Purple Heart medals awarded to World War I Coast Guardsmen

Sept. 6 (UPI) — Two members of the U.S. Coast Guard, who died in the sinking of their ship during World War I, posthumously received Purple Heart medals this week.

Vice Adm. Linda Fagan, U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area Commander, posthumously presented the honors at a ceremony at Base Alameda, Calif., to the descendants of ships oiler Edward Kelleher of Perry, Okla., and acting quartermaster Arthur Deasy of Brooklyn, N.Y.

The men died in the sinking of the Coast Guard Cutter Tampa on Sept. 26, 1918.

Bob Kelleher accepted the medal on behalf of his uncle, and Lisa Rehman received the medal on behalf of Deasy, her great-uncle.

The ship was one of six Coast Guard cutters assigned to the U.S. Navy, and escorted over 350 merchant ships across the Atlantic Ocean to Allied ports during the war. Only two ships were lost in the escorts, with the ship’s crew earning a special commendation for exemplary service.

The ship was torpedoed by a German submarine in the Bristol Channel, adjacent to Wales and western England. The death count of 111 Coast Guardsman and four Navy sailors was the single largest loss of life for the Coast Guard in the war.

The Purple Heart Medal is awarded to those killed or injured in combat. Created by Gen. George Washington in 1782, it is the United States’ oldest military honor.

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