U.S. Coast Guard Awards
Robert F. Longstreet
Awarded 15 January 1904
The Gold Lifesaving Medal was awarded to Captain Robert F. Longstreet, keeper of Squan Beach (NJ) Life-Saving Station, Captain John K. Andersen, and Mr. Charles H. Boker, and a silver medal to Mr. Harry Andersen, for heroic conduct under the following circumstances:
On 13 June 1903, a heavy ground swell and a strong southerly wind caused a high surf which was breaking all the way from the bar to the beach. Only a few of the more daring of the fishing boats in the vicinity had ventured out. Among them was one containing Captain Andersen, Harry Anderson, and 5 others. The boat proceeded to the fish pound and about noon, it started for the beach, heavily loaded. A few minutes later, when just outside the bar, a heavy sea capsized her and threw the occupants into the surf. All, however, succeeded in clinging to the boat.
The capsize was observed by Mr. Boker, a fisherman who was on the beach. He immediately ran to a skiff lying near and hauled it to the beach. While making an unsuccessful endeavor to persuade another fisherman to aid him in launching to the rescue, Captain Longstreet arrived on the scene. Having no crew at the station (inactive season), and there being no other available boat, he jumped into the skiff with Boker and pulled away to the imperiled men.
A difficult and dangerous task was now before them as they had to battle wind, sea, and current in this frail craft. She was so flooded by the breaking of the heavy seas that one of the men was compelled to bail while the other rowed. The people on shore doubted whether the imperiled men would be reached in time, if at all. By persistent and skillful effort the skiff was worked to the capsized boat that had now been caught in a "pocket." Here the waves broke over her so furiously that five of the men were washed off-- fortunately in the direction of the shore. This left Captain Andersen and one other man. Captain Andersen might have been able to save himself, but he gallantly refused to abandon the other man, who could not swim. He remained by him, swimming in the lee of the boat ready to sustain him in case he should lose his hold. The skiff was now backed close down so that Captain Andersen could lay hold of the stern. Just as he did so, however, a great wave swept the man from the capsized boat.
This was a critical moment, but Andersen had his wits about him. Just as the man was drifting away, he caught him by the arm, while Longstreet, leaning out of the skiff, also seized the man and held him until the breaker had passed. Both men were then taken into the skiff and carried safely ashore.
In the meantime four of the five who had previously been washed from the capsized boat, among whom was Mr. Harry Andersen, succeeded in safely reaching the beach. The other, being unable to swim, disappeared under the water. He would have drowned had not Andersen, seized the end of a line and heroically plunged into the breakers in search of him. The man was found lying on the bottom about 40 yards from the shore, and Andersen grasped him tightly and struggled to the surface with him. Both were hauled ashore by persons on the beach. The rescued man was insensible and was finally restored only after the Life-Saving Service method of resuscitation had been applied for more than an hour.