Coasties You Might Know

In honor of the U.S. Coast Guard’s birthday and “Summer of 225” celebration, I thought I would share some of the service’s more famous member’s stories.

Jack Dempsey

Best known as the World Heavyweight Champion, this idol of the professional boxing community was also known as Commander to his shipmates. In 1942, Dempsey resigned a commission in the NY State National Guard to accept a lieutenant’s commission in the USCG Reserves. For the remainder of World War 2 he would serve as “Director of Physical Education” and make appearances at hospitals, bond drives and similar MWR events before being assigned to the USS Wakefield and later the USS Arthur Middleton, where he saw action during the invasion of Okinawa. By the time of his release in 1945, Dempsey had achieved the rank of Commander (temporary).

Alex Haley

The Roots author had his roots, and his first start in professional writing, in the smallest sea service. When Haley enlisted in 1939, his only options were Mess Attendant or Steward’s Mate, due to pre-WW2 segregation. Although he served with honor as a Mess Attendant, it was his off duty writing which would set him apart from his peers. After spending several years penning articles for various Coast Guard-related newspapers and magazines, Haley was officially recognized for his efforts in 1949 when his rating was changed to Journalist and he was promoted to Petty Officer 1st Class; later that same year, he was promoted to Chief Petty Officer and was for a time the only JOC in the entire service. He retired in 1959 to pursue writing full time.

Coast GuardThe Bridge Brothers

Jeff and Beau Bridges had an early connection with the sea, thanks to a starring role in dad Lloyd’s television series Sea Hunt, but both brothers went on to transform this fictional service to the real thing when they each served in the USCG Reserves. Beau served from 1959 – 1967 and Jeff “the Dude” followed from 1967 – 1975. Jeff once claimed that chipping paint was one of the worst jobs he ever had, but it couldn’t have been all bad as he stayed for seven years and eventually became a Petty Officer Second Class.

Arnold Palmer

This legendary golfer may have never found his way onto the links if not for the three years he served in the Coast Guard. According to his biography, Arnold enlisted in 1950 and left the service after his three year commitment was finished. But the real story was told by Palmer himself when he received the “Lone Sailor Award” in 2009. While accepting the award, Palmer explained that following the death of his friend and former Wake Forest roommate, Bud Worsham  he “was lost, I couldn’t really find myself, and I started looking for something and I found the Coast Guard.” Palmer went on to credit the time he spent on active duty as being the best three years of his life.

Other famous Coasties include Humphrey Bogart, Cesar Romero (the original “Joker) and Alan Hale Jr. – better known as “The Skipper” on Gilligan’s Island (although it must have been a bit embarrassing that he is famous for getting lost!). So, even though many of our fellow services know little about what the Coast Guard does, or who the guys in the dark blue BDUs are, you have at least heard of some of our famous shipmates!

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell
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