In 1942, World War II was ranging around the world. The Pacific Island of Guadalcanal was a particularly hot spot. It was where the Japanese and the American soldiers were engaged in a fierce firefight. There were about 500 United States Marines trapped on the peninsula by the Japanese infantry. If a successful rescue mission were not put into place immediately, they every Marine on the island would die. Fortunately, a man from the U.S. Coast Guard had a plan, and he was sure that it would work.
Douglas Albert Munro
The man with the plan was Douglas Albert Munro. He was born in Vancouver, British Columbia in October 1919. His father, James was an electrician from California and his mother, Edith, was from Liverpool. He was still a baby when his parents moved the family to Washington State in 1922.
For most of his childhood, Douglas lived in a small town called South Cle Elum. After graduating from high school, he went to the Central Washington College of Education. He was only there for a year before deciding to move to the next phase in his life.
Joining the Coast Guard
Douglas decided that he wanted to enlist with the United States Coast Guard. His father was a Captain in the Coast Guard Reserve, which is what helped influence his decision. Douglas was known as “the youthful Doug,” and he was a member of the Cle Elum Drum and Bugle Corps. He took on the position of march leader, which was an early sign of his extensive leadership qualities. Doug told his older sister, Pat, that he wanted to join the Coast Guard because he felt a responsibility to rescue people. When Doug tried to enlist, he found out that he didn’t meet the minimum weight requirement for recruits. This meant that he had to eat and eat to reach the goal weight. Finally, he did.
Doug’s First Assignment
When Doug’s training was over, he volunteered to serve on a cutter called, the Spencer. He served on that ship until 1941. That was the year that everything changed for Americans. It was the year that Pearl Harbor was bombed. The United States was not going to war with Japan and other Axis nations. During this time, Douglas had climbed the ranks to the signalman third class. It was his job to man the transport vessels. He also served beside sailors in the U.S. Navy. Because signalmen were in demand, Doug was sent to the Hunter Liggett in June 1941.
The USS Hunter Liggett
The USS Hunter Liggett was a cargo ship. The War Department converted it and brought it back to service in 1939. In 1941, they handed it off to the Navy. Its role in the war an attack transport vessel. In April 1941, it left New York for the Pacific.
Stopping the Japanese
Doug’s ship held 35 landing vessels called Higgins boats. It also contained two amphibious crafts that could transport tanks to the shore. Since the Japanese were building an airfield in the Pacific Island of Guadalcanal, they had to be stopped. This would give them the upper hand over the Americans.
The Skillful Coast Guard
The Coast Guard had skills that were quite valuable to the Navy and Marine Corps. They were able to handle small crafts
Doug was given his mission on September 27th, just a few weeks before his 23rd birthday. He had to transport three companies of Marines. The Marines were trapped on a ridge by the Japanese, and they wrote the word, “Help” in large letters. A pilot flying by saw the SOS message. It was up to Doug to get the craft back to the island to save the Marines.
A Blaze of Bullets
Doug and the craft were caught in hostile fire, but he managed to get every man off the beach. Even the 25 who were wounded were saved. Doug was the hero. Sadly, the Japanese were shooting at the craft, and Doug was hit. With his last breath, he asked, “Did we get them off?” When the Marine told him yes, he smiled, and he died. For his bravery, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. He is the only member of the Coast Guard ever to be given this award. 500 Marines Were Facing Certain Death – So To Save Them This Coastguard Made The Ultimate Sacrifice. Doug gave up his life to save the lives of the 500 Marines who were stranded on the island. He is the true definition of a hero.