Shadow - Rising Hearts From Sunken World War I Ship
Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Lally
The dark, cloudy, moonless night held an ominous vibe as multiple
vessels in a convoy steamed toward Wales through the choppy, rolling
waves in the Bristol Channel on September 26, 1918.
The crew of
one vessel in particular settled in for the evening listening to the
soft purr of the vessel’s engines reverberating throughout the ship,
while the sounds of rolling waves from the sea lashed at the ship’s
hull steaming through the channel. The watchstanders on the bridge
were on the lookout for any signs of the enemy hiding in the murky
The 190-foot Coast Guard Cutter Tampa’s crew and
mission were to escort and protect the convoys they were assigned to
in the Gibraltar area during World War I. On this particular night
in September, the cutter Tampa crew potentially detected some sign
of an enemy submarine and darted out ahead of the convoy to
At 8:45 p.m., the crews aboard the other vessels
in the convoy heard a loud explosion.
Coast Guard Cutter Tampa in an undisclosed harbor prior to World War I. Its was originally named the U.S. Revenue Cutter Miami and renamed Tampa in February 1916. On 26 September 1918, while operating in the English Channel, the Tampa was torpedoed and sunk by the German Submarine UB-91. All 131 persons on board Tampa were lost with her, the largest loss of life on any U.S. combat vessel during the World War I. (U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command courtesy photo)
Later that evening when the convoy arrived in port it was
discovered the cutter Tampa was missing and a joint search between
the United States and British services was conducted. Unfortunately,
all the search and rescue teams discovered were a few pieces of
wreckage and two unidentifiable bodies in naval uniforms.
More than 130 Coast Guardsmen, U.S and Royal British Navy sailors,
and civil employees had lost their lives in one of the greatest
single casualties incurred by any Naval unit by known enemy actions.
The lost was felt more closely by the surviving Coast Guardsmen, in
proportion to the service’s size, of any armed service in the war.
Letters written by Commodore Ellsworth P. Bertholf,
commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard during World War I were sent out
to the families of the servicemembers who had lost their lives in
this devastating loss of Coast Guardsmen. One of those families who
received a letter from Bertholf were the Saldarini family, who also
received Petty Officer 2nd Class Alexander Louis Saldarini’s, acting
quartermaster aboard the cutter Tampa, dog tags.
100-years into the future, and the sinking of the cutter Tampa is
still remembered by Coast Guardsmen and women in the present.
"One hundred one years ago today [Sept. 26, 2019] 130 Sailors
and Coast Guardsmen onboard cutter Tampa paid the ultimate price to
safeguard liberty during World War I. Then, as today, the Coast
Guard was a vital component of the national defense. Our service has
a long legacy of men and women who have served above and beyond the
call of duty to their nation," said Capt. JoAnn Burdian, commander
Coast Guard Sector Miami. "From cutters to lighthouses to
life-saving stations our members have selflessly laid their lives
aside to ensure others may live, that is the legacy of our service.
Today we honor our fallen shipmates."
The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Tampa (WMEC-902) underway in the Eastern Pacific Ocean
on February 24, 2019. The cutter Tampa is a 270-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Portsmouth, Virginia. (U.S. Coast Guard
A somber looking gentleman sat in the place of honor in front of
an audience of Coast Guard service members, who were there to honor
his granduncle, their fallen shipmate Alexander Louis Saldarini,
acting quartermaster of the cutter Tampa during World War I.
John Kendall, grandnephew of Saldarini, sat looking at the
audience in awe and shock. He couldn’t believe how much these
service members were going out of their way to honor his granduncle.
“This is more than a celebration of life and service, but a
recognition of a family’s legacy of service to this nation,” said
Kendall. “Since the 1600s my ancestors have been in America and
there has always been a male member of my family who has served in
this country’s military branches.”
Kendall was the guest of
honor during a ceremony where Burdian, presented the Purple Heart
Medal posthumously awarded to Saldarini, which Kendall received on
his granduncle’s behalf.
A collage of photos of Alexander Saldarini, acting quartermaster aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Tampa during World War I, sit on top of a Coast Guard ensign after a Purple Heart Medal presentation ceremony September 26, 2019 held at Coast Guard Station Lake Worth Inlet. The Coast Guard flag was signed by the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Tampa (WMEC-902) presented to John Kendall, grandnephew of Saldarini, at the ceremony. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Lally)
Commanding officers from
Miami-based Coast Guard cutters attended the ceremony and also
presented Kendall with their unit coins as a means to help honor
their fellow cutterman.
The shock and awe on Kendall’s face
at the honor rendered to him on behalf of his granduncle was mixed
Few in the audience knew that Kendall himself
is a retired serviceman who served during the Vietnam War.
“I was drafted into the military near the end of the war and after
my initial military training I was able to get a couple days of
leave to go home,” said Kendall, recalling his experience. “I was
traveling in my uniform and when I was at the airport I was spit on,
cursed at and called ‘baby killer.’ Now as a 19-year-old kid I
didn’t understand how serving my country was a bad thing.”
Kendall said it was something that affected him and later when he
finished his time in service he never mentioned his time in service
until more recently.
“The honor I’m receiving on behalf of
my granduncle just blows my mind as I recall the dishonor I received
when I served,” said Kendall, still in awe of how the Coast Guard
members rendered honor to him and his family.
Heart Medal is awarded to members of the armed forces of the U.S.
who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy
and posthumously to the next of kin in the name of those who are
killed in action or die of wounds received in action. It is
specifically a combat decoration.
The Purple Heart is
described as the military’s oldest medal.
Washington created it in 1782 to recognize meritorious service ...
bravery in combat ... but it soon fell into disuse. In 1932, to mark
the bicentennial of Washington’s birth, Gen. Douglas MacArthur
spearheaded an effort to revive the medal. It was designed to
commemorate bravery, but also recognized soldiers with wounds.
Guard Gifts/a> |
Department of Homeland Security