U.S. Coast Guard Awards
Awarded 15 January 1904
A Gold Lifesaving Medal was awarded to Surfman W. N. Capps of the Virginia Beach Life-Saving Station in recognition of his heroic conduct in saving two men from drowning off Virginia Beach, VA on the 10 October 1903.
During the afternoon of the 10th, the schooner barge Ocean Belle with a crew of five men wrecked on the Virginia shore about 2 miles north of the Virginia Beach Life-Saving Station. When the disaster occurred the wind was blowing at 50 miles per hour and there was a thick fog. Capps had been sent out from the station on patrol and had proceeded only about a half-mile when he discovered the wreckage from the barge. Shortly afterward, he saw a man struggling in the surf. He immediately rushed in, dragged him ashore, placed him in the lee of a sand hill, and started to the station for aid.
He had gone about a mile when he discovered another man, apparently dead, 100 yards out in the surf. Although the undertaking involved extreme peril, Capps immediately divested himself of his outer clothing and unhesitatingly plunged into the rescue. Just as the man passed into the "inner break," he seized him and turned for the beach. The heavy sea, however, knocked him down. With the man unable to help himself, it was with great difficulty that Capps was able to raise and haul him ashore to a safe place on the beach. He then applied the Service method of resuscitation and in twenty minutes the man had been sufficiently revived to sit up.
Capps then proceeded toward the station for assistance. Along the way he met surfmen coming to his aid. He then assisted them in taking the rescued men to the station. The keeper later testified that when Capps finally reached the station, he "staggered in barefooted, half clad, and scarcely able to keep his feet."