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U.S. Coast Guard Awards

Thomas D. McAdams

Awarded 30 January 1958

For extreme and heroic daring on the morning of 23 June 1957, when he assisted in rescuing four persons from drowning at Yaquina Bay, Newport, Oregon.  McAdams was Officer in Charge of the CG-52312 on patrol when information was received that a small boat was standing into danger north of the north jetty.  Before the CG-52312 could reach the scene, however, the small boat capsized throwing the four occupants into the surf.  McAdams quickly brought the CG-52312 through the outer line of breakers and placed it broadside to present a lee for the two men and two women in the water.  It was soon apparent that the victims could not help themselves as none seemed able to grasp life floats and lines thrown within their reach.

Completely disregarding his own personal safety, McAdams went over the side into the turbulent waters and swam to a man who was supporting an unconscious woman.  McAdams succeeded in towing them to the vessel and they were taken aboard.  The other two victims, meanwhile, had been brought alongside the CG-52312 and taken aboard.  During this time the CG-52312 had been hitting bottom each time the breakers swept by and had been driven closer to shore into more dangerous waters.  Despite loss of rudder control, and although the heavy breakers at times broke completely over his head, McAdams demonstrated skill and seamanship of the highest order in using the twin engines to maneuver his vessel stern first off the ocean beach through the heavy surf into deep water.  His outstanding courage, initiative, fortitude and unwavering devotion to duty while endangering his life during this rescue reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Coast Guard.

BMCM Thomas D. McAdams, U.S. Coast Guard (Retired)

Master Chief Thomas D. McAdams entered the U.S. Coast Guard on 7 December 1950, at Seattle, Washington.  He retired on 1 July 1977, while serving as the Officer-in-Charge of the U.S. Coast Guard Station Yaquina Bay, Newport, Oregon.

Master Chief McAdams is noted for his seamanship in small boat operations, especially motor lifeboats.  His career spanned working with 36-foot and 44-foot motor lifeboats and he helped in the design of the modern 47-foot motor lifeboat.  Throughout the U.S. Coast Guard, his exploits in the high surf of the Pacific Northwest are legendary.   He is one of the few people in the service to receive both the Gold Life Saving Medal and the Coast Guard Medal.   He earned the Gold Lifesaving Medal for a case in 1957 at Yaquina Bay in which, McAdams, as the coxswain of a 52-foot motor lifeboat, helped save four people capsized in the surf.   At one point, McAdams entered the water to help in the rescue.  He earned the Coast Guard Medal for a 1968 case near Umpqua River, Winchester, Oregon, where, as coxswain of a 44-foot motor lifeboat, fighting 35-knot winds and 12-15-foot breakers, he rescued three people.  McAdams also received the Coast Guard Commendation Medal, the Coast Guard Achievement Medal, and Coast Guard Unit Commendation Ribbon.  His civilian awards include an Oregon Governors Award, the City of Newport, Oregon, Valor Award and the Newport Chamber of Commerce Award for Civil Action.

Thomas D. McAdams also served for many years as an officer in the Newport Volunteer Fire Department.  As of 2005, he continues to serve in the fire department.

If one uses publicity as a measure of fame, then Master Chief McAdams is the most famous enlisted person who ever served in the U.S. Coast Guard.  He appeared in Life, National Geographic, True and other national publications.  He appeared on numerous television programs.  Nearing retirement, CBS’s Charles Kuralt also featured McAdams on national television.

Last Modified 1/12/2016