Dwight Hodge Dexter was born on 14 July 1903 in Urbana, Illinois, the son of Dr. Edwin G. Dexter, Ph.D. and D.D.L., and Mrs. Allie Hodge Dexter. His father was the Commissioner of Education in Puerto Rico from 1907 to 1912 and afterward was stationed with the Panamanian Government. During the First World War Dr. Dexter was in charge of American Red Cross Relief Activities in the Balkans, Russia, and Montenegro.
Dwight accompanied his parents to Puerto Rico and Panama, and later attended Worcester Academy, Worcester, Massachusetts, Polytechnic High School in San Francisco and Central High School in Washington, D.C. He was appointed to the Coast Guard Academy in 1922 but returned to civilian life in 1924 and re-entered the Service as an Ensign (Temporary) on 5 November 1926 during the service's buildup during Prohibition. He was brought onto the Regular roll on 25 January 1929.
His first assignment was to the U.S.S. Patterson from November 1926 to April 1930, when he was ordered to the cutter Champlain for service to August, 1931. He served in the New York District from that date until April 1934, when he was assigned to the cutter Marion during the establishment of the first Coast Guard unit at St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. In May 1936 he returned to the U.S. and for the next five years was on the Coast Guard Rifle and Pistol Team, being in command for three years. He then was assigned to the cutter Saranac, October 1936 to April 1938, and the Coast Guard Depot, Curtis Bay, Maryland, from 1938 to 1941.
In June of that year he was assigned to the staff of the Commander, Transport Division 3, as liaison officer. In 1942 he transferred to the staff of the Commander of the Transport Group, South Pacific, participating in the attack on Guadalcanal 7 August to 5 November 1942 where he commanded the Boat Pool where he oversaw all small boat operations on the island. He was also Douglas Munro's commanding officer. For his service there he was awarded the Silver Star and the Presidential Unit Citation (First Marine Division).
Returning to the U.S., he was Personnel Officer, 12th Coast Guard District, from January to November, 1943. From December 1943 to March 1945 he was stationed at the Coast Guard Yard and served as Chief of Staff in the former 10th Coast Guard District from March 1945 to April 1947. He commanded the cutter Dexter from May 1947 to April 1948, and then Commander of the San Juan, Puerto Rico, Coast Guard Base and Section. In June 1950, he was assigned to duty as Commanding officer of the icebreaker Mackinaw on the Great Lakes. He served in this vessel until August 1952, when he was transferred to duty as Chief, Operations Division, 9th Coast Guard District in Cleveland, Ohio. He then served as the Chief of Staff for the 14th Coast Guard District in Honolulu, Hawaii from 1 June 1956 until July 1959 when he became the Deputy Commander, Coast Guard Eastern Area in New York City. He retired as a Rear Admiral on 1 November 1959.
RADM Dexter crossed the bar on 16 January 1992.
Article entitled "LCDR Dwight Hodge Dexter and Guadalcanal's "Naval Operating Base Cactus" by Dr. William Thiesen originally published in the Coast Guard Academy Alumni Association's The Bulletin.
CDR Dexter's Guadalcanal Log/Muster Roll: Then-CDR Dexter's hand-written log/muster roll from his time at Guadalcanal--it includes a list of men lost to enemy action/medical reasons/those transferred due to "ineptitude or inability to perform"; a list of Coast Guard personnel assigned; ships; & a table of actions by day from 7 August to 5 November 1942. Note this link will take you to a non-government website. Courtesy of Ray & Patrick Evans--please note that this is not a Coast Guard website.
LTJG Mel Venter (Public Relations Officer) & Commander D. H. Dexter (Personnel). CDR Dexter is explaining the Japanese flag (memento of his exploits) to LT Venter during a recent press conference in San Francisco. No date; CG Photo No. 202432.
The small boat pool at Lunga Point, Guadalcanal.-
PAPA'S NEW SILVER STAR: Four-year-old Richard Dexter, son of Commander Dwight H. Dexter, U.S. Coast Guard, studies with puzzled interest the new Silver Star his father is wearing. The decoration, for intrepidity and gallantry in action, was presented to Commander Dexter at ceremonies held at Government Island, Alameda, Calif. The Coast Guardsman was in charge of all small boat operations at Guadalcanal. May, 1943, CG Photo No. 514433.
CAPT Dwight H. Dexter, USCG
June, 1956; CG Photo No. 9CGD-060656-01.
Captain Dwight Dexter, USCG.
No date/photo number.