The United States Coast Guard Cutter MUNRO was commissioned on September 27, 1971, at Avondale Shipyard in New Orleans, Louisiana. The tenth of twelve 378-foot cutters, MUNRO was the first to be named after a Coast Guard hero - Signalman First Class Douglas Munro. The ship’s original compliment included 17 officers and 143 enlisted men, under the ship’s first Commanding Officer, Captain John T. Rouse.
The dedication of the ship took place on April 15, 1972, at MUNRO’s first homeport of Boston, Massachusetts. Secretary of Transportation John A. Volpe was on hand, retelling the story of Douglas Munro and reminding the crew of the honor they had as namesake of the Coast Guard’s only Medal of Honor recipient. While operating out of Boston, the ship’s original missions included ocean station patrols and search and rescue.
The stay in Boston was not to last long, however, as MUNRO shifted to a new homeport of Seattle, Washington, on August 29, 1973. In 1981, the cutter moved to yet another homeport: Honolulu, Hawaii. Five years later, MURNO underwent an extensive two-year Fleet Renovation and Modernization (FRAM) program. Weapons systems were upgraded and many portions of the cutter were remodeled. Upon re-commissioning in November 1989, MUNRO moved homeport yet again to Coast Guard Island in Alameda, California.
Although MUNRO’s homeports and capabilities have changed over the years, the missions of maritime law enforcement, search and rescue, and homeland defense have remained constant. In September 1983 MUNRO served as On-Scene Commander during the Search and Rescue efforts following the shoot down of Korean Airlines 007 in the Sea of Japan. In December 1994, MUNRO used her embarked helicopter to rescue all 27 crewmembers from the burning container ship Hyundai Seattle in the stormy North Pacific waters 600 miles south of Adak, Alaska.
Part of the maritime law enforcement mission is to prevent illegal fishing and over-fishing in U.S. waters, preserving valuable fish stocks. Some of the ship’s historical successes in this arena include the 1979 seizure of the Korean long liner DONG WON NO. 51 and the 1997 seizure of Russian fishing trawler CHERNYAYEVO. The latter seizure, made in the Bering Sea for violation of the Magnuson/Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act, set an important precedent for law enforcement along the U.S./Russia Maritime Boundary Line. Another component of the Coast Guard’s maritime law enforcement mission is the interdiction of illegal drug and migrant smuggling vessels. In 1998, MUNRO intercepted the Chinese vessel CHIH YUNG, carrying 172 undocumented migrants attempting to enter the U.S. In 1999, the cutter interdicted and seized both the fishing vessel EDUARDO I, carrying 83 undocumented Ecuadorian migrants and motor vessel WING FUNG LUNG, carrying 259 illegal Chinese migrants. In 1986 MUNRO interdicted the motor vessel LINE ISLAND TRADER that was attempting to smuggle 4.5 tons of marijuana into the U.S, and the Mexican vessel XOLESUIENTLE in 1998, seizing 11.5 tons of cocaine - one of the largest drug seizures in Coast Guard history. In the Spring of 2003, with the help of her embarked helicopter, MUNRO intercepted two small go-fast boats in possession of 3.5 tons of cocaine and crewed by eight drug smugglers. Later in the same year, MUNRO detected the Columbian Fishing Vessel CANDY I operating within her jurisdiction. After an extensive search of the suspect ship, over two tons of cocaine were discovered in a hidden compartment and all eight crewmembers were detained. Following these events, MUNRO was awarded the Coast Guard Unit Meritorious Commendation for superior achievement in intercepting over 5 tons of cocaine in one year.
In the summer of 2007, MUNRO became Alaska’s flag ship when she changed homeport from Alameda, California to Kodiak, Alaska. On Easter Sunday 2008 MUNRO took her place in Alaskan maritime history by responding to a search and rescue call from F/V ALASKA RANGER. MUNRO coordinated sorties, in-flight refueling, survivor transfers and flyovers between her embarked HH-65 Dolphin helicopter, a supporting HH-60 Jay Hawk from St. Paul Island, and a C-130 on scene. MUNRO’s crew worked through the night and stormy seas to save 42 of 47 souls who had been cast into the icy Bering more than 100 nautical miles from her position when the call first went out. For her work on the ALASKA RANGER case, MUNRO was awarded the Coast Guard’s Unit Commendation and Citations from the 26th Alaska State Legislature and the 110th United States Congress.
MUNRO continues to make history. During the summer of 2011, MUNRO interdicted the High Seas Drift Net (HSDN) fishing vessel BANGUN PERKASA, east of Japan. Working with the US Navy, Japanese authorities, embarked Chinese Fisheries Law Enforcement agents and the US State Department, MUNRO conducted an interdiction, boarding and seizure of this vessel for violation of international treaties prohibiting the use of HSDN in fishing operations.
MUNRO’s contemporary honors include the 2012 PACAREA major caliber gunnery award and the Coast Guard’s Special Operations Service Ribbon for its key role in the interdiction of the BANGUN PERKASA. At her latest Tailored Ship’s Training Availability (TSTA) evaluation, MUNRO achieved a clean sweep in all naval warfare areas with a drill average of 95.9%, an impressive score for vessels in her class. MUNRO has saved 11 lives in the Bering Sea since 2011. Most importantly, MUNRO has earned the deep respect and gratitude of Alaska’s maritime community for her expertise enforcing fisheries regulations, responding to search and rescue cases, providing medical evacuations, and becoming a servant to each local community at which she moors, striving in every instance to embrace the traditions and mission of the Revenue Cutter Service Bering Sea Patrol cutters of the past. Such success and remarkable performance is a direct reflection of superior leadership, vision, and an outstanding crew, which has personified the cutter’s motto of “Honoring the Past by Serving the Present.”