Coast Guard officials marked the end of an era on Saturday, April 24, with the decommissioning at Kodiak of the cutter Douglas Munro, the last remaining 378-foot Hamilton-class high-endurance cutter.
That fleet is now being replaced by 418-foot Legend-class national security cutters, to serve as the Coast Guard’s primary long-range asset.
“Today we say thank you and goodbye to the end of an era — an era of nearly 50 years when high-endurance cutters took our service’s racing stripe around the globe, modeling the maritime rules-based order,” said Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz, who presided during the ceremony. “Today we say thank you and goodbye to cutter Douglas Munro — the first cutter to be named after Coast Guard hero — Signalman First Class Douglas Munro.”
Munro was a signalman awarded the Medal of Honor for extraordinary heroism during World War II. He was mortally wounded when, as the officer in charge of an eight-craft amphibious landing force during the Guadalcanal campaign, he used his landing craft and its .30 caliber machine gun to shield and protect several hundred Marines under heavy enemy fire. His actions allowed the Marines to be rescued by other landing craft.
For the past 49 years the Douglas Munro’s crews have served in domestic and international theaters from the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska to the Persian Gulf and Horn of Africa, and Southeast Asia and the Eastern Pacific. They have patrolled Ocean Stations Delta, Bravo and November, providing weather data to trans-Pacific flights, supporting oceanographic research missions and performing search-and-rescue operations.
The Douglas Munro also patrolled the Pacific as an enforcer of fisheries regulations.
In 1998, the Douglas Munro’s crew seized over 11.5 tons of cocaine from a Mexican flagged vessel, the Xolesuientle, in what remains to this day one of the largest single drug seizures in Coast Guard history. The following year, Douglas Munro’s crew seized the motor vessel Wing Fung Lung, which was attempting to illegally transport 259 Chinese migrants to the United States.
In early 2005, at the beginning of a six-month, 37,000-mile global circumnavigation that included support to Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, the crew of Douglas Munro was diverted to render assistance to countries affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami on December 26, 2004.
On March 23, 2008, the cutter’s crew and their embarked MH-65 Aviation Detachment worked with a forward deployed Air Station Kodiak MH-60 helicopter crew to recover 20 survivors from the fishing vessel Alaska Ranger that sank in the Bering Sea early that morning. The 17th Coast Guard District commander at the time of the rescue, Rear Adm. Arthur Brooks, declared it “one of the greatest search-and-rescue efforts in modern history.”
“Serving as the final crew aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Douglas Munro… has been an exciting and rewarding experience for myself and my shipmates,” said Capt. Riley Gatewood, commanding officer of the ship. “During my time aboard, I have witnessed the sacrifices of the crew as they spent time away from their loved ones in service to their country.