Douglas Albert Munro MOH

b. 11/10/1919 Vancouver, Canada. d. 27/09/1942 Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.

DATE OF MOH ACTION: 27/09/1942 Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.

Douglas A Munro MOH

Douglas Albert Munro was born on October 11, 1919, in Vancouver, British Columbia. His father repatriated his family from Canada to the United States in 1922, settling in South Cle Elum, Washington, where he was employed as an electrician. Munro was baptized at the Holy Nativity Episcopal Church in South Cle Elum.

In his youth Munro showed a high level of musical aptitude, mastering percussion, trumpet, and harmonica. He performed in a drum and bugle corps sponsored by the American Legion, the Sons of the American Legion Drum and Bugle Corps, eventually becoming the corps’ drillmaster. Munro was also a member of Cle Elum’s Boy Scout Troop 84. He attended Cle Elum High School, where he was a member of the school’s wrestling team. Following his 1937 high school graduation, Munro enrolled in the Central Washington College of Education due to its proximity to Cle Elum, so that he could continue performing in the Sons of the American Legion. Munro was a yell king (a male cheerleader) at Central Washington.

In 1939, with the threat of war growing, Munro decided to withdraw from college and enlist in the military. He reportedly told his sister he had chosen the Coast Guard because its primary mission was saving lives. Slightly built, Munro spent the week before his induction eating heavily to meet the Coast Guard’s minimum weight standard. He spent most of his last night in Cle Elum with his friend Marion “Mike” Cooley, with whom, according to Munro’s biographer, Gary Williams, he had been “almost inseparable” since childhood. Munro underwent entrance processing in Seattle, where he met and became friends with Ray Evans. Munro would spend the rest of his Coast Guard career with Evans, and the pair became known to shipmates as “the Gold Dust Twins”.

Munro and Evans underwent recruit training at Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles. They were then assigned to the Treasury-class cutter USCGC Spencer, serving aboard the vessel until 1941. During the course of his military service, Munro received consistently high marks on his performance evaluations and—according to Evans—expressed a desire to become a career Coast Guardsman.

In mid-1941, with tension with Japan on the rise, the U.S. government began emergency mobilization, and transferred the Coast Guard from the Department of the Treasury to the Department of the Navy. Munro and Evans volunteered for reassignment to the attack transport USS Hunter Liggett, which was being outfitted and manned by the Coast Guard as part of preparations for War Plan Orange.

By mid-1942, Hunter Liggett had been assigned to Transport Division 17, tasked with supporting the Guadalcanal Campaign. In preparation for the planned amphibious operations, Navy personnel began training as small boat handlers under Coast Guard tutelage; owing to the shortage of coxswains, Munro and Evans volunteered to join the training. Prior to the initial landings at the Battle of Tulagi and Gavutu–Tanambogo, Munro was posted to Rear Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner’s staff aboard USS McCawley. Cross-trained as both a coxswain and a signalman, he was ordered to ferry troops to shore during the third attack wave, then beach his boat and attach himself to a U.S. Marine unit to help manage ship-to-shore communication. 

Following the Allied victory at Tulagi and Gavutu–Tanambogo, Munro and Evans were among Coast Guard and Navy personnel who staffed Naval Operating Base (NOB) Cactus at Lunga Point on the northern coast of Guadalcanal. NOB Cactus served as a communication hub between land forces and offshore vessels. Established on August 9 by Coast Guard Commander Dwight Dexter, NOB Cactus is the only known instance of a naval operating base primarily led by Coast Guard personnel.[21] Munro volunteered for assignment at Lunga Point; Dexter was his favorite officer.

According to U.S. Marine Master Sergeant James Hurlbut, Munro and Evans lived at the base in an approximately 80-square-foot (7.4 m2) hut “they had made from packing boxes and scrap material”, which he also described as “quite a swank establishment for Guadalcanal”.

On September 20, 1942, Munro volunteered to lead a small boat search-and-rescue mission seeking to recover the crew of a Navy airplane that had been forced down off Savo Island. During the operation, Munro’s craft came under intense fire from Japanese shore positions, though he was able to maneuver the boat back to base with only minor injuries to his crew. The downed aircrew was ultimately found and rescued by a flying boat.

On September 27, Lt. Colonel Chesty Puller ordered three companies of Marines to attack the flank of Japanese positions on the west side of the Matanikau River. Munro was placed in charge of two landing craft tank (LCT) and eight Higgins boats tasked with transporting the Marines to their landing points. Preceded by a beach-clearing ship-to-shore bombardment from the destroyer USS Monssen, the amphibious force landed and began moving inland towards its objective. Meanwhile, Munro withdrew his boats to Lunga Point as ordered, carrying with him injured sailors and Marines, among them Navy coxswain Samuel B. Roberts, who had been mortally wounded while using his landing craft to draw Japanese fire away from the Marines. 

The U.S. Marine Corps landing force came under attack in a Japanese counteroffensive and quickly found itself encircled on a hill. With the Marines in danger of being overrun, Monssen opened fire on the Japanese positions with her 5-inch (127 mm) caliber guns, managing to clear a narrow corridor to the beach. Using Monssens signal lamp, Puller ordered the Marines to fight their way to the shore.

At Lunga Point, the landing craft were instructed to return and extract the besieged Marines. Commander Dexter asked Munro and Evans if they would take charge of the mission, to which Munro answered, “Hell yes!” As the boats under Munro’s charge approached the recovery points, they came under heavy fire from the Japanese at a ridge abandoned by the Marines. Munro used a .30 caliber machine gun aboard his landing craft to direct suppressing fire against the enemy positions as the other boats recovered the Marines. With Japanese troops moving against the beach, Munro piloted his boat closer to shore to act as a shield. Though the initial extraction was successful, one of the LCTs became grounded on a sandbar. Munro directed the other LCT to help extricate the grounded vessel as he maneuvered his own boat to shield the Marines from Japanese fire from the shore. Munro was shot in the base of his skull and lost consciousness.

The LCT was ultimately freed and the boats resumed their withdrawal. When out of range of Japanese forces, Munro briefly regained consciousness before succumbing to his wounds. According to Evans, his dying words were, “Did they get off?” Evans said later that “… seeing my affirmative nod, he smiled with that smile I knew and liked so well, and then he was gone”.

Colonel Puller, the Marine officer who had ordered the attack in which Munro perished, nominated the Coast Guardsman for the Medal of Honor, the highest U.S. personal military decoration. The nomination was endorsed by Admiral William Halsey Jr., and President Franklin Roosevelt approved the decoration on or about May 1, 1943. The medal was presented to Munro’s parents on May 24 by Roosevelt in a White House ceremony.

To date, Munro is the only member of the U.S. Coast Guard to have received the Medal of Honor.

Munro’s remains were recovered from Guadalcanal in 1947 and were reinterred at Laurel Hill Memorial Park in Cle Elum in 1948, his family having declined a full military burial at the Arlington National Cemetery. In 1954, the City of Cle Elum expanded Munro’s gravesite with the installation of two decommissioned Mk22 naval deck guns to either side of the tombstone. Munro’s parents were later buried on either side of their son’s grave at Laurel Hill. The entire site has since been added to the Washington Heritage Register as the Douglas Munro Burial Site.



For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry in action above and beyond the call of duty as petty officer in charge of a group of 24 Higgins boats, engaged in the evacuation of a battalion of marines trapped by enemy Japanese forces at Point Cruz, Guadalcanal on 27 September 1942. After making preliminary plans for the evacuation of nearly 500 beleaguered marines, Munro, under constant strafing by enemy machine guns on the island, and at great risk of his life, daringly led five of his small craft toward the shore. As he closed the beach, he signaled the others to land, and then in order to draw the enemy’s fire and protect the heavily loaded boats, he valiantly placed his craft with its two small guns as a shield between the beachhead and the Japanese. When the perilous task of evacuation was nearly completed, Munro was instantly killed by enemy fire, but his crew, two of whom were wounded, carried on until the last boat had loaded and cleared the beach. By his outstanding leadership, expert planning, and dauntless devotion to duty, he and his courageous comrades undoubtedly saved the lives of many who otherwise would have perished. He gallantly gave his life for his country.