Organization: U.S. Coast Guard
Conflict: World War II
Date of Action: 09/27/1942
This Saturday, August 4, we celebrate the 228th birthday of the U.S. Coast Guard. Today, we share the heroic story of Signalman Douglas Munro, the first Coast Guardsman awarded the Medal of Honor, for actions during World War II.
Douglas Albert Munro joined the Coast Guard in 1939. His dedication and outstanding military record enabled him to rise quickly through Coast Guard ranks, becoming a Signalman First Class on November 1, 1941.
On September 27, 1942, Signalman Munro led a group of Higgins boats with 500 Marines aboard to Point Cruz on the Guadalcanal. The Marines aimed to counter Japanese forces on the Solomon Islands, near Papua New Guinea. After Munro returned to the rally point from Point Cruz, he learned that the enemy force was much greater than anticipated and the Marines were under serious attack. Munro then volunteered to lead a Coast Guard force into the fray to evacuate the Marines. Despite clear danger to his position, Munro sacrificed his safety and maneuvered his boat between the beachhead and enemy fire. This allowed the other Coast Guard boats to protect the Marines on the beach until they could be evacuated.
As a result of his brave actions on behalf of his fellow Marines, Munro was fatally wounded. Munro’s final words were of concern for his fellow servicemen, asking “did they get off [the beach]?” For his heroic sacrifice and commitment on Guadalcanal, Munro was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously and became the first Coast Guardsman to receive the Medal.
To further honor Signalman Munro’s courage, sacrifice and commitment, the Coast Guard created the Douglas A. Munro Inspirational Leadership Award in 1971. The leadership award is for Coast Guardsmen who demonstrate extraordinary competence and leadership as Signalman Munro did.
Signalman Munro is also the namesake for the Navy’s USS Douglas A. Munro, launched March 1944, and two Coast Guard vessels were also named USCGC Munro. Bernard D’Andrea immortalized Munro in his painting “Douglas A. Munro Covers the Withdrawal of the 7th Marines at Guadalcanal,” which was commissioned for the Coast Guard Bicentennial Celebration. Additionally, the new Coast Guard headquarters in Washington, D.C., was named in honor of Munro.
“Douglas A. Munro Covers the Withdrawal of the 7th Marines at Guadalcanal” by Bernard D’Andrea
Douglas Munro is one the 3,500 Medal of Honor recipients whose combat valor and civic heroics will be enshrined in the National Medal of Honor Museum at Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant, SC. These heroes deserve a home for their legacy to be shared with the next generations.
As the only military museum to recognize all branches of the armed services, it will highlight the fact that the recipients of our nation’s highest military award not only defended our country, they were instrumental in developing, designing, and enriching it.
The museum will be a vault for the values embodied in the medal: courage, sacrifice and patriotism. It will showcase the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation Character Development Program, including living histories of over 100 recipients. It will also house the Citizens Heroes Program honoring ordinary citizens who have epitomized the concept of “service above self”.
Americans will walk out of that museum with the conviction that they too can be a hero, inspired by the values of courage and sacrifice that the Medal of Honor recipients used to excel in combat and in civilian life. Learn more at mohmuseum.org.