Douglas Munro, Coast Guard Hero – Intermission Story (24)

Painting of Doug Munro providing support from his LCP, by Bernard D’Andrea

The United States Coast Guard was founded on a tradition of taking small boats into dangerous conditions to save lives. This skill made Coast Guard coxswains an indispensable part of the Pacific Theater  and Smitty would whole-heartedly agree.  Coast Guardsmen proved their worth time and time again as they expertly handled small landing craft in and out of almost any situation. No man better exemplifies this prowess than Douglas A. Munro.

Signalman 1st Class, Douglas Munro

Born in Vancouver in 1919, Douglas Munro attended Cle Elum High School in Washington state.  He attended the Central Washington College of Education for a year before enlisting in the Coast Guard in 1939. He spent his first two years on board the Cutter Spencer,  a 327-foot Treasury-class cutter which patrolled out of New York, and later Boston.

While on the Spencer, Munro advanced quickly, making Signalman 2nd Class by the end of 1941. After the Spencer, he transferred to the Hunter Ligget, a Coast Guard-crewed landing craft patrolling in the Pacific. In 1942 he was made a part of Transport Division 17, helping to coordinate, direct, and train other troops for amphibious assaults.

The United States’ first taste of this warfare was at Guadalcanal.  After the initial Marine landings, a base was established at Lunga Point. Munro was assigned here along with other Coast Guard and Navy personnel to operate the small boats and assist with communications.  This base served as a staging point for further troop movements, consisted of little more than a house, a signal tower and a number of small craft and supplies

Lunga Point, Guadalcanal

After the Marines had moved west of Lunga point, they encountered an entrenched Japanese position on the far side of the Manatikau river. It was clear that an attack across the river would be fruitless, and a plan was devised to bring men down the coast, to land west of the Japanese position, allowing it to be attacked from both sides. To achieve this goal Marine Lieutenant Colonel Lewis “Chesty” Puller placed men from the 7th Marine Division onto landing craft and began an assault on September 27th.

These landing craft were led by Douglas Munro, who took the men into a small bay just west of Point Cruz and delivered the entire 500 man force unopposed. Meanwhile, the destroyer USS Monssen laid down supporting fire and protected the Marines’ advance.

Meanwhile, Munro and his crews returned to Lunga point to refit and refuel, leaving a single LCP(L) (a 36-foot landing craft, lightly armed and made mostly of plywood) to provide evacuation for any immediate casualties.

Marines landing on the beach from their LCP’s.

But less than an hour after the initial landing the operation began to deteriorate. First, a flight of Japanese bombers attacked the Monssen, forcing her to leave the Marines without fire support.   Then the Japanese launched an infantry attack on the Marines. The Japanese had stayed to the north of the Marine landing force, near a rocky cliff known as Point Cruz. Their attack to the southwest was designed to cut the Marines off from their escape route.

There the single LCP(L) still sat, manned by Navy Coxswain Samuel Roberts and Coast Guard Petty Officer Ray Evans. The men had gotten close into shore for a speedy evacuation. A sudden burst of Japanese machine gun fire  damaged their controls.  Roberts managed to jury rig the rudder but was fatally wounded in the process, Evans jammed the throttle forward, speeding back to Lunga Point.

The trapped Marines hadn’t brought their cumbersome radios with them, and couldn’t signal back to their support. In desperation, they spelled out “HELP” by laying out their undershirts on a hillside. Luckily this was noticed by a Navy dive bomber pilot who reported it back to the sailors at Lunga. Because of this, by the time Evans’ LCP(L) made it back Munro and his men were already aware that something wasn’t going right.

Marines on Guadalcanal

Thanks to Evans they now had the detailed information needed to make a plan of action. It was determined that a group of small boats and troop transports would have to return, under fire, to get the men out of the combat zone. Munro immediately volunteered to lead the operation and got ten boats readied and underway as soon as possible.

This small flotilla came into the bay under fire.  USS Monssen, which had returned , gave support.  Munro directed his landing craft to begin ferrying the men back to the Monssen, while he and the other LCP(L)s provided fire support.

USS Monssen

By this time the Japanese had taken up positions on all three sides of the bay, and were able to coordinate a devastating barrage of fire on the retreating men. Seeing this, Munro positioned his own craft between the enemy and the landing crafts to provide support by fire.

After the last men were coming off the beach, a landing craft became grounded.  Munro ordered another craft to tow it free while he provided support, again putting his own boat in harm’s way to help save as many men as possible. While Munro’s boat was taking position to do this, a Japanese machine gun crew was setting up on the beach.

Petty Officer Evans, saw this and called out for him to get down, but Munro couldn’t hear him and he was fatally wounded.  Evans pulled away, and along with the rest of landing craft, headed back to Lunga Point; with all of the Marines saved.

Marines crossing Matanikau River.

Thanks to Munro’s heroism, 500 Marines made it off the beach that day, and for this, Signalman 1st Class Douglas A. Munro was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal Of Honor.  The 500 men he saved went on to help capture the Matanikau River early in October, which meant the beginning of the end for Japanese forces on Guadalcanal.

The engraving on the back of Munro’s medal.

Munro’s body is interred in his hometown of Cle Elum, Washington, and his Medal of Honor is on display at United States Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, New Jersey, where it serves an everlasting example to new recruits about what it means to truly be a United States Coast Guardsmen.

Click on images to enlarge.

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 Military Humor –

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Farewell Salutes –

Donald Bender – Machesney Park, IL; US Navy, WWII

Catherine Brown – San Diego, CA; US Coast Guard SPARS, WWII

Edward Delaney – Boston, MA; US Coast Guard, WWII, LST 170

Raymond Edinger – Liberty, NJ; US Coast Guard/Navy, WWII, Meteorology officer

James Evans Jr. – Seattle, WA; US Coast Guard, WWII, Korea

Daniel Fite – Fort Worth, TX; US Coast Guard, WWII

Arthur Janov – Los Angeles, CA; US Navy, WWII

Arthur Peeples – Springhill, MS; US Navy, WWII, PTO

Alexander Strachan – Christchurch, NZ; RNZ Air Force # 4210193, WWII, Sgt.

Robert Unzueta – Avalon, CA; US Army, 11th Airborne Division

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on October 16, 2017, in Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 60 Comments.

  1. Wow. I’ve read a lot about this battle, but never from this perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So many people either didn’t know or forgot that the Coast Guard contributed so much – therefore a story from them once in a while is a must. Just like today, they are behind the scenes and all over, but we only hear about them during search and rescue operations. Thanks for reading it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Another hero, and there were so many. I know you are in the pacific part of WW2, but at this moment I’m in Bastogne, learning about the Battle of the Bulge and the hero’s of the 101st airborn, yesterday I did Arnhem and the disasterous Op Market Garden, tomorrow we are doing Overloon. It’s quite overwhelming and many tears have fallen in the path of my discoveries. So many hero’s. Love reading these stories on your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    • No matter which theater of operation you visit, the APO in Alaska, the CBI on mainland Asia, ETO or PTO – you will find many a hero. That generation had so much to teach us and the smart ones are still learning from them!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A big thank you to all the men and women in all the branches of the military!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love those ‘extras’ … and I notice that the pilot who ran out of gas appears to be finishing a well-earned beer~?

    (As they say, any landing you can be rolled away from is a good one.)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I often wonder if we would see this kind of heroism from today’s Snowflake Generation. I fear not.

    Samuel Roberts had two ships named after him: DE 413 which fought in (and was lost during) the Battle of Samar. Subsequently, DE 413 was replaced by DD 823.

    https://56packardman.com/2016/07/17/steamship-sunday-the-jeep-carriers-and-the-battle-of-samar/

    Liked by 1 person

    • They were sure one hell of a generation that emerged out of WWI and then grew up during the Great Depression. They were well aware of what it would take to survive. We still have such people ready to pick up the torch, but I know what you mean by the Snowflake Generation. ‘Giving our children more than we had’ idea I believe took away that need to struggle, survive and grow stronger.
      I’ve read the story of Samuel Roberts and totally agree. Thank you for putting the link here for others to see.

      Like

    • Your requested post will be published tomorrow. Hope you approve of it.

      Like

  6. I have quite a soft spot for the Coast Guard. Every morning, I watch one of their helicopters fly out of Ellington Airfield, and every afternoon it returns from patrol. When there’s trouble, the “Coasties” never hesitate. It’s not hard to know when there’s trouble on the water, especially if they’re flying a search pattern. Most people know of them through dramatic events like water rescues during events like Katrina, but they’re out there every day, patrolling the ports, the channels, and offshore.

    It’s always good to read more of their history, and this is an exceptional story. I’m glad that Douglas Munro is remembered, and held up as an example.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for including that story here, Linda. People don’t realize sometimes just how much our military and homeland security do for us every day and this is a prime example! You can certainly appreciate this Douglas Munro story!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Amazing story. Fascinating to see the Lewis gun still in use according to the picture of the action.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The Coast Guard continues its long tradition of going into dangerous conditions to save lives, again and again.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. They give this brave man a wel deserved medal of honnor for his fantastic work in war wth the coast guard

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wonderful story, GP. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. This story touched my heart in a special way today. Our youngest daughter joined the Coast Guard fresh out of high school, currently based in Honolulu Hawaii. she was chosen to be an escort for the remaining survivors of Pearl Harbor during the 75th anniversary. I was never intrigued as much about the history of our military until my daughter joined. Thank you for sharing so many stories that I might not have read without coming across your posts.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I learned something today, GP. I didn’t know that the Coastguard crewed landing craft.
    A fine tribute to a very brave young man.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Smitty was astounded by how well they handled the landing craft! Having come from a fishing island himself, I always thought that was a great compliment to them. Mr. Munro, well… he went way above and beyond the term Hero.

      Liked by 2 people

  13. What a brave man and well deserving of his Medal of Honor. We don’t often hear a great deal about the bravery of the USCG, I looked Munro up, in addition to the Congressional Medal of Honor, he was awarded the Purple Heart Medal, Coast Guard Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one battle star and the World War II Victory Medal. He had two Coast Guard Cutters and a Navy Destroyer named after him. Extraordinary. Great post GP.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. How sad. I did not know of the Coast Guard’s role in war time. Having gone to college across the street from the US Coast Guard Academy, I should have known more.

    Liked by 1 person

    • They were so absorbed into the Navy during the war, it is sometimes difficult to find their stories, but the Academy sure knows! Thank you for stopping in today,Amy.

      Liked by 1 person

      • During Vietnam when we students were protesting, the cadets always made a point of saying they were NOT part of the military. Interesting.

        Like

        • During Vietnam, being it was considered “police action” and Congress has not declared war on anyone since WWII, the USCG is part of the Dept. of Defense during a war and part of Homeland Security during peace. Despite all the “conflicts” we are involved in at the moment, Congress has NOT declared war – so I suppose your guess is as good as mine, Amy.

          Liked by 1 person

  15. This is an exciting story, and that’s a great painting, too. I knew the Coast Guard was involved in the war, but I’d only heard about sub patrols and fighting with German ships in the north Atlantic – – until I read this, hadn’t realized they manned landing craft, too, thank you, this is very interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Your exposition is well done…it is the painting, though, that brings out the hellish nature of the situation. Douglas Munro’s is a story worth telling. Thanks, GP!!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Reblogged this on Lest We Forget II and commented:
    Such courage!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Such courage!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. In the past, I hardly read anything on war or history of war other than school required readings. But since chancing upon your blog some some years ago, you made history interestingly educational and at times riveting with a story of the heroes. Your cartoons or memes would make me laugh and truth be told that was my reward for learning 😃😃….US navy corp.out of gas….lol!!! Where are the suppliers😃

    Liked by 2 people

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