Sunday, October 23, 2016

Douglas Munro

US Coast Guard Cutter 'Munro' just successfully completed a first round of acceptance trials.  She is named after Coast Guard Signalman 1st Class (SM1c) Douglas Munro, who was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry in World War II.  Munro was serving as a coxswain in a Higgins Boat and was killed in action at Guadalcanal 74 years ago last month.  The US Navy took in a lot of Coast Guardsmen during WW2 as they had a wealth of experience piloting small boats in the surf.  Most Navy Sailors were used to blue water and usually the only experience they had as coxswains in small boats were in relatively quiet harbors when the big ship was at anchor.

Munro was lead coxswain in a group of ten Higgins Boats that rescued a 500 man element of First Battalion Seventh Marines (1/7) who were outnumbered and surrounded by 4000 plus Japanese at a beach west of the Matanikau River, Guadalcanal.  It was Rifle Companies only with no heavy machine guns and no mortars and out of range of artillery support.  Chesty Puller was the Battalion Commander of 1/7.  But he was east of the river commanding an ad hoc two battalion task force and separated from those that were surrounded.  With casualties to his comm section, Chesty stood up on the beach wig-wagging with signal flags to the USS Monssen (DD-436) for naval gunfire and directed that fire support himself acting as his own Forward Observer. 

SM1c Munro volunteered to lead a small force of ten Higgins Boats into the beach.  He brought those boats in-shore under heavy enemy fire and got the evacuation started while covering with his machine guns on his boat.  After the majority of the Marines had got aboard, Munro saw that the Marine rear guard was having difficulty embarking due to continued intense fighting.  Sizing up the situation, Munro deployed his and other boats into position to cover the rear guard.  By doing that he exposed himself to even more intense enemy fire and was mortally wounded.  He was 22 years old.  His final words were: ”Did they get off?”.

Munro is buried in his hometown, Cle Elum, in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State.  Every September 27th many Coast Guardsmen and Marines and Cle Elum residents gather at Laurel Hill Memorial Park to honor him.   I served briefly with 1/7 myself many years later in Vietnam and should have gone to the memorial last month but was not able to make it.  I hope to be there next year for the 75th anniversary of his heroic rescue.  The new Cutter 'Munro' will initially be stationed out of Seattle when she has finished all her sea trials.


  1. Every time I see one of those "freedom isn't free" bumper things I think about this, mike; that 1) nobody who wore a uniform after 1953 has done a lick of anything for "freedom" other than bullshit about it, and 2) nobody who wore a uniform after 1972 has come up against anything like a genuine peer enemy, even one as relatively craptacular as the Imperial Japanese Army.

    Don't get me wrong; those guys who went to Lebanon on '83 and Panama in '89 and the Sandbox starting back in '91 were individually threatened. There was always a chance that some unlucky bastard would get wasted.

    But the Heer and the IJN and the CPVA and the NVA would not just kill you, you the individual GI. They'd blow your entire platoon/company/battalion away. They'd crush you under treads, or hammer you flat with artillery, or nail you from the air.

    Guys like Munro, they didn't have the luxury of guys like me, knowing that there wasn't a hope in hell that the Grenadians or the Panamanians or the Iraqis were going to come howling ashore at Virginia Beach and rape and kill their way to the steps of the Capitol. They fought knowing that if they lost...well, they could lose everything.

    That makes a hell of a lot of difference. Sure, we had the Cold War...but that was different.

    And thanks for this. Between Jim and Lisa I was starting to get an itch right between the shoulderblades like I used to get before a fight started in the bar.

  2. FDChief -

    Thanks for the thank you. I think I have posted here in the past about my admiration for Coast Guardsmen. They put themselves on the line throughout their career whether in rescue work or running down drug runners. While a dumb braggart like me spent only two 13-month tours out of 22 years in harms way, and most of that was at well defended firebases. The Coast Guard deserves much more kudos and applause from Congress and the American people.

    But I am still waiting for one of your great 'historical battle' posts you have been hinting about. That used to be one of the highlights of this blog. I know I am not the only one that feels that way.

    As for the itch between your shoulder blades: remember what grandma said about honey and vinegar.

  3. mike-

    Let me add my thanks to those of chief. Coasties serve valiantly, and always have. Sadly, without due recognition.

    And, as an Old Gunny said, "In time of war, the Coast Guard becomes part of the Navy Department, insuring that the Navy has adult leadership".

  4. Al !!!!

    We have missed you here. This blog's 'adult supervision' has been lacking without your steady hand.

    I think I met that Old Gunny you mention. At Camp Geiger he bawled me out during morning inspection, announcing to the entire unit that I would "end up being buried in an unmarked grave". If he is still alive I wonder what he would think of robots storming the beach:

    or a drone in every rifle squad:

  5. mike- been commuting to Athens weekly since April for a health issue. Now seems to be under control and Dr said next follow up is a month away. Tis good to at home for enough of a stretch to be able to sit down and participate!

  6. Al -

    Nothing life threatening I hope. Stay healthy. Let us know what is going on in your place in the sun. We have heard that Erdogan is redrawing maps of the world and showing Thessalonika and other parts of Greece as being part of his Sultanate. I hope that does not include your island paradise?

    1. mike- Turkey has been redrawing maps since I don't remember when. Greeks take it with a grain of salt. Yes, Paros is not part of the "restored Sultanate". To be frank, I am surprised that I haven't seen more anti-Turkish sentiment, as our village is primarily descendants of refugees who fled Smyrna in 1922. Our village church is The Church of The Life Giving Spring, tying to its namesake in Constantinople, and we have a small chapel dedicated to Saint Chrysostomos of Smyrna, who was martyred by the Turks in 1922. Every September, we have a big village festival in honor of the Greeks of Asia Minor.

  7. Mike; I was about to get going on the next installment (long overdue) of the Chaco War when I realized I'd missed the September date for the second Ottoman siege and the Battle of Vienna. So that'll be for November. Chaco will have to be for December, I think...

  8. Al! Good to hear from you again. Glad that whatever it is isn't threatening...

    I'd be fascinated to hear what this year's insane U.S. election sounds like at your distance from Ground Zero, as it were...

  9. mike & Chief

    Thanks for the good wishes. Serious, but now appears to be under control, thanks to Greece's excellent National Health Care System. Can't say enough good things about the NHS and the excellent staff, from doctors to cleaning ladies. Fantastic support from our Greek friends, as well.

    I would really have to say that it is a blessing to be this far away from ground zero as far as the election goes. It insulates us from having to continuously listen to the fact free collective monologue taking place there. Our Greek friends are somewhat aghast at someone like Trump rising to candidacy in a major party. It takes a bit of explaining that in the US, the “parties” have no real control over who throws their hat in the ring under their brand name. So, our most significant involvement has been to fill out our absentee ballots and hope for the best.

  10. Well...they did, Al, until Citizens United and the unshackling of the dark money that turned politicians from a wholesale commodity into a retail one. Seriously; thirty or fifty years ago the party machine would have controlled donated money and would have choked off Trump in New Hampshire.

    But between the unlimited ability of plutocrats to bankroll the nutjob of their choice and the increasingly unhinged wingnut base...well, you get things like Palin and Bachmann and Trump.

  11. One flaw in what you offer, Chief. Trump was fighting against the big money's candidates, and got the nomination. Why? Because he very effectively pandered to a disaffected white middle class that sees authoritarianism as the only answer to their perceived loss of status in society. People who believe that a nation of laws has done them wrong, and now want a hero to deliver to them. Who believe that due process of law only offers "others" benefits.

    Why has "Crooked Hillary" never been prosecuted or jailed for all her "crimes". Well, for all the investigations conducted over the past 20+ years, not one of the partisan hacks doing the investigations could deliver sufficient evidence to risk a grand jury, no less a trial jury. And, to get an indictment from a grand jury, which often, as the saying goes, "will indict a ham sandwich" and then have a jury of 12 average citizens deliver a Not Guilty verdict wouldbe a disaster. Thus, just keep on conducting a witch hunt hoping to inflict political damage. Hell, the best Ken Starr could come up with was Bill lying about a BJ, and the GOP still couldn't deliver an impeachment.

    But, the disenfranchised white middle class does not leaders who stand behind "Innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt". They want her jailed, and damn due process.

    1. I think what you're describing, Al, is, sadly, the "state of the nation"; there's a solid 25-30% that just will not accept any form of governance not professing their convictions. So HRC "must" be corrupt, lying, and criminal or otherwise they will be breaking the social contract for selfish partisan gain.

      I hope I am wrong, but the last time the major political parties were so unbridgably divided was in the late 1850s. The GOP has chosen to take the path of the antebellum Southern Democrats...and I can only hope that the political consequences do not parallel those of 1860...