The Long Blue Line: Gun captain and African-American war hero Louis Etheridge

During an escort of Convoy ON-166 from Ireland to the U.S., Chief Steward Louis Etheridge, aboard Coast Guard Cutter Campbell, commanded an 11-man African-American gun crew of stewards, mess attendants and steward mates. On Feb. 22, 1944, Campbell faced-off against German submarine U-606 in which Etheridge and his gun crew decimated the sub’s crew and rendered the U-boat defenseless. Etheridge earned the Bronze Star, the first military medal bestowed on an African-American Coast Guardsman for combat heroism.


(Left to right): Richard Etheridge, Rasmus Midgett and John Allen Midgett's busts stand on the background of North Carolina's Outer Banks. Nicknamed the Graveyard of the Atlantic, these waters have been home to shipwrecks and to rescues performed by members of the Life Saving Service and U.S. Coast Guard. U.S. Coast Guard illustration by Petty Officer 3rd Class Joshua Canup.

Standing the watch over the Graveyard of the Atlantic

For hundreds of years, mariners have nicknamed North Carolina’s Outer Banks the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” based on the history of ships lost in its waters. Even for experienced Coast Guard members, traversing the area can prove a difficult task. However, Coast Guard men and women stand the watch, just as the crews before them did.


Painting of the Escanaba rescue effort by an unknown artist. (U.S. Coast Guard)

The Long Blue Line: Warren Deyampert – African-American rescue swimmer of World War II

In a time of unrest, when U-boats patrolled the icy waters of the North Atlantic, a crew of three bravely volunteered to serve the hazardous duty of rescue swimmer aboard Coast Guard Cutter Escanaba. Second Class Officer’s Steward Warren Deyampert worked on the cutter to develop a system of tethered rescue swimmers that ultimately saved well over 100 lives after an enemy submarine torpedoed U.S. Army transport Dorchester. Despite his secondary status in a segregated service, Deyampert placed the needs of others before his own and was posthumously awarded the Navy & Marine Corps Medal and Purple Heart Medal.


Black and white photo of Buoy Tender Blackthorn. At the time of its sinking the tender was homeported at Galveston, Texas. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The Long Blue Line: Buoy Tender Blackthorn—lost nearly 40 years but not forgotten

The Coast Guard improved the proficiency and safety of afloat operations after the unfortunate circumstances of the sinking of the Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn in 1980, as well as the White Alder in 1968 and Cuyahoga in 1978. After 35 years of service, the buoy tender Blackthorn collided with a 600-foot tanker S.S. Capricorn losing 23 of 50 crew members, Jan. 28, 1980. We pause to remember Blackthorn and our lost shipmates nearly 40 years after its sinking.


Gary Thomas, executive director of the Foundation for Coast Guard History's individual achievement award for his service on the tiger naming team to help identify relatives of former enlisted Coast Guard heroes.

Honor, Respect, Devotion to Duty: Cmdr. Bill McKinstry

The Foundation for Coast Guard History presented an individual achievement award to Cmdr. Bill McKinstry for volunteering to serve on the fast response cutter naming tiger team. The team helps identify and locate relatives of former enlisted personnel heroes who were under consideration as possible FRC namesakes.


Picture of the medium endurance cutter Vigilant, homeported in Cape Canaveral, Fla. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The Long Blue Line: Vigilant – distinguished name, OPC namesake

The Coast Guard commissioned the 210-foot Medium Endurance Cutter Vigilant (WMEC-617) in 1964, which means it has served this nation nearly 55 years. During those many years, the cutter has performed the missions of maritime law enforcement, search and rescue, homeland security, national defense and international engagement. The Coast Guard will soon build the “Heritage”-Class 360-foot Offshore Patrol Cutters with Vigilant as the 10th in the first flight of OPCs and 11th service vessel to bear this name.


Historians believe this to be a rendering of the cutter Pickering. If so, it is the earliest known rendering of a U.S. revenue cutter. Illustration courtesy of Coast Guard Historian’s Office.

The Long Blue Line: Combat Cutter Pickering—lost 220 years ago, now an OPC namesake

During the Quasi War, U.S. naval authorities considered the Pickering one of their finest combat cutters. Today, 220 years later, Pickering will be recognized and remembered as one of the Coast Guard’s newest class of cutters. The cuttermen of Pickering and their heroic cutter will always remain a part of the long blue line.


Tony Agresta, second from right, plays the trumpet with a band. Photo courtesy of the Agresta family.

A big band coastie and his Italian prisoners go to town in WWII

This is a story of a young seaman during WWII who befriended POWs over Betty Gable movies, played trumpet in the United States Coast Guard orchestra band in Charleston, South Carolina, and spent his later years performing with the likes of Duke Ellington and Tommy Dorsey. It’s not a story well-known, but a story worth knowing.


The Long Blue Line: Buoy Tender White Alder—lost 50 years ago, but not forgotten

On Saturday, December 7, 1968, White Alder was steaming down-bound on the Mississippi River. At approximately 6:30 p.m., it collided with the up-bound motor vessel Helena, a 455-foot Taiwanese freighter. The 133-foot buoy tender sunk in 75 feet of water with three of its crew surviving, the rest entombed in the sunken cutter.


A vintage photograph showing Fessenden after the cutter’s 1883 conversion to an iron hull showing the coal smoke blowing forward from a tailwind. (Historic New England)

The Long Blue Line: William Fessenden—the man and his cutters

In 1864, President Abraham Lincoln appointed Maine Senator William Fessenden to be the 26th Secretary of the Treasury. Fessenden was faced with the Federal Government’s insatiable demand for funding for the war effort. With the aid of private Civil War financiers, Fessenden developed successful short-term loans holding generous interest rates that became popular with northerners. Named for this important public servant, Revenue Cutter Fessenden was one of two vessels contracted by the Treasury Department.


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