U.S. Coast Guard Awards
Awarded 23 June 1904
A gold medal was presented to Nils Nelson, assistant keeper of Sakonnet light-house, for rescuing a man from drowning near West Island, Rhode Island, on July 24, 1903.
It appears that on the afternoon of the day above named, George H. Child, an employee of the West Island Club, was sent in a gasoline whaleboat to the Sakonnet Point steamboat landing for the club mail. Though a heavy sea was running he experienced little difficulty in reaching the landing and obtaining the mail, but on his return, and when near to the Sakonnet light-house, an immense wave boarded the boat, swamped it, and dashed it to pieces against the rocks. Child swam to a rock and managed, by lying flat ant clinging to the crevices, to prevent himself from being swept away by the angry seas. Two boats were sent from the clubhouse to his rescue, but, being unable to get anywhere near the rock, because of the heavy sea breaking on the underlying rocks, gave up the attempt.
The man had now been clinging to the rock for more than half an hour, and was in imminent danger of being washed off and drowned, when Nils Nelson, assisted by the light keeper, launched the lighthouse supply boat, and, while the keeper remained at the light-house and directed him by signals, Nelson manned the boat and with great difficulty pulled clear of the jagged rocks to the vicinity of the imperiled man. He then told Child to throw himself toward the boat when the next wave passed and that he would take him in. Fortunately this plan succeeded, Child reaching the boat, which was carried by the wave completely over the reef into a sheltered spot of much smoother water, and, a few minutes later, both men landed safely on the island.
The evidence and circumstances show that, beyond all question, Mr. Child would have perished but for the gallant action, at the peril of his life, of Nils Nelson.