The nation’s highest honor

Members from the Coast Guard’s Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team visit a memorial to Signalman 1st Class Douglas Munro at Guadalcanal. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Members from the Coast Guard’s Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team visit a memorial to Signalman 1st Class Douglas Munro at Guadalcanal. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The Coast Guard’s Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team was embarked aboard the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Kidd in support of the Oceania Maritime Security Initiative and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. Together, with their defense partners, the six-member law enforcement team led fisheries enforcement programs designed to assist Pacific island nations with bolstering their economies through the management and protection of vital fish stocks.

Due to the historic significance of the South Pacific, these servicemembers thought about the magnitude of their setting; they were transiting waters that were host to some of the most famous battles in U.S. military history.

The Medal of Honor awarded to Signalman 1st Class Douglas A. Munro. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The Medal of Honor awarded to Signalman 1st Class Douglas A. Munro. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The Coast Guard provided valuable service in several theaters of World War II, but one of its more noticeable roles was with amphibious craft. In fact, in addition to the 800 cutters and 300 Army ships the Coast Guard manned, Coast Guardsmen fully manned more than 350 naval ships, including 76 landing ships, 75 frigates, 31 transports and 21 cargo ships.

The Coast Guard’s first major participation in the Pacific was at Guadalcanal, an island in the South-Western Pacific that is part of the Solomon Islands. It was on Guadalcanal where the service played a large part in getting Marines to and from the beach. It was on Guadalcanal where Signalman 1st Class Douglas Munro was killed.

Munro was a coxswain aboard a landing ship on Sept. 27, 1942, when he moved in to extract 500 Marines from the beaches of Guadalcanal. The Marines were under heavy fire and Munro steered his landing craft between the evacuating Marines and the enemy. Marines, including the wounded, were evacuated but gunfire struck Munro.

Munro’s legacy is honored throughout the service and it was with the deepest respect that the Coast Guard law enforcement team found themselves visiting the very site of Munro’s heroic actions.

“Traveling through the waters where some of the most intense military battles took place was of special significance to me as my grandfather was a Marine and a survivor of Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima,” said Lt. Joseph Anthony. “It was a touching moment to visit the site where Munro earned the nation’s highest honor, protecting those same Marines that served alongside my grandfather.”

Two other members of the team, Petty Officer 1st Class Kenneth Crocker and Petty Officer 2nd Class Travis Gagnon, recalled Munro’s impact from the very beginning of their service.

“As a Coast Guardsmen, you learn about Douglas Munro within the first few weeks of boot camp. Ten years into my career with the Coast Guard, I feel honored to have visited the site where he gave his life,” said Crocker. “It added a great deal of foundation to his story, and the sacrifice he gave that day.”

A memorial to Signalman 1st Class Douglas Munro at Guadalcanal. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

A memorial to Signalman 1st Class Douglas Munro at Guadalcanal. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

“I was assigned to Munro Hall at Cape May in 2007. Having the chance to travel to such a remote part of the world, and see the exact beachhead where he paid the ultimate sacrifice was a special moment that I will never forget,” said Gagnon.

The visit to the site provided an opportunity for Petty Officer 2nd Class Austin Casey to connect his service with the Coast Guard with that of the Marines whom Munro saved that day and the Marines currently serving their nation.

“Being stationed on the Marine Corps Recruit Depot has given us a great respect for the U.S. Marine Corps,” said Casey. “Having the opportunity to see Douglas Munro’s monument, a hero for both services, was very special to us.”

Throughout the deployment, the law enforcement team strengthened regional fisheries security and continued cooperation between the Coast Guard, Navy and partner nations of the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Republic of Nauru. While they performed this international mission, they also honored those who have gone before them.

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