The legacy of Signalman 1st Class Douglas Munro

The legacy of Signalman 1st Class Douglas Munro


Every evening since his home coming from the Army at World War II Mike Cooley comes to Laurel Hill Cemetery to strike the colors the same flag he raises every morning, no matter the weather or the aches and pains of his years. The flag pole is next to the grave of his boyhood friend, Doug. (blasts) August 7, 1942, eight months to the day after the surprise attack by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor the United Stated launched its first major amphibious assault in the Pacific. The targets, two specks on charts the Solomon Islands, Tulagi and Gaudacanal. Henderson Field, the only existing airbase for hundreds of miles, gave Gaudacanal vital strategic importance and both sides new it. (gun fire) One of those going ashore that day was a 22 year old 1st class signalman of the United States Coast Guard from south Clallam, Washington east of Seattle, Douglas Munro. It was kind of neat. There was only 500 population in South Clallam. And we went to high school in Clallam which was 2500 people So we made lots of friends throughout the years. Everybody was close by. Pat Munro Sheehan is Munro’s sister. After he graduated from high school, Munro went away to college. Doug went off to school, but he only stayed a year because he said he wanted to see the world. So he had pals in various branches of the services who wanted him to come with them. And he checked it all out and he said he was going to join the Coast Guard because he said they save lives. It was at the recruiting office in Seattle in 1939 that Munro’s path crossed that of another young man who would become his best friend and shipmate all the way to Guadacanal. Ray Evans went on to make a career of the Coast Guard and retired a commander in 1962. Came out of high school and looked for a job all summer in 1939 and it was a very poor time for jobs. Went to the Coast Guard and they said they had not taken a recruit in seven years. And that was also the Depression of course. They called me back in September and said, “are you still interested?” We got seven openings.” And I said yes I am. I got to the federal building on September 18th. Doug Munro was there. He was one of the seven and that’s how it started. There was no bootcamp then, so Munro and Evans were quickly assigned to the 327 foot patrol gun boat, USS Spencer. She was being transferred from Alaska to New York. They became signalmen and learned their rates while on weather patrols in the North Atlantic. But it wasn’t all work and no play. Between bouts with his semaphore flags, bunting tosser Munro had time to perfect his body slam technique in this ring on the fantail. In this home movie, he’s the wrestlers wearing dark boots. We were together so much, in those days the soap was called a gold dust twins. They had the twins on the label. And that’s what they called us. They many times couldn’t tell us apart. We didn’t look a like but they would mix us up. The gold dust twins were transferred to the attack transport Hunter Liget, reporting to Coast Guard Commander Dwight Dexter After Pearl Harbor, Dexter received orders to command the naval operating base Guadacanal and Evans volunteered to go with him. Initial landing on the Canal was relatively unopposed. The fiercest fighting would occur later. Munro however went ashore at Tulagi, 20 miles across the channel from Guadacanal. Where the landing was a different a story. Eighty percent of the first wave of Marines were wiped out. The second wave faired little better. He went ashore at Tulagi with the third wave of Marines. The first two were wiped out. He went ashore with the third wave and that was before he went to Guadacanal. And he had to be up on a shelf of rock way up high above the beach. He was establishing ship to shore communications He said he could have dropped a grenade right on the Japanese right below him. He said it would give away his position so he had to lay real quiet. He said it was a very shallow place that he could dig up because it was all hard rock. He said the tracer bullets kept going right over the top of him all night long. He said the Marines were patrolling and he said there was a row of bushes fairly close to him. And every time they go by him they would just spray it from their hip right through those bushes just in case there was anybody there. The next morning they found, I forget whether it was two or three Japanese behind the bushes. So then Commander Dexter sent for him to come to Guadacanal. I don’t know how he got in touch with him. But when their supply ship was sunk and when he arrived at Guadacanal was his khaki shorts boots and carrying a rifle and that’s all they had. Besides the Japanese, there was another enemy that took countless lives. Evans and Munro both fell victim to this enemy. The mosquito If you didn’t take your attermann, you ended up with Malaria. And there was a lot of dysentery and dengue fever It’s jungle. When you got back behind the airfield, into the jungle, it was a mean place. It was a mean place. The place got meaner. Munro and Evans often served as coxswains and crew on landing crafts, taking Marines to various parts of the island. From the beaches the Marines would fight their way into real estate controlled by the Japanese The battalion major came down and I don’t remember his. I don’t think I ever knew his name. Really he talked to Dexter and the next thing I know the commander is telling us, Doug and I that they were going to send this battalion, I guess it was a battalion of Marines to land at Point Cruise. The plan was to surround an enemy force that was dug in on the Mataniko River. Retired Colonel William Shanahan of the U.S. Marine Corps was the second leitenant with the 1st Battalion 7th Marines in September 1942. We got this assignment to land on the other side at Point Cruise on the other side of Mataniko River. And engaged in a three pronged attack. We were coming on the beach another unit was supposed to cross the river just up from the mouth of the river and one was supposed to cross further up and then put the squeeze on the Japanese that were entrenched along the Mataniko River. So they came, we loaded up, I don’t know, 10 or 12 infantry boats and five or six tank lighters. And under covering from a destroyer Ballard made a mini amphibious landing Unfortunately we were supposed to land at the head of the cove and we found a coral would not allow us to do that, so we had to make an abrupt right turn and land on the beach at the side.

16 thoughts on “The legacy of Signalman 1st Class Douglas Munro

  • September 28, 2012 at 1:26 am
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    Pretty good video. Makes me proud to have been a part of this organization, and to have saved lives.

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  • September 29, 2012 at 12:16 am
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    13 years in the Guard and I’ve never saved a single life… Been on or associated with many SAR missions (as watchstander at Rio, as Helm/Lookout at ACACIA and SOCKEYE), but never saved one myself.

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  • October 28, 2012 at 5:52 am
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    my father was a signal man. i had the honor of accompanying him to the signal man's tower. i now have his flags…i am humbled by this privilege.

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  • October 30, 2012 at 8:58 pm
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    Served on the USCGC Munro (WHEC-724) from 1991 to 1993. I know his legacy since it was required of all who served aboard that vessel.

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  • December 4, 2012 at 4:29 pm
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    •♪ღ♪*•.love¸¸¸.•*¨¨*•.joy¸¸¸.•*•♪¸.•*bliss••*•♪ღ♪•«i

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  • September 29, 2014 at 3:29 am
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    Well done.

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  • October 5, 2014 at 4:01 am
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    I served in CGC MUNRO with the plank owners.  It was an honour.  May SM1 Munro's memory be Eternal!

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  • December 1, 2014 at 3:28 pm
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    Alot of people forget that it was mostly the Coast Guard that manned the boats taking in the troops during the WWII landings. From Guadalcanal to Normandy to Iwo Jima, the Coast Guard was there. They are the true unsung and forgotten service. My father landed in Normandy on Omaha Beach. He said the crew manning his boat took them almost all the way in and went back for more troops. How many times has the Coast Guard aided vessals in distress, saved civialians on sinking boats, conducted search and rescue operations without getting any recognition or publicity. It's time for the nation to take a close look at what they are doing and show some gratitude. Thanks for posting this. Please excuse any spelling or grammarical errors.

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  • January 7, 2015 at 3:29 am
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    Nicely presented.  Thanks for posting.  Semper Paratus.

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  • May 27, 2016 at 3:07 am
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    Thank you so much for this video. Bless the men and women in the United States Coast Guard. Rest in Peace Signalman 1st Class Douglas Munro.

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  • January 28, 2017 at 3:29 pm
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    I was taken to the Douglas Monroe Memorial at USCG Training Center Cape May once and was taught the true meaning of courage.
    This lesson was taught to me on the evening of September 11th 2001 immediately following my company being hearded through an already setup room to be told of the events in NYC and shown still images and a small video clip of the devastation that had occurred earlier on that horrendous day and marched out to make room for the next company.
    My Company Commander, Senior Chief Darrick L. DeWitt, then calmly marched us to the front of the Douglas Monroe Memorial, ordered us to take a knee, and after a few obvious moments of inner reflection, proceeded to emotionally, pationately, and in great detail tell us the story of Douglas Monroe's selfless acts of bravery that resulted in his being awarded with The Congressional Medal of Honor. By the end of his tale, Most of the Company, myself, and even the story teller were atleast slightly emotional. My eyes were most definitely teared up.
    Still to this day, my memory of the event are flawless and goosebumps appear on my forarms when recalling it.
    You see, while most other CCs were using the horrible attacks as a a fear based teaching tool to prove to us the seriousness amd importance of our time there, Chief DeWitt droped the phsychotically Angry Company Commander Act briefly and instead chose to do something honest, nessesary, and positive. For him to pationately tell a story of such sacrifice, bravery, and selflessness in a moment, for us, of shocking uncertainty and fear will forever be the single most inspiring moment of my life of 37yrs. I will forever be grateful to, the now, Master Chief DeWitt for that choice. Those words changed me for the better and have helped shape me ever since. I thank men like Mr. Monroe and Mr. DeWitt for their examples. Examples which I look to in attempt to be a better man. MCPO DeWitt actually awarded me with the Navy League Award and Honor Graduate Medal at the end of those 8 weeks in Bootcamp and I would have to say that due to my obvious admiration and respect for him, that those small awards are ones im most proud of during my 9+ years in the CG. I was even able to serve with him, myself a GM2 – GM1 at a MSST a few years later. Although, I really do wish that I would have told him about the lasting impression he has left on me as well as the immense gratitude I, and certainly most all members of Mike 160 feel for what he taught us that day. Maybe one day, this book I have typed in the comment section here will find him. Only time will tell. And that my friends is my story relating to the very brave man that this video is about.

    written with haste, but without cause by,

    -prior Gunners Mate 1st Class
    Vince Thompson

    served:
    Base Detroit
    USCGC Staten Island
    MSRT Chesapeake
    MSST KingsBay
    MSST San Francisco

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  • April 20, 2017 at 8:05 pm
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    Semper parutus

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  • January 13, 2018 at 7:14 am
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    Did they get off….  Munro's last words…..  So powerful!  My USMC friends told me they are all aware of this…

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  • February 3, 2018 at 6:56 am
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    "You have to go out, but you don't have to come back."

    SEMPER PARATUS

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  • June 5, 2019 at 6:12 pm
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    Served on the Munro WHEC 724, in 1980-81, under Capt Sardison. Very proud to have served aboard her.

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  • June 21, 2019 at 10:54 pm
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    Wow that’s pretty hardcore, basically after joining they were put on a boat and taught while working. Semper Fi Coasties, thanks.

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