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Commerce medals presented for lifesaving and the protection of property 1955 - 2000

Coast and Geodetic Survey/ Office of Marine and Aircraft Operations/ National Ocean Survey

1956 Exceptional Service Award

Bill Wargo, Washington, D. C. -- For courageous competence in the protection of his fellow workers by apprehending an armed man during a tragic incident on September 16, 1955.

1958 Exceptional Service Award

Richard J. Hager, Shipboard, Cordova, Alaska -- For heroic action involving jeopardy of life in saving a shipmate from drowning at Cordova, Alaska, on July 6, 1957.

1961 Exceptional Service Award

Robert M. Beal, Norfolk, Virginia -- For heroic action involving jeopardy of life.

1962 Exceptional Service Award

Jack L. Brown, Anchorage, Alaska -- For heroic action involving jeopardy of life in the rescue of a fellow employee.

Benjamin Johnson, Norfolk, Virginia -- For heroic action involving jeopardy of life in the rescue of a coworker from a near-drowning.

1966 Exceptional Service Award

Photographic Mission 375, Kenai Peninsula, Alaska -- The members of Photographic Mission 375 are: Robert L. Sandquist, Pilot; Robert W. Franklin, Copilot and Navigator; and Jim L. Hardwick, Photographer. They are cited for heroic action beyond the call of duty. On August 7, 1965, their unusually fine teamwork, initiative, and competence quickly effected the rescue of three civilian fliers and a young boy whose aircraft crashed on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska.

1970 Silver Medal

Lt. (j.g.) Robert C. Husted, Jr., NOAA Ship McARTHUR, Ketchikan, Alaska -- At approximately 6:00 A.M. on October 26, 1969, in Ketchikan, Alaska, Wiper John Fleagle entered the room of Lieutenant Husted on board the Ship McARTHUR after being shot in the back on the pier. Lieutenant Husted attended to the immediate medical needs of the wounded man and, determining that the gunman was aboard holding the captain and quartermaster at gun point, left the ship at considerable risk to his life to run barefoot to the Coast Guard Base, about half a mile away, to summon an ambulance and police.

1971 Silver Medal

William J. Monteith and Herman Ebel, Lake Survey Center, Detroit, Michigan -- Under extremely adverse weather conditions on July 23, 1971, Messrs. William J. Monteith and Herman Ebel aboard the LSC vessel LAIDLY assisted in rescuing personnel from a capsized sailboat. Anticipating that the sailboat would not be able to survive worsening sea conditions, the LAIDLY came about to conduct the small boat into port. Upon finding the sailboat capsized, Messrs. Monteith and Ebel conducted a search culminating in the rescue of the sailboat crew and recovery of the sailboat.

1976 Silver Medal

Lieutenant Richard P. Floyd, NOAA Corps, and Douglas V. Mason, National Ocean Survey -- Lt. Floyd and Mr. Mason are recognized for unusual competence in an emergency, resulting in saving the life of a fellow employee who had suffered a severe electrical shock. Lt. Floyd discovered this employee, who had been working alone on NOAA Launch 1257, in an unconscious state, without pulse, heartbeat, or perceptible breath. While summoning and awaiting assistance, Lt. Floyd and Mr. Mason administered heart massage and artificial respiration. They were able to restore intermittent breath and heart action until a rescue squad arrived to take the employee to a hospital for professional assistance. Lt. Floyd and Mr. Mason, through extremely competent performance in a critical emergency, were able to save their fellow employee’s life.

1978 Silver Medal

NOAA Ships RUDE and HECK -- Lieutenant Commander Robert V. Smart, Lt (j.g.) Kenneth G. Vadnais, Ensign Samuel P. DeBow, Jr., Messrs. William M. Brooks, Johnnie B. Davis, James S. Eamons, Kenneth M. Jones, Frank Krusz, Jr., Anthony W. Styron, and Elijah J. Willis of the NOAA Ship RUDE and Lieutenant Commander Thomas W. Ruszala, Lieutenant (j.g.) Charles E. Gross, and Messrs. Mark Aldridge, Horace B. Harris, Charles J. Gentilcore, Dennis S. Brickhouse, Robert T. Lindton, Arnold K. Pedersen, Joseph Wiggins, and James P. Taylor of the NOAA Ship HECK are recognized for rescuing the crew and scientists from the burning vessel M/V MIDNIGHT SUN and saving the vessel from total loss. The crew of the NOAA Ship RUDE safely took aboard all 20 crew members of the burning vessel who were afloat in life rafts near the vessel. First aid was administered, and the crew members of the disabled ship were transported safely to shore. The crew of the NOAA Ship HECK demonstrated outstanding seamanship through their efforts over 20 consecutive hours to fight the fire. The actions of the two ships’ crew members demonstrated superior performance and exceptional courage in a maritime emergency beyond the call of duty.

1980 Gold Medal

Wallace K. Kanahele, NOAA Ship SURVEYOR, Seattle, Washington -- Mr. Kanahele, Able Bodied Seaman aboard the NOAA Ship SURVEYOR is recognized for a singular act of courage and selflessness. On March 6, 1980, while the SURVEYOR was tied to a pier in San Francisco, a shipmate fell over the side into the water between the ship and the pier. Without hesitation, Mr. Kanahele leaped into the water, rescued the shipmate, who was suffering from hypothermia, and brought him to a small boat which had been lowered by another vessel. Disregarding the immediate personal danger, Mr. Kanahele’s act of heroism saved the life of a shipmate. NOAA is justifiably proud of the gallantry demonstated by this employee.

1980 Silver Medal

Commander Merritt N. Walter, NOAA Corps; Lieutenant Kenneth M. Holden, NOAA Corps; Lieutenant Thomas G. Russel, NOAA Corps; Robert H. Maness, National Ocean Survey; Norfolk, Virginia -- Commander Walter, Lieutenant Holden, Lieutenant Russel, and Mr. Maness demonstrated extraordinary competence in participating in the rescue of an elderly woman from the Elizabeth River near the docks of the Atlantic Marine Center in Norfolk, Virginia. Lieutenant Russel organized the rescue effort, started the boat engine, and maneuvered the craft to the scene. Mr. Maness gathered life jackets and other equipment for the rescue. The seemingly lifeless body, floating face down and motionless in the river, was pulled into the boat. There was no apparent pulse or breathing. Lieutenant Holden immediately started cardiopulmonary rescuscitation (CPR) which restored breathing. Commander Walter and Mr. Maness assisted in CPR routine.

1981 Silver Medal

Commander John K. Callahan, Jr., NOAA Corps; Lieutenant Commander Richard P. Floyd, NOAA Corps; David L. Brannon; and Gordon R. Pringle -- In recognition of unusual competence in an emergency, Commander Callahan, Lieutenant Commander Floyd, Chief Boatswain Brannon, and Seaman Surveyor Pringle responded in an exemplary manner to effect the rapid rescue of a passenger who fell overboard from a sightseeing vessel in New York Harbor. The excellent judgment and superb seamanship demonstrated by the rescuers are in the very highest tradition of the National Ocean Survey. [All were part of the complement of the NOAA Ship FERREL.]

1986 Gold Medal

Lieutenant Dean Smehil, NOAA Corps; Daniel J. Parry, 3rd Assistant Engineer; NOAA Ship ALBATROSS IV -- Lieutenant Smehil and Mr. Parry are cited for saving the life of a shipyard worker who was working on the NOAA Ship ALBATROSS IV’s Marine Sanitation Device Compartment. On Monday, May 12, 1986, the worker accidentally set off the fixed CO2 fire fighting system. There is no alarm or time delay so CO2 releases immediately to extinguish fires. Several workers escaped, but one man, Mr. Kelly Prince, passed out and was still in the void. The Executive Officer, Lieutenant Smehil, and 3rd Engineer Parry put on Scott air packs and crawled into the very tight compartment. In moments, Smehil and Parry dragged the unconscious worker from the tank to safety. Taking quick action without regard for their own lives they assisted in saving Mr. Prince.

1987 Gold Medal

Lieutenant Commander Ted I. Lillestolen; Commander Robert E. Hunt; Lieutenant Paul E. Pegnato; NOAA Ship FERREL -- As the NOAA Ship FERREL was docking at the Port of Corpus Christi, Texas, on September 17, 1986, Evelyn (Salley) Langanke fell from a bridge abutment near the ship into a 35-foot deep ship channel. The ship’s Executive Officer, Lieutenant Commander Lillestolen, noted that the woman was in trouble, ran from the ship and entered the water. The woman was thrashing feebly when he reached her. Lieutenant Commander Lillestolen made a proper lifesaving approach and towed the unconscious woman to shore. Commander Hunt revived her with CPR. Lieutenant Pegnato administered oxygen and first aid to stabilize her condition. Since the woman had a partially collapsed lung, the heroic action and unusual competence of her rescue and treatment were crucial in saving her life.

1988 Silver Medal

Lieutenant Edward R. Cassano; Daniel W. Granstrom; NOAA Ship MILLER FREEMAN -- A major fire broke out on the MILLER FREEMAN while the ship was in port in Seattle. Lieutenant Cassano and Mr. Granstrom, without regard for their own safety, went below decks to fight the fire. They repeatedly led Seattle firemen below decks to guide them in their efforts to extinguish the spreading blaze. They continued this for over an hour until the fire was under control and nearly extinguished. Only then did they allow themselves to be treated for heat exhaustion.

1989 Silver Medal

James V. Brosh, Chief Engineer, NOAA Ship OREGON II -- Mr. Brosh is recognized for exceptional courage and heroism in fighting an engine fire on board the NOAA Ship OREGON II on March 16, 1989. At much risk to his life, he entered a smoke-filled engine room to make sure it was clear of personnel before discharging carbon dioxide into the area. He later personally directed Mobile, Alabama, fire department firefighters in extinguishing the blaze. His actions were credited with limiting the damage and saving the ship.

1993 Gold Medal

Lieutenant Commander Steve C. Stringfellow, United States Public Health Service; George A. Ringstad; Lieutenant (j.g.) Timothy C. Trembley, NOAA Corps; Seattle, Washington -- Lieutenant Commander Stringfellow, Mr. Ringstad, and Lt. (J.g.) Trembley are recognized for their unusual competence in an emergency in which a diver, trapped under a vessel, was in danger of losing his arm and possibly his life. The diver’s arm became wedged in a hull opening while he was performing contract work. Hi remained trapped for hours while efforts continued unsuccessfully to free his arm which rapidly swelled and was in danger of permanent injury. Dr. Stringfellow’s innovative actions in treating the arm while the diver was trapped directly contributed to the victim’s eventual recovery of almost full use of the arm. Mr. Ringstad’s and Lt.(j.g.) Trembley’s contributions in this life-saving situation were invaluable in that they were persistent in their efforts to convince the rescue team to deploy the water pressure technique which proved to be the successful solution, equalizing the pressure and freeing the arm.

1994 Gold Medal

Lieutenant Mark P. Ablondi, NOAA Corps; Alaska -- Lieutenant Ablondi is recognized for heroism while temporarily assigned aboard the United States Geological Survey vessel R/V for a survey of Vidas Lake and Seal River, Alaska. On July 10, Lieutenant Ablondi and a crewmember were surveying a bar at the river’s entrance from an inflatable boat when a large wave knocked the crewmember overboard. The fallen man was in great danger from the breaking waves and the extreme cold water, and Lieutenant Ablondi promptly turned the boat to rescue him. While pulling him aboard, another wave broke over the boat, killing its engine and tearing out a part of the floor. The river current then swept the disabled boat three miles out to sea. Lieutenant Ablondi performed emergency repairs on the boat, paddled it back to shore and safely landed the boat through the surf.

Lieutenant Commander Judeth L. Layne, United States Public Health Service; Matthew N. Ofthus, Jon M. Knox, Lisa K. Glover; NOAA Ship DISCOVERER -- Lieutenant Commander Layne, Messrs. Ofthus and Knox and Ms. Glover are recognized for their heroic roles in saving the life of a fellow crewmember who lost her leg during a shark attack enroute to Easter Island, Chile. Two crewmembers were injured, the most serious injury being the amputation of a female crewmember’s leg. The saving of the crewmember’s lives was the result of the combination of professionalism of the boat crew, the bravery of the individuals who literally pulled her from the jaws of the great white shark, and the expert emergency medical care provided by Lieutenant Commander Layne.

1994 Silver Medal

Commander Lawrence F. Simoneaux, NOAA Corps; Lieutenant Commander James Herkelrath, NOAA Corps, Lieutenant Commander Steve C. Stringfellow, United States Public Health Service; Seattle, Washington -- Commander Simoneaux, Lieutenant Commanders Herkelrath and Stringfellow are recognized for their roles in saving the lives of two crewmembers of the NOAA Ship DISCOVERER, one of who lost a leg during a shark attack. From the ship’s home port in Seattle, Washington, they set up a command post which provided life saving medical advice to the registered nurse aboard the ship, logistical support for the evacuation of the injured and arrival of emergency medical teams.

1995 Silver Medal

Dr. Jerry A. Galt; National Ocean Service -- Dr. Galt is recognized for saving the life of a passenger on board an airplane en route to Anchorage, Alaska. During the flight, the passenger went into anaphylactic shock. Dr. Galt took control of the situation by monitoring her vital signs and administering oxygen; however, her condition continued to deteriorate. He then performed mouth-to-mouth rescuscitation on two occasions until the woman began to breathe on her own. Dr. Galt remained with her until she was removed from the aircraft.

NOAA Ship FERREL, R-492 -- The officers and crew of the NOAA Ship FERREL are recognized for rescuing the sailing vessel SUNCATCHER, saving the lives of three exhausted sailors. The SUNCATCHER, low on fuel and in the midst of worsening weather, was unable to reach her destination. The FERREL, after locating the sailing vessel, rigged a float with a tow line, secured it to the SUNCATCHER and towed it to safety.

1996 Silver Medal

NOAA TWA Flight 800 Disaster Response Team; NOAA Ship RUDE, New York -- The NOAA TWA Flight 800 Disaster Response Team is recognized for their crucial role in providing precise map mosaics of the Atlantic Ocean debris fields off Long Island, New York. The mosaics were instrumental in victim recovery, salvage and investigative efforts. Within hours after the disaster, the NOAA team arrived on the site and began surveying the ocean floor with highly sophisticated side scan sonar equipment. The team utilized the sonar data to produce precisely located graphic depictions of the debris fields. Without the products and services provided by the response team, the recovery of the victims and wreckage would have been a nearly impossible task.

1999 Gold Medal

NOAA Ship OREGON II, Florida Coast -- The NOAA Ship OREGON II is recognized for the rescue of two men and one woman whose 25-foot boat capsized in heavy weather off the Florida coast. By the time the OREGON II found them, the hapless mariners had been in the water for about five hours and had begun to suffer the debilitating effects of hypothermia. With darkness falling and the vessel drifting helplessly in the Gulf Stream and authorities unaware of their situation or their position, the three would almost surely have perished were it not for the vigilant watchstanding and prompt rescue efforts of the OREGON II.

Office of Marine and Aircraft Operations; National Ocean Service; Public and Constituent Affairs, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts -- The Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, National Ocean Service and Public and Constituent Affairs are honored for their role in locating John F. Kennedy Jr.’s downed aircraft off Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. The discovery, identification, and marking of the crash site with buoys for U.S. Navy divers was instrumental in the rapid recovery of victims and salvage of the aircraft for investigative efforts. The team utilized sonar data to identify and precisely locate the debris. This enabled the unified command to quickly accomplish the recovery mission and provide rapid closure to this national tragedy.

1999 Silver Medal

Lieutenant Commander Edward Cassano; Lieutenant Stephen F. Beckwith, Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, California -- Lieutenant Commander Cassano and Lieutenant Beckwith are recognized for assistance in controlling a fire on the Santa Barbara (Sterns) Wharf. Both were aboard NOAA’s Channel Island National Marine Sanctuary vessel, the RV/BALLENA. The BALLENA was maneuvered along with other vessels, often in heavy smoke, to within feet of the pier to attack the fire. Over one quarter of the pier was engulfed in flames and took four hours to bring under control. Their quick thinking and bravery contributed greatly to controlling the fire.

2000 Silver Medal

Commander Steven Barnum, NOAA Corps; Commander Emily B. Christman, NOAA Corps; Captain Sam DeBow, NOAA Corps; Lieutenant Commander Gerd G. Glang, NOAA Corps; David M. Feit, NWS; Dr. James E. Hoke, NWS -- Commander Barnum, Lieutenant Commanders Glang and Christman, Captain DeBow, Mr. Feit and Dr. Hoke, are honored for providing timely expertise critical to the National Transportation Safety Board’s efforts to locate and recover the submerged wreckage of EgyptAir Flight 990 in November, 1999. NOAA mobilized nearby vessels and weather resources to locate and map wreckage on the ocean floor, preventing many days of wasted time and uncertainty in the recovery operations, and easing the uncertainty and human suffering of the families of those who perished.

National Marine Fisheries Service

1972 Silver Medal

Joseph W. Greenough, Auke Bay, Alaska -- Mr. Joseph W. Greenough rendered expert mountaineering assistance on September 4, 1971, when an Alaska Airlines plane crashed in the Chilkat Mountain Range, 20 miles west of Juneau, Alaska, killing the 111 persons aboard. Recovery of the bodies and examination of the wreckage constituted a hazardous operation for the official personnel involved, but the risks were minimized as a result of volunteer asistance from local mountaineers. The seven mountaineers, including Mr. Greenough, surveyed the crash site, selected a base camp, and advised officials on personnel and equipment needs. After making a preliminary body count and recovering flight recorders, the mountaineers concluded their part in the operation by fixing ropes throughout the site to insure the safety of the investigators who followed.

1983 Gold Medal

Penelope W. Field, National Marine Fisheries Service Enforcement Division -- During her tenure in the Enforcement Division of the National Marine Fisheries Service, Agent Fields has contributed immensely to the protection of United States fishery resources. Her sustained superior performance of duty in her varied job assignments typifies her resolve to function at the highest level. Most recently, she was assigned to a National Marine Fisheries Service enforcement team on a complex and extremely dangerous covert investigation of the illegal harvesting and sale of thousands of Columbia River salmon and steelhead. During the most critical periods of the investigation, Agent Fields wore a body recording device on which she, at great personal risk, recorded numerous conversations with criminal suspects. She also covertly photographed and documented these same individuals committing crimes. Their discovery of her law enforcement activities would have resulted in a certain life-threatening confrontation. Agent Fields’ uncommon courage and initiative significantly benefited the Pacific salmon resource and the law enforcement mission of the Department of Commerce.

1984 Gold Medal

Richard A. Severtson, Senior Special Agent -- Agent Severtson contributed significantly to the protection of United States fishery resources and to the fulfillment of United States Indian treaty obligations by exposing an entrenched cadre of professional poachers who were actively engaged in the theft and sale of thousands of Columbia River salmon and steelhead. For years these thieves had successfully avoided local detection and prosecution through an insidious scheme which disguised their criminal activity as a legitimate treaty-protected tribal fishing right. During the critical stages of the investigation, Agent Severtson, at great personal risk, directed and actively participated in the collection of numerous recorded conversations with armed criminal suspects. He also covertly photographed and documented these same individuals actively engaged in criminal conduct. Discovery of his law enforcement activities at any time, would have resulted in a life threatening confrontation. In carrying out his assignment, Agent Severtson displayed uncommon courage and initiative which significantly benefited the Pacific salmon resource and the law enforcement mission of the Department of Commerce.

1986 Silver Medal

Stella Louise Paige; Janet A. Davis; Kathy Summers -- Mses. Summers, Davis, and Mrs. Paige are recognized for helping to prevent serious injury and possible death. On June 26, 1986, they responded to screams from an elevator shaft in which a person was trapped. They called for emergency assistance, located the victim, and obtained help from another employee to get the victim free. They alerted someone on each floor not to use the elevator. Their alertness and composure under stress, and their competent action were instrumental in saving a life.

1990 Silver Medal

Charles M. Fuss, Jr., Special Agent -- Mr. Fuss is recognized for his outstanding efforts in fisheries law enforcement, which included developing a network of confidential informants and obtaining information from them which resulted in seizures, arrests, and convictions of major drug smuggling rings throughout the United States. His expert assistance to the law enforcement community, the U. S. Coast Guard, and the U. S. Domestic and foreign intelligence communities, are a credit to him and the Department of Commerce.

1998 Gold Medal

Dali G. Borden, Special Agent; Albert M. Samuels, Special Agent; Andrew R. Cohen, Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge; Richard A Severtson, Special Agent-in-Charge -- Ms. Borden and Messrs. Samuels, Cohen and Severtson are honored for successfully conducting a four-year undercover investigation into the illegal harvesting and sales of geoduck clams valued at over $1.5 million. They discovered that this shellfish was illegally marketed through back channels of interstate and foreign commerce to customers in Canada, Japan, and Hong Kong. They uncovered organized criminal activity which threatened the health, welfare and safety of the public. By creating a task force with other Federal, state, foreign, and tribal enforcement agencies, they removed tons of contaminated seafood products destined for American and international markets. During the investigation, they exposed and terminated the largest illegal bomb factory in Washington State’s history.

Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research

1986 Gold Medal

Douglas P. Anderson, Mark H. Bushnell, Robert J. Roddy, Miami, Florida -- Messrs. Anderson, Bushnell, and Roddy risked their lives to prevent a shipmate and colleague from drowning. This act of heroism occurred in the presence of a rip current created by treacherous surf. As a result of their quick thinking and knowledge of life-saving techniques, they not only saved the individual, but minimized the potential for complications such as pneumonia.

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Last Updated: June 8, 2006 9:27 AM

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