The Final Three of Fourteen Heroes

As previously mentioned, the Coast Guard Compass has been running a series providing information about the men and women the first fourteen Fast Response Cutters are to be named for. Since my last post on this subject, they have completed the series. The last three in the series are:

  • Isaac Mayo a late 19th century junior surfman who served on Cape Cod
  • Richard Dixon, a late 20th century surfboat coxswain who earned two Coast Guard Medals serving in the Pacific Northwest
  • Heriberto Herandez, a fireman who was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star with Combat “V” and the Purple Heart for action in Vietnam.

If you would like to catch up on the stories of the other men and women these vessels are named for, you can find them below.

Incidentally, I’d like to see us start referring to these as the “Hero class” cutters, a lot less awkward than “Fast Response Cutter” and more meaningful than FRC.

5 thoughts on “The Final Three of Fourteen Heroes

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention The Final Three of Fourteen Heroes - --

  2. A word about the lines in the article about Hernandez.

    “Soon after the start of the war, Coast Guard units were recognized as the ideal platform with the necessary expertise of small boat operations, and the Secretary of the Navy requested use of the Coast Guard’s 82-foot patrol boats. Together, with other Naval vessels, the patrol boats formed Coast Guard Squadron One and began their work in Vietnam July 30, 1965.”

    The Point-Class 82′ WPB in a group of small craft studied in 1964. The Navy was very much aware that it did not have the small craft with the requite number of operational parameters and qualities needed for interdiction work. The only quality lacking in these patrol boats was speed. The Navy Secretary sent a request to the Coast Guard for the boats– not the people to man them. As in other conflicts the Navy simply took over cutters and for the most part never gave them back or replaced them.

    Also no naval vessels made up part of U. S. Coast Guard Squadron One, Vietnam. This unit was organized and commissioned in the United States and deployed to Vietnam as an active combat unit. The navy had a few small boats working in the Vietnamese Navy (left over from the French) including a few former Coast Guard 40-footers. The Coast Guard in Vietnam was an independent unit. The President did not sign an Executive Order nor was a formal war declared therefore the Coast Guard was a Service onto itself. It reported to the Navy only on operational matters.

    It may be claimed that after 1966 the Coast Guard no longer worked operationally under the Navy because of an administrative oversight. The Navy in Vietnam was a sub-unit to USMACV until the fall of 1966 when it created U. S. Naval Forces, Vietnam (NAVFORV). In the agreement with MACV, the Navy was to command all Navy forces in Vietnam. The Coast Guard was not mentioned and the Navy did not control the Marine Corps either. This fact has never been brought out in any ‘history’ of the war. The Navy SWIFTS did not get to Vietnam for some six months after the Coast Guard got there. (The Swiftboats Sailors Association has a T-shirt with the “First Combat Patrol Craft in Vietnam.” It is true there was a Swift Ships boat in Vietnam but it was painted black, run by Norwegians and assigned to Special Operations.

    Nevertheless, for some reason the Coast Guard’s leadership continued following the Navy and did not hold itself as an independent unit. Considering the Coast Guard also worked for the Air Force, Army, State Department and USAID as independent agencies, the relationship with the Navy was curiouser and curiouser. The best oddity is the matter of awards. There was no Coast Guard representation on the NAVFORV awards board in Saigon, but there was a Marine. The oddity comes in that the Navy allowed the Coast Guard its own head when disciplinary action was indicated for some Coastie, but the Coast Guard could not give them an award without Navy approval.

    I am not sure the Navy had the authority to award the Bronze Star (and many were awarded). The Coast Guard did grant the Navy permission to award Coast Guardsmen awards and decorations but this was for the Commendation Medal and below. I’ve not seen any documentation allowing for any higher medals.

    The point of pride should be that Coast Guard Squadron One was an all Coast Guard unit and deployed as such. The Coast Guardsmen who served in Vietnam were the most professional small craft operators in that conflict. It was proven time and again.

  3. The Coast Guard commandant essentially said, no crews , no boats. The Navy had one 82-footer and the Navy had to accede to the Coast Guard’s wishes because the President was not going to order the Coast Guard to transfer the boats. Initially, seventeen boats without replacements would have cut into the SAR fleet and later nine more were added. Besides, as noted in the documents of the period the Coast Guard was better trained and suited for the work.

    Outside of runnin’ and gunnin’, the Navy never did get a good handle on what slow, concise and stalwart patrol work was all about. It was still a blue water navy and there was no career track for brown water work. The Coast Guard officers looked at it as a command billet and treated it as such. Some were on their second WPB commands following the obligatory two to three years of other sea service.

    The agreement between the Navy and Coast Guard was cooked up by two Coast Guard captains. Imagine that happening today. It was mostly about who was responsible for what costs and there was nothing in writing giving Navy full control of the Coast Guard patrol boats. This was made clear in several congressional hearings about the Coast Guard in Vietnam. Somehow the word did not seem to get to Vietnam for many of the senior officers. One RONONE, Captain Perkins, attempted to get CG officers fitness reports out from underneath the Navy (I still have not found how that happened) and to give, the then, Western Area control away from NAVFORV. He was totally dismissed by the Coast Guard in the idea. Why? I have no idea.

    I do know that after TET 1968, the Coast Guard began removing itself from its public acknowledgment of its combat role in Vietnam. The move to DoT had the most to do with this and shifting from generalist to specialist officers. It is a complicated story and perhaps one day someone will write it.

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