Photograph of the U.S. Life-Saving Service crew at Neah Bay, Washington Territory. The crew members were predominantly Makah Tribe members. U.S. Coast Guard Collection.

The Long Blue Line: Native Americans – one of the longest serving minorities in the Coast Guard

Native Americans from a variety of tribal nations have participated in the Coast Guard and its predecessor services since the beginning of the 19th century, representing the second earliest minority group to serve in the U.S. Coast Guard. Like all other service members, they walk the long blue line and their efforts have benefitted all who serve in the U.S. military, federal government, and the nation as a whole.


Marker at Arlington National Cemetery honoring Merrill Hoover. Courtesy of Tom Varner.

The Long Blue Line: Merrill Walter Hoover

In the early morning hours of April 10, 1943, Seaman 2nd Class Merrill Walter Hoover sounded the alarm that an oncoming freighter was in the direct path of the CG-72010 he and his shipmates were patrolling aboard in Chincoteague, Virginia. The crew of the freighter, a steamship named Colytto, and CG-72010 made it out alive but Hoover’s body was never recovered. Hoover went in harm’s way and sacrificed his own life to save the lives of his shipmates and was posthumously awarded the DeMolay Medal of Heroism in 2016.


A rigid-hull inflatable small boat from the Coast Guard buoy tender Abbie Burgess speeds out to the site of the survey project. (Courtesy of Mr. Brian R. McMahon)

The Long Blue Line: Minots Ledge Lighthouse – the deadly “Lover’s Light”

On April 17, 1851, the newly constructed lighthouse at Minots Ledge collapsed into the sea surrounding the ledge killing both its lighthouse keepers. Located off the Massachusetts coast south of Boston, the failure of this state-of-the-art lighthouse had been in the making for years. The lighthouse was rebuilt and has withstood every subsequent gale, but the two keepers lost will remain an important chapter in the Coast Guard’s long blue line.


Melvin Bell after his second retirement in 2004. Bell dedicated 66 years of federal service in the military and civil service. Photo courtesy of the Bell family.

The Long Blue Line: Master Chief Petty Officer Melvin Kealoha Bell – minority pioneer, Pacific War hero

On Sept. 9, 2018, Master Chief Melvin Kealoha Bell, retired, crossed the bar at the age of 98. He was a patriot whose distinguished career in service of his country spanned 65 years. During his active-duty career, Bell held many distinctions such as being the first minority master chief petty officer in the Coast Guard and the first master chief in the electronics technician rating. His life, career and work embody the service’s core values of honor, respect and devotion to duty.


Pritchard’s Grumman Duck in the icy waters of Greenland before taking flight on his final rescue mission. (U.S. Coast Guard)

The Long Blue Line: Pritchard and Bottoms – Last of the Coast Guard’s MIAs

Like many selfless Coast Guardsmen, Lt. John Pritchard and Petty Officer First Class Benjamin Bottoms, a radioman, went in harm’s way to save lives only to sacrifice their own. During World War II, the Coast Guard ran the Greenland theatre of operations. It was one of the war’s deadliest battlegrounds, where men fought not only the enemy, but the elements as well.


Small boat showing the minimal protection for boat and crew of flak vests and battle helmets. Photo courtesy of Gordon M. Gillies.

The Long Blue Line: Coast Guard small boat ops in Vietnam

During the Vietnam War, the 82-foot “Point”-Class cutters of Squadron One supported small boat reconnaissance missions. Their missions required the small boats to probe the canals and waterways of South Vietnam. These missions gathered intelligence regarding enemy weapons, troop movements, fortified positions and bunkers. Check out the blog to learn more about these dangerous operations, carried out at night and giving new meaning to the service’s old saying, “You have to go out, but you don’t have to come back.”


Illustration of the Potomac Flotilla attacking Confederate fortifications at Aquia Creek, south of Washington on the Potomac in 1861. Courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command.

The Long Blue Line: Lighthouse tender and warship with the heart of a lion

In the early days of the U.S. Lighthouse Service, tenders were vessels equipped with lifting apparatus to deliver heavy cargo and construction materials to lighthouses. Such was the case with Lighthouse Tender Van Santvoort that was later renamed Coeur de Leon, meaning lion-hearted. The tender supported the construction of the famous Minot’s Ledge Lighthouse and aided in the development of hot air balloon technology.


The Life-Saving Service crew that manned the Chicamacomico Station in 1918 when the famous Mirlo rescue took place. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The Long Blue Line: Mirlo Rescue—the Coast Guard’s baptism of fire!

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the British tanker SS Mirlo near Cape Hatteras off North Carolina’s Outer Banks. A German U-boat shot a torpedo at the British ship causing it to explode. Chicamacomico Coast Guard Station in Rodanthe, North Carolina, initiated a rescue operation with station keeper John Allen Midgett at the fore. Midgett and his men improvised the at-sea fire rescue saving 42 British merchant mariners without the loss of a single surfman.


Photograph of USS McKean (APD-5) in camouflage paint scheme. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy.

The Long Blue Line: Tulagi’s coxswains – the service’s 1st Silver Star recipients

The Navy awarded the Silver Star medal to four U.S. Coast Guard coxswains, Daniel Tarr, William Sparling, Harold Miller and Glen Harris, for landing the first wave of Raiders and delivering vitally needed equipment, ammunition and supplies.


The June 1936 simultaneous commissioning of Campbell, Duane, Ingham and Taney at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The Long Blue Line: 327-foot Secretary Class Cutters “the ships that wouldn’t die”

The Secretary-class cutters proved very dependable, versatile and long-lived warships. They became the backbone of the Coast Guard’s high-endurance cutter fleet after World War II and served as maritime workhorses performing all of the missions demanded of high seas cutters.


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