William Thiesen

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Early African-American Service: First to Serve, First to Sacrifice

By William Thiesen 2019-12-06 15:22:00

African Americans comprise the longest serving minority in the United States Coast Guard. They were the first to serve and, in many ways, were the first to sacrifice, pioneering the way ahead for all minorities in the Coast Guard, U.S. military, and the nation. In the 1790s and early 1800s, the Coast Guard’s ancestor services of the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service and U.S. Lighthouse Service reflected American society. Thus, early African-American participation in the Service was a complex mixture of...

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Joseph Toahty, Pawnee Warrior of Guadalcanal

By William Thiesen 2019-11-05 22:02:33

I am very pleased to forward a Purple Heart Medal and Certificate to you for service at Guadalcanal in August of 1942. Men such as you who have made great contributions to the grand heritage of the Coast Guard make me proud to be a member of our service. - Capt. James Parent, Office of Personnel, U.S. Coast Guard, 1984 Native American Joseph Robert Toahty came from a large and patriotic family. He had six brothers who fought in World...

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The U.S. Coast Guard's First Ice Ships and Icebreakers

By William Thiesen 2019-10-18 16:06:20

During the Age of Sail, the seasonal pattern of icebound winters froze-in merchant vessels and reduced the wintertime demand for revenue cutters on the Great Lakes, in the Northeast and in the Mid-Atlantic States. In some cases, cutters were decommissioned in December, winterized and their crews dismissed until the spring thaw. Two historical trends changed this age-old routine in northern waters. First, the development of steel hulls and steam engines. During the Age of Sail, breaking ice proved impossible with...

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Jack Cullen, Nazi Spies and the Founding of the USCG Beach Patrol

By William Thiesen 2019-09-16 21:16:04

"His keen presence of mind and discerning judgment in a grave emergency undoubtedly prevented the successful culmination of hostile intrigue designed to sabotage our national war effort." - Legion of Merit Medal citation, Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class John C. Cullen, 1943 The accolades above recognize John C. Cullen, one of the first and only enlisted men to receive the Legion of Merit Medal during World War II. In 1942, he became the first American to encounter a foreign enemy...

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The Cutter Bear and the Arctic Expedition to Save 265 Whalers

By William Thiesen 2019-09-13 13:59:56

"If you are subjected to miserable discomforts, or even if you suffer, it must be regarded as all right and simply a part of life; like sailors, you must never dwell too much on the dangers or sufferings, lest others question your courage."  - Lt. David Jarvis, U.S. Revenue Cutter Service, 1898 Revenue Cutter Service officer David Henry Jarvis wrote the above quote in his diary journaling the Overland Relief Expedition, considered one of the most spectacular rescues in...

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The USCG's Environmental Mission 30 Years After Exxon Valdez

By William Thiesen 2019-07-26 12:41:55

Thirty years ago on Good Friday, March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez steamed into a reef at 12 knots, opening eight of her 10 oil storage tanks to the pristine waters of Prince William Sound, Alaska. The resulting spill of 15 million gallons of crude oil became the largest discharge of oil in U.S. waters until 2010’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster.  Nearly 170 years before the Exxon Valdez ran aground, the Federal Government assigned the United States Revenue Cutter Service, predecessor of the modern Coast...

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The Yankee Clipper: The U.S. Coast Guard's Last Battle Before WWII

By William Thiesen 2019-06-21 22:31:50

Hitting the East Coast over 80 years ago, the Great New England Hurricane was one of the most destructive storms to strike anywhere in the United States up to that time. Also known as the “Yankee Clipper” and “Long Island Express,” the 1938 hurricane caused over $41 billion in property damage and the death of approximately 700 men, women and children. During the storm response, the Coast Guard assisted over 500 vessels and rescued over 1,000 persons. However, the storm...

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William Flores, Hero of the Cutter Blackthorn

By William Thiesen 2019-04-28 15:53:52

That quiet young man that I was impressed with from the first time I met him will forever be a hero in my eyes. I have never forgotten him and never will. It is a fitting tribute to his heroism that a cutter will bear his name. -Lt. Cmdr....

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The Cutter Icarus and the First German Prisoners of WWII

By William Thiesen 2019-04-05 11:05:50

“Contacted submarine. Destroyed same. Lat 34°12 ½” Long 76° 35″. Have 33 of her crew members on board. Proceeding Charleston with survivors.” -Lt. Maurice Jester, Coast Guard Cutter Icarus, May 9, 1942 U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Maurice Jester transmitted the message above after sinking U-352, the second German submarine destroyed by U.S. forces in World War II. Icarus also rescued 33...

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The Coast Guard's First Medal of Honor Recipient

By William Thiesen 2019-03-22 13:07:01

Many with knowledge of service history believe Guadalcanal hero Douglas Munro was the Coast Guard’s first and only recipient of the Medal of Honor. Technically, they would be wrong. In fact, Lighthouse Keeper Marcus Aurelius Hanna also received the Medal of Honor, the U.S. military’s highest recognition for combat heroism.

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