During Black History Month, today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Coast Guard Veteran Charles Walter David Jr., a World War II rescuer.
Charles Walter David Jr. was born in June 1917 in New York City. After the U.S. entered World War II, David enlisted in the Coast Guard and rose to the rank of steward’s mate first class. His duties mainly included working in the kitchen and cleaning the officers’ quarters. He and his wife Kathleen had a three-year-old son Neil when David enlisted in the Coast Guard.
David served aboard USS Comanche, a Coast Guard cutter assigned to escort two Merchant Marine ships and a troop transport from Newfoundland to Greenland. During the trip, a German U-boat torpedoed the convoy, hitting the troop transport USAT Dorchester. The USAT Dorchester began to sink, forcing the 904 men aboard to scramble for lifeboats or jump into the frigid North Atlantic water.
David joined eleven of his crewmates and volunteered to help rescue the survivors of the USAT Dorchester. These twelve men jumped into the water and used ropes to save survivors. David helped save the lives of 93 men, including Lt. Langford Anderson, the USS Comanche’s executive officer, who had become numb in the intensely cold water.
Due to the physical toll of the rescue and the intensity of the freezing waters, David contracted pneumonia. He died in March 1943 in Greenland, 54 days after the U-boat attack on the convoy.
David posthumously received a Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his actions. In addition, he received an American Defense Service Medal, an American Campaign Medal, a European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, and a World War II Victory Medal. President Lyndon B. Johnson honored David with a certificate for heroism in 1963. In 1999, he also received an Immortal Chaplains Prize for Humanity. In 2013, the Coast Guard named the fast response cutter USS Charles David Jr. in his memory.
We honor his service.
Nominate a Veteran for #VeteranOfTheDay
Do you want to light up the face of a special Veteran? Have you been wondering how to tell your Veteran they are special to you? VA’s #VeteranOfTheDay social media feature is an opportunity to highlight your Veteran and his/her service.
It’s easy to nominate a Veteran. Visit our blog post about nominating to learn how to create the best submission.
Writer: Jack Patterson
Editors: Theresa Lyon and
Fact checker: Giacomo Ferrari
Graphic artist: Kiki Kelley