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U.S. Coast Guard Awards

William R. Kiely, Jr.

Awarded 7 May 1952

On 18 February 1952, during a violent wind gale, the tanker SS Fort Mercer broke in two in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Cape Cod, MA.  Some time later, the CGC Yakutat arrived on the scene to render assistance.  The seas were extremely high and very rough, with northwest winds between forty and fifty miles per hour. Visibility was poor, with intermittent snow squalls.  Due to the existing weather conditions and darkness, no successful rescue attempts could be made at that time by Yakutat.  On the following morning, the Yakutat launched a motor surfboat with ENS William R. Kiely, Jr. as coxswain and ENS Gilbert E. Carmichael, EN 2 Paul R. Black, SA Edward A. Mason, Jr., and SN Webster G, Terwilliger as volunteer crewmembers.  The motor surfboat, which was damaged by heavy seas while getting away from Yakutat, was skillfully maneuvered to the unstable bow section of the Fort Mercer, and the survivors encouraged to jump into the water, close to the boat, so that they could be picked up.  On the first pass, the surfboat was lifted and swept against the hull of the Fort Mercer.  However, two survivors leaped into the water and were recovered by the skillful seamanship and daring of Kiely and his crew.  The motor surfboat was now severely damaged and in a sinking condition, and it was necessary to return to the Yakutat.  By means of a rubber life raft, the other two survivors were taken off the bow section of the Fort Mercer, which capsized a short time later.

Last Modified 1/12/2016