In March 1968, a Vietnam-based U.S. Navy weapons and supply installation was filled with flames, and Lt. j.g. William Carr USCG found himself running inside to locate a sailor who was missing. Carr says he thought, "This is stupid. You are going to die."
Picking Up The Pieces
The missing sailor was never found. Carr was in charge of an 82-foot patrol boat, Point Arden, which had a crew of ten men. The men tried to put out the fires, secure the ammo, and help those who were injured. Around six to nine men were killed, and another 98 were injured. Carr was given a Bronze Star for his efforts.
The Coast Guard has served in Vietnam and other wars since 1790, though many people do not realize their involvement. The North Vietnamese attack in 1968 demolished 150 tons of ammunition.
Carr said, "Were we frightened? You bet your butt we were. We just happened to be at the right place at the wrong time."
The attack and experience were rough for Carr. He said he did not tell anyone about the experience, including his wife, for a long time. When he finally did talk about the experience, Carr said he thinks he had some post-traumatic stress from the situation.
“I didn’t realize how much trauma I had buried inside. I was honored to be in Vietnam. It changed my life.”William Carr
In 2015, Carr's service was honored with a plaque on the Wall of Gallantry from the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, where he had graduated in 1965.
He was 72 years old and spoke to a group of 900 cadets with the three other inductees. He told them, "It was all very confusing after that. Every one of the crew members took matters into their own hands."
Carr said, "It was incredible how they all did their duty." He emphasized how each man pulled their weight under the circumstances and did what needed to be done to the cadets.
"Heroism is not something for which you train. Rather, what happens is we sometimes are confronted with extraordinary circumstances. We do our duty. And sometimes people recognize that as heroism."