Key West gets fast Coast Guard cutter named after African American WWII hero


The city of Key West is about to get its first fast response Coast Guard cutter to patrol its waters and it will carry the name of an African American WWII hero.

At sunset on Saturday, Coast Guard Cutter Charles W. David, Jr., will be commissioned by a group of dignitaries and a relative of the vessel’s namesake.

Among those taking part in the ceremony will be David’s granddaughter, Sarah David, and 91-year-old Richard Swanson, a fellow crewmember of David’s onboard the Coast Guard Cutter Comanche who will present the traditional ceremonial long glass.

A New York native, Charles W. David, Jr. , 26, enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1941 and was assigned to the Cutter Comanche. The night of Feb. 3, 1943, the cutter was on convoy duty in the North Atlantic Ocean when it was called to aid of the U.S. Army transport USAT Dorchester, which had been torpedoed by an enemy submarine and was quickly sinking.

After reaching the scene, David was among several Comanche crewmembers who volunteered to jump into the frigid ocean to save the soldiers and crew of the Dorchester.

Using a then-recently devised “rescue retriever” technique, where a rescuer ties a line to a person so he can be hoisted from the water to a waiting ship, David and others from the Comanche and Coast Guard Cutter Escanaba ultimately rescued 230 men.

One volunteer, Ensign Robert Anderson, was rescued by David after Anderson was overcome by the cold, heavy seas.

Three days after the rescue, David died of pneumonia, leaving behind a widow and a young son.

David was posthumously awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his actions at a special ceremony in 1944 covered by several newspapers.

Honoring the heroic guardsman by attending Saturday’s event will be Vice Adm. Robert Parker, Coast Guard Atlantic area commander; Rear Adm. Jake Korn, Coast Guard Seventh District commander; Capt. Aylwyn Young, Coast Guard Sector Key West commander; Lt. Kevin Beaudoin, Coast Guard Cutter Charles W. David, Jr., commanding officer; and Chris Bollinger, President of Bollinger Shipyards.

The new cutter, a Sentinel Class FRCs, is designed to conduct maritime drug interdiction, illegal migrant interdiction, search and rescue, national defense and other Coast Guard missions. The patrol boat is capable of deploying independently to execute Coast Guard missions and offers vastly improved capabilities over the aging 110-foot Island class patrol boats it replaces.

The ceremony will be Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at the Coast Guard Sector Key West, 100 Trumbo Rd.

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