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Published on: Monday, July 8, 2024 read more ...

USS Serpens Memorial

The USS Serpens Monument, an approximately four-foot-tall, octagonal granite marker inscribed with names of the 250 victims of the 1945 Coast Guard disaster


Section 34

The destruction of the USS Serpens (AK-97) during World War II is the largest single disaster in the history of the United States Coast Guard.

Named after the Serpens constellation, the USS Serpens was a cargo ship commissioned in May 1943. On the night of January 29, 1945, the freighter was anchored off Lunga Beach, Guadalcanal in the British Solomon Islands, carrying ammunition and other cargo bound for U.S. bases in the Pacific. While the crew was loading depth charges into the holds, a massive explosion suddenly occurred. The explosion destroyed the entire ship, save for its bow, which sank to the bottom of the ocean. More than two hundred and fifty men lost their lives: nearly 200 Coast Guard members, 57 members of an Army and a U.S. Public Health Service surgeon. Only two of those aboard survived: Seaman 1st Class Kelsie Kemp and Seaman 1st Class George Kennedy, who were both awarded the Purple Heart. The cause of the explosion was never definitively determined. 

Those who died in the Serpens disaster were originally buried at the Army, Navy and Marine Cemetery in Guadalcanal, with a full military honors service. On June 15, 1949, their remains were reinterred in Section 34 at Arlington National Cemetery. 

The USS Serpens Memorial was dedicated on November 16, 1950. The Octagon-shaped memorial is inscribed with the names and ranks of those who perished. At the dedication ceremony, Vice Admiral Merlin O'Neill, Commandant of the Coast Guard, stated, "We cannot undo the past, but we can ensure that these men shall be respected and honored forever."

Those lost in the USS Serpens disaster:* 

Edwin A Ables EM2 USCGR Perry P Headrick S2 USCGR
John C Aiken III LT USCGR Frank Kadilak SK1 USCGR
Roy G Anderson PHM2 USCGR Alexander Helement PFC USA
Edwin F Antkowiak COX USCGR Leslie Helsem MM2 USCGR
Lawrence L Arndt CPL USA Herman T Helton PVT USA
Harry E Aro WT1 USCG Felix L Henigan F2 USCGR
Clifford D Ashby AS USCGR Francis V Henry PFC USA
George C Auble LTJG USCGR George A Henshaw SC2 USCGR
Woodward S Babcock GM3 USCGR Robert A Herrington F1 USCGR
Walter E Baginski PFC USA Marcus R Hickman STM3 USCGR
Charles E Baillargeon TEC5 USA Thomas L Higgins S1 USCGR
Edward A Baker MACH USCG Nile W Hinerman CPL USA
Jacob Barer S1 USCGR Henry C Hinson GM3 USCGR
Charles R Barnhouse S1 USCGR Robert B Hodge S1 USCGR
Charles R Barnhouse S1 USCGR Robert B Hopkins TEC5 USCGR
Robert J Barrett PFC USA Bernard J Houchen S1 USCGR
Leland C Barrick PFC USA Robert L Hoyt S1 USCGR
Alec Beskosty TEC 5 USA Raymond E Hubacher QM3 USCGR
Joseph Bielinski S1 USCGR Otis D Hull S1 USCGR
Edwin L Boos PFC USCGR Colon J Hutchinson S1 USCGR
Derious F Borton JR PFC USA Vernard C Jacobs MOMM2 USCGR
Billy L Boyd SK1 USCG Paul R Jaissle S2 USCGR
Lester L Brandlen S1 USCGR Norman A Johnson S2 USCGR
Gerald C Breen F2 USCGR Richard C Johnson PFC USA
Alfred W Brieschke TEC5 USCGR Robert J Johnson LTJG USCGR
Chester Brooks ST2 USCGR William G Kayler Jr PFC USA
James M Broshear QM3 USCGR Milton R Kellar Jr S2 USCGR
Clarence M Buchanan PFC USA Herbert C Keough PFC USA
Leo H Burke S2 USCGR Arnold E Kettunen F1 USCGR
Clifton C Burks PVT USA Ralph D Kiley S1 USCGR
Keith D Burns S2 USCGR Melvin M Kolar MOMM3 USCGR
Junior W Butler F1 USCGR William C Kotkas LT USCG
Raymond F Callahan S1 USCGR William J Kramer PVT USA
Gilbert J Camarlinghi S2 USCGR Paul F Kreps PFC USA
Anthony Cambria S2 USCGR Norbert E Krueger S1 USCGR
Louis S Carey S1 USCGR Vincent J Kurdilla S1 USCGR
James G Carmichael TEC5 USCGR Stanley J Kusek S1 USCGR
Charles E Carr S2 USCGR Charlie G Kyle STM1 USCGR
Peter A Cassaris S1 USCGR James E Laird S1 USCGR
Pete Catgenova S2 USCGR Walter P Lambert S1 USCGR
Philip R Cervantez CM3 USCGR Woodrow Lanham S1 USCGR
James E Chadwick MM2 USCGR David A Latraille PVT USA
Leslie E Chambers S2 USCGR Nolan R Lego Jr F2 USCGR
Fred L Childs SSGT USA Russell C Leverentz MM3 USCG
Frank J Ciancio S1 USCGR Harry M Levin SURGEON USPHS
Joseph Cope S1 USCGR David F Lewis SC3 USCGR
James V Cote S1 USCGR Walter J Limbacher Jr. SK3 USCGR
Howard R Cotton PFC USA Charles T MacFarland MOMM3 USCGR
William Cowhey S1 USCGR John H McCarter MM3 USCGR
Charles E Craft S1 USCGR John L McCaw WT3 USCGR
Lawrence F Creech S2 USCGR William J McCullough Jr MM# USCGR
Lovell R Crook S1 USCG Charles E McDaniel PFC USA
Ranard M Crowe S1 USCGR Malcolm W McDaniel RDM3 USCGR
Arden O Cummings MM1 USCG Arnold J McGrath 1st LT USA
Albert B Curtis F1 USCGR Harold M McGuckin Jr SK3 USCGR
Fritze O Dahlbrg PVT USA Lloyd A McLarty RM2 USCGR
John C Daly S1 USCGR Ted McMahan SGT USA
John A Dancisak S1 USCGR Joseph J Mackey COX USCGR
James E Davis TEC4 USA Samuel M Maddox S2 USCGR
Max E Davis ENS USCGR Albert J Manke COX USCGR
Clarence W Day S2 USCGR Guy L Mark TEC5 USA
Howard E Day Jr S1 USCGR Curtiss D Matney TEC4 USA
John C Dedmon Jr RDM3 USCGR Nicholas A May PFC USA
Henry K Deermer S2 USCGR Raymond G Mazzanti COX USCG
Samuel DeGaetano S1 USCGR Raymond F Medves PVT USA
Robert M Degreve S2 USCGR Alvis J Menard MM3 USCGR
Marvin Derouen S1 USCGR Madge V Miller STM1 USCGR
George L Dickerson STM1 USCGR James J Miron S1 USCGR
Lee H Diehl S1 USCGR Leo E Moore TEC5 USCGR
Harold C Distel F1 USCGR Huie Morgan PFC USA
Homer A Dix Jr S2 USCGR William F Nivin S1 USCGR
William C Doherty S1 USCGR Douglas H Oakland S1 USCGR
Edward J Donato CM3 USCGR William R O'Donnell COX USCGR
Donald R Donovan S1 USCGR Walter L Okichick TEC5 USA
James Drago S2 USCGR Walter L Okichick TEC5 USA
William C Dunn S1 USCGR George E Orton CMM USCGR
Edmund J Durso COX USCGR Albert L Owen TEC4 USA
Robert A Easterday MOMM3C USCGR Charles C Payne F1 USCGR
Gustave F Eckart COX USCGR William O Pazurek SM3 USCGR
Billy G Elam PFC USA Lincoln F Peterson WT3 USCGR
Sylvan B Elsasser Jr S1 USCGR Warren C Prance LTJG USCGR
Joseph D Faust COX USCGR John J Preedom TEC5 USA
Richard M Feutz PFC USA Frederick E A Qualmann STM3 USCGR
John Fidurski S1 USCGR Roy A Questad ENS USCGR
Ira V Fletchr S1 USCGR George H Reilly SGT USA
Murray C Flowers HA1 USCGR Orville F Reuter S1 USCGR
Fieldon B Forkner EM3 USCGR Hugo Riccardi MOMM1 USCGR
Warren L Fox CM2 USCGR Linton J Robeson TEC5 USA
Glenn B Frank PVT USA Fred O Royer RM3 USCGR
Roger W Fregia S2 USCGR Paul Rudy CMM USCGR
Jay F French S1 USCGR Eugene Ruggiero CMM USCGR
Ralph C Fritz S1 USCGR Marcus A Ruth TEC5 USA
Lewis L Fulda PFC USCGR Roy A Sampay MM3 USCGR
Charles D Furrey TEC5 USCGR Alfonso C Sandoval S1 USCGR
Kayah Gale PFC USA Lewis J Sarkisoff COX USCGR
Jime Gallo COX USCGR John P SchmooK F1 USCGR
Ely Gamsu S1 USCGR Charles E Schrader S1 USCGR
John L Garzon F1 USCGR James D Selaya S1 USCGR
Edward C Gesford PFC USA William H Seleman Jr COX USCGR
Mack E Gibson S1 USCGR Jacob H Shogren ENS USCGR
Fred E Gilbert PFC USA Robert J Smith WT3 USCGR
Robert L Glaze CBM USCG Robert C Sneddon S1 USCGR
Sheldon G Goldstein HA2 USCGR Robert H Sorenson MM3 USCGR
Emelio C Gonzales S2 USCGR Cyril D Steinman Jr RM1 USCGR
John K Goral CPC USCGR William P Stiles PFC USA
Charles E Graeber PHM3 USCGR Washington E Stillman CPHM USCG
Warren J Granger SC3 USCGR Mryon K Strickland RM3 USCGR
Daniel L Grant Jr Y3 USCGR Floyd Stuckey COX USCGR
Floyd Grapenthin Jr PFC USA Ivan B Thomas PFC USA
Jean P D Gray S1 USCGR Robert E Thomas Y1 USCG
Freeman Gregory S1 USCGR James R Thornburgh MM1 USCGR
Frank J Gretz S1 USCGR Hubert Turner MOMM1 USCGR
Stanley R Grisbaum S1 USCGR Vernon H Twait BM2 USCGR
Boyce F Guthridge RT3 USCGR William W Vaughan GM2 USCG
Phillip Gutierrez TEC5 USA Edgar L Vedder CEM USCGR
Alan J Guyett PFC USA Samuel L Villemont WT3 USCGR
Elmer P Hagemeier Jr WT2 USCGR Harold L Vincent WT2 USCGR
Arthur C Hagendorn Jr PHM3 USCGR John F Walko COX USCGR
Raymond C Hamilton RDM3 USCGR Eugene J Ward ST1 USCG
John W Hampton BM2 USCGR Delos R Wardle COX USCGR
William H Harlow F1 USCGR Lawton Watts PFC USA
Kenneth H Harmon F2 USCGR Kinchion D West SM2 USCGR
Donald J Hart S2 USCGR Woodrow H Wetts S1 USCGR
James Hartleib F1 USCGR Alton White S2 USCGR
William C Hartzler MM3 USCGR Charles B Wood SC1 USCGR
Melvin Haskell S1 USCGR Tom Zaffore SSML3 USCGR

*USCGR = U.S. Coast Guard; USA = U.S. Army 

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