[This blog post was written by Matthew Peek, Military Collection Archivist for the State Archives of North Carolina.]
The following description of the 1918 rescue of the crew of the British tanker Mirlo comes from the National Park Service:
“[A] famous surfboat rescue occurred during World War I, when enemy submarines operated in American coastal waters. On August 16, 1918, the British tanker Mirlo struck a German mine a few miles offshore and blew up. Keeper John Allen Midgett and his crew from Chicamacomico [Life Boat] Station launched their surfboat and steered it into a fiery seascape of burning oil, seeking survivors. Maneuvering their way through a hellish environment that blistered paint on their boat, burned their skin, and singed their hair and clothing, the lifesavers emerged with 42 rescued crewmen. Both the United States and Great Britain awarded Keeper Midgett and his surfmen medals for their gallantry.” (http://www.nps.gov/caha/learn/historyculture/lifesaving-service.htm)
This is the original photograph of the lifesavers of the Chicamacomico Life Boat Station receiving in July of 1930 “Grand Crosses of the American Cross of Honor” gold medals for their heroic rescue in 1918. Pictured here are: (left to right) Surfmen Leroy Midgett, Prochorus O’Neal, and Zion S. Midgett; [two unidentified civilians]; RADM Frederick C. Billard, Commandant of the Coast Guard; Keeper John Allen Midgett Jr.; and, surfmen Arthur Midgett, and Clarence Midgett.
The tradition of Coast Guard service was so strong in the Midgett family that the service on Hatteras Island was referred to as the “Midgett Navy.”
Credit line: United States Coast Guard and United States Lifesaving Service Portraits Collection, Sarah Owens Collection, Outer Banks History Center.
This blog post is one in two-week series of posts sharing the items used in the exhibit titled “The Family Traditions of Service: A Historical Tribute to Veterans.” This exhibit, on display from November 3 to November 13, 2015, at the Dare County Arts Council building in Manteo, N.C., is sponsored by the Friends of the Outer Banks History Center, the exhibit serves as a historical tribute to over 100 years of military service of North Carolina residents and their families, with particular emphasis on coastal North Carolina. The goal of the exhibit is to honor the role of North Carolina veterans and their families during peacetime and war. The items from this exhibit come from the holdings of the Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina and the Outer Banks History Center.