TRIBUTE TO GIL CARMICHAEL — (CONGRESSIONAL RECORD, Senate – January 28, 2016)
Mr. COCHRAN. Mr. President, this weekend, Disney Pictures will release “The Finest Hours,” a cinematic retelling of a 1952 Coast Guard rescue mission off the New England coast. I am pleased to use its release as an opportunity to commend Mr. Gil Carmichael of Meridian, MS, an important participant in this mission, for his bravery during that storm and for a lifetime of service to the State of Mississippi and the Nation. Mr. Carmichael, an ensign in the U.S. Coast Guard at the time, was awarded the Silver Life-Saving Medal for his heroic actions during that rescue mission.
A 1952 Coast Guard news release described the rescue:
FOR RELEASE AT 10: 30 A.M., MAY 14, 1952
Twenty-one Coast Guardsmen were decorated today by Edward H. Foley, Under Secretary of the Treasury, and Vice Admiral Merlin O’Neill, Coast Guard Commandant, for the rescue of 70 men in a heavy storm at sea Feb. 18-19.
The rescued men were crew members of the tankers SS FORT MERCER and SS PENDLETON which broke in two in 70-knot winds and 60-foot seas off the coast of Cape Cod, Mass.
The group ceremony was held in the Treasury before members of Congress and high ranking Coast Guard officers. Members of Congress from the homes of each man decorated, and members of committees which handle Coast Guard legislation, also were invited.
Also present were William B. St. John of the National Bulk Carriers, Inc., owner of the PENDELTON, and C.A. Thomas, W.G. Johnson and P.J. Clausen of the Trinidad Corp., owner of the FORT MERCER.
Admiral O’Neill described the Cape Cod rescue operations as unique in Coast Guard history. With each tanker broken in two forty miles apart, four hulks with survivors aboard were left adrift in the mountainous seas.
He said all types of rescue equipment were used including large Coast Guard cutters, an airplane, an ocean-going tug, motor lifeboats, radar, rubber liferafts, scramble nets, lifelines and exposure suits.
“But most of all,” said Admiral O’Neill, “the situation called for raw courage and skill of the highest order–backed by Coast Guard teamwork.”
Five of the men received the Treasury’s Gold Life-saving Medal for “extreme and heroic daring.” Four others received the Treasury’s Silver Life-saving Medal for “heroic action.” Fifteen were cited for “courage, initiative and unswerving devotion to duty” and authorized to wear the Coast Guard Commendation ribbon. Those decorated were:
Gold Life-Saving Medal:
Andrew J. Fitzgerald, Engineman 2nd class; Ervin E. Maske, Seaman; Bernard C. Webber, Boatswain’s Mate 1st class; Richard P. Livesey, Seaman; Ensign William R. Kiely, Jr.
Silver Life-Saving Medal:
Paul R. Black, Engineman 2nd class; Ensign Gilbert E. Carmichael; Edward A. Mason, Jr., Apprentice Seaman; Webster G. Terwilliger, Seaman
Coast Guard Commendation Ribbon:
Antonio F. Ballerini, Boatswain’s Mate 3rd class provisional; Donald H. Bangs, Boatswain’s Mate Chief; Richard J. Ciccone, Seaman; John J. Courtney, Boatswain’s Mate 3rd class; John F. Dunn, Engineman 1st class; Philip M. Griebel, Radioman 1st class; Emory H. Haynes, Engineman 1st class; Roland W. Hoffert, Gunner’s Mate 3rd class; Eugene W. Korpusik, Seaman Apprentice; Ralph L. Ormsby, Boatswain’s Mate Chief; Dennis J. Perry, Seaman; Donald E. Pitts, Seaman; Alfred J. Roy, Boatswain’s Mate 1st class; Herman M. Rubinsky, Seaman Apprentice; LCDR John N. Joseph
A nor’easter is a remarkable event in any era. The 1952 winter storm spawned hurricane-force winds and waves as tall as most of the office buildings at the time. The brave members of our Coast Guard raced into this dangerous situation to locate two large tankers that had broken in two and to rescue 70 men facing nearly certain death.
When asked about the rescue, a selfless Mr. Carmichael, who was in charge of a rescue boat that rescued two men from the bow of the SS Fort Mercer that day, said, “I learned early in life how I would behave in crisis. I knew when we put the boat over we could be killed but all of us were just thinking about trying to save lives rather than of our own safety.”
Gil Carmichael took the remarkable experience he gained in the Coast Guard and continued on the path of public service, later for statewide office in Mississippi in the 1960s, as a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1972, twice for Governor in 1975 and 1979, and once for Lieutenant Governor in 1983. He also served as a delegate from Mississippi to the Republican National Convention. In 1973, he was appointed to the National Highway Safety Advisory Committee and became chairman of the advisory committee until 1976. From 1976 to 1979, he was a Federal commissioner for the National Transportation Policy Study Commission. He became Administrator of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration in 1989 and served until 1993. He later served as chairman of the Amtrak Reform Council.
It is a pleasure to acknowledge Mr. Carmichael whose selfless personal qualities reflect a great deal of credit on my State and this Nation.