Coast Guard Heroes: Donald H. Horsley

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 Donald Horsley.

USS Cepheus and her crew during World War II. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

USS Cepheus and her crew during World War II. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Written by Christopher Havern.

Master Chief Petty Officer Donald H. Horsley served the Coast Guard though 44 years of continuous service from age 17 to 62, enlisting Aug. 4, 1942. He served on active duty for 44 years, four months and 27 days. His career spanned three wars and saw service aboard 34 vessels.

Master Chief Petty Officer Donald H. Horsley. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Master Chief Petty Officer Donald H. Horsley. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

During World War II Horsley served aboard Coast Guard Cutter Cepheus as a coxswain on landing craft and participated in Operation Dragoon, the invasion of southern France, and Operation Iceberg, the invasion of Okinawa. Following the war, Horsley had successive tours aboard six cutters. After a tour of duty ashore at Loran Station Ulithi, he served at sea aboard five more cutters, and had a return tour aboard the sea-going tender Planetree.

During the Vietnam War, Horsley served 41 months as the senior enlisted person assigned to Division 13, Coast Guard Squadron One out of Cat Lo, Republic of Vietnam. This Division of 82-foot patrol boats was tasked with the maritime interdiction of the reinforcement and re-supply of Communist forces fighting in South Vietnam. During this assignment, Horsley was awarded the Bronze Star with a Combat “V.”

Master Chief Petty Officer Donald Horsley speaks at his retirement ceremony. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Master Chief Petty Officer Donald Horsley speaks at his retirement ceremony. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

After Vietnam, Horsley served throughout the Pacific, including assignments aboard the sea-going tender Basswood and as the officer-in-charge of the Coast Guard Buoy Depot on Guam. In 1976, he was assigned as the officer-in-charge aboard the river tender Wyaconda, out of Dubuque, Iowa. He returned to sea aboard the cutter Sherman and was transferred to Morgenthau when Sherman was decommissioned in early 1986. At his retirement ceremony in January 1987, Horsley was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal.

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13 Responses

  1. Chuck Hill says:

    What did he get his Bronze Star for?

  2. LT S. M. Young says:

    Mr. Hill,

    I’ll work with the historian’s office to find the citation to link to it in the post. Thanks for the question!

    Very Respectfully,
    Lt. Stephanie Young
    Coast Guard Public Affairs

  3. Tom Teare says:

    Amazing!

  4. David Northrop says:

    i reported aboard CGC Mallow WLB 396 in July 1970 an FNEN right out of Engineman school , Master Chief Horsley was aboard the Mallow then. I see Basswood was mentioned but not Mallow. I do see that Master Chief was on a lot of vessels. Maybe not enough room to list them all. I cant remember when he rotated off Mallow.

  5. LT S. M. Young says:

    Mr. Hill,

    Heard back from historian Chris Havern and he answered with the below. If you’re interested in more follow ups, please email us at and we’d be happy to keep you in the loop.

    “My story was based in 2 different sources in our archive, but we do not have the actual citation that speaks to his award. We have requested his full service record from the National Personnel Records Center and will also continue our search within the Coast Guard for further information.”

    Very Respectfully,
    Lt. Stephanie Young
    Coast Guard Public Affairs

  6. Chuck Hill says:

    I think the citation is public record and probably on the internet somewhere. I’m sure the Chief did something heroic, beside spending a lot of time afloat. Seems the Coast Guard should know about it.

  7. Bill Wells says:

    Besides his Bronze Star citation, you may want to check the “41 months” he supposedly spent in Squadron One. The squadron was only in existence for about sixty-four months. A tour then was twelve months with voluntary six month extensions. Division 13 was not created until February 1966 or about eight months after the first WPBs of Division 11 and Division 12.

  8. LT S. M. Young says:

    Mr. Hill,

    We’ve recently uploaded the Bronze Star citation and a few other award citations to his uscg.mil historian’s page. You can take a look at it here:

    Thanks for the inquiry and have a great weekend!

    Very Respectfully,
    Lt. Stephanie Young
    Coast Guard Public Affairs

  9. Chuck Hill says:

    Thanks for the follow-up

  10. Brian McNeil says:

    Reading his story and many of the other namesakes of your Fast Response Cutters, it is strange that the US Coast Guard doesn’t have more Medal of Honor Recipients other than Munro.

  11. Coley says:

    I remember seeing him around Coast Guard Island in Alameda back in the mid 80s. He had seen it all and done it all. He could appear gruff on first meeting him but was actually a very nice guy.

  12. BMC Luke A. Davis says:

    I served with Master Chief when I was a young BM3 on the Security Force at Coast Guard Island prior to his being assigned to the 378′s. He was the first mentor I ever had and I still fall back on the lessons I learned from him as a leader. I only wish I had the opportunity to sail with him.

  13. BMCM Thomas Crosby says:

    I love the video on Steve. I was a shipmate of Steves. He was the best seaman I have ever had the honor of sailing with. I was in the coast guard from 1947-1970. Tia video made my day. Thank you for sharing.
    BMCM Thomas Crosby
    Retired