Coast Guard Cutter Douglas Munro decommissioned after a half-century of service

When the Coast Guard Cutter Douglas Munro was commissioned in 1971, the world was a very different place. Iran had a progressive secular government, Muammar Gaddafi had just come to power in Libya, and the Twin Towers were undergoing construction.

The Munro has served through a half-century of changing national security conditions, and many generations of Coast Guardsmen have served aboard it. This was plain to see at the decommissioning ceremony last Saturday at the Coast Guard base in Kodiak, where sailors of past and present gathered to observe and honor the legacy of the last Hamilton-class cutter.

The sleek white and orange cutter carried its crew of 164 across the world’s oceans, on relief missions, patrols, and in the memory of many working fishermen today, in search and rescue missions. Indeed, the Douglas Munro has been a dear sight for many who find themselves in danger on Alaska’s fierce seas.

The ceremony itself was opened by Commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral Karl L. Schultz.

“For what a bittersweet event- you probably hear me use that term once or twice in my comments- the decommissioning of the last ship in the 378-foot-high-endurance class, really what has been our flagship class of vessel for a good part of four and a half decades. And what better ship than Douglas Munro given its story name and history and namesake, to end that legacy with,” Schultz said.

It’s impossible to discuss the Douglas Munro without mentioning the man its name commemorates; Signalman First Class Douglas Munro is the Coast Guard’s only Medal of Honor recipient. He gave his life in defense of his country at 22 years of age, steering his Higgins boat in front of Japanese fire to shield a group of Marines evacuating from a beachhead in the Guadalcanal Campaign during the Second World War.

“And Douglas Munro is a 22-year-old kid there, got those Marines off the beach putting his Higgins Boat between the oncoming fire and those Marines. And his last dying words, as he faded in and out of unconsciousness was ‘did they get off?,'” Schultz said.

Munro’s nephew Doug Sheehan and his son Patrick Sheehan were in attendance. Doug Sheehan is a retired Coast Guard reservist.

Also in attendance were Coast Guard Vice Admiral Linda Fagan and Alaska’s U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski.

The Douglas Munro was home ported in Kodiak in 2007, and has patrolled Alaska’s waters ever since. It is not clear what its ultimate fate will be- often retired Coast Guard cutters enter into the service of foreign navies and Coast Guard equivalents, but no plans for that have been announced as of yet.

The Coast Guard hasn’t said whether it will bring a new ship up to be homeported in Kodiak to replace the Douglas Munro. It is also unclear if the Coast Guard will deploy other assets to Kodiak to fill in the space left by the Douglas Munro.

Check Also

Cruise ship at Pier Two in Kodiak.

Midday Report – April 19, 2024

On today’s Midday Report with host Terry Haines:  Kodiak will see its first cruise ship …

%d bloggers like this: