The Gold Lifesaving Medal and Silver Lifesaving Medal are U.S. decorations issued by the United States Coast Guard. The awards were established by Act of Congress, 20 June 1874; later authorized by 14 U.S.C. § 500.[1] These decorations are two of the oldest medals in the United States and were originally established at the Department of Treasury as Lifesaving Medals First and Second Class. The Department of the Treasury initially gave the award, but today the United States Coast Guard awards it through the Department of Homeland Security.[2] They are not classified as military decorations, and may be awarded to any person.[3]

Lifesaving Medal
Gold and Silver Lifesaving Medals
Awarded forRescuing, or endeavoring to rescue, any other person from drowning, shipwreck, or other perils of the water.
Country United States
Presented byUnited States Coast Guard
Established20 June 1874
Total600+ Gold Lifesaving Medals
1,900+ Silver Lifesaving Medals

Gold Lifesaving Medal ribbon and Silver Lifesaving Medal ribbon
Famed life-saver Joshua James wearing the Gold Lifesaving Medal among other awards

History Edit

A British Sea Gallantry Medal for saving life was authorized in 1854. Twenty years later in the United States the Gold and Silver Lifesaving Medals were first authorized in an Act (18 Stat 125, 43rd Congress) that furthered the United States Life-Saving Service. The Secretary of the Treasury was directed, among other provisions of the act, to create "medals of honor", to be distinguished as life-saving medals of the first and second class, and bestow them upon any persons who endanger their own lives in saving, or endeavoring to save lives from perils of the sea, within the United States, or upon any American vessel.

The Lifesaving Medals have had multiple designs in their history.

  • The original LS-5 design in 1874 was "non-portable" and could not be worn by the recipient, but rather displayed much like a trophy. It contained 11 ounces (310 g) of gold.[4]
  • In 1877, the diameter was reduced from 76 millimetres (3.0 in) to 50 millimetres (2.0 in), while the gold content was dropped to 3 ounces (85 g) to create the LS-7 design.
  • In 1882 the design was changed again so that the medal was suspended from a two inch wide ribbon. The ribbon was red for the Gold Lifesaving Medal and light blue for the Silver Lifesaving medal.
  • Finally on 4 August 1949 the medals and ribbons were reduced in size so that they were more proportionate to medals awarded by the U.S. Armed Forces. The ribbons were also redesigned to have multiple colors.

The laws governing the awarding of medal were amended over the years, and is currently awarded by the US Coast Guard. The Commandant of the Coast Guard makes the final determination in authorizing the award, but the Lifesaving Medals are not military awards, per se, and instead are "Federal Agency personal decorations" of the Department of Homeland Security and as such may be awarded to not only military members, but also civilians.[5]

"The Gold Lifesaving Medal or the Silver Lifesaving Medal may be awarded to any person who rescues or endeavors to rescue any other person from drowning, shipwreck, or other perils of the water. The rescue or attempted rescue must either take place in waters within the U.S. or subject to the jurisdiction thereof, or one or the other of the parties must be a citizen of the U.S. or from a vessel or aircraft owned or operated by citizens of the U.S."[3]

The Lifesaving Medal is issued in two grades, being gold and silver. "The Gold Lifesaving Medal may be awarded to an individual who performed a rescue or attempted rescue at the risk of his or her own life, and demonstrates extreme and heroic daring. The Silver Lifesaving Medal may be awarded to an individual who performed a rescue or attempted rescue where the circumstances do not sufficiently distinguish the individual to deserve the medal of gold, but demonstrate such extraordinary effort as to merit recognition. If neither the Gold nor Silver Lifesaving Medal is appropriate, then a Certificate of Valor or an appropriate Coast Guard Public Service Award may be considered."[3]

Until the mid-20th century, the Lifesaving Medal was often bestowed upon members of the military; however in recent times the decoration has become somewhat rare. This is due primarily to the creation of a variety of additional military decorations that supplant the Lifesaving Medal. The United States Navy often issues the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, instead of the Lifesaving Medal, for sea rescues involving risk of life. "Military personnel serving on active duty would normally not be recommended for Gold and Silver Lifesaving Medals; however, military personnel may be recommended for a Lifesaving Medal if the act of heroism was performed while the individual was in a leave or liberty status. In all other circumstances, a military award should be considered."[3] While the Lifesaving Medals may be proffered to, and accepted by, DoD personnel, the Medals are no longer authorized for wear on U.S. military uniforms of the DoD Services (Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Space Force). Such awards may become part of service records, and used for other purposes, however.[5]

The US Coast Guard, while an armed force and military service at all times, normally is part of the Department of Homeland Security.[6] As such, awards of the DHS may be bestowed directly upon civilians, including US Coast Guard civilian employees and contractors, while recommendations for award of the Lifesaving Medals to US military members will be coordinated with the servicemembers' parent Service; this provides not only notification to the relevant military commanders that their servicemember(s) were involved in a lifesaving event, but allows the opportunity for that commander to award a Service decoration such as the Soldier's Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Medal, Airman's Medal, or Coast Guard Medal, instead of the DHS-awarded Lifesaving Medals. Within the Coast Guard, as a non-DoD agency, the gold medal's precedence for wear is immediately following the Coast Guard Medal, while the silver medal's precedence for wear is immediately following the Air Medal.[3] However, the appropriate precedence for display -- but not wear -- of the Lifesaving Medals in other Services is among the category of "Federal Agency personal decorations," directly below the Prisoner of War Medal.

The Lifesaving Medal is unusual among U.S. medals because it is actually struck from the eponymous precious metal, silver or gold.[7]

Multiple awards of the Lifesaving Medal are denoted by award stars on the decoration's ribbon and a gold clasp, inscribed with the recipient's name, is worn on the actual medal.

Since 1874, more than 600 Gold Lifesaving Medals and more than 1,900 Silver Lifesaving Medals have been awarded.[7]

Notable recipients Edit

Life Saving Medal 1st Class (2” 1877 design)

Gold Medal Edit

  • MSgt Rodney Buentello, USMC (Retired), sacrificed his life rescuing two teens from the Medina River in Texas on June 8, 2016. Medal posthumously Awarded, August 1, 2017.[8]
  • William Babb, for the 1885 rescue of the American schooner A.C. Maxwell.
  • Lieutenant Luke Christopher, USCG (posthumously) for the rescue of Seaman John Barrina from the SS Charles G. Black on 5 December 1936. Christopher was stationed at Coast Guard Air Station Cape May. While airlifting Barrina to the hospital, one of the pontoons on the Douglas RD-2 Dolphin named Adhara caught a stray fishing net and crashed at sea. Christopher survived the initial crash but succumbed to his wounds shortly after.[9]
  • Benjamin Dailey, keeper of the Cape Hatteras Lifeboat Station, led the rescue of the crew of the Ephraim Williams.
  • Daniel Miller, for saving lives from the wreck of steam "H.C. Akeley" on Nov. 13, 1883 in Lake Michigan, near Grand Haven, Michigan. Miller was the first mate of The Driver when the rescue took place.
  • Richard Etheridge, Benjamin Bowser, Dorman Pugh, Theodore Meekins, Lewis Wescott, Stanley Wise, and William Irving of the Pea Island Life-Saving Station, for rescue of the crew from the E.S. Newman on 11 October 1896. Awarded gold medals posthumously on 5 March 1996.[10]
  • George Freeth, a swimming instructor and the "Father of Modern Surfing",[11] who rescued seven fishermen off Venice Beach during a winter storm in December 1908.[12]
  • Vice Admiral Harry G. Hamlet, U.S. Coast Guard – While in command of USS Marietta in the Bay of Biscay on 28 April 1919, rescued a crew of 47 persons from the sinking USS James
  • Sergeant Marcus Hanna (lighthouse keeper) – Only person to receive both the Medal of Honor and the Gold Lifesaving Medal.
  • Joshua James, USLSS[13] – Legendary lifesaver.
  • Jonas Johns - Native American who rescued the 14-man crew of the schooner Lily Grace wrecked near Gray's Harbor, Washington in January 1887 and a year later rescued 3 more sailors. Medal awarded on 9 December 1889.
  • James Larsin, fisherman and Wisconsin state legislator.
  • Ida Lewis, lighthouse keeper and first female recipient.
  • Surfman Isaac Mayo, USLSS
  • Chief Warrant Officer John Allen Midgett Jr., USCG
  • Surfman Rasmus Midgett, USLSS
  • Captain Henry C. Mustin, USN - Naval aviation pioneer.
  • Commander Glenn L. Rollins, USCG - Led effort to rescue 18 sailors stranded in Alaska in 1938.
  • Augustus Butler Rowland (1903-1972), Aviation Machinists Mate First Class, presented by President Calvin Coolidge, for saving a shipmate in the crash of an F-5-L "flying boat" seaplane near Pensacola, Florida on Jan 21, 1925. [14]
  • Sheppard Shreaves, civilian diver who rescued Torpedoman 2nd Class Henry Breault, who later received the Medal of Honor, during the salvage of the submarine USS O-5[15]
  • Lenny Skutnik[16] - Federal employee who rescued a passenger of Air Florida Flight 90 at the risk of his own life.
  • Arland D. Williams, Jr. - Passenger on ill fated Air Florida Flight 90.
  • Boatswain's Mate First Class Bernard C. Webber, USCG; EN3 Andrew Fitzgerald, USCG; SN Richard Livesey, USCG; and SN Irving Maske, USCG, all stationed at Coast Guard Station Chatham, Massachusetts, for the rescue of 32 crewmen of the T2 tanker SS Pendleton on 18 February 1952. This rescue is depicted in the 2016 movie The Finest Hours.
  • Rear Admiral Lucien Young, USN, veteran of the Spanish–American War. Received for actions while an Ensign on 12 June 1878.

Silver Medal Edit

Other awardees Edit

  • Lucien M. Clemons, 19 June 1876.
  • Hubbard M. Celmons, 19 June 1876.
  • A.J. Celmons, 19 June 1876.
  • Volunteer crews of the Liverpool and New Brighton lifeboats following wrecking of the Ellen Southard near Liverpool, England, 1877
  • J. Schuyler Crosby, 8 June 1877.
  • Carl Fosburg, 8 June 1877.
  • Philip C. Bleil, New York City Police Department, 4 January 1878.
  • Seaman Antoine Williams, USN, 13 March 1879.
  • John H. Rapp, 4 March 1882. (Also awarded silver medal.)
  • Cabin Steward Fuji Hachitaro, USN, 5 November 1889.
  • Captain Cameron Kirkconnell, 2008
  • John Lightbourn, 16 September, 1919
  • CM2 Thomas T. O'Brien (USN), 14 January 1990, McMurdo Station, Antarctica
  • EO1 Brian Demelo (USN), 14 January 1990, McMurdo Station, Antarctica
  • BM1 Reece Raxter, Silver Lifesaving Medal (awarded 24 Jun 2022)
  • Capt. William Taft Tippett, Ridge, MD, the Silver Lifesaving Medal, authorized by act of Congress, awarded 23 December 1938.

See also Edit

References Edit

  1. ^ "14 U.S.C. § 500". Retrieved 13 September 2012.
  2. ^ "Timeline 1800–1899 (see June 20, 1874)". Retrieved 12 September 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d e Medals and Awards Manual (PDF). U.S. Department of Homeland Security, United States Coast Guard COMDTINST M1650.25E. 15 August 2016. Chapter 4
  4. ^ "U.S. Mint.Treasury Department FIRST CLASS GOLD Life Saving Medal.Julian-LS-5".
  5. ^ a b "DOD INSTRUCTION 1348.33, DOD MILITARY DECORATIONS AND AWARDS PROGRAM" (PDF). DoD Issuances (Change 5 ed.). Washington, D.C. 21 December 2016. p. 46. Retrieved 17 January 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. ^ "14 U.S. Code § 101 - Establishment of Coast Guard". LII / Legal Information Institute. Retrieved 18 January 2023.
  7. ^ a b "Traditions: 200 Years of History" (PDF). 1990. Retrieved 12 September 2012.
  8. ^ "Family of hero Marine awarded Gold Lifesaving Medal | Coast Guard News".
  9. ^ "Lethal Rescue Mission". Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  10. ^ Coastal Guide. "E.S. Newman Rescue". Retrieved 19 August 2013.
  11. ^ "Freeth, George". Encyclopedia of Surfing. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  12. ^ Cisco, Dan (1999). Hawaiʻi sports : history, facts, and statistics. Honolulu: University of Hawaiì Press. p. 277. ISBN 9780585329666. OCLC 45843018.
  13. ^ "Captain Joshua James, USLSS". Retrieved 11 April 2011.
  14. ^ "Augustus Butler Rowland Receives Medal From President Coolidge". 11 April 2022. Retrieved 11 April 2022.
  15. ^ Christley, Jim. "Submarine Hero: TM2 Henry Breault". Undersea Warfare Spring 1999 Vol. 1, No. 3. Chief of Naval Operations Submarine Warfare Division. Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  16. ^ Emily Yoffe (4 August 2002). "Afterward – Page 9 – New York Times". The New York Times Magazine. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 5 May 2011. In a dusty glass-fronted case on the piano bench, Skutnik keeps the palm-size Carnegie Medal for heroism and the Coast Guard's Gold Lifesaving Medal
  17. ^ "Silver Medal for Bravery". San Francisco Call and Post. 15 August 1903. p. 9.
  18. ^ "Rescue At Coronado Brings Marine Medal - Coronado Eagle and Journal, Volume XIX, Number 41, 14 October 1931". Retrieved 27 August 2016.
  19. ^ "Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz". Archived from the original on 29 July 2011. Retrieved 18 July 2011.
  20. ^ "Silver Lifesaving Medal ADM Nimitz". public1.nhhcaws.local.
  21. ^ Spragins, Robert B.; Spragins, Charles E.; Spragins, Stewart V. (1965). "Memorial, Robert L. Spragins". West Point, NY: West Point Association of Graduates.
  22. ^ Annual Report of the U.S. Life-Saving Service for the Fiscal Year ending 30 June 1888. pg. 44.
  23. ^ Annual Report of the U.S. Life-Saving Service for the Fiscal Year ending 30 June 1888. pg. 43.
  24. ^ "an unsung hero". Coast Guard Compass. United States Coast Guard. February 4, 2011.

External links Edit