Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Honoring Icelandic and American Sailors

On the occasion of the visit of the USCG Barque Eagle, I had the opportunity to fly in an Icelandic Coast Guard Helicopter to meet up with the Eagle and participate in a wreath laying ceremony 30 km west of Borgarnes in Faxaflói at the site where the USCG Alexander Hamilton sank on 29 January 1942 as a result of war hostilities.   The Alexander Hamilton, which was protecting merchant convoys crossing the Atlantic, was the first USCG vessel sunk in WW II. Twenty-six sailors were killed instantly; six died later of their injuries; ten more injured men required hospitalization.  81 sailors were rescued by Icelandic fishing trawlers. The lighthouse Garðskagaviti in Gardur, which is the tallest in Iceland, was built in 1944 as a gift from US Coast Guardsmen in gratitude for their rescue by Icelandic sailors.  The wreath laying ceremony, which honored the sacrifices made by American and Icelandic sailors during war, was an opportunity to reflect on the ties of friendship between the United States and Iceland.