Coast Guard’s only Medal of Honor recipient dies while rescuing Marines

Coast Guard’s only Medal of Honor recipient dies while rescuing Marines


More than a month after the hellish battle for control of Guadalcanal, then-Marine Lt. Col. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller led his troops from the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines to a point along the Matanikau River.・Ordered to carry out an exploration mission to the Cruz Peninsula.

That area of ​​the island was used as a staging area for Japanese forces to regroup and launch further attacks, particularly against a vulnerable Allied airfield called Henderson Field.

Miscommunications and misunderstandings quickly turned the reconnaissance mission dangerous.

According to the National World War II Museum, “On September 27, misinterpreted or ambiguous messages from the group led division headquarters to believe that they had crossed the river and were fighting there.” “This resulted in the ordering of three companies of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines.” [to go ashore] They attacked the coast west of Point Cruise from the rear via landing craft. ”

That day, Petty Officer Douglas Munro led a group of 24 Higgins boats and stationed nearly 500 Marines at a beachhead tasked with clearing the Japanese positions.

However, less than an hour after landing, the Marines were in danger of being pushed back into the sea by heavy Japanese air raids and gunfire.

Higgins’ crew was still refueling when they received a message that the Marines needed to withdraw immediately. When asked by his commander if the Coast Guard was able to pull back the overpowered Marines, the 22-year-old Munro reportedly confidently replied, “Yes!”

Born in October 1919 to an American father and British mother, the then 19-year-old Munro joined the U.S. Coast Guard in August 1939, with war looming and conscription almost certain to be imminent. He enlisted in the military.

But his journey from enlistment to combat in the Pacific was not linear.

According to the museum, “Coast Guard training in late 1939 was virtually non-existent.” Munroe and 18 other recruits who were sworn in on September 18 were “sent to Port Angeles Air Base, where the personnel there had no idea what to do with them. They were forced to peel potatoes for three days. I pared the grass, cut the grass, and helped with boat maintenance.”

After three days of menial labor, Munroe was selected to join the Coast Guard cutter USCGC Spencer, and the following year he was transferred to the transport ship USS Hunter Liggett, where he trained as a landing craft pilot.

With America’s entry into the war, Munro headed to the Pacific Ocean and then to Guadalcanal.

After participating in several landings during the Guadalcanal campaign, on September 27, Munro did not hesitate.

According to the USO, “Marines were forced back to shore, and many did not have radios to call for help.” “The word ‘HELP’ written on a T-shirt on a ridge near the coast sent a loud and clear signal to those watching.”

According to the Medal of Honor’s inscription, “While on the island, under constant fire from enemy machine guns and at great risk to his life, Munro courageously guided five small boats toward the shore.” There is. “As he neared the coast, he signaled other ships to land, then used his ships with two small guns as shields to draw enemy fire and protect the heavily laden boats from the beachhead and shore. Bravely placed between. Japanese.

As Munro used his landing craft to protect the besieged Marines from enemy fire, an enemy bullet struck Munro in the base of his skull. His best friend and fellow crew member Raymond J. Evans took the wheel and continued Munro’s mission until the Marines safely returned to Allied-occupied Lunga Point.

Munro briefly regained consciousness and asked one last question: “Did they get off?”

Evans reportedly replied yes, and Munroe reportedly passed away with a smile on her lips.

Munroe was posthumously awarded the nation’s highest military honor in May 1943, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt awarded Munroe’s parents, James and Edith, the Medal of Honor.

Claire Barrett is Sightline Media’s Strategic Operations Editor and a World War II researcher with a unique affinity for Sir Winston Churchill and Michigan State football.



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