The legacy of Signalman 1st Class Douglas Munro

Uploaded by USCGImagery on 27.09.2012


Every evening since his home coming from the Army at World War II
Mike Cooley comes to Laurel Hill Cemetery to strike the colors
the same flag he raises every morning, no matter
the weather or the aches and pains of his years.

The flag pole is next to
the grave of his boyhood friend, Doug.

August 7, 1942, eight months to the
day after the surprise attack by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor
the United Stated launched its first major amphibious assault in the
Pacific. The targets, two specks on charts
the Solomon Islands, Tulagi and Gaudacanal.
Henderson Field, the only existing airbase for hundreds of miles,
gave Gaudacanal vital strategic importance and both sides
new it. (gun fire)
One of those going ashore that day was a 22 year old 1st class signalman
of the United States Coast Guard from south Clallam, Washington
east of Seattle, Douglas Munro.
It was kind of neat. There was only 500 population in South Clallam.
And we went to high school in Clallam which was 2500 people
So we made lots of friends throughout the years. Everybody was close by.
Pat Munro Sheehan is Munro's sister.
After he graduated from high school, Munro went away to college.
Doug went off to school, but he only stayed a year because he said he wanted to see the world.
So he had pals in various branches of the services
who wanted him to come with them. And he
checked it all out and he said he was going to join the Coast Guard because he said
they save lives.
It was at the recruiting office in Seattle in 1939
that Munro's path crossed that of another young man who would become
his best friend and shipmate all the way to Guadacanal.
Ray Evans went on to make a career of the Coast Guard and retired
a commander in 1962.
Came out of high school and looked for a job all summer in 1939 and
it was a very poor time for jobs.
Went to the Coast Guard and they said they
had not taken a recruit in seven years.
And that was also the Depression of course.
They called me back in September and said, "are you still interested?"
We got seven openings." And I said yes I am.
I got to the federal building on September 18th.
Doug Munro was there. He was one of the seven
and that's how it started.
There was no bootcamp then, so Munro and Evans were quickly assigned to the
327 foot patrol gun boat, USS Spencer.
She was being transferred from Alaska to New York. They became
signalmen and learned their rates while on weather patrols in the North Atlantic.
But it wasn't all work and no play. Between
bouts with his semaphore flags, bunting tosser Munro had time to perfect
his body slam technique in this ring on the fantail.
In this home movie, he's the wrestlers wearing dark boots.
We were together so much, in those days the soap was called a
gold dust twins. They had the twins on the label.
And that's what they called us. They many times couldn't
tell us apart. We didn't look a like but they would mix us up.
The gold dust twins were transferred to the attack transport
Hunter Liget, reporting to Coast Guard Commander Dwight Dexter
After Pearl Harbor, Dexter received orders to command the naval operating
base Guadacanal and Evans volunteered to go with him.
Initial landing on the Canal was relatively unopposed.
The fiercest fighting would occur later. Munro however went
ashore at Tulagi, 20 miles across the channel from Guadacanal.
Where the landing was a different a story. Eighty percent of the first
wave of Marines were wiped out. The second wave
faired little better.
He went ashore at Tulagi with the third wave of Marines.
The first two were wiped out. He went ashore with the third wave
and that was before he went to
Guadacanal. And he had to be up on a
shelf of rock way up high above the beach.
He was establishing ship to shore communications
He said he could have dropped
a grenade right on the Japanese right below him.
He said it would give away his position so he had to lay real quiet.
He said it was a very shallow place that he could dig up
because it was all hard rock. He said the tracer bullets kept going right over
the top of him all night long.
He said the Marines were patrolling
and he said there was a row of bushes fairly close
to him. And every time they go by him
they would just spray it from their hip right through those bushes just in case
there was anybody there. The next morning
they found, I forget whether it was two or three
Japanese behind the bushes. So then
Commander Dexter sent for him to come to Guadacanal.
I don't know how he got in touch with him. But when their supply ship was sunk
and when he arrived at Guadacanal was his khaki shorts
boots and carrying a rifle and that's all they had.
Besides the Japanese, there was another enemy that took countless lives. Evans
and Munro both fell victim to this enemy. The mosquito
If you didn't take your attermann, you ended up with Malaria.
And there was a lot of dysentery and dengue fever
It's jungle. When you got
back behind the airfield, into the jungle, it was
a mean place. It was a mean place.
The place got meaner. Munro and Evans often served as coxswains and crew on landing
crafts, taking Marines to various parts of the island. From the beaches
the Marines would fight their way into real estate controlled by the Japanese
The battalion major came down and I don't
remember his. I don't think I ever knew his name. Really he
talked to Dexter and the next thing I know
the commander is telling us, Doug and I that they were going
to send this battalion, I guess it was a battalion of Marines
to land at Point Cruise.
The plan was to surround an enemy force that was dug in on the Mataniko River.
Retired Colonel William Shanahan of the U.S. Marine Corps was
the second leitenant with the 1st Battalion 7th Marines in September 1942.
We got this assignment to land
on the other side
at Point Cruise on the other side of Mataniko River.
And engaged in a three
pronged attack. We were coming on the beach
another unit was supposed to cross
the river
just up from the mouth of the river and one
was supposed to cross further up and then
put the squeeze on the Japanese
that were entrenched along
the Mataniko River.
So they came, we loaded up, I don't know, 10 or 12
infantry boats and five or six tank lighters.
And under covering from a destroyer
Ballard made a mini amphibious landing
we were supposed to land at the head of the cove and we found a coral
would not allow us to do that, so we had to make an abrupt
right turn and land on the beach at the side.