the Gold Lifesaving Medal on April 24, 1885.

A Life-Saving crew launches a surfboat through heavy surf. Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard Historian’s office.

A Life-Saving crew launches a surfboat through heavy surf. Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard Historian’s office.

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