SIGNAL MAN FIRST CLASS (DEPICTED WHEN HE WAS THIRD CLASS) DOUGLAS MUNROE
It has now been 76 years since that day . It was on a Sunday the 27th of September 1942 that the Coast Guard saw one of its "finest hours." Coast Guardsmen "go out" into the storm or the fire storm, to punish our enemies and seafaring law breakers, or to save the imperiled. Its a job full of risk. "You have to go out, you don't have to come back". That is one of the oldest sayings in the Coast Guard and was immortalized in a recent Disney film called "FINEST HOURS" It was a Sunday, 27 Sept 1942, 76 years ago that the Coast Guard experienced one of its finest hours involving both missions, "to punish or to save". The place was Guadalcanal in the Pacific.
U.S. Coast Guard Signalman First Class Douglas Munro was supervising petty officer of a detachment of ten Higgins boats which landed U.S. Marines on the beach. He landed the marines safely and returned with his flotilla of boats to the mother ship. Once aboard he learned that conditions ashore had greatly deteriorated for the marines. It had become necessary to immediately extract the nearly 500 Marines. Douglas Munro volunteered for the mission and brought his little flotilla to shore under heavy enemy fire. The extraction underfire proceeded. However when most of the marines were in the boats, the positions of the last men ashore became more exposed to heavy fire. Munro realized the danger to his targets of rescue. Without hesitation he placed himself and his boats so that they would serve as cover for the last men to leave, his boat closest to the enemy machine gun nest. Among the Marines saved that Sunday was Lieutenant Colonel Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller, USMC, in command of 1st Battalion, 7th Marines. During the final phase of the extraction under fire Munro was fatally wounded. His last words were : "Did they get off?"
Douglas Munroe gave his life in the successful extraction under fire and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, to date the only Coast Guardsman to receive the decoration under its modern title. Prior to the formation of the Coast Guard , its predecessor organization the "Revenue Marine" is listed as having received 14 "Gold Congressional Medals of Honor" for combat related performance. These were not the modern award but specially congressionally authorized gold medals. After the battle of Manila Bay the Navy objected to Revenue Mariners receiving certin military awards calling them "civilians". The Revenue Marine was always subject to the call to arms under the Navy in time of war and had participated in every US war since the War of 1812. After the reformation of the service under the name "Coast Guard" in the second decade of the 20th century, the law reflected and described the service as an "Armed Service" and restated its obligations to the Navy. The one constant since the founding of the Revenue Marine in 1790? "You have to go out.....you don't have to come back". Douglas Munroe lived the creed and while he lost his life he lives forever in Coast Guard memory.