Headstone of William Flores at his final resting place in Benbrook, Texas. Photo courtesy of Find-a-Grave.

The Long Blue Line: Coast Guard hero and FRC namesake William Flores

On Jan. 28, 1980, the Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn and tanker S.S. Capricorn collided while outbound from Tampa Bay. Seaman Apprentice William Flores sacrificed his life to save the lives of his shipmates. In the years after the sinking, surviving crew members who had witnessed Flores’s bravery, lobbied the service to recognize and honor their fallen shipmate. In 2012, the Coast Guard commissioned the Fast Response Cutter William Flores homeported in Miami.

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.

Honor, Respect, Devotion to Duty: Blackthorn

Honor, Respect, Devotion to Duty: QM2 Gary Crumly and QM3 Richard Gauld

“The charge to all of us that these men left behind is summed up in four simple words: Honor, Remember, Service, Sacrifice.”

A member of the Coast Guard Cutter William Flores crew salutes the Cutter Blackthorn Memorial. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Remembering Blackthorn

Commissioned in 1944, Blackthorn began her service as a seagoing buoy tender, served as a Great Lakes ice breaker, and soon afterwards patrolled the warmer waters off California, eventually serving Gulf ports in Galveston, Texas, and Mobile, Ala. Refurbishment brought the ship to Tampa Bay for her final, fateful voyage. Today, Blackthorn’s legacy lives on.

Honor our Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn Shipmates with proficiency

Thirty-four years ago today, the Coast Guard suffered our worst peacetime loss when the Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn collided with a tanker, capsized and sank at night in Tampa Bay, Fla. Twenty-three Coast Guardsmen perished in the tragedy. This morning we will observe the manners of our profession by honoring these fallen shipmates at the Blackthorn Memorial in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Salute aboard Flores

Fulfilling a promise: The commissioning of Coast Guard Cutter William Flores

Written by Chief Petty Officer Judy L. Silverstein, 7th Coast Guard District Public Affairs. A gleaming white cutter, the William Flores sat at berth as crewmembers stood solemnly at their stations. The commissioning ceremony had just begun and it was […]

The manners of our profession: remembering lives that ended tragically and too soon

Yesterday marked 32 years since the sinking of Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn. Twenty-three of the Blackthorn’s 50 crewmembers lost their lives during the Coast Guard’s worst peacetime disaster, and a memorial inscribed with the names of the crewmembers that perished […]

Third fast response cutter launched

The U.S. Coast Guard’s third 154-foot fast response cutter, the William Flores, was launched at Bollinger Shipyards in Lockport, La., today. The launch of William Flores into the waters of Bayou Lafourche marks a major milestone as the fast response […]

William Ray Flores

Coast Guard Heroes: William Ray Flores

This Compass series chronicles the first 14 heroes the Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutters have been named for. These men and women, who stood the watch before us, lived extraordinary lives as they lit the way for sailors in times past, […]