The story of Douglas Munro, the only member of the Coast Guard to receive the Medal of Honor

Posted September 22, 2016

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This Tuesday, September 27, 2016 marks the 74th anniversary of the death of Douglas Munro, a sailor from South Cle Elum, Washington, who is the one and only member of the United States Coast Guard to receive the Medal of Honor.

Douglas A. Munro was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor and the Purple Heart for his heroic and selfless actions on September 27, 1942. Signalman First Class Munro enlisted in the United States Coast Guard in 1939 and was promoted quickly to signalman first class. On September 27, 1942 he found himself off the coast of Guadalcanal waiting at a predesignated rally point to extract nearly 500 Marines who were fighting the Japanese. At this point Munro had previously played an important role in the initial assault, as he was in charge of the ten boats that had landed the Marines on Guadalcanal.

During the battle the officer in charged notified Munro that the Marines were under attack from a much larger Japanese force than was previously assessed and were in need of immediate extract. It was Douglas Munro who volunteered to return to the beach with 24 landing crafts and evacuate the Marines under very heavy fire. Munro helped the majority of the Marines loaded onto the boats, however a small group of Marines were having a difficult time getting off the beach. After quickly assessing the situation, Signalman Munro made the decision to reposition a few boats to provide the remaining Marines better covering fire even though that would expose himself to greater Japanese fire.

This heroic decision saved the lives of many Marines however it cost Munro his own life. It is reported that Douglas Munro’s final words before he died were,

“Did they get off?”

Munro was killed instantly and his remaining crew, who were wounded, stayed on the beach until the last boast was filled and they headed off the beach with the Marines.

Aside from the Medal of Honor and the Purple Heart for which he was awarded posthumously, his other decorations include the American Defense Service Medal, the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal.

Thank you Mr. Munro for what you did for our country.