Douglas Albert Munro

Posted on Oct 15, 2015

Douglas Albert Munro

Douglas Albert Munro

Douglas Albert Munro (October 11, 1919 – September 27, 1942) is the only member of the United States Coast Guard to have received the Medal of Honor, the United States’s highest military award. Munro received the decoration posthumously for his actions as officer-in-charge of a group of landing craft on September 27, 1942, during the September Matanikau action in the Guadalcanal campaign of World War II.

Biography

Munro was born on October 11, 1919, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in Canada, to James Munro, originally from California, and Edith Thrower Fairey from Liverpool, England. The family moved to Vancouver, Washington, where his father worked as an electrician for Warren Construction Company. Despite having been born in Canada, Douglas Munro was already considered a U.S. National citizen (legally equivalent to birth citizenship), because both his parents were U.S. citizens, temporarily living outside the U.S.. The Munro family (Douglas, Pat his sister elder by 2 years, and his parents) moved to the U.S. in 1922. Douglas grew up in South Cle Elum, Washington. He was educated at South Cle Elum Grade School and graduated from Cle Elum High School in 1937. He attended Central Washington College of Education (now known as Central Washington University) for a year before leaving to enlist in the United States Coast Guard in 1939. He had an outstanding record as an enlisted man and was promoted rapidly through the ratings to a signalman, first class.

wwii higgins boat
In the Second Battle of the Matanikau, part of the Guadalcanal Campaign, Munro was in charge of a detachment of ten boats which landed U.S. Marines at the scene. After successfully taking them ashore, he returned his boats to their previously assigned position and almost immediately learned that conditions ashore were different from what had been anticipated and that it was necessary to evacuate the Marines immediately. Munro volunteered for the job and brought the boats to shore under heavy enemy fire, then proceeded to evacuate the men on the beach. When most of them were in the boats, complications arose in evacuating the last men, whom Munro realized would be in the greatest danger. He accordingly placed himself and his boats such that they would serve as cover for the last men to leave. Among the Marines evacuated that day was Lt. Col. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, USMC. During this action”protecting the men after he had evacuated them”Munro was fatally wounded. He remained conscious sufficiently long only to say four words: “Did they get off ?”. Munro is buried at Laurel Hill Memorial Park in Cle Elum, Washington.

Every year on the 7th of August (the Solomon's Remembrance Day) a  Senior Coast Guard Officer pays tribute to Douglas Munro and his shipmates at the Point Cruz Yacht Club by reading not only his Medal of Honor citation but also the story of the combat action that he took part in.  It is read to everybody from the Prime Minister, Governor General, visiting  military dignitaries (usually U.S. Marines and U.S. Navy personnel), Embassy and High  Commission personal, especially the military attaches.

Every year on the 7th of August (the Solomon’s Remembrance Day) a Senior Coast Guard Officer pays tribute to Douglas Munro and his shipmates at the Point Cruz Yacht Club by reading not only his Medal of Honor citation but also the story of the combat action that he took part in. It is read to everybody from the Prime Minister, Governor General, visiting military dignitaries (usually U.S. Marines and U.S. Navy personnel), Embassy and High Commission personal, especially the military attaches.

Medal of Honor

Munro’s Medal of Honor is on display at the United States Coast Guard Training Center Cape May in Cape May, New Jersey. He received the Navy version of the Medal of Honor because, at the time, the Coast Guard was operating under the Department of the Navy and no separate Coast Guard version of the medal existed. A Coast Guard Medal of Honor was authorized in 1963, but has never been designed or minted.

Medal of Honor Citation:

“For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry in action above and beyond the call of duty as Officer-in-Charge of a group of Higgins boats, engaged in the evacuation of a Battalion of Marines trapped by enemy Japanese forces at Point Cruz, Guadalcanal, on September 27, 1942. After making preliminary plans for the evacuation of nearly 500 beleaguered Marines, Munro, under constant risk of his life, daringly led five of his small craft toward the shore. As he closed the beach, he signaled the others to land, and then in order to draw the enemy’s fire and protect the heavily loaded boats, he valiantly placed his craft with its two small guns as a shield between the beachhead and the Japanese. When the perilous task of evacuation was nearly completed, Munro was killed by enemy fire, but his crew, two of whom were wounded, carried on until the last boat had loaded and cleared the beach. By his outstanding leadership, expert planning, and dauntless devotion to duty, he and his courageous comrades undoubtedly saved the lives of many who otherwise would have perished. He gallantly gave up his life in defense of his country.”