U.S. Coast Guard Awards
Glenn L. Rollins
Awarded 1 November 1945
During December 1938 the Coast Guard cutter Haida, stationed at Juneau, AK, answered a distress call from the merchant ship M.S. Patterson, which was aground in the Gulf of Alaska. When the Haida approached it was found impossible to get to the beach so the distressed men were signaled to proceed to Lituya Bay. Upon arrival of the Haida at Lituya Bay, a group of volunteers left the ship in a dory and with much difficulty reached shore. The party then started up the beach to locate the wrecked seamen. In zero weather they waded through glacial streams and spent the night, though they did not sleep, at Twelve Mile River. There they were joined by a searching party from the Coast Guard cutter Cyane. The next morning the following four men only were able to go on: Commander (then Ensign) Glenn L. Rollins, USCG; LT (then Chief Gunner's Mate) Eugene I. Brown, USCG; QM2 (then a civilian) Anthony W. Thomas, USCGR, and Mr. Howard Hayes, a civilian and native of Alaska.
On the next morning the men managed, by means of lines and a raft, to cross the river. Then, leaving their packs so as to be able to assist the wrecked seamen, they again set out. On hands and knees they crawled over a slippery logjam about 3/4 of a mile wide. At last they reached Otter River Falls, on the other side of which the wrecked seamen were observed. By means of lines and two long poles, and by resting on a boulder in midstream, Rollins and Hayes crossed the deep, swift river.
The wrecked seamen numbered 18 and were found to be in bad condition. Three were over 70 years old. Several were over 60. For 9 days they had been waiting without shelter and with little food. A long sapling was found and extended out to the boulder, by means of which the 18 men were assisted, one by one, to make the crossing. Once Rollins was pulled under the water by a panicky seaman, but in spite of this incident, Rollins succeeded in bringing the man to shore. Before proceeding farther, however, Rollins, now suffering from cramps and numbness, had to be rubbed and messaged for at least 20 minutes. Owing to the rough terrain and the weakened condition of the seamen, the trip back to Twelve Mile River was extremely hazardous. They arrived shortly before dark. Since the raft would only carry three men at a time, eight trips were required to get the party across.
Although all were near exhaustion, the 18 men were placed in single file with two rescuers in front and two behind to prevent them from straggling away into the darkness. In this manner the party marched all night, arriving at Lituya Bay at 7:00 AM on 23 December.