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CG-1473 Tribute

Author's Note:  Below is my tribute to the crew of CG-1473.  I wrote notes about the event shortly after it occurred but didn't really fully develop this tribute until several years later.  Incidents like this are a sad reminder of the perils that Coast Guard men and women face on a daily basis.  Notes weren't particularly important since the events of the day are etched into my memory like a stone carving.  I hope the reader will pause and reflect on the crew of CG-1473 who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the service of others.  I have recently added some additional information and documentation including Google Earth images of the area as well as scans of the local newspaper, the Kodiak Daily Mirror that document this tragedy.  I have also corrected a couple typos.

Sunday November 2, 1986 was not a good day in Kodiak.  Just before midnight I got a call from the OOD on the ship.  He said I had to get down to the ship right away.  We didn't ask questions in those days.  If the OOD said get there, you got there, no questions asked.  Driving to the ship I figured we had got some classified message or some crap like that.  As I pulled onto the dock, I couldn't help but notice that the ship was lit up like a Christmas tree and there was a fair degree of activity going on.  When I got out of the car I could hear the main engines running.  Obviously we were going somewhere.  When I got aboard the news couldn't have been much worse; while heading to the village of Akhiok for a medivac case, CG-1473 had crashed on the southeast side of Ugak Island.  Our job was to get on scene by first light and do whatever we could.  I had gotten to the ship less than 15 minutes after being called.  Most of the crew lived on board and being a Sunday night, not many guys were hammered.  The Executive Officer got on board just after me and all we were missing was the Corpsman.  The Air Station duty officer called the ship wondering why we hadn't left yet.  Normally, we might respond with some sort of wise crack, but we certainly understood their concerns.  Our Executive Officer told them all we needed was a corpsman and we’d be gone.  About five minutes later, a car rolled up to the gangway and a Second Class Corpsman from the Air Station got out and came aboard.  We were already at mooring stations and took off immediately.  Obviously everyone was a little on edge.  As soon as we secured special sea detail, the CO gathered everyone not on watch on the mess deck and essentially ordered them to the rack.  He came up to the bridge and advised those of us on watch that our job was to hang in there until we just couldn't continue safely and at that point to call for relief.  It was a little awkward on the bridge.  The corpsman from the air station asked if he could hang out.  He told me there was no way he could sleep.  Of course, just like the whole crew knew each other, he knew the entire helo crew.   It was a small community; I had myself been treated by the flight surgeon (Dr. Rockmore) and really liked the guy a lot.  He had some concerns at the time about a minor health issue of mine and we discussed it at some length.  We agreed that life was too short to really worry about little things but I would have to stay on top of the situation.  I knew right there that he was a good doctor and more importantly a good person.  Even today when I see people getting wound up over trivial matters I remember Dr. Rockmore and our discussion.

I hung in there as long as I could.  It was funny, around 0600, the guy who was going to be my relief called up to see how I was doing.  I told him to go ahead and get some chow and that I was fine.  By the time he got up to the bridge at 0645, I was about to pass out.  In fact, I did just that.  I walked into the ward room and sat down on the couch.  The CO thanked me for a good job (he made a point of individually thanking every watch stander).  I subsequently passed out and didn’t come to until about 1400.  Sadly, all hands were lost and there wasn't much we could do.  Contrary to the newspaper account, the ship did launch a small boat but due to the heavy surf conditions the boat was unable to land.   I do recall having to reassure some of the crew members from the air station that were working on shore that the tide wasn’t going any higher.  I still can’t imagine how badly they felt working the crash site where their friends perished.  A short while later, most of us attended a service at the Air Station for the lost members of the crew, LT Mike Dollahite, LT Robert Carson, Jr., ASM2 Kevin McCraken, AT3 William Kemp, HS3 Ralph King and the Flight Surgeon, CDR Dave Rockmore.  I really hate crying in public, but to this day I get a little misty when I recall this incident.  Below is a galley containing articles from the Kodiak Daily Mirror, some Google Earth images of the area and a picture of 1473 I retrieved from the Internet.  I don't know the date or location where the photo was taken.

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