“When I am in charge of a vessel, I always command; nobody commands but me. I take all the responsibility, all the risks, all the hardships that my office would call upon me to take. I do not steer by any man’s compass but my own.” In the above quote, Capt. Michael Augustine Healy described his command philosophy. Healy’s career tied him to the taming of America’s western maritime frontier, earned him the nickname “Hell Roaring” Mike Healy and made him possibly the most famous captain in Coast Guard history.
Samuels’ Coast Guard career proved very unique not only because of the varied assignments he received, but also to the many ethnic barriers he broke. Samuels’ achievements seem all the more significant in light of the fact that the first African-American officer to command a U.S. Navy ship took charge in 1962, nearly 35 years after Samuels. Samuels was a minority trailblazer and a member of the long blue line; and his barrier-breaking achievements led the way for minorities in all of America’s military services.
Since 1803, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse has stood as a sentinel over the windswept shores of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. With its distinctive stripes and storied history, it is the tallest lighthouse in the United States and one of the best known Aids to Navigation in the world. While the National Park Service owns the lighthouse, a Coast Guard aids to navigation team continues to maintain the lamp.
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.
Each and every day, Coast Guard aviation crews around the Nation take part in nearly every Coast Guard mission. From assisting with the establishment of crucial aids to navigation to conducting medical evacuations of mariners at sea to transporting endangered sea animals from coast to coast, Coast Guard aviation has a footprint on everything the Coast Guard does. But how did aviation become a part of the Coast Guard?
In the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln directed troops and assets, including U.S. Revenue Cutter Miami to the outskirts of Norfolk, Virginia, where the CSS Virginia was destroyed and the mayor and city council surrendered the city breaking the stalemate between Union and Confederate forces in southeastern Virginia. Lincoln’s time as a cutterman makes him an honorary member of The Long Blue Line.
The United States Coast Guard and its predecessor agencies have welcomed the service of many determined and courageous women. One of those women was Lighthouse Keeper Barbara Mabrity of Key West, Florida.
Chiaio-shung Soong (a.k.a. Charles Jones Soong) is the most famous individual of Chinese ancestry to serve in the United States Coast Guard. However, his fame is little known in the U.S. compared to his celebrity in the Far East. Soong led an extraordinary life and, as a young teen, he began a journey that would lead him from his home in China around the globe to the United States, where he became a Coast Guardsman. In the span of just a few years, he would return to his homeland to become one of the most influential men in late 19th-century China.
The pantheon of famous Coast Guard aviators includes such 20th century luminaries as Elmer Stone, the world’s first aviator to pilot an aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean; Frank Erickson, pioneering aviator in the development of the helicopter; and Donald MacDiarmid, considered the Coast Guard’s foremost authority on maritime aviation search, rescue and survival. One individual missing from the list of famous aviators is Richard Leon Burke. In his day, military leaders, prominent politicians and Coast Guard aviators, including MacDiarmid, recognized Burke as the Service’s most skillful and experienced air-sea rescue pilot.
Hispanic American personnel have served in search and rescue operations since the nineteenth century. For example, in 1899, James Lopez of the Provincetown, Massachusetts, Life-Saving Station became the first Hispanic-American service member to receive the Silver Lifesaving Medal. But the greatest number of Hispanic-American personnel served not in stations along the East Coast, but in Florida and along the Gulf Coast.