This weekend most of the cadets go a sneak preview of "The Guardian," the new Kevin Costner movie about Coast Guard rescue swimmers. Rave reviews were given by the kids who thought it gave a very accurate picture of CG life.
The real irony of this movie is that the USCG, throughout history has fought the concept of rescue swimmers. I was a SAR helo pilot as NAS Oceana, Virginia Beach, Va in the winter of 1982 On Feb 10, the SS Marine Electric left Norfolk with the cargo holds full of fine granulated coal. On the llth they were asked to assist a sailing vessel, so that night they were still only 30 miles from the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. A winter storm was abrew. Thirty foot seas and gale force winds. The Marine Electric started taking on water through her cargo hatches. The coal started moving around and she started breaking up. The Coast Guard dispatched a rescue helicopter from Elizabeth City and the crew abandoned ship. Due to the heavy seas, bitter cold, and high winds the CG Billy Pugh net was useless. They called Oceana and we, not on duty, rounded up a crew and launched. Our helo was on station within 1 1/2 hrs of the ship going down. The Navy rescue swimmer who was dropped in the water that night, I will not name on this website, but is googlable, if you are interested. He spent four hours in the freezing water, with equipment, clothing, and goggles icing up repeatedly. He found dead body after dead body. Those with any signs of life were transported to either the CG or the Navy helos and taken to the Navy hospital in Portsmouth. By dawn, 31 of 34 of the crewmen had perished. More would be alive today had the CG utilized rescue swimmers. Due to this event, they were ordered by Congress to begin incorporating swimmers and they reluctantly complied.
This movie should have been made about that Navy swimmer, who without a doubt, performed the most heroic rescues that night of any swimmer ever.