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U.S. Coast Guard Awards

Carl C. von Paulsen
William L. Foley
James R. Orndorff, Jr.
William D. Pinkston
Thomas S. McKenzie

Awarded 17 April 1933

Around 11:30 AM on 1 January 1933, The Coast Guard Air Station at Miami, FL received a request for assistance from the Chester Shoals Coast Guard Station. A man named Paul Long had been blown offshore in a skiff just inside Cape Canaveral at 10:00 PM the previous night. The Coast Guard seaplane Arcturus left the air station at 12:20 PM with the following crew: LCDR Carl C. von Paulsen, LT William L. Foley, ACMM James R. Orndorff, Jr., AMM1 William D. Pinkston, and RM3 Thomas S. McKenzie.

The Arcturus proceeded to Cape Canaveral through rainy, squally weather. A skiff was finally sighted 30 miles southeast of Cape Canaveral, in which was a man who was making intermittent distress signals. The Arcturus circled widely looking for craft, but saw none. The nearest Coast Guard craft was 85 miles distant. Only an hour and a half of daylight remained. Close examination showed that Long and his boat were in poor shape. The squall was increasing. If the man were not picked up before dark, it would be impossible to do so until the next day.

The crew lightened the plane by dumping the surplus fuel. A landing was made on a sea whose waves were at least 12 feet high, twice as high as the seaplane was designed to land upon. Impact with the water caused the left wing tip float struts to collapse, leaving the float banging against the wing. All the men were ordered to ride on the wing in an extremely precarious position, in an attempt to maintain an even keel. At times they became semi-conscious from inhaling gasoline and tetrachloride fumes. RM3 McKenzie promptly dived overboard to clear the wingtip float, jumping directly above a shark as he did so. The wires carried away and allowed the float to drift clear. McKenzie then picked up Long and both were assisted into the plane.

An attempt was made to take off, but it was found to be impossible to keep the damaged wing level. A second landing was made that wrinkled the hull under the forward spar. An unsuccessful effort was made to taxi to shore. The engines were then stopped and the sea anchor was put out. The sea anchor line was carried away and the anchor lost. After an SOS call had been sent out another anchor was improvised and a pole antenna was rigged. The plane then continued to drift until 1:00 AM when it passed through three lines of surf and beached inside of Bethel Shoal. The crew went ashore and were shortly afterward located by US Customs Border patrolmen. 

Last Modified 1/12/2016