The First Posthumous Award of “The Coast Guard Medal”

USCG The Coast Guard Medal

The Coast Guard Medal was established by Act of Congress (Public Law 207, 81st Congress) on August 4, 1949 and the first awards were presented in June of 1958. It is awarded to any member of the Armed Forces who, while serving in any capacity with the Coast Guard, distinguishes himself or herself by heroism not involving actual conflict with an enemy. To justify this decoration, the individual must have performed a voluntary act of heroism in the face of great personal danger of such a magnitude that it stands out distinctly above normal expectations.

The medal was designed and sculpted by Thomas Hudson Jones (1892-1969) of the Army's Institute of Heraldry. The obverse shows the Seal of the United States Coast Guard appears in the center of a bronze octagon. The Seal is contained within a border of continuous cable. The octagon shape was adopted from the shape used by the Soldier's Medal and the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, and the Seal in the center refers to Coast Guard service. The border of continuous cable refers to both naval service and perfection of ideals in the service of man.

The ribbon has central and edge stripes of light blue; and centered on either half of the ribbon a field of white containing three red stripes. The colors of the ribbon were adapted from those of the Coast Guard Seal. The medal was originally struck by the US Mint in Philadelphia, but since the 1960s it has been manufactured by private contractors.

The first posthumous award was made on October 20, 1966 with the following citation: 

                                                            SAUER, Dennis Wayne, Seaman, USCG

"For heroism on the afternoon of June 12, 1966 when he attempted to rescue two children from the treacherous surf, three miles south of Westport, Washington, near Twin Harbor State Park. SAUER was at the beach on authorized liberty from the USCGC NORTHWIND (WAGB 282) when advised that the children had been swept to sea. Disregarding the six to eight foot breakers, unusual tidal currents, and severe underflow, he immediately entered the turbulent surf in an attempt to rescue the children. SAUER perished in this gallant effort. His outstanding courage, intrepidity, initiative, and unselfish action were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Coast Guard."

Chronologically, this was the 39th medal to be awarded and only ten additional posthumous awards have been made since this medal was given to the next of kin of Seaman Sauer.


Sources: - Web site of OMSA member Charles P. McDowell.

The “Walla Walla Union Bulletin”, June 13, 1966

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