Sig 1c Douglas A. Munro
Coast Guard (USCG) earned Medal of Honor on Guadalcanal
Douglas Albert Munro was born October 11, 1919 to parents American James Munro and Canadian Edith Fairey in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. During 1922, the family moved to South Cle Elum, Washington State. He graduated Cle Elum High School in 1937 then enrolled at Central Washington College of Education as a college student until 1939 when he enlisted in the military.
In August 1939, applied for the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) in hopes of saving lives in service and enlisted on September 18, 1939 and was processed in Seattle where he met fellow recruit Ray Evans who he befriended and the pair became shipmates nicknamed "the Gold Dust Twins". Afterwards, trained at Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles then were assigned to USCHC Spencer and served aboard the cutter until 1941. In the Coast Guard, Munro achieved high marks and hoped to make a career of service as a guardsmen.
At the start of the Pacific War, Munro and Evens were assigned to USS Hunter Liggett (APA-14) that was manned by USCG personnel
and was assigned as a transport to support the U.S. landings on Guadalcanal. Due to a shortage of U.S. Navy coxswains, both Munro and Evens volunteered for training to operate landing craft for amphibious operations. Before the landing, Munro was assigned to the staff of Rear Admiral Richmond K. Turner aboard USS McCawley (APA-4) and continued to train as both a coxswain and signalman.
On August 7, 1942 Munro served as a coxswain on a landing craft that landed in the third wave and was instructed to beach then manage ship-to-shore communication with the U.S. Marines.
Afterwards, assigned to the Naval Operating Base (NOB) Cactus at Lunga Point primarily manned by USCG personnel under the command of Commander Dwight Dexter.
On September 27, 1942 at Lunga Point, Munro was placed in charge of a force of ten landing craft including two Landing Craft Tank (LCT) and eight Higgins boats that embark U.S. Marines from 7th Marines, 1st Battalion, Companies A, B and D and transported them westward for an amphibious landing west of the mouth of the Matanikau River and Point Cruz on Guadalcanal as part of a flaking maneuver. Before the landing, USS Monssen (DD-436) providing a shore bombardment before they landed.
After landing the Marines, Munro withdrew the landing craft back to Lunga Point then volunteered for the dangerous mission to withdraw them telling Commander Dexter "Hell yes!" when asked to lead the effort. Meanwhile, the Marines were encircled on Hill 84 and were being attacked by the Japanese. Coming to their aid, USS Monssen (DD-436) provided fire support with Naval gunfire allowing the Marines to withdraw back to the beach.
Reaching the beach, Munro manned a .30 caliber machine gun aboard his Higgins boat to provide covering fire for the Marines and moved his boat as close to shore as possible to serve as a shield from enemy fire. Initially, the rescue operation was successful but one of the LCT ran aground on a sandbar and Munro direct the other LCT to render aid to pull it free and maneuvered his own Higgins boat to shield the Marines as they completed the withdrawal. While continuing to fire the machine gun, Munro was hit shot at the base of his head and lost consciousness. Meanwhile, the grounded LCT was freed and the landing craft withdrew. According to Evens, Munro briefly regained consciousness and his last words were to ask "Did they get off?" and acknowledged yes, smiled then died of his wound.
Medal of Honor
Afterwards, U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) Col. Puller who ordered the attack nominated Munro as the first member of the USCG nominated for the Medal of Honor and was endorsed by Admiral William Halsey, Jr. then approved on May 1, 1943 by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Medal of Honor was presented to his parents at a ceremony at the White House on May 24, 1943. Munro is the only member of the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) to earn the Medal of Honor.
|Medal of Honor citation (27 September 1942), posthumously
"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"
Munro was officially declared dead September 27, 1942. The next day, he was initially buried with a wooden cross made by his friend and shipmate Evans and buried on Guadalcanal. On October 19, 1942, representatives from the USCG informed his parents in South Cle Elum of his death. On November 1, 1942 a memorial service was held in his honor at at the Holy Nativity Episcopal Church in South Cle Elum.
In 1947, his remains were exhumed from Guadalcanal and transported to the United States for permanent burial. During 1948, buried at Laurel Hill Memorial Park in Cle Elum, WA in the Veterans section near the flag pole. In 1954, the City of Cle Elum expanded Munro's grave site with the installation of two decommissioned Mk22 naval deck guns to either side of the tombstone. Later, Munro's parents later buried on each side of his grave. Today, his grave and the guns are known as the "Douglas Munro Burial Site" and were added to the Washington Heritage Register.
Afterwards, three ships were named after Munro. The fist was U.S. Navy (USN) USS Douglas A. Munro (DE-422). The second was U.S. Coast Guard Cutter USCGC Douglas Munro (WHEC-724) and later USCGC Munro (WMSL-755).
Cle Elum, Washington, Munro is Douglas Munro Boulevard named in his honor.
Three Coast Guard facilities are named in honor of Munro: Munro Hall at the United States Coast Guard Academy with a black marble pillar etched with Munro's visage.
Munro Hall at United States Coast Guard Training Center Cape May that includes a bronze statue of Munro by Carey Boone Nelson. On September 27, recruits assemble at the statue on the anniversary of his death for a 21 gun salute.
In 2013, the
Douglas A. Munro Coast Guard Headquarters Building was dedicated in Washington, D.C. with a bust of Munro by John Tuomisto-Bell and Tyson Snow.
A memorial plaque is located at the
Point Cruz Yacht Club in Honiara on Guadalcanal near the site of the action where he earned the Medal of Honor.
Dedicated on September 27, 1995, the Douglas Munro Memorial located in the Little Spring Memorial Park behind City Hall in Crystal River, Florida.
During 2006, Munro was added to the Wall of Heroes of the National Museum of the Marine Corps (USMC Museum) as the only non-Marine represented.
On July 24, 2009 was declared Douglas Munro Memorial Day in Washington State.
U.S. Coast Guard Historian Office - The Gold Dust Twins Commander Raymond Evans, USCG (Ret.) remembers his friend and shipmate Douglas Munro (PDF)
Congressional Medal of Honor Society - Douglas Albert Munro
National WWII Museum - Signalman First Class Douglas A. Munro, US Coast Guard: Medal of Honor Series
Museum of Florida - Douglas Munro Memorial
FindAGrave - Douglas Albert Munro (photos, grave photo)