The Long Blue Line: F. Miguchi – Japanese Hero of the Cutter Gresham

This blog is part of a series honoring the long blue line of Coast Guard men and women who served before us. Stay tuned as we highlight the customs, traditions, history and heritage of the Coast Guard.

Photo of F. Miguchi’s cutter, the Gresham. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Photo of F. Miguchi’s cutter, the Gresham. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Written by William H. Thiesen, Coast Guard Atlantic Area historian

Records indicate that the first ethnically Asian man to serve in the Coast Guard was Japanese. The revenue cutter Argus rescued him in 1853 from a dismasted fishing sampan that had drifted from Japan to the California coast. After recovering his strength from the ordeal, the captain enlisted him into the cutter crew. The Service kept no record of the man after his brief tour on board the Argus.

Image of the Silver Life-Saving Medal, issued by the U.S. Coast Guard. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Image of the Silver Life-Saving Medal, issued by the U.S. Coast Guard. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The first ethnically Asian Coast Guardsman recognized for heroism by the Service was also Japanese. Born in Kobe, Japan, F. Miguchi began serving as a cook on Gresham at the age of 37. He was perhaps the first ethnically Japanese Coast Guardsman to serve on the East Coast. However, little else is known about F. Miguchi. There is no photograph available to identify him and even his first name remains a mystery to this day. All that he left behind is the record of his Silver Lifesaving Medal, symbolizing the comradery he shared with his shipmates.

In August 1904, Miguchi’s cutter, the Gresham, moored at Arundel Cove, Maryland, then site of the Revenue Cutter Service Academy. In mid-August, several of Miguchi’s shipmates decided to take a dip, but one of the men could not swim. He waded beyond shallow water by mistake, then slipped and sank to the bottom. Three of his shipmates swam to the rescue, but failed to locate him. Realizing his shipmates’ efforts were fruitless, Miguchi dove into the water half-clothed, swam to the exact point where the drowning man sank and plunged under the surface. Miguchi remained submerged for about a minute circling around the bottom until he located his shipmate. Miguchi was not a large man, but he brought the unconscious victim to the surface, supported his weight on the water and brought the man ashore where he was resuscitated.

Miguchi’s Silver Lifesaving Medal was inscribed “To F. Miguchi for bravely rescuing a man Aug. 17, 1904”.

Miguchi’s time in the service did not last long. He had enlisted on April 5, 1904; but by December 31, 1905, he left the Service. Within that short time span, he had advanced in rate from ship’s cook to wardroom steward; saved a shipmate’s life; and received the Silver Lifesaving Medal. Miguchi was a member of the long blue line and the first ethnically Asian Coast Guardsman honored for heroism.

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