Friday, August 7, 2015

Semper Paratus: Canadian Douglas Munro Wins Medal of Honor at Guadalcanal


Signalman First Class Douglas Munro
Signalman First Class Douglas Munro

August 4, 2015 - As the daughter of a Coast Guard officer and in honor of Coast Guard Day, I present the story of Signalman 1st Class Douglas Munro, USCG. SM1 Munro is the U.S. Coast Guard’s only Medal of Honor recipient. He was awarded the nation’s highest honor posthumously for his service in World War II during the battle of Guadalcanal.
Douglas Munro was born in Vancouver, Canada, to American parents, but grew up in Cle Elum, Washington. Before the United States entered World War II, he left college to enlist in September 1939 and was assigned to the USCG cutter Spencer. In April 1942 Munro was transfer to the Hunter Liggett (APA-14) and sailed for Wellington, New Zealand.

An undated snap shot of Munro during his service
An undated snapshot of Munro while serving with the Coast Guard

During the invasion, Munro with other Coast Guard and Navy personnel were assigned to Lunga Point Base located on the northern coast of Guadalcanal where the Marines had already landed and driven inland. On 27 September 1942 SM1 Munro took control of ten Landing Craft Personnel (LCPs) and Landing Craft Transport (LCTs) to convey three companies of the 7th Marines. The objective was to land the Marines west of Point Cruz so they could drive the Japanese out. After initial success the Marines were overwhelmed by Japanese forces and trapped. Almost immediately after returning to base, the transports were called back to evacuate the Marines. SM1 Munro volunteered to lead the rescue mission. Once the transports reached the shore, SM1 Munro and Petty Officer Raymond Evans provided fire coverage from an exposed position on the beach. When the Marines with 25 wounded were safely aboard transport, SM1 Munro prepared to leave. As they passed Point Cruz they saw a full LCT trapped on the beach and immediately returned. After maneuvering his LCP to the beach, they freed the LCT in twenty minutes. As SM1 Munro finally turned to leave a Japanese machine gun opened fired. PO Evans shouted to take cover but tragically, it was too late. The loud engine prevented SM1 Munro from hearing PO Evans’s warning and he was hit. Before SM1 Munro lost consciousness he was reported to ask, “Did they get off?” SM1 Munro died before reaching the base, two weeks short of his twenty-third birthday.

Coast Guard painting of Munro during the battle
Coast Guard painting of Munro during the battle

Following his sacrifice SM1 Douglas Munro was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. After accepting his Medal of Honor SM1 Munro’s mother, Edith, took her oath and was commissioned a lieutenant in the SPAR’s, the Coast Guard’s Women Reserves on 27 May 1943. Lt Munro served to the end of World War II and received a letter of commendation.

Douglas Munro's mother in uniform
Douglas Munro’s mother, Edith, in her SPAR’s uniform

To date, SM1 Douglas Munro is the only U.S. Coast Guard member to receive the Medal of Honor. For his personal sacrifice for others at Guadalcanal, SM1 Munro demonstrated the true values that the Medal of Honor represents. And to answer his final question, yes they did get off the beach safely, thanks to SM1 Munro and to the many other brave Coast Guard service members that served during World War II.

The front of Munro's medal
The front of Munro’s Medal of Honor

Munro's Medal of Honor citation on the back of his medal
Munro’s Medal of Honor citation on the back of his medal

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